10 Best Lightweight Running Shoes in 2021

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
10 Best Lightweight Running Shoes in 2021

With lightweight running shoes you want to feel like you’re not wearing any shoes but still get the needed protection and support. Be it a daily workhorse, a racing flat, or a minimalist trainer, we gathered the best to help you achieve your personal bests.

Having tested over 100 light running shoes, we know what makes a truly outstanding option.

Because the meaning of ‘lightweight’ varies depending on the category (a light daily trainer could mean a heavy race shoe), we have selected our top picks in five different categories.

How we select the best lightweight running shoes

Any shoe that’s available on the market and weighs less than 250 grams (8.8 oz) in a men’s US size 9 makes it to our selection of light running shoes. Numbering 500+ models from 30 brands, including Nike, Asics, Adidas, and more, we take each shoe through a thorough evaluation process:

  • Buy running shoes with our own funds to prevent bias.
  • Run a total distance of 30-50 miles to provide in-depth feedback on each pair’s performance.
  • Take each shoe on a series of runs with a total distance of 30-50 miles to provide in-depth feedback on its performance.
  • Use our RunRepeat lab to measure 30+ data points and evaluate each shoe’s cushioning, flexibility, breathability, and more.
  • Gather ALL available user and expert reviews to summarize the shoe’s strengths and weaknesses.

All things considered, we give each model a CoreScore from 0 to 100. The best-rated ones go to our “best” selection.

Best overall

Having tested past iterations of the Saucony Kinvara, we are here to confirm that the rumors are true. The Kinvara 12 reigns supreme among all the Kinvaras! 

Of course, the obvious reason why it sits on top of this list is its extremely light construction. At 7.5 oz, it’s WAY below the average running shoes at 9.4 oz (in our lab tests). If its weight doesn’t blow your mind, wait till you hear about its versatility. 

Most jack-of-all-trades are good at everything and masters of nothing, but this shoe beats that. It’s GREAT at everything. From slow days to long-distance efforts and uptempo sessions, it’s a rockstar! 

And comfort only takes this shoe a step further. Underfoot, all we felt was plush, plush, plush. As in, it can’t get much cushier than this! 

Despite the foam being exceedingly flexible, you get sufficient support from the insole. It’s stiff at 40.7HA. And contrary to other inserts we’ve measured, it’s 37% more rigid. 

At first, we thought the uber comfy midsole might make the ride suffer. But on the run, it’s been nothing close to mushy. If anything, the ride was lively and fun. We were just bouncing through the streets! 

Just when we thought things couldn’t be better, the upper was there to stun us. It gave us the best lockdown we could ever dream of. Not once did we experience any slips!

See our full review and facts

Like the Kinvara 12, the FuelCell Rebel v2 rebels against the do-it-all stereotype of “good at everything but excels at nothing.” From recovery runs, long hauls, and speed training, it’s been nothing short of EXCELLENT. 

At 7.6 oz, it’s even close to the race-day shoes in our arsenal! It didn’t weigh us down, it was almost like we had nothing on. 

Even better, it crushed the golden trinity of weight, response, and cushion! 

In our lab test, we have gathered that its midsole is 70% softer than the average. Seriously, the numbers just blew our minds. And when it came to running, this shoe just made us fall in love. Our feet were SO cushioned, we could wear it all-day long! 

And what’s great about it is it doesn’t punish the shoe’s responsiveness. It’s mighty soft, but it’s peppy and efficient, making us roll through our strides seamlessly with some spice of excitement. 

The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 is only tagged at $130. But with all the perks it gave us, this can pretty much be along the ranks of the $160 shoes on the market!

See our full review and facts

Best for race

If there’s an elite among all the elite racing shoes we’ve put on, it’s easily the Asics MetaSpeed Sky. 

First thing’s first, it’s CRAZY light. It’s as light as a feather. At 6.7 oz, it’s the lightest racing shoe on the market! 

Speed is the name of the game. In all our test runs, this shoe made us feel like we were zooming through the blocks. It’s efficient, and it does a darn fine job at propelling us forward. 

And unlike all the other carbon-plated shoes we’ve tried, nothing beats the MetaSpeed Sky when it comes to comfort. It’s NOT stiff, and more importantly, it’s not rough to the feet. 

