Last updated: September 2017.
Instead of releasing a new best list every few months and leaving possibly a trail of old, out-dated lists out there – we will periodically update this article whenever we feel a new running shoe deserves a spot in here. Make sure to check the date of last update to make sure you are reading an updated one!
What are the best running shoes?
Possibly the most asked questions by our readers and any person who knows I run this site, “what are the best running shoes” is not an easy question to answer!
Running shoes are a very personal matter. So personal in fact that a recent medical research established that comfort and fit are the most important matter while selecting a running shoe in terms of minimizing the risk of injury.
For this reason, it is impossible to make a list that will be valid for everyone. Don’t worry though – for each shoe we selected, we will explain why and who we recommend them for.
Best Neutral (Cushioning) Running Shoes
The neutral category is the bread and butter of the running shoe world. If you have never bought a running shoe before, trying one of these three is a good bet.
The Ghost 10 is a very solid, no-nonsense neutral running shoe that delivers on all aspects. A new seamless upper improves on an already great fit. The cushioning is soft and the traction great even on wet surfaces. It's a traditional neutral shoe with a 12mm drop and approximately 10oz. of weight, but it feels lighter. They perform well for every day running and high mileage but are at ease even on the track for fast workouts.
The Pegasus is one of the longest-standing running shoes on the market and it keeps improving year over year. With a fairly universal fit it can be worn by runners of all shapes and sizes, this year with improved room in the toebox vs the already excellent version of last year. $120 is a more than fair price for all the technologies it packs. It is a great shoe for the beginner or for the experienced runner who wants reliability over their long mile runs, even though it wouldn't be out of place during a marathon. It's durable, reliable... hard to go wrong.
Newest introduction to the Asics family, the DynaFlyte is a premium well cushioned neutral shoe. It is the first Asics shoe to utilize the FlyteFoam derived from the ultra-expensive MetaRun and makes for a fantastic shoe, although on the expensive side compared to the competition. Similarly to the Saucony Ride, the DynaFlyte is a shoe that can double everyday long mileage training and long distance races.
Best Support (Stability) Running Shoes
Although the effectiveness of Stability shoes has been put to test in the past few years, there is a large part of the running population that does indeed need added support. I am one of them!
The Adrenaline GTS (go-to-shoe) is a staple support shoe from Brooks. This shoe offers a very supported run while still allowing you to go fast when needed. Our tester Jon says that it is a step above the rest in the stability game. Its biggest advantage is to provide a great amount of support while not feeling cumbersome and heavy.
Another usual suspect is the Asics GT-2000. This year's version updates the upper to a fresh, modern look and feel with an especially improved lacing system. The GT series is a traditional support shoe that will make you feel safe while not being overly guiding. It's a solid shoe that you can trust to last for hundreds of miles.
Another Brooks stability shoe, but this time a quite different shoe than the other, more traditional ones. The Transcend abandons dual density posts and introduces a guide-rail system that keeps your foot in place. Kristin says the stability is stellar. The 8mm drop, combined with the guide-rail system, encourages a more 'on your toes' running and propels you forward. If you want to try something new, get a pair of Transcend and they might surprise you.
Best Maximal Running Shoes
After the minimalist boom that started in 2009 and collapsed a couple of years ago, new brands (I am thinking of Hoka ONE ONE) came with a new proposition.
What if instead of shoes with extremely low stack heights we went the opposite direction and created extremely high, super-soft shoes?
The Bondi 5 is a solid maximum cushioning shoe, Hoka's most cushioned one. It has a comfortable upper and a smooth cushy ride. Whether you’re used to max cushioned shoes or are thinking about making a switch you will be happy with the Bondi 5. The rockered design gives the shoe a tapered shape at the heel and toe creating a very smooth heel to toe transition no matter what type of foot strike you have.
The combination of a soft midsole and a very comfortable upper with the ability to lock down the fit are what make this shoe really great. This shoe is a really good workhorse for high mileage daily training. It is a little on the heavy side but doesn’t feel all that heavy while running. It provides great responsiveness and ground feel compared to a lot of shoes in its category. It could easily be used as a multipurpose shoe for training and racing for those preferring cushion over lightweight.
The Brooks Glycerin 15 is an update to an already great shoe model. For those not familiar with the Glycerin line, it is their most cushioned shoe and its built to withstand high milage while providing comfortable and soft ride. The previous version of this shoe was outstanding. I was glad to see that the new version included minor updates and maintains mostly the same platform as last year.
Best Lightweight Neutral Running Shoes
Although minimalist running shoes have gone as fast as they arrived – they changed running shoe design forever. Runners now expect light weight from every kind of shoe, they appreciate lower drops and value the need for more than one pair of running shoes in their rotation.
Here are a few shoes that weight little and feel fast.
