The best running shoes are the ones that fit your feet, and they’re hard to find. But if you’re serious about racing, you need to get the right pair. Here’s what to look for.
What Makes a Good Running Shoe?
A good shoe is one that fits your foot well. A bad shoe is one that’s uncomfortable or poorly constructed. The best running shoes are made from high-quality materials in a way that provides support for your foot and allows it to move naturally — but how do you know which ones are good?
Best Shoes For Race
The Nike Zoom Pegasus 35 might not be the flashiest shoe on the market, but it has an impressive pedigree as an all-around distance runner’s shoe. It’s a middle-of-the-road option for someone who wants something that works well at every distance.
Best Shoes For Racing
There are shoes you wear for comfortable, slow miles. And then there are shoes you wear for racing. Those in the latter category need to be lightweight, responsive and give you that little edge on the big day.
The following all contain carbon-fibre plates as well as being super-lightweight for runners who care about every gram.
The best race day running shoes 2022:
1.Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next Percent – Blue/Green-Black
MORE FROM RUNNER’S WORLD
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
The go-to shoe for elite marathoners and enthusiastic amateurs alike, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that the Nike Vaporfly Next% has re-written the distance-running history books. A combination of super-responsive ZoomX foam and a carbon plate have been propelling athletes to break countless records while wearing these, and studies suggest that non-elites may see even bigger gains. Simply put, if you’re serious about running a new PB – and you have deep enough pockets to afford these – then there’s no better race-day choice.
2. Adidas Adizero Boston 10
Weight: 286g (M), 262g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
This is not just for marathons – it’s an all-rounder, with the right balance of long-run cushioning and speed-day snap. The Boston contains a full-length midsole of Lightstrike, a lighter and firmer EVA-based foam. In addition it uses carbon fibre rods for a responsive, snappy ride that provides more energy with each stride.
‘This feels different to previous iterations of the stripped-down shoe with a cult following,’ says RW tester Jane McGuire. ‘It’s heavier and the stack height is higher than the Boston 9, but it’s far from being marshmallowy – something fans will love. Like the Nike Pegasus 38, this great all-rounder can be worn for long runs and speedier sessions alike.’
3. Hoka One One Rocket X
Weight: 210g (unisex)
Heel/toe drop: 5mm
A shoe so good it scored maximum marks in Runner’s World’s group-testing process. The Rocket X hits the midground between speed and control. It’s also extremely light, is low-slung, fits well and features a slim carbon-fibre plate. The RW team were big fans, with deputy editor Joe Mackie commenting: ‘This is a seriously fast shoe. The rocker and carbon plate combine to create a springy, snappy ground contact that feels like it’s giving you a propulsive push every time your foot hits the floor.’ Editor-in-chief Andy Dixon added: ‘They also feel quite stable – not like you’re perched on the high stack height of a Nike Vaporfly, and this gives a feeling of confidence to really push the pace.’ If you’re after a pair of race-day speedsters, your search is over.
4. Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
Weight: 224g (M), 198g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
This won our Best In Test award, and proved equally adept on long-distance runs as it did on speed workouts. You’ll find a full-length nylon plate inside Saucony’s PWRRUN PB midsole, which provides propulsion without the ‘rocker’ feeling experienced in some carbon shoes, meaning you can plant your foot down with confidence. As RW editor-in-chief Andy Dixon put it, ‘Overall, it’s a superb all-rounder, a great option for those who only want one pair of running shoes to cover all their bases.’
5. New Balance Fuelcell Elite v2
Weight: 268g (M), 221g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
A great-looking shoe designed for speed, the Elite V2 provides the pace and pop you need for race days due to the midsole and full-length carbon fibre plate, which has the same rigidity as the previous version, but at a steeper angle. This, paired with the higher toe spring, gives the Elite V2 more of a rocker effect, although not quite as pronounced as other ‘super shoes’. ‘For me, it feels very similar to theFuelCell TC, but offers you more cushioning and more stability on the corners,’ says tester Jane McGuire. ‘I’m a huge fan of the Elite V2 and love how, unlike some shoes, it’s not just built for logging speedy miles. It feels comfortable and stable during both warm-ups and cool-downs.’
6. Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%
Weight: 279g (M) 225g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 10mmIf you want to make gains in your personal bests, the Zoom Tempo Next% is the shoe for you. It’s designed as an everyday – relatively speaking – version of the Alphafly Next% and features a carbon composite plate, which is softer than the plate in previous shoes. It also features two midsole foams as well as air pods under the metatarsal heads to offer yet more bounce. Testers were concerned that with such a large stack height (46mm in the heel, 36mm in the forefoot, as measured by RW), the shoe would be unstable laterally, but the reinforced knitted mesh locks the foot down well. Some testers found it narrow in the midfoot and too wide in the toebox, but overall it’s an impressively fast shoe.
7. On CloudBoom Echo
Weight: 220g (M), 190g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 9mm
On is positioning the CloudBoom as designed for running fast at distances over 10K, especially marathons. It’s lightweight and features On’s trademark stylish design with a carbon plate (what On calls a ‘Speedboard’) and medium levels of cushioning to see you through longer distances on the road. It’s stripped down to the bare essentials and as a result our reviewers felt that the lacing system and tongue felt a little budget in relation to the hefty price tag. The Speedboard felt stiff, but once you are running you can’t help but feel a little faster – hills seemed easier, and flats opened up a little more. The overall feeling was that the CloudBoom Echo did offer something extra over longer distance.
