Best running shoes 2019: rule the road with road running trainers for men and women of all abilities

Go from couch to 5K to 10K to marathons and beyond with the best running shoes

Best running shoes
(Image credit: Adidas)

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 pair of the best running shoes for your gait. Finding running trainers that best suit your feet and goals can be the difference between heavily pounding the pavement, and feeling free and easy while you float over the miles. We're working through this season's shoes – with reviews going up already – to find the best shoes for every type of middle to long distance runner. Sprinters: you're on your own.

Please note: these shoes are not to be confused with the best workout shoes – the requirements are different for those. Nor are they the Best trail running shoes – but it's okay, we have a top 10 for that too.

Although running is a sport you can practice all your-round (especially if you prefer to run on treadmills), spring and summer is probably peak season for all running enthusiasts. Most of the big running events are also centred around these dates and quite frankly, it is much better to run when the warm air is gently brushing against your cheeks than it is in the dark, gloomy autumn mornings and bleak winter afternoons.

Summer is also the time when big brands announces their newest models too, just like Nike, who has just recently announced their next generation Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2, the shoe currently occupying the top spot on our best running shoes list. 

What are the best running shoes?

Runners' needs vary so wildly, but if we had to choose one shoe that’ll deliver for most runners, it's the Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2. It features incredible energy return thanks to Nike's practically magical ZoomX foam, and though it's a road shoe, it can be worn on other surfaces too. 

If you’re looking for a good blend of protection and stability, look no further than the Asics Gel-Nimbus 21. They’re designed for long-distance runners who like going the distance and they're ideal for long Sunday runs.

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

The best running shoes for you will depend on your running style and personal preferences, but we'll help you pick the perfect pair in this guide. Every model has been worn, tested and put through its paces – and each is labelled with what it's 'best for', from overall excellence to maximum support to the best minimalist shoe, to help you choose the best running shoes for you.

Best running shoes – quick retailer links:

The best running shoes, in order

Image 1 of 7

(Image credit: Nike)
Image 2 of 7

(Image credit: Nike)
Image 3 of 7

(Image credit: Nike)
Image 4 of 7

(Image credit: Nike)
Image 5 of 7

(Image credit: Nike)
Image 6 of 7

(Image credit: Nike)
Image 7 of 7

(Image credit: Nike)

1. Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2

The best everyday running shoes just got even better

Specifications
Weight: 220 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Daily runs, tempo runs, intervals, long runs
Reasons to buy
+Updated upper mesh+Lightweight+Great energy return
Reasons to avoid
- Foam can feel slightly soft at times

Nike managed to enhance the already amazing Zoom Pegasus Turbo with the Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2. The upper mesh-fabric has been updated so it’s even lighter now whilst retaining and improving on the stability of the shoe. The foam base has also been updated without compromising on the metrics of this great all-rounder.

What makes the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 the best on our running shoe list is it’s versatility and looks. It’s comfortable enough for longer runs but it also provides great traction on concrete and other hard surfaces for all you urban runners.

As for looks, the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 still has the trademark protruding-heel design which it takes from its big brother the ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. The latter has a bulkier look to it whereas the Turbo 2 operates with gentler lines and softer curves.

The ZoomX midsole delivers an unmatched energy return while the specially-shaped heel helps you land softer and rocks you forward. Using the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 will make you feel unstoppable both on the road and in the gym too.

 

Image 1 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 2 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 3 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 4 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 5 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 6 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 7 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 8 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 9 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 10 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 11 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)
Image 12 of 12

(Image credit: Asics)

2. ASICS Gel-Nimbus 21

Amazing support for all the long-distance neutral runners

Specifications
Weight: 309 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Daily runs, long runs
Reasons to buy
+Supreme cushioning+Good traction
Reasons to avoid
-All the extra cushioning makes the shoe a bit heavier and warmer

Asics’ Gel system has always been synonymous with supreme cushioning and the Asics Gel-Nimbus 21 is no different. We haven’t got enough space here to list all the technology that went into these shoes, but it’s safe to say that it’s similar to a description of a modern commercial airjet.

The trademarked I.G.S. technology – coupled with the Guidance Line system – provides outstanding gait support while the Trusstic system adds to the already great stability.

