The Best Road Running Shoes of 2023
We put over 10,000 miles on 85 different running shoes over six months to find the best new models for every stride and pace
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There is no such thing as the single best running shoe for everyone. Every runner’s body, gait, speed, experience, and ride preferences are different, so every runner will interact differently with each running shoe. The shoe that your best friend or your sister-in-law loves may be uncomfortable for you and make running feel slow, sluggish, or even painful. Finding the perfect pair of running shoes is a seriously personal affair.
While we can’t tell you the definitive best shoe, we can steer you toward models that have impressed a variety of testers with their comfort, support, traction, protection, and ride, and tell you where they excel. From this list you will need to select which shoes best complement and enhance your running stride and experience.
The Winners at a Glance
Best Daily Trainer: Tracksmith Eliot Runner
Best for Bouncy Boost: Skechers GOrun Alpha Tempo
Best for Plush Stability: Puma ForeverRun Nitro
Best for Carbon-Fiber-Fueled Speed: Hoka Rocket X2
Best Combo of Cushioning and Connection: Topo Cyclone 2
Best for Smooth Cruising: Adidas Ultraboost Light
Best for Comfort Junkies: Asics Gel-Nimbus 25
Best for Longer Races: Saucony Endorphin Elite
Best for Nimble Versatility: Brooks Levitate 6
Most Forgiving: Nike Invincible 3
Best Cushy Uptempo Shoe: On Cloudsurfer
How We Test
Number of Testers: 26
Number of Shoes Tested: 85
Number of Miles: 10,000+ over six months
Most Memorable Road Run: Racing full speed through the open streets of Miami’s South Beach in a Take the Bridge event with no set course, navigating to checkpoints using Google maps.
Most Interesting Test Location: Nassau, Bahamas
To test running shoes, we begin by researching every brand’s upcoming offerings for the coming season. We wind up with dozens of samples of the models (85 this season) that are most promising—not just for us, but for 25 testers that range in age, ability, running form, geographical location, terrain, and preferred shoe types. We try to put each tester in models from within the same category (all rugged, backcountry trail shoes, or all road-to-trail crossovers) so everyone can test apples-to-apples.
After three to six months of running in each model on varied terrain and in all conditions, our crew members report back with their assessments of fit, comfort, traction, cushioning, flexibility, stiffness, pop, what type of running the model is best used for, how the shoe compares to other models, and more. We also run in every shoe ourselves, and, combining all the tester feedback with years of personal experience, hone in on the best.
Meet Our Lead Testers
Freelance journalist, editor, and author Lisa Jhung has researched, tested, and written about running shoes for the past decade and a half, much of that time for Outside and Outside Buyer’s Guides. She coordinates a fleet of female shoe testers out of Boulder, Colorado, and says her home office is a perpetual obstacle course of cardboard boxes and piles of running shoes. Lisa’s written about gear of all kinds for numerous national magazines as both an editor and freelancer, including a stint as the Shoes & Gear blogger and trail running microsite editor for Runner’s World. A high school jumper and occasional sprinter/hurdler, she started running—really running—after walking off the collegiate volleyball team, and moved on to road and trail races of any distance, triathlons, adventure races, and mountain running. She’s happiest testing rugged trail shoes on gnarly terrain, and also loves a good neighborhood jaunt…but is almost always looking for ribbons of dirt. Lisa is the author of “Running That Doesn’t Suck: How to Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)” (2019) and “Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running” (2015).
Cory’s passion for running started over 25 years ago in high school when he became the number six ranked runner in the nation at 3000 meters his senior year. After high school, he competed at Villanova University, earning two NCAA Division I Championship showings. Today, he’s determined not to let age slow him down and competes on the national master’s circuit, running a 4:12 (4:30 mile pace)) 1500 meters and 9:04 (4:52 mile pace) 3000 meters in 2021 at age 43. He prefers a hard track workout or tempo run over an easy long run any day but also appreciates a challenging trail or mountain run. His obsession with running shoes started in 2014 when he wrote his first shoe review for Gear Institute. Since then, he’s tested and reviewed hundreds of running shoes, clothing, and gear for Outside, Runner’s World, Footwear News, and other outlets. He has a soft spot for speedy shoes over heavy trainers but loves dissecting all shoes equally and thinking like a product engineer to explain the why behind every design detail. Cory is the Founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business, and since its inception in 2014, has coached runners’ to over 100 Boston Marathon Qualifying times.
