Running is among the most approachable forms of fitness, requiring only a pair of quality shoes to get you going. But the sport’s widespread popularity has led to a dizzying array of shoe brands, styles, and available features. Below we break down our favorite runners for 2019, which cover everything from cushioned road shoes for daily training to ultralight flats for serious racing. For more background information, see our running shoe buying advice and comparison table below the picks. And we’ve included a number of our favorite trail options here, but for more, see our article on the best trail-running shoes.
Weight per pair: 18 oz.
What we like: Very comfortable, durable, and versatile.
What we don’t: A little lacking in responsiveness for short-distance races.
Since its launch a decade ago, Hoka One One has experienced a meteoric rise from making polarizing “clown shoes” to being a mainstream hit. And with the latest, sixth-generation Clifton, they’ve put together our favorite all-around running shoe for 2019. Comfort is class-leading thanks to Hoka’s signature thick midsole (the “6” has a slightly softer foam than the “5”), its 5-millimeter drop and rockered shape encourage a natural gait, and the well-designed heel and moderately roomy toe box keep your feet locked in place. We’ve also found them to be extremely durable: both the cushioning and upper material are holding up very well after 100+ miles of use. All told, the Clifton is a fantastic lightweight choice for anything from short recovery days to marathon training.
The recent growth in max-cushioned shoes means the Hoka’s tall stack height doesn’t stand out as much as it did in the past, but the unique design still has its fair share of detractors. That said, from a performance standpoint, the extra thickness hasn’t led to any stability issues for road use (although we wouldn’t take them on anything more serious than a gravel path). Our sole complaint is that the thick build takes away some of the responsiveness, so it’s not an ideal choice for those running short races (10K and under) with an eye on a personal best. But for just about every other application, the Clifton 6 is a winner... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Hoka One One Clifton 6 See the Women's Hoka One One Clifton 6
A Close Second
Weight per pair: 20.8 oz.
What we like: Solid, proven, and nicely cushioned daily driver.
What we don’t: Stiffer and heavier than the Clifton above.
Now in its 21st iteration, the Asics Gel-Cumulus is the quintessential everyday running shoe. Slipping it on for the first time, it’s easy to understand the appeal: there’s a nice balance of stretchiness and support in the upper material, the midsole has that familiar new-shoe squish, and the thick, cushioned collar hugs your heel. On the road, the Cumulus is a well-rounded performer for both heel and midfoot strikers with good shock absorption from its gel and foam midsole, although it’s not overly responsive and fairly heavy at nearly 21 ounces per pair. The heel counter also is a bit firm, but we like the confidence-inspiring, stable feel (runners that prefer a softer build should check out the Brooks Ghost or Nike Pegasus below).
Within the Asics running shoe lineup, the Gel-Cumulus and Gel-Nimbus are their workhorse models for those with a neutral gait or supination (underpronation). Comparing the latest versions (Cumulus 21 and Nimbus 21), they share a lot in common: 10-millimeter drops, Flytefoam midsoles, and general outsole designs. The Nimbus is the premium offering with additional cushioning underfoot for impressive long-distance comfort and a slight increase in weight (about .3 ounces per shoe). In the end, both are excellent daily trainers, but the significant $30 cost savings and minimal performance differences give the Cumulus the edge for us... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Asics Gel-Cumulus 21 See the Women's Asics Gel-Cumulus 21
Best Budget Running Shoe
Weight per pair: 16.8 oz.
What we like: Bargain basement price, lightweight, and tough outsole.
What we don’t: Significant drop in comfort and all-around performance compared with a premium option.
The cost of footwear continues to creep up each year, but occasional runners and those just dabbling in the sport can save big with an entry-level design. Nike’s Revolution 4 checks all of the boxes in this category: it’s available in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and widths for both women and men for around $50 (price does vary a little based on color). As expected, you don’t get any advanced features like a premium midsole or knit upper, but the shoe is light at 16.8 ounces (for our pair of men’s size 9) and its tough outsole “pods” are made with a durable rubber. On runs of 3 miles and under, we found it has a fairly neutral feel and its firm midsole does a nice job isolating you from the ground. Further, the Revolution’s clean Nike styling and supportive build make it a suitable option for wearing at the gym or around town.
The Revolution’s price and brand cachet certainly are its biggest selling points, but its performance and comfort fall well short of the other designs on this list. Wearing the Nike back to back with a quality option like the Asics Cumulus above reveals a laundry list of differences. First, the Revolution’s firm midsole has a lifeless feel and is lacking in both cushioning and responsiveness. Second, the simplistic tongue is prone to bunching, and the narrow fit and basic upper can lead to foot irritation over long distances. All told, if you’re planning on more than occasional short-distance runs, we advise spending up, but you won’t be a better value anywhere on this list.
See the Men's Nike Revolution 4 See the Women's Nike Revolution 4
Best Stability Running Shoe
Category: Stability/motion control
Weight per pair: 22 oz.
What we like: Unobtrusive but effective stability system.
What we don’t: Prioritizes support and structure over all-out speed.
For overpronators or those who need additional structure in their shoes, Brooks’ Adrenaline GTS series is a consistent winner. The latest model features a set of “GuideRails” along the sides to keep your ankles from rotating excessively throughout a run (Brooks also claims it helps reduce the risk of knee injuries, although this is difficult to verify). Combined with plush cushioning underfoot, the system is effective without feeling overly obtrusive. And the rest of the design is typical Brooks quality—everything from the mesh upper to the collar and tongue has a premium look and feel.
