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Picture the scene: You've got your earbuds in, your favorite playlist queued, and you're headed out the door ready to get your runner's high. But your shoes just aren't as comfortable as they used to be. You try to ignore it like you usually do, but it gets harder and harder.
The Best Running Shoe Brands - Our Top Picks
- Xero Shoes
- On Running
- New Balance
If that sounds like you, you need a new pair of running shoes. No matter where you run—outside or on a treadmill, in cold weather or warm—a good pair of running shoes makes all the difference for your training. Finding a pair of shoes that is right for your feet can help you avoid injury, feel more comfortable, and sometimes even correct mistakes in your stride that you would not have otherwise noticed.(1)
These are my favorites based on my experience—and that of our expert panel of fitness experts, including marathon runners—with the quality I know you can expect. There are other good ones out there, but in my opinion, these 14 dominate the leaderboard.
Another brand that has worldwide recognition is adidas, especially for their huge line of soccer shoes. But as a company, adidas is built on partnering with professionals in a given field when they design their shoes. This philosophy extends to their running shoes and makes them an excellent option.
The key thing that sets adidas' running shoes apart from other brands is the BOOST technology. The BOOST tech makes up the midsole of the shoe, absorbing the impact as you stride and giving your foot a springy, supportive surface.
NOBULL is a brand you may be unfamiliar with if you've never tried CrossFit. Their weightlifting and performance gear line is very popular because it doubles as athleisure wear when you're done with the workout. But as the name implies, the brand is not focused on any of the extras, just performance.
NOBULL's running shoes are relatively new compared to other brands, but the company is bringing the same philosophy and quality to the running shoe models. The thing to keep in mind with NOBULL is the rubber. The sole and outsole of these shoes are going to be one of the most durable out there.
- GO RUN Archfit Balance 3
- GO RUN Archfit Razor 4
- Elite Max Cushioning Elite 2.0
- Max Cushioning Hyper Burst
- Max Cushioning Hyper Burst Synergy
Skechers has been in the shoe game since the early '90s, which is pretty young compared to brands like adidas, but impressive nonetheless, considering how well-known this brand has become over the last 20 years. Skechers offers several shoes for different outdoor activities with evolving technology for comfort and longevity.
Skechers GO RUN series comes in three categories—road, trail, and competitive running—and features their patented technologies such as HYPER BURST® and HYPER ARC™. HYPER BURST® cushions the midsole to keep it highly responsive and lightweight, while HYPER ARC™ adapts to your stride for a smoother transition wherever you run. As for traction, Skechers uses Goodyear® rubber for their outsoles for added durability and stability.
If you've been running for a while, you know how important it is to have good support, and for this, Hoka is one of the best. All of their shoes are performance-focused, from shape to materials and construction. If you're a seasoned runner, you'll feel the difference immediately.
Hoka is a bit more expensive on average than some other brands, but I would put their shoes up against most other brands for durability and performance. I've been using the same pair of Hokas for over 5 years now, and the performance has not dropped.
- Trail Runners - Women's
- Trail Runners - Men's
- Tree Dasher Relay - Women's
- Tree Dasher Relay - Men's
- Wool Flyer Mizzles
What sets Allbirds apart from many shoe brands is their commitment to sustainability and creating shoes that can cut their carbon footprint in half by 2025. Allbirds' ultimate goal is zero by 2030. They're accomplishing this impressive feat through the use of renewable materials—like wool, TENCEL™ Lyocell from tree fiber, and a patented tree/wool combo called Trino®—that is naturally sourced or recycled.
As for the shoes, they're light and breathable, with a sock-like one-piece upper that hugs your foot and prevents debris from slipping into your shoes while you navigate the trails. Allbirds also have comfort features like a supportive castor bean contoured insole, a Sweetfoam® sugarcane midsole, and an outsole made from natural rubber. Another excellent perk of owning Allbirds runners is that they're machine washable.
Kuru is a brand that is passionate about pain relief, and this dedication is best represented by its innovative KURUSOLE technology. KURUSOLE is more contoured than the average fat pad and cradles your heel to help cushion and prevent pain. Kuru also specializes in shoes to potentially help relieve pain from plantar fasciitis, offer elevated arch support and provide orthopedics that are less cumbersome and don't need extra inserts.