Jonathan fell in love with running his freshman year of high school and quickly became fascinated with finding the perfect pair of running shoes. That quest got a boost when he became editor of Running Times in 2000 and started receiving every new model as they were released. The parade of shoes continued while he served as shoe editor for Runner’s World, then editor of PodiumRunner, and currently running gear editor at Outside. Having now worn nearly every running shoe created in this century—and a fair amount of those dating back to the early running models of the late 70s—he’s given up on finding the one best and now relishes the wide variety of excellent options. Once a 2:46 marathoner regularly doing 50+ mile weeks, recent injuries and his age have reduced his volume by about half and slowed his easy training pace to around nine-minute miles—but he says he still enjoys an uptempo workout or two each week. Beverly is the author of Your Best Stride, which explores how each individual’s gait—and thus shoe preference—is unique. He enjoys getting biomechanical researcher’s take on new shoe trends, and, as a tester, trying to describe the nuances of each shoe’s ride.
The Reviews: The Best Road Running Shoes of 2023
Best Daily Trainer: Tracksmith Eliot Runner ($198)
Weight: 9.2 oz (men’s), 8.0 oz (women’s).
Stack Height: 33.5–24.5mm
Drop: 9 mm
Sizes: Unisex shoe, M4/W5.5–M13/W14.5
Strengths: Good looks, immediate comfort, wide versatility
Weaknesses: Can feel a tad soft for fast efforts
Earning the distinction of “Best Daily Trainer” means this shoe cushions plenty for long runs, feels peppy and spry enough for tempo efforts, inspires quick quarter-mile efforts on the track, and can be worn casually on the daily. This trainer does it all.
Underfoot comfort and cush comes from a combination of a soft, super-thick (three times the norm) sockliner layered over a slightly denser midsole, both made of Pebax—the premier shock-absorbing compound of the hour, usually found in marathon-racing supershoes. The sockliner aims to mimic the feel of running on fall leaves or soft dirt (and does), while the firmer midsole is designed to compress just enough to encourage underfoot pop (and does). The fit leans low-volume from top to bottom, adding to a sleek feel, while a secure heel hold tapers out to a slightly wider toe box.
The engineered mesh upper sports soft and retro-stylish synthetic suede around the heel collar and lacing eyelets, and achieves structure with a simple sash at midfoot. This is a comfortable, capable, and great-looking shoe that we’re mildly obsessed with.
Best for Bouncy Boost: Skechers GOrun Alpha Tempo ($190)
Weight: 8.8 oz (men’s), 6.8 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 40–36 mm
Drop: 4 mm
Sizes: 8–13 (men’s), 7–10 (women’s)
Strengths: Smooth rolling ride that balances cushioning, stability and propulsion
Weaknesses: Slightly heavier than competitive supershoes
“When it comes to bounce, impact protection, and weight, the Alpha Tempo is in a class of its own,” said one tester, a sentiment echoed by all who ran in this new Skechers model. On step-in, a soft, stretchy mono-mesh upper gently secures the foot atop a healthy 40 millimeters of Skechers’ new TPU-based foam, its softest and most responsive ever. Sandwiched within the forefoot of the plush midsole is a semi-stiff, carbon-infused, winglet plate that enhances lateral stability and helps you generate forward propulsion with minimal effort. “The landing and rollout dynamics are as smooth as could be,” raved another tester. The shoe’s sweet spot seemed to be doing longer, uptempo work, but it also demonstrated strong competence as an everyday trainer and felt great even during easy recovery runs.
