The best running shoes – or best running trainers, if you prefer to call them that – have always been in high demand but even more so in 2021. Whether you're new to running and looking for your first pair of adidas running trainers or a seasoned pro trying to find a replacement for your completely worn Nike racing shoes, you'll find the best options here on this running shoes guide.
How popular is running nowadays? According to the Guardian, "an estimated 7 million people across the [UK] have turned to running or jogging during the Covid-19 crisis to boost their mental health." That's a huge expansion of the running market, just in the United Kingdom, let alone worldwide.
The popularity of running is understandable: it is great for losing belly fat and boosting metabolism, as well as being a great way to improve mood and get you fit in general. However, running in the wrong type of shoes can make you feel uncomfortable or even worse, get your injured. Using the below, tried and tested running shoes, you can reduce the risk of injury and make sure you are wearing the best running trainers for your needs.
T3 can help you dress up for winter and summer runs more appropriately too. Whether it's the best running headphones, best running watch, best heart rate monitor, best running shorts, best running tops or best running socks, we have a guide for them all. Looking for the best shoes from each brand? Check out the best Nike running shoes and best Adidas running shoes guides today.
How to buy the right running shoes
With so many different type of running shoes available to buy, it's not wonder one can feel completely overwhelmed just by thinking about getting a new running trainer. To make a decision at least a little bit easier, we collected a few pointers that might help you when buying a new pair of shoes.
Have your gait analysed: you can do this in a brick and mortar running shoes shop or work it out yourself by performing the classic 'stepping on a piece of paper with wet feet' test. There is also the NURVV running insole that can tell you exactly how much you pronate.
Be mindful of sizing: not all running shoes sizes created equal. Some brands are infamous for their sizing methods, for example, New Balance shoes tend to be half a size under, so if you wear a size 10 normally, you might want to get a size 10.5 New Balance. Also, racing shoes are usually tighter than trainers. The best women's running shoes may also be narrower and lighter than unisex or men's options.
Take the running surface into account: obviously, you need different shoes for tarmac and for the trail. That said, some shoes will perform good on all sorts of terrain, such as the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail, while other will excel on one more thn on the other.
Go the distance (or not): if you prefer shorter distances (5K-10K), you won't need industrial amounts of cushioning under your feet feet. For mid-distances (10K-half marathon), you might want to think about having some more support and a stronger upper to keep your feet in line when your form falls apart at mile 19. As for long distances (anything over a half-marathon distance), you want a running shoes that has great energy returns yet a lightweight and responsive. Like the ASICS Metaracer.
Have a purpose in mind: there is no point getting a Nike Vaporfly if you don't race and it is equally as silly to get a Brooks Glycerin for high-performance runs. It you're planning on having only one pair of running shoes, make sure you keep in mind the main principle you will use them for and make a purchase accordingly.
Use running shoes for running: it is tempting to have just one pair of shoes for road running, trail running and workouts. We recommend using the appropriate shoes for all occasions. The best trail running shoes will protect your feet when running on uneven terrain while the best workout shoes will provide grip and stability in the gym.
The best running shoes, in order of preference
The Adidas 4DFWD is not the cheapest running trainer and admittedly, the limited drop nature of the initial release won't help make these the go-to shoes for most runners. Nevertheless, if you have the chance, we'd highly recommend getting a pair as the 4DFWD represents the next step in running shoes evolution.
As well as that and in-line with Adidas' efforts to reduce plastic waste, the 4DFWD is not a bad choice for environmentally conscious runners. Don't get me wrong, buying a pair of running shoes won't save the planet but if you have to buy new running shoes, you might as well get a pair from a manufacturer that pays some attention to environmental-friendliness. Adidas at least tries to make a difference, which is admirable.
All things considered, the Adidas 4DFWD are great running shoes, probably the best running shoes from Adidas at the moment for runners who are looking for something a bit more serious than the Ultraboost 21 but less sporty than the Adizero Adios Pro. And taking into account the normal distribution curve, that's majority of the runners.
• Read our full Adidas 4DFWD review here
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.
• Read our full Hoka One One Carbon X review here
The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit has a lot of great features for runners, especially those who prefer a lot of cushioning and don't mind the extra bulk. The ZoomX foam delivers yet again and proves that it’s one of the best midsole foams being used in running shoes: it’s soft without being unstable and bounces well without losing (too much) energy in the process.
