Last updated: June 2018.
Every year we purchase (with our own money, no freebies) about one hundred pairs of running shoes and run at least 50 miles in each. Whenever we find a truly great shoe with come back here and update the list of the best running shoes.
Don’t trust people who talk about shoes without even trying them, or get them for free from the brands!
If this is your first time buying running shoes, take a look at two resources we created specifically for you:
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 Nike Pegasus 35 is a budget friendly shoe that features some key updates while maintaining the quick feel that has made the Pegasus line so popular. This shoe has the perfect combination of cushioning and responsiveness to make it well suited for any run. At $120 this is a great buy for everyone.
The NB 890v6 continues to be the perfect blend of breathable and pliable upper materials, lightweight and responsive midsole foams, and a simple yet effective fit and construction. The 890 is really a lightweight do-everything shoe with just the right amount of cushioning and protection for most runners to wear as their everyday trainer, but it has a snappy sweetness to it that makes it well suited for up tempo days.
The Saucony Ride ISO branches into new territory of the Ride line, improving on fit comfort and overall running efficiency. These shoes will live up to what Saucony promises, which is a comfortable ride ride in fit and in cushioning. Comfort combined with a modern design makes this shoe a good choice for daily training.
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!
I loved running in the Mizuno Wave Inspire 14 and I don't plan to stop doing so any time soon. Very comfortable shoe for my flat foot, nicely cushioned but responsive thanks to the wave plate. Feels lighter than it is. If you need stability and want a shoe that gently but surely hugs your feet, that is soft when you land but responsive when you light your toes off the ground, try these Mizuno.
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 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.
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 Skechers GOrun Ultra R2 is a maximal trainer that is meant to log miles but stay light on the feet. If you want to push the pace, it is light and springy enough to go with you. If you want to slow down and log a long run, the shoe is ready to go without making your feet hurt or get tired. This shoe is one of the better ones I’ve tested at doing it all. Skechers again have hit one out of the park.
The Saucony Triumph ISO 4 is a top-of-the-line trainer that can log tons of miles and just keep going. I put over 100 miles on these shoes prior to finalizing my review, and they were great from mile one. The sole unit now uses the ultra lively EVERUN midsole that creates great energy return and pushes you forward. The upper has been redesigned with a new version of the ISOFIT technology that expands and collapses as you run. These updates have created a great shoe, and one I will happily continue wearing past this review.
The Altra Duo is a maximally cushioned road shoe that is also very light in comparison to many other max-cushioned road shoes on the market. Many shoes that provide maximal levels of cushioning tend to be a bit on the heavy side. The Altra Duo bucks that trend in two ways: a blown rubber outsole and a very thin upper are both innovations that provide comfort and cushion without adding extra weight to the shoe.
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 pioneering performance-driven design of the Saucony Kinvara has endured for nine years, making it Saucony’s flagship contribution to the running shoe market. This year’s version upholds the foundational principles of the Kinvara line, providing a lightweight, soft, and responsive ride. In 2017, I relied on the Kinvara 8 for a successful season of marathon training and racing. And after logging several miles in the updated version 9, the Kinvara will again be my shoe of choice for this year’s marathon prep. The Kinvara 9 is a reliable, versatile shoe that inspires confidence with every stride.
The Go Run Ride 7 is a smooth riding lightweight shoe that provides great cushioning and rebound. Combine the ride with a breathable and comfortable knit upper and you’ve got a shoe that bests most of the shoes in its class, sometimes at half the price. I would suggest this shoe to every single person I know even if it were $130 (it's $90). It is that good. I think that the GoRun Ride 7 legitimately could be the best shoe that I run in all year.
Epic React foam is the real deal. Period. These are not gimmicky lifestyle shoes. They are made for real runners. The Flyknit upper is very form fitting, and never felt sloppy, even during sharp turns and pivoting. The ride is responsive, yet soft, and never sloppy. The Epic React works well as an all around shoe. At 7.8 ounces for a men's size 9 US, you'd be hard pressed to find a shoe with this much cushioning-to-weight ratio.
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 9 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 9th 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.
Completely new for this year comes the Saucony Liberty ISO. Born as a stability counterpart to the widely successful Saucony Freedom ISO, it's a fast-feeling (and performing) shoe with a great degree of stability. The upper is particularly well executed with what we reckon being the best implementation of the ISO construction yet.
The ASICS Gel DS Trainer 23 combines support with performance; thanks to a springy Flytefoam midsole and redesigned upper. It continues to be the sleeper hit from ASICS. I love that I can run a tempo workout in these, but also use it on my long run days. It is versatile and well rounded. My natural stride pushed me forward, but it did not wear hard on my body like some racing shoes do. As the years go by, the DS Trainer continues to be a favorite of mine.
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.
