While there’s no best road running shoe for every situation and person, some definitely rise above the rest. This guide is for runners searching for an everyday road running shoe that can handle long runs, easy runs, social runs, and speed sessions. We started by researching and compiling a list of the top three dozen road running shoes and sent them to our team of 22 shoe testers, ensuring that each shoe got tested by multiple people over several weeks. Our testers are year-round runners of every pace and body type who love to get into the details of each shoe. We developed this guide to the best available options based on their feedback.
The shoes below can dabble in a bit of everything — they’re cushioned but not the most cushioned, lightweight but not race-specific, and run the gamut of stability. After hundreds of miles of testing, our favorite road-specific shoe is the On Cloudsurfer for its lightweight comfort and smooth ride. However, we also love road running classics like the Hoka Clifton 9 and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23.
If you’re looking for road running shoes with a lot of cushion, head to our best cushioned road running shoes guide, and if you know you need a stability shoe, check out our best stability road running shoes guide. Check out our best running shoes guide to view a mix of our favorite road and trail shoes.
Best Road Running Shoes – Editors’ Picks
- Best Overall Road Running Shoe: On Cloudsurfer
- Best Overall Road Running Shoe – Runner-Up: Hoka Clifton 9
- Best Stability Road Running Shoe: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
- Best Zero-Drop Road Running Shoe: Altra Torin 7
- Best Light and Fast Everyday Road Running Shoe: Topo Athletic Cyclone 2
- Best Light and Fast Everyday Road Running Shoe – Runner-Up: Salomon Phantasm
Other Great Road Running Shoes
- Craft Pro Endur Distance
- Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
- New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13
- Brooks Ghost 15
- Nike Pegasus 40
Best Road Running Shoes – Editors’ Picks
Best Overall Road Running Shoe: On Cloudsurfer ($160)
Overall Rating: 9.5 | Upper Comfort: 9.5 | Underfoot Feel: 9 | Responsiveness: 9 | Stability: 7 | Cushion: 9
- Exceptionally lightweight and smooth
- Great everyday shoe for easy runs and tempo efforts
- Too bouncy for some
Smooth is the name of the game with the On Cloudsurfer. There’s something to be said about a shoe that multiple testers describe as one they lace up and then forget they’re wearing. But that’s precisely what happened when our testing team got their feet in these shoes. This smooth ride is thanks partly to what On calls its CloudTec Phase midsole design. The holes in the midsole, or what the brand calls “clouds,” squish down at a forward angle, similar to falling domino pieces, as they absorb the foot’s impact through a full stride. The effect is that the shoe propels you forward as the foam absorbs impact and then rebounds.
These shoes indeed feel soft and bouncy, and we were pleasantly surprised with how responsive they felt during a set of strides. Our testers thought they also felt stable yet nimble on pavement, gravel, and packed dirt. Since this was a totally new style from On in 2023, we were initially curious about how well that cushion would retain its springiness. Now that we’ve put a few hundred miles on the shoe, we can say that overall, the shoe is holding up well. Some of our testers consider them more soft than bouncy after 100+ miles, while others detect no breakdown in the foam after 200 miles. All agree that this shoe still delivers plenty of comfort and enjoyment on easy-run days.
Our testers also loved the shoe’s upper. It’s cushioned enough to yank down on the laces for a secure midfoot fit without feeling painful pressure on the top of your foot. The heel is cushioned and secure, too. You might think all this padding would compromise the shoe’s breathability during the summer heat, but we’ve made it through the hottest months with no complaints. Additionally, the Cloudsurfer remains surprisingly lightweight for all that cushion. And like we said, it’s one you can lace up and forget — at least until you finish your run and realize how much fun you just had.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 8.3 ounces (233 grams) | Drop: 10 millimeters
Best Overall Road Running Shoe – Runner-Up: Hoka Clifton 9 ($145)
Overall Rating: 8.5 | Upper Comfort: 8.5 | Underfoot Feel: 8 | Responsiveness: 7.5 | Stability: 7 | Cushion: 8.5
- A cushioned road running shoe that works great for everyday running
- Not as responsive in speed sessions as other top picks
The Hoka Clifton 9 was the top pick in our cushioned road running shoes guide and part of the reason it earned that spot is that it does a lot of things well — and this means the shoe deserves a top spot among everyday road running shoes as well. Although it has 32 millimeters of plush cushion underfoot, it isn’t so soft that you lose all feeling of the ground. Additionally, it’s impressively light, weighing in at less than nine ounces.
