Editor’s Note: We reviewed our shoe selections on February 24, 2023 and added the Nike Vaporfly 3 that we’ve tested. We have also added other top-performing shoes from our most recent round of wear-testing. On-sale shoes are likely to be replaced with new models soon, so we’ve provided shopping links to retailers that still have these models in stock. We will add more new models as they are released.
You know what you want from your running shoes: light weight, cushioning, support, and a comfortable fit. Of course, the most important part of any running shoe is your experience over the hundreds of miles you’ll take it on. To help you find your next great pair, and to get a sense of how updates to your favorite road or trail shoe may change how it fits or performs, we review hundreds of men’s and women’s running shoes each year. Scroll down for reviews of our top picks, a look at how we test and select these models, and helpful buying tips and insight from our gear experts.
Best Running Shoes
How We Test Shoes
Runner’s World has the most comprehensive running shoe testing process in the industry. We work with more than 275 local runners of all abilities, ages, and sizes for real-world wear-testing on paved roads, dirt paths, and rocky singletrack. After a month of running more than 100 miles in their respective running shoes, our testers report back their findings on features like fit, comfort, performance, and ride. While they’re putting miles on the shoes, the same models undergo a battery of mechanical tests in our RW Shoe Lab, where we objectively measure each shoe’s cushioning, flexibility, sole thickness, and weight. Our test editors combine their own experience in the shoes with data from the lab and feedback from our wear testers to create reliable, useful reviews of every pair we run in.
How to Choose the Best Running Shoe
Some runners care a lot about weight, and research shows that you expend more aerobic energy with heavier shoes. Lighter shoes typically have less cushioning, which can make them feel faster, but new midsole foams now make a plush ride possible without adding much heft to the shoe. If you’re going long distances, some extra cushioning might be a better option, as it provides impact absorption.
To test softness, we go to our Shoe Lab to take individual measurements of both the heel and forefoot, since the overall experience can vary based on where a runner touches down and toes off. The cushioning scores are given on a scale of 1 to 100, with one being the firmest. (A harder-feeling shoe won’t necessarily lack cushioning, and according to some biomechanical research, a midsole that’s too soft can actually increase peak impact forces.) In addition to those key stats, we also look at the running shoe’s stability features, flexibility, and energy return to help you find one you’ll love.
Also, be sure to consider a running shoe’s drop—sometimes referred to as offset—which is the difference between the heel and the forefoot measurements, or how much your toes “drop” below your heel. It’s important because a higher drop can lead to more heel striking and also transfers some strain away from the lower leg and up toward the knee. Conversely, a lower offset will shift that load farther down the chain of motion during your gait cycle to the calf and the Achilles. Neither option is necessarily better than the other; when deciding on a shoe’s drop, choose what feels most natural and comfortable to you, taking into account your personal running mechanics and injury history. Many shoes have a drop between 8 and 12mm, but some shoes have less than 6mm. A few based on minimalist designs have no drop.
CLASSIC RUNNING SHOES
Ghost. Pegasus. Kayano. Rider. These titans have been some of the best-selling running shoes for decades and are commonly referred to by just one name. When asked for a shoe recommendation by new runners, or for those who aren’t sure what they need, we generally point to classics like these as a starting point. After all, there’s a reason the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus has been around for almost four decades: It works for most people, most of the time.
You know it, you love it, and it’s turning 15. For over a decade, the Ghost has been our recommendation to newbies and runners looking for an everyday shoe. Our testers confirmed its reliability, calling the Ghost “a tried-and-true daily trainer.”
“The cushioning felt just right,” said a runner who previously tested Asics’s Gel-Kayano and the Adidas Ultraboost. “It felt firm but at the same time I could feel a little sponginess to it.”
That “sponginess” our tester refers to is the soft give that adapts to the bottom of your foot, as the foam’s firmness provides support and shock absorption. DNA Loft, which is compression-molded EVA, was previously used in the Ghost 14’s midsole. Now, DNA Loft v2 feels softer and more lightweight.—Amanda Furrer
Last year’s Pegasus was undoubtedly a capable workhorse, but it disappointed Peg fans with its heavier weight and, according to our testers, a somewhat clunky ride. The 39 remedies those pain points with a drop in weight (almost an ounce) and an additional flex groove in the outsole, letting the shoe bend more easily right where you need it to on toe-off. The upper breathes better thanks to an all-new mesh design and the lacing feels more locked-in, due to the integration of Flywire cables. Nike also brought back the Air unit in the heel; this is the first time since the 36th version that the Peg has two. (There’s one in the forefoot, as well.)
