The best running shoes are essential for everyone from beginners gearing up for their first 5K to casual joggers to seasoned marathon runners. Picking the best pair of running trainers can mean the difference between getting better at running over time, or getting shin splints and giving up.
The best running shoes come in all shapes, with differing designs and technologies to suit the needs of all types of runner. Driven by Nike’s running shoe innovations, they are also currently in something of a tech arms race.
So, picking the right running shoes for you can feel like a daunting task. That’s okay though; T3’s resident runners have been testing running shoes for years and that’s why we can bring you this guide to the best running shoe for any and every type of runner.
We’re working through this season’s shoes – with reviews going up at a steady pace – to find the best shoes for every type of road runner. We have models best suited for training, racing, recovery and anything in between. Let’s face it: you can’t have enough running shoes, just like you need more than one pair of best running shorts, best running socks and best running tops. So lace up your shopping shoes and prepare to start spending (on the best running shoes).
Not only the weather is getting better for running – in the northern hemisphere anyway – the global lockdown is also easing up a bit in some countries, which means more people can (and probably will) take up running as a hobby. And why shouldn’t they? Running is a great way to lose weight fast and to maintain weight loss during lockdown too.
Running regularly can also get you fit and help boost metabolism and cardiovascular health too. Once you can run a 5K comfortably – this shouldn’t take long following our beginner running tips – you can get a running watch or heart rate monitor and start looking into improving your running form. Learning how to run faster is not rocket science, after all, it just requires a bit of practice.
Don’t forget to get a head torch for running if you are running on uneven terrain (no one wants a sprained ankle) and some compression tights for running or base layers to keep you warm.
If you are more of a trail runner, check out our guide on the best trail running shoes: these shoes are more suited for running on rugged terrain. Looking for the perfect shoes for your full-body HIIT workout? Better have a look at our best workout shoes guide now.
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What are the best running shoes?
If you are after great cushioning, good looks and top tech, look no further than the Hoka One One Carbon X. It has everything that makes running shoes desirable, with a very reasonable price for the amount of tech involved. Arguably it one for more advanced runners, however.
If you are search of less speed and want more cushioning and support, Asics Gel-Nimbus 21 or the allegedly injury proof Nike React Infinity Run could be perfect for you. Both these shoes are actually deceptively fast, but Asics famed GEL cushioning system and Nike’s incredibly stablilising design mean they’re more welcoming to newcomers and more casual runners than our top choice.
If you are are a serious runner and want THE undisputed best running shoes for racing, Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is clearly the best choice. They’re so good, everyone hates them. Supplies are short but Nike periodically releases new batches.
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Or have a look at the best Nike Vaporfly alternatives as well.
Our current pick of the best running shoes that look like shoes is . They have a really pleasingly old-school feel.
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THE best running shoes
Packed with top-notch Hoka technology, the Hoka One One Carbon X’s best selling point is the carbon fibre plate providing a smooth transition through the gait cycle, combined with the signature Hoka cushioning.
The Carbon X is ideal for runners wide a wide feet; the spacious but snug forefoot platform provides support and stability, holding your feet just enough so it doesn’t slide around the shoes whilst the upper mesh offers breathability.
And the looks! The thick sole profile drops only 5 mm from heel to toe, but the Carbon X seems agile and ready to go, at all times. The embroidered heel not only reminds me of the Nazca lines in Peru but it also provides extra support to the heels.
One of the lightest shoes on the list, the Hoka One One Carbon X is a formidable competitor. It can’t match the Nike Vaporfly for pure speed, but it’s usable across both training runs and races, and a fair bit more affordable. And, uh, you can actually buy it, while Vaporfly is now rather scarce, with people asking for silly money for it online. That’s why it’s back to being our #1 best running shoe.
The Nike React Infinity Run delivers on its promise, offering plenty of support in order to protect you from injury. The new Flyknit upper is comfortable yet firm and there is no sign of chafing around the rear of the foot. The integrated knitted tongue and the lace closure helps the Nike React Infinity Run follow the shape of the foot as closely as possible.
Despite all the injury-reducing protection, a fast tempo is guaranteed by the Vaporfly-like rocker sole geometry that merges landing and take off into one smooth transition. Very little energy is lost and your legs will feel fresher for longer.
