The best running shoes 2019: Go faster and longer with our top picks for all distances

Top men's road running shoes stress-tested for comfort and speed
The best men's road running shoes

If you ask 10 different runners what the best running shoe is, you’ll probably get 10 different answers.

One might be nipping out speedy 5Ks and relying on lightweight shoes, while the next person could be consistently logging 80-100 miles weekly and needing shoes for marathon or ultramarathon distances

In short, finding the right shoe for you starts with considering what you want to use it for.

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.

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.

The best all rounder running shoe

Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2

The best running shoes to buy in 2019

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.

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.

Hoka One One Rincon

The best running shoes 2019: Go faster and longer with our top picks for all distances

The Rincon has a lot of standout features on paper – it’s very light at 218g (men’s) while still having ample cushioning, and Hoka’s early stage Meta-Rocker is always impressive in delivering a smooth heel-to-transition.

What's more, you get all of that for $115, which is a bargain in a running shoe market that’s now stretching well beyond $200.

However, what really stands out about the Rincon when you actually run in it is how fun it is. It’s not bouncy like an Adidas Boost shoe or the Nike Pegasus Turbo 2, but that smooth transition, lack of heft and chunky cushioning all combine to create a ride that’s a joy to experience, whether you’re heading out for a tough tempo session, an easy recovery effort, or even a race.

Take the Rincon out for a long progression run in particular and you can experience how the shoe just feels better and better as you increase the pace and distance covered.

It doesn’t have the carbon plate you’ll find in the pricier Hoka One One Carbon X shoe, but the Rincon is just as good a racer at any distance shorter than perhaps a full marathon, and a whole lot cheaper and lighter than Hoka’s flagship road shoe to boot.

Brooks Launch 6

The best running shoes to buy in 2019

There are several great all-rounder shoes available around the £100 mark, including the Nike Zoom Pegasus 36 and the Saucony Ride ISO 2, but the Launch 6 gets the nod from us not by providing one standout feature, but instead nailing the sweet spot between racing shoe and easy trainer. It’s the goldilocks shoe that can do it all.

You can reach for the Launch no matter what type of run you're planning, but we found it particularly excelled during tempo runs and steady-paced long efforts, especially those where you crank up to something like race pace near the end. The transition from heel to toe is quick and smooth, and the ride is slightly snappier than other all-rounder shoes, thought not so firm that the Launch is uncomfortable during long runs.

Brooks added some more foam to the midsole around the forefoot with the sixth version of the shoe, which didn’t really affect the ride, but should make a shoe that was already known for its durability even more long-lasting.

The upper is comfortable and fairly nondescript in appearance, although Brooks does release special editions from time to time (including a green shoe with clovers all over it for St Patrick’s Day), but that unassuming upper suits the Launch well. It’s not flashy, but it will get the job done every time, no matter what kind of run you have on your plan. For an added bonus, it costs less than £100, a rarity worth celebrating in the world of premium running shoes.

The best running shoes for racing

Nike Zoom Vaporfly NEXT%

The best running shoes to buy in 2019

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.

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 in place in the midsole, helping to propel you to those PBs, but the offset of the shoe has been changed, with more foam in the forefoot to reduce the drop of the shoe from 11mm to 8mm, which provides a more stable feel to the ride, especially when running in wet weather.

The upper and outsole are also better able to handle rainy days. The former is now made of Vaporweave, which is more breathable and absorbs less water than the Flyknit used for the 4%’s upper, and the outsole has more traction. Sometimes the 4% could feel a little dicey when rounding sharp corners at speed, but that’s not the case with the NEXT%.

New Balance FuelCell Rebel

The best running shoes to buy in 2019

There’s an awful lot to like about the FuelCell Rebel and that starts with the price. While $129.99 isn’t cheap by any stretch, it’s significantly cheaper than the other shoes we’d rate in its class as a racing and faster training shoe, such as the Pegasus Turbo 2 and the Hoka One One Carbon X. It’s very lightweight at 208g (men’s), but still has enough cushioning for longer runs – and it’s also a great deal of fun to run in.