Best for Plush Stability: Puma ForeverRun Nitro ($150)
Weight: 9.7 oz (men’s), 7.9 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 36–26 mm
Drop: 10 mm
Sizes: 7–14 (men’s), 5.5–11 (women’s)
Strengths: Wide, stable platform with springy ride; secure, supportive upper
Weaknesses: Heel-toe drop felt high to some
It’s rare to find a stability shoe that feels like a soft, plush, daily trainer—and also puts pep in your stride. With a fat midsole stacked with Puma’s nitrogen-infused, rubberized compound that absorbs and rebounds with aplomb, the ForeverRun Nitro is all that. The shoe creates subtle stability with a wide platform underfoot and a firmer-density foam frame topped by an external TPU heel clip, plus a sockliner designed to enhance forefoot alignment. “This shoe delivers a smooth ride that made me feel supported without ever getting in the way,” said one tester, who used them for everything from recovery days to tempo runs.
The ForeverRun Nitro also creates a great feeling of control thanks to excellent fit and traction. A secure heel hold gives way to a roomy toebox, while the tongue perfectly rides the line of minimal and cushy so that you don’t cause pressure on the top of the foot when you crank down the laces. The outsole’s traction, and slight flare of both midsole and outsole under the big toe, gave us great traction and security even on wet pavement.
KT Tape Pro Oxygen ($24.99)
KT Tape Pro Oxygen uses Celliant Infrared technology to convert body heat to infrared energy, which increases cellular oxygenation. The result? Increased muscle support. The ultra breathable synthetic fabric is designed for up to seven days of comfortable wear. Since the water resistant adhesive stays on through the toughest workouts, KT Tape Pro Oxygen is perfect for endurance activities, strength training, anaerobic exercises, workout recovery, and more.
Best for Carbon-Fiber-Fueled Speed: Hoka Rocket X 2 ($250)
Weight: 8.3 oz (men’s), 6.7 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 36–31 mm—not including insole
Drop: 5 mm
Sizes: 5–14 (men’s), 6–15 (women’s)
Strengths: Phenomenally bouncy and explosive; comfortable, stretchy upper
Weaknesses: Heavy relative to other supershoe racers
After three years of being all but absent in the carbon-fiber supershoe game, Hoka finally lined up to compete with a top-to-bottom redesign of their first carbon-fiber racer, the Rocket X. The new tall, squishy, and energetic Rocket X 2 is nothing like the firm, low-profile original. Thanks to an all-new midsole using dual-density PEBA-based foam, the resulting ride is bouncy, explosive, and forward-propelling, one of the peppiest midsoles we’ve tested. Running in the Rocket X 2 felt like we were effortlessly bouncing from foot to foot. A steep, late rocker under the forefoot gives the Rocket X 2 what testers described as two distinct gears: At slower paces, the underfoot response feels like it comes mostly from the midsole’s bounce. But as soon as you hit faster paces and get up on your toes with a more powerful, forward-pressing push-off, the rocker aggressively slings you forward, like a sudden downshift in a Porsche 911 Turbo. The remarkably comfortable upper, made of a stretchy technical synthetic mesh with an internal midfoot cage attached to the tongue, is form-fitting and secure without undue pressure. Hats off to Hoka for creating a legitimate contender in the carbon-fiber supershoe race. The wait has been far too long, but it was worth it. Read our full review on the Hoka Rocket X 2.
Best Combo of Cushioning and Connection: Topo Cyclone 2 ($150)
Weight: 6.9 oz (men’s), 5.5 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 28–23 mm
Sizes: 8–12 (men’s), 6–11 (women’s)
Drop: 5 mm
Strengths: Comfortable cushioning with an ultralight, flexible, close-to-the-ground feel
Weaknesses: Too minimal for some
For some runners, today’s supershoes feel overbuilt—the plate’s too stiff, the midsole too tipsy, and the rocker too aggressive. The Topo Cyclone 2 presents an alternative formula, combining today’s cutting-edge foam technology with a simplified, minimalist underfoot experience. One tester described the Cyclone as “a shoe that moves like a minimalist model and provides a stable, proprioceptive ground connection while cushioning and bouncing like a supershoe.” Despite the low, flexible, minimalist feeling, the midsole still provides plenty of cushioning underfoot for effective shock absorption. Even one tester who favors thick-soled, stiff, maximum-cushioned shoes appreciated the lightness and high-energy rebound provided by the full Pebax midsole. Sitting atop the super-powered sole is a thin, airy, engineered mesh upper that’s tailored for a secure midfoot wrap and a wide anatomical toe box. “The fit is comfortably snug and welcoming at 5k pace or slower,” praised one tester, who also noted, however, that he found the wide forefoot felt slightly “sloppy” as he approached top-end speeds. One tester summed up: “The Cyclone 2 is a lightweight speed and race-day shoe that lets your foot control the shoe, not—like with so many of today’s carbon-fiber super shoes—the other way around.” Read our full review on the Topo Cyclone 2.