What do you compromise with a stability shoe like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS? To start, it’s important to determine that you actually need the added structure (see our buying advice section on pronation below for more information). Keep in mind that incorrectly choosing a stability shoe can lead to an unnatural ride and plenty of discomfort. Additionally, the Adrenaline is not the peppiest shoe when moving fast, and we found it lacked some of the energy and bounce that comes with a design like the Nike Pegasus below. That said, the Adrenaline is a very good option for its intended audience, and the comfort-first build should appeal to runners covering just about any distance. For an even more supportive option from Brooks, check out their Beast 18.
See the Men's Brooks Adrenaline GTS See the Women's Brooks Adrenaline GTS
Best Trail-Running Shoe
Weight per pair: 21 oz.
What we like: Fantastic combination of traction and comfort for trail use.
What we don’t: Not stiff enough for super technical terrain.
For runners that venture off pavement or well-buffed dirt paths, a dedicated trail shoe is a great addition to their quiver. Among the various options, our top pick is Saucony’s Peregrine ISO, which combines fantastic traction with a smooth and punchy ride. The standout feature is the deep, teeth-like tread, which grip mud, hardpack, and wet roots amazingly well. And the substantial yet soft cushioning underfoot helps take the sting out of impacts from rocks and other trail debris. Fit-wise, the Peregrine is narrower than a very wide shoe like the popular Altra Lone Peak 4, but we think hits a nice balance of foot hold with enough space for most feet to splay naturally.
Where the Peregrine ISO falls a little short is on highly technical terrain. The shoe has a flexible construction that can lead to some instability when traveling quickly over off-camber or very rough sections of trail. The fit system, which features unique “wings” at each eyelet, keeps your feet nicely locked in place, but the soft build makes it prone to rolled ankles if you don’t pick your line carefully (in those instances, a beefed-up shoe like the La Sportiva Bushido II is a better choice). And keep in mind that the Peregrine shouldn't be worn on pavement for extended stretches as its thick outsole and sturdy construction can lead to foot soreness and discomfort. If you're looking for a hybrid shoe that functions well both on and off road, see the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 below.
See the Men's Saucony Peregrine ISO See the Women's Saucony Peregrine ISO
Best of the Rest
Weight per pair: 21.8 oz.
What we like: Fast, flexible, and fun.
What we don’t: Wide fit around the collar and surprisingly slippery insole.
Seattle-based Brooks has a strong following among hardcore runners, and the Ghost 11 is their do-everything model. This neutral design has a fairly traditional 12-milllimeter drop, but its airy, minimalist upper and premium cushioning in the midsole give it an athletic and fun ride. We think of it as an excellent mid- to long-distance option for fast movers. One area of concern is its moderately wide fit, particularly around the collar, which led to some heel lift on longer climbs and general instability when planting and turning (the slippery stock insoles also impacted this). But if it fits you well, the Ghost is a versatile and energetic option.
Similar to the Asics Gel-Cumulus above, the Ghost is among the bestselling neutral running shoes on the market. In parsing out the differences, the Ghost has a softer ride and is more flexible in general compared to the Cumulus’s stiffer heel and gel midsole. This gives the Brooks more of a performance feel, while the Asics excels as a go-to everyday shoe. But the aforementioned issue with fit is one area where the Ghost falls short of the more universally friendly Cumulus, which drops it a little down our list.
See the Men's Brooks Ghost 11 See the Women's Brooks Ghost 11
Weight per pair: 14.4 oz.
What we like: Quality, race-ready build.
What we don’t: Firm construction isn’t comfortable for daily training or extended runs.
New Balance has put a lot of effort into their Fresh Foam initiative, which competes with the thick midsole offerings from Hoka One One, Adidas, and others. And while there are undoubtedly some nice options in that collection (including the 1080 V9) we think their best shoe is the fast 890. The 2019 v7 model is built around their familiar and firm Revlite midsole, which is among the most responsive on the market. Weight also is a strong suit at 14.4 ounces per pair for the men’s and 11.2 ounces for the women’s. This makes the 890 a popular choice for speed workouts and races of a half marathon distance or less.
Where the 890 falls short is comfort on high-mileage and recovery days. The firm build doesn’t absorb impacts or cushion you very well, which can lead to some discomfort and soreness compared with a softer shoe like the Brooks Ghost or Hoka Clifton above. On the plus side, the knit upper is soft and flexy, and those with wide feet will be happy to hear that the toe box is very accommodating. We wouldn’t recommend the 890 as your everyday trainer—and marathoner or ultra-distance runners will want to look elsewhere—but it’s an excellent tempo and race shoe to have in your collection.
See the Men's New Balance 890v7 See the Women's New Balance 890v7
Weight per pair: 20.6 oz.
What we like: Energetic and springy for a stability design.
What we don’t: Low-volume toe box.
Stability shoes typically prioritize support for improving body mechanics over all-out performance, but the light and responsive Saucony Guide ISO 2 manages a nice mix of the two. Like the Brooks Adrenaline above, the Guide is intended for overpronators or those that find some extra lateral stability more comfortable. But where the Saucony sets itself apart is its reasonable 20.6-ounce weight (per pair), airy upper with great ventilation, and excellent energy transfer from the proprietary midsole/topsole design. In fact, in using the Guide alongside the Clifton above and Altra’s Torin 4 below, we found it to be noticeably more responsive than those cushioned, neutral options.
