Looking for the best running shoes you can buy in 2019? We spent dozens of hours researching over 100 of the top shoes on the market, purchasing the best 15 to test. We put each shoe through various conditions they'll face on runners' feet, including heat, cold, rain, walking, trotting, pacing, sprinting, weightlifting, moderate trails, sidewalks, rough roads, uphill, downhill, grass fields - you get the picture. In our extensive review, we'll steer you away from the unfounded hype and cruddy shoes, providing in-depth analysis on each pair. Read on to see how we tore these shoes apart and how they performed.
The Best Running Shoes of 2019
|Price||$139.95 at Backcountry|
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|$89.95 at Amazon||$129.95 at Backcountry|
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|$119.95 at Backcountry|
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|$130.00 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Responsive, supportive fit, roomy toebox, flashy, lightweight, springy||Affordable racing flats, more comfortable updated design, light||Speed lacing, responsive, wide toebox, stylish, lightweight||Landing is well cushioned, but feels natural, upper padding feels plush, fair price||Super responsive, comfortable landing, dissipates heat|
|Cons||Outsole picks up rocks and gravel, toebox can be too flexible, tongue can rub||Limited durability, less attractive, less responsive||Laces can be too tight, outsole picks up rocks and gravel, toebox might chafe||Limited responsiveness, loose heel, tight toebox||May wear down quickly, low breathability, bulky|
|Bottom Line||A fast, high performance shoe best suited to mid-distance.||Fast racing flats that will get you across the line in comfort.||A unique shoe worth your time, but watch out for the gravel.||A sweet, no-nonsense racing flat with great cushion and padding.||An excellent shoe for ultra distance, but suits even 5Ks.|
|Rating Categories||On Cloud X||Brooks PureFlow 7||On Cloud||Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35||HOKA ONE ONE Elevon|
|Landing Comfort (25%)|
|Upper Comfort (10%)|
|Specs||On Cloud X||Brooks PureFlow 7||On Cloud||Nike Air Zoom...||HOKA ONE ONE Elevon|
|Weight (oz per pair for size 11)||17.8 oz||20.8 oz||17.3 oz||20.8 oz||23.0 oz|
|Toe to Heel Drop||6 mm||4mm||6 mm||10 mm||5 mm|
|Width Options||Regular||Regular||Regular||Narrow, Regular, Wide, Extra Wide||Regular|
|Style (Traditional, Minimalist, etc.)||Neutral||Neutral||Neutral/Cushion||Neutral||Neutral|
|Sizes Available||7-13||7 - 14||7 - 14||6 - 15||7-15|
|Upper Material||Synthetic||Stretch weave||Mesh with synthetic overlays||Mesh||Mesh|
|Midsole Material||EVA||BioMoGo DNA||CloudTec Zero Gravity foam||CushIon||TPU|
|Sole Rubber||Rubber||Blown carbon||CloudTec/Carbon rubber||Rubber||Rubber|
Best Overall Men's Model
On Cloud X
The On Cloud X handily picked up our Editors' Choice award this year, unseating the exceptional Brooks PureFlow 6 from last year. These are part of On's Performance running shoe lineup, geared toward high intensity running while the Clouds remain in On's Active lineup, geared toward cross training. They offer a high degree of comfort through targeted padding along the collar, heel cup, and tongue while generously lining the upper with a smooth, felt-like sock liner. The upper has the right mix of malleability to naturally fit your foot and upper buttressing and structure to dial it in and stabilize your foot for a sprint. Their uniquely designed CloudTec midsole brings them excellent comfort, responsiveness, and stability. They incorporate a hard plastic speedboard that serves as the backstop for the hollow EVA pods, Cloud Elements, which individually flex, support, and spring to bring you a stable ride with pop.
It's hard to say much against these fly (is that still a word the kids use?) kicks, but there are a few points of concern. The outsole picks up all sorts of interesting stuff from the road - typically rocks and sticks, but sometimes even large bugs and definitely mud. The upper is also a bit thin for winter running, but that means it's great for summer. With all it has to offer, it was difficult not to give the Cloud X our Editors' Choice award. We really loved testing them and still find ourselves reaching for them when we go out for runs.
