The latest batch of spring shoes features exciting tech and performance (and comfort) innovations that can help you achieve your goals, whether that means setting a new PR or just getting out the door to run more often. We tested 62 models in our lab and on the feet of more than 250 wear-testers. After all those miles, these 25 impressed us the most. We grouped them in categories based on your needs, whether you want to go fast, boost comfort, or hit the trails. There are also options for runners who just want to update their old favorite, and others for those who want to try something completely different.
We begin with the class standouts, the shoes our wear-testers couldn’t stop raving about.
The fastest shoe you can buy in 2018 is a Reebok. Seriously. Sure, Nike’s Vaporfly 4%is still on the feet of speedy marathoners all over the country, but that shoe goes for $250. Oh, and good luck actually finding a pair to buy. The FloatRide Run Fast, however, won’t stress your credit card nearly as hard and shares some traits with the 4% to help you reach the finish line faster. It all starts with the foam: Reebok is using a Pebax-based foam-much like what’s found in the Vaporfly 4%-which is far lighter than the standard EVA that’s been used in running shoes for decades, but it also delivers excellent cushioning and off-the-charts bounce (energy return). -Jeff Dengate
This year, the Brooks Ghost racks up its seventh Editor’s Choice award for its appeal to a wide variety of runners. Newbies love its comfy cushioning, marathon vets pick it for pounding out high-mileage weeks, and road runners like its quick, smooth ride. And the 11th version of the shoe is no exception. The Ghost delivers again with an almost spooky consistency, with some notable updates to its midsole.
Using a new foam, the Ghost feels lighter without a loss of softness or bounce. While this didn’t affect the weight of the shoe, our testers who have run in several models of the Ghost thought that it did add an extra spring absent in previous versions. A new structured mesh upper wraps your foot more securely-and with a better fit-than the 10, as well. -Morgan Petruny
Salomon Ultra Pro
Price: $150 | Weight: 10.9 oz (M), 9.6 oz (W)
As its name implies, the Ultra Pro trail shoe is built for going the distance and staying comfortable late into an ultramarathon. The shoe is based on the S/Lab Sense Ultra, a competitive racing shoe better suited for rail-thin, faster runners. This is the shoe for the rest of us. It maintains long-haul comfort, thanks in part to wings that wrap up around the midfoot, providing a stabilizing hug even as your feet begin to swell late in a race. Underfoot, too, though our wear-testers and measures in the RW Shoe Lab confirm it’s not a squishy soft shoe. And, because the foam is thicker than the aforementioned S/Lab model, Salomon left out its Profeel film, which is its lightweight, flexible stone protection. It did, however, layer on a Premium Wet Contagrip outsole, which we found held firm on slick rocks immediately out of stream crossings or anywhere else we encountered them. -J.D.
Saucony Ride ISO
Price: $120 | Weight: 9.9 oz (M), 8.2 oz (W)
Technically, the Ride ISO would have been Ride 11, but a new upper design (ISOFit) typically reserved for Saucony’s premium-level shoes warranted the name change. What didn’t change is the dependable cushioning the line has always been known for.
Compared to the Ride 10, this year’s shoe is slightly thicker, but didn’t add any weight. That’s due to the new construction where your foot rests down into the top of the midsole-the edges of the foam curve up around your foot for extra security. A layer of bouncy Everun foam is still used, too, leading to a quick feeling when you run. -Andrew Dawson
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Turbo
Price: $180 | Weight: 8.1 oz (M), 6.4 oz (W)
Runners are no stranger to the name Pegasus; that workhorse shoe is on its 35th iteration. For decades, the Peg has been a do-it-all model that can handle high mileage as well as it can upticks in speed. But, that daily trainer is a bit too heavy and a little too soft to really be used for any kind of speedwork. This all-new “Peg Turbo” is designed to keep that legendary fit and feeling, but delivers the lightweight sensation of a racing flat.
To do so, Nike gave it the aforementioned lightweight foam, which is exceptionally springy. In the Runner’s World Shoe Lab, we found its energy return to be on par with shoes using Adidas’s Boost midsole. That’s going to deliver you a bouncy, fast sensation underfoot, even though ZoomX is much lighter than Boost. -J.D.
Lightweight foams and space-age rubber compounds are radically changing the feel of running.
