December 20, 2021 | By Cory Smith
After countless miles pounding the pavement, our running fanatics found the best running shoes of 2022.
I used to say that running was a pretty simple sport. All you need are a pair of running shoes and clothes, and off you go. However, these days I’m second-guessing that concept.
Somehow over the past 25 years, complexity crept in. GPS watch data, Strava segments, hydration vests, and the obligatory social media post-run selfie are as standard as striped tube running socks were in the ’70s and ’80s.
Whether you embrace the new complicated age of running or wish for a return to the simpler past, there is one thing about running that will never change — running always has, and always will, start with a good pair of running shoes.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide and frequently asked questions.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more capable and versatile running shoe than the HOKA Mach 4 ($130). At 8.6 ounces (men) and 7.1 ounces (women), it’s extremely lightweight without sacrificing protection and stability.
It’s just as adept cruising along at a leisurely pace on recovery runs as it is getting after it during tempos and intervals. The underfoot feeling is soft, smooth, and comfortable yet responsive enough to pop back up after each footstrike.
If you’ve never tried a HOKA and feel a little apprehensive about its oversized, maximum profile, don’t be. The Mach 4 looks much bulkier than it feels on your foot. Through all stages of the running gait, it doesn’t feel oversized and moves just like any other shoe.
The thick dual-density midsole features HOKA’s performance-tuned ProFly foam on top of a rubberized EVA foam for a remarkably bouncy and energetic ride at any pace. Using HOKA’s signature early-stage Meta-Rocker — where the shape of the sole curves upward toward the ends — and a protruding beveled heel, the geometry makes ground touchdown and toe-off efficient, no matter your footstrike type.
The majority of our test crew agreed the fit, length, and width were true to size; however, one tester felt it could offer a bit more volume. So, unless you have abnormally wide or unusually shaped feet, most runners won’t have fit issues.
Bottom line: I’ve tested just about every running shoe out there over the past 3 years, and regardless of your ability, footstrike, size, and pace, the Mach 4 is among the best I’ve ever seen.
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Asics has historically been known for rather stiff and, quite frankly, dated designs. However, recently the company has been going through a renaissance, situating it as one of the top running brands. One standout shoe is the all-new NovaBlast 2 ($130).
This everyday neutral trainer quickly emerged as a favorite for ticking away daily miles and long runs among our testers. With a 30mm heel/22mm toe stack height, the underfoot experience is certainly on the softer end of the spectrum, teetering on the maximum cushioning category. The FF Blast cushioning offers a reliably smooth and bouncy ride.
The double-engineered jacquard mesh upper felt plush, cozy, and secure against our feet but a bit on the warm side during higher-temperature runs. If you’re in between sizes, we suggest sizing up, as the thick upper made the shoe feel snug.
Notable updates from the original NovaBlast include a lowered stack height from 10 mm to 8 mm, a modified outsole design to improve rebound, and the addition of a TPU stabilizer in the heel for better stability.
All in all, the Asics NovaBlast 2 will not disappoint those runners looking for a comfortable daily neutral trainer with plenty of cushioning and bounce.
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For those familiar with the Brooks Transcend, the Glycerin 19 GTS ($150) is its replacement. Brooks rebranded its entire support line as “GTS” models, which is short for “go-to support.”
In the past, supportive shoes had a firmer piece of foam or “post” along the medial side of the shoe to support pronation. This would (in almost every case) result in a firm underfoot ride.
By placing two firm pieces of foam on either side of the heel, Brooks is able to less invasively (than a typical medial post) reduce excess inward and outward rolling of the foot while offering a softer ride more typically found in neutral shoes.
The softness comes from the DNA loft midsole, Brooks’ softest cushioning foam, while the segmented outsole allows the midsole to flex naturally for smooth transitions.
These shoes are a workhorse too. They’re capable of maintaining form longer than most shoes. Yet, like most workhorse shoes, the Glycerin 19 GTS is fairly heavy. At 10.7 ounces (men) and 9.3 ounces (women), you might want a lighter shoe for speedwork and races.
For those runners who require a supportive shoe but are tired of the firm persona of most supportive models, look no further. The Brooks Glycerin 19 GTS will feel like a slice of heaven while still giving you the support you need.