I’ve taken it on gravel, dirt, mud, concrete, snow, ice, through streams, grass and solid rock. Despite all the surfaces I tried it on, it took them all in stride. The shoe — with high cushion, high traction and a great upper — has been a great addition to the closet and one I plan on logging a few more miles (as many as they take) in. If you’re in the market for a versatile shoe that can tackle every surface you throw at it, while not breaking the bank, this one might just be the one to get.
The Altra Timp is a highly cushioned trail shoe that will perform well in nearly any trail conditions. If you’re looking for a “do everything” trail shoe, the Timp might be the shoe for you. If the Timps were a touch lighter they’d be perfect. They weigh in at 11.1 oz, so they aren’t too heavy, though I couldn’t consider them lightweight at all. Considering how comfortable they are and how much protection they provide, however, I’m more than willing to carry a couple of extra ounces to keep my feet happy during a day on the trails.
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.
The Fuelcore Coast 3 is the entry model for the FuelCore line of NB shoes. For less than $70 you bring home a shoe with booty construction and 8mm drop, ideal for some faster, shorter workouts.The midsole is composed of ACTEVA, one of New Balances lightest foam compounds - making the Coast v3 weight only 7 ounces. It is an amazing shoe that fast runners on a smaller budget definitely need to consider.
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.
We are a team of testers with different running experience, body shapes and sizes, individual bio-mechanics. This always updated list is divided into different sections so that every runner can find the best running shoes for them.
Here are a few pointers and definitions to help you choose correctly.
Neutral (or cushioning) running shoes vs stability (or support)
This is based on the concept (lately less popular) that the height and elasticity of your foot arch determines what your shoe should do for you.
- Runners with high arches don’t amortise the shock of impact with the ground enough, therefore needing shoes with extra cushioning
- Runners with low or flat arches have their arch collapse under the impact resulting in mis-alignment of the running gait, therefore needing shoes that correct this issue
Although there is much more to choosing a pair of running shoes than this, most runners will be find in Netrual (cushioning) running shoes. Some runners though (like me) absolutely do need stability in their shoes in order not to get injured.
Low drop or zero drop running shoes
A running shoe drop, or heel-to-toe offset, is the difference, measured in millimiters (mm) between the height of the shoe sole in the heel area vs the height of the sole in the toe area.
For reference, traditional running shoes usually have an offset (drop) of 12mm. Low drop are considered shoes with a drop between zero (called zero drop) and 4mm. Everything in between is also possible.
The logic is: shoes with a higher heel will favor heel strike during running, while shoes with a zero or low drop will favor a more forefoot or midfoot running gait. It is largely a matter of preference, but running on your toes requires a completely different set of muscle activation and switching from one kind of shoe to the other without proper conditioning and a very gradual approach might result in injury.
Minimal vs maximal running shoes
In a nutshell minimal vs maximal refers to the amount of cushioning that the shoe gives to the runners.
Starting in 2009, more and more runners have been promoting a barefoot running idea: shoes are bad for you, you should run barefoot or, if that is not possible, with “as little shoe as possible”. Milions of runners made the switch to minimalism and quite a few got injured. As a result, companies came out with running shoes that are lightweight (one of the principles of minimalism) but with very high, soft soles that really cushion the foot.
There is not a right or wrong type of shoe here – it entirely depends on the runner, their style and preferences.
Premium running shoes vs cheap running shoes
A high price tag is not a guarantee that a shoe is better than another. This said, we always recommend to shop for running shoes that have a recommended retail price of $100 or more.
This does not mean you need to pay more than $100! New versions of running shoes are released every year and – most often than not – changes versus the previous version are small and incremental in nature. This means that instead of buying this year version of a shoe, you can very often buy last year’s model for a fraction of the price, often as low as 50% less.
Trail running shoes vs road running shoes
While the distinction might seem obvious, it’s good to mention some points that differentiate a trail running shoe from a road one.
- Trail-specific outsoles: the bottom of a trail running shoe usually has a layer of very grippy rubber to avoid slipping over ice, rocks or wet pavement. The shoe will often present aggressively designed lugs to maintain traction in grass, mud or gravel.
- Rock plates: some trail shoes ahve rigid inserts that protect the foot from sharp rocks or stone bruises. This makes the shoe stiffer, but this protection is mandatory on certain kind of terrain
- Protective toe bumper: similar to the rock plate, most trail shoes have hardened toe areas to protect your toes from the damage caused by, for example, kicking a rock
- Weather resistant uppers: very often trail running shoes have water resistant upper, higher collars or special lacing systems that help keeping water, mud or small rocks outside of the shoe.
Daily training running shoes vs racing/speedwork running shoes
The last distinction we want to highlight is the difference between high mileage, every day shoes vs shoes for speedwork and racing.
It has become a common practice for runners all over the world to have at least two separate pair of shoes:
- A pair of traditional, highly cushioned and comfortable running shoes in which they log the majority of their training mileage. These shoes are usually heavier and with a high drop.
- A pair of lightweight, low drop shoes to be used when they train at slower distances and higher paces. Or on race day.