The Best Running Shoes for Men - Side-by-Side Tests
What is the best running shoe for road running? We selected 11 top-ranked men's road running footwear on the market and subjected them to head-to-head evaluation. We spent months logging dozens of miles all across the beautiful state of Virginia, from the mountain roads to the sandy Virginia Beach. From perfect sunny conditions to cool, wet ones, each pair was put through our rigorous testing regimen. We analyze each model on six fundamental levels to rate each version for what it has to offer: weight, responsiveness, durability, landing comfort, upper comfort, and breathability. There is only one way to decide which road shoe reigns supreme: put each one through the trial of miles. Keep reading for more detail on how we decided on a score in each of the six metrics, as well as the best in each class.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Men's Running Shoe
Brooks PureFlow 5
The neutral, moderately cushioned Brooks PureFlow 5 is a remarkably versatile shoe, with high metric scores across the board. This model has the most balanced performance overall; it strikes the perfect balance of comfort, weight, durability, flexibility, and responsiveness, making this an unrivaled shoe. We rate the Brooks PureFlow 5 as having the most comfort of all the designs we tested, and it remains comfortable from the first mile through the last. The shoe features a plush wrap-around collar for a nice hug around the heel and ankle, and has a new, snug-fitting, synthetic mesh upper. The lack of a midfoot trusstic allows full contact with the ground during landing, creates a more natural heel-to-toe transition for heel-strikers, and generally creates a smooth ride, complete with an innovative segmented crash pad. This cushy crash pad is polished off by nubs on the outsole that offer plenty of traction in all road conditions and allow for a responsive ride. The PureFlow 5 wins Editors' Choice for its light weight, responsiveness, durability, and breathability when stacked next to the other contenders in our group.
Best Bang for the Buck
Saucony Kinvara 7
The Best Buy Award goes to the Saucony Kinvara 7. This model proves to be a reliable stability shoe, scoring highest in stability, durability, and responsiveness. As you probably know, many stability models can break the bank. The Saucony Kinvara 7 maintains an affordable $110 retail price, which is the least expensive stability version in our group. This model will provide many comfortable miles for each dollar spent. You can't really go wrong with this shoe if you're an over-pronator on a budget looking for a high-stability road running sneaker. And at 16.9 ounces, this shoe is a top contender for both overall and racing flats, but in the end it is a maximal shoe, which serves a less broad community than other styles. It is still a very good, versatile shoe and therefore received our Best Buy Award.
Comfortable at any distance
Top Pick Award for Lightweight Racing Flat
Nike Flex Fury 2
We give a Top Pick Award to the Nike Flex Fury 2 for being a lightweight, minimal, and versatile road shoe. Jump into this extremely light shoe and channel your inner gazelle. At only 17.2 ounces in a size 11, a 5mm heel-to-toe drop, and a reasonable amount of cushioning, it is resilient enough to provide comfort through daily runs, workouts, and even runs up to marathon distances. Runners who want to make a gradual move towards minimalism will find solace in the Nike Flex Fury 2. This model is a considerable change for those who have always used a traditional road shoe, most of which have a 10mm or more heel-to-toe discrepancy. Remember to gradually adjust to footgear like this. We have done the abrupt transition thing and had the stress fractures of shame. So go slowly, do your homework on biomechanics and muscles, do recovery, and build yourself up over time. The Nike Flex Fury 2 puts a lot more stress on your lower legs and achilles tendon in comparison to traditional trainers. Don't be surprised if your lower legs are super sore after the first few runs in these quick racers. In general, we highly recommend this speedster. This is truly a fun pair to run in.
Fits like a second skin
Top Pick Award for Stability Shoe
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3
Our favorite stability model is the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3. Given the newest version's plush ride, upper comfort, high stability, and great out-of-box comfort, we rate the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3 as a better stability shoe overall when compared to the other road footwear. For the stability class, it's lightweight and comfortable. It's lightweight — at 20.3 ounces per pair of men's 11, it's the same weight as the Brooks PureFlow 5, our Editors' Choice winner — and lighter than seven other pairs in our cohort. Often, shoes need a few miles to break in, but this is by far the most comfortable pair of pavement pounders we tested straight out of the box, thanks to the compression-molded EVA foam cushioning in the midsole. With this unmatchable out-of-box landing comfort, well-cushioned upper, and creatively designed landing platform that guides each step back to a neutral position, this one comes highly recommended for all over-pronators.