We especially love the updated upper of this shoe. It’s smooth, light, and breathable. As a result, the shoe feels ample and supportive without the bulky or clunky experience of “too much shoe” — making it ideal for everyday miles. This is an excellent shoe for any runner, whether you’re logging miles for daily fitness and enjoyment or training for your next marathon. It transitions well between pavement, gravel, and packed dirt, though it wouldn’t be our first choice for the track or similar short-interval speedwork. The Salomon Phantasm or Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 reviewed below would provide a more energetic response for high-cadence turnover.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 8.9 ounces (253 grams) | Drop: 5 millimeters
Best Stability Road Running Shoe: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 ($140)
Overall Rating: 8 | Upper Comfort: 8 | Underfoot Feel: 7 | Responsiveness: 6.5 | Stability: 9.5 | Cushion: 7.5
- A light and breathable stability shoe for everyday road running
- It can feel a little flat when you pick up the pace
We recommend the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 as a great everyday stability road running shoe for our overpronators. Check out our guide to the best stability running shoes to learn more about stability shoes and additional top performers in this category. The shoe’s support comes from Brooks’ GuideRails technology, consisting of two foam wedges inside the shoe on each side of the heel that help stabilize the ride without overcorrecting a runner’s natural gait. These firm foam pieces keep the foot from rolling too far toward the inside as the arch absorbs impact and compresses.
In testing, runners noted that this shoe feels great out of the box and gets even more comfortable with each run. The shoe’s upper is breathable, and its cushion is soft with a smooth forward transition. It lacks the springiness that we like in a speed workout, so if you’re looking for more bounce, check out the Nike Structure 24 or the Saucony Guide 16, two other shoes in our best stability running shoes guide. Nonetheless, this shoe is time-tested and accommodates a wide range of feet, providing stable support and moderate cushion day in and day out. It’s no wonder the Adrenaline has been one of the most popular stability running shoes for many years.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.6 ounces (301 grams) | Drop: 12 millimeters
Best Zero-Drop Road Running Shoe: Altra Torin 7 ($150)
Overall Rating: 8 | Upper Comfort: 7 | Underfoot Feel: 9 | Responsiveness: 7.5 | Stability: 8 | Cushion: 7.5
- The updated cushion feels firmer, bouncier, and more durable
- The tongue is soft and comfortable
- Narrower fit than previous versions
- Increased stack height from the previous version is not for everyone
The recently updated Altra Torin 7 is a great everyday road running shoe for runners who love the grounded feeling that zero-drop shoes provide and the roomy toebox for which Altra is known. The newest version of this shoe features an updated tongue that our testers appreciated for its smooth, soft, and slightly cushioned feel. We will not miss the previous version’s laser-cut tongue design. The cushion also feels somewhat firmer than previous versions, giving runners a nice little bounce underfoot while maintaining a stable experience with adequate ground feel. That said, increased stack height is currently a trend with shoe updates across many brands, including for this shoe, and not all runners want more lift.
Still, this shoe remains relatively lightweight and provides a nimble running experience. Its balance of cushion and responsiveness makes it a versatile shoe for daily runs on roads and gravel. Testers observed that the newest update feels a bit narrower in the midfoot, so if you have a wide or high-volume foot and have relied on previous versions of the shoe to provide ample space, you may want to try this shoe on before purchasing.
As a final note, Altra introduced its first non-zero drop shoe in October of 2023, called the FWDExperience, with a 4-millimeter drop. This shoe is currently being tested with the iRunFar team, and time (and miles) will tell whether it starts appearing in some of our guides. In the meantime, it’d be worth trying on the FWDExperience alongside the Torin 7 if you’re not committed to exclusively zero drop.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 8.9 ounces (251 grams) | Drop: 0 millimeters
Best Fast and Light Everyday Road Running Shoe: Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 ($150)
Overall Rating: 9 | Upper Comfort: 9 | Underfoot Feel: 8.5 | Responsiveness: 9 | Stability: 8 | Cushion: 8.5
- It will effortlessly increase your cadence and speed
- Responsive foam and soft upper
- Not the best choice if you’re truly trying to run easy
- Less durable midsole and outsole than other shoes
After stepping into the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2, you may find that you feel the need . . . the need for speed. That’s because this ultralight, bouncy, and breathable shoe with its rocker profile will have your legs turning over and your cadence picking up without you even realizing you’re running faster. At least, that’s what happened with our testers. They described running in these shoes as feeling effortlessly speedier than usual. In fact, just as “smooth” was the frequently used word with the On Cloudsurfer reviewed above, “effortless” was the word testers kept using for this shoe.