Further, Kuru running shoes have a flexible and soft seamless upper—called NOVAKNIT—with a secure sock-like that contours to your foot and allows for easier on and off. The patented KURUCLOUD midsole and rubber outsole round out this eco-friendly shoe for a breathable and resilient running experience without feeling weighed down by excess cushioning. Kuru is a more expensive shoe but is well worth the investment for runners who need extra orthopedic support.
Barefoot (or natural) running is growing in popularity due to its reputation for promoting a forefoot strike pattern which may help with injury prevention, though more research is needed.(2) If you're interested in the idea of barefoot running but don't want to fully commit to the harsh reality of running without protection, Xero Shoes has got you covered.
Xero Shoes are minimalist in design and engineered to mimic the feeling of running shoeless without the wear-on-tear on your feet. They're also lower to the ground to be flexible enough to allow you to feel the terrain as you move and respond to the natural elements. Xero shoes also have removable sock-liners for an even more down-to-Earth experience, along with a breathable knit upper and FeelTrue® rubber sole (which comes with a 5,000-mile warranty) for extra traction.
Nike has been a juggernaut for basketball shoes and football cleats for quite a while. It is unlikely that Nike will change their focus completely from those two sports, but as the brand has grown they've expanded and released shoe lines in almost any sport you can think of, including running.
What we love about Nike in general is what makes their running shoes great: they are innovative. Nike puts a lot of effort into designing their shoes' style and construction, always making changes to give you a different experience while promising high performance.
Reebok is another brand with impressive longevity in the shoe industry. When they're not refreshing their vintage models, Reebok is finding new ways to innovate quality footwear across several athletic disciplines. Reebok's running shoes, such as the popular Floatride series, are especially cutting-edge as they play with elements like support and shape for a marathon-worthy running experience.
From lightweight to heavily cushioned, Reebok has a range of running shoes that can go from the trails to the track. They're also made from 30% recycled materials and offer a few budget-friendly options.
Many of the brands on our list focus on cushioning, and that's because the industry is trending in that direction. But sometimes people prefer a firm shoe, especially if you're running on trails or other uneven terrain.
Salomon delivers firm support that can be more responsive than other brands on the list because your foot feels the impact. That's not to say there is no cushion on some models, but as a general rule, the thing that Salomon delivers is control.
On is a Swiss brand that you may have never heard of, which is a shame because they make excellent running shoes. The first thing you'll notice when you see On running shoes is the look of the sole. It's not the aesthetic for everyone, but the performance impact is big.
What you're seeing is a patented Cloud technology that allows the sole to act more like a spring than a pad. Where other running shoe brands are using thick foam, On's cloud soles are light and absorb more shock than any other shoe. You'll feel a difference.
You may not think of New Balance as a running shoe brand, but hear me out. They've found a niche with people who need medium to strong support for their feet, and they're delivering. The Fresh Foam is one of the most comfortable cushions you'll find for running shoes, but it's also supportive.
New Balance also has a naturally wider toe box than other shoes, plus all of their running shoe models are available in wide sizes. If you struggle with foot pain while you run from shoes being too tight or not supportive enough, New Balance is for you.
ASICS is another brand that has shoes in a lot of different categories, but their specialty is running. Where other brands rely on thick foams for cushioning, ASICS uses a gel technology that absorbs shock, especially in the heel. This technology spreads vibrations and shock around the foot.
In fact, ASICS has been using gel since the 1980s, making it an innovator in the running shoe world. These shoes are well-designed, real-world-tested, and very well-reviewed almost anywhere you look.
Notable Models: Brooks
Notable Models: Saucony
Amazon carries several top running shoe brands at competitive prices, but their selection of Brooks and Saucony are the reason I've included them on this list. Brooks is a different kind of brand than some of the others on the list because they put all of their focus on making running shoes. This focus has paid off because they are able to compete with the larger brands and stay at the top of the running shoe category.
What you're getting with Brooks shoes is durability. Scan the reviews, good and bad, of the models and you'll see durability as a theme over and over again. Brooks won't wow you with their designs, but they're supportive and comfortable enough to give you years of running before needing a new pair.
Saucony is one of the oldest running shoe brands in the world. Its roots go all the way back to the 1800s, and for the last 40-odd years the brand has focused on two things: lightweight material and a whole lot of cushion.
Saucony shoes are some of the most cushioned running shoes you'll be able to find. The mesh on many of Saucony's running shoe models is made of FORMFIT material which feels snug on your foot, and the sole is curved to encourage a good strike pattern as you run.