What hasn’t changed is the full-length midsole of React foam. Still not as light and bouncy as ZoomX, React feels medium soft and moderately flexible. “I most liked the Pegasus’s consistency and durability,” one tester said. “The bounce, traction, ride, and stability were never compromised by additional wear or the surface I was running on. I felt good bounce, energy return, and support from the cushioning, but it was not super soft and plush. While it can work for some speedwork and long runs, I would save these for normal easy training or tempos,” he added.—Morgan Petruny
The Kayano has been a part of the Asics lineup for decades, and it remains one of the best stability shoes we’ve tested. For the 29, Asics replaced the plastic plate with a combo of firmer LiteTruss foam at the back of the shoe. Layered on top and through the toe is soft and bouncy Flytefoam Blast+, which means there’s no longer a need for any squishy gel in the forefoot. The heel clip also gets a trim, resulting in the lightest-weight Kayano ever by almost half an ounce.
Rest assured, the Kayano is still an extremely supportive ride. That support is now just baked in more evenly throughout the upper and outsole, rather than the midsole alone. (Reinforced material behind the laces guide your foot back to center. Extra rubber on the outsole extends higher up the medial side of the shoe, much like a subtle guide rail.)
Both overpronators and neutral runners on our wear-test team agreed that it feels more natural than the shoe’s 28th version. “The Gel-Kayano 29 almost feels like an extension of my foot. It is very supportive, accommodates my orthotics, and the transition from midfoot to toe is impeccably smooth,” said one tester, who previously struggled in disappointingly rigid stability pairs. “The midfoot has a beautiful transition to toe-off that let me run in a good rhythm,” added another.—M.P.
Twenty-five marked a huge milestone for the Rider. As a wearer of the Rider since its 13th version, I found it was definitely the softest and most cushioned Rider I’d ever worn. That in part was because the brand delivered on the promise it teased us with in the Rider 24: a full-length midsole layer of luxuriously soft Enerzy foam. Now, the 26 has topped all its predecessors in terms of cushioning.
For the Rider 26, Mizuno kept a similar midsole construction. However, the brand did add a bit more foam underfoot, raising the overall stack height of the shoe by 2.5mm. (This also bumps up the shoe’s overall weight, but by less than half an ounce.) Transitions still feel just as smooth and consistent as in the previous version—especially when paired with the castor bean-based Wave plate. Built at a higher amplitude than earlier Riders, it helps return more energy with each footstrike, and more closely matches the shape of the arch. It’s smooth and springy, the perfect ride for long runs when you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet.—M.P.
I’ve run in every new iteration of the Triumph since number 17, and each has impressed me. Of the 50 shoes I currently have on rotation, the 20 is set as my default pair on my Strava account. Meaning: On days when choosing a shoe requires too much effort, I grab the 20. Whether I choose to go fast or slow, I know the Triumph will perform well.
One reason to keep stanning the Triumph is that it consistently maintains a bouncy ride and 360-degree comfort. Pwrrun+, Saucony’s TPU-based midsole, replaced Pwrrun beginning with the Triumph 17. This round, the brand made Pwrrun+ even more responsive and lightweight. Its balance of cushioning without sacrificing rebound is what makes this workhorse so versatile. The midsole’s high energy return paired with the sole’s rocker geometry shape had me surging through fartlek workouts on the road and intervals on the track. But the all-over comfort of the shoe—the supportive Pwrrun+ midsole and sockliner coupled with the breathable mesh upper’s plush tongue and heel collar—makes the Triumph an ideal choice for high mileage as well. Because the refined Pwrrun+ is more compliant, Saucony tweaked the stack height, leading to an increase in heel-toe offset from 8mm to 10mm.—A.F.
CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOES
Nike’s super-cushioned trainer returns with a facelift and all the bouncy goodness we’ve come to love from the Invincible. The third iteration boasts thicker stacks of ZoomX foam—the same midsole material used in the Vaporfly and Alphafly racing shoes—than you’ll find anywhere else. The foam is lighter, softer, and more responsive than other compounds, returning about 70 percent of energy with each foot strike. And the huge slab used in the Invincible led one tester to call them her “sproing-sproing shoes.” That bouncy feeling, in the past, felt unstable—despite the dumbbell-shaped sole with an exaggeratedly wide forefoot designed to keep you from wobbling. Now the cushioning feels more finely tuned. Only one tester with a history of chronic ankle issues noted problems with stability while “executing hairpin turns.”—Jeff Dengate
Lululemon is approaching runners with renewed vigor, releasing its first running shoe, the Blissfeel—and it’s legit. We tested it for five months before the launch and our wear-test team came away highly impressed by this debut shoe. I found the shoe hugs my foot, is flexible, and has a slight snap, which made me feel swift as I accelerated on my usual six-mile route. I was sold, telling anybody who would listen that they should give the Blissfeel a college try. The shoe isn’t flashy—our test samples were black and white, which made it easier to keep them secret for so many months of testing—nor is it equipped with high-tech materials that would appeal to speed racers. It’s a moderately cushioned every day running shoe, one that I find myself grabbing for both easy runs and some workouts.—A.F.
Taking after its immediate predecessor, the Mach 5 has replaced the Mach 4’s Profly midsole foam with Profly+, which delivers higher energy return. Also adapted from the Supersonic is the narrower fit around the saddle. Placing my Mach 4 and Mach 5 beside each other, it’s a noticeable change: The 4’s lacing system is more gappy, and the overall shape is boxier, even though the shoes share the same last.