Understandably, all the extra cushioning adds a bit to the weight of the shoes, something to be expected. The Gel-Nimbus 21 was designed for comfortable, long-distance runs and not explosive sprints. There are better shoes for that purpose.

The Gel-Nimbus 21 looks pretty much like a professional  running shoe, just like the Brooks and Saucony models below. It definitely isn't a bad thing, but if you are after more swag, try the Adidas UltraBoost 19 or the On Cloud X.

Given all the extra padding, the Gel-Nimbus 21 can feel a bit warmer when the weather is hot. The shoes have great breathability but even that won’t counterbalance all the thick cushioning.

Nevertheless, a great shoe for any serious runner out there.

Image 1 of 7

Image 2 of 7

Image 3 of 7

Image 4 of 7

Image 5 of 7

Image 6 of 7

Image 7 of 7

3. Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit

The best ultra-minimalist running shoe for serious runners

Specifications
Weight: 217 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Marathon running
Reasons to buy
+Elite performance+You'll be 4% more efficient
Reasons to avoid
-Elite price

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% shook the marathon world, combining four outstanding, speed-enhancing features to help elite runners break world records, and mortals with a decent bank balance smash their own personal records. Now, a year later, the updated, unisex Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit brings Nike’s signature knit to the shoe to create a lighter upper with better breathability. 

Designed for the road or track, the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit running shoes boast 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 this together into a running shoe that weighs just 195g and, according to Nike, you get an average of 4% improvement in running economy – that means you’re 4% more efficient as opposed to 4% faster – compared to their previous fastest racing flat. Sadly, they are also more than 4% more expensive than most other running shoes. But with plenty of cushioning for long distances, and just the right amount of stiffness to propel you forward, the super lightweight Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit running shoes are the best you can buy if you’re putting in long hours training for a big race.  

Best running shoes: Adidas UltraBOOST 19


4. Adidas UltraBOOST 19

The updated UltraBoost is bouncier and more comfortable than ever

Specifications
Weight: 309 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Daily runs, long runs
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable and secure fit +All the bouncy Boost foam you could wish for
Reasons to avoid
-Overly chunky for fast training and short races

The most substantial revamp of the wildly popular UltraBOOST since its launch back in 2015, the UltraBOOST 19 features several updates designed to make it feel more comfortable and responsive on the foot.

That starts with Adidas adding 20% more Boost into the midsole, which makes the shoe firmer and bouncier when running, with the torsion system built into the sole also adding some snap to the heel-to-toe transition of the shoe.

It’s still a shoe focused on comfort over speed, however, and the Primeknit 360 upper is a full sock that sits on top of the midsole to completely wrap the foot. The snug mesh around the midsection prevents your foot from sliding around in the knitted upper and replaces the plastic cage on previous UltraBOOSTs, which could be uncomfortably tight – so much so that some runners took to cutting it off. 

Image 1 of 6

(Image credit: Hoka One One)
Image 2 of 6

(Image credit: Hoka One One)
Image 3 of 6

(Image credit: Hoka One One)
Image 4 of 6

(Image credit: Hoka One One)
Image 5 of 6

(Image credit: Hoka One One)
Image 6 of 6

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

5. Hoka One One Carbon X

It's like running on marshmallows

Specifications
Weight: 246 grams
Drop: 5 mm
Best for: Daily runs, tempo runs, intervals, long runs
Reasons to buy
+Carbon fibre plate in sole+Wide forefoot platform+Lightning fast
Reasons to avoid
-A bit on the pricey side

Packed with top-notch Hoka technology, the Hoka One One Carbon X's best selling point is the carbon fibre plate providing a smooth transition through the gait cycle, combined with the signature Hoka cushioning.

The Carbon X is ideal for runners wide a wide feet; the spacious but snug forefoot platform provides support and stability, holding your feet just enough so it doesn't slide around the shoes whilst the upper mesh offers breathability.

And the looks! The thick sole profile drops only 5 mm from heel to toe, but the Carbon X seems agile and ready to go, at all times. The embroidered heel doesn't only gives extra support to the back of your feet but also reminds us of the Nazca lines in Peru. In a good way.

One of the lightest shoe on the list, the Carbon X is indeed a formidable competitor, as Hoka says.

