In recent years, the running shoe trends that once categorized the most colorful wall at Foot Locker — minimalism, neutrality, stability — have quickly become more dynamic and freeform, guiding the sport in a number of new directions. Trail shoes are starting to look like road shoes; road shoes look like trail shoes. A number of manufacturers are adding ergonomic second-skin uppers to cushioned midsoles with dramatic heel-to-toe drops, while some minimalist runners are switching to racing flats full-time. On the other side of the spectrum, maximalism, thanks to brands like Hoka One One, is undergoing a renaissance, too.
The result of all this change is a hard-to-navigate bazaar of promises and claims that your best run ever is just one purchase away. But chances are, it’s going to take a little trial and error before you find that dream pair. To help mitigate the stress of that process, we’ve collected 22 of the best running shoes, testing them out on roads, tracks and trails around New York City. – Jack Seemer
Additional contribution by AJ Powell, Andrew Connor, Sung Han, Chase Pellerin, Tucker Bowe, J. Travis Smith and Jeremy Berger.
Take on endless miles of pavement.
Newton Fate II
Fit: I have a narrow-ish foot, and the Newtons accommodated it well while still leaving space for toe splay.
Feel: Newton’s P.O.P. 2 platform is fast, and great for runners that have a mid-foot or forefoot strike. There isn’t a lot of cushioning, so if you’re a heel striker, you might want to look elsewhere.
Overall: The Fate II is the best Newton that I’ve run in, and it was up there with my top picks in this year’s test. Its one weakness might be descending steep hills, but I was having so much fun that it didn’t matter.
Fit: The fit was perfect, and they run true to size.
Feel: They’re lightweight, comfortable and very breathable. I wore them sockless.
Overall: I was skeptical of the “clouds” because they scream “gimmick” — but I’m really enjoying running in these. They feel like minimalist shoes, but with a lot more cushion and spring in the stride. I’m curious how well they’ll continue to perform over time, but they’re in the weekly rotation right now.
Under Armour Speedform Slingride
Fit: A very minimal shoe, but the upper seems to mold to your foot.
Feel: Super comfy. The upper stretches a bit in full stride, and this may get loose over time, but out of the box the stretch is a great feeling.
Overall: It’s a good shoe for quick morning runs, plus it has a sleek look and great breathability.
Fit: With light to moderate padding, the Fuzex is supportive but conforms to your foot.
Feel: I didn’t have any hotspots. They don’t provide the most cushion from road shock, but that’s the price of a lightweight shoe.
Overall: The Fuzex is a great shoe. It might be better suited to dirt runs than hard pavement due to the low drop and minimal cushioning, at least for me. As a bonus, it’s also a very good-looking shoe.
Fit: True to size and snug in a good way.
Feel: I’d describe it as “secure,” by which I mean it fits closely around the foot but in a comfortable way. For instance, the toe box is roomy, but it’s not loose and splashy, which is how some shoes with too much room up front can feel.
Overall: I love these shoes. They’ve got a 4mm drop and a decent amount of cushion in the sole, so they work well taking short strides or hammering away in a full sprint. When I think of an ideal, gimmick-free running shoe, this is it.
Skechers Go Run 4
Fit: They fit great, even spacious enough to accommodate a runner with much wider feet then myself. When tightened, there were no complaints on my end.
Feel: The shoes feel unbelievably lightweight. Much less, in fact, than their actual 7.8 ounces. It’s their mesh upper that makes it feel much more like a minimalist runner. But they’re also extremely supportive. (They have a 4mm heel drop that encourages midfoot striking.)
Overall: In the past two years I’ve done a complete 360 with Skechers. I couldn’t stand them as a kid, but I’ve been wearing their 2015 GoMeb Speed 3 for the past year and love them. So far with these, it’s like falling in love (with running shoes) all over again.
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Fit: They fit just a half size small (with socks).
Feel: Lighter than anything I have run in before, the Skora Tempo took a little while to get use to. The thin upper and heel cushioning provided a light and comfortable ride, but I would be hesitant to push them past a couple miles with the lack of extra support. I’d recommend wearing them without socks and easing them slowly into your routine.
Overall: It’s not for beginners, but it’s a good gym option if that’s your speed.
Saucony Kinvara 7
Fit: Like a glove.
Feel: This shoe is all cushion on the bottom and no cushion on the upper. So it gives less support for your ankle, but protects from road shock.
Overall: The Kinvara 7 is perfect for most cases in the city/road running, where you don’t need ankle support (fewer uneven surfaces). The upper truly fit like a glove because it was just a piece of fabric (very lightweight as well) while the sole had plenty of cushioning.
Reebok ZPump Fusion 2.0
Fit: Snug in the front, somewhat loose in the back (until you pump them up).
Feel: Soft, light and airy. Super comfortable to have on your foot.
Overall: I’m not entirely sold on the pump. Yes, it gives the shoe a snug, comfortable fit, but no more so than most conventional shoe designs. It doesn’t feel like it’s worth awkwardly hitting the little pump on the side a dozen times before your jog. That said, the shoe itself is outstandingly comfortable and plenty supportive while running. It’s also quite a looker in this color combo.
Karhu Flow 6 IRE
Fit: True to size. Snug and nicely cushioned, comfortable.
Feel: Looks like a lot of shoe to me but feels light and fast. The heel cup is a bit spacious for me and the back of the shoe comes up higher than I like — but that will be different for every runner.
Overall: IRE stands for “increased rolling effect,” which is the least aggressive iteration of Karhu’s Fulcrum technology, designed to propel the runner forward. It’s subtle but effective — less pronounced than what Newton is doing in the Fate II — and definitely feels like an advantage when you’re running fast.
APL Techloom Pro
Fit: The Techloom Pro runs pretty neutral, and adapts to a large variety of foot shapes thanks to its woven upper.