For beginners, or people with ‘interesting’ running techniques, the Nike React Infinity Run will significantly reduce risk of injury. This doesn’t mean you can just completely forget about correct running technique of course, but it will definitely help you worry less as you run. More seasoned runners might find all the extra support a bit much, but even they will appreciate the supreme cushioning and energy return.
• : Nike’s new running shoe is like autocorrect for your feet
Asics’ Gel system has always been synonymous with supreme cushioning and the Asics Gel-Nimbus 21 is no different. We haven’t got enough space here to list all the technology that went into these shoes, but it’s safe to say that it’s similar to a description of a modern commercial airjet.
The trademarked I.G.S. technology – coupled with the Guidance Line system – provides outstanding gait support while the Trusstic system adds to the already great stability.
Understandably, all the extra cushioning adds a bit to the weight of the shoes, something to be expected. The Gel-Nimbus 21 was designed for comfortable, long-distance runs and not explosive sprints. There are better shoes for that purpose.
The Gel-Nimbus 21 looks pretty much like a professional running shoe, just like the Brooks and Saucony models below. It definitely isn’t a bad thing, but if you are after more swag, try the Adidas UltraBoost 19 or the On Cloud X.
Given all the extra padding, the Gel-Nimbus 21 can feel a bit warmer when the weather is hot. The shoes have great breathability but even that won’t counterbalance all the thick cushioning. Nevertheless, it’s a great shoe for any serious runner out there.
• Read our
Sometimes, all you need is a pair of cheap running shoes that won’t torture your feet when you finally decide to go for a run once again after having three months off exercising. And if you are one of those recreational runners – no shame in that – then the Adidas Solar Blaze are probably the best running shoes for you.
The Adidas Solar Blaze does what it says on the box: it has a regular fit and lace closure so you can adjust the tension on the textile upper to your liking. The textile lining and the seamless haptic print overlay will provide some support where it’s needed.
The Bounce midsole is springy, as the name suggests with decent energy return stats. Traction is provided by the flexible Stretchweb outsole that uses the durable Adiwear outsole tech so it won’t wear away after two runs. Not quite the Continental rubber outsole of the Ultraboost series but perfectly adequate for the money you’ll pay for these shoes.
The 10 mm heel drop makes the Adidas Solar Blaze a good choice for beginner runners.
Nike managed to enhance the already amazing Zoom Pegasus Turbo with the . The upper mesh-fabric has been updated so it’s even lighter now whilst retaining and improving on the stability of the shoe. The foam base has also been updated without compromising on the metrics of this great all-rounder.
What makes the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 the best on our running shoe list is it’s versatility and looks. It’s comfortable enough for longer runs but it also provides great traction on concrete and other hard surfaces for all you urban runners.
As for looks, the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 still has the trademark protruding-heel design which it takes from its big brother the ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. The latter has a bulkier look to it whereas the Turbo 2 operates with gentler lines and softer curves.
The ZoomX midsole delivers an unmatched energy return while the specially-shaped heel helps you land softer and rocks you forward. Using the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 will make you feel unstoppable both on the road and in the gym too.
Unlike the Ultraboost 19, the latest generation of Adidas Ultraboost shoes only bring subtle improvements to the table. This might have been an issue for less competent running shoes, but the Ultraboost 19 was – and still is – a brilliant road running shoe and it was enough to just tweak the dynamics, as opposed to completely revamping them.
So what has changed? For one, the Boost midsole has been made updated and according to Adidas, it is now “20% more responsive”. As well as the midsole, the upper has been tweaked and now features Celermesh materials which makes the shoes lighter without compromising fit and maximum performance.
On top of this, there are other factors that help improve comfort levels, like the soft elastane external heel counter and the torsion spring system that provides enhanced support on landing and a quick transition. Traction is guaranteed on hard surfaces thanks to the StretchWeb Rubber Outsole made from Continental rubber.
The Adidas Ultraboost PB might not Adidas’ most innovative shoes at the moment but if you are after a workhorse-type shoe that will support you on longer runs and extensive training sessions, look no further than the PB.
• Read our
Update: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% would normally be higher up our list of the best running shoes but it is so frequently unavailable, and so specifically for racing, that we have moved it down a touch. It is also undeniably weird looking.
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% is so fast, athletes are lobbying for it to be examined by the International Association of Athletics Federations because they think it provides unfair advantage to athletes who wear them. In the prototype of the successor to the Vaporfly NEXT%, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly, Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon record, previously thought to be impossible to overcome.
