After countless miles of 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, with the advances in technology 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 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.
- Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Best Neutral
- Best Supportive
- Best Zero Drop
- Best Marathon
- Best Carbon Fiber for Elites
- Best for Race Day
- Best for Recovery Runs
- Best for Tempo and Interval Training
The Best Running Shoes of 2022
I test a TON of running shoes. As I write this, I probably have over 40 pairs I’m testing for various reviews. The true test of greatness is when I’m not actively testing and able to choose the shoes I naturally gravitate toward. Time and time again, the shoe I reach for more than any other is the Craft Pro Endur Distance ($150).
If you’ve never heard of Craft, don’t worry. They aren’t exactly a mainstream running brand in the US — yet. Based out of Sweden, this boutique sports brand is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of high-performance sportswear. The Craft Pro Endur is evidence of that.
As a neutral everyday trainer, the Pro Endurance is incredibly bouncy and fun. It’s one of the liveliest everyday trainers I’ve run in. That’s thanks to the Pebax midsole, a premium foam most commonly used in carbon fiber super shoes. The material is not only lighter, but it’s more resilient and has a higher energy return than the more commonly used EVA and TPU foam. There’s a ton of it underfoot, too. With stack heights of 36mm/27mm for men and 34mm/27mm for women, it’s up there in terms of maximum cushioned shoes on the market.
What’s impressive is how lightweight the Pro Endur is for such a thick-cushioned shoe. Coming in at 8.2 oz for men and 7.4 oz for women, it’s incredibly versatile as an easy-day-comfortable recovery shoe all the way to a speedy marathon race day shoe.
If I were limited to one shoe for every type of running, the Craft PRO Endur would most certainly be it. Overall, I think it’s the best running shoe on the market.
- Weight: 8.3 oz. (men)/6.4 oz. (women)
- Stack Height: 36 mm/30 mm
- Drop: 5 mm
Most budget shoes will use lower-quality foam underfoot to keep the price low. However, bottom-of-the-barrel foam breaks down much faster, leaving you at risk of injury and in need of a replacement.
Before I go into why the Launch is the best budget trainer, let me explain the Launch 9 ($110) versus the Launch 9 GTS ($110). Two seasons ago, Brooks retooled and rebranded its entire stability line of shoes under the GTS. The Ravenna was replaced with the Launch 8 GTS. So, if you like a more stable, supportive shoe, go with the Launch 9 GTS.
The Launch 9 and GTS 9 use the BioMoGo DNA midsole, one of Brooks’ highest quality foams. The midsole perfectly toes the line between soft and responsive. As a bonus, the latest version 9 features 2mm more than the Launch 8/GTS 8 for a much more cushioned ride, a welcome upgrade, as I felt the previous Launch lacked cushioning.
Brooks classifies the Launch as a lightweight speed shoe 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 9 and stability version Launch 9 GTS are among the best running shoes for the price.
- Weight: 8.2 oz. (men)/7.1 oz. (women)
- Stack Height: 36 mm/26 mm
- Drop: 10 mm
If you’re looking for an everyday neutral trainer to clock miles and get in the occasional uptempo session, the Asics Gel Nimbus Lite 3 ($160) is as good as they get.
This shoe features a full-length single-density FLYTEFOAM™ cushioning and rear and forefoot Gel Technology for maximum comfort and cushioning during any type of run. Testers found the cushioning level not too soft, but not too firm, thus hitting a sweet spot of just the right balance between the two.
Typically with this much foam underfoot you lose some sensitivity, but not with the Nimbus Lite 3. Our testers found the shoe to be fairly flexible, moving well with the feet and allowing them to react.
Coming in at 9.2 oz for men and 8.3 oz for women, it’s surprisingly lightweight for such a cushioned and well-padded everyday trainer. While the steep 10mm heel drop may not be for everyone (particularly forefoot runners), the steep ramp provides added support under your heel as you start to fatigue.
While aesthetics doesn’t affect technical performance, this is certainly one sharp-looking trainer. The slightly oversized, but sculpted midsole looks fantastic, and although white isn’t my favorite color for running shoes, Asics somehow put together a brilliant all-white shoe.
Everyday neutral running shoes are the most exciting type of running shoes. They need to fit well and feel comfortable across a wide range of paces and distances and for the most part disappear when you wear them. No other trainer we tested hit these marks better than the Asics Gel Nimbus Lite 3. As one tester noted, “this shoe will not disappoint those runners looking for a conventional, moderately higher drop, max cushioned trainer.”
