The Best Running Shoe Review

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The Brooks Ghost 6 has an efficient and comfortable ride, though provides no support for over-pronators.
Credit: Cristina Stavro
We selected seven top ranked road running shoes on the market and took them on a head-to-head ride. Following in the footsteps of Olympic medalists Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi through the high altitude roads in Mammoth Lakes, California, to the scenic river paths in Bend, Oregon, these shoes have seen it all. From perfect conditions to the worst, each was put through our rigorous testing regimen. In this review we analyze each model on seven fundamental levels to appropriately rate each version for what it has to offer: weight, responsiveness, durability, landing comfort, upper comfort, breathability, and stability.

There is only one way to decide which road shoe reigns supreme: put each one through the trial of miles. Below we go into detail on how we decided on a score in each of the seven metrics as well as the best in each class. For more specifics on what matters when buying a shoe for running on roads, reference our Buying Advice article.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Jimmy Elam ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab March 8, 2014

Top Ranked Running Shoes - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 7 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Brooks Ghost 6
Brooks Ghost 6
Read the Review
Saucony Kinvara 4
Saucony Kinvara 4
Read the Review
Asics Gel-Kayano 20
Asics Gel-Kayano 20
Read the Review
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14
Read the Review
Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3
Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award   
Street Price Varies $72 - $140
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $56 - $70
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $120 - $160
Compare at 6 sellers
$120
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $116 - $210
Compare at 5 sellers
Overall Score 
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72
Editors' Rating
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1 rating
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Pros The most balanced shoe we tested, extremely comfortable and efficient rideFeather-light, comfortable up to the marathon, inexpensiveRidiculous out-of-box comfort, no break-in period, silly upper comfort, high stabilityHigh stability for over-pronators, durable, easy on the eyesInsanely responsive, efficient and durable, fun to run in
Cons Low stability, cushioning can feel too soft for someUnsupportive, low durabilityLow responsiveness, durability and breathabilityHeavy, not very responsiveHeavy, stiff, slippery on wet surfaces, expensive
Best Uses Road running, light trail runningRoad running, workouts, racing, transitioning towards minimalismRoad running for over-pronatorsRoad running and light trail running for over-pronatorsRoad running for neutral and possibly moderate over-pronators
Date Reviewed Mar 08, 2014Mar 08, 2014Mar 08, 2014Mar 08, 2014Mar 08, 2014
Weighted Scores Brooks Ghost 6 Saucony Kinvara 4 Asics Gel-Kayano 20 Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3
Weight - 20%
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7
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Responsiveness - 10%
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Durability - 20%
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Landing Comfort - 20%
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Upper Comfort - 10%
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Breathability - 10%
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Stability - 10%
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Product Specs Brooks Ghost 6 Saucony Kinvara 4 Asics Gel-Kayano 20 Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3
Weight (Oz Per Pair for size 8) 10.7 7.7 10.9 11.3 11.9
Sizes Available 7 through 15 7 through 15 6 through 16 7 through 14 7 through 15
Upper Material Mesh Flexfilm, Stitchless, Seam Welded Mesh, Memory foam Mesh Mesh
Midsole Material DNA BioMogo (biodegradable) PowerGrid Gel Cushioning - Solyte DNA and BioMogo (biodegradable) U4ic
Sole Rubber Blown rubber x900 AHAR (Asics High Abrasion Rubber) HPR Plus X10 - carbon rubber
Toe to Heel Drop 10mm 4mm 10mm 10mm 10mm
Style (Traditional,minimalist,etc.) Neutral Neutral/Minimal Stability Stability Neutral

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Brooks Ghost 6
$110
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Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14
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74
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Asics Gel-Kayano 20
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Saucony Kinvara 4
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Asics GT-2000 2
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Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3
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New Balance 990 Heritage
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Selecting the Right Product
The variety of road running shoes on the market can be quite intimidating when trying to decide which pair will be perfect for you. The ideal road running shoe can come in many different forms. It all depends on what the runner’s needs and preferences are. We find the top road shoes to have a nice balance of comfort, responsiveness, and durability. Choosing a model for the sake of lightness is not always the best idea. A light model is not decisively better since some runners need stability shoes, which tend to be heavier than neutral models. To put it simply, the most significant trait we look for in a quality road shoe is reliable and consistent comfort from mile one till done.

