With all of the changes in running shoes in the past few years, it’s hard to imagine how shoe designers will keep improving models and coming up with new ones year after year. But new materials, designs and construction techniques have kept innovation flowing and that means lighter, more flexible, more stable, better-fitting, more comfortable and ultimately faster models of shoes for you. The prescriptive limitations of neutral, stability and motion control categories are mostly gone; instead, runners can choose how much they want to feel the ground or if they want to float over it. The 19 shoes highlighted in this overview offer a wide range of options for every type of runner. Check them out here and head to your local running store to try them on and see which ones work best for you.
Note: Shoe weights are listed for men’s size 9.0 and women’s size 7.0.
Special thanks to our Spring 2016 wear-test team: Casey Blaine, David Benjes, Denise Benjes, Jim Conaghan, Alan Culpepper, Adam Elder, Mark Eller, Allison Glass, Adam Heaney, Gretchen Hein, Steve Hughes, Stephanie Jackman, Terri Kazajian, Amanda McCracken, Brian Metzler and Caitlyn Pilkington
Highlight: A soft-riding shoe that fits like a sock and rides like a dream
Nike made a huge splash with the first version of the LunarEpic when it came out last year—most notably because the original version had a high-top cut with a stretchy, above-the-ankle collar that fit like a sock. After much fanfare for the high-top, Nike quietly released a low-cut version, but the fit wasn’t nearly as snug and secure, partially because it lacked connectivity and it had a flimsy, free-flowing tongue. Fast forward to this spring and the second edition of the low-cut model has been retrofitted with a bootie construction and integrated tongue that snugly wrap the foot and secure it to the bottom part of the shoe (with the Flywire support system over the saddle). The well-cushioned and flexible chassis under the foot has been retained—with the same unique cushioning pods and laser-cut segments—but the more connective fit on the top half of the shoe makes the smooth and very soft ride feel more all-encompassing and energetic. Our testers raved about the fit of this shoe—which seemed to fit all shapes and sizes of feet just right without feeling too snug—and the way that fit aided the proprioceptive feel for the ground. With the amazing fit—plus how light, cushioned and energetic it is—the LunarEpic Flyknit 2 is versatile enough to run short or long, slow or fast. Really, there was nothing we didn’t like about it, which is why it earned our Editor’s Choice award.
Weights: 8.8 oz. (men), 7.3 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 10mm; 28mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A softly cushioned everyday trainer that’s surprisingly fast and energetic
Although this brand is relatively new to the U.S., it’s one of the world’s largest athletic shoe manufacturers—and an official apparel supplier to the Rio Olympics. After two seasons in the U.S., it’s starting to turn heads here with its running shoes. The updated Sensation 2 is chock full of soft, energetic cushioning that comes from its midsole’s thick layer of encapsulated foam, and also has a twinge of medial support. For an everyday workhorse trainer, it provides an energetic ride that will put a spring in your step. Our wear-test team liked it best for 10K to marathon distances, but appreciated its versatility for faster efforts like tempo runs and fartlek workouts.
Weights: 11.4 oz. (men), 9.0 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 9mm; 27mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A zero-drop trainer/racer with ample cushioning and an easy-flexing demeanor
Altra has never let up from its zero-drop mantra and foot-shaped designs—all of its shoes are built on a level platform and have roomier toe boxes that allow toes to splay as the foot flexes—but it has continued to develop innovative shoes. The lightweight Instinct’s neutral performance has continued to evolve with a new engineered mesh upper, an updated two-layer foam midsole with a decoupled heel that smooths the transition phase after footstrike. and a revised interior chassis for an improved fit that accommodates both wider and narrow feet. It’s an ideal tool for running or racing all distances from 5K to the half marathon. (* = The women’s version is called the Intuition 4.)
Weights: 9.4 oz. (men), 7.6 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 0mm; 19mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)
Highlight: One of the cushiest, softest and springiest high-mileage trainers ever made
Adidas has revamped the design and shortened the name of the reliable high-mileage trainer formerly known as the Supernova Glide. More importantly, it has added 20 percent more of its revolutionary Boost foam to this version, creating an enormously springy and responsive ride. While the interior remains as plush and comfortable as ever, the new, segmented rubber outsole adds to the soft, smooth and resilient ride by improving its flexibility and lightening its load without sacrificing traction. This shoe definitely has an energetic, bouncy sensation to it, something our wear-testers appreciated as much or more in the final miles of a run than they did when just starting out.
Weights: 10.7 oz. (men), 9.2 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 10mm; 33mm (heel), 23mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A greatly updated shoe most at home on race courses and tempo runs
This performance trainer/racer has undergone a massive overhaul. ASICS not only gave a new look to the 12th edition—gone are the wild, multicolored graphics for more of a two-tone motif—the company also upgraded it with the lightweight and responsive Flyte Foam midsole and gave it a modern, engineered mesh upper that adds to the support at the arch. The result is a more energetic and versatile performance trainer that can do just about anything you ask of it. It has triathlon-specific features (including heel and tongue grips for easy on/off access and a wet-grip outsole) but our wear-testers loved it for fast workouts, tempo runs and races from 5K to half marathon.
