The best running shoes 2018: top trainers to get you road fit

Go from couch to 5K to 10K to marathons and beyond with the best running shoes for road running (and a few for off-road)

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It's winter and the roads and pavements might not look any too inviting. But it's also a New Year. Time to lace up your running shoes (unless you're using Adidas' cutting edge Ultraboost Laceless, of course)

 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.

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,’s resident runners are here to help you sort your zero-drop minimalists from your bouncy Boosts.

What are the best running shoes?

This is an impossible question to answer because runners' needs vary so wildly. However, for me personally, the ON Cloudrush offers the best blend of comfort, innovation, performance and style. 

It's sure to find favour with very experienced runners but the Cloudrush is not an esoteric shoe; it's suited to a broad cross-section of running styles. 

Those wanting to go in completely the opposite direction might want to try the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. Possibly the most advanced running shoe ever, this is designed specifically to help elite athletes crack the first sub-two-hour marathon… but who knows? It could also knock big seconds off your next park run.

The 4% is released in small batches to the public and, aptly enough, they run out of the shops at record speed.

How to buy the right running shoes

I run most days and have done everything from 5K to ultra-marathons and ironman trails. As T3's resident running expert, I've whittled down your options as far as is humanly possible.

A decent pair of running-specific trainers will cushion your feet and legs from the impact of repeatedly hitting the pavement; they’ll be flexible in all the right places and they’ll help protect against common injuries. But choosing the right shoe isn’t as easy as just picking the one you like the look of. 

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. We all run different mileage, land differently, weigh different amounts, and have different shaped feet, and our shoes should reflect that. 

If you’re a heavier runner you may find a supportive, cushioned shoe will help absorb some of the impact as you run, while lighter runners might prefer a more minimal shoe. Likewise, for longer runs you may want bounce and cushioning for a comfortable ride, while on race day or shorter runs you opt for something lighter, faster and more minimal.

Gait can also be a big factor, 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), as you may need a shoe or insole that addresses this.

While all these variables may sound complicated, particularly if you’re new to the sport, keep the following five golden rules in mind.

1. Get your gait tested

Drop into a shop like Sweatshop, Runner's Need or Vivobarefoot's stores and you can get a full gait analysis test done. This often means running on a treadmill or along the street so staff can help you identify the type of running shoes and support that's best for your running style. 

Most of the staff will be runners themselves, so you’ll also get some handy hints on how to improve your technique.

2. Try before you buy

You may be able to find bargains online but it’s always best to try shoes on before you commit. Sizes can vary significantly from brand to brand, and it’s often worth going a half or full size up to allow for feet swelling as they become hot. 

Even a brisk walk around the store, or in a carpeted area if you’re trying on at home, can give you a good idea of comfort and help highlight any niggling spots – that slightly slipping heel may feel minor now but think what it’s going to feel like after an hour or so on the run.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Focus on that first-try feel

When it comes to the crunch, knowing you’ve found the right shoes for you comes down to how you feel when you put them on. A good sign that you’re making the right choice is a pair of shoes that almost melt into the background from the moment you slip them on, to the point that you don’t really notice you’re wearing them. 

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. I've placed these shoes in my, personal order of preference but more importantly, each is labelled with what it's 'best for', from overall excellence to maximum support to the best minimalist shoe. 

The best running shoes for all types of runner

1. ON Cloudrush

The best running shoe

Best for: Advanced runners
Built for: Speed with support
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight and speedy…+But without sacrificing comfort
Reasons to avoid
-At the pricier end of the scale

We wanted our new No.1 shoe to have a combination of comfort, innovation, performance and style and we trained our sights on a shoe that’d suit a nice, broad section of runners. The kind of shoe a regular runner, who hits a good weekly mileage and keeps one eye on performance, would enjoy. 

So here it is, your gold medal winning running footwear… the ON Cloudrush.

The Cloudrush is a fast, lightweight, versatile shoe that’s as comfortable over 5km and 10km as it is a marathon.

The reincarnation of the ON Cloudracer, which was one of the first shoes launched by the still-young Swiss shoemakers, the Cloudrush has specs that say speed. It weighs in at a ridiculously floaty 220g and has a 5mm heel-to-toe drop and definitely encourages or favours forefoot striking.

However, even though these are built for speed, the Cloudrush are ideal for runners who regularly chase personal bests but don’t want to go the whole hog and lace up the most minimal race shoes on the shelves. There’s a bit more to them than that. 