What’s so good in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%? Nike threw everything it knows about running shoes out of the window when they started designing the Vaporfly series. What they came up with might just be the most peculiar-looking road running shoes in existence, but one that gives runners near perfect running dynamics.
There are three key elements to the design of the Vaporfly NEXT%: the updated ZoomX foam that provides a soft landing without wasting energy on the ground, the full-length carbon plate embedded in the midsole that enables you to turn that landing energy to forward momentum and the VaporWeave upper that helps the shoes fit near perfect on your feet.
You wont wear the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% for light afternoon strolls on Park Street, in fact, you will want to wear them only on races – and races that matter, at that. Taking into account that the cushioning won’t be able to perform at 100% efficiency forever, you are looking at spending a lot of money for road running shoes you will probably wear a few times a year. My opinion? It’s still worth it.
: believe the hype
The latest update on the Cloudflow brings the Helion sole tech to this model: On’s ‘superfoam’ delivers a soft yet responsive running experience, regardless of the temperature, giving you the same dynamics all year around.
The Helion works hard to reduce impact force as you land while the Cloud elements at the front help you lift off the ground more easily and efficiently. Does this combination work? It does, and brilliantly so.
The upper is a low-profile mesh that holds your feet in the right places and feels top quality too. Not to mention, the design of the shoes is pretty amazing: not often do you see such an eye-popping design in full-fledged running shoes.
Probably the biggest issue with the On Cloudflow is its looks: you won’t want to get it dirty and run around in puddles, fearing the shoe might lose its box-fresh look. You can go for the black colourway, of course, but with such great colour gradients available, why would you?
The Asics Novablast is definitely one of the most exciting running shoe I’ve seen from the Japanese manufacturer in recent times. By no means it is perfect but it still offers plenty for the asking price.
The jumpy FlyteFoam Blast midsole delivers a fun running experience and wearing the Novablast will also make you taller, literally, thanks to the 10 millimetres of added foam which makes you feel like you have springs strapped to your feet.
The Asics Novablast delivers in the looks department too: there aren’t really a boring colourway of this shoe which is refreshing to see from Asics. Even the mainly black variant has lime green highlights and blue laces/outsole, giving the shoes a fresh and eccentric vibe.
Some might find the Novablast not optimised for longer runs; I would definitely not choose this shoe over the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% for my next half marathon. Saying that, you can’t actually buy a Vaporfly NEXT% at the moment and if you are a serious pronator, the narrow middle part of the Vaporfly’s sole might do more harm than good anyway.
If you are after a bouncy, comfortable running experience and don’t mind a bit looseness around the heels, you’ll be well off wearing the Asics Novablast for your runs.
• Read the full ASICS Novablast review here
Some says Nike broke running with its Nike Vaporfly series and although I don’t think they did – progress in sportswear can’t be halted – the American brand certainly brought high-stack running shoes with integrated carbon plates into fashion. At this day and age, almost all running shoe manufacturer have their own Nike Vaporfly alternative, and New Balance is no different.
The New Balance FuelCell TC is a light road racing shoe with very soft cushioning and a full-length carbon plate wedged in the middle of the midsole. The FuelCell technology is not new – it has been used for a while in New Balance shoes – but the TC improved on the formula and added the propulsion plate for even softer landings and more energetic takeoffs.
One thing you will definitely not feel running in the New Balance FuelCell TC is soreness or rubbing. This is one of the most comfortable high-stack shoes I have tried, starting from the soft foam underfoot, followed by the ergonomic heel counter and the light yet firm upper. These type of shoes tend to have a firmer hold, like the Hoka One One Carbon X, but not the FuelCell TC. If anything, the foam under the heel is a bit too soft and since it is rather high too, it might be a bit challenging for beginner runners to stabilise their ankles in the FuelCell TC.
But considering that the New Balance FuelCell is £60/$50 cheaper than the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, it feels like a small trade off. If you want a shoe that will help you run your next half marathon or even marathon faster without lower leg soreness the week after the race, I can wholeheartedly recommend the New Balance FuelCell TC.
The Asics Metaride is a brilliant long distance shoe, designed to relieve pressure on your ankle joints and rock you forward as you devour the miles under your feet. the very distinct sole is not only chunky but also curved, which helps the transition as you move your balance from the heel to the toes.
