If you frequently run on rocky or sandy terrain, protecting your feet from dust and debris is a priority. Grit in your shoes can cause discomfort and blisters, and having to stop mid-run to empty it out is frustrating.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution in the form of running gaiters!
These work on a similar principle to the rugged gaiters used for protection when hiking or climbing. But running shoe gaiters are much lighter in weight and far more breathable, so they’ll enhance your performance rather than hinder it!
With quite a few different types of running gaiters available it’s not always easy to pick the ones that will work best for you. This guide is designed to help!
We’ve picked our favorite pairs on the market right now and outlined their main features. We’ve also taken a look at the things you need to consider when choosing the right gaiters for your needs.
What to Look for in Running Gaiters
Trail running can be tough on your gear so it’s worth investing in the most durable gaiters you can afford. Here are a few more things to think about.
Style of Closure
Some running gaiters are made from a stretchy fabric that you pull over your foot and secure to your shoe.
This will usually be via a hook in the front or a hook-and-loop fastener at the back.
For added security, some gaiters have both, along with an underfoot strap, typically made from durable rubber.
Pull-on gaiters are usually the lightest. They are also the most effective at keeping out dust and dirt as they fit so snugly around the ankle.
Plus – because they’re so simply designed – you won’t need to worry about them coming undone as you run. On the downside, they’re not always easy to put on and take off.
Some gaiters are more open in design, wrapping around the ankle and closing at the side with either a hook-and-loop closure or zipper.
These are usually easier than pull-on gaiters to adjust and you can often remove them without taking off your shoes. However, they’re a little heavier and bulkier, and there’s always the risk of debris entering at the point of closure.
There’s also the chance that the zipper or Velcro might work its way undone mid-run.
Think about the environment in which you’ll be doing most of your running. If you tend to run in hot, dusty terrain, breathability will be one of the most important features to look for.
But if you regularly find yourself splashing through muddy puddles, you might want to sacrifice a little ventilation in favor of more water-resistant fabric.
The height of running gaiters can vary quite a bit, with some styles covering several inches above the ankle and others just about covering the collar of the shoe.
The best one for you will depend on your running environment. High gaiters are best for very muddy or sandy terrain, or if you need extra protection from dense underbrush.
Low gaiters are sufficient for lighter trails, where you’re mainly focusing on keeping your shoes free from dirt and grit.
The 8 Best Running Gaiters
#1. REI Co-op Swiftland Running Gaiters
– Stretchy, available in 4 sizes, and compatible with any trail-running shoes
– Best running gaiters for occasional runs
It’s easy to get a good fit with these trail running gaiters, which are so light and flexible that you’ll barely notice you’re wearing them.
The anti-slip silicone grip inside the top cuffs effectively holds them in place as you run and prevents dust or grit from entering.
Meanwhile, the tuckaway toggle tightens the cord, so they stay snug.
You can attach the front hook and cord to any shoe, but there is also a hook-and-loop patch on the inside at the back.
If you have Altra shoes, you can remove the elastic cord and use this for connection instead.
These gaiters are suitable for all kinds of terrain, drying quickly after splashing through a puddle yet breathable enough to feel comfortable.
We like the reflective logo accent at the back which is useful when running in low-light conditions and appreciate the extra set of underfoot cords that come with them.
But these are not the most durable gaiters we tested and wouldn’t be the best choice if you’re a frequent runner.
#2. Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low
– Wide choice of colors, adjustable instep strap, and side zipper closure
– Ideal for harsh terrain
From a company that knows a thing or two about hardy outdoor gear, these running gaiters are made from a tough nylon/polyurethane blend fabric.
Resistant to abrasion, they also feature a water-resistant but breathable DWR coating to seal out moisture.
The tough instep strap can be adjusted to fit various footwear and profiles.
What’s more, it’s covered by a 1000-mile warranty, so you know you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck.
The durable side zipper makes these very easy to take on and off without removing your shoes. It is positioned asymmetrically for comfort and the slider folds down and locks to ensure the zipper stays firmly secured.
If this style is a little too low for you, Kahtoola offers a mid-height version, too.
#3. Montane Via Trail Ankle Gaiters
– ‘Pull on’ design, reflective detailing, and a kick patch on the inner ankle
– Perfect for running in warm weather
These lightweight running shoe gaiters are designed to fit closely around your ankle to keep debris out.
They are made from a blend of nylon and spandex, which is very stretchy and gives you complete freedom of movement.
The hook-and-loop attachment on the heel plus the thick elastic strap under the midfoot hold them securely in place.