Weights: 8.8 oz. (men), 7.2 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 10mm; 28mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A reliable high-mileage trainer with a bit of pop for faster workouts
Built with plenty of cushioning and durability to be a go-to daily trainer for most neutral runners, the Launch 4 has evolved with a bit more responsiveness to give it versatility (think tempo runs, progression runs, etc.) and put more energy into your long runs and recovery days. The outsole of the latest incarnation has more flex grooves and is made with more blown rubber for softer, quieter foot strikes. It’s also slightly lighter, has some aesthetic changes and a new subtly reinforced breathable upper made of air mesh fabric. Our wear-testers liked this shoe best for long runs, fartlek runs and tempo runs, and enjoyed the injection of a bit more pop into this update.
Weights: 9.0 oz. (men), 7.8 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 10mm; 32mm (heel), 22mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A high-mileage stability shoe with a little more spring in its step
The revamped version of this moderately supportive and well-cushioned trainer is a bit more energetic than previous versions, thanks to a few small but significant updates. The most prominent change is the blown rubber outsole that creates a softer, smoother and slightly springier ride. A new airy mesh upper makes this year’s version more breathable, but it also helps snug down the foot for a more athletic, performance-oriented fit. For those who want modest support from a shoe, this is a great high-mileage trainer that can excel on tempo runs as well as long, slow efforts. This has become a similar shoe to the Brooks Launch 4, only more stable and a tad firmer.
Weights: 10.6 oz. (men), 9.2 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 10mm; 32mm (heel), 22mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A maximally cushioned trainer that doesn’t feel bulky or heavy
The latest version of Hoka’s original super-cushioned road running shoe is still thick but fairly light (for its size), while retaining the rocker profile that creates a rolling sensation. A slightly revised forefoot shape and a new mesh upper make the Bondi 5 more accommodating to a wider range of foot shapes and more breathable than previous editions. The midsole foam configuration has also been slightly revised for more energy return and improved long-wearing durability. Although our wear-testers were unanimous in reporting this is not a quick shoe, they agreed that its soft, smooth and resilient ride is perfect for recovery runs or survival during the final miles of marathon training.
Weights: 10.0 oz. (men), 9.0 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 4mm; 38mm (heel), 34mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A modern stability shoe that blends comfort, support and energy return
A brand-new shoe from Mizuno, the Horizon has been geared to offer a supportive ride with a soft, cushioned sensation in every stride. The secret sauce that allows the Horizon to serve up a very stable but noticeably cushy ride is the newfangled plastic Wave plate sandwiched between a soft lower layer of cushioning and a more responsive top layer of foam. What helps this shoe from feeling overbuilt is its moderately easy flex pattern, the light, airy feeling of the upper and the twinge of energetic return in the forefoot. Our wear-testers loved the support, the comfortable interior and smooth heel-toe transitions, even if it was the heaviest and least agile shoe among our test batch in this review.
Weights: 11.6 oz. (men), 9.2 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 12mm; 32mm (heel), 20mm (forefoot)
Highlight: This revised legacy shoe is a comfortable, do-everything high-mileage trainer
For its 20th edition, Mizuno completely revamped this legendary shoe. It’s versatile, light, cushioned and protective enough for long runs, responsive enough for faster workouts like tempo runs and longer intervals and, for some, is agile enough to be the race-day choice for racing from 10K to the marathon. While it still contains Mizuno’s midsole Wave plate, gone is the firm, performance-oriented feeling and in its place is a softer, cushier and more resilient ride. The new three-part mesh upper and plush interior create a comfortable, secure fit for a wide range of foot sizes. If this is the only shoe in your quiver, it would definitely serve you well in all regards.
Weights: 10.4 oz. (men), 8.3 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 12mm; 30mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)
Highlight: Small updates make this maximally cushioned cruiser even better
The sixth version of this shoe that came out last year was a huge hit after a complete reincarnation from the previous edition. This year’s update raises the bar a little bit more with slightly more cushioning in the midsole, an improved upper and more flex grooves in the outsole. It was designed from additional data of wear-test patterns, which means more runners should find this version to have a smoother, more comfortable ride. Our wear-testers generally liked this shoe a lot (especially the interior bootie), but most thought it was best for long runs and recovery runs, and lacked high-cadence pep. The only real drawback to this shoe was its length. (We’d suggest going up a half-size.)
Weights: 10.6 oz. (men), 8.2 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 8mm; 28mm (heel), 20mm (forefoot)
Highlight: This high-mileage trainer has been infused with an energetic layer of new foam
While it’s hard to believe Newton is already celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the latest version of the hallmark Gravity trainer reinvigorates the innovative vibe around the brand. Most prominently, a new layer of softer foam adds to the already energetic and lively ride from Newton’s five-lug propulsion system in the forefoot, while a new flexible mesh tongue enhances comfort. Our wear-testers liked this shoe for medium to long runs and faster workouts like progression runs and tempo runs. Given the slightly wider shape and softer tongue, our testers agreed that adjusting to running in Newton shoes is a thing of the past. “I just put these on and started training,” one of our wear-testers said.