- Weight: 9.2 oz. (men)/8.1 oz. (women)
- Stack Height: 35 mm/25 mm (men)/37 mm/24 mm (women)
- Drop: 10 mm (men)/13 mm (women)
For those familiar with the Brooks Transcend, the Glycerin 20 GTS ($160) 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 reduce excess inward and outward rolling of the foot while offering a softer ride more typically found in neutral shoes.
The softness comes from a new nitrogen-infused DNA LOFT v3 midsole, Brooks’ softest cushioning foam. The updated midsole yields a more responsive and stable underfoot experience versus the Glycerin 19 GTS.
These shoes are a workhorse, too. They’re capable of maintaining form longer than most shoes. Yet, like most workhorse shoes, the Glycerin 20 GTS is fairly heavy. At 10.5 ounces (men) and 9.5 ounces (women), you might want a lighter shoe for speed work 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 20 GTS will feel like a slice of heaven while still giving you the support you need.
- Weight: 10.5 oz. (men)/9.5 oz. (women)
- Stack Height: 38 mm/28 mm
- Drop: 10 mm
Following on the heels of the Altra Vanish Carbon (Altra’s carbon-fiber racing shoe) comes the Vanish Tempo ($190) — a similar feeling, lightweight, highly-cushioned shoe, but without a carbon fiber plate.
Despite the tempo namesake, the Vanish Tempo is an incredibly versatile shoe. In fact, thanks to the thick 33mm stack height of Altra’s most premium midsole, it’s just as capable of an easy-day recovery run.
Due to the thick midsole (3mm more than the Paradigm 6), the underfoot feeling is much less sensitive and flexible than other Altra road shoes I’ve tested. But if you enjoy a well-cushioned, well-protected, stable shoe, you’ll be rewarded with a fun, bouncy ride.
It’s worth mentioning that the Vanish Tempo features Altra’s Slim FootShape, which is a departure from their signature wide toebox. The more traditional toebox shape fits snugly, but is comfortable against the foot for better control during faster running.
I think the verdict is still out whether longtime Altra fans will embrace this new breed of narrower toebox and thick-soled Altra racing shoes. Personally, as someone who mainly road races in the traditional brands, it’s a huge improvement for me and most of my testers agree. However, if you like a more natural-feeling, flexible zero-drop shoe, I think you’d be better off with the Altra Rivera 2 or Escalante Racer.
- Weight: 8.2 oz. (men)/6.9 oz. (women)
- Stack Height: 33 mm/23 mm
- Drop: Zero drop
There’s no doubt the original Nike Alphafly NEXT% was a groundbreaking shoe. It helped more runners PR in the marathon distance than perhaps any other shoe. However, a lot of runners had issues with the feeling of sinking down into your heels if you weren’t running up on your forefoot.
I also experienced an uncomfortable pain in the arch of my foot after 13 miles due to the narrow, unsupportive waist. These, along with a few other design elements, catered more toward the efficient strides of elite runners, not the everyday runner.
If I had my pick for marathon racing shoes, I would have picked either the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 ($275) or Asics Metaspeed Sky. Thanks to some major upgrades, the Nike Alphafly NEXT% 2 addressed these issues.
Nike did a pretty sizable update for the second iteration of the Alphafly. The largest improvement comes in the midsole where the drop increased from 4mm to 8mm. There’s a wider base through the midsection and heel and the addition of 4mm of ZoomX under the Air Zoom Units. All of this amounts to a much more stable shoe at both slower and faster paces. Even at my recovery pace, the Alphafly NEXT% 2 felt smooth and transitioned well. This was not the case in the original.
If you haven’t tried the Alphafly Next% or were turned off from the original due to the sinking feeling, I can confidently say you should try the newest version. It’s a much better, kinder racing shoe for everyone.
There’s not a runner I know who wouldn’t benefit from the massive amount of crazy bouncy cushioning of the Nike Alphafly NEXT% 2. As one tester perfectly put it, “These shoes felt fast — almost illegal.” There’s no doubt these will be on my feet during my next marathon.
- Weight: 8.8 oz. (men)/7 oz. (women)
- Stack Height: Unknown
- Drop: 8 mm
Best Carbon Fiber: Asics MetaSpeed Sky+
When the first Asics Metaspeed Sky came out in 2020, it quickly became my go-to for longer-duration speed sessions and races. Between the carbon fiber plate and bouncy midsole, faster paces just seemed to come easier than in other shoes. Furthermore, I felt I recovered faster from these tough sessions versus a more traditional lightweight speed/racing shoe.
Fast forward one year later and Asics releases the second iteration ($250) of the Asics MetaSpeed Sky with some pretty significant updates over the original version. For those that found the upper on the original to be stiff, scratchy, and ill-fitting, Asics did a total revamp, making it more flexible, comfortable, and better fitting.