Best for Smooth Cruising: Adidas Ultraboost Light ($190)
Weight: 10.5 oz (men’s), 9.2 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 32–22 mm
Drop: 10 mm
Sizes: 4–18 (men’s), 5–11 (women’s)
Strengths: All the Boost bounce at a lighter weight; snug, supportive fit
Weaknesses: High heel felt obtrusive to some
The Adidas Ultraboost Light embodies everything we’ve come to love about the Ultraboost franchise—a soft, sock-like upper combined with a thick, luxurious slab of Adidas’s smoothly responsive cushioning—at a fraction of previous models’ heft. Credit Boost Light, a new foam formulation that weighs 30 percent less and gives four percent more bounce than the original Boost, while producing ten percent fewer carbon emissions in its production. On the road, we confirmed that the new midsole feels noticeably livelier than the foam in previous Ultraboosts. One tester noted, “There’s still a ton of cushioning, but it feels light and responsive.” Outside the new midsole, the airy knit upper remains essentially the same, with a snug, stretchy booty locked down with plastic midfoot overlays. The best part—there’s no price difference between the original and this new lighter version.
Best for Comfort Junkies: Asics Gel-Nimbus 25 ($160)
Weight:10.3 oz (men’s); 9.1 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 41.5–33.5 mm (men’s); 40.5–32.5 (women’s)
Drop: 8 mm
Sizes: 6–16 (men’s), 5–13 (women’s)
Strengths: Plush from top to bottom; superior cushioning without feeling squishy
Weaknesses: Upper is a bit thick and heavy for a performance shoe
For its 25th birthday, Asics’ franchise cushioned shoe lost its traditional, visible gel pod under the forefoot, and we don’t miss it. The new EVA-blend foam in the Nimbus 25 is light, soft, and springy—and there’s plenty of it, as the shoe got a 20 percent increase in overall stack height. But it’s not overly squishy. “I especially like its bounce-back energy return,” said a tester. A flat, oval-shaped chunk of the company’s new gel (said to be softer and lighter than their previous formulations) sits within the foam under the heel and adds to the plush landing, while a late, steep rocker speeds toe-offs. Combined with the stretchy knit upper and well-padded heel collar, the new Nimbus delivers a supremely comfortable ride, ideal for high-mileage training, recovery runs, or just a soft, coddled feeling on daily outings.
Best for Longer Races: Saucony Endorphin Elite ($275)
Weight: 7.2 oz (men’s), 6.5 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 39.5–31.5 mm
Drop: 8 mm
Sizes: 7–15 (men’s), 5–12 (women’s)
Strengths: Phenomenal bounce; quick-rolling ride
Weaknesses: Not as cushioned as some competitive super shoes
The all-new Endorphin Elite features a brand-new supercritical PEBA-based midsole called PWRRUN HG that Saucony claims is its most energy-efficient foam to date. The new midsole felt a tad firmer than the foam found in other Saucony supershoes, with one tester describing it as “well-cushioned but not overly soft.” A little extra downward force, however, revealed its phenomenal energy return, and, with a slight step on the gas, testers said their stride fell into a powerful, rhythmic cadence that felt effortless. The full-length carbon fiber-plate embedded in the foam is forked to allow flex as the foot rolls inward, while its sharp upward curve under the toes creates a smooth, stable ramp for takeoff. “The foam and plate seemed to encourage and enhance a quick turnover,” said one tester. The upper may look funky, but the combo of a soft, stretchy inner sleeve and an external webbing that wraps around the midfoot and beneath the carbon plate cinched testers’ feet comfortably and securely, like the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet.