The ‘evolved’ Flyknit upper follows the contour of the foot well and the padded collar and tongue cradle the ankles beautifully. I would suggest wearing at least mid-socks with these shoes as the collar is a bit tight which might cause chafing on bare skin. Once you break them in, you might be able to get away wearing ankle socks only.
The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit might not be the cheapest running trainers and I’m sure some will be put off by the chunkiness of the shoes but if you like Nikes and have some money to burn, I’d recommend giving the shoes a try. In usual Nike style, the Invincible Run doubles up as a sneaker, so you can rest assured that you're getting your money's worth here.
• Read our full Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit review here
There is very little to criticise about the Saucony Kinvara 12. Some might say that the Bright Future Collection went a bit over the top with the colours: a T3 staff member described the shoes using the term "colorful number" and I couldn't agree more. That said, the Kinvara 12 doesn't look too odd for a running shoe, but it might not be quite stylish enough for a sneaker. Although, you can actually buy the sneaker version of the Kinvara 12.
Fun fact: Saucony is pronounced 'Sock-Uh-Knee' and you can buy 'sock-uh-knee' branded shades from Saucony. Mind: blown.
Sometimes, as soon as you put on a pair of new running shoes, you can tell straight away it will be great to run in them: this is exactly what happened to me wearing the Saucony Kinvara 12 for the first time.
When it comes to running dynamics, the Saucony Kinvara 12 delivers big time. All the tech Saucony has to offer, including the PWRRUN midsole and the FORMFIT upper, work together seamlessly to deliver a snappy running experience.
The Kinvara 12 is as comfortable as a fast trainer needs to be. The toebox is roomy but not loose and the heel counter holds the heel just fine. The shoes feel breathable and responsive, raring to go whenever you're ready. In your own time, people.
Whether you are a beginner runner who wants to get faster or a pro who knows what they are doing, you will be able to train faster in the Kinvara 12.
• Read our full Saucony Kinvara 12 review here
The Brooks Hyperion Tempo was announced in January 2020 and didn't get the attention it deserves, partially due to the lockdown and because Brooks is one of those brands only hardcore runners know about. A shame, as the American manufacturer has a lot of amazing running shoes, including but not limited to, the Brooks Hyperion Tempo.
The Brooks Hyperion Tempo is a running trainer and works in tandem with the carbon-enhanced Brooks Hyperion Elite racing shoes. Both shoes use the brand new, nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole which is responsive, bouncy and light.
As it was explained to me on a press briefing in January 2020 by Brooks' Blue Line senior manager Nikhil Jain, the main aim of the Hyperion line is to reduce 'deviation from the ideal stride' which in turn results in and better energy return and less fatigue, even after longer runs.
Running in the Brooks Hyperion Tempo feels light and responsive indeed. The midsole is springy but not to a degree where it would hinder performance: my best attempt to characterise it would be to call it 'supportive bounce'. the DNA Flash midsole reduces impact force and creates a smoother transition from heel-to-toe.
I also found the upper a good fit: not race tight but not loose either. The slits at the front of the woven upper allow air to enter the shoes improving air flow in the shoes. This can reduce swelling during long runs and improve comfort levels in general.
How does the Hyperion Tempo stack up against the React Infinity Run 2? Find out in our versus article, aptly named Nike React Infinity Run 2 vs Brooks Hyperion Tempo.
The Adidas SL20 had a somewhat unfortunate history so far, although it's only been our for less than a year. Announced in early 2020, the SL20 heralded the coming of the now widely used Lightstrike foam: a light and responsive foam that now powers shoes like the Adidas Adizero Adios PRO, a record breaking pair speedsters.
The Adidas SL20 is not a racing shoe, mind: it might be super light and easy to run in, but it was designed for training as opposed to racing. It's not a problem though as the SL20 is indeed an excellent running trainer that also doesn't cost the earth either.
You'll find all the trademark Adidas features in the SL20, including the lightweight mesh upper, the Continental grip outsole and the dependable running performance. The biggest criticism we can offer is probably the lack of personality. The default black/white/coral SL20 looks pretty much like all the other Adidas shoes released at the time, including the Ultraboost PB, the Adizero Pro and the likes.
