7 Best Cushioned Running Shoes in 2023

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
7 Best Cushioned Running Shoes in 2023
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Cushioning is what makes the shoes comfortable, soft, and bouncy. Some cushioning units help you feel nice and pampered on those slow recovery days. Others encourage you to speed up, feeling like small trampolines under your feet.

With our independent shoe lab and wear tests, we have reviewed over 100 cushioned running shoes to pick out the cream of the crop.

You can find an all-around workhorse for daily runs, a springy race shoe, or a trail crusher, among others. We got our top choices from different categories.

And if you’d like to learn more expert tips on finding the best cushioned running shoe for you, we have made a guide for you to check.

Best cushioned running shoes overall

ASICS Novablast 3

What makes it the best?

The third time’s a charm for Novablast as this version is a versatile trainer that helped us cruise comfortably in our runs. We felt that it balances the right amount of energy with an insanely soft platform, claiming its rightful place as best overall in cushioned running shoes.

It was delightful sinking into the generous cushioning, which our lab measured to be 45% softer than average. Our runs felt extremely airy, supported and balanced. The shoe boasts a light weight of 8.5 oz (vs 9.5 oz average). We also gauged its torsional rigidity at 4 out of 5, explaining why the shoe felt stable while offering a good amount of propulsion.

Even after miles and miles of running, we barely scratched the outsole. Our durometer confirmed this with an 83.0 HC result - above the average running shoe’s outsole hardness. Harder rubbers usually last longer. 

We sensed the midsole could accommodate wider feet than average and our lab results confirmed this: +3.1 mm in the forefoot and +3.9 mm in the heel when compared to the average.

The stack height felt higher. While the brand says it's 31.0 mm high, what we got is a measurement of 37.2 mm.


  • Super bouncy
  • Cushy feel for miles
  • Breathable
  • Light AF
  • Ready for cornering
  • Locks you in
  • Tongue stays in place
  • Grippy outsole
  • Mad durable
  • Sets the bar for a do-it-all shoe


  • For narrow-to-medium feet only
  • Stack heights higher than advertised
Full review of ASICS Novablast 3

Best cushioned daily training running shoes

Nike Pegasus 40

What makes it the best?

The Nike Pegasus 40 gets 5 stars for extreme comfort, reliable durability, and tried-and-true natural ride. Hence, this shoe that's named after the majestic winged stallion deserves to be the best cushioned daily trainer.

The Pegasus 40 is cushioned all around, and where it matters, providing maximum comfort for our feet during fartlek runs, mile repeats, and even easy runs. Its ample padding around the heel area and the gusseted tongue were welcome additions that we loved. Although a little below the average stack height (30.2 mm vs 33.2 mm), the midsole is 28.1% softer than the average. The shoe felt quite comfortable and never bottomed out on us.

The outsole of the Pegasus 40 is one to boast about. At the lab, we measured the outsole to be 7.77% harder than average. Combined with an ample amount of rubber, we enjoyed a grippy feel on both roads and simple trails.

On our runs, we loved the comfortable and natural feel we experienced with the Pegasus 40. In our signature bend test, it only needed a force of 16.0 N to bend it to 90º, verifying the smooth runs we had. In fact, we ranked this shoe as part of the top 6% of the most flexible shoes we've ever tested.

While the Pegasus 40 is a great daily trainer, it is pretty dull and not that exciting. Runners may want to find springier shoes for speed-based sessions.


  • Plush and comfortable upper
  • Breathable
  • Secure lockdown
  • Has enough toe-box space
  • Not overly soft or firm underfoot
  • Good energy return
  • Great grip on most surfaces
  • Incredible durability
  • Perfect for everyday miles and LSDs


  • A generally narrow fit
  • Heavier than the v39
  • Not a very memorable ride
Full review of Nike Pegasus 40

Best cushioned running shoes for race

What makes it the best?

After a combination of lab tests and test runs, we found ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ to be our go-to shoe when chasing a new PR. A powerhouse pair that gave us the springiest ride and the leg power needed to propel us forward — even on longer-distance runs.

We used a force gauge to test its flexibility by bending it to 90°. It resisted with a whopping 67.0N — more than double the average force needed to bend a running shoe. Its unwavering resilience translated to insane responsiveness in our runs.

Even with comfy cushioning, we found the shoe to be extremely lightweight. At 7.2 oz. (205.0g), it's 24% lighter than average. What’s even more impressive — it’s even a few grams lighter vs. the average racing shoe (215.0g)!

We rated the shoe’s upper with 5/5 when we tested breathability in the lab. We had no encounters with blisters and hotspots during our runs. It felt airy even on hot summer days. Shoes rarely get a perfect score in breathability!

