Best running shoes 2021 and running trainers from adidas, Nike, ASICS and more reviewed and ranked

The best running shoes for jogging, training and racing for both men and women

Runner wearing one of the best running shoes, the On Cloudstratus, with clouds in the background
(Image credit: On Running)

The best running shoes – or best running trainers, as some people like to call them – are an essential piece of running gear that can not only help you run faster but also reduce the risk of injury and even improve running form in some cases. Besides, getting a new pair of running shoes can be a good motivator to start running for those who find it hard to muster up the energy to exercise.

Whether you're looking for your first pair of adidas running trainers or a seasoned pro trying to find a replacement for your completely worn racing shoes with the best Nike running shoes, you'll find the best options here on what probably is the most comprehensive running shoes guide on the internet. At least according to us.

Did you know, T3 can help you dress up for your runs more appropriately too! Whether it's the best running headphones, best running watch, best heart rate monitor, best running shorts, best running tops or best running socks, we have a guide for them all.

How do we test the best running shoes?

By running in them, of course! Matt (our resident runner) and other contributors meticulously analyse each shoe to ensure they are up to code. Some of the criteria that we check: step-in comfort, ergonomics, padding, cushioning, technology involved, design, aesthetics, and, of course, running dynamics.

We also try and verify manufacturer claims about performance details such as 'twice as fast as its predecessor' or 'improved grip', where applicable. If it's not possible, we'll refer to these features as 'manufacturer claims'.

It's worth mentioning that most people have different running styles, so running shoes that work for one runner might not work for another. Please keep this in mind when reading our reviews.

The best running shoes, in order of preference

the Adidas 4DFWD is T3's top choice for best running shoesT3 Awards 2021 winner badge

(Image credit: Adidas)

1. Adidas 4DFWD

The next step in the evolution of running shoes

Weight: 370 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 11.3 mm
Best for: Tempo runs, long runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+3D-printed midsole is not only cool but also responsive+Excellent ground contact feel+You're in control of your stride+Allows for speed
Reasons to avoid
-Somewhat heavy

News flash: the Adidas 4DFWD was crowned 'Best Running Shoes' at the T3 Awards 2021!

The Adidas 4DFWD is not the cheapest running trainer, and admittedly, the limited drop nature of the initial release won't help make these the go-to shoes for most runners. Nevertheless, we'd highly recommend getting a pair if you have the chance, as the 4DFWD represents the next step in running shoe evolution.

As well as that and in line with Adidas' efforts to reduce plastic waste, the 4DFWD is not a bad choice for environmentally conscious runners. Don't get me wrong, buying a pair of running shoes won't save the planet, but if you have to buy new running shoes, you might as well get a pair from a manufacturer that pays some attention to environmental-friendliness. Adidas at least tries to make a difference, which is admirable.

All things considered, the Adidas 4DFWD are great running shoes, probably the best running shoes from Adidas at the moment for runners who are looking for something a bit more serious than the Ultraboost 21 but less sporty than the Adizero Adios Pro. And taking into account the normal distribution curve, that's the majority of the runners.

The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit finds the balance between cushioning and performanceT3 Award

(Image credit: Nike)

2. Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit

The simple most comfortable running trainers right now

Weight: 322 grams (men's UK 10)
Drop: 9mm (27.6mm/36.6mm)
Reasons to buy
+Super comfortable+Not too heavy, esp. considering the size+Ample amount of cushioning+Wide landing platform
Reasons to avoid
-Not the fastest shoes

The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit has many great features for runners, especially those who prefer a lot of cushioning and don't mind the extra bulk. The ZoomX foam delivers yet again and proves that it’s one of the best midsole foams being used in running shoes: it’s soft without being unstable and bounces well without losing (too much) energy in the process.

The ‘evolved’ Flyknit upper follows the foot's contour really well, and the padded collar and tongue cradle the ankles beautifully. I would suggest wearing at least mid-socks with these shoes as the collar is a bit tight, which might cause chafing on bare skin. Once you break them in, you might be able to get away wearing ankle socks only.

The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit might not be the cheapest running trainers, and I’m sure the chunkiness of the shoes will put some people off, but if you like Nikes and have some money to burn, I’d recommend giving the shoes a try. In usual Nike style, the Invincible Run doubles up as a sneaker, so you can rest assured that you're getting your money's worth here.

The Saucony Kinvara 12 is a versatile running shoe for everyday trainingT3 Award

(Image credit: Saucony)

3. Saucony Kinvara 12

Snappy running shoes for fast training sessions

Weight: 238 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 4mm (heel 28.5 mm / toe 24.5 mm)
Best for: fast training, tempo runs, interval training
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Exceptional maneuverability+Sublime ground contact feel
Reasons to avoid
-Not the coolest looking shoes

There is very little to criticise about the Saucony Kinvara 12. Some might say that the Bright Future Collection went a bit over the top with the colours: a T3 staff member described the shoes using the term "colourful number", and I couldn't agree more. That said, the Kinvara 12 doesn't look too odd for a running shoe, but it might not be quite stylish enough for a sneaker. Although, you can actually buy the sneaker version of the Kinvara 12.

Sometimes, as soon as you put on a pair of new running shoes, you can tell straight away it will be great to run in them: this is exactly what happened to me wearing the Saucony Kinvara 12 for the first time.

When it comes to running dynamics, the Saucony Kinvara 12 delivers big time. All the tech Saucony has to offer, including the PWRRUN midsole and the FORMFIT upper, work together seamlessly to deliver a snappy running experience.

The Kinvara 12 is as comfortable as a fast trainer needs to be. The toe box is roomy but not loose, and the heel counter holds the heel just fine. The shoes feel breathable and responsive, raring to go whenever you're ready. In your own time, people.

