10 Best Running Shoes in 2021
Are you looking for a comfortable all-arounder? A supportive shoe for overpronation? Or a speedy racer for a new personal best? There is no ONE best shoe for everybody.
We have tested over 100 running shoes and put them through our lab to help you find the best pair. See our highly recommended models in several categories below.
And if you want to learn more about choosing the right running shoe, scroll down to our 7-step guide.
Overview of this guide
- 1. How we test and review running shoes
- 2. Best overall
- 3. Best for flat feet
- 4. Best for race
- 5. Best trail shoe
- 6. Best budget shoe
- 7. There is no ONE best running shoe
- 8. Comfort above anything else
- 9. What is arch support and why it matters
- 10. Road or trail?
- 11. Heel to toe drop in running shoes
- 12. Minimalist, maximalist, strike pattern, technology, waterproofing, etc.
- 13. Trust your feet, not “experts” and top-10 lists
How we test and review running shoes
We believe editors disguised as “experts” cherry-pick popular shoes to earn more.
Here’s proof that the top 1% most popular shoes are 245 times more likely to be picked in top-10 lists, and WHY expert reviews are biased towards popular models that are not always the best shoes.
Unlike most top-10 rankings, we list the best running shoes, NOT the most popular ones.
Here is how we’re different:
- As an independent shoe testing lab, we purchase all shoes with our own money to stay unbiased.
- We cut shoes into pieces and measure over 30 different parameters on cushioning, durability, breathability, and more.
- Our testers run 30-50 miles in each pair before submitting their in-depth review.
- Our scores include aggregated ratings from +2 million runners and 10,700 experts.
- We consider all ~2000 running shoes on the market, not just the 25 popular ones.
Based on this, each shoe is given a CoreScore from 0-100. Because of this, our list is different from other top-10 lists you might be browsing.
With more than 2000 running shoes in our database, we have picked the Nike Pegasus 38 as the best running shoe overall. We've reached this conclusion from having tested it on slow runs, tempo sessions, on the treadmill and even put it through our lab.
It's an excellent all around running shoe with superb fit (a bit surprising for a Nike). It's a workhorse and if you need just one running shoe, buy this one. It's agile and can be used for a variety of runs. It also lasts long and after 30 miles, there's no sign of wear. We expect 500 miles in this beast.
It has a plush hug around your foot and offers a bit more room the the toebox than the Pegasus 37 and 36, which we appreciate. It has a fully gusseted tongue (we love this!!), which locks the foot down securely and the laces stay tight (above average on our lace slip tests).
It's 18% softer than the average running shoe according to our lab data, and we found it to offer great pep from the Air Zoom unit.
The Pegasus 38 isn't the lightest daily trainer, but positions itself right around the middle (0.7 oz heavier than average).
Overall, a great go-to running shoes that won't disappoint you.
An iconic daily trainer, Brooks Ghost 14 is made for runners who prioritize comfort above anything else.
Well-cushioned underfoot and generously padded around the foot, the shoe feels good straight from the box. It also accommodates a variety of footshapes, coming in narrow to extra wide options.
It’s not the brand’s plushest shoe (see Brooks Glycerin) but a touch of firmness makes it a bit more versatile in use. Be it a 1-5 mile jog, a longer 10K effort, or a slightly quicker tempo workout, the Ghost doesn’t disappoint. Note however, that in colder temperatures this shoe will have a firmer ride.
With its above-average platform width, the Ghost 14 also feels very stable for a neutral shoe.
Looking at the outsole rubber, you can tell that it’s a heavy-duty trainer. This shoe will go the distance (500 miles+). On top of the roads, it can confidently handle weekend hikes on dirt trails.
Best for flat feet
If you are tired of rolling over the shoe’s edge and wearing out your soles on the inner side, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 will fix that problem for you! People with flat feet and overpronation need a shoe that offers more support on the inner side to keep the foot straight and not falling in.
The Adrenaline is a saving grace not only as a stability shoe but also as a go-to-shoe for many purposes (that’s what the GTS stands for). Wear it for slow recovery runs, long-distance efforts, and even a full day of walking. We enjoyed its amply plush, max-cushioned ride so much that taking it off simply didn’t feel right. You just want to keep it on your feet until going to bed.
