Looking for the best running shoes you can buy in 2019? We spent dozens of hours researching and testing the top shoes on the market after whittling down the best 17 choices from over 100 top models. We put each shoe through the conditions we think they'll face on most runners' feet: heat, cold, rain, walking, trotting, pacing, sprinting, weight lifting, moderate trails, sidewalks, rough roads, uphill, downhill, grass fields - you get the picture. We want to see if we can find faults or actually break these things and we want to bring out the qualities runners care about. If we find a shoe that's great for hill work, but is terrible for 5K PRs, that's something that can only be brought out by going through those exercises in the shoes. In our extensive review, we'll steer you away from the unfounded hype and cruddy shoes, providing in-depth analysis on each pair.
The Best Running Shoes of 2019
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|Pros||Flashy, fast, extra comfortable upper and landing||Stable, super comfortable upper, breathable, stylish||Affordable racing flats, more comfortable updated design, light||Responsive, supportive fit, roomy toebox, flashy, lightweight, springy||Landing is well cushioned, but feels natural, upper padding feels plush, fair price|
|Cons||On the heavier side, can feel too stiff, premium price||Clunky, may wear down quickly, pricey||Limited durability, less attractive, less responsive||Outsole picks up rocks and gravel, toebox can be too flexible, tongue can rub||Limited responsiveness, loose heel, tight toebox|
|Bottom Line||It doesn’t get much better than these plush speedsters.||Best choice for a comfortable, stable distance shoe.||Fast racing flats that will get you across the line in comfort.||A fast, high performance shoe best suited to mid-distance.||A sweet, no-nonsense racing flat with great cushion and padding.|
|Rating Categories||Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14||Brooks Glycerin 17||Brooks PureFlow 7||On Cloud X||Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35|
|Landing Comfort (25%)|
|Upper Comfort (10%)|
|Specs||Nike Air Zoom...||Brooks Glycerin 17||Brooks PureFlow 7||On Cloud X||Nike Air Zoom...|
|Weight (oz per pair for size 11)||22.3 oz||23.2 oz||20.8 oz||17.8 oz||20.8 oz|
|Toe to Heel Drop||10 mm||10 mm||4 mm||6 mm||10 mm|
|Width Options||Regular, Wide, Extra Wide||Regular, Wide||Regular||Regular||Narrow, Regular, Wide, Extra Wide|
|Style (Traditional, Minimalist, etc.)||Traditional||Neutral||Neutral||Neutral||Neutral|
|Sizes Available||6 - 15||7 - 15||7 - 14||7-13||6 - 15|
|Upper Material||Mesh||Synethetic||Stretch weave||Synthetic||Mesh|
|Midsole Material||Nike React||DNA Loft||BioMoGo DNA||EVA||CushIon|
|Sole Rubber||Rubber||Rubber||Blown carbon||Rubber||Rubber|
Best Overall Men's Model
Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14
The Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 earned our Editors' Choice Award largely based on its exceptional responsiveness and natural comfort. Nike uses this cool design that imbeds a full-length Zoom Air unit within a midsole made of Nike React foam. The combination of air and React foam perfectly balances plush comfort with speedy responsiveness to propel it to the top of our list; that's complemented by a light upper with firm foam padding that's snug enough to be supportive, but not so tight that it creates hotspots or restricts movement. That light upper design also means that air is able to circulate through it to remove heat and moisture, improving its performance in the summer and solidifying its place.
There are a few areas to be aware of with this shoe though. It performs like a lightweight racing flat, but in fact, it's a little heavier than a lot of the racing flats, mostly owing to its thicker midsole cushioning. That fat stack can also make the shoe seem a little clunky, but the tighter fit of the upper and energy return somewhat make up for that. The sole might also seem just a little bit too plush for some runners, but that's not a bad quality for all runners. Despite some of these possible drawbacks, the Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 is an all-around excellent performer with steady scorers near the top of every measure we have and that's why we're happy to name it our Editors' Choice.
Read review: Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14
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 clencher 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 killer 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. 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 toebox. 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 17. 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
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19
Our Top Pick for Stability Award goes to the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19. The most valuable attribute of this shoe is its excellent comfort. It marries thick upper padding to thick midsole cushion to make sure your foot is always treading in luxury. You're primarily riding on BioMoGo DNA for a responsive, but plush bounce with a new DNA LOFT crash pad to soften it up just a little more. To keep you in line and earn its Top Pick for Stability Award, it uses a host of stability features like the GuideRails Holistic Support System, but doesn't burden you the way more restrictive models like the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 21 do. That's because the 3D print upper and saddle are supportive and work work with your foot instead of just rigid structures that bully your foot into place.
As great and stable as the shoe is, you know there are a few areas that might not pass muster for everyone; most comfort and stability shoes tend to be a bit on the heavy side and that's no exception here. This one's almost twice the weight of the Saucony Type A8, which is a pretty stripped-down racing flat. It's almost impossible for the Adrenaline to deliver its max comfort and stability without adding on the ounces, and all that extra padding and material means it's a hotter shoe. That said, if you want a shoe that's going to help you reduce extra motion and reduce chafe and hot spots, you're probably not going to find a better choice than the Adrenaline GTS 19.