Best running shoes: Saucony Triumph ISO 5

6. Saucony Triumph ISO 5

Cruise through your long runs in this cushioned shoe

Specifications
Weight: 331 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Daily runs, long runs
Reasons to buy
+Excellent energy return+Plush cushioning for extra comfort on your longest runs 
Reasons to avoid
-A little too hefty for all out speed

Saucony’s Triumph ISO line has always managed to provide a supremely comfortable ride without completely sacrificing speed, and the fifth edition of the shoe is the best yet in this regard.

That’s mostly down the Everun midsole and topsole in the shoe. Everun is Saucony’s proprietary foam and it provides a similarly springy ride as Adidas’s Boost. As a result of the double layer of the foam in the Triumph ISO 5, you’ll be consistently surprised at how fast you’re going on your easy and steady runs, because it will feel easier than ever before.

The weight of the shoe does count against it when you really try and push the pace, so it’s not one you’ll see down the track or on the start line of a 5K very often, but the Triumph ISO will certainly serve you well for long races and training runs.

Image 1 of 7

(Image credit: New Balance)
Image 2 of 7

(Image credit: New Balance)
Image 3 of 7

(Image credit: New Balance)
Image 4 of 7

(Image credit: New Balance)
Image 5 of 7

(Image credit: New Balance)
Image 6 of 7

(Image credit: New Balance)
Image 7 of 7

(Image credit: New Balance)

7. New Balance Fresh Foam Roav Knit

A cushioned all-rounder for the gym and the road

Specifications
Weight: 295 grams
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Gym, indoor training, light urban runs
Reasons to buy
+Great balance between running shoes and everyday trainers+Nice grip at heels +A great all-rounder
Reasons to avoid
-Not particularly stable on uneven roads or trails-Jack of all trades, master of none

The New Balance Fresh Foam Roav Knit represents a good blend of all things you would expect from a good pair of trainers: you can go for a jog or a lighter run in the city, wear it in the gym or whilst training on your Wattbike Atom at home, you may even put it on when you pop down to the shops.

But because it is okay in a lot of things, it doesn't excel in any. Saying that, thanks to the Fresh Foam technology, these shoes feel comfortable, even on cobbled streets and wonky concrete, let alone on a treadmill. The Ultra heel's fan-like design locks around the top of the heel while leaving enough room at the bottom for a comfortable fit.

The sole is made out of a rubber compound that enhances the durability without compromising on the comfort levels. The knitted top is in-line with the latest technology in running, providing a snug fit without suffocating your feet.

Image 1 of 6

(Image credit: On Running)

Best running shoes: On Cloudswift

Image 2 of 6

(Image credit: On Running)
Image 3 of 6

(Image credit: On Running)
Image 4 of 6

(Image credit: On Running)
Image 5 of 6

(Image credit: On Running)
Image 6 of 6

(Image credit: On Running)

8. On Cloudswift

Swiss-engineered urban runner

Specifications
Weight: 290 grams
Drop: 7 mm
Best for: Daily runs, hard surfaces, intervals, long runs
Reasons to buy
+Firm and fast+Excellent energy return
Reasons to avoid
-Midsole strikers can land hard

On Running's urban running shoe, the Cloudswift, was designed for cobbled streets and hard pavements. The Helium sole provides very good energy return and the soft upper mesh feels comfortable yet snug.

The Cloudswift is recommended for people who don't like overly soft, super-cushioned runs; these shoes can straighten out uneven running surfaces like no other.

Due to the stiffer sole and the soft upper, it can be difficult sometimes to find the perfect hold for runners with high bridges. Tie the elastic laces loosely and it won't feel secure enough; tie it tight and it might be uncomfortable.

They look great, though. The rugged sole and the TPU mechanical side band gives the Cloudswift a very distinctive look, something you can wear with any outfit (probably not with a suit).

Best running shoes: Brooks Glycerin 16

9. Brooks Glycerin 16

The best running shoe for pure comfort

Specifications
Weight: 301 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Daily runs, long runs
Reasons to buy
+So comfortable +Great for heavier runners who want plenty of cushioning
Reasons to avoid
-By no means a speedster

Comfort comes first, second and third with this cushioned shoe from Brooks, and while it won’t win many plaudits from those seeking maximum speed from their footwear, it’s so nice to pull on that you might just forget about PB hunting for a while.

