Over the last decade, our review team has bought and tested over 70 of the best running shoes on the market. We recently bought 11 of today's top contenders for our latest side-by-side analysis to bring you this review. We put each pair through the wringer during our daily jogs, speed workouts, and long runs across various surfaces, including roads, grass, dirt trails, and our local track. Whether you're looking for the latest and greatest springy foams with carbon fiber sole plates, a more traditional blend of cushioning and support, or a lightweight minimalist design, we are here to help you find the best shoes for your needs and budget.Related: Best Running Shoes for Women of 2021
Best Running Shoes for Men of 2021
The Saucony Endorphin Speed stands out in nearly every single rating metric and earns our highest honor with its impressive blend of comfort and performance. Equipped with Saucony's lightweight and springy PWRRUN PB foam and an internal nylon plate, this shoe provides high-end cushioning and a responsive footstrike that seems to help propel you forward. The lightweight upper material is modeled after Saucony's ultralight track spikes and provides a snug fit with just enough padding to make it more comfortable than most other lightweight shoes. The Endorphin Speed is excellent for faster workouts, light enough for long-distance races, and comfortable enough for most normal training runs, making it our favorite overall running shoe.
While we were impressed with the lightweight cushioning and responsive ride of the Endorphin Speed, the tradeoff is that the springy foam doesn't provide as much lateral stability and support as other models with denser foams or built-in structural support. Runners who prefer a firmer feel or require extra support may not like the soft, springy feel. The strategically-placed carbon rubber outsole material also leaves a little bit of foam exposed on the sole, so this model is probably best suited for staying on the roads to prevent premature wear and tear. But for a comfortable and responsive road racing and training shoe, this is our preferred pick.
The Saucony Kinvara 12 provides outstanding comfort and excellent on-road performance, all at an affordable price for a premium shoe, earning recognition for its excellent value. The Kinvara excels when the speed or distance increases. A firmer midsole and forefoot allow for strong energy transfer without being too dense to be uncomfortable on longer mileage days. With a tight-weave comfortable upper material combined with a thin tongue, the Kinvara feels like it naturally molds to the shape of your foot, the toe box and width are most suitable for those with feet of average width and volume. With one of the lightest weights among our test group, this running shoe could be used for anything from daily training runs to long-distance races.
The biggest mark against the Kinvara 12 is its lack of a burly outsole. The outsole material is exposed foam with only a few small segments of carbon rubber material covering the high-wear areas. Despite a relatively high stack height (28mm at the heel, 24mm at the toe), this feels a lot like a minimalist shoe. The Kinvara rewards forefoot to midfoot strikes; those that often heel strike should be wary due to the lightweight nature of the Kinvara. More aggressive runners looking for a lightweight performance-orientated trainer for longer speed workouts and long runs should consider the Kinvara.
With a unique blend of comfortable gel cushioning and excellent stability and support, the ASICS Gel-Kayano 27 earns our honor as the best stability shoes. Aided by Dynamic Duomax technology that aims to strategically increase the midsole density and Space Trusstic structural support insert, the Kayano provides excellent foot support throughout the gait cycle and a smooth transition from footstrike to toe-off. The upper material is comfortably padded and plenty breathable, and the outsole material provides better wear protection than most modern lightweight shoes.
One of the only notable downsides of this shoe is that this high-end support comes with a slight weight penalty. At 11.6 ounces in a men's size 10, the Gel-Kayano is 1-3 ounces heavier than most modern training shoes. That said, while this may be notable on the scale, the difference may not be discernable on the roads or the trails. For runners seeking top-notch support and stability with a smooth, cushioned ride, the Gel-Kayano 27 tops our list.
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 is one of our lineup's best everyday training shoes thanks to its natural balance of comfort, support, and overall performance. Frequently, super comfortable running shoes end up being full of pillowy goodness to the detriment of their stability or quick responsiveness. This shoe maintains a moderately firm midsole with good stability, while its supportive upper material employs just enough padding to gently cradle the foot. The GTS 21 features a slightly roomier toe box and heel cup without ever feeling loose, those with wider feet & higher volume should consider this model. Overall, it's an effective design that feels forgiving upon footstrike and provides a fast, comfortable transition through toe-off.