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Running on air. The Kinvara 4 weigh in at 7.7 ounces in a mens size 9, making them the perfect racing or workout shoe. Though, they can also be the perfect training pair for those transitioning to minimalism.
Credit: Cristina Stavro

Types of Road Running Shoes
This is a brief run-down of the different types of road shoes. Check out our Buying Advice section for a much more detailed explanation of the different styles.

Neutral
Neutral road shoes are made for those who have an average pronation in their stride, medium to high arches, and are looking for a cushioned and flexible ride. Neutral road shoes are generally between 9 and 10 ounces. The neutral models we tested are the Brooks Ghost 6 and Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3.

Stability
Stability road shoes are designed specifically for those runners who over-pronate. If you’re unaware of this, the best way to find out is to get a gait analysis at the closest specialty running shoe store. Stability shoes are typically heavier and less flexible compared to neutral models because of the extra dense posting used to correct over-pronation. The stability versions in our review are the Asics Gel-Kayano 20, Asics GT-2000 2, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14, and the New Balance 990 Heritage.

Racing Flats
Racing flats fall in a category between neutral and minimalist shoes. A racing flat is a more minimal version of the typical neutral road shoe, though not necessarily considered “minimalist” given the decent amount of cushioning they have. The idea of using a racing flat is to have a light, cushioned, and extremely responsive shoe to use for speed workouts and races up to the marathon length or even further. Being so light, the Saucony Kinvara 4 falls into the racing flat category.

Criteria For Evaluation

Responsiveness
Deciding which model has the highest responsiveness was fairly simple to grade. We posed the question, “which shoe gives us the most propulsive feedback through the landing to toe-off phase in our gait cycle?” A more responsive design will have a stiff and minimally cushioned outsole which facilitates a propulsive “pop” feeling. The most responsive models on the market are racing flats with a stiff midsole system.

For the most part we prefer running in road shoes with higher responsiveness. But the stiff soles of responsive models do a lot of work for your feet, ankles, and lower legs that other highly cushioned models don’t. This type is on the opposite end of the spectrum than a minimalist or barefoot shoe, and can potentially create weaknesses in those areas. If you’re looking to increase lower leg and foot strength, then a model with less responsiveness could be better for you.

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The Prophecy 3 have a very stiff ride. This provides extremely high responsiveness.
Credit: Cristina Stavro

We rated the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3 as the most responsive in the group. The responsive feedback from landing to push-off in the Prophecy 3 is far beyond what we feel from any of the other models we tested. From our first stride to the last, the Prophecy 3 gives a propulsive assistance. This has to do with the rigid Wave Plate technology Mizuno uses for the sole. Even though we get this efficient roll and pop feeling while running in the Prophecy 3, we don’t feel it’s the “fastest” shoe in the group given its weight. It’s the second heaviest model we tested and has quite a hefty built plastic sole unit. Though, we do feel like it runs much lighter than its 12.9 ounces, given its high responsiveness.

Landing Comfort
To the majority of runners, landing comfort is the most important factor when choosing a new road running shoe. To decide which design has the best landing comfort, we take into account comfort while running from the first mile through the last (at least ten miles at a time). Out-of-box comfort is always nice, but it’s not a deciding factor for the best landing comfort. Unsurprisingly, a design with more cushioning typically scores higher in landing comfort. We find that the formula for the best landing comfort is a balanced design that is not too cushy and not too firm. You need balanced cushioning to find consistent comfort.

