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The Best Sustainable Trail Running Gear of 2024!

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Trail running. It’s what makes running bearable, in our opinion. 😅 Seriously, though, it wasn’t until I ran on dirt (as opposed to cement sidewalks or asphalt streets) that I realized running could be fun. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the scenery, the distraction that comes with moving fast (or at least semi-fast) over uneven terrain (not to mention the trail running gear) make an activity I always thought I hated…fun! Now I look forward to lacing up my shoes and hitting the trails to see how much elevation I can gain in an hour and how the mountains outside my window change from season to season (and sometimes week to week).

But the thrill of moving fast outside and leaping over rocks and roots and occasionally stopping to smell the flowers or take photos of big views aren’t all that make trail running so great; it’s also extremely accessible. By which I mean you don’t have to have special training or expensive gear to do it. All that’s required is a pair of running shoes (just about any will do on most surfaces) and the urge to move. And on the upside, if you have to stop and walk, there’s no need to feel ashamed. That’s called hiking! 😝

That said, if trail running is more than occasional hobby, if it’s your passion, the right clothing and gear can make a big difference. So if you’re ready to level up your trail running wardrobe and tech game, these are some of our favorite pieces of sustainable trail running gear to get you pumped to head outdoors.

The Best Sustainable Trail Running Clothing

A woman smiles in a Jack Wolfskin Prelight Chill Tee.

Jack Wolfskin Prelight Chill Tee

This has become my go-to trail running shirt for so many reasons. Not only does it protect my shoulders from the sun, but it comes in a bright orange color for women (highlighter yellow for men) that I’m obsessed with. It helps mountain bikers spot me through the trees on multi use trails and Josh find me when he falls too far behind (lol). It’s made of partially recycled material and is Bluesign approved, plus it features Microban anti-funk technology to help keep your shirt smelling fresh so you don’t need to wash it as often. It’s pretty lightweight and breathable, plus wicked sweat like a boss on warm trail runs in the mountains.

Outdoor Research Swift Lite Shorts 5".

Outdoor Research Swift Lite Shorts 5″

Our tester–an avid runner and marathoner–couldn’t have been more thrilled with these shorts. In fact, he declared them his new racing shorts. The fit was great and he loved how lightweight they were, especially on warm, humid runs. The medium size fit a 31″ waist well and the 5″ inseam was a hit–not too long or too short. There’s also a welcome zippered pocket in the back that can hold at least 2 gel packs. His only complaint: the drawstring on the outside of the waistband, which is more related to his personal preference than actual functionality, but is easily removable. That said, these tend to be best suited for average-sized legs. A tester with more muscular thighs had trouble with them creeping up, which led to chafing (and looked kinda ridiculous). They’re also available for women in a 2.5″ inseam.

Injinji no-show run Socks.

Injinji Socks

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: toe socks are the bees knees whether or not you run in barefoot shoes or sandals like I do. They protect your toesies from blisters, help spread them apart (which may help with better balance), and can even be worn with sandals. And the new Lightweight No-Show Run socks in particular are my favorite. They’re thick enough to offer protection, but not so thick your feet will overheat. Plus they’re super comfy and made of partially recycled materials! But watch out, because once you go toe socks, you might find it pretty dang hard to go back.

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Knit FG barefoot trail running shoes.

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Knit FG

You know we love barefoot shoes here at Terradrift, and that includes when it comes to trail running. In fact, I run in barefoot sandals pretty much all summer. But when it comes time to don “real” shoes that don’t expose my toes (i.e. fall and spring), these are the shoes I reach for. The tread isn’t deep, but it doesn’t have to be because the soles are so thin and flexible, which offer better foot-to-ground contact (and great groundfeel). They’re lightweight, breathable, comfortable, stretchy, and too easy to slip on and off (without having to loosen the laces). Plus, they look dang sleek. A win all around. A note on sizing: these do tend to run a bit wide for women and men, so if you have narrow feet, these may not be the best option for you. Bonus: the insole is made of recycled foam and recycled polyester, the knit made of 81% recycled materials, and the laces 100% recycled materials, plus the shoes are PFAS-free and vegan.

A man wears an REI Co-op Screeline Cap.

REI Co-op Screeline Cap

If you think a cap is just a cap, you’d be wrong. And you clearly haven’t trail run in many. Because little changes in shape, size, fit, and features can make a big difference when it comes to performance on the trail. And frankly, there’s no cap I reach for more often than my REI Screeline Cap. The brim is a bit longer than usual (but not in an awkward way) to help keep glare out of your eyes, it comes in multiple sizes so you’re certain to have no trouble dialing in the perfect fit (even if you have a tiny head like I do), the tightness adjustment on the back adjusts in an instant with zero hassle or fumbling, even when cinched down it’s comfortable while staying put on windy days, and the brim folds in half for easy packing or pocket stashing. Plus, it’s made of Bluesign approved Nylon, which means it’s more sustainable AND super durable. Love.

a woman stands in front of mountains wearing the mammut Zinal Hybrid tights leggings.