Analysis and Test Results
The variety of running footwear on the market can be quite intimidating when trying to decide which pair will be perfect for you. The ideal road shoe can come in many different forms. Though it's decidedly impossible to say that one running pair is perfect for everyone, we strongly believe our award-winning road shoes are steps above the rest in a multitude of ways. Many runners' final decision on a pair will depend on what the runner's needs and preferences are. We find the top road kicks to have a nice balance of comfort, responsiveness, and durability. Choosing a model for the sake of lightness is great if you're looking for the fastest footwear, though that might not always the best idea. A light model is not decisively better since some runners need footgear with greater stability, which tend to be heavier and have a more dense midsole than neutral models. To put it simply, the most significant trait we look for in a quality road shoe is reliable and consistent comfort from mile one until done.
This review focuses solely on sneakers designed for running on pavement, but we couldn't resist a few trail runs. However, if you are in the market for strictly off-road running shoes, take a look at our Best Trail Running Shoe For Men Review.
Types of Road Running Shoes
This is a brief rundown of the different types of road footwear. Some of these descriptors can overlap and more than one can apply to one shoe. For instance, a pair can be neutral and maximalist at the same time. Check out our Buying Advice article for a much more detailed explanation of these different styles.
As the name implies, minimalist shoes are a much lighter and less supportive style than traditional road footgear. This also means they tend to be less responsive and lack the cushioning that traditional road models provide. Many runners are attracted to the idea of using a minimalist shoe to obtain a more natural gait cycle, where your heel does not strike the ground first. Most minimalist kicks offer a 0mm to 4mm heel to toe discrepancy, which results in a more natural and efficient foot strike. We did include a barefoot shoe in this review, the Vibram FiveFingers V-Run, but otherwise this review focuses on more traditional models.
Standard or Traditional
The average road shoe has approximately a 10mm heel to toe discrepancy. This is the style you are most likely to think of when you imagine running footwear, and is also the most commonly used style of shoe.
Maximalist models, in a pendulum swing response to minimal shoes, emphasize a large amount of cushioning. These shoes often have a relatively low heel-toe drop, but very high stack heights. This style of running shoe is popular with people who want to reduce the jarring impact that running can inflict on the body.
Neutral shoes are for those who have an average pronation in their stride, medium to high arches, and are looking for a cushioned and flexible ride. The vast majority of runners both train and race in neutral running shoes. Neutral sneakers generally weigh around 10 ounces per shoe. The neutral models in our test group are the Brooks Glycerin 14, Nike Flex Fury 2, Brooks Ghost 9, Altra Torin 2.5, Brooks PureFlow 5, and Saucony Kinvara 7. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Brooks Brooks PureFlow 5, is a moderately cushioned neutral shoe. This is a widely appealing and well-balanced model that will suit many runners.
Stability running shoes are designed specifically for those runners who over-pronate. If you're unaware of this, the best way to find out is to get a gait analysis at the closest specialty running store or look at the sole of your current running footwear and see if you have uneven wear on the rubber. Stability models are typically heavier and less flexible compared to neutral models because of the extra dense posting used to correct over-pronation.
The stability models in our review are the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3, Pearl Izumi E:MOTION Road N3, Mizuno Wave Prophecy 5, and ASICS GEL-Nimbus 18. A special note: we included the Clifton 3 in this category because of its wide platform and thick, springy cushioning, both of which contribute to guiding your foot to a more natural position — the theory driving the manufacture of stability shoes. The combination of stability strength and uncommon lightness pushed the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3 to the top and earned it our Top Pick Award for Stability. We included the Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 in this category because of its stiff EVA Strobel board in the footbed along with a dynamic offset with the midfoot stack 3.5mm higher than the heel stack, which sits 4mm above the toe and 30mm in total.