Whether you are a beginner runner who wants to get faster or a pro who knows what they are doing, you will be able to train faster in the Kinvara 12.

the Brooks Hyperion Tempo's DNA Flash midsole is the stuff dreams are made ofT3 Award

(Image credit: Brooks Running)

4. Brooks Hyperion Tempo

Lightweight trainers with nitrogen-infused midsole

Weight: 210 grams
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: training, cushioning, mid-distance runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+DNA Flash midsole is very responsive+Feather-light+Upper follows contour of feet well
Reasons to avoid
-Not the cheapest training shoes

The Brooks Hyperion Tempo was announced in January 2020. Sadly, it didn't get the attention it deserves, partially due to the lockdown and because Brooks is one of those brands only hardcore runners know about. A shame, as the American manufacturer has many amazing running shoes, including but not limited to the Brooks Hyperion Tempo.

The Brooks Hyperion Tempo is a running trainer and works with the carbon-enhanced Brooks Hyperion Elite racing shoes. Both shoes use the nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole, a responsive, bouncy and light cushioning system. 

As it was explained to me on a press briefing in January 2020 by Brooks' Blue Line senior manager Nikhil Jain, the main aim of the Hyperion line is to reduce 'deviation from the ideal stride' which in turn results in and better energy return and less fatigue, even after long runs.

Running in the Brooks Hyperion Tempo feels light and responsive indeed. The midsole is springy but not to a degree where it would hinder performance: my best attempt to characterise it would be to call it 'supportive bounce'. The DNA Flash midsole reduces impact force and creates a smoother transition from heel to toe.

I also found the upper a good fit: not race tight but not loose either. The slits at the front of the woven upper allow air to enter the shoes, improving airflow in the shoes. This can reduce swelling during long runs and improve comfort levels in general.

How does the Hyperion Tempo stack up against the React Infinity Run 2? Find out in our versus article, aptly named Nike React Infinity Run 2 vs Brooks Hyperion Tempo.

the Hoka one one Mach 4 is amazing for both training and racingT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

5. Hoka One One Mach 4

Amazing all-rounder running shoes

Weight: 192 grams (women), 232 grams (men)
Drop: 5 mm
Best for: Daily runs, long runs, training
Reasons to buy
+Super lightweight, considering all the tech included+Smooth and soft ride
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks the firmness of carbon plates-Rubberised foam outsole may not last as long

The Hoka One One Mach 4 running shoes have a luxurious feel with extra padding and ventilation holes. The Profly midsole feels both soft and springy, so you get a double whammy of cushioning and a firm toe-off, making the Mach 4 one of the most adaptable shoes around.

When your running shoes are as versatile as the Mach 4, you can run long in them and rely on them to look after your legs, as well as take on tempo or harder sessions without losing that fast feeling. The shoes remain springy despite all the cushioning that's under your feet, making the Mach 4 the perfect option for fast training days.

Some other running shoes with carbon plates might feel too firm for some, and if you're one of those people and want some softness without a squidgy feeling, you should definitely opt for the Mach 4. We strongly suggest that you put these very near the top of your next potential shoe purchase list.

The On Cloudstratus is the best wide-fit running trainerT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: On Running)

6. On Cloudstratus (FW21)

Best wide-fit running trainer

Weight: 305 grams (men's size 10 UK)
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Road running, mid- to long distances (up to marathon)
Reasons to buy
+Offer loads of support+Comfortable, even for people with wider feet+Double the cushioning (compared to previous-gen)+Uses recycled polyester for upper (~75%) 
Reasons to avoid
-Helion is a firm cushioning system that takes some getting used to for beginners

I wish On Running started putting numbers after the name of its shoes so it's easier to know which one you are talking about. For example, the original On Cloudstratus came out in August 2019 and is completely different from this Cloudstratus, the second iteration of the shoes.

Well, it might not be completely different but definitely it's somewhat different for sure. For example, the new Cloudstratus has a totally re-engineered bottom unit better cushioning and exposing the Speedboard deck that runs along the centre of the midsole.

Said midsole has also been boosted with the "performance-proven" Helion  superfoam, a combination that is said to generate better energy returns and more support for pronating runners.

Most importantly, at least for me who has the widest feet in the universe, On designed the forefoot section a little wider, giving the toes more room to move. the more accommodating upper is held in place using a "star lacing system" that keeps pulls the shoes close to the feet without restricting them.

The result of all this is one of the best support running shoes I tried in 2021. Generally, I wouldn't say I like support shoes (I'm a neutral runner), but I really didn't mind the extra reinforcement here. This feature is certainly not as pronounced as the grasp the Nike React Infinity Run has on your feet.

Given the wide fit, I'd recommend the On Cloudstratus for training, even for neutral runners. Just make sure you get the latest, fall-winter 2021 edition.

the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11provides a plush running experienceT3 Award

(Image credit: New Balance)

7. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

Get ready for a plush run

Weight: 294 grams (men's size 10.5UK)
Drop: 8 mm (30/22mm)
Reasons to buy
+Sooooo soft+Excellent heel construction+Upper is light and airy
Reasons to avoid
-Not a lot of support on the lateral side-Works better as a speedy trainer as opposed to a real performance shoe-Go a half size up your usual size

When I first tried it, I couldn't believe just how soft the Fresh Foam 1080v11 was. The box the shoes came in stated that they were so great, New Balance had to update them for the eleventh time. And indeed, the Fresh Foam 1080v11 feels great to wear and looks good on your feet.

The updated Hypoknit upper has been made lighter and more breathable, but thankfully, it hasn't lost its supportive properties. I would have appreciated a bit more support on the lateral side, though, especially around the widest part of the feet. The midsole platform widens up nicely to provide a more stable landing experience, but the upper fails to aid the motion properly. Not a deal-breaker, but I would expect a tighter fit from a performance shoe.

The rest of the upper is spot on when it comes to fit, especially the heel area that nicely cradles the heel and the ankles. There is a little extra padding at the back of the shoes, which I found hilarious because it's behind the heel counter, so it doesn't add anything to comfort in the shoes but makes the heel curve more accentuated. On the other hand, the collar is lovely, and the padding is sublime at the top of the heels. Kudos to New Balance designers. 