Read review: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19
Top Pick Award for Comfort
Brooks Glycerin 17
The insanely padded Brooks Glycerin 17 is our Top Pick for Comfort. Like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19, it uses a ton of plush cushioning in the upper covered by a fine sockliner to keep your foot snug and happy. The difference in the upper is that the Glycerin has a more forgiving heel counter and fewer stability structures than the Adrenaline, so it's slightly less stable and a little more freeing. The midsole is also designed for comfort. It uses all DNA LOFT, which is Brooks' plush foam made from EVA, rubber, and air. It delivers unmatched compression and impact reduction. Taken with the pillowy upper, this is why the Glycerin earns our Top Pick.
As with any running shoe, there are some considerations. You don't just get insane comfort without caveats. All that padding means the shoe is both heavier and warmer, so it might not be ideal for ultramarathons in hot, muggy places. And the plush foam, like most foams, tends to lose its compression capacity a little faster than firmer foams, so these might not perform as well after a few seasons. But if you're after a super comfy shoe to take the brunt of the road impact, these are for you.
Read review: Brooks Glycerin 17
Why You Should Trust Us
Ryan Baham brings this road running shoe review to you. He has been an avid runner since the day he took his first steps, gradually moving on to the stereotypical country boy running around the woods and swamps of Florida barefoot and foolish. Since those early days, he's done everything from track to football to wrestling on to mud runs and half marathons in all sorts of footwear (and barefoot), surfaces, and weather. His next ambition is to move to the marathon and ultra-marathon disciplines.
He has lived, ridden, and ran in Florida, Spain, New Mexico, Virginia, and California with at least 100 miles logged on foot and hundreds in the saddle in each place. These days he's based in San Diego, California working as an analyst in procurement and supply chain. When not being a productive citizen, you'll find him out for a constitutional stroll, running, riding his road bike, reading at a cafe, or chatting politics and taboos with friends. With many years as a runner and athlete under 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 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 performance 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 locomoting out 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. To come up with the best running shoes, companies put tons into R&D trying to innovate and find the next wonder material. If you want a little more information on what that looks like, you might find this Forbes piece on midsole materials by Tim Newcomb to be a good resource. Men's Journal also does a good job of delving into some of the developments in the world of running shoe materials.
For the most part, we prefer running in road footwear with higher responsiveness. But the thick soles of responsive models like the Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 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 Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 as the most responsive in the group, though a few other stability models, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 and Brooks Glycerin 17, also do quite well. From our first stride to the last, the Vomero 14 provided us with solid, propulsive assistance. This propulsive feel has to do with the firmer Zoom Air unit that gives this shoe its 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 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 Adrenaline GTS 19 and Brooks Glycerin 17 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 both the Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 and its cousin, the Nike Pegasus 35, both of 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.
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 two top scoring models, the Brooks Glycerin 17 and the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19, a silky sock liner covered a pillowy tongue and collar to become the most comfortable kick in our group. The primary difference between these two is in their stability. The Glycerin is a purely plush model with less in the way of stability while the Adrenaline is a little more structured and rigid, but still extremely comfortable.
After that, the PureFlow 7 (notice a Brooks trend?)) slides in as one of the most comfortable in the group. The other high scoring spots are occupied by the Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14, Reebok Forever Floatride Energy, and On Cloud X. All three have limited foam padding that makes for a well-balanced fit that's snug along the heel and midfoot while giving good room in the toe box.
The Reeboks have a little less support and internal structure in the upper, making them ideal for runners that need a little more freedom. The Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 offers a similar feel, especially with its Flyknit upper that helps the shoe hug your foot, but flexes a bit less 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. The Cloud X is perhaps the most natural-feeling of the three, with even lighter padding and a loose-fitting upper that gently clasps the foot instead of the more firm hugging of the other two.
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. For a hilariously whimsical explanation of what Gore-Tex is and how it works, chip on over to MooseJaw to read up.
We give the highest breathability rating to the Saucony Type A8, which is almost entirely mesh. Coming in behind them are the Brooks Hyperion, Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14, New Balance FuelCell Impulse, On Cloud X, and Brooks PureFlow 7, all of which get to their spot by minimizing their padding and maximizing their mesh area. 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 an ideal scenario when you aren't expecting a puddle run.
The Saucony Type A8 does a poor job of keeping moisture out and is not a great choice for intense winter conditions. It has very little structure and finer mesh, so it might offer a little bit of protection in the winter, but you'll want something a little more robust for cool, wet weather.
The Brooks Hyperion, Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14, New Balance FuelCell Impulse, On Cloud X, and Brooks PureFlow 7 are all better options to keep your feet dry and protected across seasons and through the broadest range of weather conditions. The FuelCell Impulse might have the greatest advantage for cross-seasons because of its higher bootie and knit upper. It's the best of both breathability and potential to adapt to cooler weather. The other three are nearly a crap-shoot they're so close in performance under this measure.
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 Air Zoom Vomero 14 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 stripped-down racing flat Saucony Type A8 sits at 12.8 ounces in men's 11, blowing the 14.5-ounce runner up Brooks Hyperion out of the water.
While the Saucony model is impossibly light, the Brooks end up being a little more comfortable, but they're both super fast models.
Behind these two is the Altra Solstice at 17 ounces, This is a much more comfortable shoe with a plush zero-drop midsole. It's not quite as speedy, but it might be a nicer ride. The New Balance FuelCell Impulses come in at 17.7 ounces per pair in a men's size 11, just ahead of the 17.8-ounce On Cloud Xs.
Most of these running shoes 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 a bucket of 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 upper end of the 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 and the chart bears that out. However, durability is typically associated with the stability models. Unsurprisingly, a stability model hit the top: ASICS GEL-Nimbus 21. 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).
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