We saw many running shoes come and go this year, but these seven consistently wowed ACTIVE.com editors on the pavement, trail and more.
Want to know which pair is perfect for you? Let the Shoe Dog be your guide.
Best Men's Shoe: Mizuno Wave Rider 20$119.99 1 of 8
It should have come as no surprise that Mizuno would deliver yet another Wave Rider hit with its 20th edition of the brand's most popular running shoe—and, yet, there we were, jaws on the floor. The Wave Rider 20 was the last heavy hitter to make its way into the fall lineup, but Mizuno saved one of the very best for last.
Safe to say the new, more pliable Wave plate is a success and the U4icX foam cartridge located in the shoe's heel absorbs and softens foot strike to an extent that you have to experience to believe.
Perhaps best of all, despite the shoe's sturdy, structured build, the Wave Rider 20 maintains a fast, flexible feel, which is no small feat.
Best Women's Shoe: HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3$130 2 of 8
Super popular in the marathon and ultra marathon scene, this update of Hoka One One's popular Clifton addresses a longstanding complaint: shoe width. A wider forefoot now allows toes to splay naturally, ultimately increasing comfort on long runs.
For a shoe with a 29 mm sole, the Clifton 3 is impressively light thanks in part to its new SeamlessSpeed frame upper. Paired with the wider toebox, previous hotspots with the Clifton 2 were a nonissue on this model update.
The Meta-Rocker Geometry helped compensate for the added volume of the shoe, and we never felt limited by the excess EVA midsole cushioning. If you are a high-volume runner, the Clifton 3 remains the gold standard.
Best Trail: Pearl Izumi Trail N3$135 3 of 8
Well-respected in the trail running scene, Pearl Izumi has updated its popular stability trail shoe for a better midfoot fit and improved traction. The seamless upper combined with a wide toebox allows for a roomy yet secure feel, and the bi-lateral posts enhance stability on technical terrain.
Further adding to its trail pedigree, the ESS Forefoot rock plate protects feet from injuries associated with poor trail conditions.
The multi-directional Carbon Rubber outsole provided excellent grip on any terrain we threw at it, and the oversized footprint increased contact with the ground, eliminating slippage both up and downhill. The deep heel cup made climbing hills easier, but we did find ourselves longing for a bit more midfoot stability, especially on longer runs.
Note: Pearl Izumi shoes run notoriously small, so go up half a size for a better fit.
Best Minimalist: Brooks Hyperion$130 4 of 8
We can sum up the Hyperion in one word: Fast. This racing flat from Brooks caters to more advanced runners looking for a lightweight racing shoe with minimal protection. The minimalist design promotes a faster turnover and lighter footstrike, and the perforated stretch-woven upper conforms to your foot's profile like a second skin.
Don't let its lightweight and breathable construction fool you; we found the Hyperion to be surprisingly durable. Also, take note: The Hyperion runs narrow, but the snugness ultimately added to the sock-like feel of the shoe.
If you're looking for a 5K PR, or expecting a sub-1:40 half marathon, the Hyperion may be just what you need to elevate your next performance.
Best Triathlon Shoe: Asics GEL-Noosa Tri 11$140 5 of 8
While these shoes may be designed for triathletes, we would wear them for a run of just about any distance, even without a swim or bike ride to accompany it.
The latest version of the GEL-Noosa Tri is nearly two ounces lighter than the 10th edition, but maintains a stable and supportive ride. Built specifically for multisport athletes, the seamless upper allows you to go sockless without fear of blisters, but the breathable, perforated mesh liner is comfortable with socks on, too.
The stability shoe features gel throughout the entire midsole to cushion your gait from heel to toe. The tongue includes two vertical guidance strips that help it stay put, which was one of our favorite features.
Continuing the line's energetic vibe, the shoe offers three bright, fun patterns with glow-in-the-dark features for low-light runs.
During testing, these felt light, quick and ready to take on anything from a 5K to a half marathon.
Best Update: Nike Air Zoom Structure 20$120 6 of 8
The Nike Structure 20 is the newest kid on the block. The 20th iteration of one of Nike's most tried and true running shoes hit store shelves to much fanfare on Sept. 22.
As the name suggests, this shoe is all about stability. The upper is a Flymesh material, with a little design and a lot of structure. The interior booty provides a soft on-foot feel. Underneath the foot, you get the dynamic support through the midsole with a slanted wedge of foam that's firmer than the rest—a staple of the Nike Structure series. The honeycomb rubber on the bottom of the shoe provides excellent traction.
For those in search of significant support, the Structure 20 is an extremely high-performing option that offers extensive arch support with limited flexibility and an emphasis on motion-control.
Best Debut: Saucony Freedom ISO$160 7 of 8
Simply put: The Saucony Freedom ISO is destined to become one of the best running shoes you'll ever wear.
Anyone familiar with the company's EVERUN Cushioning is also familiar with that feeling of additional kick near the end of a run. For those unfamiliar, EVERUN feels a lot like life support for your legs, returning energy—a sort of bounce and liveliness—throughout the run, which is particularly noticeable as distance increases.
With that in mind, the Saucony Freedom ISO was engineered with a full-length EVERUN midsole—the first of its kind. The result, as you might imagine, is magic. The shoe delivers a smooth, consistent, energized ride. It is also supremely versatile, with far more flexibility than you'd expect and a largely unstructured upper that feels almost minimalist.