Like my experience testing the Supersonic, the first couple of runs in the 5 just didn’t have that smooth rocker flow or high rebound I experienced in the Mach 4. Runner-in-Chief Jeff Dengate pointed to the tighter midfoot as a possible culprit. However, I theorize that it’s the density distribution in the new midsole foam. The original Profly foam is softer in the heel and firmer in the forefoot. Jeff and I are both midfoot-strikers, so perhaps it just takes some Profly+ fine-tuning to make the Mach feel more pre-Sonic. After a week of running in the shoe on a vacation, I was finally won over. I noticed a shift when my pace became faster. It’s no Mach 4, but it’s a Mach I still love, and testers unfamiliar with the fourth version were instantly enamored with the fifth.—A.F.
The Cumulus has really evolved in the last couple of years from the chunky trainer it had been. A decade ago, the shoe checked in at more than 12 ounces for a men’s 9. Now lighter, it’s more lively and fun but still delivers the durability we’ve always loved. A big change for the Cumulus is that the heel-to-toe drop has been lowered to 8mm (it was 10mm). Asics says it made the change to give the shoe a smoother ride. In our wear-testing, we can’t definitively credit the drop for the shoe’s performance without separating out the other updates—a thicker midsole, new foam, and a change to the geometry of the sole.
Testers unanimously praised the bouncy cushioning for delivering all the protection they needed on long runs without feeling too soft. That sensation comes from the lighter, bouncier FlyteFoam Blast midsole, which has allowed Asics to alter its conventional construction techniques. Gone are all of the plastic midfoot bridges that the company used to embed in the soles. Because the foam is so much livelier and more responsive than EVA, the underfoot sensation and transition from heel strike to toe-off has improved without the extra elements.—J.D.
We loved the Razor 3 and gave it awards. Skechers knew it was on to something great because it left the shoe largely untouched for four years. That’s unheard of in an industry that tweaks the recipe annually. The Razor 4, though, is almost an entirely new beast. And you can feel that on foot and underfoot.
First, let’s talk weight: Skechers has always made its shoes as light as possible. The Razor was in racing-flat territory before. But this new version is nearly 30 percent heavier, putting it more in the “performance trainer” class of shoes. It’s not heavy, but it is heavier. And that’s okay, because the new materials here make it a great shoe for that purpose. Plus, Skechers had a logjam of lightweight kicks for race day—Speed Freek, Speed Elite, Horizon Vanish—so this fills a hole that came to exist in its lineup.
Where are those extra ounces coming from? Mostly, it’s the new foam. Hyper Burst Pro is made from TPU, which has more of a rubbery sensation than the EVA that was previously used. It’s bouncier and more durable, but it’s also a heavier compound. As we’d seen with Adidas Boost, which was TPU, the trade-off in a training shoe was well worth the weight penalty. TPU delivers consistent cushioning all the way to the end of your long run and is resistant to temperature—it won’t get harder on a cold day. There’s also a little more rubber under this version of the shoe. Again, that gives the shoe more durability—and nudges it ever so slightly further into the daily-trainer territory.
Also new to the Razor is a carbon-infused forefoot plate in the H-shaped construction that Skechers has been using. Rather than a full-length single layer of carbon fiber like you see on typical plated shoes, Skechers uses thin pieces on the edge with a band that extends across the forefoot of the midsole. If I hadn’t told you—or you didn’t yank the sockliner out—you might not otherwise know it was in there. The shoe is still quite flexible, far more so than plated shoes, but that extra component helps the forefoot to feel just a little snappier than you’d feel from TPU foam alone.—J.D.
It’s hard to say how a shoe this good glided under the radar of so many runners. But it could simply have gotten lost in a stacked lineup of EvoRides, MetaRides, -Runs, -Racers, Meta and Magic Speeds. Even for big shoe geeks and Asics aficionados, it’s a lot to process. But the GlideRide itself is easy to understand. It’s a mega-cushioned, silky-smooth trainer built for long runs.
I’ve put nearly 300 miles on the shoe, wearing it for easy days, long runs, and evenly paced tempos. Running in it is like hitting cruise control in your car on the highway—assuming you’re behind the wheel of a very plush Cadillac—and letting the miles roll. It’s Sunday long-run luxury.
To explain how it works, we open the Asics dictionary for some specific brand vocab: GuideSole. Though it does add support to the shoe, it’s not a stability feature akin to Brooks’s GuideRails as the name might suggest. Rather, it’s a combination of two soft foams and a super-aggressive rocker shape. Inside is a TPU plate that curves the toe upward like a ski slope. That geometry is the same on the GlideRide 2, but both of the foams used are softer (the material closest to your foot is now bouncy FlyteFoam Blast+), and the plate is more flexible. Testers who wore the previous version of the shoe say the 3 feels much less stiff.
