Best running shoes 2020: rule the road with road running trainers for men and women of all abilities – T3

Best running shoes 2020: rule the road with road running trainers for men and women of all abilities  T3

Whether you’re tackling a road marathon or you’ve just discovered your local 5K park run, the most important piece of kit you need is a pair of the best running shoes for your gait. Finding running trainers that best suit your feet and goals can be the difference between heavily pounding the pavement, and feeling free and easy while you float over the miles.

We’re working through this season’s shoes – with reviews going up already – to find the best shoes for every type of middle to long distance runner. And we even have models that you can wear for races. 

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Please note: these shoes are not to be confused with the best workout shoes – the requirements are different for those. Nor are they the best trail running shoes – but it’s okay, we have a top 10 for that too.

Just because the weather is getting a bit colder, that doesn’t mean you have to stop your running training. Apart from the obvious indoor option (a.k.a running on a treadmill), you can also get all-weather running shoes and rule the roads during autumn/winter time.

Running during the colder months can improve your overall cardiovascular health and therefore make you less susceptible to illnesses. Running is also a great way to increase serotonin levels in your body, reducing stress levels and improving general perception of well-being, something we all need when it’s dark outside when we wake up as well as in the afternoons.

Don’t forget to get a head torch for running if you are running on uneven terrain (no one wants a sprained ankle) and some compression tights for running or base layers to keep you warm.

What are the best running shoes?

Choosing the best running shoes for you comes down to personal preference as much as what tech went into creating them and what purpose you want them for.

If you are after great cushioning, looks and top-tech, go no further than the top entry on this list: the encompasses everything that makes running shoes desirable, all for a reasonable price for the amount of tech involved.

If you want a no-compromise race shoe that will not stop under any circumstances, pick the . These shoes were designed to deliver best-in-class energy return and running dynamics. They look a bit chunky, though.

If you are less in search of speed, and want more cushioning and less expense, should be perfect for you. These shoes are actually deceptively fast, but Asics famed GEL cushioning system means they’re less demanding than our top 2 choices.

As well as our three favourites, we have plenty more options below from all the best running shoe brands.

The best running shoes, in order

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

1. Hoka One One Carbon X

It’s like running on marshmallows


Weight: 246 grams

Drop: 5 mm

Best for: Daily runs, tempo runs, intervals, long runs

Reasons to buy

+Carbon fibre plate in sole+Wide forefoot platform+Lightning fast

Packed with top-notch Hoka technology, the Hoka One One Carbon X’s best selling point is the carbon fibre plate providing a smooth transition through the gait cycle, combined with the signature Hoka cushioning.

The Carbon X is ideal for runners wide a wide feet; the spacious but snug forefoot platform provides support and stability, holding your feet just enough so it doesn’t slide around the shoes whilst the upper mesh offers breathability.

And the looks! The thick sole profile drops only 5 mm from heel to toe, but the Carbon X seems agile and ready to go, at all times. The embroidered heel doesn’t only gives extra support to the back of your feet but also reminds us of the Nazca lines in Peru. In a good way.

One of the lightest shoe on the list, the Carbon X is indeed a formidable competitor, as Hoka says.

(Image credit: Nike)

2. Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%

Your unfair advantage on race day


Weight: 190 grams (men’s size 9)

Drop: 8 mm

Best for: Marathon running

Reasons to buy

+Blisteringly fast+Supreme cushioning and energy return

Reasons to avoid

-On the top of the price chart-Looks peculiar

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% is so fast, athletes are lobbying for it to be examined by the International Association of Athletics Federations because they think it provides unfair advantage to athletes who wear them. In these very shoes, Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon record, previously thought to be impossible.

What’s so good in these shoes? Nike threw everything it knows about running shoes out of the window when they started designing the Vaporfly series. What they up with might just be the ugliest running shoes in existence, but one that gives runners near perfect running dynamics.

We won’t list all the specs that probably wouldn’t make much sense to people who haven’t got extensive knowledge in industrial design, what you’ll need to know is that the ZoomX Vaporfly Next% brings together materials, technology and cushioning and marries them in holy matrimony, including the ZoomX foam and a carbon firbe plate in the sole as well as the VaporWeave mesh and unique lacing design on the top.