The Fresh Foam midsole lives up to its name (and reputation) and provides premium, super-soft cushioning underfoot. At first glance, it might look like that the stack height is astronomical, but it's actually only 30mm under the heel, which is 25% less foam than what you find in top-tier running shoes. There is still a lot of bounce in the Fresh Foam 1080v11, though, and the shoes don't hold your hands either when it comes to controlling.

The curved geometry of the blown rubber outsole will keep pushing you forward, and the rubber enables you to have a firm grip on a variety of running surfaces, regardless if they are dry or not. 

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is crazy fast and definitely a milestone in running shoe designT3 Award

(Image credit: Nike)

8. Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%

The best running shoe for pure speed

Weight: 190 grams (men's size 9)
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Quick runners doing long distances
Reasons to buy
+Blisteringly fast+Supreme cushioning and energy return
Reasons to avoid
-You'll want to wrap them in cotton wool between races (a.k.a. racing only shoes)

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% is so fast, athletes used to lobby for it to be examined by the International Association of Athletics Federations because they think it provides an unfair advantage to athletes who wear them.

In the prototype of the successor to the Vaporfly NEXT%, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly, Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier, previously thought to be impossible to beat by any human being.

What's so good in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%? Nike threw everything it knew about running shoes out of the window when designing the Vaporfly series. What they came up with might just be the most peculiar-looking road running shoes in existence, but one that gives runners near perfect running dynamics.

There are three key elements to the design of the Vaporfly NEXT%: the updated ZoomX foam that provides a soft landing without wasting energy on the ground, the full-length carbon plate embedded in the midsole that enables you to turn that landing energy to forward momentum and the VaporWeave upper that helps the shoes fit near perfect on your feet.

You won't wear the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% for light afternoon strolls on Park Street; in fact, you will want to wear them only on races – and races that matter, at that. Considering that the cushioning won't be able to perform at 100% efficiency forever, you are looking at spending a lot of money for road running shoes you will probably wear a few times a year. My opinion? It's still worth it.

the adidas SL20 is an inexpensive and light running trainerT3 Award

(Image credit: adidas)

9. Adidas SL20

The Lightstrike foam strikes again

Weight: 230 grams (UK size 8.5)
Drop: 10 mm (24/14 mm)
Best for: Daily runs, long runs, training
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Responsive foam+Continental rubber outsole+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Default colourway looks like every other Adidas running shoe from the era

The Adidas SL20 has had a somewhat unfortunate history so far, although it's only been out for a year and a half. Announced in early 2020, the SL20 heralded the coming of the now widely used Lightstrike foam: a light and responsive foam that powers shoes such as the Adidas Adizero Adios PRO, a record-breaking racing shoe.

The Adidas SL20 is not a racing shoe, mind: it might be super light and easy to run in, but it was designed for training instead of racing. It's not a problem, though, as the SL20 is indeed an excellent running trainer that also doesn't cost the earth either.

You'll find all the trademark Adidas features in the SL20, including the lightweight mesh upper, the Continental grip outsole and the dependable running performance. The biggest criticism we can offer is probably the lack of personality. The default black/white/coral SL20 looks pretty much like all the other Adidas shoes released at the time, including the Ultraboost PB, the Adizero Pro and the likes.

For the price, the Adidas SL20 is probably the best running trainer you can get at the moment. But how does the SL20 fare against the Nike Peg 37? We pitted the two most competent everyday running trainers against each other to find out. Please read it here: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 vs Adidas SL20.

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The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 is a fierce yet comfortable racing shoeT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: New Balance)

10. New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2

Plush marathon runner with cosy upper

Weight: 237 grams (men's 10.5 UK)
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: long runs, especially marathon-distance races
Sizing: Go half size up
Reasons to buy
+New Balance signature soft cushioning+Comfortable upper+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Not for everyday use-Traction is not the best

I was in a bit of a pickle when trying to find a space for the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 on this list. For one, I love these shoes as they are comfortable, fast and look wicked. New Balance is famous for its soft cushioned shoes, and the FuelCell RC Elite v2 really hits the nail on the head with that.

The integrated carbon plate also does its job perfectly, and the combination of the two ensures a sublime racing experience. This plush running escapade is further enhanced by the breathable knit upper that not only does what it says on the box – let's air in and out of the shoes – but also looks sexy AF.

The refined upper feels even more supportive than the one found on the shoe's predecessor. The outsole has also been updated, and as opposed to featuring those little triangles, the FuelCell RC Elite v2 now has a coloured outsole just under the landing platform.

Seemingly, the new trend is trying to reduce the weight of the shoes, especially elite racing shoes, by covering as little of a midsole with the outsole as possible. The UA FLOW Velocity Wind completely removed it, and the FuelCell RC Elite v2 also reduced its size significantly.

It's a thin line to walk: leave too much rubber on the shoes, and they'll be heavier, remove too much, and you'll lose traction. The FuelCell RC Elite v2 does its best to offer traction but turning in the shoes is tricky, making them less ideal for more technical routes.

But this is not why I placed the FuelCell RC Elite v2 where it is on this list. These shoes are ranked below the Fresh Foam 1080v11 because they are racing shoes, so their usage is limited to a few times a year. If you can afford to have dedicated racing shoes and training shoes, by all means, get the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2. If you haven't, you're better off getting a fast trainer such as the Kinvara 12 or the Mach 4.

The Under Armour FLOW Velociti Wind is well-hyped running shoe for a fgood reasonT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Under Armour)

11. Under Armour FLOW Velociti Wind

Super-light, flow-state inducing running shoes

Weight: 261 grams (men's size 10 UK)
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Fast runs, short- to mid-distance runs
Reasons to buy
+Flow midsole offers cushioning and propulsion in a lightweight package+Technology has a lot of potential
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks support-Technology involved still needs refining

The Flow Velociti Wind will give you impressive traction without the added weight of a rubber outsole, which is pretty remarkable, to say the least. These fast running shoes are super responsive and will propel you forward on your daily runs in them.

