When embarking on a running kick, the one piece of kit it’s really worth putting some time into selecting is a top-notch pair of running shoes.
You can of course run in any old shoes, but that could well put you on the fast track to injuries, sluggish times and a generally unpleasant experience. In contrast, the right pair of shoes will help you find the motivation to get out there and pound the pavements.
What makes for the perfect pair depends on an individual’s aims, speed, running style and even fashion sensibilities. Don’t disregard the last factor – you want to feel good in these shoes if you’re going to be covering hundreds of miles in them.
Below you’ll find our favourite running shoes. Everything’s based on our experience of running in them but different runners will get different things from every shoe, so make sure to factor in your own experience when picking your new kicks. But hopefully somewhere on the list is a pair that’s set to carry you to PBs across every distance.
Nike Zoom Fly
What’s it for? Breaking personal bests in long-distance races.
Standout feature: The full-length carbon-infused nylon plate in the midsole, which pushes you forward.
Road test: The Zoom Fly feels like no other shoe when you first put it on, with the plate tipping you forward with every step. The stiffness in the shoe eases after you break them in, lessening this forward thrust to leave you with a responsive, lightweight shoe that’s cushioned enough for half and full marathons. You can expect to see the Zoom Fly, and the pricier (and lighter) Zoom Vaporfly 4% adorning the feet of many runners on marathon start lines over the next year. £125, buy on runnersneed.com
RECOMMENDED: Nike Zoom Fly Running Shoe Review
Brooks Glycerin 15
What’s it for? Comfort on your long runs.
Standout feature: The super-soft cushioning with Brooks Super DNA midsole tech that adapts with each stride to provide support where you need it most.
Road test: The Glycerin 15 is an absolute pleasure to run in, with its bountiful cushioning and the plush fit of the upper ensuring every step is as comfortable as possible. You won’t want to take it off when you get home – even your slippers won’t be as pleasurable to wear. The Glycerin 15 is undoubtedly at its best on long, steady runs when you’re not keeping tabs on your time, but the transition is smooth enough to pick up the pace if you must. £135, buy on brooksrunning.com
RECOMMENDED: Brooks Glycerin 15 Running Shoe Review
Saucony Kinvara 8
What’s it for? Runners who prefer a low-offset shoe but still want cushioning.
Standout feature: The 4mm heel-to-toe drop provides a natural feel to your running.
Road test: The Kinvara 8 is one of the most comfortable low-offset shoes, and its lightweight frame makes it suitable for all kinds of running, from speedy track sessions to weekend plods. The small heel-to-toe drop favours midfoot and forefoot strikers, but even heelstriking runners will get on with this shoe, and if you’re looking to move from a high-offset shoe to racing flats the Kinvara 8 makes for a good stepping stone. £110, buy on saucony.com/uk
RECOMMENDED: Saucony Kinvara 8 Running Shoe Review
Nike LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2
What’s it for? The LunarEpic’s greatest strength is its versatility. It’s fit for every kind on running.
Standout feature: The snug, sock-like upper makes the shoe a treat to pull on.
Road test: The LunarEpic Flyknit 2 is pitched as a comfortable shoe for long runs, which it undoubtedly is, but at a mere 249g it’s also lightweight enough to pick up the pace in races from 5K and up. It’s not quite speedy enough for the track, but it will fulfil all your other training needs, and it’s good-looking enough to wear with your civvies. In short, a superb all-rounder. £139.95, buy on store.nike.com
RECOMMENDED: Nike LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2 Review
Adidas Ultra Boost
What’s it for? Long-distance running, but not for those who need stability.
Standout feature: As always with Adidas running shoes, the Boost midsole, made from congealed foam “energy capsules”.
Road test: There’s no doubt that the Boost midsole delivers on what it promises: energy return and comfort. We found every stride was catapulted into the next almost before we realised it was happening, and the impact of a footstrike was nothing less than silky. The knitted upper is also glove-like as it moulds around your foot, but watch out if you’ve got particularly wide feet, as Adidas shoes do tend to come up narrow. £129.95, buy on sportsshoes.com
RECOMMENDED: Adidas UltraBoost Review
Saucony Freedom ISO
What’s it for? Taking on long distances at speed
Standout feature: The Freedom ISO is the first Saucony shoe with a full-length EVERUN midsole, which means it returns enough energy to keep you bouncing along mile after mile.
Road test: The Freedom ISO is an excellent all-round running shoe, with an upper so comfortable you could wear it as a pair of slippers as well as an incredibly responsive and bouncy sole that allows you to pick up the pace over any distance. For faster, neutral runners in particular, it’s a great option for 10Ks up to a full marathon. £140, buy on saucony.com/uk
RECOMMENDED: Saucony Freedom ISO Review
What’s it for? Smashing 5K and 10Ks
Standout feature: Asics has packed in plenty of cushioning with its FlyteFoam midsole, while still managing to keep the DynaFlyte lightweight
Road test: Every long-distance road running shoe has to work on the balance between cushioning and weight. You want enough support to ensure comfort, but not so much that the shoe is unpleasantly heavy. The DynaFlyte hits the sweet spot on this front perfectly, with a responsive feel that pushes you to go faster while causing no fears about a lack of support. £130, buy on asics.com
RECOMMENDED: Asics DynaFlyte Review
Asics Gel Kayano 24
What’s it for? Providing support and cushioning to over-pronators.
Standout feature: The sole, which is packed with features designed to aid your foot’s interaction with the ground.
