Whether you’re new to running or a longtime runner, the search for the perfect running shoe is a problem that all have to face. Runners have to take into consideration a dizzying number of factors: price, weight, cushioning in the midsole, support, durability of the outsole, and the material and fit of the upper. There’s also stabilization, which can help atone for under- or overpronation, and heel drop, which is the how thick the heel is compared to the toe.
We also took into consideration the look of the shoe, since the athleisure trend has become such and influential force in fashion. To save you some time, we did all the research and testing for you.
After consulting with dozens of runners, from competitive amateurs to professional marathon runners, two SI staffers set out to find the best running shoes for men. They tested them around the streets and parks of New York City, in actual races—marathons, half marathons and 10Ks—on tracks and on treadmills and in a variety of weather conditions. They also brought them to the gym for all types of workouts and wore them for general day-to-day wear.
So whether someone is looking for a fast shoe to use on race day, something for those long training sessions, a versatile shoe to use for all types of workouts or even a pair that you can take from the gym to a bar, there is something here to choose from. Below, we’ve found the best running shoes that you can buy right now, including our top pick, the Adidas UltraBoost, and more favorites such as the Nike LunarEpic Flyknit 2, New Balance Zante the Mizuno Wave Rider 20 and more from Brooks and Asics.
Our top picks
The Best:Adidas UltraBoost
The lives of Olympic athletes and Kanye West aren’t very similar, but one common ground is the Adidas UltraBoost, which doubles as the best running shoe and as fashionable footwear for a night out.
Adidas’ Boost technology has helped the German-based sportswear company close the gap on its competitors on fielding a lightweight and fast shoe. The midsole is well supported by Boost foam, which is made of many individual foam capsule molded together rather that one large piece of foam. The material and construction make for a very soft and responsive ride. The amount of cushioning does not take anything away from the speed and bounce. The UltraBoost also has a little curve toward the front, that lets runners make a quick transition from heel to toe and encourages running on the forefoot, providing a spring forward. The rubber web on the outsole of the shoe allows it to flex with each footstrike.
Elite runners opt to use the UltraBoosts for longer training runs because the reduced cushioning and lighter ride, but for casual runners, who take more time to cover longer distances, the cushioning and go-long feel of the Ultra Boosts make them a comfortable fit in training and in races.
The upper is very comfortable because of the flexibility of its Primeknit top, which takes the shape of the foot. There are some Adidas shoes with narrow toe boxes that take some getting used to, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Ultra Boost. Brand new pairs already feel broken in. One of the downsides of previous models was the thick mesh of the upper, which in warm weather made my feet hot and sweaty, which also contributed to the weight of the shoe. Of course that thicker material felt good in cooler temperatures, but either way the 3.0 has a soft feel that improved running economy by providing that energy to go longer.
The Ultra Boost comes in at about 10.9 ounces and most of that weight comes from the TPU plastic cage for the laces, which helps provide a snug fit in the arch for improved stability. (The Ultra Boost Uncaged does not have the cage, but it’s more for casual wear.) More Plastic is used in the heel, where it spells out the Ultra Boost name and lends some support to the ankle.
Brooks Launch 4
Brooks recently released the latest edition of one of its most popular running lines: The Launch 4.
The shoe looks fairly simple and traditional and weighs in at 9 ounces. The line was initially developed with the Hanson-Brooks Project, which caters to runners such as Olympic marathoner Desiree Linden, but it has expanded beyond elite runners to include everyday joggers and recreational racers.
The shoe has a 10mm heel-to-toe offset and a neutral bias. A lot of the same qualities from the Launch 3 carry over in the midsole. Brooks uses DNA midsole technology, which has a special material that adapts as force is applied, so it customizes itself to each runner’s respective gait, size and fit. The tread on the outsole of the Launch 4 is a bit different from the Launch 3, with some blown rubber that makes it thicker in certain parts of the forefoot. The rubber and the grip help a runner bounce forward with a soft feel.
The Launch 4 is part of the company’s focus on improving runners’ gaits, so there are a few similarities in the Launch 4 and the Ravenna 8. That’s especially seen in the transition zone at the bottom of the shoe. The X-shaped rubber area is designed to improve stability in the heel-to-toe proportion. It’s innovative but some have noted that the heel-to-toe flow is a little interrupted because of how stiff the rubber is.
The upper has a pretty open toe box covered in flexible mesh to make them breathable. The back of The Launch 4 has a U-shaped design to ease the shock on the heel. The shoe has a thicker tongue and thicker laces than many racing shoes, but this allows for a snug fit.
Personally, I wore a pair of the first edition Brooks Launch in the New York City Marathon and felt that they adapted well to my foot and provided a smooth trip. I’d be curious to see how the newest edition holds up for another 26.2, but test runs indicate that The Launch 4 will provide similar performance and versatility. This shoe certainly can double as a trainer and racing shoe. It even suits faster-paced workouts such as tempo runs.
