The Best Running Shoes of 2021
A Complete Guide to Help You Find the Right Pair
Finding running shoes is personal. So, no matter what anyone tells you, there is no one best pair for all people.
Instead, there are hundreds of models ranging from lightweight racers to max-cushioned trainers—and everything in between. Each shoe fits differently, too: Some work for narrow heels, others are comfortable for a wide forefoot.
What about high arches? Flat feet? There are countless combinations of foot shapes, training needs and personal preferences to make one choice across the board.
For many runners (and walkers!) looking for new shoes, though, these models are a good place to start.
Here are some of the best running shoes that will work for most people in most situations, as well as a few variations from each brand:
- ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
- Brooks Ghost 14
- HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8
- Karhu Ikoni 2021
- New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
- Mizuno Wave Rider 25
- On Cloud X
- Saucony Ride 14
- Altra Torin 5
- Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
Looking for more options? Shop all running shoes.
Want more details? Check out our reviews.
How Do You Pick the Right Running Shoes For You?
There are lots of ways to classify and choose running shoes. There are the lightest and the fastest. Minimalist models and ones with cushioning for days. Carbon plates or plastic ones.
But the best running shoes for you will typically come down to one thing: comfort.
If you're squeezing into a shoe that's too small, or your toes are jammed against the front, you're less likely to want to go for a walk or run—and no shoe if good if you don't want to run in it.
If you're new to running, here are some basic guidelines:
- Generally speaking, you should have about a space about the width of your thumb between the end of your big toe and the front of your shoe.
- Your feet should sit in the middle of the footbed and not spill over the edges. If your foot is budging out of the sides, consider trying a wider width.
- There shouldn't be a break-in period—your shoes should be comfortable right out of the box (although we don't suggest racing a half marathon in a new pair the day you purchase them.)
As you gain experience, you'll learn if you like more cushioning or less, a stiffer model or a more flexible one.
Not sure how to choose the best running shoes for your needs? Find a local Fleet Feet store for a free, personalized assessment and 3D scan of your feet. Plus, to make sure you love your gear, you can try out your shoes for 60 days with our Happy Fit Guarantee.
ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
The ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is a classic model with cushioning designed to last through daily training for new and experienced runners alike.
If you're looking for durability that provides endless cushioning and a roomy fit, the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is for you. Soft and bouncy FlyteFoam Propel foam works with signature GEL pads in the heel to absorb shock and cushion your feet, no matter how far you run. While plenty of cushioning makes these shoes super-soft, you won't feel like you're sinking into the ground as you run.
Between the comfy fit and versatile ability, the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is perfect for all-around performance.
- What It's Best For: The Nimbus 23 is great for long distance runs, but it’s perfect for your everyday training miles no matter how far you go. Great for new runners and seasoned marathoners alike.
- Why You'll Love It: Soft cushioning underfoot and ASICS’ GEL technology create a cushy ride without feeling mushy. Roomy fit is comfortable for long runs as your training picks up.
Read more: ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 Review
Want a similar fit with stability features? Check out the ASICS GEL-Kayano 27.
Brooks Ghost 14
The Brooks Ghost 14 is an award-winning sneaker, and one of the most popular models on the market.
Brooks DNA Loft foam creates a smooth, soft ride, no matter what your training looks like. The engineered mesh upper comes in bold, fun colorways and is lightweight yet durable, making the Ghost 14 an excellent daily trainer.
While the Ghost 14 is instantly plush, the shoe transitions well between long runs, recovery days and uptempo workouts thanks to a grippy outsole that adds an extra kick of responsiveness.
“There’s a reason why the Ghost is such a crowd favorite," according to a Fleet Feet reviewer. "It’s comfortable, dependable and a great all-around trainer."
- What It's Best For: The Brooks Ghost 14 can handle just about anything. The soft DNA Loft foam midsole delivers a buttery ride, while the lightweight upper hugs your foot for comfortable miles.
- Why You'll Love It: You'll love the straightforward fit and easy ride. Brooks continues to refine the Ghost to make it a well-rounded running shoe that can take on easy days, long runs, walking and even some faster workouts with ease.
Read more: Brooks Ghost 14 Review
Want a bit of support? The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 offers a similar experience as the Ghost but uses Brooks’ GuideRail technology to keep you running smoothly.
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8
The HOKA Clifton 8 is one the best running shoes for anyone who demands plush cushioning, shock absorption, and a roomy fit.