This all-around trainer is hugely popular because it is lightweight and innovative, gives great rebound, and is easy to run in. They push you forwards, making them ideal for your tempo runs.

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 is an amazing value for money running trainerT3 Award

(Image credit: Nike)

12. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

Perfect for training, jogging, walking and everything in between

Weight: 285 grams (men's size 9UK)
Drop: 10 mm (24/14)
Reasons to buy
+Durable+Well balanced+Looks good enough to wear as an everyday trainer (unlike Alphafly)
Reasons to avoid
-Some runners noted the toe box being narrow 

As fast as the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% and the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% running shoes are, they were admittedly designed for racing, not for everyday training. They are excellent but not suited for daily training, not to mention the ZoomX foam will wear off pretty quickly if you use the shoes often and just for racing.

There is a Nike running trainer that is supposed to compliment the Alphafly Next% – the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% – but those shoes are for a very niche category of runners: people who are training for long-distance races and would like to run the race in the Alphafly Next%.

For everyone else, we recommend Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 running trainers. These shoes use the React foam that's more durable than the ZoomX, yet they still provide good energy returns. Springiness is further helped by the enlarged Air Zoom unit at the front: it is twice as large as previous versions, "delivering more bounce with every step", as Nike puts it.

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 running shoes' upper is comfortable and breathable and helps the shoes remain light while not adding on extra bulk. It is also slightly translucent and, according to Nike, "has the look of speed". You can definitely see your socks better in the shoes.

The newer version is also available to buy; read our Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 review here.

The Asics Novablast 2 keeps its bounce fully under controlT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: ASICS)

13. Asics Novablast 2

Offers more bounce and control than ever before

Weight: TBC
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: training, jogging
Reasons to buy
+More bounce!+More foam!+More control!+More comfort!
Reasons to avoid
-Runs too long (go a half size down)-A bit heavy

Companies like to add more things to their products when they release a new version. In the case of running shoes, it's more foam, more responsiveness, more bounce, more control, more everything. Especially in the consumption-oriented West, subtraction is not considered a preferred way to move innovation forward.

Take, for example, the Asics Novablast 2. It's built on the foundation of the IG Novablast (see below) and features even more foam, more bounce, and increased mid-foot width, among other things.

It's not like the shoes' predecessor wasn't bouncy already. The Novablast was essentially a trampoline disguised as running shoes, but alas, Asics thought adding some more foam wouldn't hurt anyone.

As you can probably tell, I was a bit sceptical about the shoes before I had a chance to run in them. I liked the original Novablast and didn't see a point in making the shoes bouncier, for example. I thought adding more bounce would make the shoes unstable and therefore make running in the Novablast 2 a dangerous adventure.

I'm happy to report I was wrong. Although the Novablast 2 is more everything, the engineers at Asics found a way to add more substance to the shoes that actually made it easier to run in them. You have more foam but also more control. More bounce but also more stability.

This is no small feat: it would have been so easy to screws the Novablast 2 up. But thankfully, I was reassured once again that people working at the ASICS Institute of Sport Science are the master of their craft. If they add more foam, it will serve a purpose.

The Asics Novablast 2 is hands down a better version of its predecessor. It runs smoother, bounces better and offers more control over your stride. You should definitely consider them as your next running trainer.

Interested how the Asics Novablast 2 compares against its rivals? Here is a comparison for you: ASICS Novablast 2 vs Puma Magnify Nitro.

The adidas ultraboost 21 is equal part style and performanceT3 Award

(Image credit: adidas)

13. Adidas Ultraboost 21

The new BOOST is bigger and bolder than before

Weight: 384 grams (men's size 10 UK)
Drop: 10 mm (heel 30.5 mm / forefoot 20.5 mm)
Best for: training, jogging
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Extra BOOST adds to the bounce+Comfortable+Looks great
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy-Not a fast trainer for sure

For those who prefer running shoes that can also be worn as sneakers, the Adidas Ultraboost 21 might just be the perfect trainer. The latest iteration of the Ultraboost franchise – which happens to be Adidas' most successful running shoe series – adds more BOOST, the new Adidas LEP torsion system, and the updated Primeknit+ upper. 

Better still, they look rather sexy too, albeit especially during winter; it will be pretty hard to keep their box-fresh for too long, given the default bright colourway. I guess it doesn't matter, as people will either buy the Ultraboost 21 to add it to their sneaker collection or run in them, and both parties will use the shoes accordingly. As in, either keep them in the box and only get them out when the weather is dry or run in them, regardless of the weather.

The latter group (runners) will thoroughly enjoy cruising through their daily runs in the Adidas Ultraboost 21. They are comfortable, responsive and display all the features I expect to see in great training shoes. They might be a tad bit on the heavy side – the UB21 is almost twice as heavy as some of the lighter racing shoes on this list – but since these are not performance shoes, it doesn't really matter. The extra BOOST under the heel will help mitigate impact force, and the LEP torsion system will enable runners to keep their stride straight, all without making the shoes way stiffer in the process. 

The ASICS Metaracer is the best racing shoe from ASICS at the momentT3 Award

(Image credit: ASICS)

14. ASICS Metaracer

In these shoes, you've got to go fast

Weight: 250 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 9 mm (24/15 mm)
Best for: mid-to long distance races, tempo runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Excellent ground-contact+FlyteFoam compliments carbon-plate well+Breathable
Reasons to avoid
-Not enough support for beginner runners

The ASICS Metaracer is a brilliant road running shoe that combines sublime ground contact feel, impact force reduction and dynamic propulsion to create the best ASICS running shoe I tested in 2020 (maybe even 2019).

The FlyteFoam midsole is soft under the heels and lets you steer your feet effectively, while the embedded carbon plate at the forefoot pushes you forward as you effortlessly cruise through your long-distance runs; let it be a race or a tempo run.