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When it comes to zero drop running shoes, Altra is the undisputed king. A new model for Altra, the Rivera ($130) fills a sweet spot for Altra — the lightweight cushioned trainer. I say sweet spot because prior to the Rivera there was (and still is) the Escalante, a racing shoe, and the Torin, an ultraplush, somewhat maximum cushioning shoe.
In the middle is room for a shoe that’s lightweight, can handle up-tempo running, but also offers enough cushioning for a daily trainer. The Rivera fills the spot perfectly.
The Rivera features the Altra EGO midsole, “the holy grail of running shoe cushioning — fast and springy, yet comfortable and soft,” says Golden Harper, founder of Altra Footwear. First debuted on the Escalante, I wholeheartedly agree with Harper’s assessment of this midsole.
At 26mm stack height all around, it strikes a nice balance of still giving a flexible, natural moving shoe with enough cushioning to keep you comfortable during longer or faster runs.
Keeping comfort a priority, the soft, engineered mesh upper and well-padded heel collar created a cozy space for my feet. While it’s not as pronounced as some of the other models, you still get the signature wide FootShape toebox.
I have no doubt that hardcore Altra fans will embrace the addition to the Altra line of road shoes. As an everyday trainer with some pep when you need it, it’s an instant classic.
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If there’s ever a shoe that doesn’t need any introduction, it’s the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 — proven in the lab and on the racecourse as the leader in carbon fiber running shoes. More records have fallen in these shoes than any other.
“This has to be one of the fastest if not the fastest trainer/racer that I have laced up,” said one tester after his first speed workout in the Vaporfly NEXT% 2 ($250).
While the carbon fiber plate is certainly special, it’s the crazy bouncy ZoomX midsole paired with the plate that makes this shoe so special. As if being crazy fast isn’t enough, my legs also felt less beat up after hard sessions and races.
It’s not for everyone. The combo of the narrow bottom under the heel and aggressive geometry favors the efficient runner. At modest paces, the ultrasoft ZoomX midsole can feel quite unstable. Only at faster paces does the shoe show its full potential.
If it works for you, you will run faster in these. Period. As one tester said, “Holy guacamole! This shoe is fast.”
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I love the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2. There’s no doubt my race times are faster with them than without. However, it’s not a very forgiving shoe. The stiff carbon plate, narrow profile under the heel, and soft foam that’s wobbly just do not work for many. In fact, it may cause slower race times for those who can’t handle the aggressive geometry.
With all that said, I also love the Asics MetaSpeed Sky ($250). In some ways, I love it more. In the right use cases, it’s a much better shoe than the Nike. For starters, it’s a more stable shoe. The wide underfoot profile is more forgiving and suitable for more midfoot and even some heel strikers.
It features Asics’ highest rebound foam, Flytefoam Blast Turbo. This midsole is just about as bouncy as they come. The harder you push, the harder they push you back and propel you forward.
The upper material is an engineered mesh upper like most, but it has a somewhat scratchy and firm feeling. I would not want to run sockless in these. However, it is very breathable — more so than most uppers.
In terms of fit, they certainly accommodate wide feet better than the Nike and most racers. One reviewer summed them up perfectly: “These sweet rides should be illegal — so smooth, so responsive, so fast!” You can read our full review for more.
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Carbon fiber shoes are great and all, but damn, are they pricey. If the thought of dropping $200-plus for a pair of running shoes makes you cringe, this Saucony speedster is for you.
Priced more in line with the premium everyday trainers instead of carbon fiber shoes, the Endorphin Speed 2 ($160) features a more flexible nylon plate that spans full length. It’s a bit more forgiving than the stiffer carbon fiber shoes, making it more versatile and suitable for a broader audience.
Not much has changed for the second iteration. It still features a generous dose of Saucony’s high-energy TPU PWRRUN PB midsole. The ride is certainly playful and fast, and that fun feeling isn’t reserved for fast paces only. Even when I was clipping away at more moderate paces, I found the ride smooth.
Slight changes to the engineered mono-mesh give it better breathability. The more noticeable update comes in a snugger-fitting heel that gives the Endorphin Speed 2 better heel lockdown and rear foot stability.
I crowned it the best race day shoe, and it certainly is, but it’s just as capable as an everyday trainer. If you’re looking for a fun, high-performance shoe with some bounce, here you have it.
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Most budget shoes will use lower-quality foam underfoot to keep the price low. The problem with bottom-of-the-barrel foam is it breaks down much faster, leaving you at risk of injury and needing to replace them faster.