What’s not to like with the Saucony Guide ISO? The shoe has a nice, medium-width toe box, but the overall fit is on the low volume end. In particular, on runs exceeding 10 miles, we felt consistent pressure as our big toes pressed against the “ceiling” of the shoe while descending, which eventually created a hole in the mesh. If that fit issue won’t be a problem for you (to be fair, it was only something we experienced on long, undulating runs) it proved to be a fine all-around performer. And the Guide’s mix of bouncy cushioning and stability made it a favorite for boot camp and circuit training... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Saucony Guide ISO 2 See the Women's Saucony Guide ISO 2
Weight per pair: 22.6 oz.
What we like: Awesome traction on soft surfaces like mud.
What we don’t: Tall stack height and substantial lugs aren’t as stable over rocks and hardpack dirt.
Salomon has a knack for building high quality and tough footwear—they take the top spots on both our hiking boot and shoe articles—and their premium trail runner is the Speedcross 5. Recently updated for 2019, the Speedcross is a performance-oriented design that excels over soft surfaces like dirt, mud, and even light snow. Its 6-millimeter, arrow-shaped lugs are larger than the Saucony Peregine’s above, and the shoe’s thick midsole and new, more supportive upper material offer excellent comfort even in rough environments.
The Speedcross is a big seller every year and a common site at adventure races like Tough Mudders, but it can’t match the versatility of the aforementioned Peregrine. To start, its substantial outsole and tall stack height give it a tippy feeling on rocky trails or uneven hardpack (even with the stiffened-up heel in the latest version). Second, it’s a bit heavy for covering long distances at 22.6 ounces per pair. Finally, the low-volume shape and single-pull fit system don’t offer the same level of customization as a standard set of laces. To be fair, a number of these potential cons are a big part of the shoe’s success, and we certainly can’t deny the impressive performance ceiling of the beastly Salomon.
See the Men's Salomon Speedcross 5 See the Women's Salomon Speedcross 5
Weight per pair: 19.8 oz.
What we like: Great bounce and energy for a mid-range runner.
What we don’t: Narrow fit and somewhat polarizing collar design.
It doesn’t get much more legendary than Nike’s ubiquitous Pegasus line. Now in its 35th edition, the mid-range shoe aims to hit the sweet spot for road runners of just about every distance. The latest model features the brand’s popular Zoom Air midsole that provides excellent bounce and energy, a comfy mesh upper, and a fairly standard 10-millimeter drop. Further, it includes a serious rubber outsole (for a road shoe) that grips well on wet pavement and surprised us with its traction and comfort on dirt and gravel paths. Like the Hoka Clifton, Asics Gel-Cumulus, and Brooks Ghost above, the Pegasus eats up miles and is a great daily trainer.
Despite the popularity of the shoe, Nike didn’t shy away from incorporating some unique features in the Pegasus 35. Most noticeable is the collar, which pulls away from the Achilles at the top, giving it a fin-like look. The aim is to reduce a potential rub point without compromising foot hold, and they’ve largely accomplished that. Some may find it a little disconcerting at first—and we did feel that the shoe was a bit more prone to heel lift on extended climbs—but the difference is minor. What can potentially be an issue is the narrow midfoot shape, so those with high-volume feet may need to look elsewhere. But if its fit and design works for you, the Pegasus is among the more versatile running shoes out there.
See the Men's Nike Pegasus 35 See the Women's Nike Pegasus 35
Weight per pair: 15.6 oz.
What we like: Light but surprisingly versatile.
What we don’t: Despite the feathery weight, it’s not as responsive as we’d like for racing.
Saucony’s Kinvara has a special place in the hearts of many serious runners for its lightweight build, just-right level cushioning for stacking on miles, and low heel-to-toe drop. It’s the kind of shoe that doesn’t get a lot of headlines for flashy tech but continues to get the job done. The construction is fairly traditional with a thin, breathable upper, standard lacing system, and familiar cushioning that includes a layer of Saucony’s Everrun TPU topsole over EVA foam. The result is a versatile, sub-16-ounce shoe (13.4 oz. for the women’s) that is comfortable on runs of all distances.
Saucony always has priced the Kinvara aggressively, and that holds true with the 10th generation that undercuts much of its competition at $110. Spending up to a shoe like the $160 Nike Fly Flyknit below will yield a noticeable boost in responsiveness thanks to its carbon fiber midsole, and the New Balance 890v7 has even more pep on race day thanks to its 1.2-ounce lighter build. But the Saucony isn’t too far behind, and its cushioned yet feathery design makes it a top lightweight trainer.
See the Men's Saucony Kinvara 10 See the Women's Saucony Kinvara 10
Weight per pair: 18 oz.
What we like: Excellent value for a well-rounded build.
What we don’t: A few comfort-related issues.
Quality road-running shoes under $100 are hard to come by these days, but one of the most complete designs is Under Armour’s Charged Bandit. For $80, the Bandit 4 packs a solid punch: its moderately thick midsole has a nice amount of spring and energy return, the mesh upper breathes well, and the shoe remains surprisingly comfortable even over extended distances. Like the Asics Cumulus above, the shoe has a pretty rigid heel that provides light support. But the Charged Bandit also flexes smoothly as you run, and its well-balanced design makes it a nice match for anything from tempo workouts to use as a marathon trainer.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of compromises that come with the Charged Bandit’s budget-friendly price tag. Most importantly, the minimalist but fairly wide tongue doesn’t fit as seamlessly across the foot as pricier shoes, which can lead to some rubbing and general discomfort over time. Further, the thin collar is another area of concern with potential irritation along the Achilles, especially if you wear low socks. Nitpicks aside, the Charged Bandit serves as proof that an affordable price doesn’t automatically mean you’re sacrificing a responsive and fun ride.
