This guide to the best running shoes of 2018 provides picks for the best running shoes for each type of runner and also offers tips and advice to know before you buy.
How We Tested Them
- Editor’s Pick: New Balance 1400v6
- Altra Escalante Racer
- Nike VaporFly 4% Flyknit
- Reebok Floatride Run Fast
- Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper
- Editor’s Pick: Saucony Kinvara 9
- Adidas SolarBoost
- Mizuno Waveknit R2
- New Balance Beacon
- Nike Pegasus Turbo
- Editor’s Pick: Hoka One One Bondi 6
- Asics Gel-Cumulus 20
- Brooks Glycerin 16
- New Balance 890v6
- On Cloud X
This year brought an influx of sneakers to the marketplace — starting in January and sprinting toward the finish line of December. It seems like each brand kept trying to one-up itself with new versions of favorites, upgrades to classics and more brand new foams and lasts than we could possibly keep up with. While finding the right pair of sneakers for you is incredibly personal, we put a huge group of them to the test to narrow down the field for you. The team at Gear Patrol logged over 500 miles in just a couple weeks to bring you this list of sneakers. You might have your go-to pair, but we wanted to bring you a complete list of all the latest and greatest this year so you can find the perfect pair of shoes no matter what type of runner you are.
How We Tested Them
We started with a list of well over 50 pairs of sneakers. Throughout the year, our fitness team has been testing and reviewing some of the most buzzed-about running shoes. So, we were able to narrow down our list to 25 pairs of shoes that should be tested. All shoes had to be released in 2018, whether that was a new version of a shoe or a brand new shoe. We worked with 13 brands to make sure we included all of the pairs you’ll see when you walk into your local running specialty store.
We tapped eight testers and made sure we had two runners give feedback on every single pair of shoes. Two testers want to run the NYC marathon next year, one ran this year’s and another ran in 2017. We have one tester in the Brooklyn Track Club and two with esteemed cross country and track backgrounds. While the most intense testing happened over the past couple weeks, our Outdoors and Fitness team has been testing new shoes since January 1 and keeps track of the latest model releases, making sure we know the difference between the New Balance 1080 v6 and v7.
Once we had our team of testers, we distributed the running shoes and let the testing commence. We took to the roads in 50-degree weather and 0-degree weather, noting how that temperature affected the foam and gel, plus wore the shoes to walk around all day, on long travel weekends and to fitness classes so we could get an overarching picture of what each shoe can actually do and what its limitations are. Beyond pure fit, we evaluated the shoes from a durability, comfort and reliability perspective. We noted if the shoes made us feel zippy, helped us slog through training miles or fell a little flat.
Once the testing period ended, we categorized our results into three distinct pillars: speed, easy runs and long runs. Our speed shoes are, at their core, race day shoes. They’re the ones you’ll pull on for track practices and 200-meter repeats. They are the ones you want to wear to win your local 5K.
Our long run shoes are cushioned to the max. Some offer a rocker to propel you forward over the hundreds of miles you plan to put on them, and others let you still feel the ground while the foam underfoot might look like it’s not going to let you.
Finally, our easy run shoes are the ones that we’d pick up to run on tempo days as well as days when we’re just headed out for a five-miler or need to escape the house during the holidays for a quickie.
We separated them into these categories because we know that in order to prevent injuries, it’s best to rotate sneakers. While it’s pricey, it helps your sneakers last longer and will keep your feet in better shape.
The Best Running Shoes for Speed
Altra Escalante Racer
We tested the NYC racer, one of the special editions of the Escalante. We’ve run miles in the Escalante — a sneaker with a bit of cushion thanks to an AltraEgo midsole. In true Altra form, the foot-shaped toe box ensures proper toe splay. The durable and firm feeling comes through so you can alternate sprints with a recovery lap on long run days. The engineered upper offers plenty of breathability, which cuts back on weight and also allows plenty of airflow. Be aware when you go for runs in the winter that you might need a thicker sock.
Weight: 6.8 ounces
Heel Height: 22 mm
Forefoot Height: 22 mm
Nike VaporFly 4% Flyknit
This list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include the shoe that The New York Times heralds as the shoe that can help you run three to four percent faster. These are the shoes that elite marathoners reach for on race day and during tempo runs. Winners of the New York, Chicago and London marathons have all worn these: Shalane Flanagan, Galen Rupp and Eliud Kipchoge. The ZoomX foam paired with a full-length carbon plate gives runners a serious pop in their runs. “I’m a big fan of the minimal upper, which lacks traditional running shoe features like overlays and a heel counter,” says one tester. “My foot stayed nice and snug during runs slow and fast; I never once felt like I was slipping out of the shoe. No hot spots or issues with the Flyknit rubbing my Achilles.” Our testers thought it would be silly not to include this shoe, but with the caveat that it is $250 and after just a few runs the foam started to show wear and tear. The life of these shoes is only around 100 miles, so about four marathons, but our testers saw wear after just 30 miles. Our testers also felt it wasn’t worth wearing these (and wasting miles) for anything less than a 10K or 15K, just pick traditional racing flats for that distance.