Before I go into why the Launch is the best budget trainer, let me explain the Launch 8 ($100) versus the Launch 8 GTS ($100). This past season, Brooks retooled and rebranded its entire stability line of shoes under the GTS. The Ravenna was replaced with the Launch 8 GTS.
The Launch 8 and GTS 8 use BioMoGo DNA midsole, one of Brooks’ highest quality foams. Used on the top-selling Brooks Ghost 13, the midsole runs the line between soft and responsive. Brooks classifies the Launch as a lightweight speed with cushioning, and I agree.
But it’s also well-suited as an everyday trainer, especially for those on a budget. You won’t find as much cushioning as on the Brooks Glycerin, but at such a light weight, it does offer a generous stack height.
Sure, you can find cheaper running shoes, but I guarantee they won’t run as well. For those on a budget or just looking for a great running shoe for the here-and-there run, the Brooks Launch 8 and stability version Launch 8 GTS are among the best.
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I find the day after speed sessions, races, and long runs to be some of the most awful runs of the week. Depleted, tired, and sore as hell — these runs are miserable. The only saving grace is a pair of thick-soled, ultra-cushioned shoes to soften the impact, and no other brand does maximum cushioning better than HOKA.
The Clifton 8 ($140) gets a big upgrade in comfort for its eighth iteration. You’ll still find full compression-molded EVA underfoot, but it’s 15% lighter. At 8.9 ounces for men and 7.2 ounces for women, the weight is more similar to a fast-tempo shoe than an everyday trainer. When your legs are that tired, every ounce helps ease the workload.
Despite the lighter midsole, the overall weight between the 7 and 8 models stays relatively consistent. HOKA redistributed the weight into the upper by way of a lot more padding throughout, especially in the tongue.
The extra padding is a huge upgrade in comfort too, as the upper now feels as plush as the midsole. The HOKA One Clifton 8 is pure, unadulterated luxury for your feet. Read our full review.
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Shoes designed to run fast are my favorite, so there’s no surprise I was all smiles when testing the Fuel Cell Rebel 2 ($130). There’s just something about this shoe that made me want to run fast.
For starters, the New Balance Fuel Cell midsole is one of the best. It’s soft but not mushy. It’s responsive but not firm or harsh.
I found the range of this shoe to be really impressive. The Fuel Cell Rebel v2 performs equally well from short-track intervals to long marathon-paced intervals.
The thin but comfortable upper does what’s needed without any extra fluff. It’s comfortable, breathes well, and molds well to your feet.
I really dug the off-centered asymmetrical lacing. Between that and the thin upper, with a few tugs of the laces I was locked down and ready to rip. Priced at $130, it’s a great value too.
For those that find any carbon-, nylon-, or Pebax-plated midsole too firm or stiff, this would certainly be my pick for any races — 5K to marathon.
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Running shoes have their fair share of complexity. Sorting through today’s shoe stats like stack height, heel drop, weight, and now carbon fiber plates can give anyone a headache. Luckily, we’re here to cut through the noise and give it to you straight.
Over the past 5 years as a shoe reviewer, I’ve run in just about every running shoe produced. I’ve recruited a team of testers for feedback. I’ve talked with shoe engineers, podiatrists, and specialty running store owners.
Armed with this knowledge, I’ve picked the best shoes of the season based on my expertise, my test team’s input, and head-to-head comparisons within each category above.
After talking with many physical therapists, running store owners, and shoe experts, they all agree on one thing — pick a running shoe based on comfort. The shoe that feels, fits, and runs the best is most likely going to be the best shoe for you.
Fortunately, most of today’s online shoe retailers allow a full refund or credit on used shoes within a 30- or 90-day window. This allows you to buy a pair of shoes, try them out for a few runs, and make the decision. This is also a nice feature to ensure that you get the correct sizing.
In my experience, most people wear running shoes that are too tight. The rule of thumb (literally) is you should have a thumb width of space between your longest toe and the edge of the running shoe. For most, this will be half to three-quarters of an inch.
You need this space for two reasons. First, as you run, your feet will slide slightly forward. This extra space prevents your toes from consistently banging up against the inside wall of the shoe. Second, if you run long enough and in higher temps, your feet will swell. Again, extra space is necessary.
Finding the proper width is a little trickier. Shoe width varies from brand to brand and even within the same brand between models. There are brands that are known for being wide or narrow.
