The Best Running Shoes
Looking for reviews of the best running shoes? Each season, our experts test the best road running shoes and trail running shoes head to head against each other. Two dozen experienced wear testers spend approximately 2-3 weeks running in each shoe, providing objective feedback on comfort, cushioning, fit, ride quality and other criteria. Each shoe is compared against other similar shoes for fair comparisons. And we never let our advertisers or brand biases influence our reviews in any way, so you get unfiltered, candid assessments directly from our experts.
Road Running Shoes
If you are looking for thicker, plush, more cushioned road running shoes, check out our “Cushioned Running Shoes” category. For a lighter, faster, and more efficient experience, you’ll want to pick from our “Lightweight Running Shoes” category.
Trail Running Shoes
If you’re looking for the best trail running shoes, check out our reviews of thicker, more cushioned, and more protective “Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes” or our reviews of thinner, lighter, more agile “Lightweight Trail Running Shoes.”
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Altra introduces a number of design innovations on the Escalante, and many of them are a success in terms of comfort and performance. The upper is snug but comfortable, and the outsole is grippy and responsive, but the standout feature of this shoe is the remarkable Ego midsole material that effectively combines plush cushioning and strong energy return. The Escalante is recommended for fast training as well as road racing for any distance up to and including a marathon.
There are no shortcomings in the Zoom Fly’s ability to help runners of all abilities run faster. The midsole configuration of resilient EVA plus midsole plate is remarkably effective for transition of energy from one foot strike to the next. Comfort is compromised a bit with the narrow forefoot and rigid all-around construction, but if you’re cool with the fit, the Zoom Fly is an ideal shoe for fast track workouts up to marathon racing.
Although this is marketed as more of a hybrid athletic/casual shoe, the Hupana is completely credible as a solid high performance road running shoe. The primary drawback is the fit issue through the heel for some users, otherwise the comfort of the knit uppers works well. Our testers were impressed by the energy return and durability of this material, and the Hupana would be suitable for fast workout days as well as long distance road racing.
Best “Old Meets New” Combination
New Balance FuelCellLightweight Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
The magic is in the midsole on the New Balance FuelCell: the dual-construction combination of the company’s lightweight REVlite EVA plus firmer nitrogen infused TPU provide great responsiveness and underfoot feel. Our testers generally like the overall comfort after working out some initial wrinkles due to general stiffness in the heel collar and midfoot. A 6mm drop is right in the sweet spot for midfoot or heel strikers. The FuelCell is probably too heavy for a racing shoe, but well positioned as an everyday trainer that helps you feel faster and lighter.
The Alpine XT is a new trail model from Asics that strikes a balance between agility and protection, without sacrificing either. Our wear-test team found it versatile across a wide range of trails and conditions, thanks to an outsole with edge-to-edge lugs. The SpEVA foam midsole is responsive and lively, and cushioned enough (26mm heel, 20mm forefoot) that the lack of a forefoot rockplate wasn’t a serious hindrance. Some runners, however, may find the midsole too stiff. The uppers are a near-seamless dense knit that looks great and holds the foot securely and comfortably. Overall, our wear-test team was impressed with the new Asics Alpine XT.
Best All-Day Protection for Ultramarathons
New Balance Hierro v3Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
The New Balance Hierro v3 is almost indistinguishable from its predecessor. From the ground up, there are changes to the outsole, midsole, and entire upper. While the upgrades add weight (the Hierro v3 is the heaviest shoe in this round of testing, and about an ounce heavier than last year’s Hierro v2), the benefits are substantial. The new Hierro v3 has outstanding comfort and protection with a snug bootie upper, all of which make it an excellent choice for ultramarathons and long trail days. The new design is also visually striking. On the downside, some of our wear-testers found that the extra benefits didn’t offset the added weight. There were also serious disagreements on the team about fit and traction, with wear-testers giving the Hierro v3 very high and very low marks. Overall, the New Balance Hierro v3 is a shoe that everyone will like to look at, but runners should test out before buying.
Best Lightweight Cushioning
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
The new Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 keeps what most runners loved about the previous version, namely the maximal-cushioned outsole and lightweight, responsive ride. There are some changes to the upper to shave substantial weight over the previous version. But the weight savings comes from stripping down the upper, and that’s the source of most of our wear-test team’s concerns. Multiple runners on our team noted the flimsy structure to the uppers and lack of support. Overall, the Challenger ATR 4 sets the standard for a cushioned, lively ride, but there’s debate about whether saving weight by scaling back the uppers was worth it.
Most Plush and Comfortable
Brooks Caldera 2Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
The Brooks Caldera 2 is a lightweight, versatile trail shoe that tries to find a balance between protection and cushioning on one hand, and agility and speed on the other. Our wear-test team gave it high marks for comfort and design, but were split on how well it found the right compromise on protection and responsiveness. One called it one of his favorite trail shoes ever and an easy go-to for training, while another said it was a poor choice for anything but easy, mellow terrain without any technical features.