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Best Running Shoes

By: Lisa Maloney on August 17, 2016

A great running shoe will keep you on track

While the running shoes in this section are best for most people, do keep in mind that because we all have different feet, there's no one single best shoe for everybody. Instead, choosing running shoes is all about figuring out which shoes fit your feet the best. This is something we cover further both in the introduction to this report and in our buying guide.

With that said the Saucony Triumph ISO 2 running shoe (Est. $80 and up) makes just about everybody who tries it happy. One of users' favorite features in this shoe is its ISO "caging," which uses independent strands to connect the lacing eyelets to the midsole. This creates a comfortable fit that can conform to almost any foot shape, from wide to narrow, and the shoe is available in both wide and normal widths.

At 10.2 ounces for a men's pair of size 9 shoes, the Saucony Triumph ISO 2 isn't the lightest shoe out there, but it still draws the most expert praise of any shoe we evaluated for its smooth, responsive and bouncy ride. It gets an Editor's Choice award from Runner's World, where reviewers are particularly impressed by the lively, responsive feel of its Everun foam "topsole," a cushioning layer that's located right underneath your feet instead of buried in the midsole. In Runner's World lab tests, the addition of the Everun material actually raised the Triumph ISO 2's bounce-back scores from a little above average into the top 10 percent.

The Saucony Triumph 2 also gets a nod from SoleReview.com for its great transitions and ground feel; the experts there note that Everun foam is very similar to the Adidas boost midsole. Users say that this shoe's 8mm drop from heel to toe helps promote a natural midfoot strike, but that heel strikers will love its smooth roll to the midfoot for toe-off.

Ultimately, experts and users agree: If you want a durable running shoe that feels great underfoot and suits most people with a neutral or supinating gait, the Saucony Triumph ISO 2 is one of the best. It's even grippy enough for use on some loose trails, and feels fast enough underfoot to go from long runs to uptempo work.

If you like a firm ride with superior stability control, another great shoe to consider is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 (Est. $90 and up), the latest entry in a popular running shoe line that blends comfort, responsiveness and support. That support and stability control comes from layers of progressively firmer foam on the medial (inside) part of the midsole that, together with a "post" of stiffer material to keep your ankles from rolling inward, help correct mild to moderate overpronation without feeling awkward.

Fit has traditionally been a high point for this shoe, although like all Brooks shoes they also tend to run a half-size small. Runners love the adjustable eyelets that create some give as you tighten the upper, and that the tongue on these shoes actually stay put. However, heads up for those with very wide or high-volume feet: most users say that the GTS 16 has a shallower and somewhat narrower toebox than the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15 (Est. $65 and up). Some even went as far as purchasing both the GTS 15 and the GTS 16 so they could compare. If this concerns you, you might want to order the next width up (the Adrenaline GTS 16 comes in narrow, normal, wide and extra-wide widths for both men and women).

Users are sometimes (and very understandably) confused by the manufacturer's use of the word "plush" in marketing this shoe. It has plenty of cushioning for long runs, but is in no way plush -- actually, reviewers say the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 feels firm and responsive underfoot, despite its relatively heavy weight (11.1 ounces for a pair of men's size 9). Also of note, the 12mm midsole drop makes this shoe most conducive to a heel strike.

SoleReview.com, which breaks down details of shoe performance into quantifiable metrics, gives the Adrenaline GTS 16 great scores for both heel and toe stability and its heel-toe transitions. Ultimately, they tag this shoe as exactly what it is: A firm, supportive and drama-free ride. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 also gets good marks from users for its durability, and has decent enough traction that it can do double-duty as a trail runner in mild conditions.

The best running shoes for flat feet or high arches

If you have flat feet, the Nike LunarGlide 8 (Est. $80 and up) may be worth looking into. This shoe wins a "Best Update" award from Runner's World in Sept. 2016, thanks to the soft Lunarlon foam that gives it superior comfort and a plush ride. The editors with Runner's World particularly like the concentric rings of laser siping in this shoe's sole, which offer lots of flexibility, stability and structure all at once. On the downside, those ringed grooves in the sole can trap lots of rocks and don't do so well on wet surfaces.

The LunarGlide 8 gets high marks for comfort, thanks to its high-volume toebox, which means plenty of room for wide feet; engineered mesh, which means strategically targeted support and flexibility, with no stitching to rub on your feet; and a dynamic "support ramp" wedge of denser foam that adds progressively more support as your foot rolls in. This type of support is particularly useful for runners with flat feet, and this shoe's predecessor, the Nike LunarGlide 7, got a big thumbs up from RunningShoesGuru.com, a flat-footed runner who's done extensive research and testing to find shoes that work well for flat feet. Despite all that nicely cushioned stability, the LunarGlide 8 still weighs just 9.4 ounces for a pair of men's size 9.

For runners with high arches that cause them to supinate or underpronate (rolling their weight to the outside edges of their feet), neutral-cushioned running shoes are usually ideal. These shoes are typically lighter and less rigid than motion control or stability shoes, and encourage the foot to pronate naturally without overdoing it. Many neutral-cushioned running shoes are also recommended for runners with a neutral gait -- that is, the people who need a shoe that essentially "gets out of the way" and lets their feet move naturally.

Within this category, the Brooks Ghost line stands out for its light weight and durability; "the one road shoe to rule them all," write the editors of OutdoorGearLab.com of the Brooks Ghost 8. Almost every Brooks Ghost model has won an award from Runner's World, and early previews indicate that the current model, the Brooks Ghost 9 (Est. $110 and up), is on track for the same. In a video preview, Runner's World editor Jeff Dengate explains that Brooks has only changed a few things from the previous model, the Ghost 8, which achieved one of the highest testing scores Runner's World has ever produced.

One of the biggest changes in the new model is an "engineered mesh" that eliminates overlays and gives the manufacturer fine control over which parts of the upper flex and which offer more support. This also makes the shoes more comfortable to wear without socks, freeing up your forefoot but still giving plenty of midfoot support to keep your foot locked in. That said, like most Brooks running shoes, the Ghost usually runs about a half-size small; keep that in mind if you're ordering online.

Users reviewing the new model say the Ghost 9 accepts full-length orthotics easily. They love its wider-feeling toebox and the extra touch of softness in the sole, thanks to enhanced flex grooves in the forefoot. They say there's just enough cushion in the midsole for long runs -- the perfect blend of "not too hard, not too soft" on pavement, but not so much that you end up feeling sluggish. Another hit feature is the "full-length crash pad" -- essentially, padding down the length of the sole that suits any type of foot strike, although the 12mm heel-to-toe offset encourages heel striking.

Overall, the Brooks Ghost 9 continues the line's legacy of a near-perfect blend of comfortable fit, fast feel and neutral cushioning with mild support. At 10.6 ounces for a men's size 9 they are toward the heavier end of the running shoe spectrum, but still agile and responsive underfoot. The one Achilles heel to watch out for -- if you'll pardon the pun -- is that these shoes are not very durable.

Elsewhere In This Report
Recently Updated
Running Shoes buying guide

What every best Running Shoes has:

  • A snug, but not restrictive, fit.
  • Flexible, responsive soles with adequate cushioning.
  • No break-in period.

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