The best road running shoes | Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Brooks, Saucony and more

From cushioned training options to carbon plate racers [UPDATED]
The best road running shoes

Picking up a new pair of trainers from a list of the best running shoes is no easy task, so we've broken those options down to make the decision easier for all types of runners.

Whether you're looking for the most comfortable option for ticking off your daily mileage or you want to find out about the latest carbon plate race shoes to crush your next PB, we run through the best options available at the moment.

We've tried to unpack years of learnings, mistakes and lessons below and rounded up the best shoes we've taken onto the roads. If you're looking for trail running shoes, we have a specialist guide for that.

Jump to the running shoes you want:

You also have to consider price, because part of running’s appeal has always been that it doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment. Today’s flagship shoes cost north of $200, but you can still find excellent picks under $150.

Below you’ll find a selection of shoes to fulfil the desires of all kinds of road runners, which we’ve tested by putting them through at least 50 to 60 miles of running at different speeds, including long, tempo and easy runs, speed sessions and races when possible.

Running shoe top picks
Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
The most versatile shoe available at the moment. Perfect for everything from training sessions to race day.
£155 from Saucony
Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2
Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2
Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2
Still our top race shoe despite an ever-growing number of carbon plate racers hitting the shelves.
£239.99 from Nike
Brooks Glycerin 19
Brooks Glycerin 19
Brooks Glycerin 19
The perfect balance of cushioning, comfort and responsiveness for daily training and long runs
£140 from Brooks


The best all-rounder running shoe

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2

The Endorphin Speed 2, like its predecessor, has got something for everyone. The combination of a full-length nylon plate with the impressive PWRRUN PB midsole foam makes for a shoe that can take runners from comfortable training runs all the way up to race day.

At 229g, it sits at the lower end of the weight spectrum, making it an ideal option when it comes to picking up the pace. However, that stack off Saucony's lightweight foam makes it feel like a shoe with a lot more support and cushioning underfoot than you would expect from something so nimble.

Unlike carbon plate super shoes designed specifically for racing, the nylon plate in the Speed 2 offers a more subtle experience, with the Speedroll technology helping to promote an efficient movement instead of feeling like it's propelling you forward.

In comparison to the original Speed – and something that will be music to the ears of anyone who enjoyed it – very little has changed in the Speed 2, with any modifications taking place in the upper section to add additional comfort and breathability.

Whether you're a beginner looking for a versatile shoe for all of your training or a seasoned athlete that wants something for faster training sessions, the Endorphin Speed 2 is one of the best options out there.

Hoka Mach 4

Hoka Mach 4

The Mach 4 may well be the perfect balance of cushioning and speed, delivering the goods whether you're heading out for a slow recovery run or picking up the pace for a tempo session. The midsole foam is one of the most versatile we've tried in a running shoe and manages to be both lightweight and responsive while still being able to take the brunt of your long runs.

The only reason it isn't our favorite all-round running shoes is due to the fact that the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is slightly better when it comes to faster-paced efforts, but only just, and the Mach 4 probably takes the top spot if comfort is the deciding factor.

If you're looking for one shoe to do everything, and you don't want to fork out for the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2, the Mach 4 is well worth a look.

New Balance FuelCell TC

New Balance Fuelcell TC

As with any carbon plated shoe, comparisons with the Vaporfly range are inevitable. However, setting up any using carbon plate technology as a competitor to Nike's race shoe means that you're not seeing the bigger picture.

The FuelCell TC, unlike the Vaporfly, is a shoe that's designed for training and racing. Yes, it has a carbon plate, but that's largely where any similarity ends. At 281 grams it's noticeably heavier than a focussed race shoe and the build offers significantly more durability than what you find in the Next%.

The combination of the plate, the FuelCell foam and the comfy, durable build won us over instantly as an impressive all-round shoe, offering an impressively bouncy ride that still allows you to pick up the pace on race day or in faster training runs.

There really isn't anything the FuelCell TC can't do well, which makes it a great option if you want one pair of shoes that gives you a responsive, energetic feel with each step that'll cover you from enjoyable long training runs to hitting it hard on race day. We've covered over 100km in the FuelCell TC so far and find ourselves looking forward to wearing it for each run – not too shabby when it comes to the looks department as well.