Read review: On Cloud X
Best Bang for the Buck
Altra has been coming out with some really great models in recent years and the Altra Solstice is an excellent example of the direction they've been pushing their models. They use a top-level design that hits the sweet spot across all our measures and do it at a comparatively low price-point. For its price, it delivers the most value for performance out of our lineup, which is why we were happy to give them the Best Bang for the Buck Award. Aside from price, one of the most outstanding attributes of the Solstices is the weight. A pair of men's 11 come in at just 17.2 ounces - that's approaching track shoe weight. Perhaps the clincher here, is the comfort of the cushy high Abrasion EVA midsole. It's a nice middle ground. It's enough to let you put out some serious force (meaning tempo to sprint) without killing your feet, but not so much that it saps away momentum and gives you the mud-run feel.
The detractors really apply to specific types of runners. We feel that most runners will be fine with the design, but for those looking for more support, they're not going to find it here. And for those with a second toe that's longer than the first (Morton's foot or Greek feet) will find the FootShape design to be a bit troublesome as the longer toe tends to jut out and jam up against the toe box. But even with that issue, we find that trots and gentle runs are fine for most feet - essentially anything that doesn't force you too far forward on your toes. These are versatile, natural-feeling shoes that will suit most runners for everything from perfunctory, grudging cardio sessions to serious, competitive racing. They're light, affordable, comfortable, and worth a look.
Read review: Altra Solstice
Top Pick Award for Lightweight Racing Flat
Brooks is primarily known for its big, bulky comfort models, like the super padded Glycerin 16. Even its speedy racing flats are full of plush padding and midsoles, like the PureFlow line. But we see a slight departure in the Brooks Hyperion, the new Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat. Putting this shoe on was an immediate trip back to the old track days. They seem a lot like racing spikes without the spikes. They're incredibly light and the feel super fast. A pair of men's 11 are just 14.5 ounces. As you can expect, when you're in these kicks, you'll be doing some serious pace work and generating a ton of heat. To make that an easier proposition, they are super breathable, keeping your feet cooler and drier. They also have a great BioMoGo DNA midsole that takes a good deal of shock out of the stride, but it's lean enough not to interfere with your stride the way some of the highly cushioned midsoles in comfort models do.
Given their track-like design, they might not suit everyone for long, hard runs. And their super light design comes with some durability caveats, so they're best employed for race day performance (but make sure to get some training in with them). We should also mention that those looking for zero-drop flats might find the higher heel-to-toe drop (10mm) a bit high in these, but their design makes them seem closer to zero-drop with minimal interference from the thicker heel. For runners looking for an awesome speedster to tear up the short- and mid-distance events, the Hyperion is an excellent starting point.
Read review: Brooks Hyperion
Top Pick Award for Stability Shoe
HOKA ONE ONE Elevon
HOKA ONE ONEs are made with ultra-marathoners in mind, but they are great for the full range of running - even just a jog around the neighborhood. The Elevons are suited to the lower range, especially on hard surfaces. They have a poppy, responsive landing rather than a plush, cushy landing that might be more welcome at the longer distances with lower speeds. They also have great internal stability structures to keep the stride straight and balanced. What they lack in visual appeal, they make up for in landing and upper comfort.
As with other shoes, there are some considerations to weigh against the awesomeness. Their bulky maximalist midsole comes in at 23 ounces in a men's 11, making them one of the heaviest in the lineup. They could also wear down sooner than is ideal for a shoe meant for ultra-marathoners. There are concerns about both weak threading and outsole weakness. These are really best suited to mid-distance road runners looking for a good deal of cushioning and stability, but who also want to be able to lay down the pace. They're more agile than traditional stability shoes, but might not completely lock in the foot the way more traditional stability shoes do.
Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Elevon
Notable for Offering the Most Comfort
Brooks Glycerin 16
Brooks is known for its exceptionally comfortable running shoes, especially on the more stable end of the spectrum. The Glycerin 16s are a notable standout here, so we'd be remiss not to mention it, even though there's no award, per se. Like the lighter PureFlow 7, it uses a good deal of padding in the collar, except there's even more in this shoe. On top of that, it uses a thick, highly padded tongue to envelop the top of the foot in excellent cushioning too. The sock liner it uses is somehow even silkier and comfortable than its speedy cousin. For landing comfort, it's one of the best scorers, using a thick slab of DNA Loft cushioning.
It's worth keeping in mind that these are heavier shoes meant to stabilize your gait, so they're a bit more restrictive than other models. They're also a bit clunky for that reason. Despite their mass, they tend to break down sooner than is ideal, but that can be expected from shoes with lots of stabilizing features and cushioning. Those who are looking for a protective shoe that will keep their gait straight and feet enveloped in pillowy goodness will get the most out of these running shoes.