Even better, this speed devil’s fit is THE golden standard. It’s snug and glove-like, not once did we feel like we were losing support. On quick turns, our feet were as secure as ever. 

Speaking of support, this shoe has got a lot of it. And we’re not only talking about the upper. The midsole also plays a huge part in making this shoe stable AF. Among all the premium racing flats on our roster, this is, by far, the most stable. It’s even stable during slow efforts. 

And because we’re shoe nerds, we conducted our lab testing. Scoring 22.5HA in our flex test, it only goes to show that the Sky has got a touch of firmness; hence, the surefooted strides. 

We pride ourselves in nitpicking, but there’s just not one thing that’s bad about this shoe. And if you want to outpace the competition, nothing can beat the Asics MetaSpeed Sky!

See our full review and facts

If there’s one thing that makes the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 a standout, it's easily its unmatched comfort. We even forgot it’s a race-day shoe! 

Typically, racers and speed shoes, in general, tend to be on the stiffer side, but NOT this shoe. It gives the feet the best of both worlds with its perfect blend of stiffness and softness. 

So, don’t worry about compromised responsiveness. It’s not in the vocabulary of this shoe. 

And its rocker design only takes everything up a notch. Our transitions were buttery smooth, it was like the shoe was pushing us to our next step, and not us pushing it. So, kudos to Saucony for such a great ride! 

Even more, it’s got a ton of stability. At 94.3N, it’s not the most flexible shoe, especially compared to the Vaporfly (83.7N) and MetaSpeed Sky (62.9N). But if you want reliable support for your feet, this shoe won’t disappoint. 

Mile after mile, this shoe just continued to wow us! Because it’s a racing flat, we weren’t really expecting it to be durable. But boy did its outsole surprise us. After 50 miles of rough wear tests, it came out untouched. 

And because we were intrigued, we had to do some lab tests. And in our strength test, the outsole came out 71HC stiff, meaning it’s got what it takes to last!

See our full review and facts

Best for speedwork

Whether you’re racing or training, we can’t recommend the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 enough. True to its name, it’s one hell of a solid shoe when it comes to speed! 

At 8.1 oz, it’s unbelievably light. In contrast to all the running shoes we’ve tested (9.4 oz average), it doesn’t tip our scales. Even better, it’s extremely light on the run. It’s almost unnoticeable. 

For daily beating, this shoe has got the makings of a true sturdy trainer. And if you want to go fast on race day, it’s more than happy to fit the bill. 

Like its Endorphin siblings, it’s big on snappiness, but it also doesn’t skimp on comfort. It just nails it in mixing both qualities. It’s never harsh on foot. 

To see why, we did our flex test. And the result was astonishing! Average running shoes take about 37.2N force to bend, and the Endorphin Speed takes 39.6N to flex. Meaning, it’s a touch more stable, but it’s got the right flexibility to make the ride peppy and comfortable. 

What’s even more surprising? It’s got a lockdown that’s to die for! It molds into the contours of the feet, keeping everything nice and tucked in place. We NEVER felt tippy in it. 

Ultimately, if you want a great-value shoe that doesn’t cut corners on performance, whether it’s in competition or training runs, nothing comes close to the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2.

See our full review and facts

Of all the Brooks speed shoes we’ve tested, we can confidently say that the Brooks Hyperion Tempo is the best of the best! 

It’s a shoe that screams fast, and delivers what it promises to do! It will literally launch you to your next PB, thanks to its highly responsive and bouncy midsole. 

And its featherlight weight only makes everything ten times better. At 7.3 oz, it almost feels completely weightless! 

True to its Brooks roots, it doesn’t hold back on stability. The midsole has enough stiffness not only for snappiness but also for support. Not once did we feel like our feet were sinking in. 

Even more, it’s as sturdy as ever. 60 miles in, and it still has little to no wear on the outsole, and its foam is just as great from mile 1.

Speaking of cushion, this shoe has got a ton of it! If you’re worried about it hammering your feet, fret not. It may be stable, but it’s got a lot of give to keep the feet comfortable, which most speed trainers fail to do. 

If you want to beat or set new records, you won’t regret getting the Brooks Hyperion Tempo!

