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Best running shoes 2021: the best men’s and women’s running shoes to buy

Best running shoes
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

While the best running shoes will be the ones that fit you best and suit your training needs. But when shopping for shoes online or heading to your local running store, the choices can be overwhelming. 

Do you need a neutral or a support shoe? Should you go for a Brooks shoe for your first half-marathon, or opt for the Nike shoes your running partner has? To alleviate the confusion and help you find the best running shoe for your needs, we’ve hand-picked the best men’s and women’s running shoes to buy right now. All of these running shoes have been tested on the run and each pair has covered at least 20 miles on the road, trails and treadmill. 

What are the best running shoes? 

If you’re looking for an affordable pair of running shoes that will get you through easy runs and speed workouts, the Hoka One One Rincon 3 is a great choice. At $115, the Rincon 3 is a good deal cheaper than some of the other shoes on this list, and it’s a great all-rounder for runners who only want to buy one pair of shoes. 

If you’re after a pair of the best Nike running shoes, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 is a brilliant all-rounder. After a serious overhaul with the Pegasus 37, the Pegasus 38 contains Nike's React foam, which is lightweight and reactive, making the shoe suitable for long, easy runs as well as shorter, snappier miles. 

If it’s a pair of women’s running shoes you’re looking for, the Brooks Ghost 14 is an extremely popular choice. It’s a highly versatile, workhorse of a shoe that can handle daily miles and marathons. Brooks uses 3D fit printing to slightly tweak the shoe’s upper, conforming to the differences between men’s and women’s feet, making this a super-soft, comfortable running shoe for most female runners.

Read on for all our picks for the best running shoes.

The best running shoes you can buy today

Best running shoes: Hoka One One Rincon 3

(Image credit: Hoka One One )

1. Hoka One One Rincon 3

The best affordable running shoe

Weight: 210g (M), 176g (W)
Drop: 5mm
Reasons to buy
+Extremely affordable +A brilliant all-rounder, best suited for runners who only want one pair of shoes +A fast, snappy shoe 
Reasons to avoid
-The firmness of the Rincon 3 won't be for everyone 

It goes without saying, you don’t have to own multiple pairs of running shoes to be a runner. While some people might invest in multiple pairs for different sessions, if you’re new to running or are on a budget, you’ll still be able to build fitness and train for races with only one pair in your closet. Plus, if you’re looking for that one pair, the Hoka One One Rincon 3 is a brilliant shoe to invest in. 

A seriously versatile shoe, the Rincon 3 is lightweight enough to wear on faster sessions, but the EVA midsole is cushioned enough to run for miles, should you want to. The third iteration of the Rincon is lighter and more breathable than previous versions, while still having the rocker-geometry that rolls the foot forward for a faster, springier toe-off. At $115, it’s also much more affordable than other running shoes on this list. 

The only downsides we could find here were that the EVA midsole isn’t the plushest, and if you’re looking for that classic Hoka cushion, you might find it a little on the harder side. That said, if you’re looking for an everyday running shoe that’s snappier than say, the Nike Pegasus or Ghost 14, this is a brilliant choice. 

best running shoes: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Future)

2. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

Best Nike running shoes

Weight: 275 g (M), 235 g (W)
Drop: 10 mm
Reasons to buy
+A great all-rounder +Durable +Available in a number of different colorways 
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most responsive shoe 

If you’re a fan of the Swoosh, choosing a pair of the best Nike running shoes can be a tricky choice. While we’re a huge fan of the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% for race day, we know not every runner wants to race, which is why the Pegasus 38 sneaked into the top spot here. 

It was a close call between this and the Nike Invincible Run, which is also a brilliant everyday shoe, but when it comes down to it, the Pegasus is just more versatile. It's got a good amount of React foam in the midsole for a lightweight, snappy feel underfoot, without being overly springy and leaving you feeling unstable on the run. The Pegasus is a workhorse - you can wear it for a marathon,  your first 5K, and pretty much everything in between. 