Read review: Brooks Glycerin 16
Why You Should Trust Us
Ryan Baham brings you this road running shoe review. Logging miles on the pavement, he spends times on all sorts of surfaces. Based in Virginia, you'll find him riding his road bike or chatting politics with friends. With many years as a runner on his feet, you can count on his advice…whether you're running a 5K or your next marathon.
Our testers are running fiends, and they put each model through the paces to test their performance abilities in a range of conditions and environments. We measured them on our scales, designed tests, and ran hundreds of miles in these products to tease out the differences between them. Our notes, experiences, and results were compiled into mutually exclusive metrics, which we describe below. We also highlight top performers in each category. The overall score for each model comes from a cumulative tally of the metrics, weighted according to their importance and relevance to this type of running footwear.
Related: How We Tested Running Shoes
Analysis and Test Results
A good pair of running shoes and some great technique will keep your legs rotating on the road. In this review, we investigate a group of the top road running shoes on the market. Take a gander to see what recommendations we have after a vigorous testing and rating process.
Related: Buying Advice for Running Shoes
Looking to upgrade your running shoes without breaking the bank? We compared all of the shoes in our test based on overall scores vs. list price to help decipher which kicks offer the best value. The Best Buy award-winning Altra Solstice represents a killer value and low price tag.
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 stiffer and minimally cushioned outsole which facilitates a propulsive "pop" feeling and avoids that running-in-mud 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 thick soles of responsive models like the HOKA ONE ONE Elevon do a lot of the 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 from a minimalist or barefoot model, and we believe can create weaknesses in those areas if used for too long. How long we can't say, and it depends on the individual. If you're looking to improve your lower leg and foot strength, then a model with less responsiveness is likely ideal for you.
We rate the HOKA ONE ONE Elevon as the most responsive in the group, though a few other stability models, the New Balance 1080 V8 and Brooks Glycerin 16, also do quite well. Notably, the responsive feedback from landing to push-off in the On Cloud X is beyond what we feel from any of the other lightweight racing flats we tested. From our first stride to the last, the Elevon provided us with solid, propulsive assistance. This propulsive feel has to do with the firmer EVA midsole and J-Frame guidance structure that give this shoe its high responsiveness.
Even though we get that efficient roll and pop feeling while running in the Elevon, it isn't the fastest shoe in the group given its wideness and bulk, especially compared to the racing flats. At 23 ounces a pair, though, they're a good deal lighter than the 1080 V8s and Glycerin 16s.
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 six miles at a time). Out-of-box comfort is always nice, but it's not a deciding factor for the best landing comfort. It's never fun finding out halfway through an hour-long run that the shoes that were so comfy when you ran from one side of the shoe store to the other are now the most ridiculously regrettable things you've ever put on your feet, leaving you not remembering why you even run anymore. No one wants that.
Unsurprisingly, designs with more cushioning like the Brooks Ghost 10 and Brooks Glycerin 16 typically score higher in landing comfort. The usual 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. We find this with the Nike Pegasus 35, which scored near the top of our measure. Its secret is that it embeds Zoom Air units across the entirety of the midsole.
We were extremely surprised by the landing offered by the On Cloud X. We knew from other On models that they were great, but the X offered both more solidity and more spring. Its awesome CloudTec® midsole had a lot of offer. Its individuated Cloud Elements comprised of hollow EVA structures even seemed to cushion more than that of the versatile Cloud. That difference in sensation could be partially explained by the rigid speedboard, which gave more pop and stability to each stride. This put the X at the top of the category and helped earn it the Editors' Choice award.
The first thing we notice when trying on a new pair of road running shoes is the fit and comfort of the upper. An array of components come together to create a comfortable upper. When deciding on a score for this metric, we take into consideration the overall fit, snug or roomy, toe box fit, tongue position, seam and stitch design, lace eyelets, and heel counter rigidity and fit.
The top of the line for upper comfort is usually determined by plushness of padding and the smoothness of the liner. In the case of the top scoring Brooks Glycerin 16, a silky sock liner covered a pillowy tongue and collar to become the most comfortable kick in our group. After that, the PureFlow 7 slides in as one of the most comfortable in the group. The other high scoring spot is occupied by the Nike Pegasus 35. It has a well-balanced fit that's snug along the heel and midfoot while giving good room in the toe box. The heel support isn't as stiff as other models in the group, and we like that as well.