Saucony Ride 14

Saucony Ride 14

Saucony's Ride line of shoes has long been its most popular for those runners looking for a bit of everything. The latest version takes the best elements of the series and updates them with some welcome modifications.

The PWRRUN foam is largely where the magic happens, delivering just enough cushioning for a soft ride without sacrificing the ability to pick up the pace if the mood takes you. Whether you're heading out for some long slow miles or you're planning to push yourself for some fast training sessions, it ticks all of the boxes.

The upper, made from a mesh material, is as comfortable and plush as it gets. The soft fabric feels loose around your foot whilst still maintaining an impressive level of support, and the thick collar offers an exceptionally pleasing experience from the first time you step inside.

About the only thing the Ride 14 doesn't do is flat out racing. So if you're looking for a lightweight option for race day you may want to investigate some of the faster shoes on the list. For balance, value and all-round training, you really can't go wrong.

Hoka Rincon 3

Hoka One One Rincon 3

There aren't many shoes that have the versatility of the Rincon 3 whilst still coming in at an affordable price point. Like its predecessors, it's a shoe that's designed to offer a good level of cushioning whilst still coming in at an impressively light 203g.

The midsole foam deadens the impact of running at a slower speed whilst still feeling firm and responsive enough to pick up the pace for faster training sessions. We've even found it to be a great lightweight option for race day if you want a competent shoe on a budget.

The only downside to the Rincon range is a slight issue with durability in the midsole foam, which means the shoe doesn't last as long as many workhorse trainers out there. So, if you're planning on picking up a pair to cover you for everything from daily sessions to race day, you may find yourself replacing it around 300 miles.

On Cloudflow

On Cloudflow

The Cloudflow line of shoes has always been a reliable option for anyone seeking a lightweight, responsive shoe to train and race in, but the redesigned shoe has even more appeal as an all-rounder thanks to the addition of On’s Helion foam to the midsole, which makes the shoe softer and more accommodating for easy runs as well.

There’s still enough snap in the Cloudflow to race in, and it’s light at 235g (men’s) or 198g (women’s). Of the all-rounders on this list the Cloudflow is probably the firmest option, so if you prefer a more responsive ride for all your running it’s a great pick.

Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2

Nike Pegasus Turbo 2

Nike’s Pegasus line has always been a go-to option for runners seeking a solid all-round running shoe to train and race in, but the introduction of the souped-up Pegasus Turbo has taken that to another level. The Turbo was launched in 2018 and immediately blew both the Pegasus 35 and every other all-rounder shoe out of the water in offering the ideal combination of comfort and speed, and the Turbo 2 is just as impressive as its predecessor.

Unfortunately, the Pegasus Turbo line has been discontinued, but if you can still pick a pair up it's still one of the best options out there today – especially considering you may be able to find it at a discount.

In the midsole, you’ll find a combination of two of Nike’s proprietary foams – ZoomX and React. ZoomX is the lightweight, bouncy foam used in the Vaporfly and it’s pretty much perfect aside from the fact it’s not all that durable, which is fine in a pure racing shoe like the Vaporfly, but not the Pegasus Turbo, which has many training miles to cover as well. Thus the hardy React foam has been added to the midsole to increase the durability of the Turbo, with great results – we found our set of the first edition of the shoe lasted well beyond 500 miles.

The second edition of the Pegasus Turbo leaves the brilliant midsole unchanged but has an updated upper, which is lighter and more breathable than on the original shoe. It’s not a huge change, but the good news is that Nike also did away with the racing stripe that ran down the centre of the first Pegasus Turbo, so the new shoe is easier on the eye as well.

The best running shoes for racing

Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2

Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2

How do you follow up the greatest long-distance racing shoe of all time? That’s the question Nike had to answer with the Next%, the successor to the Vaporfly 4% – the shoe that runners of all levels have been using to set personal bests and world records over the past couple of years. The Next% 2 retains that technology and updates it with a modified upper to increase fit and comfort.

Nike started by adding in 15% more ZoomX foam into the midsole of the Next% compared to the 4%, to provide more comfort and bounce. The carbon plate is still one of the best options out there today, helping to propel you to those PBs with incredible responsiveness that promotes a noticeable efficiency when tackling any distance.

