From cushioned and lightweight to comfy and stable, these are the shoes we’re loving.
You know what you want from your running shoes: light weight, cushioning, support, and a comfortable fit. Of course, the most important part of any shoe is your experience over the hundreds of miles you’ll take them on. To help you find your next great pair, and to get a sense of how updates to your favorite road or trail shoe may change how it fits or perform, we review hundreds of men’s and women’s shoes each year. Read quick reviews of five top options, or scroll deeper for longer reviews of those shoes and other options, as well as helpful buying tips from our gear experts.
Cushioned, with unmatched versatility.
This racer gets a thicker midsole, lighter upper.
A light, fast daily trainer that costs only $115.
Refined cushioning and a perfect fit.
A new foam makes it lighter, faster.
How We Test
Runner’s World has the most comprehensive shoe testing process in the industry. We work with more than 350 local runners of all ability, age, and size, for real-world wear-testing on paved roads, dirt paths, and rocky singletrack trails. After a month of running more than 100 miles, our testers report back their findings on features like fit, comfort, performance, and ride. While our testers are putting miles on the shoes, the same models undergo a battery of mechanical tests in our shoe lab, to objectively measure each shoe’s cushioning, flexibility, sole thickness, and weight. Out test editors combine their own experience in the shoe with data from the lab and feedback from our wear testers to create reliable, useful reviews of every shoe we test.
Does a Shoe’s Weight Matter?
Some runners care a lot about weight, and research shows that you expend more aerobic energy with heavier shoes. Lighter shoes typically have less cushioning, which can make them feel faster. If you’re going long distances, however, the extra cushioning of a heavier shoe might be a better option.
How We Measure Cushioning
Cushioning provides impact absorption. To test it, our Shoe Lab takes measurements in the heel and forefoot, then averages the scores to give you an idea of the overall experience. The cushioning scores are given on a scale of 1 to 100, with one being the least cushioned. In addition to those key stats, we also look at the shoe’s stability features, flexibility, and energy return to help you find one you’ll love. To see the data, click to read the men’s review or women’s review on any of the shoes below.
What Does Drop Mean?
A shoe’s drop is the difference between the heel and the forefoot measurements, or how much your toes drop below your heel. It’s important because a higher drop can lead to more heel striking. Many shoes have a drop between 8 and 12 millimeters, but some shoes have less than 6mm. A few based on minimalist designs have zero drop.
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- Full Everun midsole for plush, springy feel
- Unobtrusive stability
- More expensive
We gave the Liberty ISO our Best Debut nod when it released back in 2018. It was a pretty easy decision—our test team rated the shoe over 90 percent on nearly every feature from stability to comfort. What hasn’t been so easy is anxiously anticipating its sequel. Nothing stings like a poor follow-up to a classic; it doesn’t matter whether it’s from a shoe box or box office. Luckily, Saucony directs a success in the ISO 2, with full-length Everun cushioning back as the star in its leading role, and a few new surprises from the supporting extras.
- Lightweight and breathable construction
- Hyper Burst midsole is highly responsive for speedwork
- Firm feel
The Razor is the first example of a new buzz-worthy midsole Skechersdeveloped, dubbed Hyper Burst. It’s a new EVA foam with an irregular cell structure that differs from more conventional manufacturing techniques. The result is a lighter and more resilient foam. Added to the Razor, which was Meb’s training shoe of choice when he was actively racing, it makes for a high-speed trainer or racing shoe for the rest of us. In testing, we found the Razor likes to be pushed hard and go fast. The foam underfoot is relatively firm, but at the same time feels protective and takes the harshness out of the pavement when you’re cranking. The thin, breathable upper and a web of rubber outsole boost its speediness.
