The 11 Best Cushioned Running Shoes of 2022 – PEOPLE

The 11 Best Cushioned Running Shoes of 2022  PEOPLE

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There’s no feeling quite like the adrenaline of running — the wind rushing past you, your strides hitting the ground, blood pumping in your veins — but like any sport, you have to have the right equipment to succeed, or in this case, the right pair of shoes

Since every runner has a slightly different gait, there are thousands of running shoes designed to keep you balanced when you run. As a foot and ankle surgeon and co-founder of DoctorInsole, podiatrist Robert J. Joseph, DPM treats many runners in his practice. “A lot of runners have an uneven gait, and then twist their ankles,” Joseph tells PEOPLE. He says in many cases, this happens because one leg is longer than the other, and ends up compensating for the shorter one. In order to correct this and prevent injuries, you have to look for ways to adjust the subtalar joint (where your heel bone connects to your tibia and fibula bones) to a neutral position. 

When you run, this neutral position — called pronation — lines your heel up with the back of your leg, so your heel hits the pavement first and then the sole of your foot, followed by the ball. These runners can use what’s called a neutral shoe. However, some runners’ feet slant inward and land on the inner part of the sole when they run — an effect called overpronation — and therefore must correct that with a structured or arch-supportive shoe. The opposite effect — called supination — happens when a runner’s feet slant outwards and can be fixed with a neutral shoe and added cushioning near the outside of the shoe.Regardless of your gait or where you like to run — be it trails, roads, or even the beach — the right cushioned running shoe can make or break your running experience. We’ve researched and spoken to experts and runners alike to find the best cushioned running shoes for every run.

I Tried the Shoes Jennifer Garner, Hilary Duff, and Mila Kunis Wear on Repeat — and I Totally Get the Hype

Our Top Picks for Cushioned Running Shoes

Who It’s Good For

  • Hoka Bondi 7 is good for road-running, and especially long-distance running like marathons. This shoe will work best for people who have neutral pronation or underpronation (supination).

Who It’s Not Good For

  • These shoes are not designed for trails, hikes, or off-road terrain running or walking. Also, if you run with overpronation, these shoes won’t provide enough structure.

As one of the most popular running shoes right now, the Hoka One One Bondi 7 shoe is ideal for that next marathon you have coming up, the holiday trot with your family, or even just your morning jog to start the day. These shoes are beautifully designed with maximum cushioning for a neutral foot position. They also have a beveled heel to increase durability and help guide a smoother stride when you run. 

Once you slip on these Hoka shoes, you’ll feel the soft inner lining, which creates a comfortable chamber for your feet. The breathable mesh on top helps your feet air out and the EVA foam midsole absorbs shocks while you set your next PR time. Apart from comfort and durability, these shoes are fun to look at. With 10 eye-catching designs to choose from, you’ll draw some attention the next time you zoom by.

Colors: 10 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8mm | Cushioning: Maximum

Who It’s Good For

  • Mizuno Wave Sky 5 is good for marathoners, road runners, and those who want a lightweight shoe. It’s also good for those in need of arch support.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • This shoe is not going to work as well for those running on terrain.

“Lighter shoes are more efficient and generally more comfortable, but also wear out faster, so many people opt for a more rugged (but heavier) pair of training shoes for road running and a lighter, less durable pair for racing, explains certified personal trainer and author Mike Matthews, who counts Mizuno as one of the best lightweight brands.

 This particular offering is an ideal race shoe because they are extremely comfortable, thanks to the new and improved “Mizuno Enerzy Core”, which lets runners bound off the ground with impact-resistant cushioning ready to support their feet when they land. The wave plate in these shoes disperses the impact to help with stability and comfort. 

As Matthews notes, while lighter shoes tend to wear out sooner than heavier pairs, the durable carbon rubber on the exterior of these shoes is designed to maintain longer wear. They also offer effective arch support to help maintain a solid gait when running and a decent heel-to-toe drop of cushioning. Mizuno shoes are ideal for racers with a need for comfortable light footwear.

Colors: 5 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8mm | Cushioning: Maximum

Who It’s Good For

  • This shoe is ideal for many runners, especially those who run on road surfaces, enjoy eco-friendly products, and want a perfect fit.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • These aren’t a good fit for trail runners.