The purpose of the GuideSole is to reduce ankle motion, which has been shown to help some runners stride more efficiently and expend less energy as a result. It doesn’t feel like you’re being muscled around by the shoe, but I definitely notice that I can put forth less effort on toe-off when I defer more to the curved geometry of the rocker sole. That’s when I’ll get the best ride from the shoe, and it initially took me a few miles to adapt. Runners who really like to engage their toes and feel the ground probably won’t dig it.—M.P.
This workhorse trainer is able to tackle everyday efforts and is well suited for a high percentage of new runners. Though not as plush as Saucony’s Triumph, it has a reformulated Pwrrun midsole that’s thicker—18 percent more foam underfoot—than the last version. Despite all that foam, the shoe rides smoother and weighs less. To help the Ride cruise comfortably, Saucony turned up the back edge of the sole, giving it a more pronounced bevel. That helps to prevent any slapping when you land on the back edge of your foot.
“Even though I would describe it as being on the softer side, the shoe was responsive and propelled me forward with each step,” said a tester. And the lively performance is boosted by nearly an ounce of weight savings compared to version 14, thanks to the sculpted sole shape and strategically placed rubber that’s used sparingly. Minor upper changes include a downy-soft pull tab on the tongue and ghillies to prevent lace bite. Word to the wise: The ghillies do their job well, so if you’re an aggressive knotter, be wary of tightening your shoes like a corset.—A.F.
FAST RUNNING SHOES
Nike Vaporfly 3
Weight, claimed: 7.0 oz (men’s 10), 5.8 oz (women’s 8)
Drop: 8 mm
Availability: March 2023
Look at the lead pack of any major marathon and you’ll see a sea of Vaporfly. Even though Eliud Kipchoge wore the $275 Alphafly to break the two-hour barrier, now most runners—from the elite wave back to BQ hopefuls—reach for the Vaporfly. But, in the recent Majors, this new version was nowhere to be seen—when we spied the top 10 shoes across the finish line at the New York City Marathon, not a single prototype was found. By then, though, I already had a pair to test, and I can report after racing my own marathon that the third iteration feels just as lively and fast as the previous two.
Nike overhauled the Vaporfly from the rubber up, looking to make it the lightest yet. But, in my size 12, I see only a 0.1-ounce drop from version 2 (my pink pair of the first Next% was 0.4 ounces lighter still). One attempt to shave weight came in the midsole shaping. The foam is still the same ZoomX that delivers top-of-the-line energy return, but a cutout on the lateral sidewall—your foot doesn’t need support there—and a small channel under the midfoot reduces material.
Gone too is the big, flat slab of rubber under the forefoot, replaced with a web of diamond-shaped lugs—think waffle sole, rotated 45 degrees, with cutouts. In my three races (a 2:57 marathon and two sub-18-minute 5Ks), the roads were dry and the shoes felt planted. The new construction eliminates the loud, slappy sensation found in almost all the new super shoes.
In those races, though, I felt pressure from the Flyknit upper. It’s extremely thin and breathable, but it doesn’t stretch at all. I laced my shoes up a little too tightly, apparently, because the top of my foot was screaming late in my marathon.—J.D.
Did the only shoe to ever complete a marathon in under two hours really need an overhaul? Well, sure, why not? For the refresh of the Alphafly, Nike focused on a few key areas—energy return, long-run cushioning, and keeping weight as low as possible. I’d argue that a fourth criterion was to make the shoe quieter—the first version of this shoe is as loud as a horse galloping—but, Nike achieved that by also making the shoe transition a little better to toe-off.
The most visible change to note from the first Alphafly is that Nike added a thin layer of ZoomX foam directly under the forefoot air pods. It also changed the outsole material, using a more durable but thinner rubber. That change makes the shoe more compliant when the forefoot sole hits the ground. It improves energy return, as well—ZoomX is obviously far bouncier than rubber. And, yes, we’ve found that it makes the shoe considerably quieter, though you’re still going to have the loudest footfalls of anybody in your race.
The back half of the chassis has been reworked, too, greatly improving stability. Nike made the mid- sole a little bit wider and wrapped the foam up higher. The challenge with the new breed of thick-soled shoes is that they’re a bit tippy, especially when you’re going around a corner. But, now that your heel sinks into the foam better, you’ll have more confidence rounding turns. This tweak has a marginal impact on the overall thickness and cushioning in the heel, and the shoe still meets World Athletics guidelines for sole thickness—it’s just under the 40mm limit.
The upper now uses “AtomKnit 2.0.” This newer fabric is more engineered compared to the one-piece upper on the original. Nike bolstered the sides of the forefoot but left the top of the toebox open. It also gave the tongue a little padding for comfort and, for the first time, added cushioned pods into the Flyknit at the heel. Those changes all make the shoe feel better on foot, but getting into the shoe remains a real struggle. Thankfully there are massive pull tabs, though I still feel like I’m about to dislocate my shoulder when yanking each shoe on.—J.D.