This strap is replaceable, and two spares are included.
The kick patch is a denser area of fabric that provides a bit of extra support and protection from accidental kicks.
This – and the overlocked low-profile seams – both add extra durability.
#4. Wapiti Designs Go-Long Gaiters
– Ultra lightweight and breathable, with a Velcro closure
– Best choice for fun prints
You have a range of cool prints to choose from with these affordable trail running gaiters.
Perfect for casual runs in dry environments, they are made from a thin polyester/spandex fabric that feels comfortable and looks great.
They attach to your shoes via a hook at the front and a strip of Velcro at the back.
You need to stick the Velcro strip to the heel of your shoe, and we found it held the gaiter in place pretty well.
Although the strips are self-adhesive the manufacturers recommend using a strong glue for backup. We’d second that advice, especially if there’s a chance your shoes might get wet.
Of course, these are not the most durable gaiters in our review and they offer no protection against water.
But they look cool and are more than capable of keeping out sand and grit on light trails.
#5. Altra Trail Gaiter
– Quick-drying, lightweight (just 2.6 ounces per pair), and available in two sizes
– Designed to pair with Altra GaiterTrap-equipped shoes
The strapless design of these gaiters works seamlessly with Altra shoes.
But an extra hook and loop piece is included, which means you can use them with other brands, too. And because there’s no strap, you won’t need to take off the gaiter to change your shoes or socks!
The fabric is super stretchy so it won’t restrict your movement and is very effective at sealing out dust and debris.
It’s also resistant to abrasion, meaning these gaiters will see you through many miles.
Although they are not water-resistant, they are very breathable. This makes them ideal for dry trails on warmer days.
Consider sizing down, as we felt the fit around the collar was a bit too loose.
#6. Salomon Trail Gaiter – High
– Available in 3 sizes and made from a stretch jersey fabric, with a rubber underfoot strap
– Our top pick for ease of use
These are Salomon’s high gaiters, but there’s a low version available too.
We’d recommend the high gaiters if you’d prefer extra protection from underbrush on your runs.
There’s also a bit of padding on the ankles to prevent any injuries from stumps or rocks on the trail. This works best with low-profile shoes, however. If yours are high, then you may find the padding adds unnecessary bulk.
These gaiters have a simple, open design, whereby you wrap them around your ankle and then secure them with the Velcro closure at the side.
This makes it easy to adjust them for a custom fit and also means you won’t have to take off your shoes to remove them.
They are nicely made and feel durable, with the rubber straps standing up well to sharp debris on the trail.
#7. Ultimate Direction FK Gaiter
– Designed by trail runners, highly durable, with a replaceable Hypalon strap
– Best choice for sandy terrain
These may not be the cheapest gaiters in our guide but they’re worth their weight in gold when it comes to sealing out sand.
This is because the Velcro closure at the outer edge allows you to achieve a very tight fit around your ankles.
There’s a plastic snap as backup, so you won’t need to worry about them coming undone mid-run.
Meanwhile, the open design means you can take the gaiters on and off without removing your shoes.
The stretchy Kill Twill Cordura fabric offers just the right level of breathability and durability.
There are three size options, so it’s easy to find the perfect pair for your shoes, and the adjustable strap is compatible with most stack heights.
Just bear in mind that snug fit around the ankles when ordering and consider sizing up if necessary.
#8. Inov8 All-Terrain Gaiter
– Lightweight and water-resistant with a snug ankle cuff
– Perfect for wet conditions
Providing great value for money, these gaiters from Inov8 come with a unique sock-like knitted ankle cuff that fits closely, feels comfortable against your skin, and allows for complete freedom of movement.
Although they are primarily designed to clip onto the attachment points found on some Inov8 shoes, they come with a strengthened rubber O-ring that you can fit to both sides of the gaiter and then strap under the sole of any running shoe.
Made from polyester they are not as breathable as other gaiters in this guide but are among the most effective in snowy, boggy, or muddy conditions.
The Best Running Gaiters: Key Takeaways
The right pair of gaiters can really enhance your enjoyment of trail running and prevent the constant interruptions caused by stray pebbles and grit in your shoes.
Whether you need protection from scree, snow, or muddy forest paths, we hope you’ve found a pair of gaiters in our guide that will keep you and your feet happy on your next run.
Do You Warm Up Effectively Before You Run?
If not, you could be missing out on performance benefits and increasing your chances of an injury.
Learn How to Warm Up with our comprehensive guide and discover the safest and most effective ways to activate your muscles.