Best running shoes 2020: the best running trainers for all abilities reviewed and ranked

The best running shoes from Nike, Adidas, ASICS and more for both men and women

best running shoes
(Image credit: ASICS)

The best running shoes – a.k.a. the best trainers for running – will always be in high demand and especially in this day and age, as more and more people choose to better their health by running regularly. And with the best Cyber Monday deal fast approaching, you'd better keep your eyes peeled for some excellent running shoe deals.

Whether you are a seasoned runner or someone just about to pick up jogging as a hobby, this running shoes guide has something to offer you. Just plug in a pair of the best running headphones, pull up your compression socks and hit the road today. 

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 within a couple of weeks. Running shoes come in all shapes, with differing designs and technologies to suit the needs of all types of runner.

In this best running shoes guide, we have models best suited for training, racing, recovery and anything in between. Whether you just want THE perfect pair of running shoes, or feel like you can't have enough of them, these are the best of the best.

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 one of the best running watches or best heart rate monitors 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.

best running shoes

(Image credit: adidas)

What are the best running shoes right now?

The running shoe landscape is ever changing: today's best running shoes might become obsolete sooner rather later. Having said that, the best running shoes from previous seasons tend to perform well and very often new updates of popular running shoe franchises only bring subtle improvements to the table.

This best running shoes guide might have quite few entries and even the last entry on this list is pretty damn good. The Hoka One One Carbon X is still our favourite racing shoe: it's tight, rolls beautifully and the integrated carbon plate works well together with the Hoka signature chunky midsole. Unfortunately, it can't be bought in the US which is shame: americans can buy the Hoka One One Evo Carbon Rocket instead.

Nike has plenty of great running shoes to offer but at the moment, our favourite one is the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37. The Peg 37 features the React cushioning system is light yet durable, meaning you will be able to use the shoes for longer without the foam deteriorating too much.

Brooks has also been busy this year, updating its fan-favourite Glycerin and Adrenaline series, but also releasing brand new franchises. One of these 'brand new' shoes is the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, a training shoe that features Brooks' new DNA Flash midsole. These shoes are just amazingly comfortable and also durable as hell, perfect for everyone looking for a comfortable and responsive running trainer.

The best running shoes in order of preference

best running shoes: Hoka One One Carbon X

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

1. Hoka One One Carbon X

Best running shoes for racing that's actually available to buy

Specifications
Weight: 246 grams
Drop: 5 mm
Best for: Daily runs, tempo runs, intervals, long runs
Sizing: True to size (bit tight though)
Reasons to buy
+Integrated carbon plate for propulsion+Wide forefoot platform+Lightning fast
Reasons to avoid
-Chunky midsole takes some time to get used to

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.

• Hoka One One Carbon X review

best running shoes: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

(Image credit: Nike)

2. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

Perfect for training, jogging, walking and everything in between

Specifications
Weight: 285 grams (men's size 9UK)
Drop: 10 mm (24/14)
Reasons to buy
+Durable+Well balanced+Looks good enough to wear as an everyday trainer (unlike Alphafly)

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.

best running shoes: Brooks Hyperion Tempo

(Image credit: Brooks Running)

3. Brooks Hyperion Tempo

Lightweight trainers with nitrogen-infused midsole

Specifications
Weight: 210 grams
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: training, cushioning, mid-distance runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+DNA Flash midsole is very responsive+Feather-light+Upper follows contour of feet well
Reasons to avoid
-Not the cheapest training shoes

• Buy the Brooks Hyperion Tempo directly from Brooks

The Brooks Hyperion Tempo was announced in January 2020 and went under the radar for a bit, partially due to the lockdown and partially because Brooks is one of those brands only hardcore runners know about. A shame since the American manufacturer has produced a lot of amazing running shoes and still does, the Hyperion Tempo being a very good example of that.

The Brooks Hyperion Tempo is marketed as a training shoe to go with the carbon-enhanced Brooks Hyperion Elite. But unlike the Elite that uses the DNA Zero midsole, the Tempo is using the brand new, nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole that I'm sure we'll hear more about in the future.

On the press briefing in January, Brooks' Blue Line senior manager Nikhil Jain explained that the main aim with the Hyperion line was to reduce deviation from the ideal stride which in turn would would result in and better energy return and less fatigue.