Road test: As the name suggests, the Kayano is now in its 24th iteration, and remains one of the best shoes for runners in need of stability. In our tests the huge amount of cushioning in the sole was much appreciated on longer runs, although if you’re not an over-pronator the reinforced midsole might feel like overkill. Also of note is the updated upper, which has an enhanced fit to keep your heel in place while running. £150, buy on asics.com
Brooks GTS Adrenaline 17
What’s it for? A cushioned and supported yet speedy ride.
Standout feature: The diagonal roll bar within the midsole, discouraging the foot from over-pronating.
Road test: The GTS Adrenaline has long been a mainstay of the stability shoe options, and for good reason. Each layer of the sole is packed with features to ensure your foot remains as supported as possible throughout the gait cycle: we could feel this in action, and the latest Adrenaline also has the benefit of feeling light and springy in comparison with other structured shoes. The upper – especially the tongue – is exceptionally cushioned, too. £120, buy on brooksrunning.com
RECOMMENDED: The Best Men’s Running Gear
What’s it for? Providing supreme support to long-distance runners.
Standout feature: The Adidas Boost tech in the sole keeps you springing along mile after mile.
Road test: The Supernova might be slightly less stylish than the Adidas Ultra Boost, but it is even more impressive when it comes to racking up the distance during long runs. The Boost tech in the sole is always a key feature with Adidas shoes, but the Supernova also has a FITCOUNTER moulded heel counter, which keeps the heel in the best possible position when running. Add in the comfortable, flexible upper and you’ve pretty much got the perfect shoe for your marathon training. The Continental Rubber outsole is also worth a mention since it provides superb grip, even on the perilous icy pavements that often scupper winter training. £99.95, buy on adidas.co.uk
RECOMMENDED: Adidas Supernova Review
Brooks Ravenna 8
What’s it for? Giving support to overpronators without cramping their style.
Standout feature: Blown rubber on the forefoot of the shoe provides an especially springy toe-off stride after stride, which makes you feel fast no matter what pace you’re actually running at.
Road test: Given that the Ravenna 8 is designed as a stability shoe for overpronators, it’s surprisingly light and flexible. This makes it an excellent option for those who want some extra support but dislike the rigidity and weight of most stability shoes – and the Ravenna 8 is also comfortable for neutral runners. £115, buy on brooksrunning.com
RECOMMENDED: Brooks Ravenna 8 Review
Under Armour Charged Bandit 2
What’s it for? It’s an all-rounder that particularly shines during long runs.
Standout feature: Despite being a cushioned shoe designed for long distances, the Bandit 2 is incredibly light – coming in under 300g – so that support doesn’t weigh you down if you feel like picking up the pace.
Road test: The lightweight build of the Bandit 2 belies the amount of support it offers, and it’s very comfortable for long distances on both road and dry trails. The upper is breathable and stretchy to give a nice fit on any foot, although that does mean it gives you pretty much zero protection in the rain. You’ll get the best of the Bandit 2 over long runs, but it’s not chunky enough to slow you down significantly over short distances, making it a fine all-round option. £80, buy on underarmour.co.uk
Hoka One One Arahi
What’s it for? Fulfilling the needs of runners who require vast amounts of cushioning and some stability
Standout feature: The Arahi combines a massive chunk of cushioning with stability features to offer overpronators a supremely supportive ride.
Road test: The sizeable yet lightweight sole on the Arahi makes for an unexpectedly smooth ride considering they look like two tanks on your feet. Aided by the moderate stability features, which aren’t overbearing even for a neutral runner, the heel-to-toe transition is effortless. The Arahi is a great pick for those who rack up big miles every week. €130 (around £113), buy on hokaoneone.eu or in Runner’s Need stores
RECOMMENDED: Hoka One One Arahi Review
Road Running Shoe Buying Tips
Shankara Smith, managing director of London’s specialist running shop Run And Become – when she’s not hunting down a new marathon PB, that is – explains the basics of buying a road running shoe.
Running shoes aren’t designed to be waterproof, but they must be breathable if you don’t want your feet to overheat. “Most running shoes are made with two or three layers of mesh, which means they’re light and allow the sweat from your feet to evaporate easily,” says Smith. “But unless you’re happy to buy a new pair every time you run, you want your shoe to be durable too.”
Try the shoes on, do the laces up tight and walk around. “Make sure there isn’t too much space at the back of the heel and that it’s not too tight around your toes,” says Smith. “You’ll usually find a layer of different, stronger material around the bridge of the foot to keep it in place and comfortable.” Blisters shouldn’t be a problem if a shoe fits properly. It shouldn’t rub on the back of your heel and won’t need wearing in.
“A road running shoe must have the right kind of flexibility,” says Smith. “If a shoe is too rigid it will stop your foot flexing naturally and cause excessive stresses that can lead to injury. Instead, you want the shoe to comply with your foot’s natural movement for a smooth running stride.”
Before you even choose a shoe, get your running gait analysed. This determines the support you need to evenly distribute weight across your foot when you run. “A shoe’s support is indicated by the shape of its ‘last’, the outline of its sole,” says Smith. “If the sides of the shoe curve in (like a figure of eight) it’ll protect the outside of the sole of your foot because it promotes pronation. If the sides are straighter it’ll protect the inside of the sole because it resists overpronation.” If you have a neutral gait a semi-curved last, in between the two, is the best choice.
RECOMMENDED: Everything You Need to Know about Buying Running Shoes