In classic HOKA fashion, the Clifton 8 boasts a thick stack of EVA foam for heavenly comfort mile after mile. But don't let the tall stack height fool you, the Clifton is crazy light and energetic, so you don't have to switch shoes between recovery days and tempo runs.
No matter your foot shape, the HOKA Clifton 8 is designed with a roomy toe box and a flared heel collar to accommodate a wide range of feet without uncomfortable rubbing.
- What It's Best For: The Clifton excels at long runs and quick paces, but it’s just as comfortable for easy cruising or gentle walking. The light weight won’t hold you back, and the cushion can stand up to anything.
- Why You'll Love It: Cushion, cushion, cushion. The Clifton 8 gives you a lighter and more energetic ride than ever before. You'll love the lightweight and protective feel of the EVA foam beneath your feet.
Read more: HOKA Clifton 8 Review
Craving more cushion? The HOKA Bondi 7 is the most-cushioned model in the HOKA family.
Karhu Ikoni 2021
Never heard of Karhu? Get hip with the Ikoni 2021.
All Karhu shoes are designed using 3D foot scan data, helping the fabulous Finns behind the brand create an uniquely comfortable experience for neutral runners. The midsole foam is super-lightweight and offers plenty of cushioning over daily mileage, no matter how far you go.
The Ikoni is great for individuals who usually rely on orthotic inserts to find that just-right feel. And even if you want to keep your inserts, the Ikoni has a removable sock liner and plenty of room for you to pop them in.
- What It's Best For: All of your miles. The Ikoni 2021 is a great everyday sneaker, whether you’re training for a race or running to clear your head.
- Why You'll Love It: The custom-like fit works for many people because it was designed using data from many people. Plus, there’s a wide fit version for runners who need it.
Read more: Karhu Ikoni 2021 Review
Looking for a softer feel? The Karhu Synchron 2020 delivers a plusher ride.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
There's very little the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 can't do. Between long runs and speed days, beginners and experts, the 1080v11 is hard not to love.
Pillowy Fresh Foam provides super-soft, neutral support to each step, and absorbs the impact of running on pavement, delivering a bouncy feel on every run. The overall lightweight feel makes the 1080v11 an easy choice for daily training, because nobody likes a clunky shoe.
The knit upper fits like a sock and comes in fresh colorways. The forefoot is roomy enough for natural toe splay, and the 1080v11 also comes in wide sizing.
- What It's Best For: High mileage and hard efforts, but it’s just as comfortable for beginners dipping their toes in the water.
- Why You'll Love It: The 1080v11 is lightweight and soft, giving you the perfect foundation to ramp up your training and finish strong. The stretchy upper doesn’t pinch or squish your foot.
Read more: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 Review
Love New Balance but need stability? The refreshed New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11 is a fan favorite.
Mizuno Wave Rider 25
Comfort and consistency is what makes the Mizuno Wave Rider 25 one of the most approachable trainers you can find.
Energetic Enerzy foam underfoot provides balanced cushioning and response, helping you move easily between speed work and recovery runs. Plus, the signature Wave Plate helps to disperse impact and makes the Wave Rider 25 durable enough to handle daily mileage.
Available in wide sizing, the Wave Rider 25 is an excellent choice for anyone with a neutral gait looking for a balanced, energetic ride for everyday training and road races.
- What It's Best For: The Wave Rider 25 is built to handle high mileage. Mizuno Enerzy foam delivers a well-balanced ride, while durable outsole rubber adds traction and protects the midsole.
- Why You'll Love It: With the Wave Rider 25, you get a versatile training partner that handles high mileage as well as it handles walking the dog.
Read more: Mizuno Wave Rider 25 Review
Love the fit but need stability? The Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 adds a stability-tuned Wave Plate.
On Cloud X
The On Cloud X isn’t just great for running—it also shines for your strength training sessions or HIIT workouts.
The lightweight Helion foam and CloudTec cushioning provides plush landings and explosive takeoffs in every direction as you run, walk or jump. While the Cloud X generally offers neutral support, it uses raised sidewalls at the upper to create a more supported feel at the midfoot. This makes the Cloud X great for cross training, HIIT workouts, and helps the shoe accommodate horizontal motion as you run.
Plus, the the unique, minimalist look of the Cloud X 2.0 pairs great with casual outfits for a coffee run or a night out.
- What It's Best For: The Cloud X is great for mixed workouts. When you start with a run but planned a strength session afterward, the Cloud X can handle everything you throw at it.