Running in the Brooks Hyperion Elite feel light and responsive indeed. The midsole springy but not so much that it would hinder your efforts, I would characterise it 'supportive bounce' that reduces some of the impact force from the heels and creates a smoother transition from heel-to-toe.

I also found the upper a good fit: not race tight but not too baggy either. The slits at the front of the woven upper allow air to enter and since the fabric doesn't sit too close to the skin, your feet will kept cool and collected even after longer runs. Maybe not marathon distances but 10-20 km for sure.

My only issue with the Brooks Hyperion Tempo is the availability: just like many other premium shoes nowadays, the Hyperion Tempo never seems to be in stock in its full size-range. I understand that lockdown has increased demand and probably severed supply chains from Asia but it would be nice to have this shoe in stock from more than a week at a time. One can hope.

best running shoes: ASICS Metaracer

(Image credit: ASICS)

4. ASICS Metaracer

In these shoes, you've got to go fast

Specifications
Weight: 250 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 9 mm (24/15 mm)
Best for: mid-to long distance races, tempo runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Excellent ground-contact+FlyteFoam compliments carbon-plate well+Breathable
Reasons to avoid
-Availability issues

• Buy the ASICS Metaracer directly from ASICS

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

best running shoes: On Cloudflow

(Image credit: On Running)

5. On Cloudflow

As agile as it is handsome

Specifications
Weight: 235 grams
Drop: 6 mm
Best for: Threshold runs, racing, anything between 10km and a marathon
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Great cushioning+Amazing looks+Light and comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-You won't want to get it dirty-For relatively good weather only

• Buy the On Cloudflow directly from On Running

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?

• On Cloudflow review

best running shoes: adidas SL20


(Image credit: adidas)

6. Adidas SL20

The Lightstrike foam strikes again

Specifications
Weight: 230 grams (UK size 8.5)
Drop: 10 mm (24/14 mm)
Best for: Daily runs, long runs, training
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Responsive foam+Continental rubber outsole+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Default colourway looks like every other Adidas running shoe from the era

• Buy the Adidas SL20 directly from Adidas

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. 

best running shoes: Nike React Infinity Run

(Image credit: Nike)

7. Nike React Infinity Run

Great stability shoes for most runners – especially those prone to injury

Specifications
Weight: 275 grams (men's size 9)
Drop: 9 mm
Best for: Recovery, long runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+So much support, yet it feels speedy+Rolls well+New Flyknit upper is firm yet comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Arguably too much support for seasoned runners

• Buy Nike React Infinity Run from Nike

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

best running shoes: Hoka One One Clifton Edge

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

8. Hoka One One Clifton Edge

A chunky running trainer that's also surprisingly light

Specifications
Weight: 253
Drop: 5
Best for: Training runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Looks like a sneaker...+...yet performs like a running trainer
Reasons to avoid
-The chunky midsole doesn't really serve a purpose

• Buy the Hoka One One Clifton Edge directly from Hoka One One

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.

best running shoes: ASICS Novablast

(Image credit: ASICS)

9. ASICS Novablast

Put a spring in your stride

Specifications
Weight: 260 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: short- to mid-distance runs, mild weather runs, training
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Springy+Well-cushioned+Looks fun
Reasons to avoid
-Heel counter is not firm enough-Can get warm-Too much foam for good energy returns

• Buy the ASICS Novablast directly from ASICS

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

best running shoes: Brooks Hyperion Elite 2

(Image credit: Brooks Running)

10. Brooks Hyperion Elite 2

Brooks' fastest high-stack racing shoe

Specifications
Weight: 215 grams
Drop: 8 mm (37/29)
Best for: Long distance races
Sizing: True to size (tight)
Reasons to buy
+Super lightweight+DNA Flash midsole+Foam lasts longer than original Elite
Reasons to avoid
-Laces are a bit fiddly to do up/undo-Upper is tight as a drum

• Buy the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 directly from Brooks Running

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).

best running shoes: Saucony Ride 13

(Image credit: Saucony)

11. Saucony Ride 13

Saucony's best everyday trainer is back to its roots

Specifications
Weight: 278 grams (men), 247 grams (women)
Drop: 8 mm (32/24 mm)
Best for: Everyday runs, jogging, light training
Reasons to buy
+Great everyday trainer+Formfit upper is roomy and comfortable+Ample amount of padding+Great for jogging and recovery runs...
Reasons to avoid
-...but not so much for tempo and interval training-Some users reported it being too big

• Buy the Saucony Ride 13 directly from Saucony

Not all of the best running shoes are performance trainers. Sometimes, all you need is a pair of cushioned running trainers 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 – the Saucony Ride 13 will be right up in your street.