They feature ON’s instantly recognisable CloudTec sole with 18 responsive, low-friction rubber elements – these are the 'clouds' – that make for a fast but cushioned ride. Beneath those clouds there’s an extremely slim EVA midsole and a flexible Speedboard that provides added propulsion from every step. This Speedboard plate acts much like a taut bow, storing up the energy as your foot lands on the floor and then firing you forward as you lift off and that tension releases.

Let’s face it: speed doesn’t happen without comfort and that’s where the Cloudrush also excels. When it comes to the fit of the uppers, it’s hard to quibble with ON, and with the Cloudrush’s built-in inner sock liner you can leave your socks at home… If you’re willing to put up with the inevitable odour issues that come with sweating directly into your shoe, at any rate. 

When you get tired your running form can suffer and that can mean landing more on your heels. To mitigate ON has also added more cushioning to that area, making for a more comfortable run over longer distances.

The final tick in the box is that while the Cloudrush only currently come in one colourway – white and black and silver – they also have reflective details that’ll make sure you’re seen and safe on those dark winter nights ahead.

2. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34

Best running shoes for beginners

Best for: A broad range of road runners
Built for: Comfort and stability
Reasons to buy
+Reliable road warriors+Good cushioning and support
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

Forget bells, whistles and flashing lights, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus is a reliable workhorse of a shoe (albeit a very attractive workhorse) with a legion of loyal followers. Even Sir Mo Farah uses it in training. 

Often recommended to beginners owing to it’s comfortable foam cushioning and the stability provided by the firm heel cup and cables which wrap the arch, it’s a shoe that once they’ve popped, many runners can’t stop going back to.

While the responsive cushioning makes it comfortable for those whose feet are just adapting to running, it’s also great for more experienced runners as the strategic placing of Nike Zoom Air units helps propel you forwards, which is a boon on longer training runs. Despite the support and cushioning, the shoe is also light, weighing in at a very respectable 285g.

While the Pegasus has evolved slowly over the years – after all if it ain’t broke, don't fix it – there are improvements most seasons. The 34, for example, uses a lighter Flymesh upper to allow your feet to breathe and reduce overheating.

That said, if you like the shoe and don't need Flymesh, you can find previous season’s colour ways online for a bargain price, with minimal differences in technology.

3. Adidas UltraBOOST Laceless

Best running shoes for style and tech

Best for: Cutting-edge pavement pounders
Built for: Energy return and comfort
Reasons to buy
+Great comfort and bounce+Great street style
Reasons to avoid
-No laces takes a bit of getting used to

Adidas is capable of turning out running shoes that look as good in your latest grime video as they do putting in the training miles. This laceless shoe is no triumph of style over substance, though: it's a killer blend of looks and performance. 

In the four years since Adidas unveiled BOOST technology – a responsive, energy-returning midsole, which provides cushioning, bounce and durability – UltraBOOSTs, renowned for their comfort and good looks, have become as much of a classic on the run as Stan Smiths are on the street.

The latest incarnation, the UltraBOOST Laceless – designed for neutral runners – uses the same midsole technology as its predecessors, yet it’s done away with ties to allow feet to feel free and unconstrained when running. 

Made from breathable Primeknit yarn, the upper has been designed using motion-tracking technology to fit snugly to the feet where needed and provide room for movement in other areas. The collar, sock-like fit and forged band around the midfoot provide support and stop feet from sliding around in the shoe, while expansion zones in the forefoot mean your toes have room to spread and grip as you move. 

If you’re prone to blisters, you may find the seamfree upper provides less opportunity for rubbing, although as with a lot of Adidas runners, you'll probably want a whole size bigger than the equivalent Nike or Asics. 

The only problem with these is if you like an excuse to stop now and then; never needing to re-tie your laces again could be a mixed blessing.

4. ASICS Gel Kayano 24

Best running shoes for longer distances

Best for: Pronators and ultra runners
Built for: Support over long distances
Reasons to buy
+Epic stability and support+Quite attractive for this type of shoe
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

If you like your shoe with added support, look no further that the ASICS Gel Kayano. Particularly good for overpronators – those whose feet roll inwards as they run – the Kayano is designed to keep your feet comfortable and secure on long runs, even as you tire and your form wilts.

Around for 20 years, this is now the 24th generation of ASICS’ popular stability shoe and the technology has moved with the times. Memory foam heel lining provides a more personalised fit around while heel-holding technology has been improved to reduce rub and slippage. Structured panels in the upper give extra support to overpronators – or tired feet – on endurance training sessions, and the GEL and FlyteFoam midsole mean added comfort.