The upper and outsole are also able to handle rainy days. The former is now an engineered mesh, which is more breathable than the previous Vaporweave upper, and the outsole manages to tackle corners at speed – exactly what you need on race day.


Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%

The Alphafly NEXT% received a lot of attention when it was originally announced due to the large stack height and the fact Kipchoge used a prototype model during his sub-two-hour attempt. Since then it has become one of the most popular carbon plate race options, as well as one of the most expensive shoes runners can buy.

For anyone unfamiliar with Nike's carbon plate shoes, the difference between the Alphafly NEXT% and the Vaporfly NEXT% can be unclear. Both offer similar technical features – including ZoomX foam and the carbon plate – but in practice, they deliver very different experiences.

As well as having a lower drop of 4mm, the shoe also includes two Air Zoom pods at the front, a new Atomknit upper, and more rubber on the outsole for grip. Like the Varporfly NEXT%, it's a shoe built for speed and delivers a high level of bounce and propulsion when running.

For many, the two shoes are difficult to choose between, but the Alphafly NEXT% delivers a higher level of support and cushioning than the Vaporfly, in contrast, it's slightly heavier and the lower offset is not for everyone.


New Balance Fuelcell RC Elite V2

New Balance Fuelcell RC Elite V2

It doesn't seem long ago that the first carbon plate shoes that weren't made by Nike hit the market. Now many brands are producing new iterations of their own carbon plate lines, often with vast improvements on previous versions.

The New Balance Fuelcell RC Elite V2 is a prime example of that, taking the competent RC Elite and flicking the volume dial up a few notches. The bulk of that advancement has come in the form of a more pronounced plate for propulsion and a healthy increase in the amount of midsole foam.

When you first get your hands on the Elite V2, you immediately notice how incredibly soft that midsole foam really is. To the touch, it's like pressing down on a marshmallow – a sensation that produces a noticeable level of bounce when you take them out for a run.

Like the Nike Vaporfly, it's a sensation that seems to absorb the energy from every stride and returns it back in the form of a light, fluid motion that makes racing feel significantly more efficient. Is it as good as the Nike Vaporfly? It's definitely one of the most similar super shoes we've tried, however, the softness may not be to everyone's taste.

Asics Metaspeed Sky

Asics Metaspeed Sky

When it comes to race day, the Metaspeed Sky is one of the most impressive carbon plate shoes we've tested. The combination of the propulsive plate with Asics' FF Turbo midsole foam – like an upgraded version of the FF Blast foam found in the Novablast – makes for an almost identical experience to that found in Nike's super shoes.

The upper is made from a light, breathable material that feels comfortable and relaxed as well as offering a good lockdown when picking up the pace, and there's plenty of cushioning around the heel collar to hold the foot in place with soft, luxurious padding.

The Metaspeed Sky isn't the only carbon plate shoe that Asics has released this year – there's also the Metaspeed Edge. Both shoes are designed to help increase the efficiency of running styles, with the Metaspeed Sky focussed on those runners with a wide stride length, and the Metaspeed edge built for those runners who increase cadence when running at speed.


Saucony Endorphin Pro 2

Saucony Endorphin Pro 2

The Endorphin Pro 2 is a carbon plate racer that's designed to be used alongside the excellent Speed 2 and Saucony's daily workhorse, the Shift 2. When compared with other super shoes like the Nike Vaporfly or the Asics Metaspeed Sky, the Endorphin Pro 2 is noticeably firmer, lacking the bounce often associated with those shoes. As a result, it's best suited to 5k and 10k races instead of marathons.

The benefit of the Endorphin Pro 2 is a more natural feel that tends to be smoother than many carbon plate shoes, which makes it a good option for those runners that are new to the super shoe game. The more conventional midsole design also makes them more stable than many high stack racers.

Note: the pictured design is the Saucony Endorphin Pro VIZIPRO edition which features reflective design elements for visibility when running at night.

On Cloudboom Echo

On Cloudboom Echo

When On released the Cloudboom in 2020, comparisons with the leading carbon plate shoes were inevitable, however, the shoe wasn't designed to deliver the same high-cushioned experience we'd come to expect from the likes of Nike and Adidas.

The Cloudboom Echo is a shoe with a lot more in common with the leading carbon plate offerings available. The most significant being the softer, bouncier stack of midsole cushioning that runs the full length of the shoe.