If you can put up with less than appealing looks, what you’ll get is the running shoes you have always been looking for, without knowing it.

(Image credit: Asics)

3. ASICS Gel-Nimbus 21

Amazing support for all the long-distance neutral runners


Weight: 309 grams

Drop: 10 mm

Best for: Daily runs, long runs

Reasons to buy

+Supreme cushioning+Good traction

Reasons to avoid

-All the extra cushioning makes the shoe a bit heavier and warmer

Asics’ Gel system has always been synonymous with supreme cushioning and the Asics Gel-Nimbus 21 is no different. We haven’t got enough space here to list all the technology that went into these shoes, but it’s safe to say that it’s similar to a description of a modern commercial airjet.

The trademarked I.G.S. technology – coupled with the Guidance Line system – provides outstanding gait support while the Trusstic system adds to the already great stability.

Understandably, all the extra cushioning adds a bit to the weight of the shoes, something to be expected. The Gel-Nimbus 21 was designed for comfortable, long-distance runs and not explosive sprints. There are better shoes for that purpose.

The Gel-Nimbus 21 looks pretty much like a professional  running shoe, just like the Brooks and Saucony models below. It definitely isn’t a bad thing, but if you are after more swag, try the Adidas UltraBoost 19 or the On Cloud X.

Given all the extra padding, the Gel-Nimbus 21 can feel a bit warmer when the weather is hot. The shoes have great breathability but even that won’t counterbalance all the thick cushioning. Nevertheless, it’s a great shoe for any serious runner out there.

4. Adidas UltraBoost 19

The updated UltraBoost is bouncier and more comfortable than ever


Weight: 309 grams

Drop: 10 mm

Best for: Daily runs, long runs

Reasons to buy

+Comfortable and secure fit +All the bouncy Boost foam you could wish for

Reasons to avoid

-Overly chunky for fast training and short races

The most substantial revamp of the wildly popular UltraBoost since its launch back in 2015, the UltraBoost 19 features several updates designed to make it feel more comfortable and responsive on the foot.

That starts with Adidas adding 20% more Boost into the midsole, which makes the shoe firmer and bouncier when running, with the torsion system built into the sole also adding some snap to the heel-to-toe transition of the shoe.

It’s still a shoe focused on comfort over speed, however, and the Primeknit 360 upper is a full sock that sits on top of the midsole to completely wrap the foot. The snug mesh around the midsection prevents your foot from sliding around in the knitted upper and replaces the plastic cage on previous UltraBoosts, which could be uncomfortably tight – so much so that some runners took to cutting it off. 

(Image credit: Nike)

5. Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2

The best everyday running shoes just got even better


Weight: 220 grams

Drop: 10 mm

Best for: Daily runs, tempo runs, intervals, long runs

Reasons to buy

+Updated upper mesh+Lightweight+Great energy return

Reasons to avoid

– Foam can feel slightly soft at times

Nike managed to enhance the already amazing Zoom Pegasus Turbo with the Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2. The upper mesh-fabric has been updated so it’s even lighter now whilst retaining and improving on the stability of the shoe. The foam base has also been updated without compromising on the metrics of this great all-rounder.

What makes the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 the best on our running shoe list is it’s versatility and looks. It’s comfortable enough for longer runs but it also provides great traction on concrete and other hard surfaces for all you urban runners.

As for looks, the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 still has the trademark protruding-heel design which it takes from its big brother the ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. The latter has a bulkier look to it whereas the Turbo 2 operates with gentler lines and softer curves.

The ZoomX midsole delivers an unmatched energy return while the specially-shaped heel helps you land softer and rocks you forward. Using the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 will make you feel unstoppable both on the road and in the gym too.