When you make the world’s fastest shoe, you don’t mess it up. And, good news: Nike didn’t. In fact, the changes to version 2 were limited just to the upper, focused on improving comfort and durability. The sole of the shoe is still where the magic happens, thanks to the exceptionally lightweight, soft, and springy ZoomX foam and rigid carbon-fiber plate that help you bound down the road with less effort. It’s the kind of package that allows elite marathoners to race well under five-minute pace, but we love that it delivers a screaming ride whenever we push it hard, even at shorter distances. If you’re going long, you’ll appreciate the new mesh. The previous Vaporweave upper, a ripstop nylon–like material that didn’t absorb water, has been replaced with an engineered mesh. We found that the Vaporweave just didn’t stretch at all—particularly a problem for those of us with high insteps—and created a lot of pressure late in a race. The new mesh resolves that problem.—J.D.
Following the Deviate’s award-winning debut, the sophomore effort makes slight course-corrections without straying far from the original. That meant fixing the upper, upping the ante on the midsole, and leaving the durable outsole rubber largely untouched.
The main concern most testers had in the first Deviate was the heel fit. Fairly thick pads on the inside of the collar were designed to help lock the back of your foot down to the sockliner. But the pads’ size and shape actually made the shoe slip or rub. That’s been remedied for both the men’s and women’s models, though the latter retains its essential fit tweaks for ladies’ narrower heels and lower insteps. A women-specific adjustment was a wider forefoot, though I could not feel the change. My digits were squashed in the torpedo-shaped toebox, despite having some dead space at the front of the shoe. Runners with long and narrow feet, like one tester who reports having high arches, had a comfier experience.
The shoe’s narrow waist, combined with an ultrasoft and bouncy midsole, can feel less stable if you overpronate. But those with neutral feet, like myself, gladly accepted some wobbliness for such a fun, propulsive ride. The shoe has swapped the top layer of TPE-based, nitrogen-injected foam for the more premium, Pebax-based Nitro Elite foam used on Puma’s high-end racers. The carbon-composite plate gets a boost, too. Puma trimmed the outer corners of the plate’s heel so the shoe lands more smoothly, and deepened the fork in the toe. Considering the price hasn’t changed a penny, the Deviate is one seriously impressive and budget-friendly top performer right now, even more so than it already was last year.—M.P.
I’ve been a fan of the Endorphin Pro since Molly Seidel made the U.S. Olympic team at Atlanta’s Marathon Trials. Since then, my stanning for both Seidel—now a Puma athlete—and the Pro hasn’t wavered.
The Endorphin Pro 2 was basically the same as the original version but, as a teaser between the second and third iterations, Saucony released the limited-edition Endorphin Pro+ (the upper was built like a track spike). The shoe was ultralight and had me less than two minutes away from cracking three hours at the 2021 Boston Marathon. Its follow-up, the Pro 3, hits the sweet spot weight-wise: It’s lighter than the Pro 2 and just a smidge heavier than the Pro+. Weight savings partially come from sizable perforated holes in the tongue and a thinner outsole. And its look? Let’s just say Saucony added a little sparkle.
I was wary of the shoe’s beefiness. The Pro 3 has the thickest stack yet—39.5mm under the heel (nudging right up to the allowable limit under World Athletics rules). Despite the towering platform, that bouncy, propulsive sensation I loved in previous models is still there, thanks to the carbon-fiber plate and Pwrrun PB midsole. It feels even springier now. Consistent with my Pro+ experience, this shoe begs that you go fast. It’s a footwear contender for my upcoming break-three race.
Saucony also offers a training version of the Endorphin, the Endorphin Speed 3, with the same Speedroll tech and Pwrrun PB midsole. It has a winged nylon plate, an improvement on the Speed 2.—A.F.
Building a super shoe is more complicated than just sticking a piece of carbon-fiber in a tall stack of foam and calling it a day. The interplay of foams’ and plates’ specific densities and geometries needs careful tuning to provide a tangible benefit. And even then, some runners will benefit more than others. So, Asics focused on gait mechanics for the MetaSpeed line, building two versions, each one geared to a specific running style.
The Sky+ and Edge+ leverage the slight changes of your stride as you accelerate. Some runners will take longer steps as they push the pace—Asics calls them Stride runners. Others speed up by taking more steps, or increasing their strides per minute. If that’s you, you’re a Cadence runner. With this knowledge, Asics experimented with which shapes and structures benefited each type the most, and built MetaSpeed twins: the Sky+ for long striders and the Edge+ for the cadence crew.
Both the Sky and Edge have more foam underfoot than their predecessors. And, both use Asics’s most premium nylon-based Flytefoam Turbo, the lightest and springiest the brand currently dishes. However, the Sky+ still has more of the material than its twin, with a carbon-fiber plate placed higher inside the midsole. This lets the foam between the plate and outsole compress more—and therefore store more energy—to give stride runners additional height on their long, bounding toe-offs. Comparatively, a full-length plate that dips closer to the ground near the forefoot in the Edge model makes it easier for cadence runners to roll quickly into each stride. The aggressive rocker and steep toe spring in the Edge remind me more of Saucony’s Endorphin Pro, while the Sky’s abundant cushioning feels akin to Nike’s Vaporfly.—M.P.