- Redesigned upper with roomier toe box
- Stiff, stable, and responsive midsole
- Two-layer mesh is more durable, but slightly less breathable
The Asics GT-2000 7 improves upon the previous model with a totally redesigned upper. The company reshaped the shoe with two layers of engineered mesh to deliver a seamless forefoot and a roomier toe box. (The midsole and outsole are unchanged from the sixth version.) Cushioning is courtesy of Asics’s FlyteFoam Lyte material, with Gel padding in the heel and forefoot, topped by a thick Ortholite footbed and a layer of plush, high-rebound foam. A dense medial post and plastic shank beneath the midfoot stabilize the foot and prevent excessive torsional flex. All that adds up to make this shoe slightly heavy—and among the stiffest you’ll find—but it doesn’t feel slow. We’ve already got a sneak peak at the next version, set to release in October, and the GT-2000 8 can still take a beating (so your legs don’t have to.)
- Better traction than the Vaporfly 4%
- 15% more bouncy ZoomX midsole foam
Two hundred and fifty dollars is a load of money to pay for a pair of racing shoes, but if you must have the best, spend it on the Next%. As the first major redesign in the Vaporfly line, it looks a lot more like the pro-only Vaporfly Elite than the 4%, and that’s because it’s been designed with feedback from Nike’s stable of world-class marathoners. The Next% has 15 percent more ZoomX foam underfoot and the heel-toe offset is down from 11mm in the old shoe to 8mm in the new model. Perhaps the biggest change is the new “Vaporweave” upper, which is a woven blend of thermoplastic polymers and nylon that doesn’t absorb water like Flyknit did. That means your lightweight racing shoes won’t get waterlogged if it rains on your marathon.
- Breathable upper
- Relatively light
- Heel strikers felt the shoes interfered with their stride
An eagerly anticipated shoe, the Hoka One One Carbon X snagged the 50-mile world record three days after it was announced. But despite the accomplishment, it’s curiously difficult to nail down what this shoe is designed to do. It’s arguably too heavy to be a true road racer, although that doesn’t mean Hoka’s elite distance runners won’t adopt it for upcoming marathons. The carbon plate is designed to make it propulsive, but unlike a certain competitor, there’s no claim of how much or even whether the shoe makes you faster. In any case, the early-stage Meta-Rocker puts the pivot point just behind the ball of your foot to aggressively shove you onto the forefoot. And the carbon fiber plate is designed to hold the rocker’s shape throughout your gait cycle.
- Soft, slightly squishy, midsole provides comfort for long runs
- Wide toe box accommodates wide feet
- Knit upper tends to make feet overheat
The Torin 3.5 received special treatment last year—Altra made it available in two new uppers: a stylized mesh and a soft, stretchy knit. This year, the Torin again comes in two flavors, but with distinctly different underfoot experiences. The standard model is a racier shoe, stripped of its strobel layer, resulting in less cushioning, height, and weight. The Torin 4 Plush, on the other hand, is extra soft. Our testers who have previously run in the Torin, Paradigm, and even Hoka One One shoes, praised this model for its cushioning and toe room, saying it’s a combination of the best features in both brands. “The cushioning reduces foot fatigue and allows me to run longer more frequently,” said one. “I wore the regular Torin a couple of years ago, and the addition of more cushioning is very noticeable.”
- Light and cushioned
- Breathable upper
- Minimal outsole rubber
The Rincon is the best Hoka you can buy right now. Sure, there are other purpose-built and buzz-worthy shoes in the company’s stable, but this shoe does everything you could ask of it—and is insanely affordable. It’s like the popular Clifton, but lighter and better suited for speed days. To help the shoe check in at 7.7 ounces (men’s size 9), it uses a lightweight reinforced mesh that locks your foot in place. “I’ve worn this shoe for everything from sub- 7- minute miles in New York’s Central Park and a 31-mile jog around Manhattan to a long trail run in the Adirondack Mountains over muddy and technical singletrack,” says Runner-in-Chief, Jeff Dengate. The only gripe from testers is about the exposed foam on the sole: It tends to show some wear prematurely.
