10 Best Road Running Shoes in 2021

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
10 Best Road Running Shoes in 2021

The number of road running shoes is three times larger compared to trail running shoes. Thus, buying a pair can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are new to running.

We have tested over 100 road running shoes in our lab and on a variety of wear tests. If you want nothing but the best, see our top picks from five different categories of road shoes. From a versatile daily trainer and a budget shoe to a premium speed and racing option.  

This guide dives into the nitty-gritty of road running shoes. Scroll down to learn about 3 primary things to consider in road shoes as well as runners’ FAQs.

How we rank the best road running shoes

At RunRepeat we know the difference between good and great shoes. 

How? Thanks to our independent shoe testing lab and a meticulous approach to reviewing running shoes:

  • We use durometers, scales, calipers, a custom smoke machine, and even a saw to cut each shoe open and measure every aspect of it, from upper breathability to outsole durability.
  • Our team of dedicated shoe fanatics runs 30-50 miles a week to test every new release from over 30 brands.
  • Our system collates thousands of expert and user reviews from all over the web to reflect all these opinions in the final score.
  • We purchase all running shoes with our own money to ensure transparency.

Our verdict is summarized in a CoreScore, a number from 0 to 100, which reflects how good a shoe is compared to 1500+ other road running shoes.

The best ones end up on this list.

Best overall

It’s comfortable and lively, it’s cut out to reward the feet. And if you want one go-to shoe for everything road running, we are more than pleased to recommend the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38! 

This shoe is a total stunner in everything we put it through. In our daily runs, it was soft and easy on the feet. When we upped the pace, it was bouncy and responsive. And when it was time to log serious miles, this shoe WOWED us with its stability. 

When we measured it in our lab, we found that its forefoot is 109.5mm wide while the heel is 80.7mm. Not once did we feel unsteady in this workhorse! 

Even better, it’s built tough. After hammering it on the road, this shoe proved itself solid. Despite the React foam being 18% softer than the average midsoles (in our lab tests), it’s still dense, generating both strength and support. 

And the outsole only takes sturdiness up a notch! It’s 11% stiffer than the average, meaning it’s built to last. Expect getting 400-500 miles before retiring this shoe. 

When it comes to traction, it doesn’t disappoint either. Even on dirt, the overall sensation was surefooted

If you want great value for money, the Nike Pegasus 38 is THE shoe.

See our full review and facts

Stability or comfort? Take both in the Hoka One One Mach 4! Having tested past iterations of the Mach series, all we can say is this version is everything the Mach isn’t but all in the best ways possible. 

What do we mean? Machs have made a name for being supportively stiff shoes. But nuh-uh, NOT this one. 

Yes, it maintains the line’s signature stability, but this time around it’s more forgiving. 

And just when  we thought support couldn’t get better, its lockdown was there to prove us wrong. It’s what dreams are made of! Seriously, this shoe just tucked the feet nice and tight. NO slips, no wobbles. 

Because weight is important to us, we couldn’t help but put this shoe on our scale. And boy did it surprise us! At 7.85 oz, it’s 20% lighter than all the other road running shoes we’ve tested. Even more, it’s in the ranks of our ultralight running shoes

Grip? Nothing does it better than the Mach. We ran through snow, and we were just breezing through everything. 

See our full review and facts

Best for race

The Asics MetaSpeed Sky didn’t just let us zoom through the blocks. This shoe made us experience true speed. 

Easily, it’s the best of the best when it comes to carbon-plated racers! Yes, it’s a big statement, but we gladly stand by it. This shoe does everything great, and nothing wrong. 

From top to bottom, this shoe screams fast! The upper wraps around the feet so flawlessly. As in, it’s snug from the rear to the midfoot, and when it comes to the forefoot, it opens up for some swelling room. 

And the real showstopper is the midsole. It’s the heart of this speed monster! It’s INSANELY responsive and bouncy, it literally launched us forward.

Want to set PBs? This shoe has got you covered! 

Most race shoes don’t really put much effort into stability, but NOT this shoe. If it skimps on anything, it’s weight. At 6.7 oz, it’s among the lightest running shoes on the market. 

In our lab tests, we’ve found that it’s 22.5HA in flexibility. Meaning, it’s got a perfect blend of rigidity and softness to create a steady and supportive ride. 

Even in slow runs, it’s the superlative of stability among other racers we’ve put our feet in. 

We LOVE to be critical of the shoes we test, but it’s just so hard to find any fault in the MetaSpeed Sky. It’s that good!

See our full review and facts

True to its name, the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 made us run like we were one of the elites! 

Fast. This is exactly how it felt running in this shoe. It’s very snappy and energetic, bouncing to our next step was a piece of cake. 

And what makes it a standout among other racing flats in the market is that it does NOT punish the feet. It’s anything but stiff. Despite having a carbon-fiber plater, it’s comfortable.