Weights: 9.1 oz. (men’s), 7.9 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 3mm; 25mm (heel), 22mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A lightweight, low-to-the-ground performance trainer with a buttery smooth ride
Although the new Cloudflow is low to the ground and very light, it has ample amounts of cushioning from its 18 uniquely shaped “Cloud” cushioning pods under each shoe. The pods are different sizes, shapes and densities, and each contributes to a smooth, natural ride with soft landings and energetic toe-offs. The upper’s woven mesh material accommodates to the slight nuances of foot shapes, especially in the forefoot, and also provides enough mid-foot support from thin but strong saddle-reinforcement straps. It’s best for shorter distance workouts and races, from track intervals to 10K but it’s surprisingly adept at tackling long runs too.
Weights: 8.1 oz. (men), 6.9 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 6mm; 22mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A fast, flexible road performer from a trail running heritage brand
Salomon is new to the road running scene—this is only its second year—but it’s been able to draw on its trail running footwear expertise and also listen to retailers and runners to improve its marquee model just a year out of the gate. This edition of the performance trainer/racer is lighter, offers a more comprehensive fit and produces a more fluid and flexible ride. While subtle changes were made to the upper and outsole, the midsole has been reworked to include two high-rebound foams for a more energetic sensation in every stride. Salomon also ditched its one-pull lacing system (popular on its trail shoes) for standard laces. Our testers loved the snug fit and the light, agile feeling of this shoe.
Weights: 8.4 oz. (men), 7.2 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 8mm; 24mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)
Highlight: Light, fast and cushioned, this update can do everything
The popular Kinvara continues to evolve for the better with a few more tweaks that have given it more versatility and energy return. The newest version serves up an even more responsive ride, thanks to a new full-length layer of Saucony’s resilient Everun foam. It also has a new mesh upper with laser-cut perforations that offer a very breathable (and quick-drying) featherweight sensation and thin film overlays for support and a snug fit. It retains the light, agile feel and the low heel-toe drop that have been staples of its design since it debuted. Our wear-testers love the light and lively ride of this version and thought it was best as a speed-oriented training shoe and for short to moderate runs.
Weights: 7.9 oz. (men), 6.8 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 4mm; 23mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)
Highlight: The training shoe of Meb Keflezighi is cushy, fast and responsive
The all-new Razor is a lightweight neutral cushioned shoe engineered to run fast or long. It’s built on a single-density midsole that feels light and snappy at faster paces. It also features a new flat-knit upper that’s not only supremely breathable but also surprisingly supportive. These along with a molded internal heel counter for a hint of support make the Razor comfortable for longer training runs up to about 15–18 miles, but our wear-testers loved it best for shorter stuff like tempo runs, fartleks, track intervals, mile repeats or 5K/10K racing.) The biggest drawback was that the toe box felt a tad long (although not long enough to size down).
Weights: 7.7 oz. (men), 6.1 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 4mm; 18mm (heel), 14mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A performance-oriented trainer with a soft and creamy smooth ride
This shoe was the original model from Skechers Performance back in 2011 and its evolution is a good mark of the brand’s progress running shoes. The latest version is a complete retooling, and it’s the best yet. Although it remains soft and flexible, it’s not nearly as mushy as it was all those years ago. Instead, this refined version has a bit more structure and a slightly firmer midsole foam underfoot and equates to a much more fluid and responsive ride—especially compared to some of the earlier editions. The soft, circular knit one-piece upper cinches the foot down with a sock-like fit (with just a bit of wiggle room in the toe box), creating a more integrated, performance-oriented feeling.
Weights: 7.5 oz. (men), 6.0 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 4mm; 18mm (heel), 14mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A super-light zero-drop minimalist speedster made for fast workouts or short races
The ST-2 is a low-to-the-ground minimalist model, but it has just enough cushioning so it doesn’t have a “barely there” feel. It has a modest amount of midsole foam that allows for great foot-to-ground proprioception while providing just enough cushioning and protection for longer runs. (The most nimble runners with good lower leg strength on our test team ran 16-milers during our wear-test sessions, but most ran 10K and shorter.) What makes this shoe special is how easily it flexes, and a mildly reinforced stretch mesh upper that conforms to any foot shape. It’s probably not an everyday trainer for most runners, but it’s one of the better modern minimalist shoes we’ve tested in years.
Weights: 6.7 oz. (men), 5.6 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 0mm; 16mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)
Highlight: A versatile shoe with enough cushion for long runs and enough pep for workouts.
The new Gemini 3 proves Under Armour is coming on strong in running. This lightweight performance trainer is built on an energetic midsole chassis that offers great long-haul comfort, durability and protection with amazing responsiveness for tempo-paced runs and races. It’s a semi-firm ride that inspires speed and quick-turnover running the moment you slip them on. The third edition has been vastly improved with a more supportive upper, improved midfoot fit and a half-ounce less weight. Our wear-testers praised the versatility of this shoe as being the best of the bunch for being able to handle both long runs and faster workouts.
Weights: 9.8 oz. (men), 8.2 oz. (women)
Heel-to-Toe Offset: 8mm; 27mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)