Whether you're tackling a road marathon or you’ve just discovered your local 5k Park Run, the most important piece of kit you need is a decent pair of running shoes. Right after a vest and a tiny pair of shorts of course.
Finding the best running shoes for you can be the difference between slogging out heavy miles and feeling free and easy on your feet.
But with so many brands and styles to choose from, finding the perfect pair for your running style can be a challenge. Luckily, T3.com’s resident runners are here to help you sort your zero-drop minimalists from your much bouncier Boosts.
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How to buy the right running shoes
Here are three tips from T3's resident ultra-runner to help you whittle down your options:
1. Get your gait tested
Drop into a shop like Sweatshop, Runner's Needs or Vivobarefoot stores and you can get a full gait analysis test done. This will help you identify the type of running shoes and support that's best for your running style. You'll also get some handy hints on how to improve your technique along the way.
The difficulty in recommending running shoes is that, while some are better than others, the 'best' shoe for you also has to suit how you run. In particular, if your gait shows an excess of pronation or supination (inward and outward rolling of the foot as it strikes and pushes off from the ground), you will need a shoe or insole that addresses this.
2. Think about your terrain
Where you plan to run is important. Road, trail, or a mixture of both. In general, trail running requires more support and road requires more impact protection, but again this can also be affected by how you run, and what you find comfortable.
3. Racing versus training
In a lot of cases you might want to choose a training shoe for longer mileage and a race shoe that's lighter but better used for shorter periods of time, like a four-hour race. Either way, it's important that you've worn your shoes in before you hit race day, or put in the longer runs.
Now that you know your style, it's time to choose. Every pair of shoes on our list has been worn, tested and put through its paces. Leaf through the list of the latest tech-filled trainers for your perfect running shoes.
Unfortunately we can't provide the motivation to hit those wintery pavements, but a good shoe is a step in the right direction.
How we selected the best running shoes
Every pair of shoes on our list has been worn, tested and put through its paces.
As noted, recommending a running shoe is not like picking out a running watch or toaster, because running depends on the physiology of the wearer. In extreme cases, a shoe that's perfect for us might lead to you getting shin splints.
With that in mind, although we've picked out our favourite shoe for road running – New Balance Vazee Pace v2 – we're also recommending shoes specifically for light weight – Nike's barely-there LunarEpic FlyKnit 2 – cushioning – Saucony Freedom ISO – and running across both tarmac and off-road – Inov-8 Roclite 290.
The remainder of the shoes on our list are all top quality performers, and we've indicated what we feel each is best for. And now, it's time for our marathon list of the best running shoes. And then perhaps a nice lie-down.
1. New Balance Vazee Pace v2
Best for road running. A real runner's running shoe and our top pick
If you want to go fast and keep that up for a long time then these are the shoes for you.
The Vazee Pace is an ideal marathon shoe with plenty of road-running support geared to midfoot striking, great responsiveness and the ability to just keep giving over long distances.
This is also a light shoe, which will be appreciated as the miles clock up. As such some might call the foam a little thin but if your technique is correct it won’t be an issue. This trainer, in effect, encourages you to run right… And rewards you for doing so.
2. On Cloudflash
Best for speed
Built for speed but comfortable over distance too, the brand new Cloudflash combines the flat design of a traditional racing shoe with the added benefit of the Swiss company’s unique CloudTec cushion in the sole
Also along for the ride: a unique Speedboard torsion bar for added propulsion and some seriously minimal uppers.
There are 14 of On’s patented ‘Clouds,’ 8 of which are coated in rubber for added traction. At just 220g, it’s the firm’s lightest runner, a stat boosted by an upper construction that’s so thin, it’s translucent.
Ideal for speed sessions on the track but with a fit snug enough to wear for a half or full marathon, these are perfect for runners with personal bests in mind.
3. Inov-8 Roclite 290
Best for tarmac to trail
A decade in the making, the Roclite 290, named for its 290g weight, is the lightest in the range and promises support and comfort over multiple terrains.