For the price, the Adidas SL20 is probably the best running trainer you can get at the moment. But how does the SL20 fare against the Nike Peg 37? We pitted the two most competent everyday running trainers against each other to find out, read it here: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 vs Adidas SL20.
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First I tried it, I couldn't believe just how soft the Fresh Foam 1080v11 was. The box it came in stated that shoes were so great, New Balance had to update it for the eleventh time and indeed, the Fresh Foam 1080v11 feels great to wear and it also looks good on your feet.
The updated Hypoknit upper has been made lighter and more breathable but thankfully, it hasn't lost its supportive properties. I would have appreciated a bit more support on the lateral side, though, especially around the widest part of the feet. The midsole platform widens up nicely to provide a more stable landing experience but the upper fails to aid the motion properly. Not a deal breaker, but I would expect a tighter fit from a performance shoe.
The rest of the upper is spot on when it comes to fit, especially the heel area that cradles the heel and the ankles nicely. There is a little extra padding at the back of the shoes which I found hilarious because it's behind the heel counter so it doesn't add anything to comfort in the shoes but makes the heel curve more accentuated. On the other hand, the collar is lovely and the padding is sublime at the top of the heels, kudos to New Balance designers.
The Fresh Foam midsole lives up to its name (and reputation) and provides premium, super-soft cushioning underfoot. At first glance it might look like that the stack height is astronomical but it's actually only 30mm under the heel, which is 25% less foam than what you find in top-tier running shoes. There is still a lot of bounce in the Fresh Foam 1080v11, though, and the shoes don't hold your hands either when it comes to control.
The curved geometry of the blown rubber outsole will keep you push forward and the rubber enable you to have a firm drip on a variety of running surfaces, regardless if they are dry or not.
As fast as the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% and the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% running shoes are, they were admittedly designed for racing, not for everyday training. They are excellent but not suited for daily training, not to mention the ZoomX foam will wear off pretty quickly if you use the shoes often and just for racing.
There is a Nike running trainer that is supposed to compliment the Alphafly Next% – the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% – but those shoes are for a very niche category of runners: people who are training for long-distance races and would like to run the race in the Alphafly Next%.
For everyone else, we recommend Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 running trainers. These shoes use the React foam that's more durable than the ZoomX yet they still provide good energy returns. Springiness is further helped by the enlarged Air Zoom unit at the front: it is twice as large as previous versions, "delivering more bounce with every step", as Nike puts it.
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 running shoes' upper is comfortable and breathable and helps the shoes remain light, all the while not adding on extra bulk. It is also slightly translucent and, according to Nike, "has the look of speed". You can definitely see your socks better in the shoes.
• Read our full Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 review here
For those who prefer running shoes that can also be worn as sneakers, the Adidas Ultraboost 21 might just be the perfect trainer. The latest iteration of the Ultraboost franchise – which happens to be Adidas' most successful running shoes series – adds more BOOST, the new Adidas LEP torsion system as well as the updated Primeknit+ upper.
Better still, they look rather sexy too, albeit especially during winter, it will be pretty hard to keep them box fresh for too long, given the default bright colourway. I guess it doesn't matter, as people will either buy the Ultraboost 21 to add it to their sneaker collection or to run in them, and both parties will use the shoes accordingly. As in, either keep them in the box and only get them out when the weather is dry or run in them, regardless of the weather.
The latter group (runners) will thoroughly enjoy cruising through their daily runs in the Adidas Ultraboost 21. They are comfortable, responsive and display all the features I expect to see in great training shoes. They might be a tad bit on the heavy side – the UB21 is almost twice as heavy as some of the lighter racing shoes on this list – but since these are not performance shoes, it doesn't really matter. The extra BOOST under the heel will help mitigate impact force and the LEP torsion system will enable runners to keep their stride straight, all without making the shoes way stiffer in the process.
• Read our Adidas Ultraboost 21 review (early verdict) here
The ASICS Metaracer is a brilliant road running shoe that combines sublime ground contact feel, impact force reduction and dynamic propulsion to create the best ASICS running shoe I tested in 2020 (maybe even 2019).
