Picking a true vegan running shoe can be really tricky. The market is overloaded with running shoes that are not suitable for vegan runners as countless shoes are made primarily from animal-derived materials.
There are a lot of things to look out for as a vegan runner looking for that perfect fit, which doesn’t involve cruelty to animals. Some brands are labeled as nonleather but they also used glues derived from animal bones or varnishes extracted from beetles.
RunRepeat is here to make it easier for you to find the perfect pair of vegan running shoes. We’ve tested 100+ running shoes and selected our top picks in five categories from best on the road and trail, to budget-friendly and most popular options.
Our goal is to give you the most up-to-date and honest reviews on the best running shoes for vegans available on the market today. We get down to the nitty-gritties of each pair of shoes before we select the best among them. A testing lab is set up for our series of comprehensive reviews to closely examine each model to its essential parts.
Here are our guiding principles to achieve our goal:
We buy all shoes for testing with our own money. This is to make sure we’re totally free from bias and preserve the integrity of our process.
We cut each shoe into pieces to examine its parts and validate their authenticity. We then weigh and measure 30+ parameters of the shoe, from the materials, used, breathability, cushioning, and many others.
We test the performance of the shoes in training and racing environments. We have runners run in them for at least 30 or more miles and give us their personal feedback.
We gather more useful information from experts in vegan shoes and actual users.
To conclude the test, each model is assigned a score from 0 to 100 using our CoreScore system. The top-rated vegan running shoes in five categories are featured on this list.
After putting it to the test, we can confidently say that the Hoka Bondi 7 screams comfort! It's highly cushioned and soft, we just couldn't get enough of it in long-distance recovery runs. It runs as smooth as a butter! And if there was a heaven for the feet, this is it right here. If there's a downside, it's that all its plushness comes at the expense of durability.
The Hoka Mach 4 is what we consider a do-it-all daily running shoe that shines in medium to medium/fast days. It's touted as a fast shoe, but we didn't find it speed-inspiring. It's light and nimble, but not mushy, making it a shoe that's comfortable enough for daily runs and capable when the pace is pushed. What's surprising is that this Hoka doesn't skimp on padding, but it's one of our ultralight shoes!
The Endorphin Pro is a shoe that literally pushed us to paces! It's smooth-rolling and explosive - it's easy to set/beat PRs in this shoe. Despite it being speed-oriented, we never had issues with discomfort, even in high-mileage runs. A reminder: this shoe is a race-exclusive speed monster. If you run slow, or if you want it to double as your training shoe, consider something else.
Heavily padded, cushioned, and keeps the feet's motions in check, we've never been more stable than the Gaviota 3 from Hoka! With all the cushion and support it provides, this motion control running shoe not only suits overpronators but also heavy runners. If there's a stability version of the Bondi, it's THIS. Ultimately, it's a shoe meant for daily runs rather than fast, uptempo paces.
The Merrell Nova 2 is a traditionally designed trail running shoe, with less flair than many modern alternatives, but versatility and grip enough to prove its position as one of the best trail running shoes for beginners.
The Merrell Moab Flight is the Toyota RAV4 of shoes. It looks decent, can handle moderate dirt trails, and is comfortable enough to wear in many applications. While it is not the fastest or the most aggressive off-road, it has enough features that warrant consideration if you are looking for an all-around good quality trail shoe.
Whether it's a long-distance or recovery shoe you're after, we couldn't recommend the Clifton 8 enough! It's a literal couch to the foot, keeping it cozy and stable. The ride is also buttery smooth, you will roll through seamlessly. And with all the cushion it gives, it's not at all heavy (a shocker really). Overall, the Clifton is a literal bag of treats that comes at a moderate price!
As the women's counterpart of the Nova 2, the Merrell Antora 2 offers a sneaker-light comfort and confidence-boosting performance on both light and rugged trails. It has a durable grippy outsole for uphill and downhill runs, and an underfoot cushioning uniquely tailored for female athletes. With its protective and stable platform, this trail running shoe won't disappoint on long-distance and slow-paced runs.
If there's one thing that stood out to us when we tested the Arahi 5, it's that it's SUPER plush. It's a max-cushioned trainer that's built for recovery days and the long haul on the road, and we are pleased that it does its job so well! Even better, it's the embodiment of "looks can be deceiving" - it's big and clunky, but truly, it disappears on foot!
The Nova 2 GTX from Merrell is a trail runner that serves a versatile purpose. Whether you're going for your daily trail runs or hikes, this shoe can do it for you. For a waterproof shoe, the Merrell Nova 2 GTX is a good choice. But as a trail shoe, in general, it's simply lagging behind its competitors, especially given its poor life span.
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.