The upper material of the Adrenaline could stand to be a little more breathable. The comfortable sock liner and thick padding around the collar and down the tongue adds to the overall fit and comfort but tends to trap moisture a bit more than most. This model is also on the heavier side for modern training shoes, but the overall comfort and support make it ideal for daily runs and workouts. One benefit which comes with the added weight is a more durable outsole which will provide better traction over various conditions, if you find yourself on the streets & and the gravel path this could be something to take into consideration.
If you're looking for excellent comfort, roominess, and stability but don't want to sacrifice speed or performance, you'll want to take a serious look at the Adrenaline GTS 21.
Earning recognition for having the most luxurious cushioning, the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7 is our go-to pick for casual runs where comfort is the top priority. The wide, balanced sole is very soft and forgiving, and the upper material is also well-padded to help dial in the comfortable fit. The overall weight is surprisingly light for having such robust cushioning (10.0 ounces in a men's size 10). The rockered sole shape helps encourage efficient turnover, even if this comfy shoe isn't the quickest or most responsive model.
Because the foam is so soft and the sole is so wide, the Clifton 7 lacks the speed and responsiveness found on models with firmer, denser foam or embedded nylon or carbon fiber plates. The width, thickness, and feel of the sole can take some getting used to, but the maximum cushioning is very forgiving across a wide variety of footstrikes. Runners looking for the ultimate cushioning without sacrificing too much weight should consider this shoe.
The Brooks Ghost 13 is a great everyday trainer that provides excellent comfort and versatility. The well-padded upper material is among the most comfortable that we tested and provides good breathability with its cozy and snug fit. The DNA LOFT foam cushioning achieves a nice blend of cushioning and responsiveness with a smooth ride from footstrike to toe-off. The finishing touch includes a durable outsole with a full-coverage tread, all in a surprisingly lightweight package.
While the Ghost 13 achieves an impressive all-around balance of cushioning, responsiveness, comfort, and breathability, it doesn't necessarily stand out in any performance metrics. Other contenders may provide optimal performance in one of these areas but often make sacrifices in other areas to do so. For example, the similarly-designed Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 has added features to improve stability but adds weight and may not feel as smooth and responsive to some people. Overall, the Ghost 13 provides an impressive blend of comfort and performance and is a versatile daily training shoe.
With firm, responsive cushioning and one of the best-fitting upper designs, the Adidas Ultraboost 21 is among our favorite shoes for daily training runs and speed workouts. The woven sock-like upper material provides a very snug and cozy fit that is one of the most comfortable in our lineup. The Boost foam feels a bit more firm than some other competitors but provides a smooth, responsive ride that nicely balances cushioning, support, and efficiency. It is also available in dozens of colors and designs to add a little personalization to your look.
The Ultraboost 21 features an oversized heel which is becoming more common in today's higher-end offerings. While this feature elicits mixed reviews one benefit is when fatigue starts to set in the heel can compensate for deteriorating form. Heel strikes are less impactful, and the larger heel helps roll your forefoot to provide the most energy transfer. The benefits of this rolling motion can also be found when running downhill. One downside of this feature is when feeling fresh the larger heel can feel cumbersome.
Our testers appreciated the firm, fast feel of the Ultraboost 21, but we noted that it is also one of the heaviest shoes in our group. Runners looking to shave a few ounces from each foot have plenty of other suitable options from which to choose. The Ultraboost is also one of the priciest models that we tested. Still, runners prioritizing a snug, comfortable upper fit with responsive cushioning and support will appreciate this model.
The ASICS Novablast stands out from other traditionally-designed ASICS shoes with a thicker stack height, similar to many modern maximalist cushioned designs. The FLYTEFOAM midsole material is very firm and responsive. It provides a nice amount of cushioning without feeling too soft or squishy, and the slightly rockered sole shape helps guide the foot through a smooth and efficient footstrike cycle. The Novablast is also surprisingly light for such a well-cushioned shoe, weighing in at just over 10 ounces in a men's size 10.
Like many other current running shoes with thicker soles and modern foams, the Novablast isn't as laterally stable or supportive as other models with multi-density foams or built-in structural reinforcements. Runners looking for more support in addition to a comfortable ride may prefer the more traditional ASICS Gel-Kayano 27. The Novablast's upper material is also not quite as comfortable as most. The material is thin and light but doesn't achieve as snug of a fit as other models. Overall, the Novablast is a great training shoe with comfortable cushioning that is surprisingly light and speedy for having such a thick sole.
