Ask any two runners what their regular training looks like and you can expect two very different answers. One might be nipping out for two or three 5Ks a week to keep fit, lose weight or improve a parkrun PB, while another is consistently logging 80-100 miles a week in the hope of running a sub-3 marathon.
This goes some way to explaining why if you ask 10 different runners what the best running shoe is, youâll probably get 10 different answers. Whatâs good for the goose might be too heavy or lack enough cushioning for the gander, so finding the right shoe for you starts with considering what you want to use it for.
Choosing the type of shoe
If youâre looking to run fast and set some PBs, you want a lightweight shoe thatâs responsive and has plenty of bounce in the foam used in the midsole. If comfort over long distances is your chief concern a stack of cushioning and a plushly padded upper are key, while for those that overpronate â roll their foot excessively upon landing â stability features are important.
Keen runners might want a few different shoes that cover all the bases for long runs, easy runs, track sessions and races, but for most of us an all-rounder shoe that can be used for everything is preferred, to save both money and space â running shoes can quickly take up an entire rackâs worth of room when you get obsessed with the sport.
You also have to consider price, because part of runningâs appeal has always been that it doesnât require a lot of expensive equipment. Todayâs flagship shoes cost north of $200, but you can still find excellent picks under $150.
Below youâll find a selection of shoes to fulfil the desires of all kinds of road runners, which weâve 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 shoes
Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo
For the past three and a half decades Nikeâs Pegasus line has produced a solid all-round running shoe every year. That is until 2018, when it produced two. The standard Zoom Pegasus 35 is a decent enough shoe, but it was blown out of the water by the Zoom Pegasus Turbo.
Thereâs no shame in that, because the Pegasus Turbo quickly became a strong contender to the claim of being the best all-rounder out there. The key to its success lies in the midsole, where Nike has paired two of its proprietary foams â ZoomX and React.
ZoomX is the stuff found in the record-setting Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, more on which later, and itâs incredibly lightweight, soft and bouncy, but renowned for only being at its best for a couple of hundred miles at most. The durable React foam, which is light and springy itself, counters this, and makes the Turbo a shoe that weights just 238g (menâs) and can handle hundreds of miles of training before shining on race day itself.
The upper on the Pegasus Turbo lives up to its slightly-translucent appearance by disappearing on the foot while you run, holding the foot in place comfortably, though itâs not the lock-down fit youâd find a true racer.
No shoe is all upside, however, with the main negative of the Turbo being its high price of ÂŁ159.95. That, or the bold racing stripe that runs down the centre of the upper â an acquired taste in some of the colourways.
Brooks Launch 6
There are several great all-rounder shoes available around the ÂŁ100 mark, including the Nike Zoom Pegasus 35 and the Saucony Ride ISO, 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. Itâs 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 didnât 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 Patrickâs Day), but that unassuming upper suits the Launch well. Itâs 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 ÂŁ100, a rarity worth celebrating in the world of premium running shoes.
The best budget running shoe
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon
Buy now: New Balance | $90
When it comes to finding a bargain, your best bet with running shoes is usually to look for older models of flagship shoes that get updated every year. Youâll often find big discounts on shoes that might only differ from the newer version in colour or a couple of minor tweaks to the upper.
However, if you must have a new shoe, then the New Balance Beacon is excellent value at ÂŁ90, matching up well with shoes that cost a great deal more.
The Beacon has a generous stack of New Balanceâs Fresh Foam cushioning on its sole but itâs by no means a clunker, weighing just 213g (menâs). Part of this is due to the lack of rubber on the outsole, which could impact on durability, but we saw no signs of undue wear after logging 100 miles in the shoe.
All that cushioning means the Beacon is great for long runs, though the slightly firm feel of the ride means itâs a little harsh to be perfect for really easy efforts. It excels when you start to pick up the pace, however, with a smooth heel-to-toe transition that makes it a race-day option for half marathons and marathons, even if you might prefer something slighter for shorter events.
The best running shoes for racing
Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit
Running in the Vaporfly is like no other shoe on the planet, with the soft and springy ZoomX foam and carbon fibre plate in the middle combining to create a ride thatâs comfortable, quick and just an absolutely joy to experience.
The original Vaporflyâs launch through Nikeâs Breaking2 project, which concluded with Eliud Kipchoge running a ludicrous 2:00:25 marathon in Monza, threatened to saddle the Vaporfly with extraordinary levels of hype it couldnât live up to. However, since then the shoe has been a regular sight on World Marathon Major podiums, and adorned the feet of Kipchoge when he broke the world record for 26.2 miles on an official course at the Berlin Marathon in 2018.