The FlyteFoam midsole is soft under the heels and lets you steer your feet effectively while the embedded carbon plate at the forefoot pushes you forward as you effortlessly cruise through your long distance runs, let it be a race or a tempo run.
The engineered mesh upper is flexible, following the contour of the foot closely and despite the minimal amount of padding involved in these shoes, the Metaracer is comfortable to wear and there is no sign of rubbing anywhere, even after longer distances. For the record, I haven't done a marathon-distance in the shoes (in one go anyway).
All this running-goodness comes assembled in an attractive package, with bright colours and a chunky-looking midsole that's further emphasised due to the contrast between the off-white sole and the bright-red upper.
These shoes are made for running and you will want to run in them as soon as you put them on. They might not be cheap but the ASICS Metaracer is worth the price and will delight your feet as well as make you faster on the road.
• Read our full ASICS Metaracer review here
Although they provide completely different running dynamics, the ASICS Metaracer is often compared against the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, one of the most popular racing shoe today. Which is faster and which one is better for more experienced runners? We discuss it all here: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% vs ASICS Metaracer.
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?
• Read our full On Cloudflow review here
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 React Infinity Run review: Nike’s new running shoe is like autocorrect for your feet
Saucony has produced a peppier 14th iteration of its stability running shoes – easily glide through the miles, assured of the added support across more complex terrains.
With the Saucony Guide 14, stability doesn’t come at the expense of speed: the pair we tested had springy responsiveness, but still sported a soft underfoot feel, making for several very comfortable runs. Those who overpronate will obviously be happy with the extra support inherent to this model, but the everyday runner will enjoy racking up the mileage, regardless of whether you roll your foot inwards.
The Saucony Guide 14 sliced through our various 10KM runs over several weeks’ road testing, without the usual complaints levied against other stability shoes. The Saucony Guide 14 is sleek, less block-like, and won’t trouble runners who need agility over comfort. It’s a great all-rounder for a variety of different athletes.
Runners who know the Saucony Guide range will be familiar with the TPU guidance frame to ease excessive pronation, which can wear away the inside of the shoes, forming an unsteady platform over time. The Saucony Guide 14 has a smaller heel collar than the Guide 13, using a new PWRRUN foam: sportier, with more refined looks than its predecessor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a stability shoe that looks as good as the Saucony Guide 14.
The underfoot feel felt really responsive; it balances bounce, which gives you the desired quality of moving more quickly while offsetting the firmer edge that gives the Saucony Guide 14 its support frame.
It’s easy to forget that Saucony was primarily engineered for added support; still, the Saucony Guide 14 is an excellent all-rounder for a range of runners to use as part of a combination training set-up for speed and off-road.
The Salomon S/LAB Phantasm is not one of those running shoes that can be recommended for all type of runners. The people who can most benefit from wearing the Phantasm racing shoes are intermediate- to pro-runners who can control how they run: the Phantasm could enable them to assert even more authority over their form. That said, less experienced forefoot strikers can also benefit from using the shoes.
The shoes have excellent geometry and sublime construction in general. The mesh upper lets in plenty of air, keeping the feet from swelling and making the otherwise tight upper rather tolerable.
The combination of the Energy Surge midsole, R.Camber outsole and Contagrip FA technology provides a responsive ride, whether you are a forefoot or heel striker. The sole is definitely firmer than your average running trainer but not to a level where it would become uncomfortable.
Should you buy the Salomon S/Lab Phantasm? If you can find one and like the minimalist approach of the shoes, absolutely.
• Read our full Salomon S/LAB Phantasm review here
The Hoka One One Clifton Edge is "first-ever style extension" of the very popular Hoka One One Clifton series. Indeed, the Clifton Edge is edgy, figuratively and literally, as it introduces more style to the otherwise running trainer-looking Clifton series by adding a huge rim around the edge of the midsole.
Interestingly enough, despite the chunky midsole, the Clifton Edge manages to retain the lightness of the Clifton series: even the size 10 shoes I was testing only weigh just over 260 grams, which is crazy, considering how big these shoes are.
In theory, the extended heel is supposed to guide your feet as land and admittedly, the Clifton Edge is best for runners who land on their heels as opposed forefoot strikers. Not saying they shouldn't buy the shoes as even people who tip toe will appreciate the looks of the Clifton Edge. Well, if you are into the Hoka One One look.
