Over the past year there have been some major releases in the world of running shoes. There seem to be new launches happening every week with brands aiming to take the lead in the fastest and most comfortable shoes out there today.
Some, like the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% or the Hoka Carbon X, have sat at the top of the pile where speed is concerned, with many of the world record times currently held by athletes wearing them.
Other running shoes, like the Hoka Rincon or the Nike Pegasus Turbos have seen widespread popularity for being amazing all-rounder shoes. Not particularly excelling at any one thing but a great option for daily use.
Here’s my breakdown of the current shoes that I think are leading the way across various use cases, from the fastest options to shoes perfect for long, comfortable training runs.
For some of these shoes you can watch full video reviews via the Run Testers YouTube channel. If we’ve made a video you can find the link under the shoe. If you want to see us cover any that don’t have a video then let me know.
The best running shoes for racing
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%
Up until a couple of weeks ago I’d have said the Nike Pegasus Turbo for this, but since then I’ve bought myself a pair of Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% and my running world has been turned upside down.
From the first time I ran in these, I realised what all the hype was about. Not only are they ridiculously light, but the ZoomX foam combined with the carbon plate produces a ridiculous level of bounce that has such a noticeable effect as you run.
In the first 5k I raced with them I knocked over a minute off of my recent best times and about 30 seconds off my all-time PB – and they’re not even meant to be that valuable over shorter distances. My heart rate was lower and I didn’t feel like I was putting in as much effort as I normally do. It’s a phenomenal shoe.
The only major downsides are the cost and the durability. If you’re serious about your racing and you need an edge on top of your training, they’re the best I’ve ever used.
New Balance FuelCell Rebel
Before 2019 I was never a big fan of New Balance’s range of running shoes. However, over the past few months, they’ve released some really nice shoes covering a wide range of different types of runner.
The Rebel is New Balance’s race shoe. An extremely lightweight, comfy option with the perfect level of cushioning for comfort and race day speed. In many ways, it’s similar to the Nike Pegasus Turbo in feel and purpose, albeit with slightly less cushioning.
At £120 it’s a great option if you’re looking for a fast shoe that’s cheaper than some of the big names and, to be honest, the only downside is the outsole durability isn’t great.
If you’re looking for one pair of shoes for multiple purposes, the Rebel isn’t going to cover you for training runs, in terms of both comfort and durability. For 5k to half marathon races, it’s well worth a look.
Hoka One One Carbon X
The Carbon X was one of the earliest Carbon plate shoes to appear on the market in the wake of Nike’s domination over the last year or so. I’m a big fan of it for a number of reasons and I’ve used it for many races over the last year.
There’s an incredibly thin, light upper that covers the bulk of the shoe. It’s extremely comfortable and feels almost as thin as the material you’d find on a t-shirt. That makes it noticeably breathable and it really is a joy to wear.
The midsole has, as you’d expect from Hoka, a fair bit of cushioning whilst still retaining the lightness of a high-performing race shoe. The carbon plate offers a noticeably level of energy return, although it’s still a long way off what you’re getting in the Vaporflys.
Overall it’s a great shoe for racing: comfortable, cushioned, bouncy and lightweight, and it’s a very enjoyable shoe to wear. For me, it’s a bit too chunky to be as fast as the Vaporfly or the New Balance Rebel. But if you want a carbon plate racer that has a more substantial midsole, it’s a great shout. There are also some really nice colorways coming out for it (the white ones can get pretty dirty).
Saucony Kinvara 11
The Kinvara range has always been popular with runners looking for a race shoe that offers a lightweight ride but doesn’t skimp on comfort and responsiveness.
I was a big fan of the Kinvara 10, but the improvements made to the latest model have significantly improved on it. As well as a new design, which is by far one of the best looking shoes I’ve seen for ages, Saucony has updated the previous EVA midsole to use its own PWRRUN foam.
Essentially it’s a fantastic race shoe that has a surprising amount of cushioning and comfort. If you’re a faster runner, it’s a perfect option if you need a speedy training shoe as well and the new foam offers a nice level of durability, so it’ll last longer than a lot of speed shoes.
The SL20 is probably the most exciting shoe that adidas has released for the past few years (until the Adizero Pro appears). Featuring the new Lightstrike cushioning, it’s one of the lightest shoes you’re going to find out there at 222 grams – and it really does deliver.
It may lack the soft, bounciness that you’ll find in something like the Carbon X or the Rebel, but for race day it’s a great option.
It may be a bit hard for training runs and for many runners it’s probably going to lack the cushioning of a marathon shoe, but for 5k to half marathons, it’s one of my top choices. Especially considering you can pick them up for under £80.
