The Best Running Shoes of 2024 (2024)

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After countless miles of pounding the pavement, our running fanatics found the best running shoes of 2024.

Written by Cory Smith and Matthew Medendorp

The Best Running Shoes of 2024 (1)The GearJunkie team clocked endless miles in just as many shoes to bring you the best of the best for this guide (photo/Nick Presniakov)

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We used to say running was a pretty simple sport. All you need is a pair of running shoes and clothes, and off you go. However, with the advances in technology these days, we’re second-guessing that concept.

Somehow over the past 25 years, complexity crept in. GPS watch data, Strava segments, hydration vests, and the obligatory social media post-run selfie are as standard as striped tube socks were in the ’70s and ’80s. As gear aficionados, it’s hard to complain. But as the sport has expanded, the question of what shoe is great for you has only gotten more nuanced as more brands enter the running game.

Whether you embrace the new complicated age of running or wish for a return to the simpler past, there is one thing about running that will never change — running always has, and always will, start with a good pair of running shoes.

Our team of testers put the shoes on the list through the (literal) paces. We may not be the United States Post Office, but we certainly put hundreds of collective miles on these runners through snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night.

During short speed workouts, run commutes, heart-rate spiking interval training, and weekend devotion to the church of the long run, we faithfully logged steps and notes on each shoe listed here. So whether you’re a recreational runner lacing up for a family 5K or a competitive marathoner, we have a shoe for you.

In 2024, we sent contributor Matthew Medendorp with a duffel bag full of shoe samples to test finalists head-to-head in two high-altitude running culture hubs: Flagstaff, Ariz., and Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Steeped in running culture and featuring pristine roads and thin air, the locales proved the ideal testing grounds to log competitive miles.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, and at the end of our list, be sure to check out our comparison chart, buyer’s guide, and frequently asked questions.

Editor’s Note: We refreshed this article on May 3, 2024, adding the Brooks Glycerin GTS 21, Nike Alphafly 3, and Brooks Ghost 12. We also made sure our product list is up-to-date with current models, color schemes, and designs.

The Best Running Shoes of 2024

Best Overall Running Shoe

Craft PRO Endur Distance

Specs

  • Weight8.3 oz. (men)/6.4 oz. (women)
  • Stack Height36 mm/30 mm
  • Drop5 mm

Pros

  • Solid shock absorption
  • Lively midsole
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Upper is a bit thin

Cory Smith

We test a ton of running shoes. As in, our lead tester alone has probably over 40 pairs he’s testing for various reviews at any one time. The true test of greatness is when we’re not actively testing and are able to choose the shoes we naturally gravitate toward. Time and time again, the shoe our testers reached for more than any other is theCraft Pro Endur Distance($155).

If you’ve never heard of Craft, don’t worry. It isn’t exactly a mainstream running brand in the U.S. — yet. Based out of Sweden, this boutique sports brand is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of high-performance sportswear. The Craft Pro Endur is evidence of that.

As a neutral everyday trainer, the Pro Endurance is incredibly bouncy and fun. It’s one of the liveliest everyday trainers we’ve run in. That’s thanks to the Pebax midsole, a premium foam most commonly used in carbon fiber super shoes. The material is not only lighter, but it’s also more resilient and has a higher energy return than the more commonly used EVA and TPU foam.

There’s a ton of it underfoot, too. With stack heights of 36 mm/27 mm for men and 34 mm/27 mm for women, it’s up there in terms of maximum cushioned shoes on the market.

What’s impressive is how lightweight thePro Enduris for such a thick-cushioned shoe. Coming in at 8.2 ounces for men and 7.4 ounces for women, it’s incredibly versatile as an easy-day-comfortable recovery shoe all the way to a speedy marathon race day shoe.

If we were limited to one shoe for every type of running, the Craft PRO Endur would most certainly be it. Overall, we think it’s the best running shoe on the market.