Altra and Topo are known for favoring runners with wide feet. Aside from these two, it’s hard to make absolute assumptions across all models of a brand as being wide or narrow.
If you want to geek out on the stats of a shoe, that’s fine. But I would steer clear of making decisions solely based on them. Pay attention but don’t obsess.
Sure, there is a pretty big difference between a 12mm drop and zero drop, so much so that I don’t suggest making such a drastic change. But between a 4mm and 6mm drop, it’s marginal. To put it in perspective, it’s the difference of the thickness of a nickel.
This is usually the measurement of the bottom of the shoe to the bottom of the inside of the shoe. It gives a measurement of how much material there is between your foot and the ground.
The higher the stack height, the thicker the sole. I say “usually” because some brands will not include the insole as part of the stack height measurements.
Drop is the difference in measurement of stack height between the heel and toe. It ranges from zero to 12 mm. The higher the drop, the less strain on the Achilles, soleus, and calves. Zero drop shoes are associated with a more natural barefoot running feeling.
The weight of a shoe can give good insight into the type of running for which the shoe is best suited. Lightweight shoes — ones weighing less than 8 ounces for men and 7.5 ounces for women — are typically designed for faster running and racing.
Heavier shoes — 10 ounces for men and 9 ounces for women — are more suited for everyday training. In most cases, I’ve found weight to be a good insight into the durability of a shoe. Lighter shoes with less foam tend to wear out more quickly than the thicker, heavier ones.
Should a shoe correct over/under pronation or not? Some say yes; others say no. Most of the experts I’ve spoken with say it depends. Dr. Crispell recommends that those needing a supportive shoe look for “a sturdy heel cup, multidensity EVA midsoles, and a mid-foot truss or bridge that stabilizes the shoe.”
Bottom line: Comfort is king, and if you’re still unsure, I recommend taking a trip to your local specialty running store to get their advice.
Do you really need more than one pair of running shoes? Think of it this way — do you really need more than one pair of shoes in general? Technically, no. But if you start to pull away the layers, you have work shoes, workout shoes, comfortable shoes, slippers, flip flops, etc.
Just like all your other shoes, running shoes perform best in certain scenarios. For example, the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8 makes a great recovery run shoe but not so much a great speed workout shoe. On the flip side, a carbon fiber shoe makes a great race day shoe but not a great recovery run shoe.
My suggestion is to own at least three pairs of road running shoes: a durable everyday trainer, a speed or race day shoe, and one super-comfortable recovery run shoe. By rotating between shoes, you’ll be less likely to get overuse injuries from your shoe.
Just like everything in life, your running shoe preferences will evolve over time, as will your running. Keep an open mind. Try different brands. Try different models.
Cushioning is by far the most frequently used term to describe a running shoe. Even as I wrote these reviews, you’ll see “cushioned” scattered all over. In short, cushioning is a measure of how soft or firm a shoe feels when running.
There are many factors that affect how a runner interprets a shoe cushioning level, like how thick the foam or midsole is, the durometer (a measure of hardness) of the foam, and the type and placement of the outsole.
Even then, cushioning levels will vary from runner to runner based on the runner’s weight and gait characteristics. A shoe’s cushioning level will even change over time as the midsole breaks down.
The runner is the best expert on what they have experienced, what they’re looking to do, and what fit and feel have worked best in the past. It’s a wonderful time to be a runner because there are many excellent running shoes from most brands. So don’t pigeonhole yourself into one style or brand.
In my experience as a running coach, most runners keep their shoes way past their prime. There have been rules like between 200 to 300 miles or every 6 months as a good time to replace running shoes.
While I think it’s a good idea to have these as the drop-dead replacement dates, truth be told, there are too many factors in play to make blanket statements across all shoes.
In general, if you start to question whether it’s time, that’s a good indication that it’s time for new shoes. Visual cues can also give valuable insight into a shoe’s retirement time. If the outsole rubber on the bottom is unevenly worn, it’s time. If the midsole foam is heavily creased, it’s time.
A word from wise — never wear your running shoes for walking. Only ever run in them. Walking or even standing in them will shorten their lifespan. Save your retired shoes for walking.
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Cory Smith is a Santa Barbara, California-based athlete, online running coach, and freelance journalist specializing in running- and climbing-related content and gear reviews. He draws from over 25 years as an elite runner and rock climber for ideas, inspiration, and expertise. Check out his portfolio here.
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