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 can 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
Less kind to longer second toe
Altra has been coming out with some great exceptional in recent years, and the 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 and is 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 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 toebox. But even with that issue, 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
Great landing comfort
Best suited to narrow feet
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, as they seem a lot like racing spikes without the spikes. They're incredibly light, and 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 superlight 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 Arahi 3
Can feel stiff
Among the running shoes in our review, the HOKA Arahi 3 has the distinction of best-combining control, responsiveness, and comfort to become one of the best stability running shoes available today. It's a slightly unorthodox design, like the rest of its maximalist shoe family, but the design really works for a lot of runners who need the extra cushion and motion control. What makes the Arahi 3 so great is its versatility. Yes, it's ideal for stability applications, but it's not overbearing the way traditional stability shoes are, so most runners would feel comfortable taking them out for a 5 or 10 miler. Its responsive rubberized foam midsole and limited upper padding significantly reduce energy loss and friction relative to big, bulky traditional stability shoes, and it was the major deciding factor in awarding the Arahi 3 our Top Pick for Stability.
As great as we found them to be, there are a few things to keep in mind before pulling the trigger on these. If you haven't worn big maximalist shoes before, they're pretty bulky and can take a little getting used to, especially if you're a foot scuffer. Luckily, they're lighter than almost all other stability shoes, so that makes it easier to pick your feet up. They also lack the arch support that some runners expect in this style of shoe, and it's a degree stiffer than some runners would like, but we think it's effective in delivering a high level of responsiveness and stability.
Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Arahi 3
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
These shoes ain't gonna test themselves. We put the top contenders head to head to find their secrets. Here we have the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19, New Balance FuelCell Impulse, Altra Solstice, Brooks Hyperion, and even the New Balance Minimus.
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.
We spend a long time determining the most responsive models, looking to get 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 reduces that running-in-mud feeling. The most responsive models tend to use foams that have been doped with rubber, air, or some such similar composition that preserves the padding and cushion of the foam while adding in some stiffness to return the energy. Some of the more traditional stability models tend to add in rigid medial posts, aggressive heel counters, stiff upper designs, and maybe even hard lasting boards.
To come up with the best running shoes, companies put tons into R&D, trying to innovate and find the next wonder material. There is a lot that goes into midsole materials, and some exciting new developmentsin 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.
The Vomero 14 uses a full length Zoom Air unit supported by Nike React foam for its excellent responsiveness.
We rate the Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 as the most responsive in the group alongside the HOKA ONE ONE Arahi 3, 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. The Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 scored near the top of our measure. Its secret is that it embeds Zoom Air units across the entirety of the midsole.
The Brooks Glycerin 17s are among the most comfortable landers on the market.
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 remarkable 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 speed board, which gave more pop and stability to each stride.
Landing comfort isn't necessarily about having a fat stack. The Altra Solstice's thin, but flexible and plush midsole puts its landing comfort up near the top of the pack.
Make sure and find the appropriate fit and style of running shoe for your feet and running style to enhance your performance and reduce the chance of injury.
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 the 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.
A smooth sock liner throughout the upper and well-placed foam padding help make this one of the most naturally comfortable uppers in the lineup.
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 thicknesses 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.
The natural feel and smooth fit on the On Cloud Xs (right) blow the Merrells (left, previously tested) out of the water.
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 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.
Combining thin mesh and serious ventilation, it's no wonder the Hyperion is one of the most breathable shoes on the market.
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 mostly mesh PureFlow 7 breathes like a champion to keep the feet cool and dry.
The Saucony Type A8 does a poor job of keeping moisture out and is not an excellent 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 the potential to adapt to cooler weather.
Some designs are inherently warm, as with the Ultra Boost's knit upper. It holds a good deal of moisture and warmth in the summer, but feels great in cooler weather with thick socks.
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.
Looking at the lean profile, it's easy to see why the Brooks Hyperion is only 14.5 ounces (pair of 11s).
While the Saucony model is impossibly light, the Brooks end up being a little more comfortable, but they're both super fast models.
The Type A8s come in at 12.8 ounces for a pair of men's 11. That's pretty incredible.
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.
Modest padding, unique design, and high-quality materials allow this pair to come in at just 17.8 ounces.
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 Arahi 3 was the lightest stability model we tested, at just 21.2 ounces in a men's 11. The best stability running shoes are usually quite heavy, but the Arahi strips down most of the typical internal structures that add so much weight to other stability models. These do it all in their uniquely designed midsole, with differential densities, a special meta-rocker, and their wishbone design.
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.
The chunky Elevons come in at 23 ounces, which is still lighter than most of the stability models and competitive with the racing flats.
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. 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).
The biggest problem with extra light racing shoes is that their lighter materials are more prone to degradation and quick wear.This issue with the plastic aglet might more of a Brooks quality control issue, though.
We write these reviews because we're runners who want to put out reliable, honest advice on the gear we most love as runners: running shoes. To get there, we take an in-depth look at the running shoe industry to see what the trends are, where they're going, and we try to get a little spin control to stay grounded in our judgment and recommendations.
We work hard to keep our reviews objective, which is why we devised our performance measures and spend so long running and researching. We want to make sure we understand what's good and what's not about each of these running shoes, and we want to make sure we can do a 1:1 comparison across brands and even styles. We can then lean on our expert reviewers to translate their experience and judgment into meaningful advice for other runners.
We hope that you get the same value from our reviews as we got from performing them: the boil-down on the best running shoes for you. When you're trying to find the right shoes, it's hard to beat firsthand experience in dozens of models, side by side. We hope that we can give you that same experience while saving you the expense and hassle of doing it yourself - or at least help you narrow it down to a few good prospects with solid return policies.