Best Budget Running Shoe

Brooks Launch 10

Specs

  • Weight8.3 oz. (men)/7.4 oz. (women)
  • Stack Height34 mm/24 mm
  • Drop10 mm

Pros

  • Great value
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not the most responsive

Cory Smith

Most budget shoes will use lower-quality foam underfoot to keep the price low. However, bottom-of-the-barrel foam breaks down much faster, leaving you at risk of injury and in need of a replacement.

Before we go into why the Launch is the best budget trainer, let us explain theLaunch 10 ($110) versus theLaunch 10 GTS($110). Three seasons ago, Brooks retooled and rebranded its entire stability line of shoes under the GTS. The Ravenna was replaced with the Launch 8 GTS. So, if you like a more stable, supportive shoe, go with the Launch 10 GTS.

The Launch 10 and GTS 10 use the BioMoGo DNA midsole, one of Brooks’ highest-quality foams. The midsole perfectly toes the line between soft and responsive.

Brooks classifies the Launch as a lightweight speed shoe with cushioning, and we agree. But it’s also well-suited as an everyday trainer, especially for those on a budget. You won’t find as much cushioning as on the Brooks Glycerin, but at such a light weight, it does offer a generous stack height.

Sure, you can find cheaper running shoes, but we guarantee they won’t run as well. For those on a budget or just looking for a great running shoe for the here-and-there run, theBrooks Launch 10 and stability versionLaunch 10 GTSare among the best running shoes for the price.

Best Neutral Running Shoe

Asics Gel Nimbus 25 Lite-Show

Specs

  • Weight10.3 oz. (men)/9.1 oz. (women)
  • Stack Height41.5 mm/33.5 mm (men)/40.5 mm/32.5 mm (women)
  • Drop8 mm (men)/8 mm (women)

Pros

  • Comfortable neutral feel
  • Cozy upper

Cons

  • Somewhat snug fit

Cory Smith

If you’re looking for an everyday neutral trainer to clock miles and get in the occasional uptempo session, theAsics Gel Nimbus 25 Lite-Show($170) is as good as they get.

The updated Nimbus 25 has full-length single-density FF BLAST PLUS ECO cushioning and its new PureGEL technology for maximum comfort and cushioning during any type of run. Testers found the cushioning level not too soft, but not too firm, thus hitting a sweet spot of just the right balance between the two.

Typically with this much foam underfoot, you lose some sensitivity — but not with the Nimbus Lite 3. Our testers found the shoe to be fairly flexible, moving well with the feet and allowing them to react.

Coming in at 10.3 ounces formenand 9.1 ounces forwomen, it’s surprisingly lightweight for such a cushioned and well-padded everyday trainer. While the steep 10mm heel drop may not be for everyone (particularly forefoot runners), the steep ramp provides added support under your heel as you start to fatigue.

While aesthetics doesn’t affect technical performance, this is certainly one sharp-looking trainer. The slightly oversized, but sculpted midsole looks fantastic, and although white isn’t my favorite color for running shoes, Asics somehow put together a brilliant all-white shoe.

Everyday neutral running shoes are the most exciting type of running shoes. They need to fit well and feel comfortable across a wide range of paces and distances and for the most part, disappear when you wear them.

No other trainer we tested hit these marks better than theAsics Gel Nimbus 25 Lite-Show. As one tester noted, “This shoe will not disappoint those runners looking for a conventional, moderately higher drop, max cushioned trainer.”

Best Supportive Running Shoe

Brooks Glycerin GTS 21

Specs

  • Weight10.5 oz. (men)/9.5 oz. (women)
  • Stack Height38 mm/28 mm
  • Drop10 mm

Pros

  • Smooth transition to toes
  • Solid support
  • Soft, cushioned foam

Cons

  • On the heavy side
  • Pricey

Cory Smith

For those familiar with the Brooks Transcend, the Glycerin GTS 21 ($160) is its replacement. Brooks rebranded its entire support line as “GTS” models, which is short for “go-to support.”

In the past, supportive shoes had a firmer piece of foam or “post” along the medial side of the shoe to support pronation. This would (in almost every case) result in a firm underfoot ride.