Even more, this shoe made us roll through our strides effortlessly! So, if you want a shoe that will pace you without requiring much effort, you won’t go wrong with the Endorphin Pro 2. 

At 7.6 oz, it’s CRAZY light. So much so, we totally forgot about it on the run. If anything, we were just focused on setting our PB! 

It may not be as light as the Vaporfly (6.9 oz) and MetaSpeed Sky (6.7 oz), but with its outsole rubber coverage, it’s one we can write off easily. 

More importantly, it doesn’t tip our scales (9.4 oz is the average running shoe weight), and it’s NOT heavy on foot.

See our full review and facts

Best for speedwork

Whether you’re beating the competition or training in tempo, nothing comes close to the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2. 

If we had to pick among our speedsters, the easy (and obvious) answer is THIS shoe. It’s a ball of energy that’s extremely peppy. Getting to our next stride is a walk in the park! 

And like a true Endorphin, it doesn’t forgo comfort in favor of speed. Nope. In this shoe, it’s the optimal blend of both. Each step is cushioned and bouncy. 

Because we’re nerds for anything shoes, we had to put it through a series of lab tests. And in our flex test, the shoe measured 36.9N. For context, average shoes bend at 37.2N. 

So, what does this mean? It’s got a great balance of rigidity and softness for a springy, stable, yet comfortable ride. 

And to really seal the deal, the lockdown is as great as it gets! It’s even more secure than its racing sibling - the Pro 2. 

Ultimately, the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is an excellent choice if you want a shoe that’s a star in both training and race day. Even more, it’s built to last! 

See our full review and facts

A shoe that’s ready to beat the Swoosh, the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, without a doubt, made us bolt through the streets like it was nothing. 

This shoe is the epitome of AWESOME when it comes to a lively and fun ride. It’s almost like we had springs underfoot! 

And if you think its bounciness will render the ride unstable, it’s a big NO. It’s got a touch of both softness and stiffness, creating a very balanced sensation. In each step, our feet were supported through and through. 

Even better, it’s a shoe that doesn’t load up on the feet. As in, it’s featherlight! 

To really see its strength, we logged 60 miles worth of test runs in this baby. And the results weren’t at all surprising.

Sturdiness: Brooks level. 

It’s built like a tank, and it will last you a long time before making its way to retirement in your closet. 

And if there’s anything we’re masters of, it’s nitpicking. But in this shoe, we gladly yield. There’s not one thing about it that’s a deal breaker.

See our full review and facts

Best for flat feet

If there’s a king among stability shoes, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 is a no-brainer. 

Having been around for more than 2 decades, the Adrenaline sure does everything right. Only this time, it takes everything up a notch.

And of all the stability shoes in our arsenal, it’s a certified star. It’s unique in a sense that it’s supportive only when you need it. In simpler words, it’s enjoyable for both neutral runners in need of extra support and for overpronators. 

What’s great is that it’s also not taxing to the feet. It’s NOT rock solid, and the upper is what luxurious feels like - it’s amply padded, pampering the feet all-day long! 

Upon step-in, the instant feeling is cushy. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not pillowy soft, but it sure does its job in being an easy-day shoe beautifully. But what really blew us away was its pop.

And although at 10.2 oz, it’s not the lightest shoe on our roster (the average weigh in at 9.4oz), it’s still heading in the right direction. Having tested its precursors, it’s much lighter, and certainly deserves a hats off! 

Overall, if you want a stability shoe that’s unobtrusive, take the Adrenaline GTS 21 any day and it won’t disappoint.

See our full review and facts

28 iterations after, the Asics Gel Kayano continues to win us over! This time around, Asics turned something great even greater. 

In all the good ways possible, the Asics Gel Kayano 28 is everything a Kayano isn’t. In this edition, it’s still the much sought-after stability shoe among runners but it’s more peppy. 

Gone are the days of the brick-like Kayano. It’s more flexible, making the ride not only forgiving but also a lot more responsive! 

And if you’re looking for a shoe that can take a beating, look no further. This is THE shoe. It’s super solid, it’s even 31.5% stiffer than the average running shoes (in the heel). Meaning, it will take you hundreds of miles before you wear it out! 

Whether you’re running a marathon or training in high-mileage efforts, this shoe meets the bill. And it does so fantastically! 

If there’s one thing that held this shoe back as our top pick, it’s the rather warm upper. But with all the plushness it gave our feet, it’s totally not something we’d consider a deal-breaker.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

At $100, the Saucony Axon took us by surprise. It’s even better than its high-end counterparts! 

It’s a speed devil and it’s got what it takes to pace you. And if you’re a long-time Saucony fan, you’re in for a treat. It’s built on the platform of the brand’s much-coveted Endorphin series (also Saucony’s top-of-the-line collection). 