The engineered mesh upper is flexible, following the foot's contour closely, and despite the minimal amount of padding involved in these shoes, the Metaracer is comfortable to wear, and there is no sign of rubbing anywhere, even after long distances. For the record, I haven't done a marathon distance in the shoes (in one go anyway).

All this running goodness comes assembled in an attractive package, with bright colours and a chunky-looking midsole that's further emphasised due to the contrast between the off-white sole and the bright-red upper.

These shoes are made for running, and you will want to run in them as soon as you put them on. They might not be cheap, but the ASICS Metaracer is worth the price and will delight your feet as well as make you faster on the road.

Although they provide completely different running dynamics, the ASICS Metaracer is often compared against the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, one of today's most popular racing shoes. Which is faster, and which one is better for more experienced runners? We discuss it all here: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% vs ASICS Metaracer

the On Cloudflow looks and feels goodT3 Award

(Image credit: On Running)

15. On Cloudflow

As agile as it is handsome

Weight: 235 grams
Drop: 6 mm
Best for: Threshold runs, racing, anything between 10km and a marathon
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Great cushioning+Amazing looks+Light and comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-You won't want to get them dirty-For relatively good weather only

The latest update on the Cloudflow brings the Helion sole tech to this model: On's 'superfoam' delivers a soft yet responsive running experience, regardless of the temperature, giving you the same dynamics all year around.

The Helion works hard to reduce impact force as you land, while the Cloud elements at the front help you lift off the ground more easily and efficiently. Does this combination work? It does, and brilliantly so.

The upper is a low-profile mesh that holds your feet in the right places and feels top quality too. Not to mention, the design of the shoes is pretty amazing: not often do you see such an eye-popping design in full-fledged running shoes.

Probably the biggest issue with the On Cloudflow is its looks: you won't want to get it dirty and run around in puddles, fearing the shoe might lose its box-fresh look. Of course, you can go for the black colourway, but with such great colour gradients available, why would you?

the Nike React Infinity Run is one of the best support shoes for pronating runnersT3 Award

(Image credit: Nike)

16. Nike React Infinity Run

Great stability shoes for most runners – especially those prone to injury

Weight: 275 grams (men's size 9)
Drop: 9 mm
Best for: Recovery, long runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+So much support, yet it feels speedy+Rolls well+New Flyknit upper is firm yet comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Arguably too much support for seasoned runners

The Nike React Infinity Run delivers on its promise, offering plenty of support to protect you from injury. The new Flyknit upper is comfortable yet firm, and there is no sign of chafing around the rear of the foot. The integrated knitted tongue and the lace closure helps the Nike React Infinity Run follow the foot's shape as closely as possible.

Despite all the injury-reducing protection, a fast tempo is guaranteed by the Vaporfly-like rocker sole geometry that merges landing and take-offs into one smooth transition. Very little energy is lost, and your legs will feel fresher for longer.

For beginners or people with 'interesting' running techniques, the Nike React Infinity Run will significantly reduce the risk of injury. This doesn't mean you can just completely forget about the correct running technique, of course, but it will definitely help you worry less as you run. More seasoned runners might find extra support a bit much, but even they will appreciate the supreme cushioning and energy return.

the Saucony Guide 14 is a great trainer for beginner runnersT3 Award

(Image credit: Saucony)

17. Saucony Guide 14

One of Saucony's best everyday trainer is back to its roots

Weight: 298 grams (men), 266 grams (women)
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Everyday runs, jogging, light training
Reasons to buy
+Responsive PWWRUN foam+Ample amount of support+Comfortable upper
Reasons to avoid
-Stability shoes are best for pronating runners

Saucony has produced a peppier 14th iteration of its stability running shoes – easily glide through the miles, assured of the added support across more complex terrains.

With the Saucony Guide 14, stability doesn’t come at the expense of speed: the pair we tested had springy responsiveness but still sported a soft underfoot feel, making for several very comfortable runs. Those who overpronate will obviously be happy with the extra support inherent to this model. Still, the everyday runner will enjoy racking up the mileage, regardless of whether you roll your foot inwards.

The Saucony Guide 14 sliced through our various 10KM runs over several weeks’ road testing, without the usual complaints levied against other stability shoes. The Saucony Guide 14 is sleek, less block-like, and won’t trouble runners who need agility over comfort. It’s a great all-rounder for a variety of different athletes.

Runners who know the Saucony Guide range will be familiar with the TPU guidance frame to ease excessive pronation, which can wear away the inside of the shoes, forming an unsteady platform over time. The Saucony Guide 14 has a smaller heel collar than the Guide 13, using a new PWRRUN foam: sportier, with more refined looks than its predecessor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a stability shoe that looks as good as the Saucony Guide 14.

The underfoot feel felt really responsive; it balances bounce, which gives you the desired quality of moving more quickly while offsetting the firmer edge that gives the Saucony Guide 14 its support frame. 

It’s easy to forget that Saucony was primarily engineered for added support; still, the Saucony Guide 14 is an excellent all-rounder for a range of runners to use as part of a combination training set-up for speed and off-road.

The On Cloudboom Echo will let you go fast. Real fast.T3 Approved badge

(Image credit: On Running)

18. On Cloudboom Echo

Go the distance with these firm running shoes for racing

Weight: 240 grams (men's size 10 UK)
Drop: 9 mm
Best for: Long distance racing, tempo runs
Sizing: True to size (tight)
Reasons to buy
+Less tight than its predecessor+100% recycled upper+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Firm midsole-Runners with wide feet might find it too tight

I remember when the OG On Cloudboom was announced: it promised to be a fast and firm running shoe, two things I like about racing shoes. Unfortunately, the shoes ended up being too tight and too firm to be actually useful, which is a massive shame.

Luckily, On learned from the mistakes of the Cloudboom, and I can see the evidence of this tweaking in the On Cloudboom Echo. It's still firm and tight but doesn't overdo either of these qualities. That said, it's still on the firm side, so if you're not a seasoned runner, running with the Helion 'super foam' might feel uncomfortable at first. Strike that; it will feel uncomfortable at first.

