There’s no such thing as the perfect running shoe. When it comes to running, all sorts of things come into play – your biomechanics, your weight, the surface you run on and the shape of your feet, meaning no one shoe will suit every kind of runner.
One of the things we’ve noticed over the decades of producing shoe reviews at RW is the way our network of runners express themselves when they’re filing their feedback on the shoes they’ve tested. Quite often, they don’t talk about the things the shoe does but instead focus on the things it doesn’t do. As in: it doesn’t pinch, it doesn’t feel heavy, it doesn’t make their feet sweat – and so on. This shows that, for many runners, the aim in choosing footwear is simply to find shoes that stay out of your way, don’t intrude upon your run and just allow you to get on with it. The more experienced you become, the more you may look for a specific required characteristic within a shoe – which is why we give each model such a thorough inspection – but it’s worth remembering that, at a basic level, comfort is key.
How to choose your perfect running shoe
Each shoe on the list below was chosen due to its high overall performance scores, but we also looked at three important categories that should help you find the best model for you:
Lighter shoes typically have less cushioning, which can make them feel faster. That said, if you’re going long distances, the extra cushioning of a heavier shoe might be a better option.
A shoe’s drop is the difference between the heel and forefoot measurements, or in simple terms, how much your toes drop below your heel. A higher drop can lead to more heel striking. Most shoes have a drop between 8 and 12 millimetres, some shoes have less than 6mm and a few minimalist designs have zero drop.
Cushioning provides impact absorption. In the lab, we looked at cushioning measurements in the heel and forefoot, to give you an idea of the overall cushioning in each shore.
Flexibility indicates how smoothly a shoe will move with the foot from heelstrike to toe-off. We measure this by securing a shoe’s forefoot to a machine that bends it 45 degrees – about the same as the foot flexes on the run – 60 times in 20 seconds. The force required to achieve this indicates how pliable the shoe is.
What are the best running shoes for 2019?
The wait is over, here are the shoes that made it onto our list, and the ones we’re looking forward to seeing later in the year:
In August, Nike unveiled their newest innovation – the Joyride Run Flyknit, a highly cushioned running shoe specifically designed to keep legs fresh on recovery runs. The shoe sees Nike unveil some new innovation too – cushioning with the help of thousands of TPE beads. These beads move to your exact individual and district foot strike and shape.
But why beads, you might ask?
Because they offer a personalized underfoot sensation and experience while addressing every point of a runner’s foot strike, from heel to toe-off. There are about 50% more beads in the heel pods for greater impact and absorption, while the front pods have just 5% of these beads, which give a more responsive, springier feel. Unlike a normal slab of foam which doesn’t move, beads can move and disperse a lot more to offer greater impact, dispersion, and cushioning,
Designed for recovery runs and beginners alike, with a completely different feel to the soft foam of other Nike shoes on the market, the beads do offer a springy, responsive, comfortable ride. Unlike Nike’s latest range of fast running shoes, you won’t have to worry about the Joyride not lasting a training cycle, but they are best suited for shorter runs and definitely for all those guys and gals running running their 5 and 10K in the park or on the gym’s treadmill.
2. Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%
Weight: 187g (men’s size 8)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm (M)
The fastest running shoe money can buy? Well, that depends on you and how much money you have (and you’ll need some).. Nike Vaporfly Next% is the latest incarnation of Nike’s breaking 2 running shoe and it’s already got some impressive results under its belt, most note worthy of course being Kipchoge’s 2:02:37 win at the 2019 London Marathon.
Highlights what we want to know is that Nike scrapped the Flyknit upper and replaced it with a new, even lighter VaporWeave woven mesh upper. They also added 15 percent more ultra-light ZoomX midsole foam, lowered the heel-toe offset from 11mm to 8mm and added more traction to the outsole rubber.
The Vaporfly Next% encourages a midfoot gait but it doesn’t penalize you if you land slightly back on your heels, either. As your foot hits the ground and starts to roll forward, you engage the curved carbon plate embedded in the midsole foam and as you roll forward you seem to get a boost of energy that propels your foot forward. Once you get into a rhythm at a fast pace, it feels buttery smooth.
Not forget to mention that the Vaporfly Next% also encourages a midfoot gait but it doesn’t penalize you if you land slightly back on your heels, either. As your foot hits the ground and starts to roll forward, you engage the curved carbon plate embedded in the midsole foam and as you roll forward you seem to get a boost of energy that propels your foot forward. Once you get into a rhythm at a fast pace, it feels buttery smooth.
No question about it, this shoe inspires speed for all those fast runners who train long distances and marathons.
3. Brooks Glycerin 17
Heel/toe drop: 10mm
The Glycerin 17 running shoe has a simple remit; comfort, plain and simple. This neutral trainer is the plushest pair Brooks has to offer right now, and has delighted many a runner who just want a shoe that feels indulgent on their foot.
While this does make it one of the heavier shoes out there, the Glycerin is also one of the softest when it comes to cushioning rating and this will please many.