That effortless experience is in part due to the extreme lightness of this shoe. Further, Topo’s Pebax foam in the midsole provides a responsive energy return, and the die-cut rubber outsole adds little weight and friction. The downside of a shoe made from these very light materials is that it won’t last as long as other road running shoes in this guide. However, the shorter lifespan may be worth the feeling of flight, especially considering this shoe’s competitive price point. As for the rest of the shoe, testers appreciated the soft, smooth, and breathable upper, though they added that getting a secure fit and heel lockdown may require fiddling with the laces to get it just right. And, of course, not every run should involve a need for speed, so this shoe may not work as a daily trainer for runners who need every reminder to keep their easy runs easy.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 6.7 ounces (190 grams) | Drop: 5 millimeters
Best Fast and Light Running Shoe Runner-Up: Salomon Phantasm ($160)
Overall Rating: 8.5 | Upper Comfort: 8.5 | Underfoot Feel: 8.5 | Responsiveness: 8 | Stability: 9 | Cushion: 9
- Bouncy, firm cushion
- Roomy toebox
- It takes a few tries to get the midfoot locked down
The Salomon Phantasm is a shoe that transitions seamlessly between everyday training runs and speed workouts. The shoe was comfortable and responsive, with a lightweight foam midsole and smooth rocker profile. However, it took testers a few tries to get the midfoot locked in securely. The platform is slightly roomier than what we typically see from Salomon, especially in the toebox, which our toes loved. Although exceptionally breathable, the upper is a very thin mesh that seemed to wrinkle and fold when we tightened down the laces for the first couple of outings. The heel has a bit more structure and cushion, which helps lock the heel in securely. Despite the initial fit challenges, testers agreed that they stopped experiencing the issue after the first two or three runs as the shoe got broken in.
While it has a lot of cushion underfoot, this shoe feels firm and bouncy. That’s due to Salomon’s Energy Blade technology, which is a TPU plate added to the midsole to increase stiffness and rebound at the midfoot and forefoot. The design adds springiness to the toe-off. This balance of cushion and rebound makes this shoe an excellent choice for medium to long runs, hill workouts, and longer speed intervals. It’s worth noting that the shoe performed just fine on both pavement and gravel roads. Testers also rated this shoe as more stable than the On Cloudsurfer, reviewed above.
Editor’s note: Salomon introduced the Phantasm 2 in late summer, but due to inventory shortages, we have not been able to get the updated version to our testing team. Once we do, we’ll update this guide according to tester feedback.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 8.4 ounces (239 grams) | Drop: 9 millimeters
Other Great Road Running Shoes
Overall Rating: 8 | Upper Comfort: 6 | Underfoot Feel: 8 | Responsiveness: 9 | Stability: 5 | Cushion: 9
- Secure fit, responsive cushion
- Lots of foam in the heel could feel too chunky for some
Though it’s on the more cushioned end of our road running shoe picks, the Craft Pro Endur Distance is light and responsive for daily miles. It’s a solid shoe that makes the easy miles roll by, and the chunky heel doesn’t feel too cumbersome. The Px foam midsole makes it easy to find your groove, and the one-piece engineered mesh upper feels lightweight and incredibly secure around the midfoot.
From paved roads to packed dirt, the shoe provides an enjoyable experience in which the easy miles feel truly easy. Testers especially liked this shoe on long, gradual climbs where its shape felt smooth and balanced. They noted that the moderate rocker shape appeals to those who prefer a more traditional transition underfoot. Light enough that you’ll forget you’re wearing it, the Pro Endur Distance is ideal for daily running if you like a bit more underfoot cushion.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 9.1 ounces (257 grams) | Drop: 9 millimeters
Overall Rating: 7.5 | Upper Comfort: 9 | Underfoot Feel: 7.5 | Responsiveness: 7.5 | Stability: 6.5 | Cushion: 7
- Lightweight, bouncy, smooth
- The heel might feel too chunky for some runners
- More expensive than other top picks
Another ultralight and highly cushioned shoe that performs well for everyday road running is the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3. Alli Hartz, the author of this guide, quickly put more than 100 miles on this shoe and was pleasantly surprised with how it performed on easy runs and mid-winter speed workouts. The foam initially feels chunky underfoot, but the transition feels smooth and seamless once you get going. Saucony’s PWRRUNPB foam is super light and soft, while a winged nylon plate in the midsole provides a snappy energy return. Some testers thought the cushion felt too mushy for speedwork, but they still liked the shoe for easy efforts and tempo runs.