- Comfortable fit
- Exposed foam outsole isn’t very durable
The king of the lightweight trainers, Saucony’s Kinvara has won multiple Runner’s World awards over its lifespan. The 10th iteration may not recreate the magic of last year’s Editor’s Choice-winning model, but it’s still a worthy successor. Need a racing shoe that’ll deliver without taking out a second mortgage? It’s capable, just ask Jared Ward who casually dropped a 2:09 at Boston while sporting the fast-selling Dunkin’-printed model. Or maybe you need a neutral cushioned everyday trainer with a breathable upper? The Kinvara’s EVA-and-Everun midsole will be your trusty companion for the next couple hundred miles.
- Lab tests showed an incredibly responsive midsole
- Lightweight and springy ride
- Testers weren’t fans of the lacing system; the tongue tended to move midrun
“The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy is that equilibrium point of low cost and high-quality,” one tester said. It’s light enough to work as a road-racing shoe, soft enough to keep you comfortable through long runs, and attractive enough to garner a few compliments when you wear them on your next group run. What’s more, it’s only $100, making it accessible to more runners than similarly impressive, though more expensive, everyday trainers. But the best part of this shoe is undoubtedly the midsole, a singular piece of Floatride Energy foam that keeps you feeling fresh late in your long runs. This foam isn’t quite as light and springy as the Float foam Reebok has used in its Run Fast shoe recently, but it’s lighter and bouncier than EVA alternatives.
It’s official: 2019 is the year of the carbon fiber plate. New Balance’s new FuelCell 5280, the latest with the high-tech material, is designed for one task—the road mile. It’s essentially a track spike without the metal pins, but includes the extra cushioning you need to hammer fast on rock-hard roads. The underfoot feeling is exceptionally weird. The sole is curved and flares out wide on the lateral side for a smooth landing at speed. New Balance took a different approach for its plate, using unidirectional carbon fibers. What that means is the plate can twist and bend laterally—side to side—but is rigid from heel to toe. That creates a stiff lever for runners to generate even more power with every stride, but still allows them to land smoothly and pronate onto their forefeet.
- Support for both neutral runners and overpronators
- DNA Loft crash pad adds firmer heel cushioning
- Upper can retain water
Late last summer, Brooks announced their newest endeavor: updating the Adrenaline GTS to use guide rails for stability. The previous model used a medial post that Brooks called a Progressive Diagonal Rollbar, which was introduced back in ’03. Replacing the support system of the most beloved of Brooks’s stability shoes (we’ve given it 10 awards in its 20-plus year history) is a daring, one might even say risky, move. Guide rails are a more holistic approach to stability; using a bowling analogy, imagine your foot as the ball and the shoe’s guide rails as the bumpers. By “bumpering” foot movement, the knee experiences less stress, which will hopefully prevent knee injuries. Keep an eye out for the Adrenaline GTS 20, set to release in November.
- Exceptionally lightweight and bouncy feel
- Cushioning is versatile for long runs and racing
- Narrow feet may find the forefoot too roomy
The fastest shoe you could buy in 2018 was this Reebok, and it’s still one of our all-time favorites. The FloatRide Run Fast won’t stress your credit card nearly as hard as shoes like the Vaporfly 4%, but shares some similar traits to help you reach the finish line faster. It all starts with the foam: Reebok is using a Pebax-based foam—much like what’s found in the Vaporfly 4%—which is far lighter than the standard EVA that’s been used in running shoes for decades, but it also delivers excellent cushioning and off-the-charts bounce (energy return). Thanks to that lightweight material, Reebok is able to use a considerable amount of foam underneath the foot without bogging you down. In doing so, it made the heel relatively tall, and the drop from heel to forefoot is quite high, which can give you a sense of speed and propulsion.
- DNA Loft midsole remains unchanged
- 3D printed upper adds breathability
- Not for racing
The Ghost’s versatility is unmatched. Our testers used it for everything—speedwork on the track on Tuesdays, hilly tempo runs on Thursdays, and double- digit long runs on the weekend. It’s the first shoe we point new runners to, because it works so well for so many. The 12th iteration maintains the same mix of foams that made the last version a winner: DNA Loft and BioMoGo DNA give you serious cushioning, but won’t slow you down when you pick up the pace. The DNA Loft in the heel has all-day softness, which our heel-striking wear-testers appreciated on long runs, while the BioMoGo under the toes has a springy feel-ing, giving the shoe a performance ride. This year, the shoe gets an engineered mesh upper, which has zones designed for stretch, breathability, and support to better fit your foot.