It is so well-padded and supportive and yet doesn’t feel heavy. From the 270+ stability shoes that we have measured in our lab, the Adrenaline weighs slightly below average (10.2 oz compared to 10.5 oz). It also uses a more advanced support technology which helps to correct your pronation without you even feeling it! Unlike the sturdy medial posts they used in stability shoes before.
The shoe’s plush upper is a miracle. It will hug any foot shape as if it’s a loved one. People with wider feet will find joy in its ample toe space as well as in all the width options available.
The Adrenaline will not blow your mind with looks but it’s got that clean, simple aesthetics that Brooks has been acclaimed for.
If you want to feel pampered and supported, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 is our first recommendation!
28 years later, the Kayano continues to win over runners’ hearts and feet, and it did so too for us!
Comparing it to the past Kayanos, we are here to say that this time, it’s definitely a hand-in-hand focus on stability and comfort.
And with its amped-up comfort, it’s easily among the best choices for a single-rotation shoe. Take it out on race day or grab it for long, slow runs.
Among 200+ other stability shoes in our database, we picked the Kayano 28 for its VERY stable ride too. And because it’s more flexible, the ride has also become more peppy and lively.
Like a true Asics, the Kayano killed it in the durability department. In our lab test, we have found that the heel rubber is 31.5% stiffer than the forefoot - an assurance for our heel-striking brothers and sisters out there.
Making it to the ranks of other durable shoes we’ve tested, we expect it to last 400-500 miles.
Overall, the Asics Gel Kayano 28 is a do-it-all shoe for people who have overpronation, while it’s a trusty daily trainer for anyone who needs additional support.
Best for race
This is by far the best carbon plated shoe that we’ve tested. We rarely make such bold statements as there are nuances to every running shoe. However, the MetaSpeed killed it, both in our wear testing and in our lab testing. This shoe is amazing.
It’s light (191g) and in our lab we measured a 2.5mm drop only which is significantly lower than the 5mm reported drop from Asics themselves. It is a low drop, and it worked well.
These days, most race-day shoes come with a carbon plate, however you also pay a premium for the newest tech ($250 for a running shoe is A LOT). Study after study does show how carbon plated shoes are faster, and World records are almost exclusively being broken using race shoes with carbon plates. If you want to set new PB’s, do get a carbon plated shoe.
And if you want the best of the best, buy the Asics MetaSpeed Sky.
As opposed to most other race shoes, the MetaSpeed Sky is comfortable. It is less stiff, and its forefoot is wider than most race shoes. You will appreciate it if you race distances longer than 5k.
In our lab test, it required 41.3 newton to untie the shoes which is 38% better than the average shoe. We also learned that the outsole is 23% softer than average, which might be an indicator of a slightly shorter life span, which, however is expected from a race shoe.
Overall, this is the best shoe to set new PBs in. Our top pick!
Got a need for speed? The Endorphin Pro 2 from Saucony will definitely help you set a new personal record. It is another carbon-plated prodigy that is not a Nike Vaporfly.
Together with the MetaSpeed Sky, it is the most comfortable race shoe on the market right now. Which proves that a racing shoe doesn’t have to sacrifice comfort for being light and fast.
Even though it’s not the lightest one, it sits right on the average of 7.6 oz of elite race shoes. However, that extra 0.9 oz of weight translates into more comfort, better fit, and even higher durability.
It’s got a robust 2.85 mm rubber outsole which is 0.5-1mm thicker than what’s found on its competitors. We expect it to outlast most elite racers.
It is also a race shoe that actually fits a wider foot. Having a forefoot width of 97.8 mm it’s close to the average of daily trainers (98.7 mm). Given how snug most race shoes are, the Endorphin Pro 2 is a welcome change.
Snappy, fast, insanely breathable, and… affordable. Adding to its benefits is the $200 price tag. The Endorphin Pro 2 is $25-50 cheaper than the top-tier race shoes and yet can beat some of them in performance.
We really enjoyed racing in the Pro 2 and hope you will too!
