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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 different categories of road shoes. From a versatile daily trainer and a budget shoe to a premium speed and racing option, we got the finest option for you.
This guide dives into the nitty-gritty of road running shoes. Read over our guide to learn about the three primary things to consider in road shoes
Miles of pounding the payment and long hours in our lab have sealed the deal. The ASICS Novablast 3—with its unmatched comfort, outstanding versatility, and top-tier durability—is definitely the best road running shoe.
We can't get enough of this shoe and we felt that much-coveted runners' high on short runs and long runs. The Novablast 3 is a star—it made running on the pavement for hours a pleasant experience. In our lab, we checked the midsole foam's softness with a durometer and excitedly discovered that it is 52% softer than average. However, even if the foam was soft, it still had that responsive pop that made us zoom on the roads.
Another thing we love about this shoe is its versatility in different temperatures. The breathability test showed that the Novablast 3 is an extremely breathable road running shoe that provides great ventilation for summer runs. When we pumped smoke inside the shoe, it passed through the upper and the tongue very easily. Then, to simulate the cold weather, we put the Novablast 3 inside the lab freezer for 20 minutes. Even after this, the midsole was still softer than that of most running shoes at room temperature. This makes it the perfect all-rounder for winter, summer, and in-betweens.
We enjoyed running in these shoes so much, that we racked up a hundred miles on pavement pretty quickly among our team. We were really impressed to see that the outsole had very minor creasing which was purely visual—the comfort, plushness, and pop remained the same.
However, when we measured the shoe's heel-to-toe drop, it stood at 6.8 mm while the advertised is 8 mm. That being said, we do not recommend this for road runners with very specific preferences for heel-to-toe drop.
For years, the Pegasus has been pretty much synonymous with the term ‘daily trainer’. It’s a Nike icon that’s gotten countless runners through the highs and lows of their running journeys. In its 40th version, the shoe received an upper refresh—making it comfier and arguably giving it a better lockdown. Though its updates are somewhat anticlimactic for such a milestone edition, this Peg remains a trusty, reliable training partner for just about anyone.
Extremely fast, ultra-lightweight, superbly comfortable, and fast. Yes, the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ is extraordinarily lively that we had to mention 'fast' twice. After running a fair share of races and conducting lab tests, we hail the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ as the best road running shoe for races—a must-have for setting new personal bests.
During speed sessions and races, the Metaspeed Sky+ was remarkably responsive through and through. While the carbon plate contributed to the lively pop, our lab's flexibility test also confirmed the shoe's stiffness. It needed 102.4% more force to bend it compared to the average road running shoe. On our runs, we could feel effortless propulsion with every step.
At only 6.8 oz or 193g, the Metaspeed Sky+ is so much lighter compared to the average race shoe (7.3 oz or 207g). We also tested its breathability by pumping smoke inside the shoe, and we witnessed how quickly and easily the smoke breezed through the shoe's upper. Tremendously light and top-tier breathability—running on clouds is an understatement. Whether it's a 3k race or a marathon, this shoe's almost weightless feel is sure to shine.
Durability is one area it can improve on. Its rubber outsole is only 2.0 mm, while the average is 3.5 mm. Because of this, we recommend that serious road runners reserve the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ for A-races only or 10/10 effort-based speed sessions.
Lab tests—done. Outdoor runs—done and dusted. The Fuelcell Supercomp Trainer is our pick for the best long-distance road running shoe. With an extremely protective and uber-bouncy ride coupled with an out-of-this-world upper, the SC Trainer is a magnificent shoe for covering ground during long runs.
The FuelCell SC Trainer has an above-average high-stack midsole at 40.2mm—21% higher than the average road running shoe. The midsole is also 52.6% softer than average. This midsole and stack height combo made our feet feel comfortable and protected—an absolute necessity for marathon training blocks.
The SC Trainer's midsole unit has a carbon plate. Combined with the thick and soft midsole, this shoe has superb trampoline-like propulsion which made us want to run faster and longer. Numbers from the lab also backed this up, showing that the shoe is 87.6% stiffer than road running shoes on average.
Every ride with the SC Trainer was a breeze. The comfortable upper is of a totally different caliber—flawless, light, and very breathable. In our breathability test, the smoke pumped inside the shoe passed through very easily. We also felt the wind in our toes, which provided much-needed relief during long runs.
While the SC trainer delivers a fantastic and fast ride, its weight tipped the scales at 10.2 oz (298g), substantially more than the average of 265g for road running shoes. Runners will want to look elsewhere for lighter shoes.
If comfort was a shoe, the ASICS Gel Nimbus 25 is definitely it. On our runs, our feet enjoyed every pillow-like sensation with every step, and the lab numbers only verified what our feet already knew. Thus, the ASICS Gel Nimbus 25 is every bit deserving to be crowned as the road-running shoe with the best plush cushion.
Running on clouds, stepping on marshmallows—the adjectives are endless. The Gel Nimbus 25 was utterly comfortable during all our runs. The secret to this luxurious comfort lies in its super soft midsole unit. In the lab, our durometer readings confirmed this as the numbers showed that the midsole foam is 25% softer than average.
Adding to its heavenly comfort is the above-average stack height. At 4.8 mm taller than average, our feet were protected from all the pavement pounding—almost as if we were royalty. The Gel Nimbus 25 is also stable, adding to our confidence as we soared through the roads. Its solid platform is 9.3 mm wider than average on the heel, and 6.9 mm wider than average on the forefoot. This wide platform coupled with a snug fit upper made us worry less about our footstrikes as we munched those miles.
While it provides next-level comfort that is out-of-this-world, it lacks the energetic pop and responsiveness needed for fast days. The ASICS Gel Nimbus 25 is fantastic for easy, slow, and longer runs, but there are better options for speed sessions and faster days.
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 builds on the winning recipe that made its predecessors favored among runners all around the world. It shines as a reliable, well-cushioned, and stable daily trainer that's perfect for easy to moderate runs. Even with a slight shortfall in forefoot cushioning, its value at $140 marks it as a standout choice and a welcome enhancement over prior models.
The Saucony Axon 2 is a great all-rounder shoe. Aside from its incredible versatility and impressive durability, it checks all other boxes as a pretty solid shoe that runners can get without breaking the bank. That's why we've picked it as the best budget road running shoe.
At a $100 retail price, the Axon 2 offers great value for what it offers. It undercuts its competitors as the average cost of other daily trainers is $118. With the level of performance it gave us during our runs, we definitely cement this shoe as something that's worth more than its price tag.
The Axon 2 conquered all types of runs. It was comfortable enough for our easy runs, yet light and nimble enough for tempo days when we wanted to pick up the pace. We used a durometer in the lab to confirm our sensations—indeed, the Axon 2 is 10.4% softer than the average, which explained the top-tier comfort we felt.
After running around 100 miles in these shoes, we didn't see any visible signs of wear and tear—especially in the outsole. At 4.1 mm, the outsole is only 0.7 mm thicker than the average, yet it is also 6.8% harder, making it a solid trainer that can take the abuse of training blocks.
Runners looking for faster shoes will have to pay a higher price point for other options.
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.
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.
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.
long-distance daily trainer (left) vs. marathon race shoe (right)
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.
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.
Road shoe upper (left) is about lightness and breathability. Trail shoes (right) prioritize foot protection and durability.
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.
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.