The Best Running Shoes for Men Review
What is the best running shoe for road running? We selected ten top ranked men's road running footwear on the market and subjected them to head-to-head evaluation. Following in the footsteps of Olympic medalists through the high altitude roads in Mammoth Lakes, California, to the scenic river paths in Bend, Oregon, these kicks have seen it all. From perfect conditions to wintry wet ones, each pair was put through rigorous testing. In this review we analyze each model on six fundamental levels to rate each version for what it has to offer: weight, responsiveness, durability, landing comfort, upper comfort, and breathability. 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 metrics as well as the best in each class.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Running Shoe
Brooks Ghost 8
Best Bang for the Buck
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15
Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat
Saucony Kinvara 6
Top Pick for Stability
Asics Gel-Kayano 21
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Analysis and Test Results
The variety of running footwear on the market can be quite intimidating when trying to decide which pair will be perfect for you. The ideal road shoe can come in many different forms. Though it's decidedly impossible to say that one running pair is perfect for everyone, we strongly believe our award winning road shoes are steps above the rest in a multitude of ways. Many runners' final decision on a pair will depend on what the runner's needs and preferences are. We find the top road kicks to have a nice balance of comfort, responsiveness, and durability. Choosing a model for the sake of lightness is great if you're looking for the fastest footwear, though also might not always the best idea. A light model is not decisively better since some runners need footgear with greater stability, which tend to be heavier and have a more dense midsole 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.
This review focuses solely on sneakers designed for running on pavement. If you want to run off-road, take a look at our Best Trail Running Shoe For Men Review.
Types of Road Running Shoes
This is a brief run-down of the different types of road footwear. Some of these descriptors can overlap and more than one can apply to one shoe. For instance, a pair can be neutral and maximalist at the same time. Check out our Buying Advice article for a much more detailed explanation of these different styles.
As the name implies, minimalist shoes are a much lighter and less supportive style than traditional road footgear. This also means they tend to be less responsive and lack the cushioning that traditional road models provide. Many runners are attracted to the idea of using a minimalist shoe to obtain a more natural gait cycle, where your heel does not strike the ground first. Most minimalist kicks offer a 0 mm to 4 mm heel to toe discrepancy, which results in a more natural and efficient foot strike. This review includes more traditional models, but if you prefer minimalism, refer to our Barefoot Shoe Review.
Standard or Traditional
The average road shoe has approximately a 10mm heel to toe discrepancy. This is the style you are most likely to think of when you imagine running footwear, and is also the most commonly used style of shoe.
Maximalist models, in a pendulum swing response to minimal shoes, emphasize a large amount of cushioning. These shoes often have relatively low heel-toe drop, but very high stack heights. This style of running footwear is popular with people who want to try and reduce the jarring impact that running can inflict on the body.
Neutral shoes are for those who have an average pronation in their stride, medium to high arches, and are looking for a cushioned and flexible ride. The vast majority of runners both train and race in neutral pairs. Neutral road sneakers generally weigh between 9 and 10 ounces. The neutral models in our test group are the Brooks Ghost 8, Mizuno Wave Rider 18, Mizuno Wave Prophesy 3, Altra Torin, Sketchers Go Run Ultra 2, and Saucony Kinvara 6.
Our Editors' Choice winner, the Brooks Ghost 8 is a traditionally cushioned neutral shoe. This is a widely appealing and well-balanced model that will suit many runners.
Stability running 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 store or look at the sole of your current running footwear and see if you have uneven wear on the rubber. Stability models are typically heavier and less flexible compared to neutral models because of the extra dense posting used to correct over-pronation. The stability models in our review are the Asics Gel-Kayano 21, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15, and Asics GT 2000 2.
Racing flats fall in a category between neutral and minimalist footgear. 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 often have. The idea of using a racing flat is to have a lightweight, cushioned, and extremely responsive shoe to use for speed workouts and races up to the marathon length or for some, even further. Being the lightest model we tested at 7.8 ounces, the Saucony Kinvara 6 is considered in the racing flat category.
Criteria for Evaluation
Deciding which model has the highest responsiveness is fairly simple to grade. We posed the question, "which kicks give us the most propulsive feedback through the landing to toe-off phase in our gait cycle?" A more responsive design will often have a more stiff and minimally cushioned outsole which facilitates a propulsive "pop" feeling. The most responsive models on the market are racing flats with an integrated stiff midsole system.
For the most part we prefer running in road footwear with higher responsiveness. But the stiff soles of responsive models like the Mizuno Wave Rider 18 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 model, and we believe can potentially create weaknesses in those areas if used for too long. How long we can't say, and it really depends on the individual. If you're looking to improve your lower leg and foot strength, then a model with less responsiveness will likely be more ideal for you.