361 Degrees Feisu 2
If you haven’t heard of the running shoe brand 361 Degrees, they’re a big deal over in China with an extensive range of running shoe for all types of runner.
I’ve tried out a couple of their shoes in the past and although I liked them, they didn’t blow me away. The Feisu 2 is the recent update to the fastest shoe across the full range. It’s designed for one thing: speed.
In a world that’s dominated by carbon fibre plates, it’s quite nice to see new shoes appear that offer a great experience for speedy runners but still keep it simple. The Feisu 2 is one of the best examples of that I’ve seen recently. Like the adidas SL20s they offer a light, snappy ride but without the noticeable hardness.
That’s not to say the Feisu 2 are heavily cushioned, they’re definitely not. So if you do want some bounce then these aren’t for you. But, they have a bit more than the SL20, making for a slightly more comfortable ride.
I actually took these out after a few runs and took two minutes off of my 10kb (38 minutes now). So they do the job pretty well. Design-wise they look superbly retro as well.
Salomon Sonic 3 Accelerate
Salomon isn’t a brand that most of us would associate with road running, with its widespread appeal largely focussed around the trail running and hiking worlds. As a result, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the Sonic 3 Accelerate. I’d previously heard nothing about the shoe – which meant my expectations were low before testing them out.
The Sonic 3 Accelerate is a neutral shoe that works best when it comes to speed, coming in at a nice 223g for men. It feels hard like a minimal race shoe but does actually have a fair bit of cushioning in the form of the dual-layered OptiVibe midsole. For the first few kilometres, it feels slightly clunky and I was concerned that they would be too hard for me, especially in training runs.
That soon wears off and you realise that it’s actually a very comfortable shoe for faster training miles and for racing. In comparison to some of the other race options out there, it offers a surprising amount of cushioning against impact without feeling soft or sluggish.
The best all-round running shoes:
New Balance FuelCell TC
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just because a shoe has a carbon plate doesn’t mean it will make you run faster. The reason why Nike’s Vaporfly shoes are so good is not because they have a plate in them. Yes, it contributes to the overall shoe but there’s a lot more to it than that from foam to the materials used in the upper.
The FuelCell TC, like most carbon plated shoes being released at the moment, is inevitably going to be compared to the Vaporfly. To do that is just wrong, though. The TC is not a shoe specifically made for really fast times on race day. It’s an all-round shoe that’s built for pretty much everything, offering beautifully enjoyable training runs as well as a lot of speed in races.
It’s bouncy, comfortable, has a lot of energy return and has significantly more durability than a focused race shoe. I’ve been wearing it for pretty much every run since I’ve got it and I’m an enormous fan. May well be my favourite all-round running shoe ever… I won’t make that claim just yet though. We’ll give it another few weeks.
Nike Pegasus Turbo 2
I first ran in the Nike Pegasus Turbo back in 2018. I wore it for every major race I did over the next year and I beat all of my existing PBs wearing it. It’s not only an incredibly light running shoe but it has a lot of cushioning in the form of the same ZoomX foam that’s in the Vaporfly.
To be honest there was nothing about the original Pegs that I didn’t like. They’re comfy, the rocker shape works really well for momentum and they work just as well for training runs as they do for racing. They’re pretty much the perfect all-round running shoes.
The Nike Pegasus 2 has had some updates made to the upper to make it lighter. With that comes a few minor issues in terms of fit and slightly less support. It’s still by far my favourite all-round shoe though and I’ve never found anything that’s impressed me so much. The new version also has loads of really nice new colorways.
The Cloudflow has seen an upgrade in the most recent version of the shoe in the form of a new softer and more responsive Helion foam midsole. A really good thing as the original version was an extremely hard shoe to run in – to the point where my flat-footed slow running made me sound like a horse clopping.
Despite that, I did run in the original versions a fair bit a few years back and found it to be a great all-round running shoe. The new version is a significant improvement on that shoe and sits very nicely between a faster training shoe and a race shoe.
The Helion foam is nice and springy without being overly chunky and the lightweight upper is supportive and comfortable. There’s also Speedboard in there, which is a bit like a carbon plate and designed to give an extra kick off with each step.
A great option if you want one pair of shoes to take you from training runs to races. If you’re after cushioning and support it may be a bit on the thin side though.
Nike Zoom Fly SP Fast
To be honest, I’m a bit late to the table when it comes to the Nike Zoom Fly. I actually bought a pair because I enjoyed running in the New Balance Fuelcell TC so much I wanted to see how Nike’s cheaper Vaporfly alternative compared with it.