Racing flats fall in a category between neutral and minimalist footgear. A racing flat is a more minimal version of the typical neutral road shoe, though not necessarily considered minimalist given the decent amount of cushioning they often have. The idea of a racing flat is to have a lightweight, cushioned, and extremely responsive shoe to use for speed workouts and races up to the marathon length or, for some, even further. Being the lightest traditional model we tested at 8.4 ounces, the Saucony Kinvara 7 is considered in the racing flat category.
Criteria For Evaluation
The rating table below shows the overall performance score of each shoe in our review, rated from highest to lowest.
Deciding which model has the highest responsiveness is fairly simple to grade. We posed the question, "Which kicks give us the most propulsive feedback through the landing to toe-off phase in our gait cycle?" A more responsive design will often have a more stiff and minimally cushioned outsole which facilitates a propulsive "pop" feeling and avoids that running-in-mud feeling. The most responsive models on the market are racing flats with an integrated stiff midsole system.
For the most part we prefer running in road footwear with higher responsiveness. But the stiff soles of responsive models like the Altra Torin 2.5 do a lot of the work for your feet, ankles, and lower legs that other highly cushioned models don't. This type is on the opposite end of the spectrum from a minimalist or barefoot model, and we believe can potentially create weaknesses in those areas if used for too long. How long we can't say, and it really depends on the individual. If you're looking to improve your lower leg and foot strength, then a model with less responsiveness will likely be more ideal for you.
We rate the Altra Torin 2.5 as the most responsive in the group, while the responsive feedback from landing to push-off in the Brooks Ghost 9 as well as the Saucony Kinvara 7 is well beyond what we feel from any of the other road running shoes we tested. From our first stride to the last, the Torin 2.5 provided us with solid propulsive assistance. This propulsive feel has to do with the EVA midsole with its A-Bound Top Layer and InnerFlex™ technology to give the shoe great responsiveness.
Even though we get this efficient roll and pop feeling while running in the Altra Torin 2.5, it isn't the fastest shoe in the group given its wideness and bulk, especially compared to the racing flats, though at 20.6 ounces a pair it's a good deal lighter than the Brooks Ghost 9 at 23.4 ounces a pair.
To the majority of runners testing out new shoes, landing comfort is the most important factor. To decide which design has the best landing comfort, we take into account comfort while running from the first mile through the last (at least six miles at a time). Out-of-box comfort is always nice, but it's not a deciding factor for the best landing comfort. It's never fun finding out halfway through an hour-long run that the shoes that were so comfy when you ran from one side of the shoe store to the other are now the most ridiculously regrettable things you've ever put on your feet and you don't remember why you even run anymore. No one wants that.
We experienced that change in comfort with the Altra Torin 2.5, whose cushy midsole and comfortable insole made the first few steps and jaunt around the block feel great. But its FootShape Toe Box began to cause real pain in the second toe after a few miles, pushing the model to the bottom of our ranking. We considered the Torin 2.5 to be comparable to the Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 in its design and landing comfort, though the EM Road N3 did slightly better in scoring simply because it did not face the same toe-jamming setback as the Torin 2.5. We felt that the EM Road N3 struck a nice compromise in this field because of its relatively thick landing platform, which provided fair cushioning, but sitting atop the outsole is a stiff EVA Strobel board in the footbed, which gives some rigidity to the landing. We still felt that it was a middling shoe in terms of comfort. It is important to note that the EM Road N3 has an interesting design feature in its dynamic offset, where the midfoot stack is 4mm and 3.5mm higher than the toe and heel, respectively. While this did not add to comfort of the landing, it could be a feature desired by some runners and should be considered.
Similar to the Torin 2.5, we found that the interesting ridges of the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 5's Wave Plate Technology ended up feeling pretty annoying after a few miles and was difficult to get used to. It could be fine for some runners, but it is certainly not for everyone. While the uneven strike of the Mizuno also pushed it lower in our ranking, we found its overall cushioning and rebound pleasant enough that it scored slightly better than average.