The stretchy mesh upper on this shoe is delightfully comfortable and secure — these shoes are fun to lace up. The heel and midfoot feel locked in while the toes still have room to move. While it has a more traditional profile, there’s still enough rocker in the toe to roll forward easily. While we found this a great short- and medium-distance shoe, it lacks the stability for longer miles, like if you’re training for a marathon. As a result, you may find your feet feel tired sooner than they would in shoes with a bit more support. Surprisingly, this shoe held its own through fickle springtime mountain weather, maintaining grip through slushy snow over pavement during long interval workouts.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 8.1 ounces (229 grams) | Drop: 8 millimeters
Overall Rating: 7 | Upper Comfort: 8.5 | Underfoot Feel: 6 | Responsiveness: 6 | Stability: 9 | Cushion: 8
- Supremely comfortable
Runners seeking comfort and reliability need to look no further than the New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13. This shoe has been around for some time and has a loyal following for good reason. It’s incredibly comfortable, accommodates a wide range of foot shapes, and has a good balance of not-too-soft and not-too-bouncy cushion. It’s also sturdy, durable, and priced competitively. Overall, it’s a solid choice.
On the flip side, it’s a relatively heavy shoe compared with others in our guide. It’s also kind of like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You know exactly what you’ll get, and while it may be satisfying and meet your basic needs, it won’t blow your mind. This may not be the shoe that will inspire you to chase a new marathon PR, but not all runners seek that goal. This shoe will be a trusty friend for your daily fitness or cross-training miles.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.1 ounces (287 grams) | Drop: 10 millimeters
Overall Rating: 7 | Upper Comfort: 8.5 | Underfoot Feel: 6 | Responsiveness: 5 | Stability: 8 | Cushion: 5.5
- It feels a bit dated
If you’re a fan of consistency and taking an “if it ain’t broke…” approach, then the Brooks Ghost 15 is your shoe. This is a neutral, moderately cushioned road running shoe that’s been around — and has remained widely popular — for the past fifteen years. It’s a comfortable and reliable daily trainer with a traditional feel and upper. It is pliable and lightweight and sees minimal design changes from year to year, which is nice for loyal fans who love the shoe just the way it is.
Of course, something described as traditional could also be called dated, and that’s how our testers felt about the cushioned upper and the underfoot feel. It’s fine but not exceptional. Additionally, the shoe has kept a high heel-to-toe drop. While it’s great to have high-drop options for those who need or prefer that style, this shoe feels abrupt to those accustomed to the smoother transition of a shoe with a lower drop or rockered sole. But, it is a reliable and trustworthy shoe for runners who prefer a more classic fit and feel.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 9.6 ounces (272 grams) | Drop: 12 millimeters
Overall Rating: 7.5 | Upper Comfort: 8.5 | Underfoot Feel: 7 | Responsiveness: 7 | Stability: 5.5 | Cushion: 8
- Great value
- It gets more pliable as it breaks in
- Stiff and rigid out of the box
The Nike Pegasus 40 is another road running shoe that has withstood the test of time and still holds a position among the best. However, it requires a break-in period. This neutral, moderately cushioned shoe feels pretty stiff out of the box, lacks smoothness, and feels kind of slappy at first. Don’t worry, though; it breaks in and becomes more pliable over time as you put more miles on it. The upper feels secure, if anything a bit rigid, but this also softens with time. The outsole grips well if you venture onto dirt or encounter unexpected snow and mud, as our tester in the mountains of Colorado did.