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon
Price: $120 | Weight: 7.5 oz (M), 6.2 oz (W)
If you want an all-purpose shoe, the New Balance Beacon is for you. It’s light and fast, yet has enough cushioning to pound out high mileage. New Balance used a durable version of its midsole material, called Fresh Foam Ground Contact, that can withstand road abrasions. By being able to expose the foam to pavement, New Balance could eliminate a lot of rubber that would otherwise be needed for outsole durability. The result is an exceptionally lightweight shoe that’s incredibly smooth and quiet-and fast. -Danielle Zickl
Inov-8 TerraUltra G 260
Price: $150 | Weight: 10.1 oz (M), 8.1 oz (W)
It’s not often you see serious innovation in footwear coming from brands as tiny as British-based Inov-8, but the company has come up with a new hard-wearing rubber compound being used in its G series of shoes, promising longer life and stronger materials. What this means for you: a trail shoe you won’t quickly wear through, and that will give you confident footing on steep, rocky ground, according to our wear-testers. “Traction is incomparable to other shoes I’ve worn,” says one. Another added, “I’ve had them in a good bit of mud and uneven soft terrain, as well as loose rock and sand on steeper inclines and descents. I was never feeling unsure about where to place my foot or if I would slide.” -J.D.
Some shoes need only one name. These are the veterans that have been around a decade-at least-and continue to impress.
Asics Gel-Cumulus 20
Price: $120 | Weight: 10.2 oz (M), 8.1 oz (W)
Asics broke all the rules in its roaring 20th update to the Cumulus-and we couldn’t be happier about the improvements. Shave nearly an ounce and a half of weight off the shoe? Check. Swap out the old foam with a lighter FlyteFoam midsole? Done. Put the cherry on top with a more breathable upper? You better believe it. After two decades as a go-to trainer for neutral-footed runners, the Cumulus proves it can still surprise-while maintaining the quality that Asics enthusiasts expect. -M.P.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35
Price: $120 | Weight: 9.3 oz (M), 8.0 oz (W)
The Pegasus is one of the most versatile shoes available-it excels at everything from an easy jog for a beginner to a long run at an elite’s quick pace. It’s that kind of range that’s made it a popular pick for more than three decades. So, it’s somewhat strange that Nike would almost entirely overhaul the shoe (there’s nothing runners fear most than their favorite shoe getting ruined by an update). But, fear not, fellow Peg wearers: Amazingly, the 35 still feels like the Pegasus, with all the versatility you’ve come to love.
Beneath that sporty new styling, the Pegasus 35 has a full-length air unit for the first time. Prior to the 33rd version, air had been limited to the heel, while the last two models used separate air bags in the heel and forefoot. This new, longer piece smooths out the transition from heel to toe, as you go through your stride. It’s still encased within Cushlon, the lightweight, responsive foam used in previous models. -J.D.
Asics Gel-Kayano 25
Price: $160 | Weight: 11.4 oz (M), 9.2 oz (W)
Asics celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Gel-Kayano with some big changes to a favorite everyday trainer. (We’ve even called it an RW Best Update in the past.) The 25s are dressed for the occasion with a fully redesigned jacquard mesh upper that adapts the the foot for a better fit, and a sleeker look than the old 24s. Plus, the latest Kayano does more for overpronating runners.
While previous iterations of the Kayano catered to both neutral-footed runners and overpronators alike, Asics built the new 25s for those needing more motion control. The shoe pulls off the extra support with a more supportive twist on the original medial plate, which now extends from the midsole to the heel for a sturdier ride. Combined with the same trusted heel counter from the 24th model, the latest Kayano keeps overpronators from rolling too far onto their inner foot. -M.P.
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Adidas Solar Glide ST
Price: $150 | Weight: 10.8 oz (M), 9.0 oz (W)
A stability offering with some pop under foot, the Solar Glide ST is your next go-to shoe. Fans of the Supernova will love what Adidas has done here, taking what worked (plush ride) and updating it with a fresh upper and less bulk.
The ST is a workhorse. A flexible forefoot pushes you through speed work and up hills, while the Boost foam in the heel will get you through weekend long runs. Like its neutral counterpart, the Solar Glide, there’s more of a foot shape on the platform, but it’s not as roomy as Altra’s foot-inspired toe box, so your toes can splay without your foot sliding around.