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We love how the Brooks Ghost 6 allows for full ground contact during the landing phase. This gives us a feeling of more control on the road.
Credit: Cristina Stavro

When we finished our first run with the Brooks Ghost 6 we knew it would be hard for another model to top its landing comfort. The Ghost 6 decidedly came away with our Editors’ Choice award and earns the highest rating in landing comfort as well. In fact, we feel the Ghost 6 is the most reliably comfortable and well balanced road shoe we have ever used. For the midsole cushioning, Brooks uses what they call Anatomical DNA which responds to and conforms to everyone’s feet independently depending on their landing pattern. When the DNA cushioning receives pressure from your foot during landing, it spreads through the midsole in reaction the pressure. As for the outsole of the Ghost 6, Brooks uses their innovative Caterpillar Crash Pad system. This unique outsole, now without the midfoot shank found in the previous versions of the Ghost, allows you to have full outsole ground contact that produces an extremely smooth ride. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 also uses a similar Caterpillar Crash Pad.

Upper Comfort
The first thing we notice when trying on a new road shoe is the fit and comfort of the upper. There are many components that create a comfortable upper. When deciding on a score for this metric, we take into consideration if the overall fit is snug or roomy, toe box room, seam design, lace eyelets, and heel counter rigidity and fit.

The Asics Gel-Kayano 20 grab the spot for a top rating in this category with its plush and luxurious upper. Two layers of memory foam coat the heel counter, which Asics calls their Personalized Heel Fit. We feel the Kayano 20 has a well balanced upper fit that’s not too snug or too roomy, and provides just enough wiggle room in the toe box. The heel support isn’t as stiff as other stability models in the group, and we like that as well.

Stability
Do you need a road shoe that provides stability? If you don’t know the answer, we recommend you take a trip to the local running store and hop on their treadmill for a gait analysis. If you’re an over-pronator, training in a supportive model could benefit you. If you have a neutral gait with average pronation, running in a high stability design is completely unnecessary. We rated stability based on the structure and density of the posting.

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Just as they do in the Ghost 6, Brooks uses Anatomical DNA for the midsole cushioning in the Adrenaline GTS 14.
Credit: Cristina Stavro

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 gives us more stability than all the other models we tested. The posting on the Adrenaline GTS 14 is super dense, stable, and exactly what every over-pronating runner looks for in a stability design. Brooks implements their Progressive Diagonal Rollbar design on the Adrenaline GTS 14 to provide a more efficient landing pattern for over-pronators.

Breathability
Running in a shoe that regulates the temperature of your feet during a run is important not just for comfort, but for the overall health of your feet. Uppers that breathe poorly can trap in moisture which could cause chafing, blisters, foot fungus, and other foot problems. Most models currently on the market have pretty decent breathability. Commonly, a shoe with higher breathability comes with a more minimally designed upper and lighter mesh materials. If your feet regularly sweat during runs, we recommend looking into our picks for higher breathability. If you live in an area that rains often or are constantly running through creeks, you might want to consider a waterproof Gore-Tex version if it’s available. The models providing this waterproofing are not as breathable as ones without, but they will keep your feet much drier during very wet runs.

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The Saucony Kinvara 4 have the lightest and most breathable upper of the group. You can actually see through it!
Credit: Cristina Stavro

We give the highest breathability rating to the Saucony Kinvara 4. Our feet return from runs much drier in the Kinvara 4 than in other models, and they dry significantly faster when wet. This has to do with the fully seamless and lightweight, minimal upper. Given this extremely minimal upper, the Kinvara 4 does a poor job at keeping moisture out and is not a great choice for intense winter conditions. Though, we believe the Kinvara 4 is the best option to keep your feet dry in most typical conditions. The least breathable models are the Asics Gel-Kayano 20 and the pigskin covered New Balance 990.

Weight
No runner wants to feel like they are lugging bricks on the ends of their legs, making shoe weight a very important factor when choosing the best road running shoe. Typically, we feel like a lighter shoe facilitates a natural foot strike, though we do find that some heavier models can still run better overall. Take note though, there is a relation between lighter designs and less durability.

