You know what you want from your running shoes: light weight, cushioning, support, and a comfortable fit. Of course, the most important part of any shoe is your experience over the hundreds of miles you’ll take them on. To help you find your next great pair, and to get a sense of how updates to your favorite road or trail shoe may change how it fits or performs, we review hundreds of men’s and women’s shoes each year. Scroll deeper for longer reviews of our top picks so far this year, a look at how we test and select these models, and helpful buying tips and insight from our gear experts.
How We Test Shoes
Runner’s World has the most comprehensive shoe testing process in the industry. We work with more than 350 local runners of all ability, age, and size, for real-world wear-testing on paved roads, dirt paths, and rocky singletrack trails. After a month of running more than 100 miles, our testers report back their findings on features like fit, comfort, performance, and ride. While our testers are putting miles on the shoes, the same models undergo a battery of mechanical tests in our RW Shoe Lab, to objectively measure each shoe’s cushioning, flexibility, sole thickness, and weight. Our test editors combine their own experience in the shoe with data from the lab and feedback from our wear testers to create reliable, useful reviews of every shoe we run in.
Does a Shoe’s Cushioning Matter?
Some runners care a lot about weight, and research shows that you expend more aerobic energy with heavier shoes. Lighter shoes typically have less cushioning, which can make them feel faster, but new midsole foams now make a plush feel possible without adding much heft to the shoe. If you’re going long distances, some extra cushioning might be a better option, as it provides impact absorption.
To test its softness, our Shoe Lab takes individual measurements in both the heel and forefoot, since the overall experience can vary based on where a runner touches down and toes off. The cushioning scores are given on a scale of 1 to 100, with one being the firmest. (A harder-feeling shoe won’t necessarily lack cushioning, and according to some biomechanical research, a too soft midsole can actually increase peak impact forces.) In addition to those key stats, we also look at the shoe’s stability features, flexibility, and energy return to help you find one you’ll love.
DNA Loft is Brooks’s softest cushioning.
Adidas’s Boost foam keeps its bounce no matter how cold it is outside.
What Does “Drop” Mean?
A shoe’s drop—sometimes referred to as offset—is the difference between the heel and the forefoot measurements, or how much your toes “drop” below your heel. It’s important because a higher drop can lead to more heel striking and also transfers some strain away from the lower leg and up toward the knee. Conversely, a lower offset will shift that load farther down the chain of motion during your gait cycle to the calf and Achilles. Neither option is necessarily better than the other; when deciding on a shoe’s drop, choose what feels most natural and comfortable to you, taking into account your personal running mechanics and injury history. Many shoes have a drop between 8 and 12 millimeters, but some shoes have less than 6mm. A few based on minimalist designs have zero drop.
Altra’s Rivera has an equal heel and forefoot stack height, which translates to zero-drop.
In contrast, Brooks’s Trace has a 12mm heel-to-toe drop.
Hoka One One Carbon X2
Weight: 238g (M), 198g (W)
A year ago, the Carbon X had us going fast over mid- to long-distance runs, but after our wear-testers clocked hundreds of miles, we determined that midfoot-strikers got the most out of the shoe. A heel-to-toe roll propelled by the early-stage Meta-Rocker (Hoka’s tech that slightly curves the sole for a rocker motion) felt quite aggressive to some testers, especially heel-strikers. Those runners won’t feel left out with this update, though. A protruding heel, which is similar to Hoka’s TenNine (though not as massive), absorbs shock and provides stability for runners who touch down on the back of their foot. “If I raced a marathon or less, I’d go with the Saucony Endorphin Pro,” said a heel-striking tester. “If I raced a 50K or more, I’d use the Carbon X2.” As a heel-striker and tester of the Endorphin Pro, I agree. As in the Endorphin Pro and Hoka’s other racing shoe, the Rocket X, a carbon-fiber plate in the midsole promotes quick and snappy transitions. The X2 feels hardy for longer mileage, as well as versatile enough for speed training. Our test team liked the refined upper—the reinforced lacing and engineered support zones made it feel
more secure.—Test Editor Amanda Furrer
Saucony Kinvara 12
Weight: 212 g(M), 184g (W)