We don’t recommend this to those looking for a pair that can run many races. The outsole may not last long being only 2.0 mm thin vs. the average of 3.4 mm. Best to save this pair for your “A” races.


  • Fast as hell
  • Buttery smooth transitions
  • Protective cushion
  • Comfy for long miles
  • Stable when cornering
  • Very very breathable
  • Heel lockdown is awesome
  • No more heel rubs
  • Fits just right!
  • Grippy on wet roads


  • Stiffer than before
  • Outsole lacks durability
  • Expensive
Full review of ASICS Metaspeed Sky+

Best stability cushioned running shoes

What makes it the best?

Luxurious cushioning and stability don’t often go hand-in-hand, but the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 manages to strike a perfect balance that easily makes it our top choice for the best cushioned stability shoe. We enjoyed great impact protection and a surefooted stride whether we went fast or far in this shoe. 

With a durometer reading of 19.5 HA, the DNA Loft v2 foam that makes up the Adrenaline GTS 23’s midsole is 19% softer than our current lab average. Practically speaking, this translates to a ride that feels almost decadently cushioned yet with a level of responsiveness that can comfortably facilitate speedier or longer runs. 

While soft foams tend to be the antithesis of stability, the Adrenaline GTS 23 offsets its plush cushioning with the sheer width of its midsole. Measuring 117.3 mm at the forefoot and 113.2 mm at the heel, the shoe’s base is wider than the average road shoe’s by 3.9 mm and a whooping 6.8 mm, respectively. This gives us a robust platform, which, in combination with the effective GuideRails technology, had us feeling incredibly stable from landing to toe-off. 

Forefoot striking runners don’t have nearly as much foam underfoot as their heel-striking counterparts, with the 21.5 mm forefoot stack falling 3 mm short of the average. While this is enough cushioning for most easy to moderate runs, we recommend forefoot strikers go for a shoe with more foam under that part of the foot for high-intensity or long-haul efforts.


  • Excellent stability without being intrusive
  • Ideal for easy miles
  • Specifically designed for heel strikers
  • Outstanding breathability
  • Comfortable and cushioned
  • Availability in narrow and wide sizes
  • Capable of handling tempo paces
  • Not expensive at all


  • The engineered mesh upper lacks durability
  • Lacks cushion for forefoot strikers
Full review of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23

Cushioned running shoes with the best comfort

What makes it the best?

The comfort levels on the ASICS Gel Nimbus 25 are unmatched and out of this world. The supremely padded upper is complemented by an exceptionally cushioned midsole and a pleasantly surprising stable landing. The ASICS Gel Nimbus 25 is our pick for having the best comfort in the cushioned running shoe category.

The Gel Nimbus 25 upper is relatively thin but it is soft to the touch and is very well padded—especially around the heel area. Hotspots and blisters were never a thing with the Gel Nimbus 25 and every stride was simply luxurious. Indeed, double-digit miles felt almost therapeutic. 

Its colossal heel stack height, which is 4.8mm taller than the average, gives the Gel Nimbus 25 its mega cushion. Additionally, the midsole foam is also 25% softer than the average based on our durometer measurements. The high stack height and soft midsole combo made us feel like we were running on clouds and floating on air.

The Gel Nimbus 25 is also a surprisingly stable shoe. We measured it at 119.4 mm on the forefoot and 98.9 mm on the heel—both massively wider than average (112.8 mm and 89.9 mm). This wide base, combined with a snug fit upper, made us feel confident and secure enough to tackle those corners at speed.

As plush as it is, it is also spongy and not the most energetic shoe out there. We suggest more springy shoes for faster paces.


  • Sweet marshmallowy ride
  • Feels surprisingly stable underfoot.
  • Great at gobbling up miles
  • Generously padded and extremely comfortable
  • Snug performance-style fit
  • No break-in period needed
  • Sleek and sustainable design


  • Lackluster breathability
  • Not for wide feet
  • Not responsive enough for high speeds
  • Budget buster
Full review of ASICS Gel Nimbus 25

Best cushioned running shoes for trail

Hoka Speedgoat 5

What makes it the best?

We ran with confidence, regardless of terrain and distance, with the Speedgoat 5. It's extremely comfortable without compromising the support and grip needed to conquer the wilderness. After our lab tests and runs, we chose this shoe as the best for trail among cushioned running shoes.

We felt its 3.0 mm-deep lugs reliably stick to the ground, weathering muddy or icy terrains. The outsole was hard enough to protect our feet from rocks and roots. Our durometer confirmed this with an 84.5 HC measurement - close to the average of 85.2 HC. This means the rubber is strong enough to handle wear and tear.