Most of the people I’ve spoken to that have bought a pair of Zoom Flys seem to have done it because they wanted a cheaper carbon plate alternative to the Vaporfly – before 2020 it was one of the small selection of shoes that had one, and considerably cheaper than it’s record-breaking older borther/sister.
Although it does take some design features from the Vaporfly, the similarities are largely minimal. It doesn’t really feel like the Vaporfly and the carbon infused nylon plate (it’s not fully carbon) is largely unnoticeable as a feature.
To compare it to the Vaporfly is fairly pointless. To judge it as a great all-round shoe that offers an affordable and lightweight ride is far wiser. It’s a great, snappy shoe that lacks the sort of bounce and responsiveness of the Vaporfly but still offers a nice level of comfort, bounce and energy return thanks to the React foam. Well worth a look if you want a shoe that’ll cover you from training runs to race day. You can also find versions of it significantly cheaper if you search around.
The best running shoes for training
Hoka One One Clifton Edge
Like the previous Clifton iterations, the Edge is a shoe designed to offer a comfortable, lightweight and cushioned ride. As you’ve probably noticed, the “Edge” is in reference to the addition of an extended heel section, a feature intended to add extra support and improve heel to toe transition.
Now, I’m not a heel striker, so to test this shoe I did a fair bit of running downhill. In that capacity the extra foam does make a noticeable difference when landing. Whether or not that translates to a heavy heel striker, I’m not so sure, but it definitely doesn’t have a negative affect if you don’t.
The main thing that surprised me about the Edge is that despite its bulky appearance (it looks enormous compared to another shoe in the same size), it’s actually fairly lightweight at 253g. For training runs it delivers a soft, comfortable and enjoyable ride, however I don’t think the extra foam does a great deal to improve on the normal Clifton model.
If you are a heavy heel striker and want stability and support without sacrificing weight and comfort, it may be a good option – it definitely won’t be counterproductive.
Also wort noting that the shoe does size slightly small. So aim for half a size to a size bigger.
Mizuno Wave Skyrise
When I first got the Mizuno Wave Skyrise, I wasn’t really a fan of them. For me, the design looks a bit dull and they appear too clunky from an aesthetic perspective.
When I started wearing them for long training runs I didn’t really warm to them either. Nothing about them really impressed me about them, but for some reason, I kept wearing them.
After wearing them for dozens of runs I started to realise that they weren’t there to impress me with features, and what I actually wanted was a comfortable shoe that I didn’t think about. I don’t think I’ve ever come home from a run and had any issues with them, or wished I’d worn another pair when I’m out on the streets.
They’re just a really comfy, reliable pair of training shoes that has a lot of support in the upper, a heap of soft cushioning in the midsole and a really durable outsole. They’re not fast though, so don’t expect to get these and run races in them.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10
I was never a fan of the previous Fresh Foam models from New Balance. I found them clunky, not very comfortable and a bit underwhelming. With a load of design updates, I’ve been turned around and I really like the new v10 model.
It’s the first time I’ve actually liked the look of the Fresh Foam series and a lot of work has clearly been put in to make these accessible to the fashion audience. Luckily those developments are not all cosmetic and, for me, the shoe is a vast improvement on the previous design.
First of all, there’s a new Hypoknit upper which offers a sock-like fit. It’s comfy, looks nice and fits my feet very nicely (size 8 – average width) – although my little toe does press into the soft knitted upper slightly (doesn’t feel uncomfortable). The Fresh Foam X in the midsole is cushioned but still feels slightly hard and there’s a spattering of rubber on the outsole to protect the thick wedge of foam.
For me, it’s a nice shoe for short and long-distance running where you want a comfortable ride but still want a bit of a kick to it. I’ve seen a lot of people racing in it and I’ve tried it out at a 10k and a half marathon. Although it feels fine, at my pace, it’s not a fast shoe. I found myself getting annoyed with the sluggish feel of it towards the latter stages of the distance and I wouldn’t advise using it for racing. For faster training runs, it’s fine.
When I first picked up a pair of Asics Novablasts and put them on I wasn’t initially very keen. The upper felt a bit loose and flimsy and I struggled to tie the laces comfortably. I was also worried that the overly thick cushioning and drop of 10mm would make for a slow and unenjoyable run.
After a couple of kilometres, my first view of the shoe was completed disproved as I found them to be surprisingly responsive and enjoyable to run in. Yes, that cushioning is soft, but it has a fair kick to it when you’re picking up the pace.