8. The North Face Vectiv
Weight: 288g (M), 247g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 6mm
Is a carbon fibre plate in a trail shoe worth it? We’re still on the fence on that one – unless you’re running a relatively flat 10K trail race on hard-packed surfaces it won’t make much difference to your PB. However, as a lightweight trail shoe, this does the job and is a good entry into the trail shoe market for North Face. Aside from the unusual choice of white for a shoe that you will be putting through the mud on a day-to-day basis, testers felt that the rocker shape of the midsole works well on flats and downhills but caused problems going uphill. A shoe that has potential – especially if you can find it at a reduced price.
9. Brooks Hyperion Elite
Weight: 198g (M), 153g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
The majority of faster shoes tend to follow the narrow and streamlined template. The Hyperion Elite is different. It has an 8mm heel drop, which is high for a performance shoe, and the unisex last (the outline of the shoe) is surprisingly wide, too. It features a full-length carbon-fibre plate in the midsole and this, along with the hefty price tag, is a clear sign it is intended as a competitor to the Nike NEXT%. (US runner Des Linden won the 2018 Boston Marathon wearing a blacked-out prototype of this shoe).
It might look a little on the large side, but Brooks has taken care to keep the weight to the minimum. It’s achieved this by offering an outsole that is just 2mm thick; reduced padding around the heel; a new midsole foam called DNA Zero, which, the brand says, is 45 per cent lighter than its signature BioMogo DNA foam; and a featherlight upper made from 25 per cent nylon. The overall effect is thrilling but, crucially, controlled. The carbon plate gives real zip and bounce, but not at the cost of lateral wobble or an out-of-control sensation that can blight similar shoes. Bust these out on race day and watch that PB time tumble.
10. Salomon S/Lab Speed 2
Salomon S/LAB SPEED 2 Trail Running Shoes
Weight: 265g (unisex)
Heel/toe drop: 4mm
The S/Lab range of Salomon running shoes is designated ‘for athletes’. That doesn’t mean only those who are paid to run for a living, but anyone who has reached the point where the right gear offers marginal gains. If this is you, rest assured that the feedback and knowledge of many of Salomon’s athletes, including Kilian Jornet, has gone into the design of these shoes. They’re a slim fit and feature prominent, chevron-shaped outsole lugs that coped admirably with the worst sludge the South Downs, the Peak District and the Lake District could throw at them. Pleasingly, the mud and muck didn’t get stuck between the lugs, either.
An internal sleeve not only feels lush but hugs the foot in place, so you don’t get any lateral sliding inside the shoe when changing direction quickly on the trails. And, finally, the lace-lock system (essentially, pulling a toggle tight rather than lacing) means runners did not have to worry about trying to unpick muddy laces to retie them. Be warned, though: there’s little cushioning on these, so keep them for race day and break them in thoroughly before you try properly putting the burners on.
11. Asics Evoride
Evoride Mens Running Shoes
Weight: 225g (M), 210g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 5mm
It’s not often the third part of a trilogy is better than the original, but that’s the case here. The Evoride follows on from the the MetaRide and the GlideRide in featuring Asics’ Guidesole rocker design (similar to the rocker – curved outsole – Hoka shoes have). The reason for the Evoride’s success is the reduced weight and increased responsiveness. It’s designed to be the speediest of the three shoes in the range and it’s when you are moving fast that the Guidesole comes into its own, delivering a smooth and speedy ride, according to our testers. It’s not meant to be an out-and-out racer, more of an everyday shoe for quicker runners and sub-elites – but the vast majority of consumers would use this only for faster runs such as tempo and interval sessions.
Elsewhere, grip is fine in the dry but struggled a little in the wet, slipping slightly on toe-off. And for such a stripped-down shoe, Asics has made a bit of a boo-boo by not applying the same methodology to the tongue, which is too thick for a shoe of these dimensions. It makes the feeling pleasingly cushioned on the top of the foot but some may find there are issues tying laces tightly.
12. On Cloudflow
Weight: 235g (M), 235g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 6mm
This second version of the Swiss brand’s light, neutral road shoe gets almost everything right. The midsole, featuring 18 ‘pods’, On’s proprietary Helion foam and a curved heel unit for a smoother transition, offered an excellent balance of cushioning and responsiveness. It also provided good traction, even in wet conditions. Tweaks to the breathable mesh upper, with strategically positioned overlays and a new lacing configuration, mean tall testers, regardless of gait pattern or foot size, found a fit that felt comfortable and secure – a big plus in a shoe that’s designed for fast running. The only minor issue was the laces, which are thinner than traditional ones – one tester found them too long, while another found the material ‘slippery’ and tricky to tie and untie. The pods also collected a lot of mud and grit when testers went off road. But, in general, the shoe impressed, converting runners who were new to the brand. It is worth a serious look for faster sessions or racing.
13. Under Armour Hovr Machina 2
Weight: 290g (M), 231g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mmThis features the UA’s Hovr cushioning wrapped in Energy Web which gets a boost from Pebax plate in the forefoot. Testers reported that the combo provided a good balance between cushioned softness and lively energy return on longer runs. They loved the soft Hovr foam midsole, which provided ample heel cushioning on longer runs. ‘The standout qualities of this shoe are fit and comfort: the upper is roomy and breathable, the ankle collar has plenty of foam around it and the big wodge of Hovr midsole underfoot offers ample cushioning,’ says Andy Dixon. ‘It doesn’t feel like a particularly poppy or responsive ride, but will be a good option for those looking for a capable everyday trainer to cruise through the miles.’