See the Men's Under Armour Charged Bandit See the Women's UA Charged Bandit
Weight per pair: 16.8 oz.
What we like: Carbon fiber plate provides a stiff, race-ready platform.
What we don’t: Heavier and slower than the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit model.
Nike’s wild Vaporfly 4% Flyknit is the brand’s leading race model, but its $250 price tag and limited availability puts it out reach for most non-sponsored athletes. At $90 less, their Zoom Fly Flyknit borrows many of the 4%’s signature marathon-ready features with only a few compromises. Importantly, you get the full-length carbon fiber plate that’s integrated into the midsole for a stiff and high-powered feel. And the shoe has a tall stack height of 33 millimeters at the heel—for reference, the Hoka Clifton 6 above is 30 millimeters—which provides sufficient cushioning and shock absorption for marathon or ultra-distance races.
As mentioned above, Nike had to make some sacrifices with this lightly detuned version of the Vaporfly. First, the superlight and energetic ZoomX midsole has been replaced with their React foam, which still is a fine performer but adds some weight to the mix. On that topic, the Zoom Fly Flyknit is on the heavy end for a race shoe at 16.8 ounces for the men’s pair (the New Balance 890v7 above comes in at 14.4 ounces, while the Varpofly is even less at 13.8 ounces). Finally, the cost still is fairly high at $160—especially for a shoe that will primarily be worn for racing—but it feels like a fair deal considering the amount of technology and high-end materials baked into the design.
See the Men's Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit See the Women's Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit
Weight per pair: 20.2 oz.
What we like: Very cushy midsole makes it a great shoe for recovery runs.
What we don’t: Wide heel feels a little sloppy; ridiculously long laces.
Still a young company, Altra Running has managed to shake up the running market with a compelling lineup of zero-drop shoes. Their Lone Peak trail runner is the current darling of the thru-hiking and ultralight backpacking communities, while the Torin 4 Plush here shares many of its attributes in a road-friendly package. You get Altra’s signature wide toe box, the cushioning underfoot is substantial, and the zero-drop shape means that you retain more padding under the toe and forefoot than a standard 8- or 10-millimeter-drop model. Add it all up and you get a solid shoe for long training runs or recovery days where comfort outweighs all-out performance.
What drops the Altra Torin 4 Plush down our list? To start, the shoe’s cushy build and flexy, slipper-like knit upper offer plenty of comfort but are lacking in the speed department (and we found the knit construction makes the shoe run a bit warm). Additionally, the wide fit around the heel can feel sloppy for those with narrow- to average-sized feet. And a final nitpick is that the laces are ridiculously long and require too many knots to keep them from flopping around. In the end, unless you like Altra’s wide toe box or are a big fan of the zero-drop style, we recommend sticking with one of the neutral options above... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Altra Torin 4 Plush See the Women's Altra Torin 4 Plush
Weight per pair: 14.8 oz.
What we like: Barefoot design is super light and nimble.
What we don’t: Limited protection and stability.
Ultra-thin barefoot shoes like the New Balance Minimus MT10v1 put a premium on maximizing trail feel and a nimble ride. The popular line was launched all the way back in 2011 and remains relevant today with quality Vibram rubber, a stretchy mesh upper, and all-in weight of 14.8 ounces. For reference, that’s in the same ballpark weight-wise as a road race shoe like the New Balance 890v7 above, and combined with a low 4-millimeter drop, the Minimus has an airy, “barely there” personality.
Minimalist shoes were all the rage for a few years, but their popularity has waned for a number of reasons. For one, with so little support and protection underfoot, most runners need to go through an adjustment period and stick to short distances. And even as you build up your strength, the thin cushioning and flexible construction aren’t a great match for rough trails or high-mileage days. In addition, the lifespan of the rubber outsole and mesh upper fall short of mountain-ready options like the Saucony Peregrine ISO and Salomon Speedcross 5 above. But if you want to give a barefoot-style shoe a go, the Minimus MT10v1 is the trail runner of choice.
See the Men's New Balance Minimus See the Women's New Balance Minimus
Weight per pair: 21.8 oz.
What we like: Wild looks and excellent comfort.
What we don’t: Pretty heavy and you pay a premium for the styling.
Adidas’ Boost midsole put the brand back on the map for many runners thanks to its long-lasting and high-energy performance. Their current flagship, the Ultraboost 19, uses a generous amount of the proprietary foam wrapped in a very stylish package. The shoe’s futuristic look includes a soft and flexy knit upper, unique mesh overlay across the midfoot, and a minimalist yet colorful heel counter. From a performance standpoint, the Ultraboost is plenty capable with excellent responsiveness from the midsole as well as sufficient foot hold and comfort for extended training days.
Coming in at $180, the Ultraboost is one of the most expensive shoes to make this list. And unless you put a big premium on styling, the shoe falls short of its big price tag. You get the kind of smooth rider that likely will make a lot of people happy, but Adidas’ design elements add up to a hefty 21.8 ounces for a pair of the men’s version (a full 3.8 ounces more than the plush Hoka Clifton above). The good news is that the shoe hides the extra weight pretty well, and it’s undeniably one of the more attention-grabbing models on the market (for better or for worse).
See the Men's Adidas Ultraboost 19 See the Women's Adidas Ultraboost 19
Weight per pair: 18.8 oz.
What we like: Hybrid design is suitable for both trail and road running.
What we don’t: Not a standout in either environment.