The knit upper is firmer than the Nike Joyride’s flyknit but more forgiving than the Asics Gel Numbus 21, for example. The collar is super padded and there is no rubbing or chafing around the ankles either.
The Asics Metaride will take you further in more comfort. The Asics staple GEL cushioning works really well with the Flytefoam Lyte midsole and distributes impact stress efficiently.
The meta clutch counter could hold the heel a but firmer so it doesn’t wiggle as much but it’s not loose enough to hinder your speed or comfort levels. The midpoint of the sole – where the little tunnel is if you look at the shoes from the side – can be felt at first but once you did 10-20 miles in the shoes it breaks in.
• Read our
There are runners out there who aren’t looking for maximum comfort and padding all around their feet. Runners who want their running shoes to be as minimal as possible, shoes that won’t run for them but aid them during their runs. Runners who seek energy return and that raw, ‘this result is mine’ feeling.
The Saucony Type A9 are these kind of shoes. They are not for beginners, no. They are for people who know what they are doing on the road and want to have a ride where they feel the ground beneath their feet.
These are some seriously light shoes; in fact, they are almost half as heavy as some of the other entries on this list. This means a lot less cushioning and rocket tech and a lot more directness and immediate feedback from any running surface.
The Saucony Type A9 is the one for the road, one for race days, one for those times when you feel ready to attempt a PR.
The engineers at New Balance had a good look at what they learned from the creation and testing of the FuelCell 5280 racing flat and translated it into the FuelCell Rebel. Not only the Rebel is more modestly priced than the 5280, it is also more versatile all the while it keeps almost all the great features found in the latter.
Weighing just over 200 grams, the FuelCell Rebel is a lightweight shoe. It uses the Trace Fiber upper construction that uses precision stitching in key areas but keeps the upper thin and airy.
The main concern of the New Balance FuelCell Rebel is the forward propulsion; its main is to move you forward. The FuelCell midsole is a two-part rebound system that not so much rocks but bounces you back up. It’s not as firm and well rounded as the Asics Metaride or the Hoka One One Carbon X, more springy and bouncy.
The New Balance FuelCell delivers in the looks department, too: especially the black colourway, which is not all that black after all, looks great with a lot of subtle yet contrasting colours.
Brooks asks the question: does running have to hurt? And they are right, no, it doesn’t. Many recreational runners prefer soft, highly cushioned shoes that won’t break your skin and compress your toes together like a sardine can.
The Glycerin 17’s DNA Loft cushioning provides a softer ride while the OrthoLite sockliner adds even more to the step-in comfort. The same DNA Loft cushioning also helps in the heel to toe transition, making it smooth as butter.
All this softness has an effect on energy return. You can’t will it all, really, and the Glycerin 17 loses out on some energy return due to its softness. These are not race day shoes, have a Saucony Type A9, Hoka Carbon X or a Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% for those occasions.
If you’re after a soft ride on a sunny autumn afternoon, the Brooks Glycerin 17 will your perfect companion.
We had to wait until 2020 to star a Mizuno model on our best running shoes list. The Mizuno Wave Skyrise sports a new cushioning system that combines the XPOP midsole compound – which contains thousands of little beads to reduce impact force as you land – and Wave Foam sole plate.
The result is running experience that feels like how Shovel Knight felt like when it came out: old-school but without glitches. Running in the Mizuno Wave Skyrise is like like running on thick gym mats, barefoot; your feet will thank you for wearing these for your long runs (and short ones too).
The Mizuno Wave Skyrise doesn’t try correct your gait or interfere with the way you land your feet, giving you more control over your overall running technique. For the same reason, it might not be the ideal choice for novice runners who might need a little more guidance at beginning.
We wish the shoes looked maybe a bit more interesting, though. Especially the default navy colourway just hasn’t got much going for it in the looks department. The Mizuno Wave Skyrise looks like a pair of running shoes, for better or worse. Hard-core runners will probably appreciate the unyielding look but it will most likely not win over new fans from other brands with its looks only.
Overall, the Mizuno Wave Skyrise is a brilliant running shoe with excellent cushioning that also delivers comfort. And that is more than many other shoes do.
• Read our
Adidas came up with a new midsole when they created the Pulseboost HD called – drumroll, please! – Boost HD. It delivers more stability and responsiveness, something you will need in the city where these running shoes belong.
