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.
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.
Runner up: Nike Pegasus Turbo 2
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.
The best all-round running shoe: 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.
The best running shoe for comfort: 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.
Runner up: Saucony Guide 13
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.
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.
The best running shoe for day wear: On CloudSwift
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).
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: