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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Best In Class
Hoka One One MachCushioned Running Shoes, Road Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
The Mach is one of the best well-rounded road shoes we’ve tested and as one tester put it, “If I could only have one road shoe this would be the one.” It had the whole package; it’s lightweight, responsive, cushioned and just whole lot of fun to run in. A direct descendant of the Clayton, the Mach maintained everything people enjoyed about the Clayton, while fixing everything people didn’t like. Hoka’s new dual density ProFly midsole delivers seemingly opposing forces of a soft landing with a firm take off.
Brooks LevitateCushioned Running Shoes, Road Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
As a newcomer to the Brooks cushioned lineup, the Brooks Levitate proves it already earned the right to sit alongside best sellers like the Glycerin and Ghost. Boasting a brand new midsole compound called DNA AMP, the Levitate blends a uniquely springy and fun cushioned ride with a snug fitting, secure upper. While our testers raved about how comfortable and enjoyable this neutral everyday trainer was, they also found the shoe to be one of the slowest in the cushioned class. Tipping the scales at 11.2oz for men and 9.7oz for women, the Levitate is best suited for days when speedy times aren’t a priority and comfort rules.
Best for Faster Running
On CloudflyerCushioned Running Shoes, Road Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
On’s approach to the Cloudflyer is simple, freedom of movement with added cushioning while still maintaining a touch of stability. The Cloudflyer is a lightweight, flexible trainer that has characteristics of both a minimalist shoe and stability trainer. Most suited for lighter runners who appreciate a less-restrictive shoe that rides close to the ground, it lacks the structure most comfort trainers have. The flexibly and minimal design decrease durability, causing it to be one the least durable shoes tested.
Best Lightweight Cushioned Trainer
Altra DuoCushioned Running Shoes, Road Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
As the newest addition to the Altra line of zero drop road shoes, the Duo brilliantly strikes the ultimate balance of cushioning-to-weight ratio. Despite a the massive full length 31mm stack the Duo tips the scales at an astonishing 7.9oz for men and 5.3oz for women, making them one of the lightest and fastest shoes in the cushioned category. The Duo, like all Altra shoes are headlined by Altra’s unique Foot Shape design, to allow the toes to splay out naturally and a zero drop for a more naturally balanced run. While this rather non-traditional approach does take time to adjust too, the ride is easy going, responsive and cushioned. The only downside is some my find the excess space to feel insecure, giving the shoe a loss fit.
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 unrecognizable compared to 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.