The Rebel’s midsole is made of New Balance’s FuelCell foam, which is lightweight and bouncy, exactly what you want when you’re aiming to log long distances at speed. Most runners will find that it’s not quite soft enough for easy training, but any time you want to up the pace the Rebel is a terrific shoe to have on your foot, and it has enough cushioning for a full marathon.

Although the bootie-like upper is comfortable and provides a secure fit, we’ve found that the Rebel in general runs a little small, so it’s worth moving up half a size.

The best stability running shoe

Asics Gel Kayano 26

The best running shoes to buy in 2019

Stability shoes often come unstuck when the extra support features added to the shoe to prevent overpronation become intrusive and uncomfortable during your run. Asics has always done a great job of preventing this from being the case with the Kayano line, and the 26th version of the shoe continues that fine tradition of being a comfortable long-distance stability running shoe.

Despite being a fairly heavy shoe at 315g (men’s) you don’t feel that weight at all when running in the Kayano 26, which has a firm, responsive ride thanks to the Flytefoam Propel foam used in its midsole. It makes for a great half marathon and marathon racing shoe as a result, though some runners might find that it feels a little too firm during easy training runs, especially at first while the shoe breaks in.

A series of additions to the midsole and outsole, along with the Metaclutch heel counter, help to gently guide your foot into a neutral position and combat overpronation while running, but these stability features are not overbearing, so even neutral runners can use the Kayano.

The best long distance running shoes

Saucony Triumph ISO 5

The best running shoes to buy in 2019

The Triumph ISO 5 is a Rolls Royce of a running shoe, offering supreme comfort mile after mile, and enough bounce in the sole that you can pick up the pace whenever you want. It’s a great shoe for beginner runners, especially those training for a first marathon, because it has enough cushioning to protect your body from the impact of running but it’s not so heavy that it will hold you back as you get into the sport and improve.

Everun is Saucony’s proprietary foam and it provides a similarly springy feel to Adidas’s Boost foam, returning the energy you put into each stride to help power you through your runs. The Triumph ISO not only has a full-length Everun midsole, but the material is used in the topsole as well, so although this is a shoe built for cruising, it still feels snappy when you crank up your speed.

The breathable mesh upper is designed to adapt to the shape of your foot and combines with the plushly-padded tongue and heel to snugly hold the foot in place without feeling oppressive. Underneath is a contoured footbed that adds to the almost sock-like feel of the fit.

There are other shoes that offer similar levels of comfort, like Brooks’s Glycerin line, but the Triumph ISO 5 is that rare shoe that combines a plush feel with a genuinely responsive ride when you do want to up the pace on your long runs.

HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 6

The best running shoes to buy in 2019

Given the substantial stack of cushioning on the bottom of the Clifton 6, 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 6 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 the Clifton 6 for faster running more comfortably than with past versions of the shoe. The shoe is also pretty light at 266g, despite being amply-cushioned, thanks to the foam Hoka uses.

The upper of the Clifton 6 has also been updated, with a more stretchy mesh material being used. It’s breathable and holds the foot in place comfortably without any rubbing, reducing the risk of blisters ruining your long runs.

The best budget running shoe

Kalenji Run Cushion

The best running shoes to buy in 2019

When buying running shoes the best bargains tend to be older models of flagship shoes, which will be discounted and often only differ from the latest version in terms of aesthetics or a change in the upper material.

However, even reduced top-end shoes will still cost you north of $50, so if you’re a beginner runner looking for a real budget option, then it’s worth checking out the Kalenji range of running shoes at Decathlon.

The Run Cushion is not a shoe designed to be worn for four or five runs a week or for long runs – this is for the occasional runner who usually covers around 5K or so. It provides a comfortable level of cushioning to absorb the impact of road running, and it’s nice and light at 235g (size 9) so you won’t feel too cumbersome as you take your first steps in the sport.

There are no magic midsole materials to be found here, and you shouldn’t expect the kind of bounce in your stride or durability you get from a premium shoe, but the Run Cushion is a solid and incredibly cheap option if you’re just testing the waters with a couple of runs a week.

Tags:    Running
Tagged    Running