Unsurprisingly, a design with more cushioning typically scores higher in landing comfort. The usual formula for the best landing comfort is a balanced design that is not too cushy and not too firm. You need balanced cushioning to find consistent comfort. We find this with the Saucony Kinvara 7, which scored near the top of our measure. We consider the Kinvara 7 to be a maximalist shoe because of its thick, firm EVA foam cushioning with only 4mm of drop between the heel and toe. The thick stack make the landing very comfortable, but the foam is also somewhat rigid, so the foot does not sink into each step which would be a little more comfortable for the joints, but might sacrifice some transfer and responsiveness.
It is also worth noting that sometimes desired design qualities can outweigh the importance of landing comfort, as might be the case with the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 18. We felt that the landing comfort was average. Its lacking midfoot and forefoot cushion make the overall landing unremarkable, but it focuses much of its padding on the heel and in its stability features like the Trusstic System® and Guidance Trusstic System®, which can nullify the importance of comfort. Similarly, running style matters because the model better suits a particularly heavy heel-strike.
There are exceptions to the aforementioned balanced comfort rule. This can be seen in the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3, another maximalist shoe. With its thick EVA stack sitting at 24mm at the forefoot and 29mm at the heel was nothing but marshmallows and sheet cake on the feet, making it a favorite of marathon and ultramarathon runners and earning it a top spot in the landing category, which it shares with the more streamlined Brooks PureFlow 5.
When we finished our first run using the Brooks PureFlow 5 we knew it would be hard for another model to top its landing comfort. Indeed, we feel the Brooks PureFlow 5 is the most reliably comfortable, fast, and well-balanced road shoe we tested, which is why the Brooks PureFlow 5 comes away with our Editors' Choice Award and earns the highest rating in landing comfort, just a bit ahead of its more rigid cousin, the Brooks Ghost 9 (like we said, Brooks makes great soles).
For the midsole cushioning, Brooks uses what they call Biomogo DNA LT - a much more biodegradable DNA which responds to and conforms to everyone's feet independently, depending on their landing pattern. When the Biomogo DNA LT cushioning receives pressure from your foot during landing, it spreads through the midsole in reaction to the pressure.
As for the outsole of the PureFlow 5, Brooks uses their innovative segmented crash pad system, sometimes described as caterpillar-like. This unique outsole allows you to have full outsole ground contact that produces an extremely smooth ride while dispersing impact energy. Taken together with its relatively low heel-to-toe drop, 4mm, it makes the shoe a fast, ideal all-around shoe.
The other Brooks models in our lineup also use the segmented crash pad, the Ghost 9 and Glycerin 14. But whereas we found the PureFlow 5 and Ghost 9 to have great landings, the Glycerin 14 seemed to underwhelm. We attribute that to the high degree of cushion in the heel while skimping near the forefoot, which gives an overall uneven landing firmness. The heel sinks, but the forefoot feels the hard surface of the road or pavement.
A number of kicks engineered strike points on their outsoles, like the Nike Flex Fury 2 and Vibram FiveFingers V-Run. Though it seems minor, it does make a difference, particularly for forefoot runners where an extra millimeter or two of reinforcement under the ball of the foot or big toe will make the difference between a bruise or tear and a good run. These shoes were somewhat tougher to rate because their low profile, low stacks made them inherently less comfortable than say, the Clifton 3, which has pillows for soles. So we took those things into consideration with all shoes reviewed: how do these feel relative to their respective field and style? But those considerations arose most notably with these two models because of their pared-down construction. Even so, we felt that the FiveFingers V-Run was just slightly better than average whereas the generous give of the UI foam making up the midsole of the Flex Fury 2 along with its pressure-mapped rubber pods pushed it up near the top of the ranking, behind the Clifton 3 and PureFlow 5.
The first thing we notice when trying on a new pair of road running shoes is the fit and comfort of the upper. An array of components come together to create the perfectly comfortable upper. When deciding on a score for this metric, we take into consideration the overall fit, snug or roomy, toe box fit, tongue position, seam and stitch design, lace eyelets, and heel counter rigidity and fit.