If your preferred running surface is asphalt, then a pair of the Brooks Ghost 14 shoes are going to be your new best friends. (Matthews is also a big fan of this brand.) These runner favorites offer an elevated 3D Print fit on the top of the shoes to mold to your foot shape, preventing sliding and avoiding discomfort. These are also made from carbon neutral materials, making these shoes a sustainable dream.

The Ghost 14’s DNA Loft cushioning foam supports your foot while you power ahead on your runs. The upper section is breathable, lightweight, and thin to allow airflow. These are truly a workhorse pair of shoes that will consistently serve your runs. Good running shoes should quietly help you get where you need to go and the Ghost 14 shoes will do just that. Matthews notes that a “relatively thin, breathable upper” is important for road running. “Shoes with an aggressive tread (like trail running shoes) will quickly get worn down by running on concrete and asphalt, so there’s really no advantage to wearing these shoes while road running,” he explains.

“When choosing cushioned road-running shoes, you want a pair of lightweight shoes that have a fairly smooth outsole and a relatively thin, breathable upper,” says Matthews. “Shoes with an aggressive tread (like trail running shoes) will quickly get worn down by running on concrete and asphalt, so there’s really no advantage to wearing these shoes while road running.”

Colors: 8 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 12mm | Cushioning: Mid-level

Who It’s Good For

  • These shoes are perfect for running on off-road terrain like nature trails, dirt roads, hiking paths, etc. The neutral position of these shoes is also good for those with normal pronation or supination.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • Since the tread on these shoes is intended to grip soft earth, it’s not great for road runners, as it can get torn up on the asphalt overtime.

“Trail running shoes need to have an aggressive tread to grip soft, muddy, or loose ground, a more durable upper that can withstand abrasion from rocks, bushes, and branches, and ideally should also dry quickly, since you may run through streams, mud, dew-covered grass, etc,” says Matthews. Designed with trails in mind, the Salomon Speedcross 5 shoes (a brand Matthews stands behind) have a solid tread made for gripping the ground and gaining traction on grassy and muddy surfaces. Most of the materials on the shoe are designed to keep out debris like twigs, leaves, and grass, such as the gusseted tongue, lace pockets, and anti-debris mesh on top. For added benefit, the toe of this shoe has a rubber toe cap and mud guard.

The structure of this shoe is neutral, making it a suitable option for many runners (especially those with normal pronation or supination). There’s a great deal of support in the midsole and toward the heel to help you launch your foot off the ground with each stride, and the EVA foam midsole also helps with shock absorption. 

As far as cushion level goes, Matthews says that you can generally get by with less cushion in trail running shoes than road running shoes since you’ll be running on softer surfaces (like dirt and grass instead of concrete and asphalt).

Colors: 7 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Terrain | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 10mm | Cushioning: Regular

Who It’s Good For

  • Marathon runners will love these lightweight and cushioned shoes. They’re designed for extended wear and provide a great neutral structure for running.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • These aren’t designed for off-road running, so they wouldn’t be good for trail runners or cross-country running.

The Hoka Rincon 3 are not only flashy shoes, they’re extremely comfortable with supportive cushioning to give your foot a boost while you run. For marathon runners especially, these shoes provide long distance comfort, a lightweight fit, and a unique design that creates a smooth transition from heel to toe with each stride.

“Most marathons take place on asphalt roads, so the same shoes that make good road runners will generally be suitable for marathons, too,” explains Matthews. “Most runners take anywhere from 3-to-5 hours to finish a marathon, so comfort is key,” citing Hokas as a great option if you prefer additional cushion.

The ventilated mesh on the upper section helps keep airflow to your feet, and the bold colors will make you stand out as you run past onlookers. Make an entrance crossing the finish line with these Hoka cushioned running shoes. 

Colors: 9 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5mm | Cushioning: Balanced

Who It’s Good For

  • These shoes provide significant cushioning which makes them great for someone who wants more support. They’re also great for road running due to the flat tread.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • They’re not as effective for trail running.

Matthews notes that even if you don’t necessarily need arch support for orthopedic reasons, you may find that it actually feels better. “Most people have perfectly healthy, supportive arches and don’t need special shoes with arch support, but if you think you do, try on models from a variety of brands and see what you like best,” he explains. The Nike React Infinity Run FlyKnit 2 offering is a great place to start, as they’re sleek, supportive, and comfortable on your feet. These shoes have a wide front section to help provide a stable landing for your foot with each stride (and prevent ankle rolling!) and high cushioning to help absorb shocks. The midsole is medium height which provides solid arch support for those who seek it.