Combining the basic design of the Clifton above with a number of trail-specific features is the Hoka One One Challenger ATR. Now in its fifth iteration, the shoe has developed a strong following due to its well-rounded hybrid build. The shoe’s rockered shape and thick cushioning provide a soft and comfortable ride on pavement, while sections of 4-millimeter lugs underfoot, a reinforced upper, and a toe cap give it solid trail credentials. As a whole, the Challenger excels as a dedicated light trail option or for runners that need to cover some road miles before hitting dirt.
As expected with a hybrid shoe, there are compromises on both ends of the performance spectrum. Starting on pavement, the Challenger’s substantial lugs are overkill and add unnecessary weight. And on technical terrain, the ATR can get out of sorts due to its flexible construction that gives it a sloppy feel. Further, the outsole falls short of Hoka’s dedicated trail models like the Speedgoat and Torrent in muddy and wet conditions. Serious runners in either category likely will want to stick with a dedicated design, but the Challenger remains a fun all-in-one solution.
See the Men's Hoka One One Challenger See the Women's Hoka One One Challenger
Weight per pair: 19.2 oz.
What we like: A super comfortable shoe at a reasonable price point.
What we don’t: Midsole will be too soft for some serious runners.
Mizuno may not be a household name, but they make some of the most comfortable running shoes on the market. When shopping at our local running store years back, we were told that the company is like the “Nike of Japan,” and based on favorable impressions from friends, we took the leap with the Wave Rider. This neutral shoe is Mizuno’s leading model and for good reason: it’s lightweight, well-built, has a soft heel cup and ample padding, and offers high levels of cushioning (not Hoka levels, but more than most). We’ve been using various models of the Wave Rider for years for everything from marathons to daily wear, and the latest 22 is as good as any.
What are the shortcomings of this shoe? At the end of the day, the Wave Rider is a little less performance-oriented than some of the models above. The cushy construction gives up a little too much in terms of energy compared with shoes like the Nike Pegasus 35 and Asics Gel-Cumulus. In addition, it feels flat underfoot, meaning it’s not a great option for those who want serious arch support (although you always can add custom insoles). Last but not least, the softness of the Wave Rider—which is where it derives much of its comfort—can make it a bit challenging to dial the fit in tight. But overall, we love the Wave Rider as a soft-riding option for running, walking, and everyday use.
See the Men's Mizuno Wave Rider 22 See the Women's Mizuno Wave Rider 22
Weight per pair: 16 oz.
What we like: Versatile design that crosses over nicely into everyday and gym use.
What we don’t: Falls short as a dedicated running shoe.
On Footwear doesn’t have the brand cachet of established players like Brooks, Asics, or even Hoka One One, but they’ve quietly assembled a capable lineup of running, cross-training, and everyday shoes. The Cloud X is a great representation of the brand: the open, pod-like outsole gives it a distinct look, fit and finish is top-notch, and the shoe has a sporty ride with good energy return. But where the Cloud X sets itself apart is versatility: the cross-trainer-like build is firm enough underfoot to provide support for gym workouts and the clean looks translate nicely to around-town wear.
We like the Cloud X’s do-everything intentions, but it falls short as a pure running design. The shoe is nice and light at 16 ounces for the pair, but the protection and comfort underfoot degrade as the miles add up. Gym goers that hit the treadmill for 30 minutes at a time likely will be just fine, but we’d steer clear if you have more ambitious goals (or are looking for a one- running-shoe quiver). Further, those pods underfoot have a tendency to collect rocks, so it’s best to avoid gravel paths. For an even lighter but less supportive option, check out On’s standard Cloud model.
See the Men's On Cloud X See the Women's On Cloud X
|Hoka One One Clifton 6||$130||Neutral||18 oz.||Moderate/maximum||5mm|
|Asics Gel-Cumulus 21||$120||Neutral||20.8 oz.||Moderate||10mm|
|Nike Revolution 4||$50||Neutral||16.8 oz.||Moderate/light||10mm|
|Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19||$130||Stability/motion control||22 oz.||Moderate||12mm|
|Saucony Peregrine ISO||$120||Trail||21 oz.||Moderate||4mm|
|Brooks Ghost 11||$120||Neutral||21.8 oz.||Moderate||12mm|
|New Balance 890v7||$120||Neutral||14.4 oz.||Light||6mm|
|Saucony Guide ISO 2||$120||Stability||20.6 oz.||Moderate||8mm|
|Salomon Speedcross 5||$130||Trail||22.6 oz.||Moderate||10mm|
|Nike Zoom Pegasus 35||$120||Neutral||19.8 oz.||Moderate||10mm|
|Saucony Kinvara 10||$110||Neutral/minimalist||15.6 oz.||Moderate/light||4mm|
|Under Armour Charged Bandit 4||$80||Neutral||18 oz.||Moderate||8mm|
|Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit||$160||Neutral||16.8 oz.||Maximum/moderate||10mm|
|Altra Torin 4 Plush||$140||Neutral||20.2 oz.||Moderate/maximum||0mm|
|New Balance Minimus MT10v1||$115||Minimalist/trail||14.8 oz.||Minimum||4mm|
|Adidas Ultraboost 19||$180||Neutral||21.8 oz.||Moderate||10mm|
|Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5||$130||Trail/neutral||18.8 oz.||Moderate/maximum||5mm|
|Mizuno Wave Rider 22||$120||Neutral||19.2 oz.||Moderate/maximum||12mm|
|On Footwear Cloud X||$140||Neutral||16 oz.||Moderate||6mm|
- Running Shoe Categories
- Arch Support
- Cushioning and Stack Height
- Heel-To-Toe Drop
- Running Shoe Weight
- Important Components of a Running Shoe
- The Knit Craze
- Fit and Sizing
- Durability: How Long Should Running Shoes Last?