Weight: 7.65 ounces
Heel to Toe Drop: 10mm
Reebok Floatride Fast
With Reebok’s dive into running back in 2017, the brand has only expanded its running shoe picks to include a race day speed shoe that’s practically lighter than your kit. The FloatRide Run Fast Pro is at the same price point as the Nike 4%, but much easier to find. However, a $250 price tag certainly isn’t friendly. So while we love these shoes, we’d recommend the FloatRide Run Fast for just $140 instead. The shoe fits to size, with “less lockdown than normal racing flats, lending the shoe a bit more approachability on weekly tempos and track workouts,” says one tester. “The shoe is super light, and it feels that way. I’d place it at the halfway point between a racing flat and an everyday trainer.” The mesh upper is breathable and perfect for a speedy mile through a marathon. These feel extra springy on the track and turf so when you bust out 100-meter repeats (in a workout or during a few key moments of your marathon) you get a boost of energy.
Weight: 6.6 ounces
Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm
Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper
These felt great right from the start. One tester found there was a little extra room along the toe, but the lateral walls and heel cup provided support and a nice fit. The Hyper Burst midsole is brand new for the brand and feels squishy, yet slightly firm to the touch. “These disappear when running,” one tester says. “I ran in sub-32 degrees and could feel the foam warming up underneath me.” There were no hotspots, and you can really feel the ground beneath you. “I could even feel the little rocks under my feet when racing downhill.” If you have a hilly race, these are the fast shoes for you.
Weight: 6.4 ounces
Heel to Toe Offset: 4 mm
New Balance 1400v6
This is the cheapest lightweight racing sneaker in the bunch. New Balance classifies them as racing flats, which makes sense considering the thin amount of foam underfoot — it’s solid thanks to Revlite technology. The upper is airy, yet form-fitting, so there’s a secure footing inside. The tongue is extremely thin but causes no itch or irritation, and instead sticks with the theme of a racing flat. Pull these on to speed through a 5K, tempo run and uphill all-out effort.
Weight: 7.2 ounces
Heel Height: 25 mm
Forefoot Height: 15 mm
The Best Running Shoes for Easy Days
Saucony Kinvara 9
The Kinvara 8s are extremely popular, so when Saucony debuted the 9s it was a tricky balance to make sure the lightweight fit didn’t disappear as a full-length Everun midsole was added. Nine years after the original one appeared, it’s still a favorite for the Saucony Racing Team — and for ours. “They offer enough support that my feet feel cradled,” said one tester. A minimal upper with two layers of fabric to hold your heel in place do just the trick. “I see these as excellent shoes for quicker workouts and tempo runs. They aren’t true race shoes, but for anything 10k or below I’d feel very comfortable racing in them.”
Weight: 7.5 ounces
Heel Height: 23 mm
Forefoot Height: 19 mm
“These were extremely comfortable right out of the box with no break-in period. I put them on and started jogging around the store, grinning at how great they felt,” our tester says. These true-to-size running shoes found their home in one tester’s running shoe rotation thanks to the sock lining, material choices, plastic heel supports, the super-soft tongue and the dense woven mesh supports around the midfoot. “I’m six-foot-two, and 180-pounds with a pretty long stride, so I’ve struggled with minimally-cushioned shoes even though I like their lightweight feel and flexibility. These are solid and supportive enough that I even feel comfortable lifting weights in them.”
Weight: 10.8 ounces
Heel Height: 32 mm
Forefoot Height: 22 mm
Mizuno Waveknit R2
Mizuno has long made shoes for those who need support, but the brand has steered clear of knit uppers in the past, opting for a more secure fabric. That is, until now. “These shoes had everything I liked about the Waverider 21 and 22 but are definitely more comfortable and breathable with the knit upper,” one tester said. “I liked these so much after my first eight miles in them that I decided to save them for the marathon. I felt really good throughout the race in them and didn’t have any issues with not enough foam or support or anything.” Built with the same Cloudwave technology, the shoes are sure to feel peppy as you run. “Mizuno made what I consider to be one of the most comfortable running shoes available even more comfortable. And it did that while leaving the supportive heel structure of the shoe in place — and produced some of its best colorways — too.” Pick these up for tempo runs as well as long easy days — whatever you need.
Weight: 10.2 ounces
Heel to Toe Height: 12 mm
New Balance Beacon
Testers really liked the midsole for road and treadmill use. “I had no issue with the tongue or upper on my indoor and outdoor runs. It kept my feet warm enough over the Brooklyn Bridge on a blustery night and were comfortable enough to wear all day long. To be honest, the look was a bit much for me initially. The cushioning is almost as maximalist as a Hoka One One sneaker, but the upper is a pretty simple design for New Balance. It struck me as a very similar shoe to the 1080s, just with a lighter weight sole. The longer I wore them for, the more I liked them. I didn’t need to size up in these, developed no blisters, felt no hot spots and never felt that dreaded dead feeling.”