It’s been almost two years since Brooks fast-tracked the release of the Hyperion Elite 2—the original made its debut a mere six months before the HE2 stole the spotlight. For that shoe, Brooks amped up the lightweight but thinly cushioned midsole, replacing its DNA Zero foam with nitrogen-infused DNA Flash. First used in the non-plated training partner of the Elite, the Hyperion Tempo, DNA Flash provides 14 percent more cushioning than DNA Zero, and higher rebound. Rapid Roll Technology promotes a rocking heel-to-toe motion for faster turnover. Those midsole and outsole improvements carry over unchanged to the new Hyperion Elite 3.
With the Elite 2, Brooks had improved its fastest trainer; the shoe was plusher and had higher energy return compared to the OG. My main gripe with the shoe, however, was its fit. Unisex sizing’s main flaw, at least in my experience, is how loose the heel collar can be for women. I found I had to constantly retie the shoe due to the tongue becoming askew midrun. No matter how many times I tightened and knotted the laces, the suede- soft collar remained loose around my heel. Here’s where that long period of waiting for the Hyperion Elite 3 paid off: The only (and significant) change to the shoe is an all-new Quicknit upper with a traditional heel collar and partially gusseted tongue. My foot is now securely locked in, no re-knotting necessary.—A.F.
STABILITY RUNNING SHOES
The Glycerin, Brooks’s most cushioned shoe, is not just some colossus reserved for slow and steady runs. Today’s model is more dynamic, more streamlined, and more responsive. The Stealthfit GTS 20 features elements from the brand’s other models, but this Glycerin is more of a monster on the road than Frankenstein’s experiment. Like it did with the Levitate 5, Brooks has released two versions of the Glycerin and Glycerin GTS 20 (the GTS is the stability version), giving runners a choice between a traditional engineered mesh upper and a knit version dubbed “Stealthfit Fit.”
Brooks’s knit uppers have come a long way since 2018’s Levitate. When I tested the first Levitate, my feet overheated and the ribbed collar gave me some nasty blisters on my heels. The Glycerin GTS 20’s new Stealthfit upper is thin and stretchy and adapts to your foot’s shape; I no longer have to wear thick crew socks to shield my heels from rubbing.
The Glycerin GTS 20’s midsole is another feature we’ve seen before. Last year, the Aurora-BL introduced DNA Loft v3, a bouncier version of Brooks’s nitrogen-infused foam that’s found in the brand’s racing shoes like the Hyperion Elite and Hyperion Tempo. This switch from DNA Loft to v3 offers more energy return and rebound on an even softer platform. Even with that high-powered foam, it’s unlikely you’re going to reach for either Glycerin for intervals or races, but it’s performed admirably on easy runs that turn into spirited dashes back home.—A.F.
The Axon 2 was a breakout hit among testers last spring. Trailing behind it is Saucony’s new stability shoe, the Tempus—and it’s garnered the same favor. Unlike the Axon 2, which is priced astonishingly low at $100, the Tempus costs $160, the baseline for a premium trainer. This is because its new stability tech takes some DNA from Saucony’s Endorphin series. At the Tempus’s core is Pwrrun PB, the same Peba-based “superfoam” found in the brand’s super shoe, the Endorphin Pro.
“This shoe’s strength is its cushioning,” said one tester who competes for a NYC-based track club and regularly runs 55 miles per week. “It feels like it takes some of the pounding away from your legs, which feels nice. It made concrete sidewalks more comfortable.”
Saucony categorizes the Tempus as “structured cushioning” instead of stability (still a four-letter word among runners), but neutral and overpronating testers alike found the shoe supportive. The curved, EVA-based Pwrrun frame, which starts above the Pwrrun PB under the heel, is the key stability component. The midsole and frame are contoured to both lend support and propel your run.
“I knew that there was significant support because I tend to get lateral knee pain with shoes that lack the stability piece,” said a tester who identifies as an overpronator. Another wear-tester, who has a neutral gait pattern, also appreciated the Tempus’s supportive base. “The stability was evident. Despite the shoe’s very thick heel, I felt stable around turns.”—A.F.
You could reserve Altra’s cushiest trainer for easy runs and recovery days. Or use the Paradigm 6 as an everyday shoe like Kara Goucher, who says she wears it for 70 percent of her workouts. The 6 features Altra’s Ego Max midsole, which provides more energy return from the thick slab of firm cushioning. You can partially thank Goucher for the increased rebound. In testing prototypes, Goucher gave insight into stability shoes that typically don’t feel as snappy, asking for a couple of tweaks including “just a little more responsiveness off the bottom of the foot.”
With these minor changes and the new Ego Max midsole, this Paradigm isn’t for slogging. “Though I first thought the Paradigm was going to be too bulky, I even used it for speedwork,” said one of our wear-testers. The Paradigm’s high stack (33mm) and guide-rail system lend support, making it an ideal choice for runners who want to try a zero-drop shoe but want some extra comfort.—A.F.