With React foam along the full length of the midsole and an internal carbon fiber plate, the Nike Zoom Fly 3 provides a firm, responsive platform that makes it one of the fastest training shoes that we tested. Modeled after some of Nike's modern lightweight carbon fiber racing flats, the Zoom Fly has a thick sole and responsive carbon fiber plate to inject more speed into your training sessions. At under 10 ounces in a men's size 10, this is a great option for your faster workouts or speedy track sessions.
The Zoom Fly 3 is built for speed, and the tradeoff is that the responsive foam isn't as soft and forgiving as some other models. The overall fit is also pretty narrow compared to most shoes, and the lightweight upper material isn't very supportive and doesn't provide much lateral stability. This may not be the ideal everyday running shoe for everyone, but this is a great model to help propel you during your uptempo runs or specific track workouts.
With an affordable price tag, a responsive feel, and a simple, stylish design, the New Balance Fresh Foam Roav is a great shoe for easy runs, fast workouts, or even casual wear. The foam feels more firm than most, which may not provide as much luxurious comfort as some other models, but offers a nice stable platform for quick turnover when you want to pick up the pace. With several color options available and a unique two-tone design, we also think the Roav is one of the most stylish options in our lineup.
While the Roav has the look and feel of a minimalist shoe, it is slightly on the heavier end of our lineup. The Ultra heel cup design adds a unique style element, but we didn't find it as comfortable and supportive as a more traditional padded mesh heel and ankle support. Overall, the Roav is a classy and capable running shoe but doesn't have the same high-end feel as other more expensive models.
With one of the lowest list prices in our entire testing lineup, the Under Armour Charged Assert 8 provides exceptional value with its comfortable upper material and balance of cushioning and support. While it's not the most responsive or most highly-cushioned model that we tested, the Charged Assert provides plenty of protection for daily runs, faster workouts, or cross-training sessions.
The Charged Assert 8 isn't the lightest shoe we tested, with a pretty hefty upper material compared to most modern designs. And while it has a nice blend of cushioning and support, the gait cycle from footstrike to toe-off isn't as smooth as most other models. Still, with such an affordable price tag, this is a great option for daily workouts, for anything from gym sessions to cross-training to neighborhood runs.
Why You Should Trust Us
This running shoe review is brought to you by GearLab Review Editor and longtime runner Nick Bruckbauer. After training year-round through brutal Wisconsin winters beginning at the age of 15, Nick went on to run competitively at the NCAA Division I level, and continued training for track races and half-marathons throughout his 20s. He has been a volunteer high school track and cross country coach on and off throughout the last 10 years and continues to run several days each week to train for his other outdoor pursuits. Throughout his running career, Nick has had experience with everything from running 100-mile weeks while training for peak performance, to hobbling through easy jogs after returning from injury to balancing casual running for general fitness with a career and other outdoor hobbies.
Matthew Richardson has also contributed to this review. Based in Durango, Colorado, Matthew has also had a passion for running since high school cross country which he carried out through his college years. Since college Matthew has taken up various mountain/desert activities but running remains his biggest passion and motivator. From winter road runs to mountain trails Matthew has continued to strive for year-round fitness, running has made that possible.
For this review, our team bought 11 of today's best running shoes from several top manufacturers and put them through head-to-head testing at our local parks, neighborhoods, trails, and tracks. We put each model to the test with everything from easy neighborhood jogs, to uptempo workouts, to longer runs. Along the way, we experimented with different paces and different footstrike patterns to understand how different runners with unique strides might perceive each shoe's comfort and performance. After compiling our notes and feedback, we are pleased to bring you our top recommendations.
Analysis and Test Results
To help you find the best running shoes for your performance needs and budget, we evaluated and ranked each product across five distinct rating metrics, including cushioning and landing comfort, responsiveness, upper comfort, lateral stability and support, and weight. While we used a weighted average from each metric for our overall rankings, we recommend that you focus on the higher performers in whichever metrics are most important to you.
Cushioning and Landing Comfort
To most runners testing out a new pair of shoes, cushioning and landing comfort are among the most immediately noticeable and most important factors. A shoe's cushioning ability is what helps smooth out the ground you're running on and absorbs some of the repeated landing forces to help protect your bones, muscles, and joints. Today's best running shoes have cutting-edge foams that are more springy and responsive than ever before and which typically perform better than some traditional foams that can feel too soft and squishy or whose cushioning abilities can degrade over time.