How I Chose the Best Brands of Running Shoes
I compiled this list of the best running shoe brands based on my—along with the ACTIVE expert panel's—experience with many of these brands. I looked at sports brands that were well-known and popular in the running industry, had positive word-of-mouth from reviewers, or offered something new and innovative to help improve the overall user experience. Running shoes can vary in price and materials, so I also tried to provide both cost-effective and sustainable options for differing budgets and preferences.
How to Choose the Right Running Shoe Brand for You
You'll probably notice that almost all running shoes are made of some combination of mesh material with a rubber sole. But what you need to look at in terms of material is what each brand is using that makes it unique.
For example, On uses Cloud technology in the sole, adidas uses BOOST, and so on. If you find the materials that support your running style then you'll be able to narrow your search pretty easily.
We wear shoes to protect our feet, but you have to be comfortable when you're running. And comfort is not just about whether you like the experience of wearing a shoe or not. If you're feeling discomfort, your body is trying to tell you something, and often ignoring discomfort can lead to injury.(3)
One of the best things to consider when you're shopping for a new pair of running shoes is the ratings. Check out what real customers are saying, because the best brands are well-reviewed no matter where you look.
FAQs About Running Shoe Brands
What running shoes do the best runners wear?
The best runners in the world wear a variety of shoes, depending on which fits their needs best. However, the most common brands you'll see during races are Nike, adidas, Brooks, and Saucony.
Which running shoe brand is most durable?
Durability is difficult to measure because a lot of factors play into durability. But based on a scan of user reviews, Brooks is one of the most durable running shoe brands.
Do expensive running shoes make a difference?
Expensive running shoes won't magically make you faster, but as a general rule, you get what you pay for with trusted brands. Hoka, for example, is a relatively expensive brand but their shoes are very durable and will give you excellent support.
My Final Takeaway
There's nothing wrong with brand loyalty, especially if that brand consistently offers excellent quality options with style and comfort to suit all your needs. The brands on our list were chosen for more than just recognition; these are running shoe brands that have longevity (some even predate the early 1900s) and are constantly updating their shoe tech with new and innovative ways of providing comfort and performance. If you've come to this list because you're looking to shake it up with your footwear, I'm sure one of the brands on our list has just the shoe you're looking for for your next trail run or event.
ACTIVE.com's editorial team relies on the knowledge and experience of fitness and wellness experts including competitive athletes, coaches, physical therapists, nutritionists, and certified trainers. This helps us ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. Collectively, the team has spent countless hours researching equipment, gear, and recovery tools in order to create the most accurate, authentic content for our readers. Customer satisfaction is also a key part of our review process, which is why we only feature products that are highly rated.
- Alexandra Ginos, MBA, RD, CSP, nutritionist and fitness expert
- Roger Lockridge, 20 year fitness industry expert
- Ali Nolan, marathon runner
- David J. Sautter, NASM CPT, FNS, PES; ACE SES, personal trainer and fitness expert
- Cory Kessler, CPT, FNC, health and wellness writer
- Daniel Preiato, RD, CSCS, sports nutrition expert
- Erin Chancer, CNC, expert health and wellness writer
- Katie Simpson, CPT, health and wellness writer
- Dr. Jacob Wilson, PhD, CSCS*D, training expert
- Lindsay Boyers, functional nutritionist
- Elspeth Huyett, cycling expert
- Gaby McPherson, nutrition expert
- Krisitne Golden, triathlete
- Lindsey Cooke, CNT, nutrition therapist
- Karla Tafra, nutritionist and yoga instructor
- Rachael Gonzalez, health and wellness writer
- Sosha Lewis, certified sleep coach, health and wellness writer, CrossFit veteran
- Frieda Johnson, expert health and wellness editor
- Malisoux, L., and Theisen, D. Can the "Appropriate" Footwear Prevent Injury in Leisure-Time Running? Evidence Versus Beliefs. J Athl Train. 2020 Dec 1;55(12):1215-1223. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-523-19. PMID: 33064799; PMCID: PMC7740063.
- Altman, A.R., and Davis, I.S. Barefoot running: biomechanics and implications for running injuries. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012 Sep-Oct;11(5):244-50. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31826c9bb9. PMID: 22965347.
- Edouard, P. (February 13, 2018) I choose 'no injury'. Using the warning signal of pain as an overuse injury prevention strategy. British Journal of Sports Medicine (BMJ). Retrieved June, 2023, from https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2018/02/13/choosing-not-injured-using-warning-signal-pain-overuse-injury-prevention-strategy/