(Image credit: Mizuno)

6. Mizuno Wave Skyrise

New cushioning system delivers old school experience


Weight: 300 grams

Drop: 10 mm

Best for: Long runs, people who do high mileage either in one go or overall

Reasons to buy

+Great fit+Soft cushioning

Reasons to avoid

-Default colourway is a bit boring

We had to wait until 2020 to star a Mizuno model on our best running shoes list. The Mizuno Wave Skyrise sports a new cushioning system that combines the XPOP midsole compound – which contains thousands of little beads to reduce impact force as you land – and Wave Foam sole plate.

The result is running experience that feels like how Shovel Knight felt like when it came out: old-school but without glitches. Running in the Mizuno Wave Skyrise is like like running on thick gym mats, barefoot; your feet will thank you for wearing these for your long runs (and short ones too).

The Mizuno Wave Skyrise doesn’t try correct your gait or interfere with the way you land your feet, giving you more control over your overall running technique. For the same reason, it might not be the ideal choice for novice runners who might need a little more guidance at beginning.

We wish the shoes looked maybe a bit more interesting, though. Especially the default navy colourway just hasn’t got much going for it in the looks department. The Mizuno Wave Skyrise looks like a pair of running shoes, for better or worse. Hard-core runners will probably appreciate the unyielding look but it will most likely not win over new fans from other brands with its looks only.

Overall, the Mizuno Wave Skyrise is a brilliant running shoe with excellent cushioning that also delivers comfort. And that is more than many other shoes do.

(Image credit: On Running)

6. On Cloudswift

Swiss-engineered urban runner


Weight: 290 grams

Drop: 7 mm

Best for: Daily runs, hard surfaces, intervals, long runs

Reasons to buy

+Firm and fast+Excellent energy return

Reasons to avoid

-Midsole strikers can land hard

On Running’s urban running shoe, the Cloudswift, was designed for cobbled streets and hard pavements. The Helium sole provides very good energy return and the soft upper mesh feels comfortable yet snug.

The Cloudswift is recommended for people who don’t like overly soft, super-cushioned runs; these shoes can straighten out uneven running surfaces like no other.

Due to the stiffer sole and the soft upper, it can be difficult sometimes to find the perfect hold for runners with high bridges. Tie the elastic laces loosely and it won’t feel secure enough; tie it tight and it might be uncomfortable.

They look great, though. The rugged sole and the TPU mechanical side band gives the Cloudswift a very distinctive look, something you can wear with any outfit (probably not with a suit).

(Image credit: Asics)

7. Asics Metaride

Cruise through your long runs in this cushioned shoe


Weight: 300 grams

Drop: zero drop

Best for: long runs

Reasons to buy

+Fantastic heel-to-toe transition+Comfortable upper material+Nice aesthetics

Reasons to avoid

-Hefty price tag

The Asics Metaride is a brilliant long distance shoe, designed to relieve pressure on your ankle joints and rock you forward as you devour the miles under your feet. the very distinct sole is not only chunky but also curved, which helps the transition as you move your balance from the heel to the toes.

The knit upper is firmer than the Nike Joyride’s flyknit but more forgiving than the Asics Gel Numbus 21, for example. The collar is super padded and there is no rubbing or chafing around the ankles either.

The Asics Metaride will take you further in more comfort. The Asics staple GEL cushioning works really well with the Flytefoam Lyte midsole and distributes impact stress efficiently.

The meta clutch counter could hold the heel a but firmer so it doesn’t wiggle as much but it’s not loose enough to hinder your speed or comfort levels. The midpoint of the sole – where the little tunnel is if you look at the shoes from the side – can be felt at first but once you did 10-20 miles in the shoes it breaks in.

(Image credit: Saucony)

8. Saucony Type A9

Speedy racing shoes with subtle cushioning


Weight: 170 grams

Drop: 4 mm

Best for: Race days, PR attempts

Reasons to buy

+Super light+Great fit+Fast as hell

Reasons to avoid

-Lack of cushioning might be difficult to handle for complete beginners

There are runners out there who aren’t looking for maximum comfort and padding all around their feet. Runners who want their running shoes to be as minimal as possible, shoes that won’t run for them but aid them during their runs. Runners who seek energy return and that raw, ‘this result is mine’ feeling.