The 860 v12 has two layers of Fresh Foam in its midsole—the top is soft, the bottom is speedy. New Balance tweaked the formula of the lower layer (an EVA-based material), slightly lowering the durometer—a measure of hardness. In the 13th version of the shoe, the midsole foam has been adjusted once again to feel a smidge more forgiving.
“I know this shoe is designed to be firm and has a loyal fan base that praises its cushioning, but for me, it was a bit too firm after about five or six miles,” one tester said of the v12. This softened version weighs a touch less and also delivers a livelier ride.
For those in the market for stability shoes and trying to separate the masses, choose the 860 if getting a close-to-perfect fit is your top priority. That’s where this trainer takes the cake. The forefoot and toebox are wide and a little stretchy, spacious but not sloppy. It’s rare that not a single tester mentions a cramped pinky toe or hot spot in their sample pairs, but our testers raved that the 860’s fit was roomy yet locked down from heel to toe.—M.P.
TRAIL RUNNING SHOES
If you’re new to trail running or want to try a lower-drop shoe without fully committing to a zero-millimeter offset, the MT-4 is your entry point. Two layers of foam provide all the comfort and protection you’ll need for most off-road excursions. It features a dual-density midsole with a top layer that’s 10 percent softer than the bottom layer. Instead of a rock plate, this denser foam acts as a buffer against hard ground.
For gnarly terrain, the shoe has the technical chops to excel. The Vibram tread is grippy on loose mud and rakes through dry sand, while drainage ports on the medial side pump out water after stream crossings. A tester new to Topo wore the shoes on his usual rocky seven-miler. “The MT-4 was a pleasure to wear after a day of working,” he said. “It did great on the rocky sections, protecting my feet, and the traction was excellent. But on the open singletrack, the shoes were a little clunky.”—A.F.
The Speedgoat might be more popular, but we’re going to claim the overhauled Mafate Speed is Hoka’s best trail running shoe right now—especially if your trails require comfort and versatility. We found this out firsthand by using the shoe to race up and down Whiteface Mountain. With a wide range of trail options to pick from, the Mafate was the race day choice for both myself and video producer Pat Heine-Holmberg to tackle the Olympic ski hill in New York’s Adirondack Park. I found it had more than enough bite on black diamond ski trails so I could claw my way uphill, but the cushioning protected my body when I had to dash back down 4,000 vertical feet over just 3.4 miles.
There have been a number of big changes to this model that make it more runnable and comfortable than before, including a new two-layer foam setup. The Profly+ midsole puts a lightweight, bouncy foam closest to your foot, which boosts comfort and makes the shoe feel alive when you’re running along hard-packed ground. The bottom layer is durable and firm enough to crush over sizable rocks and protect the bottom of your foot.
When you get into steep or muddy terrain, the shoe still shines. The outsole has been redesigned and there’s a lot more rubber underfoot. Each lug has three distinct tiers, giving you an enormous amount of sharp edges to cling to the ground. Plus, it’s Litebase, to help keep weight in check—Litebase makes the sole thinner and lighter, without diminishing traction.—J.D.
Last year’s Endorphin Trail was a lot to take in, its high stack underfoot a result of the thick slab of Pwrrun PB foam and Speedroll design. Our Endo-Trail wear-testers gave favorable reviews, however, saying the shoe had “excellent tread” and felt “decently comfortable” over long distances. What did it lack? A carbon-fiber plate, which the new Endorphin Edge has inside its Pwrrun PB foam.
Unlike rigid plates commonly found in other racing shoes, the AFX plate from Carbitex is stiff in one direction (to propel you forward) yet flexible in the other (so you remain nimble). This helps provide the stability you need to go fast confidently on technical trails.
One of our testers, a self-proclaimed Saucony junkie who favors the brand’s Xodus, a toothy, maximally cushioned trail shoe, ran a half marathon on his first day testing the Edge. “I’ve tested a lot of shoes over the years,” he said (the first model he tested was a Peregrine, 10 years ago). “These were perfect right out of the box.”—A.F.
Named after the famed mountain race in the Basque Country of northern Spain that includes the steep, rocky, and usually wet Vertical K and Sky Marathon (16,000 feet of climbing) racecourses, the Zegama is Nike’s most technical trail-running shoe and a fascinating addition to its lineup. In recent years, Nike trail shoes haven’t been known to tackle the world’s hardest mountains. The rubber compound was better suited for western trails, which are typically buffed dirt with the occasional rock and root. But the tread met its match on wet slabs of rock.
The Zegama, however, surprised me on its maiden journey up my local mountain in the Adirondacks. It had rained the week before my test run, so as I made my way up the 1,500-foot climb, I started cautiously, prepared to do some ice skating. But the lugs held firm in the soft ground on the lower parts of the mountain and resisted sliding as the slope turned into a boulder field closer to the summit.