See our full review and facts

Best for trail

Just when we thought trail shoes are just about heft and clunkiness, the Hoka Zinal made us change our minds. If there’s a trailblazer we’d pick out any day, it’s THIS shoe. 

And holy shiznit! It kills it in the weight department. It’s even lighter than the average running shoe we’ve tested at 8.5 oz vs. 9.4 oz! 

Seriously, it’s got speed written all over it. Its midsole even takes after the Mach 4’s Profly foam, which is intended to make you go fast. And fast we went! 

It’s not crazy bouncy, but it’s got some pop to enhance forward movement. But what makes it a star is its stability. It’s a medium-stiff shoe at 37.5N, meaning your feet will get all the support, and responsiveness they could ever dream of. 

And look, this is NOT the Hoka we’ve come to know. It’s not towering in stack, allowing for maximum ground feel. As in, it smashes it in this arena! 

The lugs may not be as deep as what we consider aggressive, but boy did this shoe take our breath away. It sticks on the ground so well, we had NO issues with missteps even on rocky and loose terrain. 

Even more, it’s a shoe that won’t let you down, especially during hot summer conditions. It breathes! 

See our full review and facts

What? Another sub 9oz trail shoe? We’re not complaining alright. We are just SHOCKED! 

The Altra Superior 5 is so light, it even feels like a road racing shoe. It’s not heavy on paper, and it certainly feels like air on foot. 

And that’s just one of the few things that make this shoe among the best trail speedsters on the market. 

Apart from weight, it’s one hell of a snappy and energy-returning trail monster! Running fast in it is not even a challenge. 

On dirt trails, rocky climbs, and root-filled single tracks, we found ourselves pacing through with confidence. This shoe crushed everything underfoot and cruised its way through with superior grip! 

Even better, the lockdown is just A1! The upper hugs the feet so well, we didn’t have issues with slips or wobbling. If anything, we were supported through and through. 

It has the makings of a solid trail speed devil, and if you want to run without having to worry what the trails throw at you, the Altra Superior 5 won’t let you down.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the more advanced running shoes, but it sure did pace us! The Brooks Launch 8 is a no-frills trainer that gets the job done, and it does so with speed. 

Yes, it’s fast. It’s a tempo shoe, and it does everything right. The midsole is not overly responsive or bouncy, it does have some pep to launch you to your next step. 

And when it comes to weight, it doesn’t even feel like it has any. At 8.8 oz, it’s just super light. 

It may skimp on weight, but it sure doesn’t when it comes to comfort. It even took us by surprise when we actually measured its stiffness in our lab. Unlike other speed trainers, it’s anything but stiff. 

To bend it, it only took 18.7N, while the average takes 23.8N. Now, that’s one crazy flex! 

Even more, it’s got the makings of a sturdy shoe. The outsole rubber is 3.7mm thick, meaning it’s going to take some miles and time before you really beat the crap out of this shoe. No kidding. We expect this to last well between 300-500 miles. 

If it’s a great-value shoe you’re after, there’s nothing more value-oriented than the Brooks Launch 8!

See our full review and facts

What makes a lightweight running shoe

How light is “lightweight”? You can’t really put a finger on it as it depends on the category:

  • light racing flat: 3.5 to 5.5 oz (100 to 155 g)
  • light daily trainer: 8 to 9 oz (230 to 250 g)

Rule of thumb: the shorter the distance, the lighter the shoe.

saucony-kinvara-12-weight.jpg

Saucony Kinvara is among the lightest daily running shoes (7.6 oz / 216 g)

Associated with a slightly higher running economy and speed benefits [sources: 1, 2], lightweight running shoes do help you feel more nimble.

But lighter may not always mean better. With reduced weight, there may come a trade-off in cushioning, support, durability, or price. In addition, the type of running, terrain, and runner’s body also dictate the appropriate weight range of shoes.

Learn more in our in-depth research on shoe weight and how it affects speed and comfort.

Types of lightweight running shoes for every activity

The primary factors to consider when choosing a pair of running shoes are the speed and distance of your runs.