While all that support does come with a bit of extra weight the Kayano is definitely on the light side for a stability shoe, weighing just 320g. It’s also taken a step away from its predecessors in terms of looks, with a lower heel height of 10mm adding to a faster, sleeker shape.

5. Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

Best minimalist running shoe

Best for: Elite athletes and urban free runners
Built for: SPEED!
Reasons to buy
+Elite performance
Reasons to avoid
-Elite price

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% is a slightly tweaked version of the Nike Vaporfly Zoom Elite shoes that helped the world’s fastest runners come within 26 seconds of busting through the sub-2-hour marathon barrier for Nike’s Breaking2 Project. It’s as close to a complete reimagining of the running shoe as you’re going to get. 

Both Eliud Kipchoge and Mo Farah will be wearing them during the London Marathon next spring, with world record holder Eliud calling the system "perfect...really perfect."

A study by researchers at the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, assisted by Nike Sport Research Lab, claims: "The prototype [Nike Vaporfly 4%] shoes lowered the energetic cost of running by 4 percent on average. We predict that with these shoes, top athletes could run substantially faster and achieve the first sub-2-hour marathon."

Offering an elite-like shoe that mortals with a decent bank balance can use to smash their own personal records, the Vaporfly 4% System combines four outstanding, speed-enhancing features. The first is the new Nike ZoomX foam, the company’s most responsive EVA foam to date. It’s ultra-lightweight, soft and capable of providing up to 85-percent energy return, all of which makes this a very fast and surprisingly stable shoe to run in.  

Next, tucked away within that magic foam is a full-length curved carbon fibre plate that covers the entire sole. This increases stiffness, creates a sensation of propulsion and puts more acceleration into each push off. For added traction there’s a blown rubber super-thin outsole but this runs just under just the forefoot section rather than the whole shoe to save on weight. Finally the heel also features another thin layer of Zoom foam with added grip to soften impact. 

Put all of these together into a shoe that weighs just 195g and according to Nike you get an average of 4-percent improvement in running economy – that means you’re 4% more efficientas opposed to 4% faster – compared to their previous fastest racing flat. 

Sadly they are also a little more than 4% more expensive than most other running shoes.

6. Inov-8 Parkclaw 275

Best running shoes for tarmac to trail

Best for: Runners who go off road
Built for: Grip and bad weather
Reasons to buy
+Versatile and tough+Great support
Reasons to avoid
-Weather-resistant rather than waterproof

If you’re a weekend warrior – pounding the pavements during the week but getting off-road and muddy of a Saturday and Sunday – you’ll either need to invest in two pairs of shoes or buy one designed to deal with both tarmac and trail. The pick of that bunch is Inov-8's Parkclaw 275.  

Flip these over and on the bottom you’ll see a slightly more substantial, trail-style stud pattern than you find on Inov-8’s road specific shoes. That makes it great for the easier trails, river paths, but the 4mm lugs still feel smooth when you’re running on roads. 

The Powerflow+ midsole tech provides better shock absorption whether you’re on road or trail plus '25% better energy return than standard midsoles'.

An external heel counter adds extra support and stability in the heel as you cruise over the lumps and bumps, so even when your legs are getting tired of all those muddy hills, your gait should stay true. Cramming all that into a shoe that’s still only 275g is a job well done.

7. ON Cloudflash

An older pair of ON speedsters, now a bit cheaper

Reasons to buy
+Traditional racing design with added comfort
Reasons to avoid
-Lemon meringue styling
Today's best On Cloudflash deals

Built for speed but comfortable over distance too, last season's 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.

8. New Balance Vazee Pace v2

A real runner's running shoe and still a great choice

Reasons to buy
+Comfort and speed, mile after mile+Now going pleasingly cheap
Reasons to avoid
-Requires - and rewards - technique
Today's best New Balance Vazee Pace v2 deals

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.

9. Inov-8 Roclite 290

Another sterling road/off-road option

Reasons to buy
+Great in multiple environments+Again, now knocked down in price
Reasons to avoid
-Not fully waterproof
Today's best Inov-8 Roclite 290 deals

A decade in the making, the Roclite 290, named for its 290g weight, was the lightest in the Inov-8 range (the new 275 has surpassed it now) and gives great 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.

10. ASICS DynaFlyte

Best for neutral pronation

Reasons to buy
+Continuous cushioning, soft landing
Reasons to avoid
-Too much sole for some
Today's best ASICS DynaFlyte deals

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.

11. Brooks Ghost 9

Best for a well cushioned run

Reasons to buy
+Superb comfort and support
Reasons to avoid
-Horrible appearance
Today's best Brooks Ghost 9 deals

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.