Like the New Balance and Brooks options above, the Pegasus probably won’t blow your mind. Nevertheless, it’s a solid and reliable daily trainer. It feels a bit heavier and stiffer than the Brooks Ghost but lighter than the New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13. If you’re used to running in Nike shoes and know you like the fit and feel, you’ll likely be pleased with this shoe, especially as you put more miles on it.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 9.7 ounces (276 grams) | Drop: 10 millimeters
Comparing the Best Road Running Shoes
|Hoka Clifton 9
|Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
|Altra Torin 7
|Topo Athletic Cyclone 2
|Craft Pro Endur Distance
|Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
|New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13
|Brooks Ghost 15
|Nike Pegasus 40
- Heel-to-Toe Drop – The difference in height between the heel and the toe of the shoe, most often measured in millimeters. Often called “offset” or “drop” for short.
- Midsole – The middle layer of foam between a shoe’s upper and outsole that provides cushioning.
- Outsole – The bottom part of the shoe that comes into contact with the ground and provides traction.
- Upper – The entire top of the shoe.
- Toebox – The area surrounding the ball of the foot and toes. They can come in a variety of widths depending on the shape and purpose of the shoe.
- Stack Height – The combined height of a shoe’s outsole and midsole. Higher stack heights generally indicate more cushioning.
- Pronation – The natural collapse of the foot’s arch while standing, walking, or running that provides natural shock absorption in a gait.
- Overpronation – Excess arch collapse that can lead to issues with arches, ankles, Achilles tendons, shins, outer knees, and/or outer hips.
- Supination – A lack of arch collapse that results in the outer foot absorbing most of the impact of a stride. It can cause plantar fasciitis and/or pain in the pelvis and lumbar spine. This is also referred to as under-pronation.
How to Choose Everyday Road Running Shoes
Road Running Shoes Versus Trail Running Shoes
An easy way to think about the difference between road and trail shoes is to think about the difference between road and mountain bike tires. Road bike tires have a smooth surface meant to glide quickly across smooth surfaces with minimal friction. On the other hand, mountain bike tires have beefy lugs to provide more traction and grip to help move across loose and uneven surfaces.
It’s the same with road and trail running shoes. Road shoes, like the ones featured in this guide, have smooth outsoles and are meant for pavement or smooth gravel roads. Trail shoes will have beefy lugs on the outsoles. Trail running shoes sometimes also have additional features like rock plates and extra protection around the toebox to help deal with rocks and roots on the trail.
If you primarily run on the roads, trail shoes are probably overkill, and the big lugs can be uncomfortable for running on smooth, hard surfaces. If you run most days of the week throughout the year, having a few road and trail shoes to rotate during your training is a good idea. If you’re looking for a daily workhorse of a road running shoe, the New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13 is durable and comfortable.
Different Types of Road Running Shoes
Finding the best road running shoes can be overwhelming and intimidating. Shoes are designed differently for various tasks, such as everyday running, workouts, and racing. And within those different categories are shoes with varying cushion, drop, and stability levels. While plenty of road running shoes are specialized for specific situations, the road running shoes in this guide are ideally suited for every day running at a comfortable pace, though they’ll get the job done in a workout or race. Lighter and bouncier shoes like the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 and the Salomon Phantasm will perform a little better in speedier sessions, while the Brooks Ghost 15 and New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13 are better suited for a relaxed pace. The On Cloudsurfer and Hoka Clifton 9 strike a nice balance of doing everything well.
To choose the best road running shoes for your goals, determine what type of runner you are and want to become. Are you looking for training shoes to run a few days or more a week? Then, an everyday trainer like the Brooks Ghost 15 is great. Having two or three pairs of shoes to choose between can help prevent overuse injuries while keeping your training fun and interesting. If you plan on running faster workouts, like tempos or intervals, or running in races, you may want a pair of lightweight and responsive shoes, like the Salomon Phantasm or Topo Athletic Cyclone 2.
Next, you’ll want to decide on the level of stability and cushion you prefer. Generally, low or flat arches respond best to stability shoes, while mid to high arches work best in neutral shoes. Note that these are generalities, and it’s best to visit a specialty running store for a foot and gait analysis if you can.
Stability Versus Neutral Running Shoes
The main difference between neutral and stability shoes is that neutral shoes allow the feet to move and flex naturally, while stability shoes help guide the foot into a certain position to help prevent overpronation. Our advice before buying a pair of running shoes is to have an expert at a local running specialty store examine your gait. Most people pronate some, but if you overpronate and your feet roll inward after impact with the ground, you might consider a stability shoe. Stability shoes might also help if you’re prone to Achilles tendinitis, runner’s knee, or shin splints.
