The Best Running Shoes 2021
Buyer's Guide | Fleet Feet
Finding running shoes is personal, and can be tricky while you're shopping online. We're here to help you take the guesswork out of finding the best running shoes.
What makes a running shoe the best? No matter what your specific needs are, the best running shoes are comfortable as soon as you put them on, cushion your feet and are built to last.
Whether you're a new runner, returning marathoner, or getting after a new fitness goal, these models are a great place to start when looking for the best running shoes:
- 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 shoe reviews.
[Updated July 21, 2021]
ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
The ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is a classic running shoe with cushioning designed to last through daily training for new and experienced runners alike.
If you're looking for a durable shoe 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 shoe as you run.
Between the comfy fit and versatile ability, the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is one of the best running shoes you can find.
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 shoe, and one of the best running shoes 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."
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 runners looking for 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.
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 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 shoe 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 plenty of room for you to pop them in.
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.
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 best running shoes you can find.
Energetic Enerzy foam underfoot provides balanced cushioning and response, helping the shoe 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 neutral runners looking for a balanced, energetic ride over everyday training and road races.
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 one of the best running shoes, 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 shoe generally offers neutral support, the Cloud X 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.
Get more cushioning and a snappy ride in the On Cloudstratus 2.
Saucony Ride 14
The Saucony Ride 14 is a do-it-all running shoe, 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 is also available in wide sizing. It's an excellent shoe for daily training or making your debut at your local 5K.
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 shoes) with a unique FootShape toe box that is shaped around the natural contours of your foot. This helps the shoe accommodate a variety of arch heights, foot widths, or your wonky toe you'd rather keep a secret.
Since the Torin 5 is a zero-drop shoe, it delivers an engaged, natural-feeling ride. The EgoMax cushioning is plush and durable, making the Torin 5 great for daily training at any speed.
As one reviewer put it, “This shoe 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."
Read more: Altra Torin 5 Review
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
A workhorse shoe of elite athletes and weekend warriors alike, the Nike Pegasus 38 is one the best running shoes 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 is 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.
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 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.