Because of the light weight, they probably won’t provide as much mileage as perhaps the Brooks Ghost or the Brooks Glycerin, but previous iterations of The Launch series have held up in the 300-450 mile range, and the Launch 4 should be no exception to that. It’s definitely worth the $100 price tag for a shoe that durable, cushioned and responsive.
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3
New Balance’s Fresh Foam Zante line is one of the company’s most popular running shoes, and for good reason. They’re one of the best looking silhouettes that New Balance offers, and they’re available in a wide range of colors. Of course, looks aren’t everything, and the Zante v3 also delivers on performance.
The Fresh Foam cushioning on the Zante is firmer than the name might imply. In fact, it’s soft enough to offer support at moderate to high speeds on long runs or for racing in a half marathon, but they felt a little stiff on easy-paced and recovery runs. Keep that in mind.
New Balance built the Zante v3 for speed, and they felt best on tempo runs. Transitions were quick, and these were one of the smoothest shoes we tested.
Like the New Balance 1500v3 (more on that below), the Zante uses a blown rubber outsole. It offered great traction, and it seems as if it can withstand a lot of pavement pounding before they start to wear out. At less than $100, they’ll definitely give you your money’s worth.
New Balance didn’t have to make many changes with the latest Zante, but the new engineered-mesh upper offers a great fit with a lot of ventilation. The upper is very flexible, and the tongue is attached to an inner sleeve, providing a more secure fit.
If you’re looking for a fast, lightweight shoe that you can use for training and on race day, this is it. The affordable price tag should seal the deal.
Mizuno Wave Rider 20
The Wave Rider line has been a staple in the Mizuno catalogue for two decades. A shoe doesn’t get to version 20 unless it’s doing something right, and all it takes is one run in them to figure out why. When you slip into these shoes, you immediately notice that “barely there” feel, thanks to the unique triple mesh upper. Walking or sprinting at top speed, they feel great.
The interior of the shoe is soft and plush, and the layering of the mesh helps with breathability, as our feet managed to keep cool even after an eight-plus mile run. There’s a lot of room in the toe box, so your toes have plenty of space.
For the outsole, Mizuno went with a durable carbon rubber that seems as if it’s made to withstand some major mileage. After testing the Wave Rider 20 almost exclusively on concrete and pavement, they looked as if they’d hardly been used.
We used the Wave Rider 20 during tempo runs, for speedwork on a track, for long training runs and even during recovery runs. It can handle anything from a 5K to a half marathon. Mizuno uses their new U4icX midsole here, which is a foam compound that’s meant to offer “high rebounds” and a cushioned ride. It feels incredibly soft and running felt effortless. Transitions were smooth, and it adds some spring during toe off.
The shoe also has Mizuno a new Wave plate, which is one of the company’s signature shoe technologies. Placed in the midfoot-heel area of the midsole, the plate provides more cushioning on heel impact and redirects the force of impact away from your foot. It also helps with stability, and we felt really agile making sharp turns and movements. We had no problems dodging people and obstacles as we weaved in and out of traffic, further solidifying it as a great shoe to use on race day.
The Mizuno Wave Rider 20 has stood the test of time and can fulfill pretty much all of your running needs. And at $120, it’s fairly priced for the performance it supplies.
Nike LunarEpic Flyknit 2
There are several options for Nike running shoes, but the brand saw a lot of success with the LunarEpic Flyknit collection when it was introduced last year. In February, they unveiled the next evolution of the LunarEpic family with the LunarEpic Flyknit 2.
Nike kept all of what made the LunarEpic Flyknit Low great, with one notable change: They made the entire upper a nearly seamless piece to give it a more sock-like fit. Nike nailed the upper on the first version by combining the form fitting Flyknit upper with their Flywire technology to wrap around the foot. In the new shoe, the company improved that upper by removing the tongue and raising the back to provide more ankle support.
As expected, the shoes look great. They can go from the gym or track straight to a bar. They weigh in at around 9 ounces, thanks to the ultralight Flyknit upper combined with their Lunarlon cushioning, which is made of one of Nike’s lightest, most comfortable foam materials. Upon impact, the cushioning evenly distributes pressure on the foot, so each step feels soft and springy.
On an easy-paced run, that cushioning makes them a joy to run in, although they’re also light and padded enough that you can use them on a long run and feel no worse for the wear. And if you want to pick up the pace, they’re surprisingly stable. But keep in mind that these are geared toward neutral runners.
Nike debuted the LunarEpic Flyknit 2 at $160, but the shoe has since dropped to $140. At that price point, it’s one of the best options available. The company combined some of their best innovations and packed it all into one of our favorite running shoes to come out this year.