Another way to determine if you need stability shoes is to look at the wear pattern on the bottom of your current running shoes. If your shoes’ medial — or inward side — has more wear than the rest of your outsoles, you probably need stability shoes. Lastly, consider the height of your arches. It’s not always the case, but a general rule is those with low or flat arches will benefit more from stability shoes than those with medium or high arches.
Some of our favorite neutral road running shoes include the On Cloudsurfer, Craft Pro Endur Distance, and the Hoka Clifton 9. Our favorite stability shoe is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23. Learn more in our guide to the best stability running shoes.
Generally speaking, to determine your shoe size, you want to measure the length of your foot in inches and then size up a half- to full-size in running shoes, leaving about a thumb’s width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. While there can be slight differences between brands, most are pretty standardized. For example, a size 10 in Nike should also be a size 10 in Hoka or Asics.
You’ll also want to know the width of your foot. The basic rule is you don’t want any part of your foot hanging off the midsole. Many shoe brands — like Hoka, Brooks, and New Balance — offer standard and wide-width models of specific shoes to fit more foot sizes and styles. Getting the correct width is crucial to comfort and shoe longevity, as the upper can tear if the shoe’s width is too narrow for your foot. A shoe that is too wide will allow your foot to slide around. A good fit will give your toes space to splay and wiggle some but not let your feet move around inside the shoe. If you’re looking for a shoe with a wide toebox, consider the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 or the Altra Torin 7.
Like cushioning, the right toebox shape and size comes down to personal preference. And like cushioning, toeboxes generally come in three styles — narrow, medium, and wide. If you prefer a snug fit around your toes, you’ll want to opt for a narrow or medium toebox. Narrow toeboxes are often associated with higher levels of performance. Pick a shoe with a wider toebox if you like some wiggle or splay room for your toes and are concerned about comfort over long miles.
In this guide, the Brooks Ghost 15 has a fairly traditional toebox that’s not especially narrow or wide. The New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13 has a slightly wider toebox but is still fairly average. The Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 and Altra Torin 7 have a wide toebox, which both brands are known for. The wide toebox allows feet to relax and for toes to spread out comfortably.
Heel-to-Toe Drop Considerations
The heel-to-toe drop is the difference in the stack height of a shoe between the heel and the toe. Stack height is the distance between your foot and the ground and comprises the midsole and outsole. A common heal-to-toe drop typically falls in the 6- to 10-millimeter range.
While the drop is typically a personal preference, some things must be considered. For example, a higher heel stack height and drop might feel better and help with a smoother transition from the heel strike to the toe-off if you’re a hard heel striker. On the other hand, a lower drop can help with lower back tightness as it can help lengthen posterior muscles and tendons like the glutes and hamstrings. However, a lower drop shoe probably isn’t best if you have had Achilles tendon issues or chronically tight calf muscles.
If you’re looking for a higher-drop shoe, we recommend the Brooks Ghost 15, which has a 12-millimeter drop, or the On Cloudsurfer, which has a 10-millimeter drop. If you want something more middle-of-the-road, look at the Craft Pro Endur Distance and Salomon Phantasm, which both have a 9-millimeter drop. On the lower side, the Hoka Clifton 9 and Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 both have a 5-millimeter drop. And at the lowest end, the Altra Torin 7 is a zero-drop shoe. Altra is an excellent brand to explore if you’re looking into zero-drop shoes.
Every person’s feet and ankles move a little differently throughout the various parts of their gait. A foot’s arch will collapse slightly throughout a stride for shock absorption. If an arch collapses too much, the entire foot and ankle roll inwards, and this is commonly referred to as overpronation. People who overpronate often have issues with their ankles, Achilles tendons, shins, knees, and/or hips. Wearing stability shoes, like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23, can guide your foot into a more neutral position. Low arches are often associated with overpronation. On the other side of the spectrum, some people have high arches that don’t collapse enough during their stride, called underpronation or supination. This puts all of the impact on the outside part of the foot and can cause plantar fasciitis, pain in the pelvis, and issues with the lumbar spine.
The shape of your arch and how it moves throughout your stride determines the level of arch support you need in a shoe. Visiting a running store to have your gait analyzed is the best way to determine if you need extra arch support to stay injury-free and running comfortably.