The Boost HD is the same sole that the Ultraboost uses; and we liked that shoe a lot. The knit upper is in line with the latest trend in running shoes, giving your toes freedom whilst holding them firmly. Knitted uppers are great because they mould to each individual foot and ditch the one-size-fits-all mentality.
For some reason, Adidas thought it was a good idea to put a QR code on the tongue of the Pulseboost HD that leads you to an exclusive playlist. Hopefully they’ll update it regularly, or you’ll be running to the same music for the next year or two, which could get tedious. Apart from this small glitch, Pulseboost HD is a great running shoe and worth trying out.
• Read our
How to buy the right running shoes
A decent pair of running-specific trainers will cushion your feet and legs from the impact of repeatedly hitting the pavement. They’ll also be flexible in all the right places and they’ll help protect against common injuries. But choosing the right shoe isn’t as easy as just picking the one you like the look of.
Do you need shoes for training and different shoes for racing?
Many running shoe manufacturers started pairing up their shoes recently, offering one shoe for training and one for racing. Nike’s latest road racing shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, has been announced in tandem with the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% training shoes, just like how the Brooks Hyperion Elite racing shoes are recommended to be used with the Brooks Hyperion Tempo training shoes.
It might sounds like running shoe companies just trying to rip you and get you spend more money than you would otherwise, but there is actually a good reason behind this. First, the cushioning of high stack racing shoes will only deliver the quoted performance stats for certain amount of miles, which can be as low as 50 miles but even in best case scenario it’s not more than 150 miles. After this time, performance diminishes and the shoes will eventually will perform worse than their less cushioned counterparts.
If you run almost every day and especially if you are getting ready for a marathon, you will wear those racing shoes down very quickly. If you want peak-performance running shoes, you’d better train in a different shoe than the one you race in and it is beneficial to use one that has similar running dynamics than the racing pair.
And this is why a training shoe that was designed to work alongside your preferred racing shoe is a good idea. You will still have to pay loads to get two shoes instead of just the one, but let’s face it, if you race often, you will buy more than one shoe anyway.
How to buy the right running shoes
The difficulty in recommending running shoes is that while some are better than others, the ‘best’ shoe for you also has to suit how you run. We all run different mileage, land differently, weigh different amounts, and have different shaped feet, and our shoes should reflect that.
If you’re a heavier runner you may find a supportive, cushioned shoe will help absorb some of the impact as you run, while lighter runners might prefer a more minimal shoe. Likewise, for longer runs you may want bounce and cushioning for a comfortable ride, while on race day or shorter runs you opt for something lighter, faster and more minimal.
Gait can also be a big factor. If your gait shows an excess of pronation or supination (inward and outward rolling of the foot as it strikes and pushes off from the ground), as you may need a shoe or insole that addresses this.
While all these variables may sound complicated, particularly if you’re new to the sport, keep the following five golden rules in mind before buying new running shoes.
1. Get your gait tested
Drop into a shop like Sweatshop, Runner’s Need or Vivobarefoot’s stores and you can get a full gait analysis test done. This often means running on a treadmill or along the street so staff can help you identify the type of running shoes and support that’s best for your running style.
Most of the staff will be runners themselves, so you’ll also get some handy hints on how to improve your technique.
2. Try before you buy
You may be able to find bargains online but it’s always best to try shoes on before you commit. Sizes can vary significantly from brand to brand, and it’s often worth going a half or full size up to allow for feet swelling as they become hot.
Even a brisk walk around the store, or in a carpeted area if you’re trying on at home, can give you a good idea of comfort and help highlight any niggling spots – that slightly slipping heel may feel minor now but think what it’s going to feel like after an hour or so on the run.
3. Think about your terrain
Where you plan to run is important: road, trail, or a mixture of both. In general, trail running requires more support and road requires more impact protection, but again this can also be affected by how you run, and what you find comfortable.
4. Racing versus training
In a lot of cases you might want to choose a training shoe for longer mileage and a race shoe that’s lighter but better used for shorter periods of time, like a four-hour race. Either way, it’s important that you’ve worn your shoes in before you hit race day, or put in the longer runs.
5. Focus on that first-try feel
When it comes to the crunch, knowing you’ve found the right shoes for you comes down to how you feel when you put them on. A good sign that you’re making the right choice is a pair of shoes that almost melt into the background from the moment you slip them on, to the point that you don’t really notice you’re wearing them.