In recent years, the running shoe trends that once categorized the most colorful wall at Foot Locker — minimalism, neutrality, stability — have quickly given way to more dynamic and freeform styles, guiding the sport in a number of new directions. Trail shoes are starting to look like road shoes; road shoes are starting to 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 continuing its renaissance.
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 29 of the best running shoes, testing them out on roads, tracks and trails around New York City.
Additional contribution by AJ Powell, Andrew Connor, Sung Han, Chase Pellerin, Tucker Bowe, J. Travis Smith, Jack Seemer and Jeremy Berger.
This Year’s Testers
About the GP staffers putting in the miles.
Michael Finn, The Beginner: Finn hates running. Doesn’t enjoy it in the slightest. If you’re like Finn, take a look at his picks. A few of them definitely made running slightly more enjoyable.
Chris Wright, the Occasional Runner: Chris runs, sometimes. He’s in decent, but not great, shape; he can knock off 2–4 miles twice a week without too much problem, but anything more causes problems. He favors maximalist shoes, which help him with his bum ankle.
Tanner Bowden, the Intermediate Runner: When there’s no skiing to be had, Tanner shifts his fitness regimen over to running. He prefers to stick to park paths and forest trails but is no stranger to sidewalks and road shoulders.
Chase Pellerin, the Gym Runner: Chase’s running consists of back and forth from the gym and miles spent on the treadmill.
AJ Powell, the Dedicated Runner: AJ thoroughly enjoys running. The ideal morning includes a five-mile run followed promptly by a fruit smoothie. If he’s feeling particularly sprightly, his routine also includes a HIIT workout.
Take on endless miles of pavement.
Fit: Snug, thanks to two-piece bootie construction. Go ultralight on the socks or size up.
Feel: The Prism is a lightweight, minimalist shoe. There’s no tongue and the outsole is constructed with less rubber than most shoes.
Overall: The Prism’s upper is snug and breathable, and with 8mm of drop, it’s a good middle ground for runners looking for a lightweight shoe that doesn’t have beefy rubberin the sole. I personally enjoy just a little bit more cushioning, but folks who believe less is more will get a lot out of this shoe. Plus, the quasi-retro colorways look awesome.
Mizuno Wave Rider 20
Fit: True as can be. There’s plenty of room in the toe box and good heel hold.
Feel: Stepping into the Wave Riders from my extra-supportive, day-to-day shoe had me suspicious of this level of lightweight, soft comfort.
Overall: My suspicions were abandoned two miles in. The light mesh upper conformed to my foot, which felt supported and cushioned by the foam in the sole even on NYC sidewalks. The Wave Riders are built to provide a smooth ride and that’s just what they did.
Karhu Fast6 MRE
Fit: True to size, tight in the heel while providing space in the toe.
Feel: Immediately comfortable.
Overall: These shoes are pumped up for comfort. The sole is extra cushiony and the laces stretch to provide a snug yet dynamic fit when you’re laced up and moving. I imagine these will accommodate lots of foot shapes, but the extra space in the toe was just a tad much for me personally, as I prefer a close-fitting shoe all round my foot.
Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 2
Fit: Roomier in the toe than most, but not overdone.
Feel: The skeleton of material that encases the mesh does create a slight crease effect in the forefoot that I noticed out of the box, but it seemed to wane during the run. I imagine that after breaking the shoe in, it would soften even further.
Overall: These shoes are light, supportive, and comfortable. Topo Athletic builds extra room for the toes to expand into its shoes, which is great, but some runners looking for a tight fit should try these on first. The Fli Lyte 2 is also close to zero-drop (4mm) without going all the way and produces a natural stride (but heel-strikers should take note). Available May 15.
Saucony Freedom ISO
Fit: True to size. Slightly loose in my heel, but snug overall.
Feel: The Freedom ISO provides plenty of cushion and spring without compromising road feel.
Overall: I’m normally pretty averse to shoes with this much cushion, but Saucony pulled it off well. They’re spry, which is rare in a cushioned shoe, and allowed me to go distances that I’d normally struggle with in a more minimalist shoe.
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Nike Lunarepic Low Flyknit 2
Fit: Snug. Size up a half size if you like your shoes to fit looser.
Feel: The sock-like knit upper is supremely comfortable. At times, I did feel like my foot was sliding out the back of the shoe.
Overall: Once I got used to the feeling of the heel cup, or lack thereof, I enjoyed running in the Lunarepics. They provided ample cushioning without the fighting-through-mush feeling that you get with over-padded EVA shoes. The Flyknit upper hugged my foot and made the shoe feel like an extension of my body. One of my favorite shoes from the test.
Adidas Pureboost Clima
Fit: Slightly wider than what I’m used to.
Feel: The Boost foam is some of the springiest I’ve ever used. When you run, it feels as though the shoe is giving you back the effort that you’re putting in.