- Saving with Older Models
One of the most confusing and hotly debated topics in running shoes is the “category” question: do you need a neutral, stability, motion control, or minimalist shoe? Does it even matter? To start, we want to make it clear that it’s best not to limit yourself to a specific shoe type. Research into running gait and the benefits of shoe styles for injury prevention has been largely inconclusive. Instead, the current sentiment has shifted to making a personal, comfort-based decision. All that said, there is still plenty of value in understanding the various construction types available, and we detail the major categories below.
Neutral shoes are the core of the road running market and share a number of attributes: flexible construction, some level of cushioning underfoot, and light weight. Runners that tend to like these shoes have a neutral gait (more on this below) and medium to high arches. This wide-ranging category encompasses everything from ultralight race designs to heavier and cushier daily trainers. Popular neutral shoes include a number of our top picks: the Asics Gel-Cumulus 21, Brooks Ghost 11, Nike Pegasus 35, and Hoka One One Clifton 6.
As the name implies, stability shoes offer a step up in support compared with the neutral designs above. They’re commonly marketed to runners that have average to flat feet with a tendency to overpronate (their feet roll inwards while running). As such, their designs include some lateral stability—often in the form of a denser foam “post” along the inside of the shoe—to lightly correct a runner’s gait. Stability shoes are common choices for those that find neutral shoes tippy and uncomfortable, and some of the top options include the Brooks Adrenaline GTS and Saucony Guide ISO.
There’s a fair amount of crossover between motion control and stability shoes, and you’ll often see them lumped together by manufacturers. But where they differ is that motion control models offer the highest level of support. Those with flat feet and moderate to heavy overpronation may fall into this category (it’s worth noting that strength training and using a running coach to work on gait may also be beneficial). Motion control shoes have extra stability integrated into the upper and midsole and stiffened-up heels, which makes them among the heaviest and slowest on the market. Brooks’ Adrenaline GTS is one option for moderate overpronators that hits a middle ground between stability and motion control styles, while the Asics Gel-Foundation and Brooks Beast have even stiffer builds for a boost in support.
Barefoot or minimalist shoes burst on the scene about 10 years ago but have largely faded from view since. Part of their initial appeal were claims related to a “natural” running motion and injury prevention, which have been largely debunked (and also resulted in a class action lawsuit against Vibram over their polarizing FiveFingers models). But minimalist shoes like the New Balance MT10v1 and Brooks Pureflow still match up well for runners that have mid or forefoot strikes and prioritize weight and ground feel over cushioning and support. You’ll see references to a low or zero-drop style (more on this in “heel-to-toe drop” below), streamlined features, and thin constructions overall. It’s worth noting that if you plan to transition from a traditional runner to a minimalist style, be sure to start with short runs and slowly ramp up your mileage to reduce the chance of injury.
The categories above cover shoes intended for road, track, or treadmill work, but those who like to venture onto rough singletrack or mountainous terrain should opt for a dedicated trail shoe. To handle the more challenging conditions, trail runners include a host of upgrades. The most noticeable change is the outsole, which gets substantial lugs and a sticky rubber compound to increase grip. Further, the upper material is thicker for greater durability, and you get additional protection underfoot and around the toes. And finally, the shoe has a stiffer construction overall to help with stability through technical sections. Popular trail options that made our list include the Saucony Peregrine ISO, Salomon Speedcross 5, and Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5. For a more complete list of options, see our article on the best trail-running shoes.
Taking a closer look at body mechanics and running gait involves determining your level of pronation. To start, neutral pronation means you go through the following cycle: your feet hit the ground and roll lightly inwards while the arch flattens (if you’re a visual learner, we’ve found this chart from Asics helpful). This is considered a natural running and walking style as the inward rotation helps with shock absorption while keeping your body comfortably aligned. One helpful indicator that you have this type of gait is wear patterns on old shoes that are even across the forefoot and lightly worn on the outside heel. In general, runners that have normal pronation are best off with a flexible shoe in the “neutral” category above.
Next up is overpronation, which is when the ankle rotates heavily inwards. Runners with this type of gait often (by not always) have flat feet and will see wear patterns along the insides of their shoes at both the heel and forefoot. Traditionally, overpronators were advised to purchase a stability/motion control shoe or invest in an aftermarket insole. The rationale behind this is that the extra support and structure encourages your feet to mimic neutral pronation, thereby reducing the risk of injury. However, if you’re looking for conclusive, evidence-based research that this happens, you’ll come up empty. It’s true that many overpronating runners like the feel of a stability shoe, especially those that are fairly unobtrusive like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS and Saucony Guide ISO. But it’s equally important to understand there isn’t a universal “perfect” gait, and over correcting with too much support also can be a potential recipe for injury.
Finally, supination or underpronation is when the ankle rotates outwards while running. This is the least common gait style, but characteristics include feet with high arches and old shoes showing wear along the the outer edges of the soles at the front and back. Similar to overpronation, it’s not a perfect science in finding an ideal shoe. That said, most runners with supination prefer a neutral style with a lot of flexibility. Shoes that fit the bill include the Adidas Ultraboost, Asics Gel-Cumulus, and Brooks Ghost.
We touched on this in the sections above, but the height of your arches is closely tied to pronation. There certainly are exceptions, but in general, those with normal-sized arches fall into the “neutral” pronation category, runners with flat feet or low arches have a tendency to overpronate, and high arches are associated with supination.