Mammut Zinal Hybrid Tights

We’ve featured these durable leggings before, but they deserve another mention because in cooler weather, they’ve become my favorite trail running leggings. They fit well and stay put, have extra durable material on the butt and knees where you need it most, and have two secure pockets, one on each leg. One is zippered and the other secured with a flap. Both are big enough to hold an iPhone Max, your keys, a snack, or whatever else you need to take with you on your run. And they’re Bluesign approved, made partially of recycled materials, and PFAS-free.

The Best Sustainable Trail Running Accessories

The Deuter Traick 5L Running Vest.

Deuter Traick 5L Running Vest

A trail running vest is a super handy accessory if you’re planning to tackle big miles and need to bring along necessities like water, snacks, and a spare layer. And we love the new Traick 5L vest from Deuter not just because it’s Bluesign approved, Green Button certified, PFAS-free, and comes with a lifetime repair warranty, but because it works. It’s as breathable as a vest can possibly be, has tons of stash and zipper pockets for chews, soft flasks, a hydration reservoir, keys, your phone, an extra layer, has customizable adjustment bungees on the front, plus comes with extra bungees for attaching items like trekking poles. It’s available in 5L, 9L and SL (women’s specific) versions and in multiple sizes.

A man wears a pair of Dragon Momentum Sunglasses.

Dragon Momentum Sunglasses

We’re suckers for a sleek, sustainable pair of sunglasses, and these definitely fit the bill. The frames are made with a plant-based resin instead of petroleum, the lenses are color optimized to really boost contrast and clarity (always a good thing out on the trail), and they. Look. Rad. I mean, those white frames and purple lenses? To die for (there are less vivid color options available if you’d rather be basic, plus a polarized option). Plus we love sunnies with wide coverage to help keep the glare out on sunny days. Important to note: These are best suited for larger faces/noses.

A man wears a pair of Suunto Sonic Bone Conducting Headphones.

Suunto Sonic Bone Conducting Headphones

Be still my fast-beating heart, because we just found the best new headphones for trail running: the Suunto Sonic bone conducting headphones. What makes them so much better than traditional earbuds? 1.) They don’t go in your ear holes, so your auditory pathway is not only fully open, but your ears won’t get sore on long runs, and 2.) since they’re bone conducting, they don’t block out or muffle or in any way mute sounds around you. Why is that such a big deal? Because not only is our sense of hearing important when it comes to keeping us safe on trails (it’s much harder to hear a bear or moose around the corner with earbuds in), but on multi-use trails, we were still able to clearly hear mountain bikers coming up the trail behind us so we could kindly step out of the way. Plus, audio is clear and high quality, they’re comfortable and easy to use. We’re takin’ these babies everywhere.

The Polar Grit X2 Pro on a woman's wrist.

Polar Grit X2 Pro

Looking for the mother of all GPS watches that can do everything from take an EKG to automatically share your run to Strava to wake you up in the morning to tell you whether your legs are ready for another long run? Allow me to introduce you to the Polar Grit X2 Pro, which can do all that and so much more. But some of our favorite features include customizable watch faces and menus, the ability to navigate using offline maps and measure VO2 max, training tools like route tracking and pace analysis, and the option to control your tunes right from your watch. It feels like there’s nothing this watch can’t do, honestly. And the battery easily lasts a week without needing charged, even when constantly connected and frequently used to track mileage. Love.

Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel packets.

Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel

If you’re a distance runner (or other endurance athlete), then you’re likely all about fuel. As in, the best way to fuel your long runs. Enter Tailwind Nutrition. Available in bulk bags or single-serve packets, this fuel is packed with simple carbs and 200 calories, plus uses real sugar, not “natural” substitutes or synthetic stuff, so it’s easier on your digestive system. We know because we had someone who runs longer distances than us with frequent tummy issues test it out and she gave the flavors (especially the cola) and the fueling ability two thumbs up. Plus it dissolves quickly in water and doesn’t leave grit in the bottom of your bottle. Single serve packets are better for those on the move while bulk bags offer the option to mix less for less intense activities.

Bottom Line

Trail running rocks. And while you can absolutely hit the trails in your old gym shorts, a cotton t-shirt, and the trusty Walkman you refuse to get rid of, if you’re committed to the sport, it might just be worth it to invest in a few high quality pieces of trail running gear and clothing that will make every run more comfortable, safer, and enjoyable. Heck, you might even be able to find some of this stuff used! But if not, take care of your gear, repair it instead of trashing it when it starts to wear, and have fun out there. Wander on.