For those that want maximum cushioning and a soft, propulsive toe-off, the Cloudboom Echo may still lean more towards the harder end of the carbon plate spectrum, but that is by no means a bad thing – not everyone likes super soft shoes, and the Cloudboom Echo may just be the perfect alternative if that's the case.

It's an impressively comfortable and responsive shoe that delivers on race day, whether that's a 5k or a full marathon. Noticeably more forgiving than the original Cloudboom's hardness, it's by far the most exciting shoe On has released for some time, and a promising look into the future of the brand when it comes to performance technology.


Skechers GOrun Speed Elite Hyper

Skechers GOrun Speed Elite Hyper

The Skechers Go Run Speed Elite Hyper is an impressively lightweight race shoe that incorporates a number of welcome features for race day.

The Hyper Burst midsole foam manages to be both cushioned and responsive, despite the shoes minimal weight, producing an experience that makes the shoe an excellent choice for race day. In addition, there's a carbon-infused winglet plate in the front of the shoe to promote an even springier toe-off – although the effect is far more subtle than you'll find in some of the full-length super shoes.

The outsole is covered with a surprisingly thick helping of Goodyear performance rubber to protect the midsole and increase durability, while the lightweight upper is both comfortable and breathable for fast-paced efforts.

The level of cushioning is less than what you'll find in shoes like the Vaporfly or Alphafly, which makes the Speed Elite Hyper better suited to races up to half marathon distance.


Brooks Hyperion Elite 2

Brooks Hyperion Elite 2

After the launch of the disappointing Hyperion Elite earlier in the year, Brooks has come back for round two with a significantly more impressive carbon fibre contender.

Updated with a DNA Flash midsole – instead of the DNA Zero foam used in the previous iteration – the Elite 2 has become one of the standout competitors to Nike's Vaporfly NEXT% and Alphafly NEXT% options, featuring a soft, springy experience that's conducive to picking up the pace on race day.

Although it may not quite have the noticeable energy return that you'll find in Nike's leading carbon race shoes, the Elite is a great all-round option for racing whether you're aiming for a Parkrun PB or you going for a full marathon distance. At those longer distances, it delivers a consistently comfortable ride that keeps your legs feeling fresh for miles.

As well as a light, comfortable upper, the Elite 2 has additional support in the heel section, which makes for a nice secure fit. For us, it's also a noticeably more stable shoe than some of the high stack carbon plate options out there.

Saucony Kinvara 12

Saucony Kinvara 12

Saucony's Kinvara series has long been a favorite with those looking for a fast, lightweight shoe that still offers a nice level of cushioning – and the most recent addition to the range doesn't disappoint.

The Kinvara 12, by far one of the most eye-catching looking designs we've seen over the past year, has all the benefits we've come to expect from the shoe. The most important being Saucony's PWRRUN foam in the midsole which offers a good balance between responsiveness and cushioning when it comes to faster training.

At 213 grams, it's a great option for race day and that new cushioning manages to make it feel comfortable as well as offering a level of responsiveness that's surprising for a speed shoe of this level. In fact, to say the Kinvara 12 is a race shoe is a disservice as it delivers extremely well as a training shoe if you're looking for something that's a bit snappier.

With an increased level of durability due to the PWRRUN foam and an extremely supportive and comfortable mesh upper, the Kinvara 12 is great value for money and well worth a look if you're training for a PB.

Adidas SL20

Adidas SL20

Adidas may well be one of the big players in the running space but over the past few years, its range of race shoes has largely been overshadowed by Nike's output. Yes, there's the Ultraboost – a formidable all-round shoe, but a long way off a fast racer.

The SL20 is probably the most exciting release from Adidas in recent years – until the release of its new carbon plate shoe, that is. At 230g it's clear where the shoe is focussed, thanks to a new foam Adidas are calling Lightstrike. For fast running it's an absolute dream, offering an incredibly light and snappy ride that's perfect for anything from track training to 10k road racing. Anything longer and we've found it may be a bit too hard to offer enough cushioning for most runners.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the shoe is the price. If we were to have guessed we would have said it would be significantly more than the $120 price tag – you can even find it considerably cheaper at a lot of retailers, something that makes the SL20 incredible value.