Whether or not you should base any portion of your shoe buying decision on this information, however, is up for debate. On one hand, Asics provides specific shoe recommendations for those with flat/low, average, and high arches (with the caveat that “actual biomechanical needs vary from person to person”). And on the other, this research study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that choosing shoes based on arch support doesn’t reduce the risk of injury. Without solid evidence behind the benefits, it’s best to think of it as a personal, comfort-based decision. Further, runners that have consistent challenges finding a suitable pair of shoes will be best off meeting with a podiatrist for recommendations on foot strengthening, shoe types, or orthotic inserts.
Cushioning is the hot subject in running shoes of late, with ultrathin, barefoot models being overtaken by super thick and plush designs from brands like Hoka One One, Altra, and others. To determine the thickness of a given shoe, the key spec to track down is stack height: the measured height from where the foot sits inside the shoe to the ground at both the heel and forefoot. At the low end is a model like the New Balance Minimus MT10v1 (15mm heel/11mm forefoot), while the Hoka One One Bondi 6 (37mm/33mm) and Nike Fly Flyknit (33mm/23mm) are on the other extreme. Most running shoes land somewhere in between at approximately 20 to 30 millimeters at the heel.
How to you determine the ideal amount of cushioning? Simply put, there isn’t a perfect answer, although personal preference, running style, and distance can point you in the right direction. Thin shoes typically are lighter, faster, and excel at short distances, although they can lead to foot soreness as the miles pound on. Going the plush route aids in shock absorption and comfort for longer races or recovery days, but you lose some of the energy in all that foam. In the end, most runners will be happiest somewhere in the middle. Über-popular designs like the Nike Pegasus 35 (28mm/18mm) and Asiscs Gel-Cumulus 21 (29mm/19mm) are well-rounded options with plenty of protection and comfort for the daily training grind without compromising a peppy ride on races ranging from 5Ks to marathons.
Heel-to-toe drop describes the difference in shoe height from the heel to the toe. In theory, it’s not the flashiest of specs, but the dramatic growth of low- and zero-drop shoes (designs that are close to or equally tall at the heel and toe) over the past decade have put it squarely on runners’ radars. From our picks above, the running shoe market ranges from a 12-millimeter drop for a traditional design like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 to low-drop options like the 4-millimeter Saucony Kinvara 10 and zero-drop Altra Torin 4.
Our take on heel-to-toe drop is that if you’ve been comfortable with your traditional 8-millimeter drop shoes for years, there’s likely very little reason to experiment with a pair of Altras. Injury prevention was one of the early calling cards of zero-drop models like Five Fingers, with the claim being it encouraged a “natural” stride that resulted in a midfoot strike. But numerous studies, including this one published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, have failed to support it. That said, we know of plenty of people that have found the switch to a zero-drop style a revelation in running comfort (those runners commonly already have a midfoot or forefoot strike). And a final note: if you do plan to run in a low-drop or zero-drop shoe, it’s best to slowly transition by keeping your mileage and frequency down to start. One conclusion from the aforementioned study was that dedicated runners that went from a traditional to low-drop shoe had a higher chance for injury.
Weight is among the most publicized specs on a running shoe, and for good reason: a lighter shoe requires less effort to haul around on the go. As such, it’s not surprising that the lightest shoes are designed for moving fast. Nike’s wild Vaporfly 4% tips the scales at only 13.8 ounces for a men’s pair, and New Balance’s streamlined 890v7 is close behind at 14.4 ounces. The core middle-ground of the market, including Hoka One One’s Clifton (18 ounces) and Nike’s Pegasus 35 (19.8 ounces), come in a few ounces heavier due to an emphasis on longevity and comfort. Finally, the heaviest models include stability or motion control road shoes (Brooks’ 22 oz. Adrenaline GTS 19) as well as trail-specific designs like Salomon’s Speedcross 5 (22.6 ounces).
In choosing a shoe, it’s always a good idea to have weight in mind, but it’s equally important not to look at that number in complete isolation. Choosing the lightest models would put you in a pair of race flats, which compromise overall comfort, durability, and traction in the need for speed. Moreover, a lower weight doesn’t guarantee that a shoe will be faster: the budget-friendly Nike Revolution weighs only 16.8 ounces for the pair, but its budget build means it lacks the pop and energy return of a shoe like the 21.8-ounce Brooks Ghost 11. In the end, it’s best to use weight as one of many factors in determining your ideal pair of runners.
A shoe’s upper refers to the material(s) that wrap around the sides and top of your feet. Typically made out of a mesh or knit fabric, the goal is to balance flexibility with support and running comfort. We’ve found that quality uppers are fairly thin and have minimal overlays and seams to encourage breathability and trim weight. In addition, they’re made with soft materials that hold your feet without feeling restrictive or abrasive. And specific to trail runners, the durability of the upper material fabric can play an important role if you’ll be running over terrain filled with rocks, roots, or other trail debris.
As the name indicates, a midsole is sandwiched between the removable insole and outsole at the bottom. Largely comprised of foam (some include panels of TPU or even carbon fiber in the case of the Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit), the midsole plays a significant role in a shoe’s shock absorption, energy return, and all-around comfort. As such, it’s one of the flashiest and techiest parts of the shoe, featuring proprietary foams with names like “React,” “Fresh,” and “Boost.” Designs vary widely based on thickness and level of cushioning (minimalist, moderate, or maximum) and intended use (race or speed-oriented shoes are firmer, while trainers and long-distance shoes are often softer). It’s a good idea to read up on a shoe’s midsole style to make sure it’s a good match to your running needs.