Best for Nimble Versatility: Brooks Levitate 6 ($150)
Weight: 10.9 oz (men’s), 9.8 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 33.5–25.5 mm
Drop: 8 mm
Sizes: 7–15 (men’s), 5–12 (women’s)
Strengths: Sleek and quick-feeling, with a balance of cush and bounce
Weaknesses: Not as plush and overtly comfy as many cushioned models
This is the kind of shoe you wear day-in and day-out without having to decide what to put on. It’s comfortable on long, slow miles, but ready and capable to pick up the pace when you are. The polyurethane-based midsole foam, called DNA AMP v2, is 10 percent lighter than the original and emphasizes bounce over cush. Testers described the ride as “responsive,” “light,” and “springy.” One even said she felt “energized upon each step.” A wider midfoot platform, arrow-point grooves on the outsole, and what seemed like just the right amount of forefoot cushioning encouraged smooth transitions from touch-down to toe-off. It’s not the lightest shoe in this roundup, but it doesn’t feel heavy. On the contrary, the Levitate 6 (unlike early versions) made our feet feel quick and nimble. Bonus: The updated fit works for a range of foot shapes
Most Forgiving: Nike Invincible 3 ($180)
Weight: 10.9 ounces (men’s), 9.1 ounces (women’s)
Stack Height: 40–31 mm
Drop: 9 mm
Sizes: 6–15 (men’s), 5–12 (women’s)
Strengths: Unparalleled cushion-to-weight ratio; Über-forgiving without being mushy or unstable
Weaknesses: Sluggish at speed
The bottom of Nike’s product info page for the Invincible 3 reads like something their lawyers made them post: “Not intended for use as Personal Protective Equipment.” That’s right, the company doesn’t want you to mistake this oversized shoe for a life preserver. Seriously, Nike appears to be avoiding any claims that the shoes are a protective medical device—and rightfully so, given the scant evidence linking any running shoe attribute to injury prevention. However, the Invincible’s maximum cushioning—a full 40 mm of Pebax-based Nike ZoomX superfoam—absorbs the impact of each footfall and delivers a remarkably comfortable and forgiving ride. Yet it’s not a mushy cush; the ZoomX feels both energetic and gently supportive. The springy foam has a rockered shape, which seems to create a smooth toe-off and helps even fatigued runners propel forward.
A super-wide platform that flares out under the forefoot and tapers uniquely toward the toe and arch, and a firm plastic clip surrounding the base of the heel, together help guide feet toward a natural, supported stride without trying to control. For so much shoe, the Invincible 3 is fairly lightweight. We reached for the Invincible 3 while ramping up mileage, and for days where we just needed a little extra love—like after doing a crap-ton of squats. Read our full review on the Nike Invincible 3.
Best Cushy Uptempo Shoe: On Cloudsurfer ($160)
Weight: 8.6 oz (men’s), 7.2 oz (women’s)
Stack Height: 32–22 mm
Drop: 10 mm
Sizes: 7–14 (men’s), 5–11 (women’s)
Strengths: Soft, lively, smooth and comfortable ride; plush upper
Weaknesses: Cloudsurfer fans will miss the responsive, proprioceptive feel of previous versions
Some shoe updates are small, others so large they completely alter a shoe. The new Cloudsurfer falls into the latter category. In a radical departure from the external cushioning pods linked by a flexible Speedboard plate that has defined On’s DNA, the new Cloudsurfer introduces a new era in Cloud cushioning technology called CloudTec Phase. The “clouds” are now holes carved through the über-soft midsole, angled like a string of falling dominos to allow the midsole to collapse as you move forward. The resulting ride is “soft, lively, and unbelievably comfortable,” said one previous On skeptic. Testers who have typically shied away from On running shoes for their stiff foam and firm underfoot feel absolutely raved about the new Cloudsurfer. However, our long-time Cloudsurfer loyalist missed the more stable, proprioceptive, and responsive ride of the original design. The new Cloudsurfer runs with a sense of freedom, plushness, bounciness, and flexibility that previous generations bound to the Speedboard platform could not. The heavily padded, soft mesh upper and tongue impressed our testers so much that one was inspired to run sockless. For those who prefer a lazyboy-soft ride and a flexible platform that moves with the foot, this is a fantastic lightweight, cushioned daily trainer, with enough pick-up-and-go for tempos and races.