The top two scorers in this metric achieve their comfortable ride with two very different design approaches. The HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7 provides one of the most comfortable and well-cushioned rides that we've experienced, with very soft and forgiving foam and a thick sole that is wider laterally than most other shoes in our lineup. The Saucony Endorphin Speed has a more responsive and springy foam and a similarly thick sole that is narrower laterally than the Clifton. Both of these shoes provide excellent cushioning, with the Clifton feeling overall a bit more robust and luxurious, and the Endorphin Speed feeling a bit lighter, quicker, and more responsive.
The Adidas Ultraboost 21 provides an excellent blend of cushioning and responsiveness with its slightly denser Boost foam. This shoe offers a smooth and balanced feel that nicely cushions the entire foot without feeling too bulky or too soft. Even though it is one of the heavier shoes in our lineup, it is comfortable enough for long easy runs and responsive enough for faster interval workouts. The larger heel increases the landing comfort when runs get long and fatigue starts to set in. Heel strikes are less jarring and the natural rolling motion of the enlarged heel helps propel you into a forefoot push-off for better energy transfer. Combined with a snug sock-like upper, the Ultraboost is one of our go-to picks for long-runs and extended efforts.
The ASICS Novablast also stands out for its thicker sole made from FLYTEFOAM material that is very light and responsive. This shoe feels much lighter and faster than it might look, and provides a nice firm, fast ride despite its abundance of cushioning. The rockered sole helps encourage faster foot turnover for a well-cushioned shoe that is versatile enough for any type of running or workout.
Whether you're training for peak speed and performance or simply for fitness or recreation, running fast is fun. When we evaluate responsiveness, we gauge how quickly and efficiently the foot can move through the entire footstrike cycle and how much landing energy the shoe can rebound to propel you into your next stride. The paradox is that, often, the most comfortable and well-cushioned shoes can feel slower and less responsive since their softer and more forgiving foams tend to absorb and soften the energy from your footstrike rather than returning it into your stride. While not usually as traditionally comfortable as their more cushy counterparts, thinner and stiffer soles are typically faster and more responsive because there is less material to absorb your movement's energy. This is why you will see the world's fastest sprinters wearing ultra-thin spiked shoes with only a rigid spike plate on the sole.
Many of today's running shoes with more advanced materials and design technologies strike a pretty impressive compromise between comfort, weight, and performance. The best models have firm, springy foams with embedded carbon or nylon plates that both cushion the foot and help rebound your landing energy into your next stride. Shoes that fit better and keep better contact with the foot throughout the gait cycle also tend to waste less energy and have a more precise and responsive feel.
The Nike Zoom Fly 3 is the most responsive feeling model that we tested. As the daily training shoe modeled after Nike's elite marathon racing shoes, the firm yet springy foam with a rigid internal carbon fiber plate combine for a stiffer feel built for speed and performance. Even with a fairly thick foam sole, the shoes feel firm, responsive, and fast, but provide just enough cushioning not to be too stiff or bothersome. They aren't as soft and cushy as some traditionally well-cushioned shoes, but they provide a unique feel where you can make confident strides with efficient forward momentum.
With a fairly similar design but a slightly softer and springier feel, the Saucony Endorphin Speed is another high-performing speed machine like the Nike Zoom Fly 3. The Endorphin uses an internal nylon plate rather than a stiffer carbon fiber plate and has a foam that feels a little softer and slightly less dense. Where the footstrike with the Zoom Fly feels more rigid, firm, and precise, the Endorphin Speed feels more bouncy and energetic. This makes it feel comfier and more forgiving on the legs during daily runs and feels fast and efficient when the pace heats up on speedier days. With one of the lightest weights in our lineup and a great fitting upper, the Endorphin Speed is our favorite shoe we tested.
The ASICS Gel-Kayano 27 earns an honorable mention in this metric with its supportive design and smooth footstrike transition. It is nicely cushioned with some soft and comfortable gel but retains a bit of firmness with its DYNAMIC DUOMAX multi-density midsole materials and a SUPER TRUSSTIC structural support insert in the midsole. These features help increase the shoe's overall firmness and rigidity without being too harsh, which helps translate muscle energy into your stride rather than having too much be absorbed by a softer foam. The Kayano has an overall smooth ride that feels good from footstrike to toe-off, making it comfortable at a variety of speeds and for a variety of running styles.