The shoe also incorporates an incredibly durable Continental rubber outsole, a secure upper mesh and comes in a range of colorways. As with most Adidas Shoes, it can come up slightly tight on the forefoot, though.

361 Degrees Feisu 2

361 Degrees Feisu 2

Chinese company 361 Degrees may not be one of the most well known running shoe brands in the UK and the US, but over the last couple of years, the range has been growing in popularity. The Feisu 2 is the second iteration of the brand's popular race shoe. At 204 grams, it's an impressively lightweight option that also manages to combine some of the best features of the 361 catalogue.

Perhaps the most noticeable of those features is the overall fit and stability of the shoe that comes from MORPHIT microfiber mid-foot, a design that makes the Feisu 2 go almost unnoticeable on your feet as you're picking up the pace – something that is a big plus point in any fast race shoe. We're also a big fan of the ergonomically designed pressure-free tongue, which focuses the cushioning in the central section of the material.

There is, as you'd expect, minimal cushioning in the Feisu 2, but for something that weighs in at 204 grams, there's a lot more than we expected – which makes it one of the more comfortable racers we've tried. Especially when you compare it with a noticeably hard midsole like the Adidas SL20.

We've tested the Feisu 2 out from the track to longer distance training runs and a half marathon. In race conditions, it feels great. The minimal weight and secure fit make it a great choice for a quick pace and you'll find that you forget that you're wearing them. For slower runs and training you'll inevitably need to look for a pair with more cushioning.

Asics Metaracer Tokyo

Asics Metaracer Tokyo

Although the Metaracer was one of 2020's most eagerly anticipated carbon plated running shoes, similarities to the Nike Vaporfly Next% are limited. There's a noticeable lack of bounce and energy return to the Metaracer which makes it perform more like a more conventional lightweight race shoe than what you'll find in many of the latest carbon options.

That is in no way a negative point. Just because a shoe has a carbon plate doesn't mean it needs to offer exactly the same performance benefits – and not all runners want to race in a Vaporfly. As a fast race shoe, the Metaracer delivers extremely well, offering a snappy ride that adds just a hint of energy return.

Unlike the New Balance FuelCell TC, the Metaracer is an all-out racer and not a shoe you'll see any benefit from over slower training runs. It does, however, offer an impressive amount of rubber on the outsole, especially in comparison to what you would expect from a carbon-plate race shoe. So we'd expect to hold out very well in terms of durability and it does a commendable job when it comes to gripping wet ground.

The main downside to the Metaracer is the price. At $200 it's cheaper than options like the Saucony Endorphin Pro or the Vaporfly Next%, but that's still a lot of money for a shoe that only slightly benefits from the addition of a carbon plate.

On Cloudboom

On Cloudboom

Like the Metaracer, the Cloudboom is a good example of a carbon (infused) plate shoe that isn't designed to be a direct competitor to Nike's Vaporfly Next%.

Although On states that the Cloudboom is designed for speed over marathon distance, that probably applies more for the type of runner that wants minimal cushioning. For us, the shoe is best suited for racing and speed training up to half marathon distance, largely due to a noticeable hardness in the midsole.

At 225g, it sits towards the lighter side of the race shoe market and offers a quick, snappy run that's noticeable when you're going all out. For training runs there's very little benefit and the Cloudboom does little to help cushion impact over longer slow runs.

At $199.99 it's one of the cheaper full-length plate shoes designed for racing, but it is also one that has a very specific use case, unlike the Vaporfly Next% or Fuelcell TC which deliver across all distances.

The best running shoes for fast training

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%

The Tempo Next% takes learning from across Nike's performance range and pulls them together to produce a shoe that's designed specifically for tempo running.

That technology includes React foam in the heel for minimising impact, ZoomX foam in the midsole for a lightweight, propulsive feel and Air Zoom pods in the forefoot to deliver a responsive bounce when you push off with each step.

Although it shares numerous similarities with the Vaporfly and Alphafly race shoes, the Tempo Next% delivers a very different experience. It's heavier than those options with a level of hardness that is immediately noticeable when you start running. The reason for that is likely due to the fact it's built to be more durable, offering significantly more miles than you can expect from shoes specifically designed for race day.

As the name suggests, the shoe is designed for those runs where you want to train at a higher speed for longer, safe in the knowledge that you can wear them many times without fear that they'll wear down quickly.