The Saucony Type A9 are these kind of shoes. They are not for beginners, no. They are for people who know what they are doing on the road and want to have a ride where they feel the ground beneath their feet.

These are some seriously light shoes; in fact, they are almost half as heavy as some of the other entries on this list. This means a lot less cushioning and rocket tech and a lot more directness and immediate feedback from any running surface.

The Saucony Type A9 is the one for the road, one for race days, one for those times when you feel ready to attempt a PR.

(Image credit: New Balance)

9. New Balance FuelCell Rebel

Lightweight and race ready


Weight: 208 grams

Drop: 6 mm

Best for: races, tempo runs

Reasons to buy

+Lightweight upper+Toe off specialist

Reasons to avoid

-In true New Balance fashion, sizing is half size under

The engineers at New Balance had a good look at what they learned from the creation and testing of the FuelCell 5280 racing flat and translated it into the FuelCell Rebel. Not only the Rebel is more modestly priced than the 5280, it is also more versatile all the while it keeps almost all the great features found in the latter.

Weighing just over 200 grams, the FuelCell Rebel is a lightweight shoe. It uses the Trace Fiber upper construction that uses precision stitching in key areas but keeps the upper thin and airy.

The main concern of the New Balance FuelCell Rebel is the forward propulsion; its main is to move you forward. The FuelCell midsole is a two-part rebound system that  not so much rocks but bounces you back up. It’s not as firm and well rounded as the Asics Metaride or the Hoka One One Carbon X, more springy and bouncy.

The New Balance FuelCell delivers in the looks department, too: especially the black colourway, which is not all that black after all, looks great with a lot of subtle yet contrasting colours.

(Image credit: Brooks Running)

10. Brooks Glycerin 17

Plush fit and comfort above all


Weight: 300.5 grams

Drop: 10 mm

Best for: Road running training

Reasons to buy

+The DNA LOFT cushioning is soft like a cloud+Smooth heel-to-toe transition

Reasons to avoid

-Not a huge amount of energy return

Brooks asks the question: does running have to hurt? And they are right, no, it doesn’t. Many recreational runners prefer soft, highly cushioned shoes that won’t break your skin and compress your toes together like a sardine can.

The Glycerin 17’s DNA Loft cushioning provides a softer ride while the OrthoLite sockliner adds even more to the step-in comfort. The same DNA Loft cushioning also helps in the heel to toe transition, making it smooth as butter.

All this softness has an effect on energy return. You can’t will it all, really, and the Glycerin 17 loses out on some energy return due to its softness. These are not race day shoes, have a Saucony Type A9, Hoka Carbon X or a Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% for those occasions.

If you’re after a soft ride on a sunny autumn afternoon, the Brooks Glycerin 17 will your perfect companion.

11. On Cloud X

The perfect trainer for running to the gym


Weight: 229 grams

Drop: 6 mm

Best for: Training, long runs

Reasons to buy

+Walks the line between gym workouts and road running+Great design and construction

Reasons to avoid

-Might not be your everyday runner

Becoming an elite runner is as much about the reps you crank out in the gym as the miles you rack up on the track. The On Cloud X is designed to push you through a strength workout, but is a great standalone  good running shoe in its own right. Billed as the lightest fully-cushioned running shoe in the world (229g for size 8.5), it is much firmer under foot than your average cross trainer, so you may not want to rely on it every day.

However, it has the latest CloudTech midsole, accompanied by Zero-Gravity foam, to provide support for those quick changes of direction. The heel is engineered for comfort and support, while the upper is engineered from a highly breathable lightweight mesh. As always with On running shoes, the design and construction is flawless.

(Image credit: Adidas)

12. Adidas PulseBoost HD

Comfort and stability in one handsome package


Weight: 340 grams

Drop: 8 mm

Best for: Everyday runners in the city

Reasons to buy

+Great for firm surfaces+Responsive

Reasons to avoid

-QR playlist link on tongue is tacky-Heavy

Adidas came up with a new midsole when they created the Pulseboost HD called – drumroll, please! – Boost HD. It delivers more stability and responsiveness, something you will need in the city where these running shoes belong.