It's not like On wasn't famous for its firm running shoes even before the Cloudboom Echo was released. Back in the day, naive old me thought that just because a midsole was named 'CloudTec', it meant the shoes would be soft to run in. Boy, how wrong I was!

Firmness aside, the On Cloudboom Echo is an excellent racing shoe for those who prefer a stiffer ride. As much as I love soft, high-stack running shoes, running in the Cloudboom Echo felt a little less demanding on the shins as they worked a little on stabilising the legs on landing.

The slight downside of the firmness is that it's hard to utilise the energy return of the Carbon Speedplate, similar to how it's not easy to feel the rebound when running in the also firm Saucony Endorphin Pro.

At least the On Cloudboom Echo is a bit more environmentally friendly: the upper is made of 100% recycled material.

The Hoka One One Clifton Edge is as chunky and it is stylishT3 Award

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

19. Hoka One One Clifton Edge

A chunky running trainer that's also surprisingly light

Weight: 253 grams
Drop: 5 mm
Best for: Training, joggin
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Looks like a sneaker...+...yet performs like a running trainer
Reasons to avoid
-The chunky midsole doesn't really serve a purpose

The Hoka One One Clifton Edge is the "first-ever style extension" of the top-rated Hoka One One Clifton series. Indeed, the Clifton Edge is edgy, figuratively and literally, as it introduces more style to the otherwise running trainer-looking Clifton series by adding a huge rim around the edge of the midsole.

Interestingly enough, despite the chunky midsole, the Clifton Edge manages to retain the lightness of the Clifton series: even the size 10 shoes I was testing only weigh just over 260 grams, which is crazy, considering how big these shoes are.

In theory, the extended heel is supposed to guide your feet as land, and admittedly, the Clifton Edge is best for runners who land on their heels instead of forefoot strikers. Not saying they shouldn't buy the shoes, as even people who tiptoe will appreciate the looks of the Clifton Edge. Well, if you are into the Hoka One One look.

Truth be told, the heel extension of the Clifton Edge is definitely less pronounced than the one found on the Hoka Tennine. Still, on those shoes, the mega heel serves a purpose, while in the case of the Clifton Edge, it is more of an aesthetics choice as opposed to the actual enhancement of running dynamics.

The Hoka One One Clifton Edge is well-padded, especially around the collar of the shoes and the top of the gusseted-tongue. The internal heel counter is super firm, yet wearing the Clifton Edge was a comfortable experience altogether. The pull tab at the heel was definitely a nice addition and made putting the shoes on much easier.

I personally found the new high-resilience foam a bit firmer, not in a bad way, though, and it might just be due to the contrast in firmness compared to the other shoe I tested at the same time as the Clifton Edge (Brooks Glycerin 18, a super-soft shoe, see below). The tight upper might also contribute to the feeling of firmness, although Hoka shoes tend to be on the firm side in general.

Hoka's signature Meta-Rocker does the job perfectly here: the Clifton Edge rolls smoothly and feels snappier than how it looks. It is a weird sensation, seeing the bulk on your feet but feeling light as springy. If you have ever run in a chunky Hoka before, you know what I'm talking about.

The ASICS Novablast is basically a trampoline strapped to your feetT3 Award

(Image credit: ASICS)

20. ASICS Novablast

Put a spring in your stride

Weight: 260 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: short- to mid-distance runs, mild weather runs, training
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Springy+Well-cushioned+Looks fun
Reasons to avoid
-Heel counter is not firm enough-Too much foam for good energy returns

The Asics Novablast is definitely one of the most exciting running shoes I've seen from the Japanese manufacturer recently. By no means it is perfect, but it still offers plenty for the asking price.

The jumpy FlyteFoam Blast midsole delivers a fun running experience, and wearing the Novablast will make you taller, literally, thanks to the 10 millimetres of added foam which makes you feel like you have springs strapped to your feet.

The Asics Novablast delivers in the looks department too: there isn't really a boring colourway of this shoe which is refreshing to see from Asics. Even the mainly black variant has lime green highlights and blue laces/outsole, giving the shoes a fresh and eccentric vibe.

Some might find the Novablast not optimised for longer runs; I would definitely not choose this shoe over the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% for my next half marathon. Saying that you can't actually buy a Vaporfly NEXT% at the moment, and if you are a serious pronator, the narrow middle part of the Vaporfly's midsole might do more harm than good anyway.

If you are after a bouncy, comfortable running experience and don't mind a bit of looseness around the heels, you'll be well off wearing the Asics Novablast for your runs.

The Hoka One One Rocket X is a very decent carbon-assisted long distance running trainerT3 Award

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

21. Hoka One One Rocket X

Carbon-assisted long distance running trainers

Weight: 226 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 5 mm
Best for: mid- to long-distance training runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Very light+Updated upper is tight yet comfortable+Looks less chunky than your average Hoka which might appeal to more runners
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks propulsion-Hasn't got enough personality to distinguish itself from the rest of the Hoka One One lineup

The Hoka One One Rocket X has its merits. It's light, the upper has a sublime fit, and the midsole is more manageable than other Hoka racing shoes. Yet, I'm not entirely sure what to do with the Rocket X. It's not quite as propulsive as other racing shoes with a carbon plate, even just looking at the Hoka lineup, let alone other brands.

The biggest issue here is that Hoka markets the Rocket X as a racing shoe: it works much better as a long-distance running trainer. It might work in other shoes, but here, the combination of the thick(ish) midsole and the carbon plate doesn't work together well enough to give you the competitive edge in races. However, the same combination is more than capable of supporting your feet during fast training sessions and can help to reduce the negative effects of running longer distances.

The budget-friendly price also helps in establishing the Rocket X as excellent long-distance training shoes. It might not be as cheap as other running trainers, such as the Adidas SL20, but it's not crazy expensive either. Your call.