The Brooks Glycerin 14 grabs a spot in the top rating for this category. Its plush, conforming upper created one of the best feeling uppers in the cohort. The Glycerin 14 occupies the top spot along with the Saucony Kinvara 7. The Glycerin 14 has a well-balanced upper fit that's snug along the heel and midfoot while giving good room in the toe box. The heel support isn't as stiff as other stability models in the group, and we like that as well.
The Saucony Kinvara 7 uses its EVERUN Heel Insert and FLEXFILM in its upper to create a surprisingly snug, conforming, natural fit. We had to place the Kinvara at the top of the ratings for a very different, but equally comfortable fit as the Brooks Glycerin 14. Whereas the Glycerin 14 created a nice home for the foot, the Kinvara 7 upper felt like it was part of the foot — very natural and comfortable. And just for the record, we removed the EVERUN Heel Insert and ran in the shoe with inserts from other shoes, as well as placed the EVERUN insert in other shoes. While the Kinvara 7 is still a good, comfortable shoe sans insert, the EVERUN insert really does improve the ride.
While they did not score quite as high as the Kinvara 7 and Glycerin 14, the Clifton 3, PureFlow 5, and Flex Fury 2 all sat just below the top two scorers. Each of the three focused on light, plush uppers, especially placing thick, soft padding along the heel collar and conforming mesh along the top of the foot and minimal heel-to-toe drops for a more natural foot position.
The Brooks Ghost 9, a more traditional shoe, also did quite well in the comfort category. Its more traditional design focusing on rigidity and support could have limited the comfort features relative to its two cousins, the PureFlow 5 and Glycerin 14, but even so, Brooks did a good job of including a nicely padded heel collar and tongue.
The ASICS GEL-Nimbus 18 is similar to the Ghost 9 in its more traditional design, but it focuses more on stability as mentioned in the landing comfort section and that is also true for its upper comfort. The GEL-Nimbus is still better than average in comfort, but it had a number of features, like heavy padding in the heel and minimal padding throughout the rest of the upper, and a rigid heel counter for stability, that were annoying or uncomfortable. For a runner looking more for stability than comfort, those features might outweigh the need for comfort. The Mizuno Wave Prophecy 5 focuses on stability as well, but its upper is not as encumbered by stability features as the GEL-Nimbus 18 because most of those features are placed on its Wave Plate midsole. The Wave Prophecy 5 also has a more snug fit and lower heel counter, which together make for a more natural fit and contribute to its higher than average score and higher score than the GEL-Nimbus 18.
The Vibram FiveFingers V-Run was a very comfortable shoe whose score was the same as the Prophecy 5, just below the Ghost 9. It had a number of design issues that we felt detracted from its overall comfort, including slipping toes (the last two toes tended to slip out, while the first and second toe were tight), and a shoe heel that rides down or is pushed down by the foot. Even so, the shoe's polyester lycra mesh conforms very well to the foot and has a nice Drilex sockliner that feels like fleece on the bare foot, earning it an above average score.
The last two models in our lineup, the Altra Torin 2.5 and Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 are fairly comparable shoes in their design and feel. Compared to your typical running shoe, these are comfortable shoes, but they are not as plush or smooth or snug as most of the other models in the review. They scored lower than all models except for the GEL-Nimbus 18, which has structural qualities that make up for its lower comfort. We actually placed the Torin 2.5 at the very lowest comfort level in our lineup because of its rigid FootShape Toe Box, but it would have otherwise been only slightly above average. And as mentioned in the Torin 2.5 individual review, the FootShape likely fits many foot shapes, but it is still rigid and any toe tip pressing against it in a toe or forefoot strike will cause discomfort.
Running in a shoe that regulates the temperature of your feet during a run is important not just for comfort, but for the overall health of your feet. Uppers that breathe poorly can trap in moisture which could cause chafing, blisters, foot fungus, and other foot problems. Most models currently on the market have pretty decent breathability. Commonly, a sneaker with higher breathability comes with a more minimally designed upper and thin, light mesh materials.