Hoka Rocket X

Hoka One One Rocket X

The Hoka Rocket X is an important lesson that all shoes built with a carbon plate are not designed for the same purpose. Like the Carbon X, the Rocket X is a shoe delivering an experience that feels like a non-carbon shoe but still benefits from the addition of a plate.

By that we mean it doesn't have the bounce that you get from the Alphafy Next% or the Vaporfly NEXT%, but, it's still an incredibly fast shoe, feeling more like a traditional lightweight racer with a very subtle energy return benefit. That energy return becomes noticeable as you run and makes it a great option for tempo runs and races up to half marathon distance.

For the price, the Rocket X is by far one of the best value carbon plate shoes available at the moment. It offers a good level of cushioning – although maybe not enough for most marathon runners – and has a firm, locked-down fit that makes it great for running at speed.

Hoka Bondi X

Hoka One One Bondi X

The Bondi X is a very difficult shoe to pin down. The addition of a carbon plate to Hoka's maximally cushioned Bondi inevitably draws comparisons with the growing pile of carbon plate race options available at the top of this list. For us, any similarities with shoes like the Nike Vaporfly or Asics Metaspeed Sky are, however, limited.

Despite the addition of a carbon plate, the Bondi still runs like a more conventional cushioned shoe, lacking to propulsive feel that many super shoes deliver. That is by no means a bad thing, and for fans of the original Bondi, the upgrade may well be a welcome addition that takes the shoe from being an enjoyable daily option to one that can be used on race day.

If you were looking for a shoe to replace the Nike Vaporfly or Metaspeed Sky, the Bondi X is unlikely to make the cut. As well as being noticeably heavier, the foam lacks the energy return you'll find in those two shoes. For cushioned training, it could be a good choice, especially if you want something that can tackle faster sessions.

The best cushioned running shoe

Brooks Glycerin 19

The best road running shoes 2021 | Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Brooks, Saucony

Like the Hoka Clifton, the Glycerin is built for comfort, with plenty of soft cushioning underfoot and a plushy-padded upper and tongue. Heck, even the laces are spongier than on most shoes. As a result heavier runners, or anyone who just wants a more comfortable run, should look closely at the Glycerin.

Given that it’s purpose-built for comfort rather than speed, it’s not surprising that the Glycerin is quite heavy and the heel-to-toe transition of the shoe is sedate, rather than snappy. If you’re all about logging a faster Parkrun then it might not be your best bet, but if you’re new to running and want to cruise around in the utmost comfort, it’s definitely up there with the Clifton. In particular, anyone tackling their first marathon should check it out as a top pick for the long grind of training.

In addition to an updated mesh upper for a better fit, the latest iteration of the Glycerin ups the comfort level even more by increasing the DNA Loft cushioning in the midsole. And if looks are your focus, the new colorways are by far our favourite of the Glycerin range to date.

Asics Novablast 2

Asics Novablast 2 Running Shoe

The Novablast was one of the bounciest, softest and most noticeably cushioned shoes we've tested – as a result, it was a deeply polarising shoe. The Novablast 2 takes learnings from its predecessor and improves both the stability and firmness, whilst still painting the cushioning and bounce that made the shoe so popular.

Although the Flytefoam Blast midsole can feel a bit like running on marshmallows, the energy return you get with each step is noticeably springy and it delivers the good from short runs up to marathon distance.

The downside of the Novablast 2 is still a slight lack of stability, and everything from the high cushioning to a slightly loose feeling upper does make them struggle as a great technical option, especially for longer distances and racing.

For a general runner who's putting in a couple of lighter runs a week, they're an incredibly enjoyable shoe to run in and we've found ourselves picking them off the shelf increasingly often when our main focus is fun mileage. The 8mm drop is an acquired taste and definitely not one to experiment with if you're used to a flatter shoe, but if you like a bit of bounce, they're well worth a look.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

Few shoes have managed to match the Fresh Foam 1080 range when it comes to versatility and cushioning, with the v11 – and its predecessor, the v10 – showing how a shoe can tick boxes from slow, enjoyable training runs all the way up to race day efforts.

The Fresh Foam midsole manages to be cushioned whilst still maintaining a high level of responsiveness without being too soft or sluggish. The result is a shoe that feels great for daily training miles but still packs a punch if you want to push yourself harder and pick up the pace.