For a shoe to be on its 38th iteration, it must be doing something right and with the Pegasus, you're buying reliability. The 10mm drop means you won't feel the ground underneath your feet too much, but equally, you won't feel like you're running in platforms. The cushioned tongue won't cause uncomfortable hot spots or blisters, and the forefoot of the shoe is high and wide, so prevent your toes from rubbing. 

The downside with the Pegasus is that some speedier runners might find it a little 'meh' for tempo sessions and that old school Pegasus fans might not love the introduction of the React foam into the shoe, but if you don't fall into either category, it's well worth the investment.  

Best running shoes: Brooks Glycerin 19

(Image credit: Brooks)

3. Brooks Glycerin 19

Best Brooks running shoe

Weight: 289g (M), 255g (W)
Drop : 10mm
Reasons to buy
+A super-plush, cushioned running shoe +The 19 has more foam than previous iterations 
Reasons to avoid
-Not a very fast shoe

Known as being Brooks’ ‘softest shoe’, the Glycerin is one of the most popular running shoes around, and for good reason. The Glycerin contains Brooks’ ‘DNA LOFT cushioning’ which is designed to be soft and plush underfoot and the 19th iteration of the shoe contains more foam than ever before. This shoe is extremely comfortable and is often a popular choice for beginners and marathon runners alike. 

Yet don’t let all this talk of soft foam deceive you: the Glycerin is still snappy when it needs to be and can pick up the pace if you want to push. It’s a brilliant all-rounder and is really designed for comfortable running. Available in a number of different colorways, the Glycerin looks good too, hence its wide-ranging appeal with runners of all ages and abilities. 

The main downside here is that the Glycerin isn’t the fastest or lightest shoe on this list, so if you’re looking to run a personal best, you might want a snappier shoe. That said, if your goal is to get going, or get around the course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comfortable shoe to do this in. 

Best running shoes: Brooks Ghost 14

(Image credit: Brooks )

4. Brooks Ghost 14

Best running shoe for women

Weight : 281g (M), 255g (W)
Drop : 12mm
Reasons to buy
+Brooks' first carbon-neutral shoe +Available in three different shoe widths +Cheaper and snappier than the Glycerin
Reasons to avoid
-Faster runners might struggle with this shoe 

It’s a long-running myth in the shoe world that men’s and women’s running shoes are just different colors. The differences might not be obvious to the naked eye, but women’s shoes are designed for a woman’s foot, which is often smaller and narrower than a man’s. If we look at Brooks as an example, the standard size for women is a B width, whereas the standard for men is a D.  

The Ghost 14 is a brilliant shoe for all genders, but we’ve given it the top spot for women here because of tweaks in the fitting to make it extremely comfortable, even on testers with higher arches. Brooks running shoes are known for being plush and comfortable, and the Ghost 14 ticks those boxes, especially on long runs. The Ghost 14 is also available in narrow, regular, wide, and extra-wide widths, which makes finding the perfect fit even easier. 

Like the Glycerin 19, the Ghost 14 uses Brooks’ ‘DNA LOFT’ cushioning for a plush underfoot experience, but the Ghost is slightly firmer, making it better suited for shorter, faster running than the Glycerin. The Ghost is also $20 cheaper than the Glycerin, making it slightly more affordable.

Best running shoes: Asics Gel Kayano 28

(Image credit: Asics )

5. Asics Gel Kayano 28

Best Asics running shoe

Weight: 309g (M), 258g (W)
Drop : 10mm (M), 13mm (W)
Reasons to buy
+Offers traditional support for overpronators +Very durable
Reasons to avoid
-Can be tight across the midfoot 

If you’re looking for a classic stability shoe, you absolutely can’t go wrong with the Asics Gel Kayano. Designed for overpronators (runners whose feet collapse inwards when they run), the Gel Kayano has a stiff medial post that runs along the inside of the shoe to provide stability, as well as extra cushioning in the midsole to provide more arch support. 

The 28th version of the Kayano is just as reliable as ever, but Asics has added gender-specific structural differences for more personalized support, as well as their FF blast mid foam for a smoother, snappier toe-off. Where previous versions of the Kayano felt heavy and cumbersome, this is a brilliantly responsive shoe that suits all distances. 