How does this translate on the run? Simple. It’s going to roll you through your strides effortlessly and it’s going to make the feet cozy! 

There’s really no need to push it forward, IT will push you forward. 

And if you want a shoe that’s going to give you great value, nothing does it better than the Axon. With 82.5HC outsole stiffness (vs. the average 75.1HC), it’s got the makings of a solid shoe. After pacing it through, the outsole remains unscratched

We also did some lab tests on the shoe’s midsole. And in our durometer test, we’ve found that it’s 21.5 HA stiff). Meaning, it’s NOT going to pack out easily. 

See our full review and facts

It doesn’t break the bank and it’s a rockstar in the stability department. Seriously, we just can’t get enough of the Asics Gel Excite 8! 

We have our fair share of bad-knee days, and on such days, this is the shoe we’d grab first. It’s so supportive underfoot, we don’t have to worry about pain. 

And the ride is to die for! It’s not the sink-in kind of soft. Rather, it’s a very balanced underfoot sensation. There’s enough give for comfort, and a touch of stiffness to keep us upright and stable. 

Even more, it’s a true Asics in the durability arena. After miles of pounding on the pavement, it’s proven itself solid and tough. The midsole is as bouncy as the first mile, and the outsole is unscathed. 

And for a shoe that packs so much sturdiness, it’s NOT heavy. On the contrary, it’s very light, and it didn’t drag our feet down.

See our full review and facts

Are road running shoes necessary?

You might be considering using your gym trainers or your trusty sneakers for road running. This may seem like a good idea at first, but keep in mind that these shoes are not specifically designed for you to run in.

Differences between running and training shoes.png

Road running shoes are structured in such a way that your feet get the needed support and cushioning. These shoes are prepared for repetitive heel-to-toe movements as they provide you underfoot comfort.

On the other hand, training shoes are designed for comfort and stability on the sides of your foot. Because workouts involve a lot of side-to-side movements, these shoes are built with additional support in the lateral sides.

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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 (road running shoe) vs. Nike Metcon (cross-training shoe)

3 factors to consider when choosing a road running shoe

What is your goal?

One simple way of categorizing road running shoes is according to the purpose they serve the runner:

Speed

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Distance

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Frequency

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Speed

If you want speed, have a look at speed training shoes or competition shoes (for a race day). Being lightweight is their primary advantage in helping you move faster. More premium models are equipped with high-rebound cushioning technologies like Nike ZoomX and Saucony PWRRUN. The elite ones also employ a carbon plate that helps to create a propelling ride.

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is one of the best-rated trainers for speed training and even race days.

Distance

Meanwhile, long-distance running shoes are packed with features to support longer runs. They are well-cushioned to keep the feet comfortable throughout the run. With a slightly wider forefoot, these shoes accommodate swelling with the prolonged duration of running.

Well-cushioned, maximalist running shoes are your best bet on half-marathon and beyond.

long-distance-road-running-shoes.jpg

long-distance daily trainer (left) vs. marathon race shoe (right)

Frequency

One last classification of road shoes according to purpose is frequency. If you see yourself running very often, or using your running shoe a lot, you should get daily running shoes. The more cushioning the shoe has, the greater the comfort level.

Look for a comfortable, tried-and-tested daily cruiser with lasting cushioning and durability.

What is your foot type?

Another factor you need to consider in selecting your road running shoe is the type of gait that you have. Wearing a road running shoe with the correct arch support is also useful when traversing rough and rigid surfaces, like gravel.

If you have high arches, a neutral shoe will provide the right amount of support for you. This kind of road shoe has ample cushioning that adds comfort and prevents pain when running. The cushion also provides shock absorption, which is something your foot might lack.

On the other hand, if your feet are in any way overpronating, a good road running shoe maybe something in between stability or motion control shoe. Both these shoes aid the foot in correcting overpronation by providing varying degrees of arch support.

Arch types and recommended shoes.png

Frequently asked questions

Do I need separate shoes for trail running? Why?

Although there are many running shoes that claim to be versatile and useful for various terrains, it is still recommended to have separate pairs for road running and trail running. Here is our guide for choosing trail shoes.

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Road shoe upper (left) is about lightness and breathability. Trail shoes (right) prioritize foot protection and durability.

road-vs-trail-shoe-outsole.jpg

The outsole rubber on road shoes (left) is only meant for asphalt or consistent hard-packed surface. Trail shoe outsoles (right) are more hard-wearing, grippy and have a special lug pattern for rocks, mud, snow, etc.

The surface you run on can affect the way your shoes wear. Some road running shoes may not be sturdy enough to handle the rough and rocky paths, and they may also not be grippy enough for mud and puddles. 

Conversely, trail shoes may also pose more harm than good when used for road running.

Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.