Itâs just as effective for amateur athletes as well, with a New York Times article looking at the results of 500,000 runners and finding that the shoe did seem to provide a real boost to their PB prospects. Given the clamour now surrounding the shoe, maybe that boost is coming between the ears, but running a strong marathon requires mental strength along with physical so we reckon itâs worth taking any edge you can get.
However, there are some pretty clear caveats to the Vaporflyâs brilliance, with the main one being its huge ÂŁ209.95 price. Itâs also not a durable shoe, only being at its best for around 150-200 miles, so itâs one that has to be kept in a closet until race day, which is a little galling when youâve spent over ÂŁ200 on it. That said, if youâre in the hunt for a PB, especially over 26.2 miles, thereâs no better shoe out there.
Adidas Adizero Boston 7
The Boston is suitable for races of all distances, with just enough of Adidasâs bouncy Boost foam in the sole of the shoe to protect your legs through the ordeal of a marathon without weighing them down over a 5K or even a one-mile event.
Efficient runners will also find that itâs a shoe thatâs suitable for all kinds of training alongside your races, and with the Boost foam known for its durability youâll have no need to save the Boston for events only. The firm, responsive ride might not be your first pick for really easy runs, but itâs not uncomfortable and the Boston undoubtedly excels during tempo and track runs.
There are lighter shoes out there that offer a faster feel than the Boston for 5Ks or even shorter races, including Adidasâs own Adios and the Reebok Floatride Run Fast. But the difference isnât huge, and thatâs more than made up for by the fact that you have a little extra cushioning for longer events and training runs.
The upper on the Boston is tight, to the point where it might be worth sizing up, but it doesnât rub during runs and it is exceptionally breathable. It also creates a true lockdown fit thatâs ideal for fast running.
This is the seventh edition of the Boston and with most of the annual updates to the shoe being largely cosmetic, itâs definitely one to look out for in sales when a new version arrives.
The best stability running shoe
Asics Gel Kayano 25
Where stability shoes sometimes come unstuck is when the extra support they provide to prevent overpronation becomes intrusive and uncomfortable. Fortunately, this has never been a problem with the Ascisâs Gel Kayano line, with the medial plate and Metaclutch heel counter on the shoe combining to gently guide your foot into a neutral position on landing.
The Gel Kayano 25 has an updated midsole that uses two of Asicsâs proprietary foams â Flytefoam Lyte and Flytefoam Propel. An extra layer of the former at the heel helps to cushion your landing while the Propel foam in the forefoot provides an explosive toe-off with every stride. The result is a shoe that eats up the miles and makes for a great race day option over half marathon or marathon distance.
Itâs also renowned for its durability, so you can take it out for all your training runs safe in the knowledge you wonât see any major wear and tear until youâve covered well over 500 miles. Part of that comes from the thick outsole, which also has enough grip to take on light trails as well as road running.
The downside of that extra rubber, along with the stability features in the shoe, is that itâs a bit of a beast at 325g (menâs). It runs lighter than that thanks to the dual foam midsole, and stability shoes in general tend to be a bit heftier than neutral options, but it does mean the Kayano 25 can feel slightly cumbersome when sprinting and during short races.
The best long distance running shoes
Saucony Triumph ISO 5
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. Itâs 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 itâs not so heavy that it will hold you back as you get into the sport and improve.
Everun is Sauconyâs proprietary foam and it provides a similarly springy feel to Adidasâs 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 with 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 Brooksâs Glycerin line, but the Triumph ISO 5 is that rare shoe that combines that plush feel with a genuinely responsive ride when you do want to up the pace in your long runs.
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 5
Buy now: Amazon | $120
The distinctive chunk of cushioning on Hoka One Oneâs shoes suggests an incredibly comfortable ride, and thatâs exactly what you get with the Clifton 5, which is about as soft a running shoe as you can find.
The Clifton is a great shoe to have available when youâre consistently logging big miles week after week, when the protection from the cushioning will help your legs stand up to the impact of so much pavement-pounding. It naturally excels on easy runs, and the plush feel of the ride is especially noticeable when running downhill. Hoka One Oneâs cushioning is also so lightweight that the shoe tips the scales at just 266g, so itâs no slouch if you do feel the need for speed during your run.
Hoka One Oneâs Meta-Rocker helps ensure a smooth transition from heel-to-toe, which is more apparent when you are running at a steady speed than when running easy. You roll through from one stride to the next in such effortless fashion that it almost feels strange when you look down at the mini tanks on your feet.
The fifth edition of the shoe hasnât changed much in terms of the ride, but it does boast an updated mesh upper that is breathable and tightly-woven to hold your foot in place.
Some might find the ride of the Clifton 5 to be too soft, especially when youâre trying to hold a fast pace over long distances, and it doesnât return energy to put a pep in your step like the Triumph ISO 5, but if you value comfort over all other factors on your run, itâs hard to beat.