Introduced last year the Asics DynaFlyte has quickly become one of the company’s most popular shoes. If you need a daily trainer to rack up some miles, the DynaFlyte has you covered. Need to give your legs a break? Use them on a recovery run. They’re not a pure speed shoe, but they’re definitely up to the task if you need to go for a tempo run.
In terms of comfort, Asics’s FlyteFoam cushioning is on par with any shoes we tested. It’s soft and absorbs a lot of impact, and the use of reinforced fibers added some bounce to our step. Asics used their High Abrasion Rubber for the outsole, which seems to be very durable against pavement. It also offers good traction.
While the DynaFlytes weigh 9.3 ounces, they certainly don’t feel heavy. The upper is on the thicker side compared to many of the shoes on this list, but the material is flexible and they feel great on your feet. The shoes fit so well that you hardly notice them when you’re running. And, the DynaFlyte offers an anti-microbial sockliner if you want to run sans socks, which no other shoe on this list provides.
They offer a lot of variety in colorways, although we felt like this was a shoe we would wear strictly on runs and at the gym. But they come run-ready right out of the box, and with their cushioning and support you can use it for any type of run out there.
Adidas Adios Boost 3
Runners wearing the Adidas Adios Boost have won several major marathons and set the marathon world record of 2:02:57, so it is no surprise that the Adidas Adios Boost 3 is one of the best racing flats.
The latest edition of the shoe has a 9mm heel-to-toe offset, which is best for neutral runner or forefoot-strikers. Boost and torsion is at the heart of the midsole and helps with energy return to get you running at your race pace for longer without getting tired. The outsole features Continental rubber that is also found on tires, which helps provide a better grip on the roads and increases the cushioning from pavement pounding. There’s more of this Continental rubber on the forefoot in the Adios 3 than the 2.
The toe box is a bit more open than the Adios Boost 2 and the upper’s mesh allows for great flexibility upon foot strike. Because of that mesh, the shoes weigh in at just 8.5 ounces. Wearing them on faster training runs, we could barely feel anything on our feet but got a bounce with every step. The toe box was a bit narrow for us but with a few runs, it stretched out. Going up a size could help if you want more room.
The shoe is used by numerous elite runners, such as world record holder Dennis Kimetto, but those kinds of runners are so fast that they’re on their feet for less time during a marathon. For casual runners, the shoe may not offer as much cushioning as one would like for a race in which they could be running for three to four hours. For the common man, the Adidas Adios Boost 3 might be a better choice for 5K or half-marathon races.
The Adios Boost 3 was released in February 2016 but remains a popular choice by top road racers. It takes the best components of a trainer and a racing flat and combines it into a lightweight package for a soft ride.
Hoka One One Clifton 3
Hoka One One’s Clifton series is one of the company’s most popular running shoe lines and some small changes to the shoe’s latest model have provided welcome additions. Hoka is known for offering maximum cushioning while still managing to be super lightweight.
The Clifton 3 has a softer mesh upper than the Clifton 2, which improves breathability and how much the top bends. After the company received feedback from runners saying that the Clifton 2 was a bit narrow, the toe box received an extra 2mm of width, making it a little wider than the original Clifton. This is also a plus for those who prefer running on their forefoot.
The shoe felt broken in when we put it on for the first run. It was very durable on trails and hard pavement, which is always great for those using the shoe for trail and marathon races. You could get maybe 200-300 miles out of it for its $130 price tag. Credit that high mileage to the signature EVA foam on the midsole and low-profile treads at the bottom that are very similar to the previous models.
As the Clifton models continue to evolve, they’re not only getting more substantial but a bit heavier. Cliftons remain one of the lightest shoes on the market, but while the original came in at 8.3 ounces, the Clifton 2 jumped to 9.15 and the third iteration is the chunkiest, at 10 oz. It’s surprising because it looks big for a running shoe, but it does not feel that way. The next edition, expected to be released in Summer 2017, reportedly adds a little more weight.
The Clifton series is much like the Lord of the Rings series. The first one was fantastic and arguably the best. The second one was not as good but still got the job done. The third one has received some high praise and is closer to the first. If you were a big fan of the Clifton 1, the Clifton 3 is a return to some of the features that made that shoe great.
New Balance 1500v3
The New Balance 1500v3 has everything a lightweight running shoe should. Weighing in at approximately 8.1 ounces, it’s considered to be a racing flat. However, after testing it out on various surfaces on runs both short and long, it can just as easily double up as an everyday training shoe.
The shoes come ready right out of the box and don’t need to be broken in thanks to New Balance’s REVlite cushioning technology, which is firm yet comfortable enough to get through some tougher, longer runs. This foam compound is 30% lighter than New Balance’s foam cushioning, but it offers nearly the same amount of underfoot support. The midsole cushioning can accommodate high-mileage runs, and the shoe is responsive enough to let you push the pace for speedwork or on race day.