If you’re the kind of runner who likes to mix up their terrain, then this is nearly perfect, although it's not fully waterproof. Well, it is summer.
It is, however, designed to withstand wet mountain rock, but is equally at home on tarmac or muddy grass.
Shaving off weight means this model has one eye on speed, but there are heavier models in the range, like the Roclite 305, that deliver more support and protection.
4. Saucony Freedom ISO
Best for resisting wear and tear
Freedom ISO aren't any too pretty to look at but when a brand like Saucony dubs a release its “most technologically advanced shoe” ever, we listen.
Built for racing, the Freedom ISO weighs just 255g and 'literally' hugs your foot thanks to the ISO-Fit technology.
A Crystal Rubber outsole gives increased durability as well as traction, while the EVERUN midsole also promises to return 83% of the energy absorbed and last three times longer than standard EVA (the stuff most running shoe soles are made of).
Talk about an extra spring in your step…
5. ASICS DynaFlyte
Best for neutral pronation
Ideal for neutral pronation, on fast-paced runners looking to go any distance, this is Asics’ most cushioned shoe and also its lightest overall.
That's down to the full-length FlyteFoam in the midsole, which is 55% lighter than industry standard EVA foam.
The fruit of over 300 prototypes, FlyteFoam promises continuous cushioning with foam that bounces back to its original shape after each run.
The tech bonanza doesn’t end there, as the DynaFlyte also has an Impact Guidance System that matches your foot’s natural movements.
6. Adidas PureBOOST
Best for urban running
Everyone’s running track is different, and if yours involves buzzing around a busy cityscape after work then Pure BOOST could be the shoe for you.
When you need maximum agility to navigate fellow commuters and sharp corners, Pure BOOST offers a wider forefront and a circular knit that adapts to your movements.
Elsewhere, a leather accent at the heel and a ruggedized BOOST cushion help you to survive the landscape’s rougher elements.
7. Brooks Ghost 9
Best for a well cushioned run
These Brooks are by absolutely no means stylish, but when it comes to comfortable running, the Ghost 9's smart cushioning is in a league of its own.
These trainers offer 30 percent more cushion than typical thanks to the BioMoGo midsole which Brooks claims 'adapts to your stride'.
The upper mesh provides support but stretches for comfort while the sole features a segmented crash pad and flexed grooves for a smoother run.
8. Nike LunarEpic FlyKnit 2
Best for ultra lightweight comfort
Built for lightweight comfort and cushioning over any distance, the boot-fit LunarEpic FlyKnit 2 offers the same raised silhouette as the 2016 design, only this time Nike has completely integrated the tongue into a single piece of fabric, giving these an even more glove-like fit.
That distinctive, pressure-mapped outsole and laser-siped Lunarlon midsole that we saw on the first generation LunarEpic remains and is complemented by the ultra-lightweight Flyknit technology and Flywire support.
This offers an additional layer of security through the midfoot, without weighing you down.
9. Altra Escalante
Best for encouraging a natural foot position
The Altra Escalante is made for runners who favour a natural ride. For a start they’re zero drop, putting your heel and forefoot the same distance from the ground, designed to encourage a lower impact running form.
A spacious, engineered knit upper and a ‘footshape’ toe box also gives your pinkies room to behave more naturally, another big factor in encouraging good from from the ground up.
To complete the free-running feels, there’s also a brand new Altra Ego midsole been created using a new compound that combines soft comfort with a fast, springy reaction in a lightweight package.
10. Adidas Pure Boost ZG Heat Shoes
Best for those who feel the cold
If you’re lacing up to run in the winter and you're someone who really doesn't like the cold, you’ll need every advantage tech can offer.
Enter Adidas Climaheat. Used in these Pure Boost ZG Heat shoes, it insulates the feet using hollow-core fibre not unlike a polar bear's fur, so you avoid numb toes.
The unusually high, Heat Seal adaptive collar also helps to keep the cold out and heat in, while Adidas' usual Boost sole offers energy return and the ATR provides 'grip like a tyre'.