By placing two firm pieces of foam on either side of the heel, Brooks is able to less invasively reduce excess inward and outward rolling of the foot while offering a softer ride more typically found in neutral shoes. But don’t mistake a softer ride for a squishy one. Compared to models like the HOKA Clifton 9, the Glycerin offers comfort paired with sturdiness.

The softness comes from a new nitrogen-infused DNA LOFT v3 midsole — Brooks’ softest cushioning foam. For the retooled 21 version, Brooks added 2 mm of cushion to the midsole. The updated midsole yields a more responsive and stable underfoot experience versus the Glycerin 20 GTS.

Combined with a redesigned upper featuring 61% recycled material, the latest Glycerin ups the comfort factor and reaffirms the brand’s commitment to halve carbon emissions by 2030.

These shoes are a workhorse, too. They’re capable of maintaining form longer than most shoes. Yet, like most workhorse shoes, the Glycerin 21 GTS is fairly heavy. At 10.5 ounces (men) and 9.5 ounces (women), you might want a lighter shoe for speed work and races.

For those runners who require a supportive shoe but are tired of the firm persona of most supportive models, look no further. The Brooks Glycerin GTS 21 will feel like a slice of heaven while still giving you the support you need.

Best Zero Drop Running Shoe

Altra Vanish Tempo

Specs

  • Weight8.2 oz. (men)/6.9 oz. (women)
  • Stack Height33 mm
  • DropZero drop

Pros

  • Great cushioning
  • Solid versatility

Cons

  • Altra’s Slim FootShape is a tossup with Altra fans
  • On the pricey side

Cory Smith

Following on the heels of theAltra Vanish Carbon(Altra’s carbon-fiber racing shoe) comes theVanish Tempo($170) — a similar feeling, lightweight, highly cushioned shoe, but without a carbon fiber plate.

Despite the tempo namesake, the Vanish Tempo is an incredibly versatile shoe. In fact, thanks to the thick 33mm stack height of Altra’s most premium midsole, it’s just as capable of an easy-day recovery run.

Due to the thick midsole, the underfoot feeling is much less sensitive and flexible than other Altra road shoes we’ve tested. But if you enjoy a well-cushioned, well-protected, stable shoe, you’ll be rewarded with a fun, bouncy ride.

It’s worth mentioning that theVanish Tempohas Altra’s Slim FootShape, which is a departure from their signature wide toebox. The more traditional toebox shape fits snugly but is comfortable against the foot for better control during faster running.

We think the verdict is still out on whether longtime Altra fans will embrace this new breed of narrower toebox and thick-soled Altra racing shoes. Personally, as someone who mainly road races in the traditional brands, it’s a huge improvement for me and most of my testers agree.

However, if you like a more natural-feeling, flexible zero-drop shoe, we think you’d be better off with theAltra Rivera 3orEscalante Racer 3.

Best Running Shoe for Marathons

Nike Alphafly 3

Specs

  • Weight198 g (men)/ 174 g (women)
  • Stack height40 mm / 32 mm
  • Drop8 mm

Pros

  • Incredible energy return
  • Higher durability than the previous iterations
  • Efficient rocker geometry

Cons

  • Narrow-ish midfoot
  • Expensive
  • Not a great everyday running shoe

Cory Smith

There’s no doubt the original Nike Alphafly NEXT% was a groundbreaking shoe. It helped more runners PR in the marathon distance than perhaps any other shoe. However, a lot of runners had issues with the feeling of sinking down into their heels if they weren’t running up on their forefoot.

These were more than adequately addressed in the Alphafly 2, which quickly rose to the top as our favorite in the recently minted “super shoe” category. When Nike debuted the third iteration of its record-breaking shoe, the Alphafly 3 ($285), we were more than a little curious as to what it would improve upon.

So what did they change? First, the Swoosh slightly widened the carbon foot plate, adding stability and a little bit of extra confidence for non-elite runners. Next, the ZoomX distribution changed. The Alpha2 had an additional 4 mm of ZoomX built into the shoe; the 3 ups the ante by extending that tech across the entire shoe, forming a continuous bottom layer and providing a smoother ride and increased propulsion.