Selecting a Road Shoe
If you’re looking for a road shoe, consider if you want a speedster or something that feels good on long, slow jogs. Do you like the feel of a soft, forgiving ride, a more bouncy, energetic sensation underfoot, or a firmer platform that provides more groundfeel? Given new foams and technologies, many shoes today provide cushioning without sacrificing responsiveness or stability. Each balances these characteristics differently, however, creating a spectrum of options with distinct rides.
How to Choose the Best Running Shoes for You
Fit and Feel
Choosing the best running shoes for you is a matter of finding the models that best fit your foot and deliver the best feel when you’re running. To determine fit and feel, there’s no substitute for trying the shoes on and running in them.
Fit: Match Your Foot Shape
When assessing fit, first pay attention to length. You need room at the end of your toes as your feet lengthen during their dynamic movements on the run and swell if you’re going long distances. A rule of thumb is to allow a thumb’s width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Runners often wear a running shoe a half or full size bigger than their street shoes.
Ensure that the shape of the sole and the upper matches your foot shape. The sole should be as wide or wider than your foot for the whole length, and match the curve of your arch comfortably. The shoe should hold your foot securely over the instep, while allowing the ball of the foot and the toes to splay and flex when you roll forward onto them. Your heel shouldn’t slip when you lift it, and the arch should be able to dome and lengthen naturally. Nothing should bind or rub as you roll through the stride.
Feel: Match Your Movement Path
If the shoe fits, it’s time to take them on a short run on a treadmill, around the store, or, ideally, down the block and back. Every running shoe has a unique ride created primarily by the type and density of foam in the midsole and the geometry of that foam—its thickness, width, heel-to-toe drop, and forefoot flexibility or rocker shape. These elements interact with each other and your stride to determine how the shoe reacts on landing, how much it cushions, how stably it supports, how smoothly it transitions from landing to toe-off, and how quickly and powerfully it rebounds.
The best way to choose the shoes that complement your body and stride is to find the ones that feel right on the run. Benno Nigg, the world-leading biomechanics professor who proposed this method of shoe selection, calls it the “comfort filter.” Comfort, however, is far more than how plush the shoe feels when you step into it. What you want to assess is whether the shoe allows your feet to move the way they want to move, what Nigg calls your “preferred movement path.” In the right shoe, while running at your normal pace, you will touch down gently where you expect to land, roll smoothly and stably through the stride, feel both cushioned from and connected to the ground, and push off naturally, quickly, and powerfully. The shoe shouldn’t feel like it is controlling your foot or altering your stride—it will feel so right it disappears. When this comes together you’ll know that you’ve found your pair.
It’s likely that several shoes will feel good on your feet. To find the most comfortable, it helps to compare them back to back, like an eye doctor will do with corrective lenses, flipping between “A” or “B,” “1” or “2.” You may also find that different shoes feel better at different paces or level of fatigue, and you may want more than one pair. In fact, research shows that wearing a variety of different shoes is one of the few proven ways to reduce injury risk as it appears to vary the stresses on your feet and joints.
What About Injury Prevention?
Running shoes have long been marketed and sold as prescriptive devices to help runners stay healthy, but there is little scientific evidence correlating shoes, or any specific shoe properties—like cushioning or pronation control—with running injuries. Medical professionals say that it is highly difficult to determine whether a runner needs a certain type of shoe, and studies have shown that prescribing shoes with traditional methods like treadmill gait analyses or wet-foot arch height tests doesn’t consistently reduce injuries.
Don’t assume that you need more cushioning or more stability if you have sore joints, or if you’re a heavier runner, or if you’re a beginner—evidence doesn’t support many common beliefs. The best way prevent injury is to find two or three different pairs that feel right on the run, ease into using them, and vary your shoes, your running surface, and your pace regularly, while avoiding rapid increases in your training load.
When it’s time to upgrade your gear, don’t let the old stuff go to waste–donate it for a good cause and divert it from the landfill. our partner, Gear Fix, will repair and resell your stuff for free! Just box up your retired items, print a free shipping label, and send them off. We’ll donate 100 percent of the proceeds to The Outdoorist Oath.