The uppers of road shoes need to be durable enough to stand up for long miles while letting your feet breathe so they don’t get sweaty. Moisture buildup combined with friction and heat can lead to blisters far too quickly, so lightweight uppers are crucial. Since road shoe uppers don’t frequently get scraped against rocks and roots like trail shoes do, they can be much lighter and breathable than their counterparts. Many of the shoes in this guide were selected for the comfort and breathability of their uppers. Our testers especially loved the upper of the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3, finding it stretchy, comfortable, and able to provide a secure lockdown.
There are many other factors to consider when choosing the best road running shoes, including the amount you run and the primary surface you’re running on. You’ll also have to decide whether you want to do speedwork or participate in any races. Your history of running injuries should also be kept in mind. If you’re a high-volume runner, a well-cushioned shoe like the Hoka Clifton 9 or Craft Pro Endur Distance can provide impact protection for your joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, keeping you fresher over longer miles. Unfortunately, as the cushion of a shoe increases, its responsiveness typically decreases. Shoes with a lot of cushion have the potential to feel mushy or slow. If you intend to do a lot of speedwork, a highly cushioned shoe may feel significantly more sluggish than something with a firmer midsole and a lower stack height. The exception to this is shoes that also include some sort of midsole plate, such as the Salomon Phantasm and Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.
Why You Should Trust Us
We compiled this best road running shoes guide with the expertise and testing experience of the iRunFar team, supplemented by extensive research by author Alli Hartz and input from seasoned running shoe experts.
We began by compiling a list of about 45 road running shoes that are ideal for everyday running and suitable for a broad range of runners. These consisted of long-time favorites of the iRunFar team, new options on the market, and other popular and less popular shoes in the running world. After researching these options, we sent out 14 pairs of shoes to our team of nine testers, who extensively test dozens of shoes yearly. Each tester received at least three shoe options for testing and put between 25 to 100+ miles on each shoe. The shoes eventually making this guide received the most testing, and options not performing as well were shelved earlier on. At least two people tested every shoe to gather various opinions from different runners. We tested many of these shoes alongside stability and cushioned road shoes to have as many comparison options as possible.
Most of the testing for this guide happened during the spring and summer months as our testers were gearing up for their big summer goals. Testers ran on pavement, gravel, and light trails in cold, warm, hot, and wet conditions. The initial testing period spanned approximately three months, with testing ongoing to keep this guide updated.
We rated the road running shoes on fit, feel, stability, cushion, responsiveness, performance, durability, and other factors. We looked closely at the upper, the midsole, and the outsole and how they stood up to miles of use. With this information, we further narrowed our list of the best to the shoes in this guide. Since its initial publishing, we have continued road shoe testing to maintain the current best list with each update.
Frequently Asked Questions about Road Running Shoes
What is a road running shoe?
A road running shoe is designed to excel on smooth surfaces. They have smooth outsoles that generally lack the lugs and rock protection that trail running shoes provide. Road running shoes can come with a variety of cushion levels to accommodate different running needs. Some are designed to be lively and snappy for speed workouts, while others are comfortable enough to run endless miles on hard surfaces. Our team placed the On Cloudsurfer at the top of our favorite road running shoes list because it did everything well and was a crowd-pleaser among testers.
What are the main differences between road running and trail shoes?
The biggest difference between road running and trail shoes is the outsoles. While the lugs and sticky rubber of trail shoe outsoles are designed to provide purchase on a wide variety of surfaces, including hardpack, loose rocks, mud, and more, road shoes tend to have very smooth outsoles that excel on the pavement. This allows them to be lighter than trail shoes and more comfortable when running on flat and hard surfaces, namely pavement and dirt roads. The uppers of road shoes may also be less durable than trail shoes since they have to withstand much less abuse from rocks and other trailside debris. Some shoes in this guide, such as the Brooks Ghost 15, perform just fine on gravel roads and non-technical dirt trails.
Can I run on trails in road running shoes?
While it’s technically possible to run anywhere in road shoes, running on loose, steep, or technical trails in them is generally not recommended. With their relatively smooth outsoles, road shoes don’t provide much grip on anything other than pavement — some road shoes you might even want to leave at home if the pavement is wet. If you choose to wear road shoes on trails, you might find yourself slipping and potentially falling and injuring yourself. That said, on gravel or hard-packed trails that aren’t too steep, road shoes may be perfectly adequate and a good choice, especially if you’re running a fair bit of pavement to get to and from the trails. The Hoka Clifton 9 is a good option for a road shoe with enough grip, durability, and support to perform on dirt surfaces.
What are the best road running shoes for beginners?