Feel: APL makes some crazy claims about their shoes (e.g., they’ll supposedly shave 9 seconds off your mile time). I’m not ready to verify that just yet, but the Techloom Pros are definitely comfortable and absorb tons of road shock thanks to the soft EVA sole.
Overall: The Techloom Pros are the perfect shoe for the casual runner who wants to head to the bar after their workout. The shoes are built for the athleisure lifestyle, but still perform at a high level when needed.
Fit: True to size. I’m 10.5 and they fit well and comfortable.
Feel: They felt great and fit like a sock. I wore them barefoot and they were comfortable right out of the box. They didn’t have anything annoying on the internal lining and the soles provided great support — though they did feel too firm at times.
Overall: I’d give them 8 out of 10. They are particularly great for triathletes. The Z-Lock lace system offers a custom fit, and I found them to be great for people who run sockless.
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Nike Free RN Distance
Fit: They’re comfy, stretchy, and fit better without socks. The cables attached to the laces help hold your foot in place.
Feel: Good fit, well-balanced sole. They offer more foot flexibility than other running shoes I’ve tested.
Overall: It’s a solid, well rounded runner. The upper is thin; don’t run though puddles.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080
Fit: The Fresh Foam 1080’s fit precisely how I want a running shoe to fit. They are snug in the heel, but then widen out at the front to accomodate plenty of toe splay.
Feel: There is no doubt that the 1080’s offer plenty of cushion and allow heel strikers to have a more comfortable ride. Even though I mid-foot strike and forefoot strike, I still enjoyed the ride that they offered. A nice rolling transition from mid-foot to forefoot keeps you rolling along for miles.
Overall: The 1080’s offer plenty of support and will work well for a wide variety of foot shapes and runners. As a bonus, they also come in wide versions if your foot shape calls for it.
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Adidas Adizero Boston 6
Fit: There’s not much to complain about in regards to fit. The Adizero Boston 6’s are more slender than they initially appear, but, for those with normal-width feet, they don’t at all feel constrictive.
Feel: Tight yet flexible (it’s the mesh), they’re comfortable for neutral runners. The Boost midsole is a nice reprieve for NYC’s concrete streets. And at 7.7 ounces, they’re pretty middle-of-the-pack in regards to running shoes. Plus they have an easily removable insole in case you need want to run with your own.
Overall: At $120, you’ll be hard pressed to find more durable and lightweight running shoe. It’s also a good lifestyle shoe (in the black colorway), so when worn outside running situations, they won’t look like a lion out of the zoo.
Fit: Unfortunately, they don’t fit my feet well. I have two mutant toes on my left foot that are curved slightly inward, so it’s hard to get these on in a way that’s comfortable.
Feel: Aside from the toes, the shoes are great if you like minimalist running — which I do. I just wish they came in a model that didn’t separate the toes.
Overall: After exploding briefly a few years ago, the minimalist shoe market has basically disappeared. I’m thankful that Vibram didn’t abandon its customers like a lot of other brands, but my experience with the shoe wasn’t great because it doesn’t fit. If you’ve got normal toes and like to run in as little shoe as possible, these are for you.
Altra Instinct 3.5
Fit: True to size with a very roomy toe box — good for wide feet.
Feel: The upper material itself isn’t particularly comfortable against the foot, but it does let the shoe breath a lot, which is nice. The sole is also fairly stiff, but offers a lot of support.
Overall: A very light and breathable shoe that offers a ton of support during your run, especially if you strike with your forefoot (which I do) thanks to the toe box. They’re a bit stiff out of the box, but I suspect they’ll break in with age and increase in comfort.
Roots, rocks and dirt are your best friends.
Fit: The Scarpas are a fairly narrow shoe. I like my shoes to fit snug so it wasn’t really an issue, but runners with more finicky feet will want to try them on in the store first.
Feel: Even on wet rock, roots and mud, the Neutrons offered plenty of grip and allowed to me send it with confidence in technical terrain. They also offer plenty of protection in the sole against sharp protrusions on the trail.
Overall: As a part of Scarpa’s new line of trail runners, the Neutron is a marked improvement over the Tru that we tested last year. The Neutrons can also double as a light hiking shoe.
Brooks Pure Grit 5
Fit: They fit about a half size small (with socks).
Feel: The Brooks Pure Grit 5 are an ideal trail running shoe. The wide footbed and hexagonal tread offer heavy traction and the extra padding in the heel and around the ankle were a welcomed surprise. They are rather clunky in appearance, but delivered a durable ride on every surface I tested.
Overall: The Pure Grit 5 is definitely a trails-only shoe, where it excels on all off-road surfaces.
Salomon Sense Pro 2
Fit: True to size and glove-like thanks to the Ortholite sock liner.
Feel: Light, fast and truly form-fitting. There’s no splashing around inside the shoe when you change directions on the trail.
Overall: An evolved trail runner for days when you’re on- and off-road. There’s no reason running-shoe companies shouldn’t be taking advantage of the features that Salomon uses — sock liner, quicklaces, lace garage — which elevate the running experience.
Hoka One One Speedgoat
Fit: It has a really firm fit in the mid-foot and heel, with a bit of breathing space up front.
Feel: It’s like driving monster truck, the mid-foot of the sole slightly raised, which provides nice shock absorption on the trail.
Overall: The Speedgoat, for its size, is surprisingly lightweight and comfortable, and it offers great grip. They’re a little flashy for me.
La Sportiva Akasha
Fit: The Akashas fit well, but I found them to be a little narrow for my feet.
Feel: They are comfortable and provide great traction, but you definitely need to wear socks with these.
Overall: I give them an 8/10. Great for running off-trail while still comfortable enough to take on a road run once in a while.