Best trail shoe
The Salomon Sense Ride 4 is a certified beast and it sure took our breath away with its surprisingly responsive ride!
This trail shoe is everything trail-ready. It’s got an insane grip, and it’s got durability written all over it.
After doing some nerdy lab testing on this shoe, we’ve gathered that it’s more rigid (at 81.5HC) than the average (75.1HC). Meaning, it can’t get more tank-like than this!
And if you’re thinking it’s an uncomfortable, brick-like ride, the easy answer is NO. It’s anything but that. We really hammered this shoe, and it showed INSANE prowess in long-distance runs and steep climbs! It’s a super fun and energetic ride, we almost forgot we’re wearing a trail shoe.
Even better, it’s not the type of tank that’s heavy. It didn’t weigh us down at all. On paper, it sure as hell is heavy, but on the run? It’s the exact opposite!
With its grip, it just gets better and better. It’s got 3.57mm lugs that are ready to bite just about any terrain.
Of course, we can’t overlook the super convenient lockdown system this shoe has. The Quicklace system is not only quick, but it’s also very secure and prevents any in-shoe movement.
And ooh la la, what a stunner! Trail shoes don’t always have the looks, but the Salomon Sense Ride 4 just loves wow everyone.
To feel confident on the trails you need a shoe with an outstanding grip and secure lockdown that will survive anything. This is exactly what describes the Saucony Peregrine 11. The shoe nailed our most demanding runs and lab tests.
It is a heavy-duty trailblazer that can handle any terrain, be it steep hills, rocky paths, mud, snow, slush, or ice. Having some of the deepest lugs in our trail shoe collection (4.35 mm) which are also sharp and widely spaced, the Peregrine bites!
Once you’re out there maneuvering the gnarly trails, there is absolutely no foot movement inside the shoe. The moment you lace up, your foot is locked. Warning: it may take some breaking in given how stiff and protective the upper is.
Which brings us to durability. The Peregrine is built like a tank! The debris has no chance of hurting your foot or even leave a scratch on the shoe. This comes with a price of slightly heavier weight and less ground feel but wearing this shoe really makes you feel like you can climb Everest!
Best budget shoe
The Brooks Revel 5 is a budget shoe that can go head to head with its more expensive siblings, and honestly, we are surprised and impressed!
Our expectations were set low for this shoe, but boy were we wrong. The Brooks Revel 5 is not only one of the most comfortable shoes on the market, it’s also very fun and responsive.
And if you’re a runner looking for a solid all-rounder, buy this. Built for mid-distance runs, easy days, and athleisure, you can’t go wrong with the Brooks Revel 5.
It’s accommodating for runners of all foot shapes and sizes, thanks to its foot-conforming wrap. And it’s one of the lightweight shoe options out there. As a matter of fact, way lighter than the average.
Durable? Say no more. That’s the Brooks Revel 5. In contrast to its more expensive rivals, it has the same outsole strength (on average 79.2 HC in our lab testing), which is extraordinary for such an affordable shoe.
Breathability may be one of its defining features, but it’s also one of its downfalls in cold conditions.
Overall, the best choice for beginners and runners on a budget!
We couldn’t believe what this shoe does for $100. If that’s the maximum amount that you’re willing to spend on running shoes, get Saucony Axon.
Pulling cues from the brand’s premium Endorphin collection, the comfort and performance of Axon come impressively close to its expensive siblings.
It’s got a rocker profile that just wants to roll your foot forward as fast as possible, making the ride feel so smooth. It’s not a plush shoe: our lab tests show that it’s right at the average across running shoes (the durometer shows 21.5 HA compared to the average 22.0 HA). But the right amount of stiffness makes it feel stable and well-balanced.
The Axon is surprisingly lightweight (under 10 oz) for a shoe with an above-average heel height (35.3 mm). We applaud such a cushion-to-weight ratio.
On top of it all, this thing is going to last. With its rubber outsole being 10% stiffer than most shoes (including the pricier ones!), we expect it to serve you 400-500 miles for sure.
Don’t expect a super fun, bouncy ride from Saucony Axon. However, that’s not what this shoe is made for. It is a bargain for those who want just one trainer for daily runs and walks.