The AirZoom units remain the same (don’t mess with perfection), but the carbon plate updates and remapped ZoomX unlock more potential out of the squishy tech. Combined with a redesigned upper and an overall lighter weight, the Alphafly 3 is ready to churn out your next marathon PR. Make no mistake, though; this is a shoe that wants to go fast.

Our tester found that, while the Alphafly 2s could work in a recovery run mode, the 3s felt clunky at anything above a ~7:20-mile pace. The shoes really lived up to their name and reputation at anything under 6:45- miles, with an increased springboard effect the faster he pushed them.

If you haven’t tried the Alphafly or were turned off from the original due to the sinking feeling, we can confidently say you should try the newest version. It’s a much better, kinder racing shoe for everyone. When our tester laced up for an initial around-the-block test run, he accidentally ran his fastest 5K in a decade. Again, these shoes just want to go fast.

There’s not a runner we know who wouldn’t benefit from the massive amount of crazy bouncy cushioning of the Nike Alphafly 3. As one tester perfectly put it, “These shoes felt fast — almost illegal.” It’s not equipment doping if everyone’s doing it, right? There’s no doubt these will be on our feet during our next 26.2.

Best Running Shoes for Recovery Runs

HOKA Clifton 9

Specs

  • Weight8.7 oz. (men)/ 7.3 oz. (women)
  • Stack height27 mm/33 mm
  • Drop5 mm

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Relatively lightweight for amount of cushioning
  • Excellent recovery run shoe

Cons

  • Not designed for speedwork

Cory Smith

The originator of maximum cushioning movement, the Clifton 9 ($145) is the latest in HOKA’s flagship running shoe. The catch-22 of a brand’s cornerstone product is that each year it has to evolve, while always remaining recognizable.

HOKA mastered the new, yet familiar, tightrope with the latest Clifton. The Clifton 9 is lighter than its predecessor, yet adds 3 mm in stack height. This is due to a variety of factors — the biggest being a new type of foam used in the midsole and a redesigned outsole. The upper also got a makeover, with a plusher heel and streamlined tongue.

The result is a show that leans into the max cushioning, swallowtail design HOKA has long pioneered. Lighter and more responsive than the previous version, the Clifton 9 performs ideally on recovery runs but still has the capacity to move with some speed when necessary. HOKA cushioning provides relief, especially on high-mileage weeks — and the redesigned knit upper adds more comfort to an already comfortable shoe.

Best of the Rest

Saucony Endorphin Speed 3

Specs

  • Weight8.1 oz. (men)/7.2 oz. (women)
  • Stack height36 mm/28 mm
  • Drop8 mm

Pros

  • Flexible nylon plate delivers good energy return with more flexibility than a carbon fiber plate
  • Smooth, cushioned ride

Cons

  • Not the most stable, supportive shoe

Cory Smith

Carbon fiber shoes are great and all, but wow, are they pricey. If the thought of dropping $225-plus for a pair of running shoes makes you cringe, this Saucony speedster is for you.

Priced more in line with premium everyday trainers than carbon fiber shoes, theEndorphin Speed 3($170) features a more flexible nylon plate that spans the full length. It’s a bit more forgiving than stiffer carbon fiber shoes, making it more versatile and suitable for a broader audience.

There have been a few updates for the third iteration that make it a slightly smoother ride. It still has a generous dose of Saucony’s high-energy TPU PWRRUN PB midsole. The ride is certainly playful and fast, and that fun feeling isn’t reserved for fast paces only. Even when we were clipping away at more moderate paces, we found the ride smooth. A fully redesigned engineered mono-mesh gives it better breathability and lockdown.

We crowned it the best for speed training, and it certainly is, but it’s just as capable as an everyday trainer. If you’re looking for a fun, high-performance shoe with some bounce, but aren’t willing to shell out the dough for pricey carbon fiber shoes, here you have it.

