Best Running Shoes
These reviews cover what I consider to be the best running shoes as well as some strong contenders and a few promising shoes that missed the mark. Based on The Science of Running Shoes, I believe that What to Look for in Running Shoes is a shoe that does not interfere with the way you run, though I include some shoes that can be useful in transitioning from a more traditional shoe.
1 Where to Buy
I generally recommend buying shoes from RoadRunnerSports.com as they allow you to run in the shoes and still return them for an exchange. It's hard to know how a shoe works for you until you've run in it for some distance. Another good option is Zappos.com which provides free shipping both ways, which allows you to spend time wearing the shoes around the house to see how they fit, though you can't run in them and return them.
2 Shoe Categories
I've classified my shoe recommendations into several categories, each with their own pros and cons.
- Minimax (Minimum Drop, Maximum Cushioning). The minimal drop has been the hallmark of minimalist shoes, but these shoes also include lots of cushioning. At their best, these shoes can be like running barefoot on a cushioned track. Minimax shoes offer lots of protection and comfort. They are great for longer ultramarathons where sore feet become a problem and for trail running where the cushioning makes it easier to ignore smaller rocks and stones. However, the extra cushioning may increase the risk of injury compared with minimalist shoes and the extra sole thickness increases the stress on your ankle.
- Optimal. These shoes ideally have just enough cushioning to improve Running Economy without the weight penalty of the Minimax shoes.
- Minimalist. These shoes vary between the almost barefoot and those with a little more protection.
- Traditional. The classic running shoe has a high heel, normally about 10mm higher than the forefoot . The biggest advantage of traditional shoes is the wide variety to choose from, making it far easier to find the right fit.
3 Unfamiliar Brands
You're probably familiar with brands like Nike, Adidas, New Balance, etc., but you may be less familiar with Hoka and Altra.
- Hoka One One. The Hoka shoes started the 'Minimum Drop, Maximum Cushioning' style of shoe. The Hokas generally use extremely soft foam, with a wide base to improve stability. Their soles are thicker than most shoes so they are quite heavy, though not as heavy as they look. Most of the Hokas do well on both asphalt and rocky trails. The Hokas provide remarkable protection from rough trail surfaces, and the thick, soft soles mold themselves around stones to provide more grip on rocky trails than you'd expect. Other than the sole, the Hoka is a poor design, with a remarkably tight toe box and they are typically rather inflexible.
- Altra. The two distinctive features of the Altra shoes are their zero drop and their shape which mirrors the shape of the human foot. Originally their shoes were quite minimalist with a thinner sole that was typically made of quite firm foam. More recently they have moved towards softer cushioning and the Minimax style.
4 Comparison Table
|Hoka Clifton Review||10||7.7||8.2||9.5||28||32||4||3.6||3.2||7.2||8.3||4||4|
|Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review||10||2.5||3.1||7.3||9||12||3||8.0||6.8||1.8||2.5||9||4|
|Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6||10||7.2||5.9||5.9||19||25||6||6.5||5.4||4.2||5.6||6|