On the descent, I found the shoe to be a bit tippy, forcing me to dance more carefully downhill. Then again, I was bashing down slopes up to 30 percent steep in spots. But the squishy ZoomX foam, while comfortable in absorbing the impact, deflected off football-sized rocks. So, if your terrain is similar, keep your laces tight and your ankles loose.
On flatter technical trails, we found the ZoomX foam rolls smoothly, though the lugs are a little chunky for really flat, hard-packed trails. ZoomX is the same stuff used in the Vaporfly and Alphafly racing shoes. It’s too fragile to be used on extremely technical trails, so here it’s enclosed in a more durable carrier foam for better longevity. Still, the sole is Hoka-like thick—with nearly 20mm of ZoomX under your heel and even more below the midfoot—so you harness all that soft goodness.—J.D.
Peeking at the sole of this new trail runner, you’d assume it’s meant to tackle tough ground. After all, it’s made using graphene, a honeycomb structure of carbon atoms that, when infused with rubber, creates a tacky outsole that’s more durable than sticky rubber. We’ve seen this tech rolled out to most of Inov-8’s trail line. But, the Parkclaw is better suited as a road-to-trail shoe—a hybrid. Each shoe is completely covered in 4mm lugs that are too closely spaced for muddy ground, but which work well on hard surfaces.
Some testers wanted more cushioning for longer runs or stretches on hard ground. The midsole is exceptionally firm, as we find is typical from Inov-8, though the insole gives some relief. It’s made from a poured TPU, which Inov-8 dubs Boomerang, giving the shoe more bounce than the midsole foam alone. The upper, too, is made for milder trails. The mesh has large openings for breathability and lacks any kind of protective elements you’d need for durability and control on steep, technical terrain.—J.D.
“The route I run most is a four-mile loop on a mountain that has every kind of surface that one can expect to get in Pennsylvania—gravel, technical downhills, rocky climbs, and water crossings,” said one tester who put more than 150 miles of running on the shoe in both wet and dry conditions. “This shoe grips all of it. The traction is fantastic, and the cushioning is ample, but still allows for ground feel and solid footing on rock.”
But, let’s be honest. Traction has never been an issue for the Lone Peak. A secure fit has. Altra has tinkered with its upper to ensure that its roomy toeboxes allow for natural foot movement and toe splay, but not too much motion that it feels sloppy. It’s a tough balance to get right. While the sixth version’s customizable lacing system did the trick for some, this version feels more locked-in from a new stitch-less upper. Fewer bulky overlays and no seams let the mesh wrap the foot more closely without wrinkling and bunching.—M.P.
Traditionally, Salomon’s speedy kicks earn their reputation for being fast, for sure, but also are quite firm, aggressive, and narrow—better suited for elites than midpack runners. The Ultra Glide is Salomon’s most cushioned and most accessible trail shoe. The first time I wore the shoe was on day 5 of a 327-mile FKT run in April. After over 250 miles, the hills, rocks, and hours piled up, and I was craving more protection for the final stretch. The upper provided enough protection for my tired feet when I inevitably kicked rocks and roots, while the rocker design and extra cushion underfoot took the sting out of pavement and extra-rocky sections, enough for me to keep the shoe on for 75 miles.
In our testing, though, we found that it stumbles a bit on big mountains. Runner-in-Chief Jeff Dengate put it to the test in the Adirondack High Peaks, climbing 5,000 feet over seven miles, then descending a vertical kilometer in less than three miles. The shoe held firm on runnable ground and while climbing over boulders, but the traction didn’t inspire confidence on flat, wet slabs of rock near the summits. In those conditions, it’s better to reach for a shoe with sticky rubber designed for wet terrain.—Pat Heine-Holmberg
While VJ running shoes like the Maxx and the XTRM are specifically built for obstacle course racing and trail running, the Ultra was the first shoe from the brand that is specifically designed for mega-distance. Unlike its first version, the Ultra 2 now has a rock plate. The stiffer forefoot protection was a favorite feature for testers navigating tricky portions of the Appalachian Trail. “My feet felt secure and protected over Pennsylvania-style, rocky treachery,” said one tester who regularly logs his 30-mile weeks on a buffet of gravel, grass, and concrete. “These are right at home on big boulders, little jagged ankle-busting rocks, and everything in between.”
For him, “everything in between” includes quite a bit of water crossings, during which the Ultra’s outsole clung to slippery rocks on a two-plus hour excursion. VJ added more rubber between the lugs for the v2, though it’s hard to say how much the grip improved, given the debut’s already stellar traction. (Walking across a shiny wood floor at home, one tester heard soft popping like the sound of a suction cup.) The more significant benefit is a boost in durability for high-mileage mountain runners.—M.P.
Jeff is Runner-in-Chief for Runner's World, guiding the brand's shoes and gear coverage. A true shoe dog, he's spent more than a decade testing and reviewing shoes. In 2017, he ran in 285 different pairs of shoes, including a streak of 257 days wearing a different model.
Amanda is a test editor at Runner’s World who has run the Boston Marathon every year since 2013; she's a former professional baker with a master’s in gastronomy and she carb-loads on snickerdoodles.