Runner’s World testers gave the shoe exceedingly high marks in the fit, ride, and cushioning. A tester put it best: “Just an excellent all-around trainer.” -Derek Call
Brooks Glycerin 16
Price: $150 | Weight: 11.0 oz (M), 8.8 oz (W)
The name of the game for the Glycerin 16 is comfort-plain and simple. This neutral trainer is the plushest pair Brooks has to offer right now, and has delighted runners who just want a shoe that feels indulgent on their foot. While this does make it one of the heavier shoes out there, the Glycerin nearly maxed out our cushioning rating at the RW Shoe Lab.
One look at the Glycerin’s midsole and you’ll notice some changes. The 16 uses a new foam dubbed “DNA Loft” that amps up the comfort over the previous model, with no loss of responsiveness or durability. Both these claims checked out with our wear-testers, including one longtime Brooks fan who noted the foam swap right away. “The Glycerin managed to maintain its comfort and high energy return through my entire long run,” one tester said. “For me, it was like Mary Poppins said: ‘practically perfect in every way’.” -M.P.
Altra Torin 3.5 Knit
Price: $135 | Weight: 9.8 oz (M), 7.9 oz (W)
Updates to running shoes are often met with skepticism-why change something that’s already perfect? You might empathize with long-time Torin wearers when they learned the brand’s best-seller was getting a makeover. Rest assured that the Torin hasn’t undergone major changes with the exception of its exterior: a smooth engineered knit upper enhances the comfort of the fit. And the mesh Torin isn’t lost forever. Both the new Torin 3.5 Knit and the updated Torin 3.5 are available by Altra for the runner’s choosing.
Altra improved the 3.0 by adding more cushioning in the 3.5 Knit’s midsole for a springier, more responsive ride. The shoe is soft enough for long distance racing and light enough for speed workouts. The 3.5 Knit’s coziness also makes it a shoe you’ll want to stay in post-run. -Amanda Furrer
361 Degrees 361-Spire 3
Price: $150 | Weight: 10.8 oz (M), 8.7 oz (W)
The 361 brand may be unfamiliar to some runners, but the third iteration of its flagship neutral shoe, the Spire, is a great example of what the brand has to offer.
Test results from the RW Shoe Lab showed that, true to its name, 361 made the the Spire 3 at least one degree better than the 2. The men’s and women’s versions both saw improvements in flexibility, and well as a leap in supportiveness. While the Spire 3 is a bit heavier than its previous model, the shoe’s overall weight is still on par with similar big-name neutral trainers, like the Brooks Glycerin. But the biggest difference between these two shoes is the cushioning and flexibility. The Spire lacks the Glycerin’s plush feel, but counters that with greater flexibility on foot. Overall, our wear-testers who liked a firmer ride gravitated toward the Spire, and believed there was ample comfort for everyday training and long runs alike. -M.P.
Hoka One One Clifton 5
Price: $130 | Weight: 10.1 oz (M), 8.1 (W)
Maximum cushioning at minimum weight: That’s always been the promise of the Clifton. The original version was especially light and speedy (it weighed just 7.6 ounces for a men’s size 9). But, since then, the shoe has gotten progressively heavier and thicker-it’s now as heavy as the Brooks Ghost and Nike Pegasus. That’s not especially bulky, but it does put the Clifton 5 squarely in the daily-trainer category, or makes it better suited for recovery runs than for any speedwork.
The shoe’s cushioning, too, has evolved over the years. Tests at the RW Shoe Lab show the heel is considerably firmer in this version. Beyond that tweak, nothing else under the foot has changed. And only minor adjustments have been made to the upper, which now features a sleek engineered mesh. That allows Hoka to strip away the small overlays it used on the previous version, resulting in a much cleaner aesthetic without affecting the shoe’s support. -J.D.
From three-piece midsoles to wool-lined uppers to roomy toeboxes, these shoes challenge tradition-and we love it!
Puma Hybrid Runner Unrest
Price: $100 | Weight: 11.1 oz (M), 9.3 oz (W)
At the core of the Hybrid Runner is a dual midsole that functions to propel the wearer faster while also providing a comfortable ride.The shoe is a conversation starter with its bead-embedded sole. The soft knit upper gives the impression of running in a cushioned sock. While the shoe can feel loose in the forefoot on a run, the lacing system somewhat alleviates this problem, making the shoe a little snugger when tightened.
The hybrid foam midsole makes for a bouncy ride, which compelled one tester to run faster. However, runners may want to turn down the speed over slick roads, as traction was rated especially low. The Hybrid Runner is for neutral runners who prefer minimal cushioning and little stability. It’s an everyday trainer best suited for short road runs and cross-training. -A.F.