Saucony moved away from using the ISOFIT technology which is great news as it was one of the main reasons why I didn't particularly like the predecessor of the Saucony Ride 13, the Saucony Ride ISO 2. With the ISOFIT system gone, Saucony also returned to the original numbering sequence, hence why the next shoe in line is not called Ride 3 but Ride 13.

But let's not get caught up with naming conventions as the Ride 13 has more to offer than just a simpler name. The FORMFIT technology, also used in the Saucony Endorphin series, fits better without restricting the toes or other parts of the feet. According to Saucony, the FORMFIT provides a "personalised 3D comfort" through the combination of a padded insole, the EVERUN foam in the middle and the reactive bottom layer.

Talking about padding: there is a lot of it so if you are after a plush ride, you'll love the Saucony Ride 13. The heel area is well comfortable as there is ample amount of padding around the ankle and under the heel, making landings a soft and pain-free experience. Even the laces and the tongue are soft and squashy, giving you the impression that the Ride 13 is made of marshmallows.

Not all energy is lost, though, as the PWRRUN cushioning does a good job in recovering some of the landing force and rolling into forward momentum. Running in the Saucony Ride 13 won't be the most responsive experience for sure but it is not supposed to be anyway. For training and recovery, you should get the Saucony Ride 13.

best running shoes: UA HOVR Phantom 2

(Image credit: UA / Under Armour)

12. UA HOVR Phantom 2

Bluetooth-enabled running trainers

Specifications
Weight: 327 grams
Drop: 9 mm (26/17)
Best for: short-distance training
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Knit upper is comfortable+Getting in and out of the shoes is easy+Integrated Bluetooth makes running planning easier in absence of a running watch 
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy-Not ideal for performance runs

• Buy the UA HOVR Phantom 2 directly from Under Armour

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.

best running shoes: On Cloudboom

(Image credit: On Running)

13. On Cloudboom

Low profile and sleek short- to mid-distance shoes

Specifications
Weight: 225 grams
Drop: 9 mm
Best for: 10K to half marathon races
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Minimalist design+Carbon plate is excellent for tempo runs
Reasons to avoid
-A bit tight-Wouldn't recommend it for longer than half marathon distances

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.

best running shoes: Saucony Endorphin Pro

(Image credit: Saucony)

14. Saucony Endorphin Pro

A great Nike Vaporfly alternative, maybe a bit too firm for some

Specifications
Weight: 238 grams (men's UK10.5)
Drop: 8 mm (33.5mm/25.5mm)
Best for: Racing, interval training
Sizing: True to size (bit on the loose side)
Reasons to buy
+Rolls well+Good shock absorption under the heel+Ergonomic collar structure+Wider midfoot platform than the Vaporfly NEXT% (more forgiving)
Reasons to avoid
-Upper is too loose at the front-Not as optimised for energy return as other shoes with integrated carbon-plates

• Buy the Endorphin Pro directly from Saucony

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

best running shoes: Adidas 4D Run 1.0

(Image credit: Adidas)

15. Adidas 4D Run 1.0

3D printed soles are the future but the future isn't here just yet

Specifications
Weight: 395 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 10 mm (28mm/18mm)
Best for: everyday runs, jogging and short- to mid-distances
Sizing: Go half size up
Reasons to buy
+AMple amount of padding around heels+Technology is interesting+Upper is well-constructed
Reasons to avoid
-Go half size up-Laces are super long for no reason

• Buy the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 directly from Adidas

• Buy the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 at SportsShoes.com

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

best running shoes: Asics Gel Nimbus 21

(Image credit: Asics)