Underfoot, there’s 4% more of Asics’ highest rebound foam, Flytefoam Blast Turbo. Although I couldn’t feel a significant difference from the added midsole, I will say it’s just about as bouncy as they come. The harder you push, the harder they push you back and propel you forward.
It’s impossible not to compare any carbon fiber shoe these days to the Nike Vaporfly Next%, given it was the original super shoe. For the average runner, I like the Asics Metaspeed Sky+ better. This is primarily because it’s more stable. The wide underfoot profile is more forgiving and suitable for midfoot or heel and strikers.
- Weight: 7.2 oz. (unisex)
- Stack Height: 33 mm/28 mm
- Drop: 5 mm
Carbon fiber shoes are great and all, but wow, are they pricey. If the thought of dropping $225-plus for a pair of running shoes makes you cringe, this Saucony speedster is for you.
Priced more in line with premium everyday trainers than carbon fiber shoes, the Endorphin Speed 3 ($170) features a more flexible nylon plate that spans the full length. It’s a bit more forgiving than stiffer carbon fiber shoes, making it more versatile and suitable for a broader audience.
There have been a few updates for the third iteration that make it a slightly smoother ride. 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. A fully redesigned engineered mono-mesh gives it better breathability and lockdown.
I crowned it the best for speed training, 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, but aren’t willing to shell out the dough for pricey carbon fiber shoes, here you have it.
- Weight: 8.1 oz. (men)/7.2 oz. (women)
- Stack Height: 36 mm/28 mm
- Drop: 8 mm
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.
- Weight: 8.9 oz. (men)/8.0 oz. (women)
- Stack Height: 37 mm/32 mm
- Drop: 5 mm
Why You Should Trust Us
Cory Smith’s passion for running started over 25 years ago in high school when he became the number six ranked runner in the nation in the 3km his senior year. Ever since then, Cory’s been addicted to competitive running in every distance, from one mile to the marathon and trail racing. Today, he’s a full-time online running coach and running gear reviewer.
His obsession with running shoes started in 2014 when he wrote his first shoe review. Since then, he’s tested and reviewed hundreds of running shoes, clothing, and gear for Gear Junkie and other outlets. He loves dissecting gear and thinking like a product engineer to explain the why behind every design and little detail of running shoes.
Every runner is different, so it’s important we solicit feedback from a diverse group of runners. For this review, Cory relied heavily on the feedback of his test team, which is composed of competitive and recreational runners, physical therapists, and former shoe designers.
We tested the latest shoes from every brand, and all testers were asked to rank each shoe numerically and write reviews of the top-ranked shoes. Armed with his tester’s feedback and his own impressions, Cory picked the best running shoe in the most popular shoe categories.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Road Running Shoe
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.
Comfort Is King
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.
The Details: Stack Height, Drop, and Weight
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 in 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.
Neutral vs. Supportive
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, multi-density 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.
More Than One Pair
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.
Do running shoes actually matter?
Yes, absolutely. The soles of running shoes are made with a special type of foam that is designed to withstand the higher ground impact forces exhibited while running. This foam underfoot, called a midsole, makes running more comfortable and offers more durability over non-running shoes. Furthermore, a running shoe’s upper will hold your foot in place better and offer more breathability than a non-running shoe. In general, it is not recommended to run in casual sneakers.
Is more cushion better for running?
Cushioning is a matter of personal preference and does not necessarily make one shoe better than another. Cushioning refers to the level of firmness of the foam underfoot and can be largely subjective. What one runner finds firm, a heavier runner may find soft. It was previously thought that a more cushioned shoe reduced the impact on your legs. However, it’s been found that your body will adjust forces based on the firmness of the surface you are running on. The bottom line — buy a running shoe that feels comfortable to you.
Should I buy a size up for running shoes?
The ultimate question is a size up from what shoe? Running shoes should have a thumb width of extra space in the toe. The reasoning behind this — as you run your feet will naturally slide forward a little. The extra space will prevent your toes from jamming against the front of the shoe.
Should running shoes be tight or loose?
A properly fitting shoe should be somewhere between tight and loose. Shoes that are too tight can cut off circulation and cause your feet to go numb, while running shoes that are too loose can cause hot spots and generally feel uncomfortable.
I personally like to have a shoe that fits snug enough where my heel doesn’t lift and I have a thumb width of room in the toes. It’s important not to tie your laces too tight. I personally like to tie them loose enough that I can remove my shoes with a small amount of force without untying the laces.