The Skechers GOrun5 is a lightweight trainer that can log the long miles and take a pounding. The fit is superb, with great cushion for a very reasonable price. They are pillow-y but not to the point where you feel your feet truly sinking into the cushion. Instead, the cushion works great as a bounce and propellant as you run. The upper on this shoe is wonderful. Fully seamless with a great lacing system, these shoes were the picture of comfort. The mesh used on these uppers was great for keeping the foot cool on all your runs.
This is the first major update to the Clifton models midsole material and it is a great one. All of my worries about the potential for disaster in increasing the density of the material for longevity quickly subsided on my very first run in the shoe. In fact on my very first run in the shoe I found myself quickly saying “Woah!” to myself about the rebound coming from a midsole this soft. This new model provides everything the old one did with an actual improvement in the ride. The design creates a shoe that no matter where your foot strikes, Gravity propels your foot forward. This shoe provides so much versatility because it’s got more than enough cushioning for any distance but it’s also lightweight enough to race in.
The Kinvara 8 is substantially similar to the 7 and retains the significant changes in outsole, upper, and midsole that debuted in last year’s shoe. However, updates to version 8 include two key improvements that take the shoe to the next level: a wider toe-box and softer ride. This version undoubtedly lives up to the cult-status of the Kinvara. In a departure from the firm midfoot of the Kinvara 7, the light and luxurious ride of earlier models returns in this update due to the extension of the EverRun topsole through the full length of the shoe. The Kinvara 8 is true to form and continues to provide lightweight, high-performing comfort for neutral runners of all types.
Best Lightweight Support Shoes
Support running shoes have historically been the heaviest of the bunch. But we see every year new models added to the “lightweight stability” category.
The Adidas Adizero Tempo 8 is the shoe you’ll run your next PB in. It is light, responsive and fast giving you just the right amount of support along the way. This is the 8th edition of the Adizero Tempo. It is true to its name; ideal for hard workouts and races. It offers just the right amount of support for those needing to counteract against over pronation.
Same as for last year's model, I do love these shoes. They come in a category that is missing competitors and therefore very welcome. The upper fits nicely but materials could be better. As usual for Mizuno, the unique part of this construction is the use of the Wave Plate. A plastic shank shaped in a waveform that both adds stability to the gait and extra cushioning. In the Catalyst, the Wave plate starts right under the heel and continues all the way to the midfoot, doubling its function as a shank that stabilizes the shoe longitudinally, protecting your foot from rotating unnaturally.
This for runners looking for maximal cushioning but still needing some stability. HOKA ONE ONE has expanded its well-cushioned line by introducing its first stability shoe, the Arahi, which offers a fabulous combination of support and stability fused with lightweight cushion, with an upper fit that is very similar to what I've experienced previously from HOKA. We ranked this shoe very highly because it lives up to the company’s claim to offer a lightweight, highly-cushioned shoe with just a touch more stability and support.
Best Trail Running Shoes
Trail Running is quite a generic term that includes running over a variety of terrains, inclines and mileage. We believe the shoes listed below offer a good choice for all your trail running needs.
If you are looking for an introduction to trail running, the Speed Instinct is what we call a road/trail hybrid. Comfortable enough to run on pavement, but rugged enough to take you through some non-technical trails. Combine this with very light weight, low stack height and a stable base and you have found your very first trail running shoe.
The Lone Peak 3.0 improves over already incredibly successful 2.0 and 2.5 - Liked for the zero drop, toebox design that allows for maximum toe spread and a particularly grippy outsole, it is a shoe we recommend to all kind of trail runners, but particularly for ultra runners for 50 milers and up.
The New Balance Vazee Summit Trail v2 is a soft, sleek and fast trail shoe that allows the runner to confidently run as quickly as the terrain will allow. The Vazees’ combination of speed and protection will allow runners to handle virtually any kind of terrain. I firmly believe that they may provide the best combination of speed and traction for such races among all my trail shoes.
Best Cheap Running Shoes
Although our recommendation is to buy a previous version of a current running shoe (you can easily find last year’s version of a shoe for up to 40% discount, scoring you a $100 shoe for $60), some of the running shoes in the $60-$80 range are actually quite good.
Here are our favorites, and watch this video to let Frank explain to you why you shouldn’t buy EXTREMELY cheap running shoes.
Saucony Cohesion 10
The Cohesion continues its tradition of being an amazing value for its money. It's a very versatile choice for daily use and our main recommendation if you are looking for a good running shoe on a budget. It also comes in a wide version.
New Balance 560v6
A very traditional but solid entry-level running shoe from New Balance. Ideal for runners training for their first 5k.
Asics Gel-Contend 4
The Asics Gel Contend is a budget shoe that offers a cushioned ride in an inexpensive package. This focus on cushioning makes the shoe slightly heavier than similar models, but does not take away from the overall great performance of the shoe.
What do you think? Do you agree with our selection? You don’t ? Leave a comment and let us know why!