The plush collar on the shoe sets the tone for what’s to come when you slip your foot in, as it wraps the ankle in what feels like a duvet’s worth of padding. The midsole contains Brooks’s DNA Loft cushioning, which provides an ultra-soft feel to every step, and the breathable upper stretches to wrap around the foot.

Heavier runners in particular will appreciate the level of support offered by the Glycerin, and it would also make for a good marathon shoe for runners who’ve found lightweight options like the Boston Boost uncomfortable over long distances. Save this one for easy running days and it won't let you down.

On Cloud X

10. On Cloud X

The perfect trainer for running to the gym

Specifications
Weight: 229 grams
Drop: 6 mm
Best for: Training, long runs
Reasons to buy
+Walks the line between gym workouts and road running+Great design and construction
Reasons to avoid
-Might not be your everyday runner

Becoming an elite runner is as much about the reps you crank out in the gym as the miles you rack up on the track. The On Cloud X is designed to push you through a strength workout, but is a great standalone  good running shoe in its own right. Billed as the lightest fully-cushioned running shoe in the world (229g for size 8.5), it is much firmer under foot than your average cross trainer, so you may not want to rely on it every day.

However, it has the latest CloudTech midsole, accompanied by Zero-Gravity foam, to provide support for those quick changes of direction. The heel is engineered for comfort and support, while the upper is engineered from a highly breathable lightweight mesh. As always with On running shoes, the design and construction is flawless.

Nike Epic React Flyknit

11. Nike Epic React Flyknit

2018's best running shoes are still a great buy

Specifications
Weight: 228 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Everyday runners
Built for: Comfort, stability and durability
Reasons to buy
+Great energy return+Long lasting
Reasons to avoid
-Better on smooth tarmac than uneven paths

This was the first shoe to feature Nike’s new midsole technology, React foam. This Adidas-Boost-bothering foam features a synthetic rubber compound that’s created by Nike’s clever chemical engineers to be light, responsive, durable and cushioned. 

What this means in practice is 20 per cent more mileage (that’s 600 miles instead of 500 if you were wondering) before your shoes need replacing, 13 per cent more energy return than any other Nike shoe and a midsole foam that’s 30 per cent lighter than Boost foam. 

And this is a light shoe. The Nike Epic React Flyknit comes in at 239g, that’s 5 per cent lighter than its predecessor, the Lunar Epic 2. It’s not just about the new rubber formula either, Nike also used computational design to crunch thousands of runner data points and to whittle away foam where it’s not needed and produce a shoe that copes with pressure in the right places without any foamy excess baggage.

The uppers are fashioned from the familiar Flyknit we’ve come to know and love and that means a snug, comfortable fit that feels secure around the instep, but leaving plenty of wiggle room and flex around the toes. There’s also a heel cup for added stability. The Nike Epic React Flyknit is most at home on the road and will cope with everything from a fast 5km to those longer marathon training runs.

Brooks Levitate 2

12. Brooks Levitate 2

Much-improved Levitate is another great Brooks runner

Specifications
Weight: 320 grams
Drop: 8 mm
Reasons to buy
+Much improved FitKnit upper+Excellent energy return
Reasons to avoid
-At 317g, quite heavy for a road runner-No second eyelet for those seeking extra lockdown

Last year we had the Brooks Ghost 9 in this list, but it has been usurped by the Brooks Levitate 2. As the name would suggest, this shoe is all about the energy return. Brooks’ most responsive midsole is equipped with the DNA AMP tech that promises to ‘control, capture and return’ your energy, to ensure you’re bounding along the track or trails.

The company is also adding new Achilles Guard tech to protect that all-important tendon, while the arrow-point pattern on the crystal rubber outsole gives you rapid movement from the heel to the toe. There’s an internal bootie that promises comfort and support, while the FitKnit upper wraps around the heel to guard against irritation.

Do running shoes matter?

Yes. A decent pair of running-specific trainers will cushion your feet and legs from the impact of repeatedly hitting the pavement. They’ll also 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. 

How to buy the right running shoes

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. 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 before buying new running shoes.

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.