|Skechers GO Bionic Review||9||4.1||7.0||7.7||15||18||3||7.3||6.4||3.1||3.8||8||3|
|Altra Olympus Review||9||4.4||11.8||15.1||27||27||0||4.1||4.0||6.6||6.6||4.5||6|
|Mizuno Cursoris Review||8||7.0||6.4||6.7||17||17||0||3.0||2.3||4.7||4.7||8||2|
|Saucony Virrata 2 Review||8||5.6||7.3||8.1||20||20||0||7.3||5.1||4.5||4.5||8||3|
|Altra Instinct 2||8||4.3||10.6||13.2||23||23||0||3.7||4.0||5.6||5.6||6|
|Nike Zoom Streak LT||8||6.0||5.5||5.3||15||19||4||6.9||6.2||3.2||4.0||6|
|Altra Paradigm Review||6||4.4||9.9||12.1||25||25||0||7.3||6.2||5.3||5.3||4||5|
|Hoka Bondi Review||6||5.0||12.1||15.5||32||35||3||4.5||4.1||7.8||8.5||4||3|
|Modified Nike Free||6||6.4||6.0||6.0||17||17||0||6.1||5.1||3.9||3.9||8||3|
|Saucony Hattori Review||6||2.6||4.6||9.5||11||11||0||5.3||5.2||2.5||2.5||9||4|
|Adidas Energy Boost 2 Review||6||4.8||10.0||12.3||20||30||10||1.0||1.4||5.9||8.9||6||7|
|Merrell Trail Glove||6||1.2||6.9||15.6||11||11||0||9.2||10.0||1.9||1.9||7||9|
|Puma Faas 100 R||6||5.7||6.1||6.1||15||20||5||6.1||4.8||3.5||4.6||2|
|Sketchers GoRun Ride 3||6||4.7||8.5||9.9||15||28||13||2.2||1.0||4.6||8.6||2|
|Hoka Mafate Review||5||4.4||13.6||17.9||35||41||6||6.1||5.3||7.8||9.2||1||5|
|Hoka Stinson Review||5||4.3||13.2||17.3||32||38||6||5.3||4.7||7.5||8.9||2||5|
|Adidas Takumi Sen 2 Review||5||4.1||6.9||7.4||17||22||5||10.0||9.3||3.0||3.9||6||5|
|Nike Free Review||5||5.0||7.1||7.8||17||21||4||6.1||5.1||3.9||4.8||8||3|
|Saucony Kinvara 5 Review||5||4.4||7.9||9.0||18||24||6||6.5||5.7||3.9||5.2||7||3|
|Altra Torin Review||4||3.8||9.0||10.7||20||20||0||8.0||6.8||4.1||4.1||7||6|
|Brooks PureCadence 3 Review||4||3.5||9.4||11.3||19||26||7||6.9||6.4||4.0||5.4||7||6|
|Brooks PureFlow 3||4||3.9||9.5||11.5||23||28||5||8.0||7.7||4.5||5.4||7||6|
|Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8||4||5.0||5.7||5.6||13||18||5||9.4||6.0||2.8||3.9||4|
|Brooks PureConnect 3||4||3.6||9.0||10.6||20||23||3||8.8||7.8||3.9||4.5||7||6|
|Skechers GOrun Ultra Review||2||5.8||9.3||11.2||26||40||14||5.3||3.7||6.5||10.0||7||1|
|Saucony Cortana 4||2||4.7||9.9||12.1||28||22||-6||7.1||6.8||5.7||4.5||6|
|Asics Gel Lyte 33 3||2||4.6||7.3||8.1||17||24||7||6.1||5.7||3.7||5.2||4|
|Sketchers GoMeb Speed 2||2||3.9||7.3||8.0||16||22||6||9.2||7.9||3.1||4.2||2|
|Hoka Rapa Nui 2 Tarmac||1||4.4||10.7||13.4||26||30||4||6.1||5.1||5.9||6.8||4||4|
|Hoka Conquest Review||1||4.0||11.9||15.2||28||34||6||7.3||5.9||6.0||7.3||3||4|
|Hoka Huaka Review||1||3.9||9.9||12.1||21||26||5||6.1||5.1||4.8||5.9||6||4|
|New Balance Fresh Foam 980||1||4.4||9.1||10.9||21||25||4||6.1||5.1||4.8||5.7||6||6|
|Patagonia EVERlong Review||1||3.3||9.2||11.0||16||27||11||6.1||5.1||3.6||6.1||6||5|
|Asics GT 2000||1||3.7||10.9||13.7||20||29||9||4.1||3.4||5.1||7.4||6||4|
5 Shoe Gallery
Images of the shoes reviewed on this site can be found in the Shoe Gallery.
6 Shoe Modifications
Main article: Shoe Modifications
With a few exceptions such as the Mizuno Curoris, I find that most shoes benefit from cutting open the toe box. This allows the toes to spread out as you toe off, creating more natural biomechanics and preventing toe blisters.
7 Shoe Dissection
Main article: Shoe Dissection
Ever wonder what the inside of your shoe looks like? Take a look inside; I've cut many of my shoes in half to reveal their construction, as you can see above. You can see a gallery at Shoe Dissection, as well as in the detailed shoe reviews.