If you’re new to running and don’t know anything about choosing the best road running shoes for your needs, the best thing to do is to visit your local specialty running shop. There, they’ll be able to measure your feet, discuss the different types of surfaces you want to run on, and analyze your gait. They can look at your arch height, determine the amount of pronation in your ankles, and provide recommendations for shoes that will help you have a long and healthy running career.
If you don’t have a local shop to visit, getting a fairly average shoe in all measurements is a good idea. Most brands will run true to size, so you should be able to simply buy a running shoe that’s the same size as all the other shoes you wear. When it comes to heel-to-toe drop, choosing a mid-range shoe with 8 to 10 millimeters of drop, such as the New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13 or Nike Pegasus 40, will probably work well. If you haven’t run much in the past, choosing a well-cushioned shoe like the Hoka Clifton 9 or On Cloudsurfer may help protect your joints, muscles, and ligaments from impact. Increasing your running mileage gradually will allow your body to adapt and help prevent injuries.
What are the best road running shoes for speed?
Regarding speed, lighter weight and bouncier cushion is generally better, especially over longer distances. If you’re looking for a road shoe for speedwork, something with a springy and lively feel is a good idea. Highly cushioned shoes generally aren’t ideal for speedwork as they tend to be too squishy and slow-feeling, although this is changing with the increase of highly cushioned plated shoes coming onto the market. The On Cloudsurfer, Salomon Phantasm, and Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 are great everyday road running shoes that can perform well in speed workouts. However, if you want something more specialized, keeping multiple pairs of shoes in rotation for easy and hard runs would be a good idea.
What are the best road running shoes for marathons?
For longer runs, cushioned shoes like the Hoka Clifton 9 are a great idea to protect your feet, joints, and muscles from the impact of so many steps. Learn more about different cushioned shoes in our best cushioned running shoes guide. While a highly cushioned shoe might be too much for someone trying to run a competitive marathon time, shoes without much cushion could lead to a faster breakdown of your muscles and increased joint pain throughout the run. But as with all shoes, wearing something comfortable that fits your feet well is far more important than having the latest and greatest shoes on the market.
What sort of heel-to-toe drop do I want in my running shoes?
Finding the right heel-to-toe drop is a matter of personal preference, running style, and injury history. Low- or zero-drop shoes, like the Altra Torin 7, are increasingly popular in both the trail- and the road-running world, but they don’t work for everyone. Low-drop shoes can lead to a variety of injuries if you have tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles, especially if you don’t gradually ease your way into their use. On the other hand, low- and zero-drop shoes may be a great option if you frequently experience lower back tightness, as they tend to lead to the lengthening of all of the muscles in the back of your body.
Choosing a shoe with a moderate heel-to-toe drop, generally in the 8- to 10-millimeter range, like the New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13 or Nike Pegasus 40, should work for most runners. If you plan on transitioning to a shoe with a different amount of drop than you’re used to, it’s prudent to change over time so that your body can adjust without getting injured.
How do I want road running shoes to fit?
Road running shoes should fit like your other shoes: snug yet comfortable. The best way to get a well-fitting shoe is to go to a local running shop where they can not only measure the length of your feet but also consider their shape and width when selling you a shoe.
When you put the shoe on, you should be able to place about a thumb’s width between the end of your toes and the end of the shoe. This will keep your toes from slamming into the front of your shoe as you run on different gradients, preventing bruising, blisters, and issues with your toenails. You should be able to wiggle and fully extend your toes without feeling constricted by the edges of the shoe or the upper. When you’re trying shoes on, be sure to try both feet since many people have feet that are two different sizes.
You’ll also want to ensure that the edges of your feet don’t hang over the shoe’s midsole, as this can cause blisters and lead to the uppers wearing out much more quickly. Many road running shoes are available in standard, wide, and even extra-wide sizing options. Additionally, choosing ones with a wider toebox, such as the Altra Torin 7 or the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2, can help provide the front of your foot with extra space.
What are the best running shoes for walking?
Most running shoes work just as well for walking. However, some will be better than others. Generally, Hoka, Brooks, and New Balance make shoes that excel at running and walking. Out of the shoes in this guide, we recommend the Hoka Clifton 9, New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13, and Brooks Ghost 15 as excellent shoes for walking.
Call for Comments
- Do you have a favorite road running shoe?
- What features do you consider when choosing a road running shoe?