With 10 attractive colors to choose from — including a bold neon print — these Nike road-running shoes are attractive both in looks and in comfort. The breathable mesh allows ventilation and the shoes are lightweight, so you can wear them for hours and still keep that spring in your step.

Colors: 10 | Structure: Supported | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8.4mm | Cushioning: Maximum

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Who It’s Good For

  • These trainers are great for people doing any kind of cross-training class or HIIT workouts.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • They aren’t designed for intense terrain running or road running as they have a flat tread.

“Cross training generally refers to participating in a variety of different sports, so you want shoes that will feel and perform well during many activities,” explains Matthews. “Generally, good cross-training shoes will have some tread on the bottom to improve your grip when going offroad, a thicker, more durable upper than regular road-running shoes, and less cushion, since most people aren’t running long distances in cross-training shoes and lots of cushion can reduce your stability during exercises like the squat, lunge, and overhead press.”

Matthews credits Reebok as a great option for the multi-faceted athlete. The Reebok Nano X1 shoes have a high heel-to-toe drop and medium cushioning to keep your foot aligned and add comfort. They’re lightweight and designed with multifunctional movement in mind, so unlike runners, cross-trainers allow your feet to move in many directions while still absorbing shocks and distributing your weight for balance and stability. Plus, all of the styles feature cool and sophisticated colors so your feet will also look good while you work out.

Colors: 7 | Structure: Supported | Uses: Cross Training | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 7mm | Cushioning: Medium

Who It’s Good For

  • These running shoes are ideal for roads due to the smooth tread, and for people who run with normal pronation or underpronation (supination) due to the neutral structure.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • These shoes do not have enough tread for terrain running and do not have enough structure for those who run with overpronation.

“In regards to running, supination refers to a perceived inadequate inward rolling of the foot after it makes contact with the ground,” explains Matthews. The Saucony Ride 15 shoes are designed with a neutral structure to keep your feet in line while you run. They have underfoot contouring for a smoother fit, and immense cushioning without adding weight to the shoes. The breathable mesh circulates airflow and the midsole is designed to help smooth out your gait while you run.

Sometimes running means taking a leap, but you don’t have to worry about the landing. The front of the shoe is a bit wider than earlier models and grounds your foot each time it lands to maintain stability. The outsole rubber also ensures these shoes will last a while. And as a bonus, the upper portion of these shoes is made with recyclable materials — because we love the earth we’re running on!

Colors: 10 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8mm | Cushioning: Maximum

Who It’s Good For

  • These shoes are ideal for those engaging in races, marathons, and long-distance running.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • Since the tread is quite flat, these shoes aren’t good for terrain running, and the neutral structure isn’t meant for those who run with overpronation.

“The best shoes for long-distance running will be lightweight, breathable, and have sufficient cushion and grip to suit your preferences and running surface,” says Matthews. The Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 shoes are designed with special cushioning and a nylon plate which makes this a great shoe for long distances. The plate works to propel you forward so you can run further, and nylon in particular is known to be a great material for training.

The breathable mesh, contoured design, and elevated cushioning all work together to keep your foot supported and comfortable, making your run all the more enjoyable. So if you’re training for a marathon, these are the shoes you’ll want (queue up the Rocky theme song).

Colors: 12 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8mm | Cushioning: Maximum

Who It’s Good For

  • While no shoes will cure plantar fasciitis, these shoes are just generally really comfortable which can help, and have a lot of cushioning in the heel area, which is the root of pain with this condition.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • These shoes aren’t the best suited for people who run with overpronation since they have a neutral structure.

The On Cloudstratus shoes are highly comfortable shoes which help when you have a condition like plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue (fascia) that connects the heel bone to the toes and can cause a sharp pain along the bottom of the foot. While Matthews says that you can’t “fix” or prevent plantar fasciitis with footwear, you can choose the most comfortable, supportive shoes for your unique feet and take care to gradually increase running volume to avoid injury. 