- Why You'll Love It: The unique Cloud Element midsole and Speedboard create a snappy, engaging ride. Plus, its unique look and minimalist vibe give you extra style points.
Get more cushioning and a snappy ride in the On Cloudstratus 2.
Saucony Ride 14
The Saucony Ride 14 is a do-it-all trainer, great for beginners and experienced runners alike.
Neutral support and well-balanced PWRRUN cushioning make the Ride 14 at once plush and responsive. The Saucony Ride 14 is durable enough to handle long runs, and lightweight enough to take on speed work.
The Saucony Ride 14 provides a no-fuss fit and comfortable feel, and it's also available in wide sizing. It's an excellent choice for daily training or making your debut at your local 5K.
- What It's Best For: Being your go-to, everyday choice. The Ride 14 is confident on shorter efforts and comfortable on long days, meaning it’s the only shoe you need from your first day of training through race day.
- Why You'll Love It: The well-balanced cushioning feels soft enough for high mileage and responsive enough to run fast. An accommodating fit works for most foot shapes.
Read more: Saucony Ride 14 Review
Looking to speed up? Check out the Saucony Endorphin Speed
Altra Torin 5
The Altra Torin 5 offers plush cushioning and a 0 mm drop to keep you down to earth, no matter how fast you get.
Altra designed the Torin 5 (and all their models) with a unique FootShape toe box that is shaped around the natural contours of your foot. This helps the Torin accommodate a variety of arch heights and foot widths.
Since the Torin 5 sports a zero-drop stance, it delivers an engaged, natural feel. The EgoMax cushioning is plush and durable, making the Torin 5 great for daily training at any speed.
As one reviewer put it, “It really does have a natural feeling on the run," she says. "Something about the ride feels effortlessly relaxed and in control at the same time. I get the sensation of more contact with the ground, but not more impact on my body."
- What It's Best For: The Torin 5 handles all kinds of runs with ease. A cushy midsole eats up long runs, while its lightweight ride and low-profile silhouette can handle uptempo workouts.
- Why You'll Love It: Runners who like a zero-drop platform will love the Torin 5. The 0 mm heel-to-toe drop puts your foot and ankle in a neutral stance for a more natural feel.
Read more: Altra Torin 5 Review
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
A workhorse of elite athletes and weekend warriors alike, the Nike Pegasus 38 is ubiquitous thanks to its versatility and eye-catching swagger.
Nike React foam is lightweight, bouncy and energetic, helping you bound effortlessly through any workout. It handles high mileage gracefully, and it's strong enough to take on cross-training and strength sessions.
No matter where you wear them, the Pegasus 38 helps you look your best thanks to its speedy silhouette and bold colorways.
- What It's Best For: The Pegasus 38 is a versatile performer. Although it excels with a quick turnover and uptempo paces, it's more than capable of turning in comfortable long runs and easy miles.
- Why You'll Love It: The Pegasus feels nimble and light without sacrificing cushioning. React foam is energetic and soft, which works whether you’re just starting out or training for your latest PR, and the Zoom Air unit in the forefoot creates a quick response on takeoff.
Read more: Pegasus 38 Review
Finding the best running shoes can be difficult. There are hundreds of style to choose from, and many offer very different experiences.
When you're looking for your first (or next) pair, it's important to know there is no one best choice for everyone. What makes a shoe the best one for you depends on many different factors: foot width, arch height, your weight and unique gait all play a role.
You have to consider your training, preferred running surface and current fitness level—and let’s not forget your style, either. New runners might like more structure and cushioning compared to someone who is looking to ramp up their speed with a minimal weight and lightning fast response. Trail runners often look for more grip than the average road runner, and track stars need spikes built for speed.
To give you a place to start, we’ve combined 44 years of outfitting experience, real-life testing and fit id® data to curate this list of running shoes for every type of runner.
Best Running Shoes By Brand
Every major brand makes excellent shoes for all different occasions. So, if you're devoted to Brooks or loyal to New Balance, you can find the right pair for the right situations.
But just like there's no one best shoe, there's also no one best brand for every runner. Each brand has its own designs and technologies; what works for your friend might not work for you, so it's important to know what makes each brand unique to make an informed decision.
Need a high-cushion everyday trainer? Looking for a light and fast racing flat? Check out the best running shoe brands and all the shoes they make.
Here are the best running shoe brands:
Best Running Shoes By Category
Different runners require different things, so we created these lists to help everybody find exactly what they need.