“I have a type, I’ll admit: soft, light, fast. The Beacon delivers all three,” Runner-in-Chief, Jeff Dengate says. “I loved the debut model a year ago because it reminded me of the original Hoka Clifton and Saucony Kinvara, two longtime favorites that also hit those marks.” New Balance kept things largely the same this year, but really improved the fit. The original model ran short—up to a full size for some runners. This model dials the fit in, so you can order your traditional size online without worrying about return shipping policies. We appreciated the extra room in the forefoot, and really loved the new heel. It has a molded construction to cradle your foot without using rigid heel counters, and the top of the shoe curves away from your Achilles so you don’t get any hotspots there. The midsole and outsole are identical to the previous version. In this case, that’s a good thing because the Beacon works.
- Softer and lighter than the Pegasus 36
- Experience ZoomX foam without shelling out for the Next%
- May not be as durable as your average trainer
Runners are no stranger to the name Pegasus; that workhorse shoe is on its 36th iteration. For decades, the Peg has been a do-it-all model that can handle high mileage as well as it can upticks in speed. But, that daily trainer is a bit too heavy and a little too soft to really be used for any kind of speedwork. The all-new “Peg Turbo 2” is designed to keep that legendary fit and feeling, but delivers the lightweight sensation of a racing flat. To do so, Nike gave it the vaunted ZoomX foam, which is exceptionally springy.
- Three types of soft midsole foam
- Knit upper is soft and breathable
- Not best for speedwork
Mizuno rolled out a tsunami of new tech in this, the newest model in its Wave series. The Sky 3 gets the brand’s redesigned midsole, which swaps out Mizuno’s classic Pebax plate for two layers of foam joined in the shape of a wave. The shoe also debuts a never-before-seen foam from Mizuno called XPOP, which reminds us of bouncy, soft midsoles like Adidas’s Boost. These updates make the Sky 3 feel quite different from its predecessor—we found it to be smoother and feel softer on foot. “I was comfortable on my longer runs and excited that I didn’t have the heel or arch pain I sometimes experience,” one long-time tester said. The Sky 3 is also one of the first pairs from Mizuno to get the brand’s soft, flexible Waveknit upper, which stretches better in the toebox than the 2’s air mesh, while retaining a snug fit through the midfoot.
- Midsole offers impressive energy return
- Upper allows for a fine-tuned fit
- Less suited for speedwork
In a world of neutral feet and stability shoes, we often forget the rare supinator—underpronating and underrepresented. For those whose feet actually roll outward slightly when they run, the Ride ISO 2 fills a void. The shoe uses two types of foam: a softer Everun topsole that sits closer to the foot, and a more substantial PWRfoam underbelly to dampen impact where you hit the road. The design cradles the foot a little deeper in that top layer, made from thousands of bouncy TPU pellets, which lends more support while still remaining accessible to neutral feet. Like its predecessor, the Ride keeps its titular ISOfit upper, with floating eyelets for fine-tuned lacing, that gives a secure fit through the midfoot. And although this version feels slightly firmer in the heel, it’s still a softy overall.
- Soft two-layer EVA foam midsole
- Aggressive Vibram LiteBase outsole
- A little heavy for trail racing
The Scarpa Spin Ultra is among the most complete, ready-for-anything trail shoes around. It’s not so aggressive as to render it useless outside the VK and FKT crowd, yet it’s stable and protective enough to take on the entire mountain—our testers praised it on brief treadmill jaunts and 10-mile trail runs alike. Scarpa, best known for its climbing and mountaineering shoes, didn’t try to reinvent the wheel here; the outsole, midsole, and upper have materials found on many trail shoes. It’s the thoughtful execution that completes the Spin Ultra.