The Saucony Kinvara 4 take the cake for the lightest model in our review by a whole three ounces. At just 7.7 ounces in a mens size 9, this model is in a featherweight class of its own. The Kinvara 4 fall on the fine line between trainer and racing flat. We feel it can be used as either type of shoe interchangeably. We believe the Kinvara 4 offers plenty of cushioning and protection to use as a daily trainer, while also being light and responsive enough to break out for workouts and road races all the way up to the marathon. We also really love how grippy the Kinvara 4 outsole feels on the road.

Durability
When you fork out over $100 bones on a new pair of road shoes, you want to make sure they last for a number of miles. We used a few different factors when rating the durability of the models we tested. Ideally, a few hundred miles should be logged in each pair for an accurate sense of the rate of wear. Taking note of the wear we observed through logging fifty plus miles in each shoe, we were able to get a good idea of the life of each model. We also researched hundreds of user reviews looking for feedback regarding the durability of the shoe. When rating the durability, we also took into account the design, outsole rubber density, and mesh upper thickness.

We’ve given the highest durability rating to the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3. Every test model besides the Prophecy 3 uses some type of foam cushioning system. Mizuno uses their Wave Plate Technology, which produces a stiff, rigid, and durable midsole unit. Due to its rigidity, we feel the “breakdown” of this midsole will occur at a much later stage when compared to the other models we evaluated. On top of having a supremely resilient midsole, our gait cycle feels so efficient in the Prophecy 3 that we believe this adds to the overall durability as well.

Editors’ Choice Winner: Brooks Ghost 6

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Pulling ahead of the field: the author holding the perfectly balanced and well deserved Editors' Choice winner, the Brooks Ghost 6.
Credit: Cristina Stavro

The neutral cushioned Brooks Ghost 6 is a remarkably versatile shoe and receives our Editors’ Choice award for high scores across the board. The deciding factor in our choice is that this model has the most balanced performance overall. We rate the Ghost 6 as having the most comfort of all the designs we tested, and it remains comfortable from the first mile through the last. Comparatively, the Ghost 6 is also light, responsive, durable, and breathable.

Best Buy Award: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14

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Our favorite stability shoe, we feel the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 are easy on the eyes and overall the best looking of the group. Plus they are affordable and durable.
Credit: Cristina Stavro

The Best Buy award goes to the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14. This model proves to be a reliable stability shoe scoring highest in stability, durability, and responsiveness. The Adrenaline GTS 14 also maintains an affordable $120 retail price, which is the cheapest stability version in our group. This model will provide many comfortable miles for each dollar spent.

Top Pick Award for Lightweight Racing Flat: Saucony Kinvara 4

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We feel fast before we even start running in the Saucony Kinvara 4. They are built for speed yet have enough cushion to keep us comfortable for miles on end.
Credit: Cristina Stavro

We give a Top Pick award to the Saucony Kinvara 4 for being lightweight and minimal. Lace up these slight road shoes and discover the speed demon inside you. We feel that runners who want to make a gradual move towards minimalism will find solace in the Kinvara 4. At only 7.7 ounces these shoes are silly light while providing an ideal amount of cushioning. We also believe the Kinvara 4 are resilient enough to provide comfort through daily runs, workouts, and even marathons.

Top Pick Award for Stability Shoe: Asics Gel Kayano 20

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Who says a stability shoe cant be as comfortable as a neutral model? The Kayano 20 has the highest out-of-box comfort out of all the designs we tested.
Credit: Cristina Stavro

Our favorite stability shoe is the Asics Gel-Kayano 20. Take note though, we did not rate the Kayano 19 with the highest stability. Given the newest version’s plush ride, upper comfort, and high stability, we do feel the Kayano 20 is a better stability shoe overall when compared to the others. The out-of-box landing comfort of the Kayano 20 is phenomenal, the upper is plush, and the posting is super solid. Highy recommended.

Jimmy Elam
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