Asics MetaSpeed Sky+

Specs

  • Weight7.2 oz. (unisex)
  • Stack height33 mm/28 mm
  • Drop5 mm

Pros

  • Great energy return with a carbon fiber plate
  • Solid flexibility
  • Good stability

Cons

  • Current iteration a bit heavier than before
  • Pricey

Cory Smith

When the first Asics Metaspeed Sky came out in 2020,it quickly became our go-to for longer-duration speed sessions and races. Between the carbon fiber plate and bouncy midsole, faster paces just seemed to come easier than in other shoes. Furthermore, we felt we recovered faster from these tough sessions versus a more traditional lightweight speed/racing shoe.

Fast forward 1 year later and Asics releases thesecond iteration($250) of the Asics MetaSpeed Sky with some pretty significant updates over the original version. For those who found the upper on the original to be stiff, scratchy, and ill-fitting, Asics did a total revamp, making it more flexible, comfortable, and better fitting.

Underfoot, there’s 4% more of Asics’ highest rebound foam, Flytefoam Blast Turbo. Although we couldn’t feel a significant difference from the added midsole, we will say it’s just about as bouncy as they come. The harder you push, the harder they push you back and propel you forward.

It’s impossible not to compare any carbon fiber shoe these days to the Nike Vaporfly Next%, given it was the original super shoe. For the average runner, we like theAsics Metaspeed Sky+better. This is primarily because it’s more stable. The wide underfoot profile is more forgiving and suitable for midfoot or heel and strikers.

Brooks Ghost 15

Specs

  • Weight9.8 oz. (men) / 8.8 oz. (women)
  • Stack Height35mm / 23mm
  • Drop12 mm

Pros

  • Comfort paired with neutral cushioning
  • DNA Loft v2 results in soft, consistent ride
  • Carbon neutral (recycled content + offsets)
  • Great all-rounders for training and race day

Cons

  • Slightly heavier than competitors
  • May not be able to compete with race day “supershoes”
  • Running-specific construction, not cross-training capable

Cory Smith

In a landscape of carbon-plated super shoes that only perform at certain elevated paces, it can be tempting to spend more thinking about your shoes than actually running. The Brooks Ghost 15 ($140) is a reminder that a shoe doesn’t need sci-fi geometry or cost half your month’s rent to perform. The Ghost fills an increasingly shrinking niche in our modern running shoes landscape: a shoe you can train and race in.

Instead, the Ghost 15 focused on just being a good running shoe, one capable of long miles or speedwork. On test runs, it was supportive, but not overly cushioned. Most importantly, the aptly named Ghost doesn’t distract from the run itself. Instead, it lets the runner disappear into that elusive zone. Our tester reached for these on runs when he wanted to leave the Garmin behind and just run by feel.

Runners looking for a sub-3 marathon time should look elsewhere. But those tackling local 5Ks or looking for a workhorse shoe that can put in the miles will be happy with the Brooks Ghost 15. Though it’s a capable shoe, be warned it’s not designed as a cross-trainer — the 3D mesh upper handles forward motion well, but could blow out if used laterally.

Salomon Phantasm 2

Specs

  • Weight9 oz. (men)/ 7.7 oz. (women)
  • Stack height26 mm/35 mm
  • Drop9 mm

Pros

  • Energy Blade technology creates propulsion feeling
  • Comfortable cushioning
  • Lightweight
  • Great cost-to-feature ratio

Cons

  • Little traction
  • Not designed for walking or recovery runs

Cory Smith

The Salomon Phantasm 2 ($170) is a shoe that wants to go fast. From the moment our tester laced it up, it was apparent this was not a shoe intended for a Zone 2 long run, but rather for any workout that requires speed and explosiveness.

This comes down to two things. First, the shoe has a composite fiber plate dubbed the “Energy Blade” designed to return kinetic energy. Second, this plate works in conjunction with a rocker geometry designed to keep you moving forward. The result is a propulsive feeling while running.

These shoes aren’t going to do the work for you, but you’ll be able to tell they want to get moving. It makes for a pair of shoes that are great for running, but feel a little awkward walking through a warmup in.

What differentiates the Phantasm 2 from a slew of other speed and propulsion-designed shoes is that it doesn’t sacrifice comfort for performance. Instead, it balances the two, adding additionallightweight foam underfoot and pockets of padding in the mesh upper.

Our tester found that this made it more comfortable than other shoes in the speed category without noticeably trading off performance. And priced at $170, they provide a fantastic features-to-cost ratio, making them a worthy choice for speed work and race days.

On Running Cloudsurfer

Specs

  • Weight8.6 oz. (men)/7.2 oz. (women)
  • Stack height37 mm/27 mm
  • Drop10 mm

Pros

  • Firm yet comfortable cushioning
  • Rocker outsole aids smooth heel-to-toe transition
  • Looks great

Cons

  • Short tongue
  • CloudTec outsole doesn’t work for cross training

Cory Smith

On shoes are everywhere these days. Favored by the athleisure set, you’re as likely to see the signature, pod-like outsoles at your coffee shop as your running path. There’s no denying they look cool (well …), but do they run fine?

On built the Cloudsurfer ($160) as a maximum cushion shoe using the brand’s CloudTec Phase technology. That’s a lot of “techs” and a lot of “clouds” in one sentence, but the idea behind the terminology is that the space in the outsole, i.e. the “clouds,” collapses with your footstrike. In theory, this delivers enhanced cushioning and a smoother, more efficient transfer from heel to toe.

Our tester found that this resulted in a shoe that cushioned well, but felt firmer than other maximally cushioning shoes like the HOKA Clifton. The foot feels cradled, but less speed is sacrificed. Another factor here is the rocking design of the outsole. While the Cloudsurfer is billed as a neutral fit, the outsole is canted at the heel.

This design enhances the “rocker” feel of the shoe, moving the foot from heel to toe with extra efficiency. The Cloudsurfer’s heel-to-toe rock and the nature of the compressing outsole also mean this shoe is purpose-built for running, but does not perform well in cross-training scenarios.

The knit upper is lightweight and comfortable, but our tester found the tongue to be strangely short. This was most evident when switching between shoes for head-to-head testing. And while it didn’t noticeably affect performance, it required tighter lacing than other shoes on this list.

Running Shoe Comparison Chart

Running ShoePriceWeightStack HeightDrop
Craft PRO Endur Distance
$1558.3 oz. (men)/6.4 oz. (women)36 mm/30 mm6 mm
Brooks Launch 10
$1108.3 oz. (men)/7.4 oz. (women)34 mm/24 mm10 mm
Asics Gel Nimbus 25 Lite-Show
$17010.3 oz. (men)/9.1 oz. (women)41.5 mm/33.5 mm8 mm
Brooks Glycerin G
TS 21
$16010.5 oz. (men)/9.5 oz. (women)38 mm/28 mm10 mm
Altra Vanish Tempo
$1708.2 oz. (men)/6.9 oz. (women)33 mm0 mm
Nike Alphafly 3$2857 oz. (men)/6.1 oz. (women)40 mm/32mm8 mm
Brooks Ghost 15$1409.8 oz. (men)/8.8 oz. (women)35 mm/23 mm8 mm
HOKA Clifton 9
$1458.70 oz. (men)/ 7.30 oz. (women)33 mm/27 mm5 mm
Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
$1708.1 oz. (men)/7.2 oz. (women)36 mm/28 mm8 mm
Asics MetaSpeed Sky+$2507.2 oz. (unisex)33 mm/28 mm5 mm
Salomon Phantasm 2$1709 oz. (men)/ 7.7 oz. (women)35 mm/ 26 mm9 mm
On Running Cloudsurfer
$1608.6 oz. (men)/ 7.2 oz. (women)37 mm/27 mm10 mm

How We Tested Running Shoes

We began our testing for this guide in December 2021, with an initial roundup of 10 shoes, running the gambit from legacy brands that established road running as a recognized sport to scrappy up-and-comers bringing new tech and new attitudes to the world of running.

Cory Smith led our initial rounds of testing. His passion for running started over 25 years ago in high school when he became the number six ranked runner in the nation in the 3 km his senior year. Ever since then, Cory’s been addicted to competitive running in every distance, from 1 mile to the marathon and trail racing. Today, he’s a full-time online running coach and running gear reviewer.

His obsession with running shoes started in 2014 when he wrote his first shoe review. Since then, he’s tested and reviewed hundreds of running shoes, clothing, and gear for GearJunkie and other outlets. He loves dissecting gear and thinking like a product engineer to explain the why behind every design and little detail of running shoes.

We brought in gear tester Matthew Medendorp to help update the guide in 2023. A runner who bounces between trails and tarmac, Medendorp never takes a trip without packing at least one pair of running shoes. Okay — more like three. These days you can find him in the Midwest, grinding out weekly miles on the local running paths and behind a running stroller (a Thule Urban Glide 2 Double — since this is GearJunkie).

For 2024, we brought our running shoe finalists on two head-to-head testing trips. The first was in the thin air of Flagstaff, Ariz., where the amateurs and pros flock to train every season. The second to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., another high-altitude training ground for elite athletes (and humble gear-testers). With picturesque backdrops, we vetted 2024’s best shoes on pristine tarmac, sometimes swapping shoes mid-route to get a better comparison.

Every runner is different, so we also solicited feedback from a diverse group of runners. For this review, GearJunkie tasked a test team with logging miles and weighing in with their perspective as competitive runners, physical therapists, and former shoe designers.

We tested the latest shoes from every brand, and all testers were asked to rank each shoe numerically and write short-form reviews of the top-ranked shoes. Armed with our testers’ feedback and our own impressions, GearJunkie picked the best running shoe in the most popular shoe categories.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Running Shoe

Running shoes have their fair share of complexity. Sorting through today’s shoe stats like stack height, heel drop, weight, and now carbon fiber plates can give anyone a headache. Luckily, we’re here to cut through the noise and give it to you straight.

Over our years reviewing shoes, GearJunkie testers have run in just about every running shoe produced. More than that, we’ve recruited teams of testers for feedback andtalked with shoe engineers, podiatrists, and specialty running store owners.

Armed with this knowledge, we’ve picked the best shoes of the season based on our editors and test team’s input paired with head-to-head comparisons.

It’s worth noting that this guide focuses specifically on road running shoes. Be sure to check out our exhaustive guides on the best trail running shoes and the best hiking shoes — if that’s more your pace.

Comfort Is King

After talking with many physical therapists, running store owners, and shoe experts, they all agree on one thing — pick a running shoe based on comfort. The shoe that feels, fits, and runs the best is most likely going to be the best shoe for you.

Fortunately, most of today’s online shoe retailers allow a full refund or credit on used shoes within a 30- or 90-day window. This allows you to buy a pair of shoes, try them out for a few runs, and make the decision. This is also a nice feature to ensure that you get the correct sizing.

Sizing Properly

In our experience, most people wear running shoes that are too tight. The rule of thumb (literally) is you should have a thumb-width of space between your longest toe and the edge of the running shoe. For most, this will be half to three-quarters of an inch.

You need this space for two reasons. First, as you run, your feet will slide slightly forward. This extra space prevents your toes from consistently banging up against the inside wall of the shoe. Second, if you run long enough and in higher temps, your feet will swell. Again, extra space is necessary.

The thumb’s width rule is a great way to size your shoe while accounting for how much your feet may swell during a long run.

Finding the proper width is a little trickier. Shoe width varies from brand to brand and even within the same brand between models. There are brands that are known for being wide or narrow.

Altra and Topo are known for favoring runners with wide feet. Aside from these two, it’s hard to make absolute assumptions across all models of a brand as being wide or narrow.

The Details: Stack Height, Drop, and Weight

If you want to geek out on the stats of a shoe, that’s fine. But we would steer clear of making decisions solely based on them. Pay attention but don’t obsess.