The 12th version is a fantastic homecoming for the Kinvara. The 11 felt stiffer and heavier than its predecessor, and we got fairly strong “daily trainer” vibes from the super-plush tongue and thick upper. The 12, however, nudges the Kinvara back toward its racing roots. It’s a touch lighter and much more flexible, like the shoe’s early models, with a snug midfoot and new blend of Pwrrun foam. Saucony tweaked the foam’s mix of EVA and polymers to boost energy return, and while it doesn’t pack the punch of the brand’s Endorphin series, it does feel firmer and more responsive. A slim layer of softer TPU-based Pwrrun+ sits on top to keep the shoe comfy as a daily trainer—long runs included. That keeps it lightweight and speedy, yet able to withstand a ton of miles. “All in all, the versatile cushioning has made the Kinvara my go-to shoe,” one tester said. “Whether I’m going short or long, going out for a leisurely run or for speedwork and hills, this shoe is game.” Just don’t look too long at the exposed foam outsole—it’s sufficiently grippy for dry road running, but gets dirty and looks worn after a few miles.—Test Editor Morgan Petruny
Brooks Glycerin 18
Weight: 289g (M), 255g (W)
In a past life, the Glycerin may have been relegated to recovery runs, but it’s gradually metamorphosed into an everyday, every-run workhorse. Proof lies in our most recent testing, when wear-testers raved about the 19’s versatility, wearing the shoe for both long runs and speedier efforts. We found we were reaching for the Glycerin more often than the ever-popular (and award-winning) Brooks Ghost. The most appealing feature is the shoe’s DNA Loft midsole, which makes the trainer softer than earlier models without sacrificing energy return. The ride feels smooth and bouncy instead of squishy, as one might expect from Brooks’s most-cushioned shoe. Testers who were nursing injuries found the Glycerin’s cushioning supportive and helpful in rebuilding their base. But softness is not sequestered to the midsole alone; the bootie-like interior provides surrounding comfort. However, you might want to size up before making a commitment. The shoe felt quite snug, and testers reported a mix of minor discomforts, from a slightly cramped toebox, to rubbing at the Achilles, and a too-narrow midfoot that caused pins and needles. But nail the size and your feet will feel like they’re cradled in springy memory foam.—A.F.
Asics EvoRide 2
Weight: 235g (M), 195g (W)
Looking for a shoe that gives you a snappy turnover for half marathons or tempo runs at 10K pace? The EvoRide 2 may be it, thanks to its FlyteFoam midsole and GuideSole geometry. Asics uses a lightweight and noticeably firm midsole foam, but it is protective enough for lightweight runners at quick speeds. Testers appreciated that the foam feels consistent along its entire length—some shoes tend to be squishier under the heel or forefoot. “I immediately liked the amount of spring,” said one female tester who runs 30 miles per week at 7:45 pace. “It felt responsive with fast strides, not like a marshmallow that absorbed energy.” Some of that is attributable to the shoe’s GuideSole feature, which basically gives it an exaggerated round shape underfoot to help it roll more smoothly from heel to toe-off. (You’ll find the same extreme toe spring on the beefier MetaRide and GlideRide models, but the EvoRide is the fastest of the trio.) Those underfoot features are the same ones found on the debut version, but Asics improved the upper on this one. The most obvious fix is the tongue, which was ridiculously thick and plush a year ago. The update is just thick enough to reduce lace pressure and wraps comfortably over the top of your foot.—J.D.
Brooks Launch GTS 8
Weight: 249g (M), 229g (W)
You’re not wrong if you thought “GTS” stood for “Go-To Shoe.” This year, Brooks is simplifying its naming convention by pairing stability shoes to its neutral siblings and tacking on GTS—now redefined as “Go-To Support.” The next Transcend and Bedlam, for example, have been named the Glycerin GTS and Levitate GTS. And, in the case of the Ravenna, it’s now being called the Launch GTS—a light stability shoe that’s speedy like the neutral Launch. Testers appreciated the comfortably firm cushioning and found Brooks’s holistic guide-rail system (firm foam along the medial and lateral sides of the heel serve as bumpers to align the knee and ankle) supportive. The most noticeable revamp—besides the name—is the new air mesh upper. Testers liked that it was light and breathable, yet some wished for a more traditional padded heel collar instead of the oddly shaped one here. “It felt to me that the heel collar was too high on my ankle,” said a tester, “and it rubbed my lateral ankle bone, causing discomfort.”—A.F.
Saucony Guide 14
Weight: 297g (M), 266g (W)
Saucony’s versatile stability shoe now looks race-ready with 3D-print overlays adorning the engineered-mesh uppers, and sharing the same color scheme of the racier Kinvara. The Guide has plush padding in the heel collar and gusseted tongue. This stability version of Saucony’s Ride has a lightweight TPU medial post and sturdy heel counter to lend support, which testers found comfortably supportive. One tester even had a revelatory moment wearing the shoe. “I often lean toward more cushioned shoes with the assumption that, being a ‘curvier’ runner, the weight striking the hard surface was the cause of some injuries,” she said. “The Guide gave me some cushioning, but the shoe’s stability helped fix my pain.” This shoe is still soft, though, thanks to Saucony’s Pwrrun midsole, combined with a top layer of Pwrrun+. The latter is composed of a lightweight foam that promotes a springier step while absorbing impact.—A.F.