The Cloud X arrives at its spot not through plush passing, but through modest distribution of firm foam and a really lovely sock liner throughout the upper that welcomes the foot and forgives the abrasion. The Pegasus 35 offers a similar feel, especially with its Flyknit upper that helps the shoe hug your foot, but flex with movement. We spent time running with different sock thickness and in all sorts of weather to ensure we weren't throwing the results off. We wore socks that provided plush padding and a close, flexible fit.
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 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 where it rains often or you are often 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 New Balance Minimus 10v1 (they have a mostly mesh surface area), the On Cloud X, and the Brooks PureFlow 7. Our feet return from runs much drier in these models when compared to all the other road shoes we tested, and they dry faster when wet. Of course, the tradeoff is that if the water is coming from the outside, these well-vented shoes are more permeable and will soak your socks, which is not always a favorable scenario when you aren't expecting a puddle run. The rapid drying of these shoes has to do with seamless and lightweight minimal uppers.
Given this minimal upper, the Minimus 10v1 does a poor job of keeping moisture out and is not a great choice for intense winter conditions. The On Cloud X and PureFlow 7 are better options to keep your feet dry and protected across seasons and through the broadest range of weather conditions. The least breathable models are the New Balance 1080 V8 and Adidas Supernova, which feature thick, impermeable uppers and heavy padding. They keep heat and moisture in during both the summer and winter, with desirability varying accordingly.
No runner wants to feel like they are lugging around bricks on the ends of their legs, so shoe weight is an important factor when choosing the best road running shoe. Typically, a lighter shoe facilitates a more natural foot strike, though some heavier models can still run better overall, like the Pegasus 35 and PureFlow 7. Take note though; there is often a relationship between lighter designs and less durability since many models will sacrifice durability for weight.
The mostly mesh minimalist Minimus 10v1, which sits at 17.2 ounces in men's 11.5, and the On Cloud X take the cake for the lightest racing flats. At just 17.8 ounces per pair in a men's size 11, the Xs edge out the 18.2-ounce Escalante 1.5s. Each of these employ some form of light EVA foam in their midsole, limited use of rubber on the outsole, judicious use of padding in the collar and tongue, and a very thin mesh upper.
The On Cloud X couldn't edge out some of the other models, but it is still an exceptionally light shoe at 17.8 ounces and sits in the upper tranche of super light speedsters. The HOKA ONE ONE Elevon was the lightest stability model we tested, at just 23 ounces in a men's 11. These models typically run heavier than the racing flats because they require tougher uppers that will restrict movement as well as more substantial internal structures like heel counters and shanks, not to mention meatier mid- and outsoles to cushion and limit flex.
When you fork out over $100 bones on a new pair of digs, 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 footgear in our test group. Ideally, a few hundred miles should be logged in each pair for an accurate sense of the rate of wear (a few runs a week for a year). Taking note of the wear we observed through logging 15-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.
At the 100+ price range for high performance running shoes, most of the models will use solid, long-lasting materials that will get runners through a few seasons without any serious problems. However, durability is typically associated with the stability models. Because stability models need to control motion and focus the gait cycle, they need to reinforce their designs, often resulting in heavier, more resilient materials like thick, sturdy rubber, additional overlays, and thicker, coarser mesh and synthetics (usually a synthetic substitute for leather).
There was also a notable exception to the stability rule found in the New Balance Minimus 10v1, which is a nontraditional, minimalist design in the lightweight racing flat category. They are meant to be put through all sorts of abuse and are equally at home on mountain trails and flat roads, with thick, durable rubber on the outsole and sturdy mesh with a good deal of stitching.
When we do these reviews, we work hard to break down each shoe to make sure we develop the best understanding we can of the product's performance. We take in-depth looks at material composition, design, and performance across a range of environments and activities. Most shoes don't have the longest lifespan, so we want to get out there and find out what kind of abuse and wear they can take and how they do during that time. How do they give you the best value? Are they worth nine months of great performance? Are they middling performers that end up keeping up that level of performance even after we kick the crap out of them? Are they great for regular feet, but terrible for people with weird feet (like yours truly)? As runners and practical gearheads, we work through these questions and others to bring you honest, useful, analyses and recommendations for running shoes. We hope you'll put our findings and research to good use and get out there in a pair of kicks that work for you. Now get out there and earn that sweat.
— Ryan Baham