A blown rubber outsole covers the bottom of the shoe, and it stood up well to the wear and tear of pavement. After logging in close to 50 miles in the 1500v3, the outsoles look like they’ve barely seen any action. Out on those streets and doing sprints on the track, the outsole offered great traction and it also added some bounce to our step.
New Balance’s lightweight performance upper is dubbed FantomFit, and it’s made of a synthetic performance mesh combined with a synthetic support layer. It conforms to your feet for a comfortable fit, and it’s very flexible. There’s plenty of ventilation with the breathable open mesh, which helped to keep our feet cool during long runs, and the toe box is roomy.
The tongue has a unique design with what New Balance calls a Meta-Lock tongue. While it’s a separate piece, it has a bootie-like fit, almost giving you the illusion that the entire upper is one piece. It wraps securely around your foot, giving you a snug fit that really locks in.
New Balance didn’t make any drastic changes, so fans of the 1500v2, will be happy with the 1500v3. They appear to be built more for race day, but actual use put that notion to bed. The only downside to the 1500v3 is the colorways. There are only two available: Electric Blue with Lime Glo and Lime Glo with Alpha Orange. In other words, they skew on the bright side. Still, the 1500v3 is one of the best lightweight running shoes on the market.
Adidas AlphaBounce AMS
When Adidas released the AlphaBounce last year, the company didn’t put major marketing muscle behind it, but it quickly flew off shelves. After its surprising success, Adidas doubled down, releasing it in so many colorways that trying to settle on one will not be easy.
The AlphaBounce is one of the best looking shoes on this list. The silhouette is unlike anything else in Adidas’ lineup, and it was refreshing to see the company go in a different direction with the design. These shoes can go straight from a run to a bar.
The upper has a near-seamless construction, giving it a sock-like fit that’s increasingly popular. I slipped into the AlphaBounce with ease, and immediately fell in love with how comfortable it feels. The engineered-mesh upper is firm yet flexible. The perforation on the upper makes it appear as if it’s a well-ventilated shoe, but the mesh is on the thicker side, so after a long run they felt warmer than many of the other shoes on this list.
Instead of the Boost cushioning of the Adidas UltraBoost, Adidas went with their firmer Bounce cushioning here, which is made of molded EVA foam. While not quite as soft as the Boost cushioning, the Bounce is comfortable. As the name implies, it adds some bounce to your step, but it was not as responsive as the Boost cushioning.
Adidas has used the Adiwear outsole in a number of different shoes, and it’s proven to be fairly durable, standing up to all types of surfaces during testing. We found the traction, however, to be problematic. While wearing the AlphaBounce in wet conditions, we experienced a lot of slippage.
Also, these are the heaviest shoes on this list, at 11 ounces. But they felt lighter than that number would indicate. The toe box is long and narrow, so those with wide feet might have to go a half size up, while those with a normal or narrow width may consider going down at least half a size.
While they’re geared more for neutral runners, the AlphaBounce has a wide base and a lot of padding in the heel, so we found them to be pretty stable. The ankle support is lacking as the collar is loose, but you should be able to get through most runs with no issues. They’re not made for competitive marathons, but they’re a fine choice for shorter races or everyday training sessions.
Aimed at more casual runners, the Adidas AlphaBounce is one of the most versatile shoes we tested. If you’re a fan of the three stripes but the Adidas UltraBoost is out of your price range, consider the AlphaBounce.
An avid runner, Chris Chavez covers track and field, marathons and the Olympics for Sports Illustrated and regularly confers with professional athletes, coaches and agents within the running. He’s a high school sprinter turned marathoner in college, and he has run the Chicago, New York City and Boston Marathon. A personal goal of his is to run all six World Marathon Majors, which means Berlin, London and Tokyo remain on the bucket list.
A former short-distance sprinter, Allen Kim has traded in meters for miles. He has a number of half marathons and shorter races under his belt. He has logged well over a thousand training miles in and around the New York City area. In addition to running, Kim can regularly be found at the gym lifting weights, engaging in HIIT workouts and occasionally at a spin class.
Chavez is a men’s size 10 with an average arch and width, and Kim is a men’s size nine with an average arch and width.
The Testing Method
Chavez and Kim tested out each of these sneakers everything from easy-paced runs to full-length marathons. They were tested during runs on the streets of New York City, Brooklyn and Queens; in and around Central and McCarren Park; on treadmills, trails and track surfaces; and in actual races. They were also worn for general day-to-day wear, at the gym, while playing sports and during circuit training.
In order to get ample mileage for the respective footwear, the shoes were tested anywhere from 25 to 50 miles (some significantly more). The average running pace was anywhere from 6:45 to 8:30 minutes per mile.