Outsole and Traction
The final piece is the sole or outsole of the shoe. Designs fall into two general categories: blown or carbon rubber. Starting with blown rubber, this is the lighter alternative that uses an air injection process to cut weight and retain a lot of flexibility and bounciness underfoot. Downsides are that the material isn’t very durable and doesn’t provide a lot of traction, especially in the wet. Because of this, blown rubber is commonly used around the midfoot and rarely takes up the entirety of the exposed outsole. Carbon rubber is heavier and more rigid, but strategically-placed panels of it boost longevity and grip in a variety of conditions.
The amount of traction a given shoe provides is one of the top considerations for trail runners—it’s a big factor in why the Saucony Peregrine and Salomon Speedcross made our list—while it falls lower down the priority list for road use. That’s not to say that traction can’t come into play in certain situations on pavement. Some lightweight road shoes have overly simplified outsoles with too much exposed blown rubber that can be sketchy when running on wet surfaces or even when crossing painted lines on roads and crosswalks (including Saucony’s Kinvara 10 and Altra’s Torin 4). On the other hand, Hoka One One’s Challenger ATR balances road and dirt needs with a combination of 4mm lugs under the heel and forefoot with blown rubber mixed in the middle to encourage a smooth ride on pavement.
For years, running shoe uppers looked largely the same, mixing panels of open and tightly woven mesh for support and breathability. But in 2012, the landscape changed quickly with the release of Nike’s Flyknit and Adidas’ Primeknit shoes (complete with legal battles over patent infringements). What was the big fuss? Beyond the very unique look, the flexible uppers were supremely comfortable and conformed to your feet in a sock-like way. Further, Nike claimed that the one-piece construction meant it was able to cut down on material waste in the manufacturing process.
In 2019, nearly every major brand offers running shoes with knit upper materials. Nike and Adidas still are class leaders with extensive ranges that compare favorably to mesh designs in terms of weight, breathability, and durability (while exceeding them in comfort). Others fall a little short in the performance department. Altra’s Torin 4 is offered in both mesh and knit versions, but the knit model is a little heavier (about 2 ounces per pair) and runs quite a bit warmer. One thing all knit models share in common is a high price tag. For the aforementioned Altra, the knit version runs $20 more than the mesh model. And this is a matter of taste, but we think knit shoes tend to look cleaner and are a bit more stylish at the end of the day. They look less like running shoes and are better-suited for everyday wear, hence the rise in popularity.
Nailing down fit and sizing is one of the more challenging parts of an online shoe search. There are, however, some fit-related generalizations that can be made about certain brands. Altra shoes consistently have a wide toe box and fairly generous midfoot, while Nikes are known to run pretty narrow throughout, which can be an issue for those with high-volume feet. And Hoka, Brooks, Mizuno, Saucony, and Asics often fall in the middle. Of course, there are variances within a brand based on the model type—performance-oriented shoes often have a snugger, more streamlined cut, for example—which is why we call out our experiences with fit as often as possible in the product descriptions above.
One positive note in regard to sizing is that many models of running shoes—and road runners in particular—are made in an expansive range of lengths and widths. Take the women’s version of the popular Brooks Ghost 11, which is offered in sizes from 5 to 12 and a total of 3 widths (narrow, average, and wide). And the men’s Ghost has a similarly large sizing assortment. Further, some running brands have invested heavily in advanced online tools for finding your ideal pair. One of favorites is the Brooks Shoe Finder, which asks detailed questions about injury history, training goals, flexibility, and walking gait to provide specific shoe recommendations.
Running is a year-round activity, but the enthusiasm for getting out certainly ticks up in the warmer months. As such, manufacturers put a premium on temperature regulation on hot days. Far and away, the most significant factor for a shoe’s breathability is how well its upper materials release hot air and sweat. Logically, a thinner and more porous upper performs best in the heat, while a thicker and more substantial material will run warm but help keep you protected on cold days. Overall, most of the shoes reviewed above offer plenty of breathability, although one exception is the thick upper on Altra’s Torin that ran quite warm.
One of the age-old running shoe questions is when to retire your beloved pair of trainers. And while there are a range of considerations including your body weight, stride (heel strikers put more stress on the shoe), and terrain (pavement usually wears shoes down faster than dirt trails), there are some key guidelines to follow. To start, the loosely agreed upon total mileage for when the midsole and cushioning of a quality running shoe should break down is in the 300 to 500 range. The factors mentioned above can swing that number to either end of the spectrum, and some minimalist racing flats have even shorter lifespans. Other indicators that it’s time to go shoe shopping are if you start developing new aches and pains in the knees, ankles, or feet, or the shoe’s outsole is wearing down.
The shoes listed above are the most recent editions (at the time of publishing) that are widely available through various online retailers and local brick and mortar shops. But rapid turnover in the running shoe market means that you can sometimes save money by purchasing a prior generation shoe. Take the popular Asics Gel-Cumulus 21, which sells for $120. Currently, you can pick up the Gel-Cumulus 20 for under $80 in a range of sizes and colors on Amazon. The same often goes for your local running store, if you ask (we always ask if the past generation model is available, and it often is).
If you do decide to go this route, you’ll need to be mindful of any potential tweaks to the design between generations. Many changes are minor, while others can have a big impact on fit and performance such as widening the toe box or wholesale redesigns of the upper and foam. Finally, it’s important to understand that long-term availability is unpredictable with discontinued styles, so if you love a specific model, it’s a good idea to stock up with a few pairs while you can.
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