It goes without saying not every runner will need this structured support in their shoe, so it’s a good idea to get your gait checked professionally at a running shop before investing. Asics also make a ‘lite’ version of the Kayano, for runners who only pronate slightly, or just need a little extra stability in the final miles of a race.

Best running shoes: Brooks Catamount

(Image credit: Brooks)

6. Brooks Catamount

Best trail running shoe

Weight: 264g (M), 249.5g (W)
Drop: 6mm
Reasons to buy
+Super speedy and snappy thanks to DNA Flash midsole +Breathable upper 
Reasons to avoid
-The outsole isn't grippy enough for all surfaces 

It’s not the cheapest trail shoe around, but the Brooks Catamount really is a game-changer when it comes to the trail running shoe scene. Unlike traditional, stiffer trail shoes, the Catamount is cushioned, responsive and fast, for runners who want to set PB’s on harder terrain. 

Brooks brought the Catamount to market in January 2020 when it announced the development of its ‘DNA Flash’ midsole foam, which is infused with nitrogen for a lightweight feel with high energy return. It’s reserved for their faster shoes, making it a bold, and exciting, choice for a trail shoe. Brooks has also added a Ballistic Rock Shield between the midsole and outsole of the Catamount, designed to protect the foot from sharp rocks on the trail.  

While the outsole is great on loose gravel paths and light mud, on really technical terrain, the Catamount can get a little slippy, so hard-core trail runners might want to keep browsing. That said, for road-to-trail runs or races, the Catamount is fantastic. 

Best running shoe: New Balance 1080 v11

(Image credit: New Balance)

7. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v11

Best New Balance running shoe

Weight : 263g (M), 230g (W)
Drop: 8mm
Reasons to buy
+Extremely versatile, cushioned road running shoe +Breathable upper 
Reasons to avoid
-Can still feel narrow around the toe box for runners with wider feet 

While the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite V2 very nearly took the top spot when it comes to the best New Balance running shoes, the 1080 v11 edged ahead due to its more affordable price and brilliant versatility for runners of all abilities. The neutral, cushioned running shoe is designed for road running but looks good enough to wear in the gym and out to brunch (although be aware that this might shorten the life of your running shoes). 

It’s a great choice for runners who prefer that ‘plush’ underfoot cushioning in their running shoes, but it won’t leave you feeling bogged down, as the Fresh foam is extremely responsive. The sole of the shoe has a definite ‘rocker’ feel to it, which helps for a smooth, speedier toe-off, but unlike other shoes on the market, the 1080 v11 still feels remarkably secure around corners. 

With the 1080 v11, New Balance made some small, but significant improvements to the fit of the shoe, mainly around the upper, which is now more comfortable for runners with wider feet. It’s worth noting here that New Balance often comes up small compared to other running shoe brands, so it’s worth checking the size guide before buying online. 

Best running shoes: On Cloudstratus

(Image credit: On )

8. On Cloudstratus

Best On running shoe

Weight: 305g (M), 248g (W)
Drop : 8mm
Reasons to buy
+On's most cushioned shoe yet +A very comfortable upper 
Reasons to avoid
-Still a firm ride that won't suit all runners 

For some runners, On running shoes have always been a little too firm to be comfortable. Enter the Cloudstratus, designed to offer runners ‘maximum cushioning’, but in On style. Forget thick wedges of foam: On has developed its ‘CloudTec’ technology, which is designed to cushion the foot from horizontal and vertical forces on the run and feel like ‘running on Clouds’. 

With the Cloudstratus, On has added two Cloud layers for extra cushioning when running on the pavements. The shoe has a high energy return, which makes it popular with long-distance runners who want comfort and speed. This is the second generation of the Cloudstaratus and it’s more cushioned now that On has extended the double-layered midsole along the full length of the shoe. 

This running shoe won’t be for everyone, but for runners looking for a speedy long-distance shoe, it’s a great choice. The CloudTec technology makes the shoe well-suited for heavier runners or those who prefer a cushioned running shoe.