16. Asics Gel-Nimbus 21

Best ASICS running shoe: amazing support for long-distance neutral runners

Specifications
Weight: 309 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Training, long runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Supreme cushioning+Good traction
Reasons to avoid
-All the extra cushioning makes the shoe a bit heavier-Can get warm inside

• Buy the Asics Gel-Nimbus 21 directly from Asics

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 Asics Gel-Nimbus 21 review

best running shoes: New Balance FuelCell Rebel

(Image credit: New Balance)

17. New Balance FuelCell Rebel

Lightweight and race ready

Specifications
Weight: 208 grams
Drop: 6 mm
Best for: races, tempo runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight upper+Toe off specialist
Reasons to avoid
-In true New Balance fashion, sizing is half size under

• Buy the New Balance FuelCell Rebel from SportsShoes.com

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.

best running shoes: Asics Metaride

(Image credit: Asics)

18. Asics Metaride

Cruise through your long runs in this cushioned shoe

Specifications
Weight: 300 grams
Drop: zero drop
Best for: long runs
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic heel-to-toe transition+Comfortable upper+Looks great
Reasons to avoid
-Firm midsole only supports runners with near-perfect strides

• Buy the Asics Metaride directly from Asics

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 Asics Metaride review

best running shoes: Saucony Type A9

(Image credit: Saucony)

19. Saucony Type A9

Speedy racing shoes with subtle cushioning

Specifications
Weight: 170 grams
Drop: 4 mm
Best for: Short- to mid-distance races, PR attempts
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Super light+Tight upper locks foot in+Fast as hell
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of cushioning might be difficult to handle for complete beginners

• Buy the Saucony Type A9 directly from Saucony

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.

best running shoes: Brooks Glycerin 18

(Image credit: Brooks Running)

20. Brooks Glycerin 18

Plush fit and comfort above all

Specifications
Weight: 289 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Casual runs, jogs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+The DNA LOFT cushioning is soft like a cloud+Smooth heel-to-toe transition
Reasons to avoid
-Not a huge amount of energy return

• Buy the Brooks Glycerin 18 directly from Brooks Running

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.

best running shoes: Mizuno Wave Skyrise

(Image credit: Mizuno)

21. Mizuno Wave Skyrise

Best cheap running shoes

Specifications
Weight: 300 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Long runs, people who do high mileage either in one go or overall
Reasons to buy
+Great fit+Soft cushioning+Great ground control+Responsive
Reasons to avoid
-Default colourway is a bit boring

• Buy the Mizuno Wave Skyrise at SportsShoes.com

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 Mizuno Wave Skyrise review

best running shoes: New Balance FuelCell TC

(Image credit: New Balance)

22. New Balance FuelCell TC

Nike Vaporfly alternative of the best kind

Specifications
Weight: 285 grams (men's UK size 10)
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Last training days leading up to mid-to long-distance races, race days
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable upper+Excellent energy return+Ergonomic heel-counter design
Reasons to avoid
-Foam a bit too soft under the heel

• Buy the New Balance FuelCell TC at New Balance

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.

best running shoes: Adidas Pulseboost HD

(Image credit: Adidas)

23. Adidas PulseBoost HD

Comfort and stability in one handsome package

Specifications
Weight: 340 grams
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Everyday runners in the city
Reasons to buy
+Great for firm surfaces+Responsive
Reasons to avoid
-Upper is more comfortable than supportive-QR playlist link on tongue is tacky-Heavy

• Buy the Adidas Pulseboost HD directly from Adidas

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 Adidas Pulseboost HD review

best running shoes: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%

(Image credit: Nike)

24. Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%

Well, it's the best running shoe for pure speed – but you usually can't buy it

Specifications
Weight: 190 grams (men's size 9)
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Quick runners doing long distances
Reasons to buy
+Blisteringly fast+Supreme cushioning and energy return
Reasons to avoid
-Hard to acquire-You'll want to wrap them in cotton wool between races

UPDATE: these have sold out, and they probably aren't coming back. Their successor, Alphafly NEXT% is coming soon, however.

• Sign up to get notified of the next Next% drop at Nike UK 

• Sign up to get notified of the next Next% drop at Nike USA

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.

• Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% review: believe the hype

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.