Some runners who overpronate might prefer extra stability, while others go for neutral support. Off-road runners need grip for the trail, while some people are just looking for comfortable walking shoes.
We combed through each major category to find the best running shoes for each type of runner.
Best Walking and Running Shoes For Men and Women
Many top brands make men's and women's running shoes with different attributes.
Men are generally heavier than women, so some men's sneakers have more cushioning. Women typically have a narrower heel and midfoot than men, so some brands make women's versions to accommodate those differences.
We pulled models for men and women to give you a place to start your search for the perfect pair.
Best Running Shoes By Foot Shape
If you've had a 3D scan during our fit id® outfitting process, you know whether you have high or low arches, you know your heel shape and you can see your foot width. Or maybe you've tried enough running shoes to know you need a wide width.
Millions of runners and walkers have had their feet scanned at a Fleet Feet store, giving us tons of data to identify which shoes will fit which types of feet. Whatever your foot shape, we can match it with a pair that will help you run comfortably.
Check out these categories based on 3D foot scans:
Finding the right shoes online can be difficult. There are hundreds of models and styles to choose from, and you can find a wide range of prices for similar products.
Here are some commons questions we see about running shoes to help you make the right choice:
What are stability shoes?
Stability running shoes help mitigate the effects of excessive overpronation (the natural inward roll of your foot as you walk or run). These models typically use a firmer piece of foam or plastic on the inside edge, called a medial post, to help keep the shoe from wearing out unevenly and prematurely.
How much should I spend?
Considering your budget is an important part of making a purchase. Premium running shoes can cost anywhere from about $120 to more than $250. You don't need to break the bank to buy shoes, but premium trainers are made with better materials and will last longer than cheap ones.
If having the latest model isn't your top concern, then check out the clearance section for great shoes at a discount.
Can I wear running shoes for walking?
Yes! Most running shoes make for excellent walking shoes, too. The soft cushioning and accommodating fit that make them good for running also makes them comfortable for walking.
How long do running shoes last?
Your shoes will eventually wear out, which can leave you feeling sore or cause nagging injuries. Typically, you should get between 300-500 miles on a pair before you need to replace them.
What to Look For
There are plenty of things that make running shoes good. High quality materials last longer than cheap stuff; attention to small details, like stitching, helps make them more comfortable; and technical fabrics make them more breathable.
But everyone’s feet are different—not to mention their weight, footstrike, gait pattern and pronation. Just because they’re good shoes doesn’t mean they’re the right shoes for you.
Other things to consider when you’re shopping are your foot shape, the level of support you need, how much cushion you want and how they fit your style.
In short: There isn’t one best pair of running shoes for everyone. But there is a pair that will give you a comfortable experience, mile after mile.
Finding the right ones comes down to a combination of comfort, performance and price. Here are the first three questions you should answer to narrow down your search:
- How many miles per week do you currently run?
- What are your running or walking goals?
- How much money are you willing to spend?
Whether you’re a new runner looking to get started or you’re a veteran marathoner chasing PRs, this Running Shoes Buyer’s Guide will help you find the right pair.
How We Chose the Best Running Shoes
We consider several factors when deciding on our picks. From ensuring we judge shoes according to their intended purpose to making sure you’re actually able to buy them, here are the things we consider:
- Purpose. Comparing apples to apples
- Performance. How well does it do its job?
- Real-world testing. We put them to the test on real runs
- Price. Is it affordable? Does its performance justify its cost?
- Sales. Best-selling models are best-sellers for a reason
- fit id® data. Our own data shows how shoes fit for different feet
- Availability. It won’t be good if you can’t buy it
- Designer interviews. We ask the people who made it
Standing Behind Our Picks
We picked the best products based on what we think will work for the most people in the most situations. If you buy gear from us and you don’t like the way it looks, fits or performs, bring it back within 60 days for a full refund.
Plus, we offer free shipping on all orders over $99 on fleetfeet.com, and we’ll match a lower price from a qualifying retailer. That’s our Happy Fit Guarantee.
Buying online isn’t for everyone. To try on your gear before you buy it, visit a local Fleet Feet store for an in-person fitting experience.
We fit running shoes through our own fit id® outfitting process. The one-on-one process uses a 3D scanner to take precise measurements of your feet. Then, using data points for each foot and decades of experience in the industry, we help you find the right gear for your unique feet and specific needs.
Want to try it for yourself? Find a Fleet Feet location near you.