Another factor that has made the shoe so popular is the sock-like upper design, an elastic mesh material that allows the foot to move freely whilst still holding it in place with a secure and confident fit.


Nike ZoomX Invincible Run

Nike ZoomX Invincible Run

ZoomX foam is the incredibly soft and responsive material used in both the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2 and the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%. In those shoes, it's used predominantly due to it being both lightweight and bouncy for runners looking for speed on race day.

The ZoomX Invincible Run applies the same foam to daily runs, using it to produce a soft and cushioned experience that makes pounding the pavement feel like you're running on marshmallows, whilst still adding an element of propulsion and bounce.

To get around the unstable nature of ZoomX foam Nike has created the midsole with a wide base across the whole length of the shoe. The result is an incredibly comfortable and fun shoe for ticking off training miles.

The shoe isn't for everyone though as the squishy midsole lacks the versatility that you'll find in options like the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 or the Asics Novablast 2, both of which offer a better experience when training at higher speeds, or even race day.

Saucony Triumph 19

The best road running shoes 2021 | Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Brooks, Saucony

The Triumph line from Saucony is the perfect example of how a brand can successfully develop a classic trainer year after year to ensure it still delivers the goods. Like its many predecessors, the Triumph 19 is a shoe designed for comfort over daily miles and high mileage sessions, but, it's much more than just a classic cruiser.

The PWRRUN+ midsole foam manages to balance a high level of soft cushioning with just enough propulsive bounce to make it a versatile option for those runners looking to pick up the pace. For some, that may mean having the flexibility to head out the door with the option to vary speed depending on how you feel on the day, for others it could well be the perfect shoe for hitting a marathon in comfort.

The thin upper has just the right level of cushioning to feel noticeably plush, whilst the generous level of outsole rubber adds a good level of durability, as well as traction on wet roads.


Hoka Clifton Edge

Hoka One One Clifton Edge

The Clifton Edge is one of the more outlandish designs we've seen in 2020 (although the TenNine probably takes the top spot for that award). Like the previous iterations of the Clifton range, it's a shoe designed primarily for comfort. The big difference in this latest addition is the inclusion of a noticeably extended heel section.

The function of that heel is to add an extra level of support and cushioning to the heel section, which then aids movement through a smooth transition to the midfoot. In practise that isn't particularly noticeable, however, the Clifton Edge maintains a comfortable ride that feels like you have a lot of support underfoot – without the additional weight that often comes with that (despite the fact it looks considerably larger than most shoes).

When hitting the steeper downhills there's a noticeable benefit to that extra cushioning on the back. It's a nice feeling and one which may be a big bonus to those runners with a particularly heavy heel strike. Aside from that, the shoe offers little more than what you can expect from the standard Clifton design.

Also worth noting that the Clifton Edge tends to fit small, so aim for a half size up.

Brooks Ghost 14

Brooks Ghost 14 running shoe

When a shoe line reaches its 14th version you know it must be doing something right. In the case of the Ghost 14 that something is, for the most part, comfort.

Featuring a full-length DNA Loft midsole, the Ghost 14 is a great choice if you're looking for a reliable, cushioned ride that covers you whether you're doing a short recovery run or heading out for some long, slow miles.

The upper has a relaxed fit that feels instantly comfortable and the light midsole does a great job at taking the brunt of the impact when you're covering a lot of training miles. In addition, there's a thick layer of rubber on the outsole to ensure that not only can it grip varied terrain, but you can feel safe in the knowledge that the added durability will keep them in your shoe rotation for a good while.

The only issues we found with the Ghost 14 were that the loose fit doesn't feel as secure and locked down as many runners might want and the soft cushioning does lack responsiveness when it comes to picking up the pace.


HOKA Clifton 8

HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8

Given the substantial stack of cushioning on the bottom of the Clifton 8, you’d be pretty gutted if you stepped into it and it didn’t feel gloriously soft, so it’s fortunate that it absolutely does deliver on that front, offering as comfortable a ride as you’ll find on any running shoe.

That soft ride makes the Clifton a great option for any runner who prioritises comfort in their shoe. Whether that’s just for long and easy runs, or for all your running, the Clifton is durable and protects your legs from the rigours of a busy training regime.