The first thing we usually notice when slipping on a brand new pair of running shoes is the upper material's fit and comfort. A wide array of components and materials come together to create a comfortable upper, and upper designs are uniquely different among the different models that we tested. While some runners might have individual fit preferences, we considered the overall volume and fit, padding, breathability, tongue design and thickness, seam and stitch design, lacing design, and heel/ankle design. A comfortable, well-fitting upper helps keep the foot firmly planted within the shoe, allowing the midsole design and technical foams to perform as intended.
The most comfortable upper in our lineup belongs to the Adidas Ultraboost 21. The woven, sock-like material provides a great snug fit and firm yet flexible support of the entire foot. The lacing system is simple with minimal eyelets but offers extra arch support around the midfoot. The upper cuff around the ankle is well padded, and the entire heel cup area gives a nice blend of padding and firm support. While this is one of the heavier models in our lineup, it provides luxurious comfort that locks down the heel and forefoot giving you a custom feeling fit.
Both the Brooks models and Saucony models also score well in this metric. The Endorphin Speed, Adrenaline GTS 21, and Ghost 13 all have plush padding and a smooth liner without being too heavy. These models all have padding on the tongue that is more substantial than most, a feeling we prefer and which helps with the overall fit and dialing in your optimum lacing pressure. The upper materials on the two ASICS models are a bit softer and lighter, while the Brooks models have slightly more padding. The Kinvara 12 has a new thinner tongue and thinner upper mesh that's tighter knit than the 11s, our reviewers thought this was a minor but beneficial change.
Lateral Stability and Support
Every runner has different physical anatomy and different running mechanics. Though not necessarily important for everyone, a shoe's lateral stability and support can be crucial in keeping your legs healthy and comfortable as you pound out the miles. Each of us experiences a certain level of lateral (side-to-side) movement — pronation or supination — within the foot and ankle as our muscles and ligaments support and guide the body from footstrike through toe-off. Shoes with strategically placed supporting materials, inserts, or structural reinforcements can help the shoe stay more rigid and stable and better support your foot through its lateral movement.
The most supportive shoe that we tested is the ASICS Gel-Kayano 27. Similar to what makes it firm and responsive, the Kayano has strategically placed DYNAMIC DUOMAX midsole materials and a SUPER TRUSSTIC structural support insert that helps support your foot and helps the shoe withstand increased lateral forces. The result is a comfortably cushioned shoe with a firm, supportive feel regardless of your footstrike or running mechanics. This shoe is great for runners who need extra support and stability but may not suit those who prefer a softer, plusher feel.
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 also earns high marks in this category, thanks to its GuideRails technology that adds some stiffness to the outside of the foot and helps make the shoe more supportive overall. This system uniquely keeps the shoe feeling soft and responsive and provides more support and rigidity as lateral forces increase.
No runner wants to feel like they are lugging around bricks on the ends of their feet, so a shoe's weight is inevitably another factor to consider. Although most modern materials and designs are fairly lightweight, there is a reasonable variance among the shoes in our lineup from around 8 ounces to 12 ounces in a men's size 10. Typically, as weight decreases, there may be sacrifices in cushioning, support, or durability, but today's high-tech foams and modern materials do a great job maintaining high performance while dropping weight.
The two Saucony models we tested have the lowest weights in our lineup. Both the Endorphin Speed and the Kinvara 12 weigh in at 8.4 ounces in a men's size 10. These models also have some of the highest ratings across the board for overall comfort and responsiveness. They do, however, have pretty scarce rubber tread on the outsoles, potentially sacrificing performance & long-term durability when running on rougher surfaces.
Following closely behind is the Nike Zoom Fly 3 at 9.6 ounces in a men's size 10. This is a more performance-oriented, sleek, firm, and responsive model and might not be as traditionally cushy and comfortable for higher-volume training or runners with wider feet.
Finally, getting honorable mentions are the Brooks Ghost 13, the HOKA Clifton 7, and the ASICS Novablast, all weighing in right around 10 ounces in a men's size 10. These models all do a great job of balancing comfort and performance and are reasonably lightweight.
The running shoe marketplace has so many high-quality options to choose from with advanced materials and designs and modern, high-tech foams. It's a great time to be a runner with a ton of lightweight, fast, and comfortable shoes to choose from, but it can be confusing to sort through all the different styles and marketing phrases. When searching for your next pair of running shoes, take into consideration your running style and training goals when trying to make a decision. We hope that this review helps you better understand today's offerings and guides you to the best choice for your running style and budget.
— Nick Bruckbauer & Matthew Richardson