Truth to be told, the heel extension of the Clifton Edge is definitely less pronounced than the one found on the Hoka Tennine, but on those shoes, the mega heel serves a purpose while in the case of the Clifton Edge, it is more of an aesthetics choice as opposed to actual enhancement of running dynamics.
The Hoka One One Clifton Edge is well-padded, especially around the collar of the shoes and the top of the gusseted-tongue. The internal heel counter is super firm yet wearing the Clifton Edge was a comfortable experience altogether. The pull tab at the heel was definitely a nice addition and made putting the shoes on much easier.
I personally found the new high-resilience foam a bit firmer, not in a bad way though, and it might just be due to the contrast in firmness compared to the other shoe I tested at the same time as the Clifton Edge (Brooks Glycerin 18, a super-soft shoe, see below). The tight upper might also contribute to the feeling of firmness, although Hoka shoes tend to be on the firm side in general.
Hoka's signature Meta-Rocker does the job perfectly here: the Clifton Edge rolls smoothly and feels snappier than how it looks. It is a weird sensation, seeing the bulk on your feet but feeling light as springy. If you ever run in a chunky Hoka before, you know what I'm talking about.
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 midsole 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 our full ASICS Novablast review here
The Hoka One One Rocket X has its merits. It's light, the upper has a sublime fit and the midsole is more manageable than on other Hoka racing shoes. Yet, I'm not entirely sure what to do with the Rocket X. It's not quite as propulsive as other racing shoes with a carbon-plate, even just looking at the Hoka lineup, let alone other brands.
I think the biggest issue here is that Hoka markets the Rocket X as a racing shoe: it works much better as a long-distance running trainer. It might work in other shoes, but here, the combination of the thick(ish) midsole and the carbon plate just doesn't work together well-enough to give you the competitive edge in races. However, the same combination is more than capable of supporting your feet during fast training sessions and can help reducing the negative effects of running longer distances.
The budget-friendly price also helps in establishing the Rocket X as excellent long distance training shoes. It might not be as cheap as some other running trainers, such as the Adidas SL20, but it's not crazy expensive either. Your call.
• Read our full Hoka One One Rocket X review here
The Saucony Endorphin Shift does what it's supposed to do perfectly fine. It provides a comfortable, cushioned and bouncy ride and doesn't seem to be at all concerned about performance stats or energy returns. This doesn't mean you will be dragging your feet in the shoes, despite the weight, but if you are after performance, you are better off getting the ASICS Metaracer or the Saucony Endorphin Pro.
The Endorphin Shift is part of the Saucony Endorphin Collection, a trio of running shoes that work well together and on their own too. If I had to chose one shoe of the lot, I would probably go with the Endorphin Speed as that is a good compromise between comfort and performance. But that's only because I'm interested in racing and don't need all the extra support and cushioning the Endorphin Shift has to offer.
For recreational runners, the Shift is probably the best choice of Endorphin Collection. As long as you don't mind the Shift looking like the running shoe-equivalent of an attention-seeker Instagram 'influencer' with its bright colours and oddball angles.
• Read our full Saucony Endorphin Shift review here
When the original Elite was released in January 2020, one of the first questions that occured to me was "why doesn't the Elite use the new DNA Flash technology" and I wasn't the only one confused. Not only that but Brooks also said that the Elite's foam will only provide its 'second-to-none' running dynamics for around 50-100 miles, which isn't much considering the Elite cost almost as much as most high-end running racers on the market.
The Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 has learned from the mistakes of its predecessor. It sports the same upper and almost the same geometry as the Elite but adds the DNA Flash midsole to the mix, which "maintains cushioning and responsiveness for 300-600 km, just like daily trainers", as Brooks puts is.
The DNA Flash foam is also softer than the DNA Zero EVA foam, albeit a bit heavier. Even so, the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 is one of the lightest running shoes on the market and weighs only 215 grams, which is only marginally heavier than the Elite's 195 grams.
The upper of the Hyperion Elite 2 is pretty much identical to the Elite: the lightweight, stretch-woven upper is thin and tight, just how a racer should be. Even the laces are the same.
