Choosing the best road running shoes is a real challenge. We've been putting in the miles on your behalf so you can make the right choice. There's no substitute for trying a shoe for yourself, but here we've aimed to give you some great starting points, with neutral and stable options, and shoes for training and race days.
Whether you want something springy and responsive to help you beat your personal records (perhaps with a carbon plate for extra snap) or something durable and dependable for putting in those long miles, there's a road shoe here for you.
We've tested all these shoes ourselves, so you can check our full reviews for in-depth details of what they're like to wear long term and decide which is likely to suit you best, whatever you're training for.
Looking for a shoe with green credentials? We've also rounded up the best eco-friendly running shoes you can buy right now.
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 takes our award for the best running shoe of 2021, thanks to its impressive energy return that feels like nothing we've experienced before. This is a shoe made for running, and running fast. When we tested it, we were extremely impressed by its springiness, which courtesy of a full-length articulated carbon footplate and generous 40mm of ZoomX foam that never feels squishy or marshmallowy.
Its minimalist mesh upper is extremely breathable, with the bare minimum of padding strategically positioned for comfort without adding too much weight. Our feel felt well connected and secure throughout our runs
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 is a superb shoe for track days and races, with the potential to propel you to a new personal record, though we'd recommend supplementing it with another, more affordable shoe from this list for your everyday training.
Read our full Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 review
The Adidas Adistar impressed us with its well designed rocker that keeps propelling you forward during long training sessions. It's not the lightest shoe we've ever tested, but its dual-density foam is tough and resilient, standing up well even after some serious mileage.
We also liked the shoe's integrated cage system, which gives this running shoe a snug and comfortable fit. The upper is made of a combination of recycled ocean plastic and recycled polyester, which is also welcome from a sustainability standpoint.
Overall the Adidas Adistar is an excellent running shoe for those long, slow sessions, and will help you maintain your pace and form even when your mind begins to wander and you're running on autopilot. Even after several hours, it doesn't feel sluggish, and the rocker design means you're unlikely to accidentally drag your toes despite the shoe's stack height.
Read our full Adidas Adistar review
The Hoka One One Bondi X has the company's familiar chunky style, but feels snappy thanks to an embedded carbon plate. This is a new feature for the Bondi line, and together with a full-size molded EVA sole, results in a springy and responsive ride.
It's softer, wider and generally more forgiving than the Carbon X 2, and better suited to squeezing a few extra miles out of your training runs than breaking personal records on race day. In our tests, we found it particularly helpful after the 10-mile mark, when our form sometimes tends to suffer.
You'll either love or hate its distinctive looks (the fluorescent color scheme and hefty heel unit are hard to miss), but if you're happy to embrace its style you'll find it's thoroughly enjoyable when you're hitting the pavement for a few hours.
Read our full Hoka One One Bondi X review
If you've fallen out of love with running recently, the Saucony Endorphin Speed could be the best running shoe to rekindle your passion for the pavement.
This is a neutral motion-control shoe, meaning it isn't designed to prevent the twisting motion of over-pronation, but does help your foot roll and transfer energy more effectively thanks to a nylon plate in the midsole. The result is a springy, fun (but not bouncy) feel with each step.
It's an exceptionally light shoe, and Saucony has pared down the design as much as possible to shave off extra grams. We can't guarantee that it'll help you hit a new personal best in your next race, but we wouldn't be surprised.
Read our full Saucony Endorphin Speed review
If you're looking for a race shoe that's a great alternative to what Nike and Adidas currently have to offer, the Asics Metaspeed Sky Plus is well worth your consideration. It's a running shoe built to keep you quick over short and long distances
When we reviewed the Metaspeed Sky, we appreciated the spring provided by the full-length carbon plate and curved design, together with the shoe's lightweight, responsive foam. It compresses at each footstrike before springing back into shape, giving a controlled feel while propelling you forward.
It's pricier than the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 above, and it does have its predecessor's issues with durability in the heel, but it's a superb shoe nonetheless and feels great to run in.
Read our full Asics Metaspeed Sky Plus review
Sitting in between the Hoka One One Bondi X and the Asics Metaspeed Sky listed above, the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 is a versatile carbon plate running shoe that works well at a variety of distances – particularly training sessions at race pace.
It might feel odd at first, but once you pick up speed you'll feel the benefit of that plate together with she shoe's SpeedRoll geometry, which propels you forward with each step. There's also less exposed foam than you'll find on many performance shoes, which lends some welcome durability.