Topo Athletic Ultrafly 2
Price: $120 | Weight: 10.5 oz (M), 8.2 oz (W)
The Topo Athletic Ultrafly earned Best Debut back in 2016. We loved how the shoe fit like a slipper and didn’t feel oversized despite its above-average cushioning. Its successor, the Ultrafly 2, upheld the original model’s reputation for a soft and stable ride without feeling bulky.
The Ultrafly 2 has a few minor revamps this go-around, including a new mesh upper and OrthoLite footbed for moisture management. A runner acquainted with the first Ultrafly had felt the fit was too roomy in the forefoot; this was not so with the 2, which the tester found more snug and secure. It’s a versatile option with a plush enough midsole to run long, and a tough upper and durable outsole that can take to the trails. -A.F.
Salomon Sonic RA Nocturne
Price: $160 | Weight: 9.2 oz (M), 7.7 oz (W)
It’s tough to drag yourself out the door when snow starts falling. But the roads can still be fun-with the right equipment. The Sonic RA Nocturne is designed to keep your feet happy during sloppy winter runs. Using its trail expertise, Salomon included stability and protection to create a slush-busting road shoe. It uses the company’s proprietary Wet Traction Contagrip rubber that we’ve found delivers sound footing on slick surfaces. Add to that a high-rise, water-resistant ankle gaiter, which keeps moisture outside so your feet stay warm. Testers noted that the shoe really stands out in wet and slippery conditions. “There was no sliding on wet or dry surfaces,” said one tester. “And it was able to withstand rain, dirt, and one incident where I fell in a creek.” -Pat Heine
Under Armour Hovr Phantom Connected
Price: $140 | Weight: 10.6 oz (M), 8.8 oz (W)
You’d be forgiven for glancing at this shoe and thinking it’s not a performance trainer. But, Under Armour has packed a slew of running tech into this shoe. First and most obvious are the cutout windows in the midsole that show off the brand’s Hovr cushioning system. It’s an attempt at the high energy return foams that are all the rage right now. UA has called that out, much like what Nike did in the early days of Air it should be fairly noted, with gaps on the side and a chunk of the foam poking out the back. The cue is definitely that this shoe delivers soft cushioning.
Attached to that is an eye-catching, high-cut bootie upper that comes in a variety of fun colors. Many brands have tried this lately-Adidas, Nike, and others. Under Armour’s execution is comfortably stretchy and well-crafted, which makes sense given the company’s strong background in athletic apparel. “The majority of the shoe is a sock-like material which is very elastic,” one tester assessed, “but it remained very snug for the entire time of testing.” -J.D.
You need strong defense and superior traction on rock- and stick-strewn dirt paths. These shoes deliver!
Skechers GOrun MaxTrail 5 Ultra
Price: $125 | Weight: 10.0 oz (M), 7.9 oz (W)
Just like the beer mile, the MaxTrail 5 is a hit thanks to some unlikely pairings. Most evidently is the knitted collar that wraps around the ankle as snug as a sock, and shields against dirt and rocks-almost as if you’d strapped on a gaiter. Another ambitious feature comes at the shoe’s luggy outsole, which is designed to tackle both road and trail running. Soft foam-filled lugs compress just enough to stay comfy when you hit the pavement, but can still dig in deep when you’re climbing high on rocky trailheads. “I love the way the sole bites into the trail on uphill sections,” gushed one tester. The only drawback was that we saw the lugs break down more quickly than traditional treads.
The same Ultra Flight foam that pumps up the outsole lugs comprises the shoe’s midsole, giving the MaxTrail a seriously plush ride with minimal weight. Ultrarunners will love the two ports in the sole, which pump water out of the shoe after you splash through a creek crossing. -M.P.
Brooks Cascadia 13
Price: $130 | Weight: 11.7 oz (M), 9.7 oz (W)
Trail runners will likely see a lot of themselves in the latest Cascadia-it’s spunky, quick, and at its best when covered in mud. For its 13th iteration, Brooks harnessed that ambitious trail-headed mentality by adding more tools to gobble up the gnarly off-road miles. A 3D-printed rubber mud guard now shields the lower foot from rocks and sticks, and a handy gaiter hook at the back of the shoe lets you strap on extra coverage for exceptionally dirty trails.