- Light and responsive
- Exceptional grip
- Laces felt short
The Bushido is built to conquer the gnarliest trails. It has a reinforced TPU web that shields the upper and adds lightweight stability, while a compression-molded EVA midsole is firm from heel to rubber toe cap. Two distinct treads round out the shoe’s armor underfoot, with toothy, multi-directional pegs at the center, and bevelled lugs that climb up and over the outsole’s rim. The combination lets the Bushido bite into steep ascents, brake hard on downhills, and anchor against sideways slides. What impressed our testers the most was the Bushido’s burly traction and ruggedness that come in a surprisingly light package. The shoe’s newly padded tongue and forefoot rock plate didn’t feel cumbersome—even after some ultrarunners hit mileage well in the double digits—and remained nimble enough for the most technical climbs.
- Good grip
- Lighter than the Xodus
- Not waterproof
The Saucony Peregrine won our Editors’ Choice award in 2016, and this update follows its winning formula: Deep lugs cover the outsole for fantastic traction at any speed. Faster trail runners loved the confidence-inspiring grip when running over muddy, snowy, icy, or slippery terrain that can turn into a wipeout event with only a minor misstep. Credit that to the 78 lugs—a ridiculously high number for any model—that cover the sole. The lugs even extend out from the side of the shoe a bit, ensuring steady footing when running laterally along steep terrain. This latest version features Saucony’s ISOFit upper, which offers a nearly customized fit with the help of wings on each side of the shoe that attach to the laces. We appreciated that fit most on long trail runs when our feet started to swell.
- Deep lugs excel in soft mud
- Not fully waterproof
The Supercross is essentially a budget-conscious version of Salomon’sSpeedcross, a shoe designed to blaze over soft, sloppy trails. It has the same styling and aggressive lugs, but everything is built for better value. The outsole still has deep tread that bites into muddy trails, but it’s made with a more durable (read: harder) rubber compound than the Speedcross. It also has a similar ripstop upper, but the tongue is different and you have to tuck the speed laces under an elastic strap—the Speedcross has a lace garage at the top of the tongue to tidy up loose ends. But, even so, this shoe costs just $110 and has plenty of cushioning and protection for technical singletrack trails. Testers loved that the shoe’s upper shed muck rapidly and still looked clean after a month’s worth of abuse.
- A narrow fit for nimble footing and more control
- Packable, a slit in the heel serves as a carabiner attachment
- Minimal cushioning means you better watch your step
Leave it to rock climbers to inspire the lightest trail shoe we’ve ever tested. After all, these are people who cut the tags out of their clothing just to shave grams. The Norvan SL (Arc’teryx code for “superlight”) was designed for rock climbers as a compact and lightweight shoe to quickly traverse between climbing routes. The SL fits snugly. It’s narrow underfoot, especially below the arch, while the forefoot widens to provide more ground contact and better traction when toeing off on steep inclines. That ultralight build comes with a cost: cushioning. With no rock plate and minimal cushion, you know immediately when you’ve taken a bad step. The paper-thin TPU mesh upper is see-through—here’s your chance to wear some flashy socks—and is super-breathable in the summer, and drains well on wet days.
- Excellent traction
- Plush cushioning
- High stack height felt less stable to some
The latest trail offering from Tony Post’s Massachusetts-based shoe company affirms a not-so-recent development in runner preference: People like shoes that are wider and flatter than the norm. “The space this shoe provides reminds me of Altras,” one wear-tester noted. The comparison with Altra Running’s trail options is obvious, given the brand’s commitment to anatomically shaped, low-drop shoes. Although the RW Shoe Lab ranked the shoes “moderate” for energy return, testers found their springiness adequate for up-tempo efforts. They also noted the shoes don’t feel particularly lightweight, but the sturdy cushioning offered enough stability and support for long runs. “It’s the perfect balance of weight, cushioning, and comfort,” said one tester.
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