The chief downside of this road running shoe is its price; at $200 / £190 / AU$319.99 it's pretty steep. If cash is tight and you're in the market for more of a daily shoe, take a look at the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 instead; its use of nylon in place of carbon gives a similarly lively ride while keeping costs down.
Read our full Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 review
The latest iteration in the long-running GT-2000 series, the Asics GT-2000 9 is one of the best running shoes around if you're aiming to control pronation and favor a stiffer shoe that'll give you plenty of support during long training sessions.
This stiffness comes courtesy of a resin plate in the shoe's midsole that prevents unwanted twisting actions as your foot rolls. This is combined with a lightweight foam midsole that gives a cushioned but not bouncy ride, plus additional gel in the heel and toe for shock absorption.
The newly redesigned single-piece mesh upper is noticeably more breathable than previous GT-2000 models, making this shoe a particularly good choice for warmer weather and indoor treadmill sessions. Highly recommended if you're looking for a shoe with plenty of guidance – and very competitively priced.
Read our full Asics GT-2000 9 review
If cushioning is what you want, the Asics Novablast Tokyo is one of the best neutral road running shoes around. There's so much marshmallowy Flytefoam Blast material underfoot, the overall feeling is springy, energetic, and a lot of fun.
This is a great lightweight shoe, with a particularly thin and breathable upper. The lack of padding in the tongue took us by surprise, but the flat laces never become uncomfortable across the top of your foot and the thoughtfully designed mesh means increased ventilation for runs on hotter days.
The downside of all that cushioning is that the shoe can sometimes feel a little unstable if you're running on uneven surfaces, so you'll want to dodge the potholes, but on smooth roads it's a joy.
Read our full Asics Novablast Tokyo review
In terms of environmental impact, the Salomon Index.01 steals a lead on the Reebok Floatride Energy Grow (below) due to its closed-loop manufacturing process. The whole shoe is recyclable, and when you've run it into the ground, you can return it to Salomon to be transformed into other garments.
Of course, that would be little use if the Salomon Index.01 wasn't a good quality, high performance shoe – but thankfully, it is. It feels firmer than the Reebok, making it a better choice if you're looking for support, with a curved sole and unusual rear overhang that we found gave a welcome forward jolt of propulsion.
The upper is pleasantly breathable, and its understated design means it can shift easily between training sessions and running errands. We did find that the upper began to show dirt quite quickly, and the initial price is fairly steep, so it's worth considering the Floatride Energy Grow as a more affordable alternative.
Read our full Salomon Index.01 review
The Reebok Floatride Energy Grow is made from at least 50% plant-based materials, reducing the use of virgin plastic – but you wouldn't know that from looking at it. Unlike some eco-friendly running shoes, this one doesn't shout about its credentials; instead, Reebok has opted for a refreshingly retro design that goes as well with jeans as it does Lycra.
There's a moderate amount of (castor-bean based) cushioning, and in our tests we found it easy to forget during training runs. It's not excessively cushioned, and is quite flexible around the toe (particularly medially), which won't suit those with a tendency to overpronate, but is nicely responsive if your footstrike is neutral.
There's a lot to like about this shoe, which is also surprisingly light, leaving the similarly green but much weightier Allbirds Tree Dasher in the dust. We have some reservations about the durability of the gusset that secures the tongue to the inside, but the Floatride Energy Grow otherwise fared well after plenty of miles.
Read our full Reebok Floatride Energy Grow review
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How to choose the best running shoes for you
First and foremost, you should be looking at what kind of distances you like (or aspire) to run. Are you looking to improve your 5k time? Or perhaps you're working your way up to a marathon? That will dictate what kind of shoe you'll buy: how much cushioning you'll need, for example, and how much energy return you get from each step.
Once you have a distance in mind, you should consider your budget. If none of these shoes fit your pocket, it's worth going to a running store or an expert, and doing some research online, using your ideal shoe from this list as a touchstone. You'll likely be able to find a shoe tailored to the same distance for a lower price point, such as an older model in the range.
Finally, remember to keep an eye on how many miles you run. After a few hundred miles, your shoes will need to be replaced.
How we test
Every shoe is run on the road at least several times, with each test run tailored to the distance the shoe is made for. Yes, that means we've covered a lot of ground, but there's just no other way to test the shoe.
We look at how the shoe responds in its environment, how the sole responds and the kind of energy returns you get, and whether you get any wear-and-tear on the sole unnaturally quickly. We also check out the upper's fit around our foot, whether it's breathable, and how comfortable the ride really is.