I tend to use them for training runs where I want to flexibility to go slow or pick up the pace and they do a great job. That loose upper doesn’t cause me any issues either.
The one downside is that they’re not the most stable of shoes, so if you want to strap your feet in and feel like they’re locked in place, these probably aren’t the shoes for you and that added height can make them feel a bit precarious.
A great shoe for comfort and training across distances, but probably not a good race shoe.
Full video review
When I first tested out the Glideride, I really didn’t like them. They’re one of the most rigid shoes I’ve ever tried and that curved structure, twinned with a thick and slightly restrictive upper, feels like it’s forcing your feet to move in a very specific way.
I used them a few times then put them in the cupboard to gather dust – until a few weeks later when I decided to give them another go. There’s a definite wearing in period with the Glideride which can take a good 40km or so to loosen them up. I’ve since found them to be a great shoe for longer training runs, offering a nice fluid motion as a result of the pronounced rocker.
They’re probably a bit pricey for a training shoe for most people, so I wouldn’t advise getting a pair unless you can find them cheaper somewhere.
The best running shoe for value
HOKA ONE ONE Rincon
I’m a big fan of the Hoka Carbon X running shoe as an all-round option for racing and faster training runs, but it’s a bit pricey if you’re on a budget. Luckily Hoka released a significantly cheaper option in the form of the Rincon shoe.
It’s an impressively lightweight piece of kit that performs brilliantly as a training shoe or as a race shoe, much like the Carbon X. There’s a lot of bounce in the midsole as well as a nice, soft landing that offers a competent level of energy return.
At £105 (cheaper on some websites), it’s a ridiculously high level running shoe for the price and one of my favourite options for every type of run.
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon 2
When it comes to value for money, there isn’t one shoe I’ve tested that’s as impressive as the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon. When I first tested the previous model I was amazed by how much I enjoyed running in it, especially considering you can pick a pair up for less than £50 on some websites.
At 207 grams it’s an incredibly light shoe that offers a high level of cushioning whether you’re heading out for a long slow run or aiming for some faster miles. The upper is lightweight, but still gives a nice secure fit and the heel section is designed to hold the foot in place as you run.
Like the Hoka One One Rincon, it’s not the most durable shoe. There is some rubber covering on the outsole but don’t expect the Beacon 2 to be with you for years to come.
If you’re looking for a great all-round shoe, whether you’re saving the pennies or you want something cheap to add to your shoe collection to save some of your pricier models, it’s a great option.
The best running shoe for day wear
What I mean by ‘day wear’ is a shoe that you can leave the house in, wear at the gym, wear it to the shops and, if you fancy it, head out for a run. Should the mood arise.
The On Cloudswift is that shoe for me. I wear it all the time for pretty much anything I’ve got going on. It looks great, it’s really comfy and it works very well as an all-round running shoe.
The sole is made from On’s Helion foam, which offers a really soft yet responsive level of cushioning. It’s great for gym workouts, whether that’s weights or a HIIT class and it’s really durable so I don’t worry about it wearing down quickly (I wouldn’t wear many of the shoes in this list to go shopping in).
Other shoes out there
As you’ve probably noticed, there are a hell of a lot of carbon plate shoes being released over 2020. There’s also a tendency to compare every one of them to the Vaporfly – I know because I always do it as well.
Although it has a carbon plate, the Metaracer feels nothing like the Vaporfly. In many ways that’s a bad thing, especially if you’re after a new race shoe that delivers the same sort of benefits. In actuality, if I didn’t already know there was plate in this shoe I would have told you there wasn’t. It’s so unnoticeable in comparison to the Vaporfly or the FuelCell TC.
Now, that isn’t a negative. Just because a shoe has a carbon plate doesn’t mean that it needs to feel the same as another shoe. The Metaracer is more like what you’d expect from a standard lightweight race shoe, just with a little bit extra energy return. To be honest, I much prefer the Vaporfly or the FuelCell TC, but that’s just me. Some people don’t actually want a really bouncy shoe.
As a fast race shoe the Metaracer does a very good job, it is, however, not a training shoe. For slower miles – like with most race shoes – it isn’t enjoyable.
My main issue with the Metaracer is the price. At £180 it’s way too expensive for what it is, considering you can get a very similar feeling shoe – without a carbon plate – for a lot less.
I’ll continue to update and add to this list as I try out more shoes. If you agree, disagree or have something interesting to say about my choices, shoot me a message on Instagram.
You can also see an in-depth video of me discussing some of my favourite running shoes with The Run Testers here: