This article was written for RunnersGoal.com by Melissa G., a guest author.
Shopping for running shoes can be overwhelming. What kind of foot do you have? Are you an over- or under-pronator or do you have a neutral gait? That’s just the first question you have to face.
What are your running goals and how much mileage do you typically cover in a week? Do you have any idea how many miles you have on your current running shoes? Are you more of a minimalist or are you interested in trying the new “maximalist” shoes that seem to be everywhere this year? Is it possible to find a shoe that combines the best of both worlds — with support, flexibility, cushioning, and style that appeals to you?
There are a number of great shoe options out there, with several receiving rave reviews from everyone from beginner to elite runners, and from your average Joe to the experts. We review the top rated shoes, and we’re sure that this list contains an option for everyone, no matter what their needs, goals, and preferences.
The son of the SpeedForm RC, The Speedform Apollo premiered this year to widespread acclaim, bringing Under Armour onto the scene in the running shoe arena in a big way. It is a minimalist shoe built for maximum comfort with maximum performance. The full-length Micro G foam midsole provides cushioned landings with the responsiveness to power speedy takeoffs. The midsole is not so cushioned that you can’t still feel the ground underfoot.
A midsole TPU stability bar provides additional support. UA Light Speed Grip has been positioned strategically on the anatomical outsole in places that experience wear and tear, adding the ultimate in durability. The perforated mesh upper makes for a snug fit, ample venting, and an extremely light shoe at only 6.5 ounces.
It has a slim profile with an athletic fit that eliminates the bulk of excess fabric, and silicone grips in the heels hug your feet. They can be worn without socks, as the embedded seamless foam sockliner constantly wicks moisture away from the skin and fits like, well, socks. They have an 8 mm heel-toe offset. This shoe is a good pick for pretty much anyone looking for a lightweight shoe, and its weight makes it excel for short distance racing.
This shoe has been termed “the best running shoe ever made,” and that may not be an exaggeration. Designed to give back energy with every step, the Adidas Energy Boost Running shoe midsoles are made with a revolutionary new material that actually captures and returns energy with your every stride and return more energy to you than any other running shoe on the market. And unlike standard EVA foam midsoles, Boost holds up even in extreme hot or cold temperatures, when other midsoles melt under the heat or harden up in the cold, so you can run in them comfortably year-round.
The original Energy Boost has been updated with an ESM (engineered stretch mesh) seamless upper for lightness and ventilation and an outsole with better traction than its predecessor. Otherwise, it is the same shoe that was such a smashing success. At 9.7 ounces, this is a light fast shoe that has the durability to go for mile after mile, and will make your legs feel like they can too. It has a 10 mm drop. Like other Adidas shoes, they have Formotion technology for a smooth push-off and the Torsion system for support. They also have a new TPU heel cage for added stability.
They are compatible with the Adidas miCoach system, and you can even customize them to your liking. These shoes can be worn by anyone, from light to heavy runners, from flat feet to high arches, from casual runners to elites. This is overall a good-looking shoe that will make you feel good while wearing them.
The Fresh Foam 980 is another example of a “maximal” shoe, providing super-plush cushioning that is unbelievably soft yet stable. Because of its unique feel, this shoe is a multiple award-winner: “Best Ride” in Competitor Magazine, “Best Neutral Running Shoe” by Running Network, and Prevention Magazine’s 2014 Running Shoe Awards. The shoe was designed using 3D printing technology to create a cushioning system that supports the natural anatomy of the foot and a fit that feels like it was made specifically for you.
“Fresh Foam” is an innovative midsole created from a single piece of foam crafted from a single piece of EVA that provides a more natural feel underfoot. The full-ground contact outsole completes the picture for a flexible smooth riding shoe. Despite having a higher stack height, you feel lower to the ground. It has strategically placed cushions on the outsole to provide additional stability and durability. This shoe utilizes breathable air mesh and simple no-sew overlays in the upper that wrap the foot in comfort and provide stability.
The shoe is ideal for neutral footed runners and makes for a lightweight trainer for daily runs. There is a 6.6 mm drop and the shoe weighs in at 8.8 ounces. Some runners have said that the shoe’s cushioning is not as “pillowy” described, but rather has a lightweight bouncy feel. Others have said it’s merely soft without feeling “mushy.” There have been some complaints about the tongue feeling too bulky, which hopefully New Balance will address in future editions. It comes in several fun color combinations.
Nike Flyknit Lunar 2 $150
Nike Flyknit technology was inspired by runners seeking a shoe with a light second skin-like fit. Programmers, engineers, and designers created the technology needed to make the unique knit upper. This is the second edition of the remarkably innovative and high-tech shoe.
The Nike Flyknit Lunar2 Men’s Running Shoe provides an ideal blend of strength, support, speed, and comfort in an ultra lightweight shoe that is soft yet responsive. Lunarlon cushioning, featuring resilient foam midsole, provides a soft, flexible, and responsive ride. The upper is made entirely of lightweight, ultra strong yarn in a one ply and one piece for a fit that is flexible yet supportive and is highly breathable. A pull tab on the heel helps you get these sock-like shoes onto your feet. A grid of sturdy Flywire cables wrap the midfoot for support, working with the shoe’s asymmetric laces for a secure, natural fit.
