The Best Running Shoes 2021
Buyer's Guide | Fleet Feet
Finding running shoes is personal. No matter what anyone tells you, there is no one best pair of running shoes for all people.
Instead, there are hundreds of models ranging from lightweight racing shoes 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 pick across the board.
For many runners (or non-runners!) looking for new running shoes, though, these models are a good place to start.
Here are some of the best running shoes that will work for many runners in most situations, as well as a few variations from each brand:
- ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
- Brooks Ghost 13
- HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8
- Karhu Ikoni 2020
- New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
- Mizuno Wave Rider 24
- On Cloud X
- Saucony Ride 14
- Altra Torin 4.5 Plush
- Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
Looking for more options? Shop all running shoes.
[Updated June 1, 2021]
ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
From the fit to the underfoot feel, the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is a classic running shoe.
ASICS optimized the Nimbus 23 for long runs by giving it maximum cushioning, but it works just as well for shorter days, too. The midsole features a soft and bouncy FlyteFoam Propel foam composition and generous GEL pads to soak up impact.
With a premium mesh upper that breathes easily on warm days, the Nimbus 23 is an easy choice for most runners.
Read more: ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 Review
Want a similar fit with stability features? Check out the ASICS GEL-Kayano 27.
Brooks Ghost 13
The best running shoes have to be comfortable, versatile and durable. The Brooks Ghost 13 checks all the boxes.
Brooks designed the Ghost to do most things well. It’s lightweight for uptempo paces, and it’s well-cushioned for when your runs go long. You might want to look for a speed-focused trainer for track days, but the Ghost could hold its own on your fastest days in a pinch.
Not only is the Ghost 13 good for most types of running, it’s also one of the best-selling running shoes each year.
Read more: Brooks Ghost 13 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 bolts a few new parts onto the always-popular Clifton frame for an even better experience than before.
HOKA maintained the Clifton's generous helping of cushioning, but this year's model sports a new foam compound. The new EVA midsole is one of the lightest and most energetic formulas from HOKA to date, which gives the Clifton 8 versatile performance.
Designers also added a refreshed mesh upper for a soft touch and secure fit. The new Clifton retains a similar silhouette to the outgoing model, though, with a flared heel collar and clean overall look.
Fleet Feet reviewers love the updated Clifton. It made one tester wonder how much better it could get.
“I think each new version is perfect, and that there is no way to make it better. Then HOKA goes and does it,” says one reviewer. “Every year it has me wondering where exactly the Clifton ceiling is?”
Read more: HOKA Clifton 8 Review
Craving more cushion? The HOKA Bondi 7 is the most-cushioned running shoe in the HOKA family.
Karhu Ikoni 2020
Never heard of Karhu? Make your introduction with the Ikoni 2020.
What makes the Ikoni unique is its blueprint. Karhu engineered the Ikoni using the data from more than 100,000 3D foot scans taken during Fleet Feet’s fit id® outfitting process. Designers looked at foot width, arch height, heel shape and more to determine how to build the Ikoni.
The result is a lightweight running shoe that fits comfortably for a lot of different foot shapes. An AeroFoam midsole cushions the ride, while Karhu’s Fulcrum technology helps keep you momentum moving forward.
Read more: Karhu Ikoni 2020 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.
Lace it up for a long run, and the pillowy Fresh Foam midsole will take care of you. The soft cushioning soaks up the impact of running on pavement, which keeps you feeling fresher for longer.
Doing speed work? The 1080 maintains a light weight despite its big stack of foam, and it provides a bouncy response on every step.
And no matter what workout you have planned, the Hypoknit upper shines. New Balance knit the upper with strategic zones: a stretchy zone in the forefoot to give your toes plenty of room to splay and a static zone in the midfoot for a secure fit.
Whatever your next miles hold, the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 is one of the best running shoes for the job.
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 24
The best running shoes for most people need to be consistent, and the Mizuno Wave Rider 24 is as consistent as they come.
Unlike some of the max-cushion shoes on the market, the Wave Rider feels a little firmer in the forefoot. The firmer platform feels stable and responsive as you push off, but it still has plenty of cushioning to rack up serious mileage.
In this model, Mizuno used its new Enerzy foam. The new foam gives the Wave Rider 24 a softer feel than previous models of the shoe, and it leads to a smooth transition into the more responsive U4ic foam in the forefoot.
The classic Wave Rider 24 gives you reliable performance and top-notch durability while maintaining the performance you need.
Read more: Mizuno Wave Rider 24 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 one of the best running shoes, it also shines for your strength training sessions or HIIT workouts.
On designed the Cloud X with its Helion foam compound. The lightweight foam composition cushions your landings and pops on takeoff for an engaging ride, and it works in any direction to give you responsive performance for gym workouts, too.