If your feet regularly sweat during runs, we recommend looking into our picks for higher breathability. If you live in an area that rains often or are constantly running through creeks, you might want to consider a waterproof Gore-Tex version, if it's available. The models that provide this waterproof Gore-Tex are not as breathable as ones without, but they will keep your feet much drier during very wet runs. Because of their lack of breathability, we don't recommend Gore-Tex footwear unless you'll be running through creeks or heavy storms.
We give the highest breathability rating to the Vibram V-Run (they have large ventilation holes poked throughout their upper), the Saucony Kinvara 7, the Brooks PureFlow 5, and the Nike Flex Fury 2. Our feet return from runs much drier in these models when compared to all the other road shoes we tested, and they dry noticeably faster when wet. Of course, the tradeoff is that if the water is coming from the outside, these well-vented shoes are more permeable and will wet your socks, which is not always a favorable scenario when you aren't expecting a puddle run. The speedy drying of these shoes has to do with seamless and lightweight minimal uppers.
Given this extremely minimal upper, the Vibram FiveFingers V-Run does a poor job at keeping moisture out and is not a great choice for intense winter conditions. The Kinvara 7, PureFlow 5, and Nike Flex Fury 2 are better options to keep your feet dry and protected across seasons and through the broadest range of weather conditions. The least breathable model is the Altra Torin 2.5 with its impermeable Footshape toe box which traps moisture and keeps just the toes, the moving external parts, nice and soggy.
No runner wants to feel like they are lugging bricks on the ends of their legs, making shoe weight a very important factor when choosing the best road running shoe. Typically, a lighter shoe facilitates a natural foot strike, though some heavier models can still run better overall. Take note though, there is often a relation between lighter designs and less durability since many models will sacrifice durability for weight.
Aside from the Vibram FiveFingers V-Run, which sits at 9.9 ounces, the Saucony Kinvara 7 takes the cake for the lightest model in our review by about 0.3 ounces. At just 16.9 ounces per pair in a men's size 11, the Kinvara 7 just barely edges out the 17.2 ounce Nike Flex Fury 2, which actually won our Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flats (because the Flex Fury is a very low profile, streamlined shoe).
The Saucony Kinvara 7 falls on a fine line between road trainer and racing flat. It is a versatile sneaker that can be used as either type of shoe interchangeably. It offers plenty of cushioning and protection to use as a daily trainer, while also being lightweight and responsive enough to break out for workouts and road races all the way up to the marathon distance. We also really love how grippy the Saucony Kinvara 7 outsole feels to us on the road. We feel this is due to the segmented, triangular lugs on the outsole.
When you fork out over $100 bones on a new pair of road footgear, you want to make sure they last for a certain number of miles. We use a few different factors when rating the durability of the models in our test group. Ideally, a few hundred miles should be logged in each pair for an accurate sense of the rate of wear (a few runs a week for a year). Taking note of the wear we observed through logging 15-plus miles in each pair, we were able to get a good idea of the life of each model. We also researched hundreds of user reviews looking for personal feedback regarding the durability and last of the shoes. When rating the durability, we also take into account the design, outsole rubber density, mesh upper thickness, and upper design.
We give the highest durability rating to the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 5. Every test model besides the Wave Prophecy 5 and Vibram FiveFingers V-Run uses some type of foam cushioning system. Vibram really uses your foot as the cushioning, though they say it's Vi-lite and EVA. Mizuno uses their Wave Plate Technology on the Wave Prophecy, which produces a stiff, rigid, and durable midsole unit. Due to its rigidity, we feel the "breakdown" of this midsole will occur at a much later stage when compared to the other models we evaluated.
The Bottom Line
We have logged more than 15 miles in each of our 11 test models, which has given us a solid base for evaluating running shoes. After this extensive research, we have found some favorites, but this is still fairly subjective. Keep in mind that everyone's feet are different, so if our favorite doesn't fit your foot (or, as in the case of the Altra Torin 2.5, our feet don't fit your favorite shoe), you many want to explore some of the other models that we tested to find the proper model. All-in-all, each model that we tested is worthy and we are sure there is something for everyone in our test field.
Make sure and find the appropriate fit and style of running shoe for your feet and running style. This will enhance your performance and reduce the chance of injury.
— Ryan Baham
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