In our lab, we found this shoe to be among the softest trail running shoes — sitting 60% above average! After placing it for 20 minutes in the freezer, it emerged 35% softer than average at room temperature! This means it’ll still be extremely comfortable during winter runs.

The soft cushion didn’t make our runs dull. Its rocker structure gave a springy toe-off, promoting an energetic pace. Its low drop of 3.8 mm gave us a natural running feel and its light weight of 9.8 oz made it easier on our legs. 

We don’t recommend this shoe to runners with wider feet since it houses a toebox 2.4 mm narrower than average.


  • Super grippy
  • Springy ride
  • Stable platform
  • Extra durable
  • High impact protection
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Secure fit
  • Excellent heel hold


  • Not for wide feet
  • Flared collar is not for everyone (style-wise)
Full review of Hoka Speedgoat 5

Best budget cushioned running shoes

Saucony Axon 2

What makes it the best?

At $100, the Axon 2 is surely a bang for the buck — keep in mind that the average price of a daily trainer is $126. It got impressive ratings in our lab and on our field tests. It’s a versatile trainer that can perform on the same level as its more expensive counterparts. 

In the lab, it resisted our 90º bend test with a force 30% stronger than average - helping us elevate our performance when we wanted to pick up the pace.

Another reason why we got our money’s worth with this one is that it’s extremely durable! Double-digit miles barely scratched the outsole which is 21% thicker and 7% harder than average based on our trial with a Dremel. Harder rubber in the outsole means it's more resistant to abrasions.

The foam provided us with a comfortable ride and was soft enough for daily runs. Our durometer pressed into the midsole, resulting in 22.3 HA — 9% softer than average.

Saucony's official heel-to-toe drop measurement for this pair is 4.0 mm but what we got is 7.8 mm — almost double the number advertised.


  • Comfy for easy days
  • Seamless heel-to-toe transitions
  • Lighter than it seems
  • Soft, form-fitting upper
  • Breathable in warm weather
  • Tacky on dry and wet surfaces
  • Long-lasting
  • Great-value purchase


  • Firm for long miles and recovery days
  • Squeaky noise on pavement
  • Lacks bounce and energy return
Full review of Saucony Axon 2

Comparison of the 7 best cushioned running shoes

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3 tips for buying cushioned shoes

If you’re new to running, make sure you go through our expert guide on buying running shoes so you cover all the important (first) steps in the decision-making process.


1. Check cushioning placement

Depending on your footstrike, you should check whether your chosen model has more (or equal amounts of) cushioning in the forefoot or in the heel. You need that pillowy feature exactly where you land on the ground with your feet.

As 94% of runners are heel strikers, most running shoes have more cushioning in the heel.


Example of a shoe with more cushioning in the heel (Nike ZoomX Invincible Run), best for heel strikers

2. Check shoe weight

Cushioned shoes come at a price: they tend to weigh more, simply because they have thicker midsoles. If you feel this extra weight during your runs, you can look for lightweight cushioned shoes.


Saucony Kinvara 12 (7.6 oz / 216 g) vs. Adidas Ultraboost 21 (12.7 oz / 361 g)


3. Check cushioning level

If you’re planning longer runs and need more impact protection, you should look for more cushioning. For an occasional run on non-technical terrain you don’t need to go all maximalist.

Examples of max-cushioned running shoes


daily trainer from Hoka (left), speed trainer from Saucony (center), elite race shoe from ASICS (right)

If you’re used to running in low-profile shoes, you might need to go through a transition period to allow your feet to adapt to new cushioning levels. 

What to expect from cushioned running shoes

Comfort. And then some more comfort!

You might feel like foamy clouds are the best thing that happened to your feet. Those cushioning layers surely feel comfortable and soft and allow your feet to run without feeling every little terrain detail.

To up the ante, the newest technologies might even help you run faster (like this analysis showed) thanks to their spring-like effects and additions like carbon plates.  

However, scientific circles have examined other effects as well: 

Running speed 

  • Adding weight to your shoes will slow you down, as shown here

Impact forces 

  • Super-cushioned, maximalist shoes actually caused a higher rate of peak loading and impact forces. This means joints and tissues end up doing the job. This might mean injuries on the horizon. 
  • Softer shoes increase vertical impact forces and cause more knee joint stiffness. This means that more cushioning might cause more stress. 
  • Highly-cushioned shoes change the spring-like mechanics of running and amplify rather than attenuate impact loading, as explained in this study

Running economy 

Injury & body mass

  • The injury risk was higher in lighter participants running in the hard shoes compared with those using soft shoes. For details, read this study

Midsole technologies explained

Cushioning is defined by the midsole of the shoe: part of the shoe between the upper and the outsole. The most common midsoles in traditional shoes are made of two types of foam: EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or PU (polyurethane).