The Saucony Endorphin Shift might look chunky but at least it's also supportiveT3 Award

(Image credit: Saucony)

22. Saucony Endorphin Shift

Support and bounciness living in perfect harmony

Weight: 330 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 4 mm
Best for: mid- to long-distance training runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable upper+Provides a fun, bouncy ride+SPEEDROLL might help beginners 'roll' more efficiently
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy-Support on offer might be too much for some

The Saucony Endorphin Shift does what it's supposed to do perfectly fine. It provides a comfortable, cushioned and bouncy ride and doesn't seem to be at all concerned about performance stats or energy returns. This doesn't mean you will be dragging your feet in the shoes, despite the weight, but if you are after performance, you are better off getting the ASICS Metaracer or the Saucony Endorphin Pro.

The Endorphin Shift is part of the Saucony Endorphin Collection, a trio of running shoes that work well together and on their own too. If I had to choose one shoe of the lot, I would probably go with the Endorphin Speed as that is a good compromise between comfort and performance. But that's only because I'm interested in racing and don't need all the extra support and cushioning the Endorphin Shift has to offer.

For recreational runners, the Shift is probably the best choice of Endorphin Collection as long as you don't mind the Shift looking like the running shoe-equivalent of an attention-seeker Instagram 'influencer' with its bright colours and oddball angles.

The UA HOVR Phantom 2 connects to the MapMyRun app via BluetoothT3 Award

(Image credit: UA / Under Armour)

23. UA HOVR Phantom 2

Bluetooth-enabled running trainers

Weight: 327 grams
Drop: 9 mm (26/17)
Best for: short-distance training
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Knit upper is comfortable+Getting in and out of the shoes is easy+Integrated Bluetooth makes running planning easier in absence of a running watch 
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy-Not ideal for performance runs

The updated UA HOVR Phantom 2 is a great beginner running shoe. It is comfortable, somewhat responsive and can even provide runners with running tips thanks to the built-in Bluetooth transmitter and the accompanying MapMyRun app: no need to buy an expensive running shoe and a pricey running watch straight away.

It's probably no wonder that Under Armour recommends the Phantom 2 for beginner runners who "have their sights set on running their fastest mile, or running a mile without stopping". You won't see the Phantom 2 on the podium at running races, nor will you use it for interval training or more strenuous VO2 max runs.

It might not be a racer, but that doesn't mean the Phantom 2 is not a good running trainer, on the contrary. It has a built-in Bluetooth transmitter – not many running shoes can say the same – which can help you get better at running, thanks to the running plans found in the MapMyRun app.

Despite not being a racing shoe, the Phantom 2 can provide decent energy return rates thanks to the UA HOVR technology. Above all, the Phantom 2 is comfortable: the sock-like upper reminded me of the very popular Adidas Primeknit upper used in Ultraboost shoes.

The full rubber outsole provides excellent traction on the road, even on wet surfaces, albeit it also makes the Phantom 2 heavier than most shoes on this list. On the flip side, this traction also makes the Phantom 2 an ideal trainer for workouts, which isn't all that surprising considering the history of Under Armour. Buy a running shoe, get a workout shoe for free: sign me up for this deal.

The New Balance FuelCell Rebel is lightweight and race readyT3 Award

(Image credit: New Balance)

24. New Balance FuelCell Rebel

Lightweight and race ready

Weight: 208 grams
Drop: 6 mm
Best for: races, tempo runs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight upper+Toe off specialist
Reasons to avoid
-In true New Balance fashion, sizing is half size under

The engineers at New Balance had a good look at what they learned from the creation and testing of the FuelCell 5280 racing flat and translated it into the FuelCell Rebel. Not only the Rebel is more modestly priced than the 5280, but it is also more versatile all the while it keeps almost all the great features found in the latter.

Weighing just over 200 grams, the FuelCell Rebel is a lightweight shoe. It uses the Trace Fiber upper construction that uses precision stitching in key areas but keeps the upper thin and airy.

The main concern of the New Balance FuelCell Rebel is the forward propulsion; its main is to move you forward. The FuelCell midsole is a two-part rebound system that not so much rocks but bounces you back up. It's not as firm and well rounded as the Asics Metaride or the Hoka One One Carbon X, more springy and bouncy.

The New Balance FuelCell delivers in the looks department, too: especially the black colourway, which is not all that black; after all, looks great with a lot of subtle yet contrasting colours.

The Adidas 4D Run 1.0 is not flawless but it's an interesting running traniner neverthelessT3 Award

(Image credit: Adidas)

25. Adidas 4D Run 1.0

3D printed soles are the future (but the future isn't here just yet)

Weight: 395 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 10 mm (28mm/18mm)
Best for: everyday runs, jogging and short- to mid-distances
Sizing: Go half size up
Reasons to buy
+AMple amount of padding around heels+Technology is interesting+Upper is well-constructed
Reasons to avoid
-Go half size up-Laces are super long for no reason

I'm used to recommending high-tech running shoes to races and performance runs, but that's not the case with the Adidas 4D Run 1.0. These shoes are for training and casual runs, not for breaking PBs or when you are working hard on improving your VO2 max.

The 3D-printed lattice sole is created with a unique technology that uses light/oxygen only, and when you think about it that way, you'll be amazed just how well the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 performs. On the other hand, the sole is rather heavy and doesn't quite deliver top performance (yet).

I would recommend going half size up as the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 is a bit on the tight side, despite the Primeknit upper and the padded heel counter being comfortable and cosy. The laces are also a bit too long too, and unless tucked away somewhere, they flap around quite a lot as you run.

You won't see many top runners winning marathons wearing the Adidas 4D Run 1.0, but these shoes might work well for people who like running shoes from top brands and don't run for performance purposes. And let's face it, there are many of those out there at the moment. Not like it's a problem.