Daily running / training

lightweight-daily-running-shoes.jpg

speed: easy to moderate

distance: up to a marathon

weight: 6.5 to 9 oz (185 to 255 g)

durability: 5/5

cushioning: 5/5

comfort: 5/5

See a full list of lightweight daily running shoes

Competition / race day

lightweight-race-running-shoes.jpg

speed: moderate to fast

distance: up to a marathon

weight: 3.5 to 9 oz (100 to 250 g)

durability: 3/5

cushioning: 3/5

comfort: 3/5

See light race running shoes and flats

Trail running

speed: easy to fast

distance: up to a marathon

weight: 6 to 9 oz (185 to 250 g)

durability: 3/5

cushioning: 3/5 

comfort: 3/5

NOTE: Lightweight trail shoes also lack the protection of average-weight trail shoes (i.e. rock plates, durable overlays, gaiters, etc.). This is all in favor of shedding weight to increase speed.

See lightweight trail running shoes

Barefoot-like running

barefoot-minimalist-running-shoe.jpg

speed: easy to moderate

distance: up to a marathon

weight: 4 to 7 oz (115 to 200 g)

durability: 3/5

cushioning: 1/5

comfort: 1/5

See barefoot/minimalist running shoes

Why beginners should think twice before buying lightweight running shoes

Unnecessary bells and whistles. Premium race shoes are equipped with cutting-edge technologies like propulsion plates (made of carbon or nylon), rocker soles, etc. These not only hit hard on the wallet but are also likely to malfunction for entry-level runners. They only work with forefoot striking and faster speeds.

asics-metaspeed-sky-cut-in-half.jpg

The black line going through the white midsole is the carbon-fiber plate on the Asics MetaSpeed Sky. The upturned forefoot, or rocker, means that the shoe rolls forward like a rocking chair.

Too little support. Paper-thin racing flats and minimalist shoes require an adaptation period especially if you are used to generously cushioned footwear.

lightweight-shoe-upper-support.jpg

Tongue and collar padding on regular trainers (top) vs. on light racing shoes (bottom)

Higher injury risk. Injuries are inevitable and you might come to a point (especially if you read “Born to run”) that you want the lightest shoe out there. Maybe even the minimalist or barefoot one. But runners should keep in mind that while there are some injuries that would benefit from lighter shoes (especially hip injuries), they should not overdo it. And if they decide to move to less supported/cushioned shoes, always start slowly.

Find out if lighter running shoes will work well for your body in the section below.

Lightweight running shoes and your body needs 

It surely feels good to be light and free with nothing dragging your feet down.

But it feels just as good when your feet and body receive the needed amount of comfort and support. Here are a few things to be mindful of:

  • Pronation: do you need additional support and stability?
  • Your weight: how much cushioning and impact protection do you need?
  • Wide feet: is there enough space to accommodate your toes?
  • Plantar fasciitis and other foot conditions: how not to aggravate these?

Pronation

Most lightweight running shoes are designed with the minimum amount of materials and technologies and are suitable for neutral pronation.

But if you’ve ever noticed your ankle rolling inwards more than it feels right or if your shoes wear out faster on the inner side, chances are that you have overpronation. In this case, it’s better to get a light shoe with stability components.

Arch types and recommended shoes.png

You can also learn more about pronation in our in-depth guide on the topic.

neutral-vs-stability-support.jpg

neutral shoe (no added support) vs. stability shoe (comes with arch support on the inner side)

Your weight

Runners over 90 kg (250 lbs) should be careful about choosing lightweight, minimally cushioned running shoes. As the pressure on the feet increases, you want to make sure there is enough underfoot and side support to keep you comfortable.

So, it is advisable to choose footwear with a thicker and firmer midsole or have a look at the more generously cushioned shoes for heavy runners.

Foot width

If you suspect that your toes or feet overall need a little more room to have fun and wiggle, consider lightweight shoes with a more accommodating fit:

Plantar fasciitis and other foot conditions

Lightweight running shoes are typically not recommended for people with severe plantar fasciitis or other painful conditions. These cases require shoes with ample cushioning, stability, and support to prevent aggravation.

Although none of the shoes from this ranking is recommended, you can have a look at our special selection for plantar fasciitis. The lightest shoes in this category start from 9 oz (255 g).

Author
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.