Weight: 7.5 ounces
Heel to Toe Height: 6 mm
Nike Pegasus Turbo
As one of many launches from Nike this year, the Nike Pegasus Turbo was created with feedback from Eliud Kipchoge (winner of the Berlin and London marathons in 2018), who wanted an everyday sneaker as an alternative to the 4%. It’s a blend of ZoomX and React foam without the plate, so it’s a little more forgiving on longer runs and over time. “If you’re training for a race, this sneaker is for you. It has more support in the upper compared to the Epic React, but a similarly plush and soft feel,” says one tester. “The marshmallow-like feel of the React is replaced with a springy bounce in each step, propelling you forward for 100-meter repeats, 5Ks in the rain or race days across bridges. There’s ample forefoot room (more so than the Pegasus 35), but sizing can be tricky. I usually size up in Nike kicks by half a size, but kept with my regular size for these.” You can read an even more in-depth review of the shoes here.
Weight: 8.6 ounces
Heel to Toe Height: 10 mm
The Best Running Shoes for Long Run Days
Hoka One One Bondi 6
As a road shoe, the Bondi 6 is the most cushioned shoe found in Hoka One One’s road offerings. The Bondi was roomy in the toe box, but otherwise true to size. “They are way more responsive than they look and the extreme amount of cushion provides the illusion I am running on trails,” one tester said. One thing to note was that the laces were a bit slippery, so we might recommend throwing on another pair of laces or using Hickies to keep them in place.
Weight: 12 ounces
Heel Height: 33mm
Forefoot Height: 29mm
Asics Gel-Cumulus 20
The Asics Gel-Cumulus just celebrated its 20th birthday. The Gel-Cumulus is an ideal sneaker for longer, easy runs and heavy duty mileage. It’s lighter than its predecessor, features the new FlyteFoam midsole and has a more breathable upper — all of which make it the best version yet. The fit in these is described by testers as “snug, but the ankle support is appreciated,” and “like a glove.” For longer days when you need a bit more support, these are your pick. The FlyteFoam midsole paired with rear and forefoot gel cushioning helps to lessen the impact of each footfall while simultaneously helping your foot through its forefoot to midfoot transition, or heel to toe if you’re a heel striker. “Asics are the everyman’s running shoe. They aren’t flashy and they don’t need to be. Your dad pairs them with jeans, but will also beat you in the next local 5k in the same pair. These shoes fit right and cover the bases for almost every type of training,” says one tester. They are the quality you expect from Asics shoes with a slightly more stiff ride that’ll help propel you forward to the finish. “If I want a dependable shoe that won’t give me issues, I’ll turn to these,” says one tester.
Weight: 10.5 ounces
Heel Height: 23 mm
Forefoot Height: 13 mm
Pronation: Under-Pronator and Neutral
Brooks Glycerin 16
These are Brooks’s top of the line cushion runner for long days. Version 16 features a tweaked midsole that includes a new foam called DNA Loft. It’s just as plush and long-lasting as previous iterations. One tester noted that it was necessary to size up here for the perfect fit. While the initial step-in caused some confusion, once you start running, the consensus is that it feels great. “My first thought was that they had an extremely low heel cup, and I worried I would slip out the back. The longer I wore them the less I felt that way,” said one tester. “It’s a lot of shoe. So runners who lean toward minimalism — even on long runs — are going to find the 16 to be overly clunky,” said another tester. Despite that, “I had no pain after wearing all day, hopping on a bike and even jumping into a fitness class. The foam underfoot feels plush, almost like you’re stepping onto a cloud. They basically turned into my Cinderella shoe — the perfect fit and feel.” The mesh upper features an engineered multi-layer fabric that creates a bootie feel when you lace it up.
Weight: 10.6 ounces
Heel to Toe Height: 10 mm
New Balance 890sv6
The 890s, which have been around since 2012, disappeared when Vazee and Zante models became popular, but then were called back with a fresh foam midsole. Since v5, small updates have been made including a no-sew stretch mesh upper and TPU strips along the forefoot. “These were my favorite pair of the bunch. A longtime fan of New Balance, I found this model to combine the perfect amount of cushioning and spring. For a shoe that’s considered neutral, it had the pop and turnover I was looking for,” said one tester. Beyond a slightly more breathable upper, one tester was smitten. “I will continue to wear these and probably buy a second pair. They are perfect for the all-around running. Someone looking to log miles for a 5K and 10K race will enjoy them just as much as someone training for the next marathon. As someone who unfortunately logs most miles on concrete, these will protect my shins with the perfect amount of cushioning, yet provide enough energy return to keep the legs feeling fresh and quick.”
Weight: 9.0 ounces
Heel to Toe Height: 6 mm
On Cloud X
This is the shoe you should reach for if you need a stable ride over the course of 100 miles, which is exactly how many miles one tester logged. “It’s very light for a shoe this supportive,” one tester shares. “I had to adjust my running style to accommodate it, but I think this is true when swapping to any shoe. One thing I noticed was that they were super slippery on road paint (like on the yellow or white lines and bike lane lines) when running in the rain, but grippy otherwise.” There’s a lot of structure in this shoe, so you will have to get used to that, but with a dual-density sock liner and adaptive memory foam, soon enough these shoes will fit like a glove.