There are different types of midsoles and the biggest differences are seen in the padding positioning, softness/firmness, and energy return. For beginners, it’s recommended to find a shoe that’s comfortable, and leave other factors for more advanced runs, when the time comes. 

Brands tend to develop their own signature materials. That’s how new foams have entered the scene. The biggest step was made once the energy return was measured - Nike’s cushioning technology allows for up to 85% energy return. Most of these innovative midsoles not only cushion your feet but also offer a spring-like response.

Nike Zoom

Nike Zoom: more responsiveness, less pronation. Designed for speed and agility. This technology allows tightly stretched fibers to snap back for fast movement and reduced stress on muscles, joints, and tendons.

Zoom Air: Nike’s tightly stretched tensile fibers that are knit inside a pressurized Nike Air unit, all with the purpose of snappy responsiveness. Made for more responsive and energetic runs.

ZoomX: magically energetic and the lightest foam created by Nike. It uses cutting-edge engineering which allows for 85% energy return.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% elite racer uses ZoomX foam combined with Zoom Air pods in the forefoot for maximized performance.

Saucony PWRRUN+

Saucony’s lightest cushioning technology that puts a spring in your step. Highly flexible so it offers powerful take-offs, fluid transitions and softer landings. Durable and made for long distances.

Saucony’s elite race shoe, the Endorphin Pro 2, employs PWRRUN+.


ASICS’s Gel rearfoot technology reduces impact during heel strike, forefoot Gel technology enhances shock reduction during forward movement. Together they allow for maximum comfort. This cushioning was created for longer distances, stability nad natural run style.


ASICS Gel on the Cumulus 23, a popular daily trainer

ASICS FlyteFoam

ASICS has several variations of FlyteFoams to offer:

  • Lyte, which is focused on the heel and retains shape after every run
  • Propel, with the purpose of greater spring and toe-off (high-energy return and less drag)
  • Blast, with even more springiness and softness


FlyteFoam Blast on ASICS Novablast 2

New Balance Fresh Foam X

New Balance’s signature foam: lightweight and soft.


Fresh Foam 1080v11 is a max-cushioned daily trainer from New Balance.

Skechers HyperBurst

Skechers carbonated EVA foam that promises durability and responsiveness. Currently used in the brand’s advanced speed trainers and elite racers.


One of the best-rated speed shoes from Skechers, Razor+ also employs HuperBurst.

Hoka ProFly

Hoka created this cushioning system that combines soft foam in the heel and firmer foam in the forefoot. Plush feel plus quick response.


ProFly midsole on Hoka Mach 4

Cushioning vs. shoe weight 

If you decide to go for more cushioning, there’s a price to pay: it adds more weight. More weight means you’ll run slower and have to work harder to maintain your speed. 

For this analysis, we’ve pulled all cushioned running shoes from our database. Their cushioning level is rated 5-10, 10 being the plushiest. For each grade, we calculated average shoe weight.

To get the sense of what this means, the lightest running shoe in our database is a racing shoe that weighs 76g only (men, for women it’s 69g). The heaviest shoes go as far as 680g (with cushioning level of 7). 


How long does cushioning in running shoes last?

The longevity of running shoes is determined by multiple factors: built-up mileage, shoe materials, your weight, running form, terrain. 

Cushioning doesn’t last forever and you should consider buying new shoes the moment you:

  1. Start feeling muscle fatigue or pain, especially in your knees, after your average run, or
  2. Feel there’s not enough impact-absorption (your feet hurt or start aching on impact).
  3. Your shoes still might look good on the outside, but on the inside, the cushioning layers might be deteriorating. That’s why it’s important not to focus on visual inspection only.

How we test running shoes

We know how to tell shoes with great cushioning apart from “normal” ones. Here is our approach:

  • We, as a team of dedicated runners, test each pair for 30-50 miles on average to provide extensive feedback.
  • Inside our RunRepeat lab, we literally tear each shoe apart to measure over 30 different parameters. We even put shoes in the freezer to check how their cushioning changes in cold temperatures.
  • We purchase all running shoes with our own money to avoid brand loyalty and bias.

The best shoes get on this list.

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic
Whether it's a vertical kilometre or an ultra, climbing in the Alps or exploring local mountains, Jovana uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails. She logs at least 10h/week on trails, with no off-season, and 4x more on research on running and running shoes. With a background in physics and engineering management, she prefers her running spiced with data.