The engineered mesh upper is breathable and lightweight, and it flexes naturally with your foot so you don’t feel constricted.
With raised sidewalls that create a stable feel, the On Cloud X is the versatile, high-performance running shoe.
Get more cushioning and a snappy ride in the On Cloudstratus.
Saucony Ride 14
The running shoe market is saturated with expensive carbon-fiber plates and big, pillowy midsole, which have their time and place, but the Saucony Ride 14 excels because it's not that.
Instead of going to the extremes, the Ride 14 offers a well-balanced feel that can handle just about anything you can throw at it—and that's why we love it.
Saucony built the Ride on top of a springy PWRRUN foam midsole. The foam is responsive enough to go fast without sacrificing the cushioning you need to protect you on longer runs.
Fleet Feet runners praised the Ride's straightforward fit and comfortable feel, saying it's accommodating for most foot shapes (and it comes in wide sizing for runners who need it).
The Saucony Ride 14's easy fit and neutral ride make it a comfortable and versatile workhorse to add to your lineup.
Read more: Saucony Ride 14 Review
Looking to speed up? Check out the Saucony Endorphin Speed
Altra Torin 4.5 Plush
Altra shapes its shoes differently than many brands, which is evident right when you put them on.
The Altra Torin 4.5 Plush uses Altra’s FootShape toe box. The more rectangular toe box mimics the shape of your forefoot and toes, which lets everything spread out naturally as your foot hits the ground.
Altra packed the Torin 4.5 Plush with a Quantic midsole for a floating, lightweight ride, and designers draped it in a breathable knit upper for a sock-like fit.
Another signature Altra feature is the Torin’s 0 mm drop footbed. Called Balanced Cushioning, the Torin keeps your foot in a natural stance to encourage low-impact form as you run.
Read more: Altra Torin 4.5 Plush Review
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 is one of the best running shoes because it gives you the versatility to take on any type of training—and look good doing it.
Nike built the Peg on top of a full-length React foam midsole. React is lightweight, bouncy and durable, making it a popular choice for many Nike running shoes. But the Pegasus doesn't rely on the foam alone: A Zoom Air unit embedded in the forefoot adds a confident pop to your takeoff.
This year's version has a new mesh upper and wider toe box to make it more comfortable, but it retains the same nimble ride and speedy silhouette as its predecessor.
Whether you're just starting out, running a few easy miles on the weekends or hammering speedwork at the track, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 is a reliable training partner.
If you like the Peg but want more cushion, take a look at the Nike React Infinity Run 2.
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 of shoes, it's important to know there is no one best shoe for everyone. What makes a shoe the best running shoe for you depends on many different factors: foot width, arch height, your weight and unique gait all play a role.
Choosing the best running shoes for you involves considering your training, preferred running surface and current fitness level—and let’s not forget your style, either. New runners might prefer a more structured and cushioned shoe compared to someone who is looking to ramp up their speed with a highly responsive shoe. Trail runners often look for a shoe with more grip than the average road shoe, 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 a list of running shoes for every type of runner.
Best Running Shoes By Brand
Every major brand makes excellent running shoes for all different occasions. So, if you're devoted to Brooks or loyal to New Balance, you can find the right pair of shoes 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 have different needs.
Some runners who overpronate might prefer stability running shoes, while others go for neutral running shoes that deliver comfortable support. Off-road runners need the best trail running shoes, while some people are just looking for comfortable shoes to walk in.
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 running shoes have more cushioning. Women typically have a narrower heel and midfoot than men, so some brands make women's running shoes to accommodate those differences.
We pulled the best walking and running shoes 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, 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 running shoe that will help you run comfortably.
Here are the best running shoes by foot shape:
What to Look For in Running Shoes
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 running shoes more comfortable; and technical fabrics make shoes 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 buying running shoes are your foot shape, the level of support you need, how much cushion you want and how you want the shoes to look.
In short: There isn’t one best pair of running shoes for everyone. But there is a pair of shoes that will give you a comfortable running experience.
Finding the right running shoes for you 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 for a comfortable pair of shoes to get started or you’re a veteran marathoner chasing PRs, there’s a perfect pair of running shoes for you. This Running Shoes Buyer’s Guide will help you pick the right running shoes.
How We Chose the Best Running Shoes
We consider several factors when choosing the best running shoes. From ensuring we judge shoes according to their intended purpose to making sure you’re actually able to buy it, here are the things we consider when picking the best running shoes in each category:
- 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 running shoes based on what we think will work for the most people in the most situations. If you buy a pair of running shoes from us and you don’t like the way they look, fit or perform, bring them 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 the shoes before you buy them, 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 running shoes for your unique feet and specific needs.
Want to try it for yourself? Find a Fleet Feet location near you.