It weighs in at 8.4 ounces, and has a large 11.5 mm heel to toe drop for a shoe that enhances your forward stride. This shoe is great for runners looking for a fast, lightweight shoe that does not sacrifice comfort for speed. It is light enough for racing, yet durable and comfortable enough for everyday training runs.
Puma Faas 300 v3 $90
The Puma Faas 300 v3 iteration is an innovative shoe using Puma technology to create a trainer with exceptional fit and motion. The FaasFoam+ midsole and forefoot are made from one piece of Puma’s revamped proprietary blend of foam and rubber. It provides lightweight yet durable cushioning and is 25% lighter than the original FaasFoam used in previous models. They have enough cushioning in the heel for a springy and comfortable ride, but are minimalist enough to keep your foot working, which should add some strength.
Puma’s EverRide+ injected blown rubber is lighter and cushioned, and the heel toe drop is 8 mm, allowing for a smoother transition. The outsole’s high areas of wear and tear are protected with EverTrack high abrasion resistant rubber for a shoe that lasts. The Airmesh upper provides breathability and minimal no-sew overlays that offer a sock-like fit and help keep the weight down.
The molded EVA Sockliner provides step-in comfort and responsiveness. The shoe weighs in at 7.4 ounces, making any runner feel lighter and faster. A high-performance training shoe, it is light enough for racing, yet comfortable enough for training runs. It does its best work in low to middle mileage training and speed work. It is best for neutral runners.
Saucony is among the most respected names in running shoes, spending years studying the biomechanics of top athletes to develop technology that focuses on performance. The Kinvara has been a popular, high-rated minimalist shoe since its debut, and the 5th edition is the best yet.
The Kinvara 5 was selected as a Runner’s World Magazine Editor’s Choice, a high honor. The shoe has Saucony’s high-tech performance materials, including their lightweight premium PowerGrid midsole for a smooth ride with plenty of rebound and responsiveness. The cushioning does not sacrifice the shoe’s flexibility. The 4 mm heel-to-toe offset delivers a more natural ride, letting your feet and body do the work. Triangle-shaped iBR+ rubber pods have been added to the outsole in strategic places to prevent breakdown and provide better traction without adding bulk or weight.
A strong, lightweight material called FlexiFilm is melded to the upper, allowing for a lighter feel and a more durable shoe. FlexiFilm is also used in the tip of the toe instead of TPU for protection without added weight. The Pro Lock mechanism in the midfoot area allows for a snug and secure fit that efficiently holds your foot in place. The RunDry sockliner and the mesh upper keep your feet dry and comfortable. At 7.7 ounces, the Kinvara 5 is a high-performance lightweight shoe. They are good for speedy short runs and have the power to go long distances. These shoes are best for runners with an efficient gait who are used to wearing minimal shoes.
Merrell’s All Out line is known for its trail running shoes. Its latest release, the Flash, is a lightweight shoe specifically designed for road running. The shoe weighs a mere 6.3 ounces, with a minimalist design providing superior agility and ground feel. The UniFly responsive cushioning results in soft landings and stabile takeoffs with an extremely flexible feel while still allowing you to feel the ground, and it returns energy to your feet and legs as you run. The M Select GRIP outsole gives the shoe durable traction with superior grip.
Unlike the latest Road Glove, which has a zero drop, the All Out Flash has a 6 mm heel toe drop for a bit more speed without sacrificing the natural feel. The mesh and TPU upper provides lightness and breathability with the added toe cap protection. The upper is snug fitting and the heel lock ensures a secure fit.
The shoes have built in odor control in both the upper and the lining, and they are washable so they will always smell like new. This shoe is best for neutral runners with a medium arch who are used to minimalist shoes but want a bit more cushioning. They are built for speed, so are an ideal road racing shoe that is also good for running on packed dirt trails. The added cushioning adds protection on longer runs as well.
The Wave Paradox is a new stability shoe from Mizuno that is receiving rave reviews. The “paradox” is that this is a lightweight shoe with a hidden stability shoe inside. It offers maximum support in a lightweight shoe. For a stability shoe, this is extremely light at only 10.6 ounces. The Smoothride midsole with Double Fan Wave Technology allows for a stable ride from landing to toe-off. The U4ic (“euphoric”) midsole provides light-weight yet flexible cushioning. And the Dynamotion Fit upper snugly hugs your foot.
This shoe gives you a responsive ride that provides support for pronation. This shoe is good for the moderate overpronator with narrow feet who is looking for a light-weight racing shoe that also provides support. It’s also a fun looking shoe, with a high-tech 3D print.
There are a few other notable updates to popular shoes that we don’t have room for in this review.
- Saucony Guide 7 ($120): A great stability shoe for heavier runners looking for support.
- Nike LunarEclipse 4 ($135): For stability and cushioning for bigger runners and long distances.
- Asics GEL-Kayano 20 ($139): A great update to the popular stability shoe.
- Brooks Cascadia 9 ($120): An update to the trail running shoe with a lowered heel for improved balance and a rock shield for enhanced foot protection.