What has changed is the stack height – the midsole is now 2 mm thicker – as well as the angle of the sole which now curls up on both ends, not just at the front. While the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% has a little tail at the end to help you land and roll forward, the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 has a cutaway section at the back for a better landing experience, especially for people who land on their heel (which is most runners).
The updated UA HOVR Phantom 2 is a great beginner running shoe. It is comfortable, somewhat responsive and can even provide runners with running tips thanks to the built-in Bluetooth transmitter and the accompanying MapMyRun app: no need to buy an expensive running shoe and a pricey running watch straight away.
It's probably no wonder that Under Armour recommends the Phantom 2 for beginner runners who "have their sights set on running their fastest mile, or running a mile without stopping". You won't see the Phantom 2 on the podium at running races, nor will you use it for interval training or more strenuous VO2 max runs.
It might not be a racer but that doesn't mean the Phantom 2 is not a good running trainer, on the contrary. It has a built-in Bluetooth transmitter – not many running shoes can say the same – which can help you get better at running thanks to the running plans found in the MapMyRun app.
Despite not being a racing shoe, the Phantom 2 can provide decent energy return rates thanks to the the UA HOVR technology. Above all, the Phantom 2 is comfortable: the sock-like upper reminded me of the very popular Adidas Primeknit upper used in Ultraboost shoes.
The full rubber outsole provides excellent traction on the road even on wet surfaces, albeit it also makes the Phantom 2 heavier than most shoes on this list. On the flipside, this traction also makes the Phantom 2 an ideal trainer for workouts, which isn't all that surprising considering the history of Under Armour. Buy a running shoe, get a workout shoe for free: sign me up for this deal.
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.
You only have scratch the surface to see that the On Cloudboom is not just another Nike Vaporfly alternative. Although the Cloudboom does have a carbon plate insert in the midsole, what it also has is a low profile, unlike the Vaporfly that's famous for its stack height, among other things.
The Cloudboom is said to be the fastest long distance running shoe from On and indeed, these shoes are pretty fast. They are also accessible with their 9 mm drop, something you will need to counterbalance the stiffness of the On pods under your feet.
The pod-design makes the Cloudboom distinctively 'On' but thankfully, the firmness of the Cloudswift is long gone and the sole of the Cloudboom is so flexible you can roll the shoes up in a ball, much like Vivobarefoot shoes. The Cloudboom is also light but rather tight and as much as I appreciate close-to-the-skin race fit running shoes, the Cloudboom pushes the envelope on close fit shoes.
Not only that but given the low profile and firmer ground contact, you will feel the ground more directly in these shoes, even after 'just' a half marathon, let alone a full marathon. I can imagine some soreness setting soon after the race but definitely the day after the race wearing the Cloudboom.
For 10Ks or even a half marathon, though, the Cloudboom would work well, especially for people who like to speed through such distances and don't just meander on races.
One great advantage of the On Cloudboom is that it's available to buy, unlike many other carbon-assisted running shoes which all seem to go out of stock before they hit the market, making it extremely frustrating for everyday runners to get hold of them. I love the ASICS Metaracer and even the Vaporfly, but you can't buy them anywhere, unfortunately.
The On Cloudboom is an excellent mid-distance running shoe and it's especially recommended for runners who like to run faster and don't want to carry a fat midsole under their feet. Just make sure you have plenty of ice to treat the calf soreness the day after the race.
The Saucony Endorphin Pro is an excellent road running shoe. It is not perfect and even among its direct competitors I wouldn't place it on top but having said that, the market for high-cushioned running shoes with integrated carbon plates is fierce, probably the fiercest one at the moment.
Where the Endorpin Pro stands out is just how well it rolls: the transition from heel to toe is buttery smooth and also very comfortable. The carbon plate helps this transition tremendously, although it might not provide as much propulsion as the integrated plate in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%.
The weakest point of the shoe is the Formfit upper: it is just not tight enough for a running shoe designed for racing. All the best shoes in this category, such as the Hoka One One Carbon X and the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, have very tight uppers which is what you need on race day. The Formfit upper provides a looser fit which might not be ideal in a racing environment.