Best running shoes: Saucony Ride 14

(Image credit: Saucony)

9. Saucony Ride 14

Best Saucony running shoe

Weight: 266g (M), 238g (W)
Drop : 8mm
Reasons to buy
+Available in two different widths +Extremely versatile +Durable outsole 
Reasons to avoid
-A bit stiff underfoot -Not the most exciting looking shoe 

Another reliable running shoe, the Saucony Ride 14 is similar in feel and price to the Brooks Ghost 14. It’s got a relatively hefty layer of Saucony’s PWRRUN cushioning, a breathable mesh upper and a tweaked fit to ensure it cradles the foot on the run. It’s a comfortable, reliable workhorse, that will get you from A to B comfortably, whatever speed you decide to travel. 

Compared to previous iterations of the shoe, the Ride 14 has a lighter, more breathable upper, which stops your feet from feeling too hot and sweaty as the temperature rises. It’s also lighter than previous versions of the shoe, which is always a good thing. 

Sure, it’s not the most exciting-looking shoe on the planet, but if you’re looking for a reliable shoe that offers a good amount of comfort on long runs and snap during faster sessions, the Ride 14 is a good choice. 

Best running shoes: Adidas Ultraboost 21

(Image credit: Maarten De Groot/Adidas)

10. Adidas Ultraboost 21

Best Adidas running shoe

Weight: 340g (M), 297g (W)
Drop : 10mm
Reasons to buy
+Sock-like fit keeps the foot secure in the shoe +Extremely versatile 
Reasons to avoid
-A heavy running shoe 

When Adidas released its first Ultraboost in February 2015, the running world went mad for the bouncy ‘Boost’ foam, which really did feel exciting underfoot. Six years later, the Ultraboost is still one of Adidas’ most popular running shoes and it’s easy to see why: it’s a wonderfully comfortable shoe, that looks great and feels great underfoot. 

With the Ultraboost 21, Adidas added more Boost, six percent more than the Ultraboost 20, as well as a plastic insert underneath the midsole, which Adidas called ‘Linear Energy Push’, designed to help you pick up the pace when you need it. The bootie upper is almost sock-like, but is designed to cradle and secure the foot, as it sits over all that foam. Underfoot, the Ultraboost 21 feels just as plush and comfortable on long, easy runs as it does on faster tempo sessions. It also looks good enough to wear to the office, or out with friends, which is a big selling point. 

The downside here is the weight: these are definitely one of the heavier shoes on this list, but unless you’re really trying to make the podium, this is unlikely to bother most runners.  

What to look for in the best running shoes

When it comes to finding the best pair of running shoes for you, there are a few different things to consider. Firstly, how you run. Before investing in a pair of shoes, it's a good idea to head to a running store and have your gait checked. If you overpronate dramatically, you might be better off in a stability shoe to prevent injury. 

Secondly, where you plan on running. If you're planning on doing most of your miles on the pavements around your neighbourhood, you'll want a road shoe that's designed to help cope with the impact. If you're hoping to go off exploring in the trails, you'll want a trail shoe with an outsole designed to be grippy on rocky, muddy and wet terrains. If it's a PB you're after, you're likely to want a racing shoe, which will have various features designed to get you a fast finish, for example carbon fibre plates and snappy, reactive midsoles. 

Lastly, how often you run. A marathon runner will have different requirements when shopping for running shoes than a runner who clocks the odd 5K. If running isn't really your thing, it's just something you do in the gym now and again, you'll probably want a more affordable shoe.

How we test the best running shoes

Quite simply, we run in them! While finding the best running shoes for your feet and running style is a personal choice, we've been testing the market's most popular shoes for the past few years, so we know what we're looking for. 

When we test shoes, we'll typically run at least 20 miles in them before making our minds up. We're looking at how the shoe performs on different running surfaces, as well as how well it copes with different sessions - some shoes will be great on a long run, but feel heavy during a speed session. We also look at the size and fit of each shoe and anything that makes the shoe particularly impressive, such as carbon fibre plates, or ultra-lightweight midsole foams.

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Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.