Extra features like these do make the Cascadia a heavier trail shoe, but it’s a small price to pay for a full arsenal of trail-tackling perks. Now armed with more cushioning than its predecessor, the 13 delivers a softer ride for long runs, plus added stability for navigating those technical, twisty singletracks. Data from the RW Shoe Lab confirmed the surge in support and comfort-and also called for kudos at the shoe’s gain in flexibility. “The Cascadia 13 is much improved over its recent models,” said one tester. “It’s now one of the most comfortable trail shoes I’ve ever worn.” -M.P.
Saucony Xodus ISO 3
Price: $150 | Weight: 13.8 oz (M), 11.8 oz (W)
The Xodus has been hitting the trails for nearly a decade, and it remains every bit the tank it’s always been, with trail-pounding tread and foot-cradling protection. The third iteration has been refined and gets a brand new midsole. Saucony’s Everun foam now cushions the entire length of the Xodus-dishing out a surprising amount of energy return and comfort for a shoe this rugged. Plus, Saucony thinned out the sole a bit for a lower profile that keeps you closer to the trail. Our testers noted that the Xodus is back, with no loss of horsepower. “I’ve owned several pairs of Xodus in the past and have always been a fan,” one tester said. “And this shoe lives up to them all.”
The Achilles’ heel on the Xodus is its weight. Several testers called out that the shoe felt either bulky or clunky on runs, and data from the RW Shoe Lab verified that it was one of the beefier models we’ve tested. The shoe has gained three ounces over the last two updates, but testers say it isn’t a deal-breaker. The shoe’s superior traction and durability far outlasted its heaviness, owing to its ultra-ruggedized outsole. For slippery and muddy runs, the grip cemented the Xodus among our testers’ favorite pieces of trail artillery. -M.P.
New Balance Summit K.O.M./Q.O.M.
Price: $120 | Weight: 11.4 oz (M), 9.1 oz (W)
New Balance’s intention with the Summit K.O.M./Q.O.M. was to launch a trail shoe that could withstand the elements thanks to its “rugged durability.” Over trial by trail, our testers found the shoe to be resilient over muddy and rocky surfaces; a RockStop plate inserted between the midsole and outsole minimizes pressure and disperses shock. Testers confirmed that the sneaker held up well in wet conditions. The Vibram Megagrip outsole helped runners keep their footing when things got dicey.
The RevLite midsole is significantly lighter than the average midsole without sacrificing cushioning and stability. Though the shoe was quite firm compared to others tested, runners said the Summit K.O.M./Q.O.M. was still comfortable over long periods running on the trail. “I can always use a little more cushioning,” said a tester, “but I didn’t find that my feet hurt anymore or less when using these on some 20-plus mile runs.” -A.F.
Altra Lone Peak 4
Price: $120 | Weight: 10.7 oz (M), 8.7 oz (W)
When you need claw-like traction, look no further than the Lone Peak. A favorite among thru-hikers because of its burly build and no slip grip, the shoe delivers for runners moving at a faster clip over gnarly terrain. Credit the aggressive, angled lugs on the outsole, made from a stickier rubber. Testers found the shoe held firm on both slippery rock and muddy surfaces. Boosting its versatility is a rock plate that deflects sharp trail debris, so you can blast over the trails with slightly less worry about what you’re stepping on, and a strapless 4-point gaiter attachment that keeps dirt out where it belongs.
The rugged nature of this shoe extends to the upper as well, with a thick toe cap offering added protection if you stub your toes. Testers found the quick dry air mesh to be durable, while also remaining breathable and boosting the shoe’s drainage ability on wet runs. -A.F.
Columbia Variant X.S.R.
Price: $150 | Weight: 12.5 oz (M), 10.2 oz (W)
The Variant X.S.R. is a true door-to-trail shoe. Categorized as a trail shoe, it effortlessly covers the mile or more of paved road many of us have to traverse to get to the trailhead. The outsole has sufficient traction on dirt thanks to all of the edges along its length, yet isn’t jarring on smooth surfaces. A dual foam midsole provides support when the path get jagged, and a molded external heel counter helps with maneuverability.
The shoe is quite hefty (the RW Shoe Lab measured the Variant among the heaviest tested), but testers tell us it resists feeling clunky. The Variant also has a significantly high heel lift (14 mm for men, 13.2 mm for women), but testers didn’t find the elevation problematic: “I was surprised on how well the shoe performed because of the high stack height,” said a tester. “I felt nimble regardless of the surface I ran on.” -A.F.
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