The Endorphin Pro is part of the Endorphin Collection, along with the Endorphin Speed and the Endorphin Shift, a trio of running shoes that feature similar running dynamics and even looks. In case you aren't too interested in the carbon plate.
• Read our full Saucony Endorphin Pro review here
I'm used to recommending high-tech running shoes to races and performance runs but that's not the case with the Adidas 4D Run 1.0. These shoes are for training and casual runs, not for breaking PBs or when you are working hard on improving your VO2 max.
The 3D-printed lattice sole is created with a unique technology that uses light/oxygen only and when you think about it that way, you'll be amazed just how well the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 performs. On the other hand, the sole is rather heavy and doesn't quite deliver top performance (yet).
I would recommend going half size up as the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 is a bit on the tight side, despite the Primeknit upper and the padded heel counter being comfortable and cosy. The laces are also a bit too long too and unless tucked away somewhere, they flap around quite a lot as you run.
You won't see many top runners winning marathons wearing the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 but these shoes might work well for people who like running shoes from top brands and don't run for performance purposes. And let's face it, there are many of those out there at the moment. Not like it's a problem.
• Read our full Adidas 4D Run 1.0 review here
You have to appreciate the effort ASICS puts into continuously tweaking the GEL cushioning system. It has changed drastically over time and now includes FlyteFoam midsole, which "is the lightest cushioning material ASICS has ever made, 55% lighter than the industry standard midsole compounds", whatever 'industry standard midsole compound' means.
Jokes aside, the Gel-Nimbus 23 indeed feels soft and well-padded everywhere, providing supreme cushioning throughout the running stride. The chunky collar keeps the ankles in place as you run and even the tongue is soft and spongy. Running in the ASICS Gel-Nimbus feels like wearing a cloud around your feet.
All the cushioning and the dark colourways do make the Gel-Nimbus 23 look a bit robust and not too sexy, so to say. The Gel-Nimbus franchise was never famous for its looks and the 23rd iteration of the shoes continues the tradition in this respect. Much like one of its predecessor, the ASICS Gel-Nimbus 21, these shoes certainly won't catch your attention on the shelves.
That said, if you need a running trainer that isn't too fancy or tries to make you run 'faster than ever before', you'll appreciate these shoes. The ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23 is perfect for recreational runs/afternoon jogs: give your feet a break without having to stop running.
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 Nimbus 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 Asics Metaride review here
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 Brooks Glycerin series is not famous for its energy return stats or that it has speed all figured out. What it's famous for is comfort and the latest iteration in the series, the Brooks Glycerin 18, is comfortable for sure.
The DNA loft midsole is as soft as a pillow and your feet will be bouncing around happily in the Glycerin 18. The 10 mm drop makes these shoes accessible for even beginner runners
All this softness has an effect on energy return. You can't will it all, really, and the Glycerin 18 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 18 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 full Mizuno Wave Skyrise 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.
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 full Adidas Pulseboost HD review here
So, 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.
• Read our full Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% review here
Running shoes vs trail running shoes: what's the difference?
For the unacquainted, running shoes and trail running shoes can look pretty similar: similar enough to think they are interchangeable and work well on both the road and the trail. In reality, both types have specific characteristics that make them perfect for the running surface they were designed for and not-so great for others.
Take running trainers for example. These shoes work best when used on hard, smooth surfaces, such as the road: the cushioning is fine tuned to reduce the impact force when landing on tarmac and the upper is tight to keep the foot 'locked in' as you run. The 'stack-height' of most running shoes is also higher, especially nowadays, to improve energy returns. The outsole also tend to be smoother to increase the surface area of the shoes for better grip.
On the other hand, trail running shoes thrive on uneven surfaces. Off-road shoes have massive lugs on the outsole to claw into soft surfaces (e.g. mud, grass) and usually also have an insert in the midsole to protect the feet from rocks and other unexpected obstructions (this insert is aptly named 'rock-shield'). And since the trail is more often slippery and wet than the road, trail shoes have better weather protection and are also heavier in general than road shoes.
To provide an analogue, road shoes are racing cars with their light chassis and fast ergonomics, while trail shoes are 4x4s: robust and heavy but will keep you safe in the forest. Before you buy new running shoes, take into consideration where will you use them the most to avoid disappointment (and injuries) later on.