The Boost HD is the same sole that the Ultraboost uses; and we liked that shoe a lot. The knit upper is in line with the latest trend in running shoes, giving your toes freedom whilst holding them firmly. Knitted uppers are great because they mould to each individual foot and ditch the one-size-fits-all mentality.

For some reason, Adidas thought it was a good idea to put a QR code on the tongue of the Pulseboost HD that leads you to an exclusive playlist. Hopefully they’ll update it regularly, or you’ll be running to the same music for the next year or two, which could get tedious. Apart from this small glitch, Pulseboost HD is a great running shoe and worth trying out.

13. Brooks Levitate 2

Much-improved Levitate is another great Brooks runner


Weight: 320 grams

Drop: 8 mm

Best for: Jogging and lighter runs

Reasons to buy

+Much improved FitKnit upper+Excellent energy return

Reasons to avoid

-At 317g, quite heavy for a road runner-No second eyelet for those seeking extra lockdown

As its name would suggest, Brooks Levitate 2 is all about the energy return. Brooks’ most responsive midsole is equipped with the DNA AMP tech that promises to ‘control, capture and return’ your energy, to ensure you’re bounding along the track or trails.

The company is also adding new Achilles Guard tech to protect that all-important tendon, while the arrow-point pattern on the crystal rubber outsole gives you rapid movement from the heel to the toe. There’s an internal bootie that promises comfort and support, while the FitKnit upper wraps around the heel to guard against irritation.

How to buy the right running shoes

Do running shoes matter?

Yes. A decent pair of running-specific trainers will cushion your feet and legs from the impact of repeatedly hitting the pavement. They’ll also be flexible in all the right places and they’ll help protect against common injuries. But choosing the right shoe isn’t as easy as just picking the one you like the look of. 

How to buy the right running shoes

The difficulty in recommending running shoes is that while some are better than others, the ‘best’ shoe for you also has to suit how you run. We all run different mileage, land differently, weigh different amounts, and have different shaped feet, and our shoes should reflect that. 

If you’re a heavier runner you may find a supportive, cushioned shoe will help absorb some of the impact as you run, while lighter runners might prefer a more minimal shoe. Likewise, for longer runs you may want bounce and cushioning for a comfortable ride, while on race day or shorter runs you opt for something lighter, faster and more minimal.

Gait can also be a big factor. If your gait shows an excess of pronation or supination (inward and outward rolling of the foot as it strikes and pushes off from the ground), as you may need a shoe or insole that addresses this.

While all these variables may sound complicated, particularly if you’re new to the sport, keep the following five golden rules in mind before buying new running shoes.

1. Get your gait tested

Drop into a shop like Sweatshop, Runner’s Need or Vivobarefoot’s stores and you can get a full gait analysis test done. This often means running on a treadmill or along the street so staff can help you identify the type of running shoes and support that’s best for your running style. 

Most of the staff will be runners themselves, so you’ll also get some handy hints on how to improve your technique.

2. Try before you buy

You may be able to find bargains online but it’s always best to try shoes on before you commit. Sizes can vary significantly from brand to brand, and it’s often worth going a half or full size up to allow for feet swelling as they become hot. 

Even a brisk walk around the store, or in a carpeted area if you’re trying on at home, can give you a good idea of comfort and help highlight any niggling spots – that slightly slipping heel may feel minor now but think what it’s going to feel like after an hour or so on the run.

Where you plan to run is important: road, trail, or a mixture of both. In general, trail running requires more support and road requires more impact protection, but again this can also be affected by how you run, and what you find comfortable.

4. Racing versus training

In a lot of cases you might want to choose a training shoe for longer mileage and a race shoe that’s lighter but better used for shorter periods of time, like a four-hour race. Either way, it’s important that you’ve worn your shoes in before you hit race day, or put in the longer runs.

5. Focus on that first-try feel

When it comes to the crunch, knowing you’ve found the right shoes for you comes down to how you feel when you put them on. A good sign that you’re making the right choice is a pair of shoes that almost melt into the background from the moment you slip them on, to the point that you don’t really notice you’re wearing them.