Overall: While these certainly lean more towards the lifestyle end of the spectrum, I enjoyed them more than I thought I would. They’re great for shorter runs and are hands down the best-looking shoes of the bunch.
Inov-8 Roadtalon 240
Fit: Slightly tight in the toe box, with good vertical cushion for those with taller feet.
Feel: The “Adapterweb” mesh upper is extremely comfortable. I use medical inserts (damn you, plantar fasciitis!), which in tighter shoes often tightens things up too much and increases chafing on the top of my foot, but the mesh’s softness and give adapted well.
Overall: I’m used to my maximalist Hoka One Ones, and I felt the decrease in cushioning right away in my ankles and knees. But for those who like a more minimalist shoe, there are plenty of upsides: the 4mm drop is a safe middle ground for a range of different strides, and its midsole is especially springy, giving plenty of bounce, especially during faster running. Bonus points for the obnoxious ’90s-kid shoelaces.
Fit: True to size. Gotta love that wide toe box!
Feel: If you aren’t used to the fit of an Altra shoe, it can be a bit weird at first. The toe box is wide (it’s actually shaped like your foot) and allows for plenty of toe splay.
Overall: I was skeptical about Altra’s first shot at a knit upper, but they nailed it. It maintains everything that Altra fans know and love while adding supreme comfort and breathability to the upper. It’s about as close to the perfect shoe as I got in this year’s test. Keep in mind that I am a forefoot striker, so a zero-drop shoe fits my style. If you’re a heel striker, there are better shoes out there for you.
Brooks Glycerin 14
Fit: True to size
Feel: The upper felt a bit stiff at first, but it broke in after a few runs.
Overall: The cushion in the Glycerin 14 is plentiful. For runners who love to feel like they’re running on a cloud, look no further. It’s not quite on the Hoka One One’s level, but it is supremely soft and soaks up any and all pounding from the road.
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Salomon Sonic Pro 2
Fit: On the narrower side.
Feel: The midsole on the Sonic Pro 2 is firm, which I’m a fan of.
Overall: The Sonic Pro 2 is an 8mm-drop shoe, which means there’s plenty of heel cushioning for those of you heel strikers out there. The Sensifit system provides a snug, unyielding fit that kept my foot from sliding around in the shoe, a typical source of hotspots and blisters.
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: This is the Iten’s second year on the list and for good reason. It’s a shoe that continues to impress. From last year’s test: “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 GOmeb Razor
Fit: True to size.
Feel: The knit upper was a bit stiffer than others I’ve tested, but that’s a good thing. It provided all of the comfort I wanted while still offering plenty of support.
Overall: It’s easy to write off Skechers. Those of you who have already done so are missing out. The GOmeb Razor, made for pro marathoner Meb Keflezighi, is likely my second favorite shoe from this year’s test (second only to Altra’s Escalante). It’s comfortable and fast, and it works equally well when mid-foot striking or forefoot striking.
Altra Torin iQ
Fit: Typical Altra fit. Wider toe box.
Feel: Plush, comfortable and supportive. Everything you’d want in a running shoe.
Overall: Yes, this is the second shoe in our road section from Altra. Typically, we’d shy away from including two shoes by the same brand in the same section, but the Torin iQ is deserving of a spot on this list. The way I describe it, the Torin is the One 2.5 built on a maxi platform designed to help you run longer. Best of all, it has an actually usable app function that tells you a host of stats about your run. It’s a win all the way around.
Newton Fate III
Fit: Incredibly well-balanced, with just the right amount of wriggle room and foot-hugging support.
Feel: After just three or four strides, I could feel Newton’s P.O.P. system in action, concentrating propulsion on the balls of my feet. This shoe literally changed how I moved my legs and touched my feet to the pavement. I felt like Legolas floating over hard-packed snow.
Overall: Of the four shoes I tested, the Fate III was the most balanced, and the best match for my running style: nimble, emphasizing forefoot-launching over heel-pounding.
Hoka One One Clifton 3
Fit: Rigid, secure — almost like a boot without ankle support. Didn’t play so well with my bony feet and high arches.
Feel: The extra-thick platform — Hoka One One’s calling card — feels and looks a bit odd, but gives a nice bounce. Feels a bit wobbly on tight turns.
Overall: The raised platform affords a kind of cruise control, excellent for long, straight runs.
Puma Speed 600 Ignite 2
Fit: Roomy, yet supportive. The thickly padded tongue is very comfortable. Needs a bit more arch, though.
Feel: This is not a fast shoe. It feels more like a shoe you’d take on shorter jogs and casual runs.
Overall: I want to call this a “casual” running shoe. Maybe even a “lifestyle” running shoe. It doesn’t look the best, but it’s comfortable and more than suitable for my infrequent runs.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v7
Fit: True to size with a roomy toe box. Heel feels secure with extra padding around the ankle.