The Brooks Glycerin 18 is the plushest running shoe of them allT3 Award

(Image credit: Brooks Running)

26. Brooks Glycerin 18

Plush fit and comfort above all

Weight: 289 grams
Drop: 10 mm
Best for: Casual runs, jogs
Sizing: True to size
Reasons to buy
+The DNA LOFT cushioning is soft like a cloud+Smooth heel-to-toe transition
Reasons to avoid
-Not a huge amount of energy return

The Brooks Glycerin series is not famous for its energy return stats or that it has speed all figured out. What it's famous for is comfort, and the latest iteration in the series, the Brooks Glycerin 18, is comfortable for sure.

The DNA loft midsole is as soft as a pillow, and your feet will be bouncing around happily in the Glycerin 18. The 10 mm drop makes these shoes accessible for even beginner runners

All this softness affects energy return. You can't will it all, really, and the Glycerin 18 loses out on some energy return due to its softness. These are not race day shoes; use the Saucony Type A9, Hoka Carbon X or a Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% for those occasions.

If you're after a soft ride on a sunny autumn afternoon, the Brooks Glycerin 18 will be your perfect companion.

A group of people running in the street wearing Puma running shoes

(Image credit: Puma)

How to buy the right running shoes

With so many different types of running shoes available to buy, it's no wonder one can feel completely overwhelmed just by thinking about getting a new running trainer. To make a decision at least a little bit easier, we collected a few pointers that might help you when buying a new pair of shoes.

Have your gait analysed: you can do this in a brick and mortar running shoe shop or work it out yourself by performing the classic 'stepping on a piece of paper with wet feet' test. There is also the NURVV running insole that can tell you exactly how much you pronate.

Be mindful of sizing: not all running shoe sizes are created equal. Some brands are infamous for their sizing methods; for example, New Balance shoes tend to be half a size under, so if you wear a size 10 normally, you might want to get a size 10.5 New Balance. Also, racing shoes are usually tighter than trainers. The best women's running shoes may also be narrower and lighter than unisex or men's options.

Take the running surface into account: obviously, you need different shoes for the tarmac and the trail. That said, some shoes will perform well on all sorts of terrain, such as the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail, while others will excel on one more than on the other.

Go the distance (or not): if you prefer shorter distances (5K-10K), you won't need industrial amounts of cushioning under your feet. For mid-distances (10K-half marathon), you might want to think about having some more support and a stronger upper to keep your feet in line when your form falls apart at mile 19. As for long distances (anything over a half-marathon distance), you want running shoes with great energy returns yet lightweight and responsive. Like the ASICS Metaracer.

Have a purpose in mind: there is no point getting a Nike Vaporfly if you don't race, and it is equally as silly to get a Brooks Glycerin for high-performance runs. If you're planning on having only one pair of running shoes, make sure you keep in mind the main principle you will use them for and make a purchase accordingly.

Use running shoes for running: it is tempting to have just one pair of shoes for road running, trail running and workouts. We recommend using the appropriate shoes for all occasions. The best trail running shoes will protect your feet when running on uneven terrain, while the best workout shoes will provide grip and stability in the gym. 

Running shoes vs trail running shoes: what's the difference?

For the unacquainted, running shoes and trail running shoes can look pretty similar: similar enough to think they are interchangeable and work well on both the road and the trail. In reality, both types have specific characteristics that make them perfect for the running surface they were designed for and not-so-great for others.

Take running trainers, for example. These shoes work best when used on hard, smooth surfaces, such as the road: the cushioning is fine-tuned to reduce the impact force when landing on the tarmac, and the upper is tight to keep the foot 'locked in' as you run. The 'stack height of most running shoes is also higher, especially nowadays, to improve energy returns. The outsole also tends to be smoother to increase the surface area of the shoes for better grip.

On the other hand, trail running shoes thrive on uneven surfaces. Off-road shoes have massive lugs on the outsole to claw into soft surfaces (e.g. mud, grass) and usually have an insert in the midsole to protect the feet from rocks and other unexpected obstructions (this insert is aptly named 'rock-shield'). And since the trail is more often slippery and wet than the road, trail shoes have better weather protection and are also heavier in general than road shoes.

To provide an analogue, road shoes are racing cars with their light chassis and fast ergonomics, while trail shoes are 4x4s: robust and heavy but will keep you safe in the forest. Before you buy new running shoes, consider where you will use them the most to avoid disappointment (and injuries) later on.

Is it worth buying expensive running shoes?

Just because a pair of running shoes is expensive, that doesn't mean they are good. That said, cheap running shoes seldom deliver a running experience you might expect from decent running footwear.

What's cheap? If you're taking running training seriously, we would recommend spending around $/£100 on a new pair of running shoes. This might sound quite a lot at first, but running shoes in this category won't fall apart after a few runs and will support your feet for a few years at least.

Is it bad to run without running shoes?

Barefoot running is gaining momentum, especially among athletes who think modern running shoes are detrimental to foot health. Truth to be told, high stack, carbon plate-enhanced running shoes indeed force runners to run in a particular way which might not be the most ideal for at least some percentage of runners out there.

That said, running barefoot takes some getting used to, especially if you usually wear cushioned shoes. Even big-name barefoot brands such as Vivobarefoot recommend easing yourself into barefoot running as it requires you to move very differently compared to when you run in cushioned shoes.

It's recommended to start running shorter distances – as in a couple of hundred meters – at first, then gradually increasing the distance as you get more comfortable. It's also beneficial to run on softer surfaces such as grass or sandy beach at first, as these might mitigate impact force better than landing hard on tarmac.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is a fitness fanatic (a.k.a. fitness and nutrition writer) who's been rambling on about all things health and fitness for over two years now here at T3. His achievements include a short-lived fitness podcast called Fit Mentality Podcast and being a judge on the Fit&Well Awards 2021. In his free time, he works out at home, runs, cycles and loves a good ol' walk around the city. He writes about general fitness stuff, fitness tech, workouts, workout gear/equipment, nutrition and much, much more.