In past editions of the Clifton, however, the soft ride has made it a far from ideal shoe to use when you want to up the pace. With the Clifton 8 – and its predecessors the Clifton 6 and 7 – Hoka has managed to tweak the ride of the shoe to make it smoother and a little more responsive. It’s still not going to outgun a pure racer, but you can use it for running at speed more comfortably than with past versions of the shoe. It's also pretty light at 250g, despite being amply-cushioned, thanks to the foam Hoka uses.

The best stability running shoes

On Cloudflyer

On Cloudflyer

The third iteration of On's popular support shoe has become one of our favourite options when it comes to daily training miles. Like its predecessors, the Cloudflyer is designed to deliver stability and cushioning without adding unnecessary weight to the ride.

The result is a shoe that offers a wonderfully balanced all-round experience across any distance; the kind of shoe you pick wear when you want to enjoy your run for as long as possible.

The updated design incorporates On's Helion Superfoam, a material that feels significantly softer than the midsole in the earlier version, whilst still retaining a nice level of energy return as you're running.

As stability shoes go, the Cloudflyer offers a subtler level of support than you might find in some of the heavier options available. So much so that it feels more like a cushioned daily trainer than a shoe specifically for those who pronate. Whether you do or not, it's an excellent choice if you're looking for a sturdy, comfortable and lightweight ride that can be used for everything from short distances to marathon events.

361 Degrees Strata 4

361 Degrees Strata 4

If your main focus in a running shoe is comfort and support, the fourth iteration of 361 Degrees' flagship stability lineup has a lot to offer. As well as one of the most satisfyingly cushioned uppers we've tried, the shoe incorporates a host of features that deliver a tough and sturdy ride, without feeling too bulky.

The upper section is made of a thick plush material that offers an experience akin to putting your feet inside a pair of cosy slippers. That includes an interconnected cushioned tongue that stays firmly in place to create a seamless step-in comfort.

Support comes from a combination of a reinforced heel structure, a medial post and 361's Morphit lace design that ties the foot in place without feeling obtrusive or restrictive.

The midsole combines 361's EVA rubber QU!KFOAM material with the addition of a QU!K Spring+ layer – an EVA foam that's meant to deliver more rebound and less compression. Unsurprisingly for a stability shoe, it isn't noticeably responsive, but we did find it to be a comfortable shoe across multiple distances.

At 344g for men, it's far from being a light shoe and it's unlikely to be a preferred option on race day if you're chasing a PB. However, for those that pronate or heavier runners that want a shoe that feels secure, it's a reliable option that has one of the most comfortable uppers we've experienced.

The best value running shoes

Puma Velocity Nitro

The best road running shoes 2021 | Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Brooks, Saucony

When it comes to value for money there aren't many shoes that even come close to the Velocity Nitro. It's by far our favorite option for anyone that wants an impressive training shoe for considerably less than the majority of the big hitters.

The upper is plush and comfortable, offering a good level of support and cushioning across the full length of the shoe, whilst still being breathable when things start to heat up.

The Nitro Foam midsole manages to balance cushioning for longer and higher milage training with a responsive firmness for the days you pick up the pace. That midsole is also covered by a generous helping of grippy rubber that handles wet surfaces very well, in addition to adding a high level of durability to the shoe.

Although the show retails around the $120 mark, you can often find it considerably cheaper in sales, making it the perfect option whether you're starting running on a budget or you want a training shoe that saves the miles on your pricier trainers.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

The best road running shoes 2021 | Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Brooks, Saucony

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus series has long been a favourite for daily training miles, but it has seen a number of modifications over the years that make the most recent version noticeably different to previous iterations.

It's a shoe that's built predominantly for workhorse training, delivering a good level of cushioning without being too soft. The React foam midsole feels comfortable for covering high mileage but still has a competent level of responsiveness if you want to pick up the pace.

For the price, it's a great option for beginners that want a versatile shoe as well as seasoned runners that need something durable instead of wearing away more expensive race and tempo training shoes.

There aren't many changes to the previous Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37, so if you can find a pair of those on the cheap we'd suggest picking a pair up, although you can often find the 38 on sale now anyway. It's also a competent shoe for those runners looking to hit lighter trails due to a thick outsole rubber.

Tags:    Running
Tagged    Running