Feel: A very airy shoe; feels much lighter than its 10.8-ounce build. The foam base provides not only obvious cushioning on the road, but also a surprising amount of traction.
Overall: With my daily average just under 5k, this shoe delivers more than I probably need. However, the amount of comfort and stability this shoes provides makes it easy to indulge in its excess.
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Fit: A rigid, but not overly constrictive construction. Proper lacing provides a secure fit around the arch of the foot.
Feel: Light under foot, but I didn’t feel like the shoe had enough of a base at the heel. Their mesh-weave upper was extremely breathable, yet kept my feet dry during an early morning rainfall.
Overall: A comfortable and light shoe to walk in, the Cloudflow’s felt a little uneasy when the pace increased. I found myself consciously taking corners a little slower and avoiding a wide stride when heading downhill. For the short distances I need them for, I’m still willing to overlook their shortcomings.
Fit: Fairly tight around the top of my foot. Not that they were uncomfortable; I just think they could be a bit roomier.
Feel: The whole sole, from my toes to my heel, felt like one of those squishy stress balls. Bouncy and soft, yet somehow firm.
Overall: Just like Hoka One One’s Clifton 3, the DynaFlyte has a nice bounce, which creates a cruise control sensation. These are great shoes for longer runs, but they likely won’t break any speed records.
Roots, rocks and dirt are your best friends.
Topo Athletic Hydroventure
Fit: True to size. Topo Athletic builds its shoes with a roomy toe and grabby heel.
Feel: A comfortable shoe that doesn’t feel as aggressive as most trail runners.
Overall: The Hydroventure is a lightweight for a trail shoe. The tread isn’t too aggressive, making it a great city-to-trail hybrid. Those looking for one pair to go everywhere should check these out.
Vasque Constant Velocity
Fit: True to size.
Feel: Comfortable out of the box and through the run. They lace up without causing pressure points on the foot. 360 degrees of snugness.
Overall: Light for a trail runner (11 ounces) with grippy tread that doesn’t feel too aggressive for the stretch of pavement leading up to the trailhead. My favorite trail shoe of the test — comfortable, solid and well rounded.
The North Face Endurus TR
Fit: True to size with enough extra space for the toes to breath. I have a very regular foot but I imagine these would accommodate a variety of shapes.
Feel: The Endurus TR felt solid and stable right off the bat and I didn’t experience any movement within the shoe.
Overall: The Endurus is an incredibly well-rounded trail shoe. It has sturdy Vibram sole with tread that grips all types of ground, a breathable mesh upper to help keep feet dry and a toe cap for inevitable stubs. I can’t really explain why, but these shoes just felt reliable.
La Sportiva Mutant
Fit: These fit true to size, but very snug because of the burrito-shaped tongue. Definitely worth trying on to make sure it suits your foot.
Feel: The Mutant is an aggressive trail runner, and it definitely feels like it.
Overall: The first thing I noticed was how sticky the rubber in the outsole was; it was audible as I walked around in my kitchen. Needless to say, it scrambled well over rocks and other surfaces. I quickly realized that every detail about the shoe is designed to take a beating. This might not be one for the casual trail runner, but I’d trust it on a summit run above treeline.
Salewa Multi Track GTX
Feel: Rugged, burly, solid.
Overall: The Multi Tracks are surprisingly comfortable given how sturdy they feel and that’s partly thanks to the quick-lace system that creates even pressure across the top of the foot. They’re also lighter than you’d think.
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Scarpa Proton GTX
Fit: True to size.
Feel: Very supportive but still comfortable.
Overall: This shoe has the stiffest sole of any I encountered during the test. I could see this being a go-to for day hikes as well as mountain running — I think it could handle way more than I was able to throw at it.
Under Armour Horizon KTV
Fit: Fairly wide in the toe box which allows for a good amount of toe splay.
Feel: This is about as close as you can get to the feeling of a road shoe in a trail shoe. Great minimalist feel while still offering plenty of support.
Overall: Great looks and equally great performance. The Michelin rubber compound on the sole provided traction on a plethora of surfaces, and the plush EVA midsole soaked up every bump and rut that came my way.
Altra King MT
Fit: Standard Altra fit.
Feel: The power strap across the top of the shoe really helps to keep the foot from swimming around. The sole provides plenty of feel for the trail without subjecting your foot to the torment of poking rocks and roots.
Overall: Okay, yes, I have a bit of a love affair with Altra running shoes. They aren’t always the prettiest pair on the shelf, but they are always the best-performing — for me anyway — and these are a prime example. They are a bit funky-looking, but take them out on the trail and they are absolute animals — churning through gravel, mud and chunder like no one’s business.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3
Fit: Almost exactly like the Clifton, but with a noticeably thicker sole.
Feel: Bouncy, just like the Clifton. The heel, however, feels more solid and protective. (For rocks and roots and other assorted trail obstacles.)
Overall: Basically, it’s the exact same shoe as the Clifton, but with a more protective sole.