This offering has a thick foam cushioning and is highly durable on roads and provides good support under all parts of your foot and may be a great option if you have the condition. The upper section is made with recycled materials, and the uniquely-designed tread would likely allow some off road running as well. These are shoes you can wear for a long time without discomfort, making them ideal for someone with sensitive feet due to plantar fasciitis.

Colors: 4 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 6mm | Cushioning: Maximum

Who It’s Good For

  • These shoes are perfect for those who work on their feet all day because they provide extra support and cushioning.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • They may not be ideal for hiking or trail running.

Matthews likes Asics for those who spend a lot of their time on their feet, especially in wet or cool conditions. This specific variety will help you get through the day without as many aches and pains from the constant standing position. Designed with Flytefoam cushioning and an Ortholite X-30 sock liner, they surround your foot with comfort and provide additional shock absorption.

The breathable mesh on top creates ventilation and the outsole rubber is extra durable to extend the life of your shoe and prevent abrasions to the exterior. Plus, part of these shoes are made with recycled materials to help reduce carbon emissions, so brownie points for that! Overall, these are a high quality and nice-looking pair of shoes that will help you endure long hours spent on your feet.

Colors: 8 | Structure: Neutral | Uses: Roads | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8mm | Cushioning: Extra

How to Pick the Right Cushioned Running Shoes 

We researched factors like structure, cushioning level, and uses for different types of shoes to determine what would make the best cushioned running shoes for different occasions. If you’re a runner who primarily trains on roads (whether long or short distance) you should look for a lightweight shoe with a smooth tread so it doesn’t wear down against the rough asphalt overtime. Those who prefer to run off-road should find shoes with a thicker, toothy tread so they can grip different kinds of terrain without issue. And for people with any regular foot discomfort due to conditions or poor arch support, simply finding a shoe that is comfortable for you will be the best option. In terms of structure, those with overpronation should look for structured shoes to help realign your foot when you run, but for everyone else a neutral structure is a solid choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are cushioned shoes good for running?

    Cushioned shoes don’t greatly affect your ability to run — so they aren’t good or bad, per say. “Comfort and control are two separate things,” says Joseph. He suggests finding a shoe that helps you control your gait (fixing your pronation if needed) to avoid injuries, and then looking for a cushioning level that will be most comfortable. 

    Adds Matthews, “While many people think more cushion is always better, this isn’t the case. Instead, you want the most comfortable shoe for you, which could mean lots of cushion or very little. Where the cushion is positioned can also influence how the shoe fits, which is why it’s important to try a few different models and see what suits your fancy.”

  • What kind of cushioning is best for running?

    While cushioning may not improve your running as much as other aspects of a running shoe, it can still play a role. For instance, EVA foam is put in many midsoles, which is lightweight and great for shock-absorption, so that type of cushioning can help reduce impacts when you’re running. Many shoe brands also have their own unique cushioning, so looking at the specifics and benefits for each can help you pick the right shoe. Your level of comfort will also determine how much cushioning is right for you.

  • What are the best shock-absorbing running shoes?

    Cushioned running shoes can be great for shock-absorption because they create a durable layer between your foot and the ground to dispel some of the impact of running. As mentioned, shoes with EVA foam midsoles are a great option, and brands best-associated with shock-absorbing shoes are Hoka, Saucony, ASICS, and Mizuno.

While cushioning may not improve your running as much as other aspects of a running shoe, it can still play a role. For instance, EVA foam is put in many midsoles, which is lightweight and great for shock-absorption, so that type of cushioning can help reduce impacts when you’re running. Many shoe brands also have their own unique cushioning, so looking at the specifics and benefits for each can help you pick the right shoe. Your level of comfort will also determine how much cushioning is right for you.

Cushioned running shoes can be great for shock-absorption because they create a durable layer between your foot and the ground to dispel some of the impact of running. As mentioned, shoes with EVA foam midsoles are a great option, and brands best-associated with shock-absorbing shoes are Hoka, Saucony, ASICS, and Mizuno.

Take Our Word For It

Madison Yauger is a seasoned writer who’s tested hundreds of lifestyle products across all categories. With a background in news and lifestyle journalism, she has a wide network of expert sources. For this story, she spoke to a certified podiatrist and a celebrity running expert, as well as heavily researching the market of cushioned running shoes to determine the best picks for different needs.

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