Sure, there is a pretty big difference between a 12mm drop and zero drop, so much so that I don’t suggest making such a drastic change. But between a 4mm and 6mm drop, it’s marginal. To put it in perspective, it’s the difference in the thickness of a nickel.

Stack Height

This is usually the measurement of the bottom of the shoe to the bottom of the inside of the shoe. It gives a measurement of how much material there is between your foot and the ground.

The higher the stack height, the thicker the sole. We say “usually” because some brands will not include the insole as part of the stack height measurements.

Drop

Drop is the difference in measurement of stack height between the heel and toe. It ranges from zero to 12 mm. The higher the drop, the less strain on the Achilles, soleus, and calves. Zero-drop shoes are associated with a more natural barefoot running feeling.

Weight

The weight of a shoe can give a good insight into the type of running for which the shoe is best suited. Lightweight shoes — ones weighing less than 8 ounces for men and 7.5 ounces for women — are typically designed for faster running and racing.

Heavier shoes — 10 ounces for men and 9 ounces for women — are more suited for everyday training. In most cases, we’ve found weight to be a good insight into the durability of a shoe. Lighter shoes with less foam tend to wear out more quickly than the thicker, heavier ones.

Neutral vs. Supportive

Should a shoe correct over/underpronation or not? Some say yes; others say no. Most of the experts we’ve spoken with say it depends. Dr. Crispell recommends that those needing a supportive shoe look for “a sturdy heel cup, multi-density EVA midsoles, and a mid-foot truss or bridge that stabilizes the shoe.”

Bottom line: Comfort is king, and if you’re still unsure, we recommend taking a trip to your local specialty running store to get their advice. With proper footwear and proper training, you, too, can pound out the miles on the pavement in relative comfort.

More Than One Pair

Do you really need more than one pair of running shoes? Think of it this way — do you really need more than one pair of shoes in general? Technically, no. But if you start to pull away the layers, you have work shoes, workout shoes, comfortable shoes, slippers, flip-flops, etc.

Just like all your other shoes, running shoes perform best in certain scenarios. For example, the HOKA Clifton 9 makes a great recovery run shoe but not so much a great speed workout shoe. On the flip side, a carbon fiber shoe makes a great race day shoe but not a great recovery run shoe.

One solution is to own at least three pairs of road running shoes: a durable everyday trainer, a speed or race day shoe, and one super-comfortable recovery run shoe. By rotating between shoes, you’ll be less likely to get overuse injuries from your shoe.

FAQ

Do running shoes actually matter?

Yes, absolutely. The soles of running shoes are made with a special type of foam that is designed to withstand the higher ground impact forces exhibited while running. This foam underfoot, called a midsole, makes running more comfortable and offers more durability over non-running shoes.

Furthermore, a running shoe’s upper will hold your foot in place better and offer more breathability than a non-running shoe. In general, it is not recommended to run in casual sneakers.

Is more cushion better for running?

Cushioning is a matter of personal preference and does not necessarily make one shoe better than another. Cushioning refers to the level of firmness of the foam underfoot and can be largely subjective. What one runner finds firm, a heavier runner may find soft. It was previously thought that a more cushioned shoe reduced the impact on your legs.

However, it’s been found that your body will adjust forces based on the firmness of the surface you are running on. The bottom line — buy a running shoe that feels comfortable to you.

Should I buy a size up for running shoes?

The ultimate question is a size up from what shoe? Running shoes should have a thumb width of extra space in the toe. The reasoning behind this — as you run, your feet will naturally slide forward a little. The extra space will prevent your toes from jamming against the front of the shoe.

Should running shoes be tight or loose?

A properly fitting shoe should be somewhere between tight and loose. Shoes that are too tight can cut off circulation and cause your feet to go numb, while running shoes that are too loose can cause hot spots and generally feel uncomfortable.

One of our authors recommends a shoe that fits snugly enough where your heel doesn’t lift and you have a thumb-width of room in the toes. It’s important not to tie your laces too tight. They personally like to tie them loose enough that I can remove their shoes with a small amount of force without untying the laces.

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