We rate the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3 as the most responsive in the group. The responsive feedback from landing to push-off in the Wave Prophecy 3 as well as the Mizuno Wave Rider 18 is far beyond what we feel from any of the other road running shoes we tested. From our first stride to the last, the Wave Prophecy 3 provided us with a propulsive assistance. This propulsive feel has to do with the rigid Wave Plate technology Mizuno uses for the midsole. 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 heavy weight. It's the second heaviest model we tested and has quite a hefty build and stiff plastic sole unit. Though, we do feel like it runs much lighter than its 12.9 ounces, given its incomparably high responsiveness.
To the majority of runners testing out new shoes, landing comfort is the most important factor. 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.
When we finished our first run using the Brooks Ghost 8 we knew it would be hard for another model to top its landing comfort. The Brooks Ghost 8 decidedly comes away with our Editors' Choice award and earns the highest rating in landing comfort as well. In fact, we feel the Brooks Ghost 8 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 8, Brooks uses their innovative Caterpillar Crash Pad system. This unique outsole, now without the midfoot shank found in the previous versions of the Brooks Ghost, allows you to have full outsole ground contact that produces an extremely smooth ride. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15 also integrates a similar Caterpillar Crash Pad.
The first thing we notice when trying on a new pair of road running shoes, is the fit and comfort of the upper. There are an array of components that together create a perfectly comfortable upper. When deciding on a score for this metric, we take into consideration if the overall fit is snug or roomy, toe box fit, seam and stitch design, lace eyelets, and heel counter rigidity and fit.
The Asics Gel-Kayano 21 grabs 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 Gel-Kayano 21 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. The Mizuno Wave Rider 18 comes in a close second with a wonderfully fitting upper. The heel on the Wave Rider 18 is a bit stiff for our liking but hugs the foot nicely and adds to the propulsive ride.
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 sneaker with higher breathability comes with a more minimally designed upper and thin, light 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 that provide this waterproof Gore-Tex are not as breathable as ones without, but they will keep your feet much drier during very wet runs. Because of their lack of breathability, We don't recommend Gore-Tex footwear unless you'll be running through creeks or heavy storms.
We give the highest breathability rating to the Saucony Kinvara 6. Our feet return from runs much drier in the Kinvara 6 when compared to all the other road shoes we tested, and they dry noticeably faster when wet. This speedy drying has to do with the fully seamless and lightweight minimal upper. Given this extremely minimal upper, the Saucony Kinvara 6 does a poor job at keeping moisture out and is not a great choice for intense winter conditions. Though, we believe the Kinvara 6 is the best option to keep your feet dry in most typical conditions. The least breathable models are the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 and the New Balance 990 with an air-trapping pigskin covered upper.
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 often a relation between lighter designs and less durability since many models will sacrifice durability for weight.
The Saucony Kinvara 6 takes the cake for the lightest model in our review by about 1.5 ounces. At just 7.8 ounces per pair in a men's size 9, the Kinvara 6 is in a weight class of its own. This shoe falls on a fine line between road trainer and racing flat. We feel that the Saucony Kinvara 6 is a versatile sneaker that can be used as either type of shoe interchangeably. It offers plenty of cushioning and protection to use as a daily trainer, while also being lightweight and responsive enough to break out for workouts and road races all the way up to the marathon distance. We also really love how grippy the Saucony Kinvara 6 outsole feels to us on the road. We feel this is due to the segmented, triangular lugs on the outsole.
When you fork out over $100 bones on a new pair of road footgear, you want to make sure they last for a certain number of miles. We use a few different factors when rating the durability of the models in our test group. 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 pair, we were able to get a good idea of the life of each model. We also researched hundreds of user reviews looking for personal feedback regarding the durability and last of the shoes. When rating the durability, we also take into account the design, outsole rubber density, mesh upper thickness, and upper design.
We give the highest durability rating to the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3. Every test model besides the Wave Prophecy 3 and Mizuno Wave Rider 18 uses some type of foam cushioning system. Mizuno uses their Wave Plate Technology on the Wave Prophecy 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. The upper is also extremely well designed and proves to be very durable.
We have logged over 50 miles in each of our test models, which has given us a solid base for evaluating running shoes. Additionally, for each of our award winners we have analyzed the most current version as well as two previous versions of each of these shoes, which has kept us up-to-date on the changes and advancements made with each iteration. We know how each pair feels compared to the previous model as well as compared to many other models of footwear on the market. After this extensive comparison, we have found some favorites, but this is still fairly subjective. Keep in mind that everyone's feet are different, so if our favorite doesn't fit your foot, you many want to explore some of the other models that we tested to find the proper model for your feet and running style. All-in-all, each model that we tested is worthy and we are sure there is something for everyone in our test field.
Make sure and find the appropriate fit and style of running shoe for your feet and running style. This will enhance your performance and reduce the chance of injury.
Still having trouble deciding? Read our buying advice article.
— Jimmy Elam
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