Best Running Shoe Brands of 2024

These are iRunFar’s favorite overall running shoe brands, based on years of testing.

By on May 14, 2024 | Comments
Best Running Shoe Brands Main Image

Runners on an early morning road run. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

It has never been a better time to be a runner, at least when it comes to the quality of running shoes and the stunning breadth of footwear options available from the best running shoe brands. In the last decade or so, we’ve seen super shoes revolutionize the competitive edge of the sport, innovative upstart running shoe brands break into the mainstream, and a dazzling proliferation of trail shoes.

The options have never been better, but deciding has never been more challenging. To help with that, we wanted to gather the collective wisdom of our team of runners and gear reviewers into a comprehensive guide to the best running shoe brands. Below, you’ll find a summary of our favorite ten brands and a look at some of the best shoes from each.

Our top brands excel in road and trail categories, making them our favorite overall running shoe brands. If you’re looking for a specific type of shoe, check out our guides for the best trail running shoes, best road running shoes, and best running shoes.


Location: Goleta, California

Popular Road Models: Clifton, Arahi, Bondi, Mach, Rocket X

Popular Trail Models: Speedgoat, Mafate Speed, Tecton X

What We Like: Excellent build quality and super plush shoes

What We Don’t: Highly cushioned shoes can sacrifice stability

Hoka has been the world’s darling running shoe brand for much of the past decade and has a well-earned reputation. It’s easy to forget how in vogue minimalist shoes and barefoot running were not that long ago. Hoka’s highly cushioned and comfortable shoes flipped that trend back in the other direction more than any other brand.

There are many shoes we love from this brand. The Hoka Clifton 9 is iRunFar’s top pick in our best overall road running shoe guide. Its 32-millimeter midsole is comfortable and plush but not so plush that it feels unstable or sloppy. The Clifton — now in its ninth iteration — is a near-perfect everyday trainer, so it’s unsurprising that it was the most popular running shoe worldwide among Strava users. It will eat up long run and recovery miles and even holds up surprisingly well on light gravel and packed dirt. Other road-focused shoes we love include the Mach X 2, which is a cross-over shoe that handles easy runs, tempos, or races, and the Rocket X 2, which is Hoka’s premier road racing shoe, now in its second version, and one of our favorite marathon shoes.

The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is a perennial favorite among the iRunFar team of testers and is one of the most popular trail running shoes from any brand. The fifth version of the shoe features Hoka’s signature ultra-thick EVA foam midsole, a rockered profile, and an outstanding Vibram Megagrip outsole. The Mafate Speed 4 is lighter and lower profile than the Speedgoat, with a responsive dual-density midsole ideal for faster trail runs. With substantial 5-millimeter lugs, the Mafate Speed is also no slouch on more technical trails. You can read more in our in-depth Hoka Speedgoat 5 review or Hoka Mafate Speed 4 review.

The Tecton X 2 — now in its second version — is Hoka’s carbon-plated trail shoe. Its high stack height, somewhat limited lockdown, and propulsive carbon plate limit its suitability on steep and technical trails, but it is an excellent race shoe for fast and runnable courses like Western States 100 or Black Canyon Ultras 100k. You can read more about it in our Hoka Tecton X 2 review.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Hoka Clifton

Testing the Hoka Clifton 9 running shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


Location: Kobe, Japan

Popular Road Models: Gel-Nimbus, Magic Speed, Metaspeed Sky

Popular Trail Models: Gel-Trabuco

What We Like: Durable and reliably consistent running shoes

What We Don’t: Trail running shoe lineup is still somewhat limited

Asics was one of the first truly globally running brands. Its origins trace back to the founding of the Onitsuka Company in 1949. The early partnership between founder Kihachiro Onitsuka and Phil Knight, who distributed the Onitsuka Tiger in the US before severing ties with the brand and founding his own company — Nike — is the stuff of running shoe lore.

In the 1970s, Onitsuka merged with two other Japanese shoe manufacturers to form Asics — one of the key brands fueling the first running and fitness boom. Fifty years later, Asics remains one of the most consistent and reliable running shoe brands. Its core daily trainer models, like the Gel-Nimbus 26 and the Gel-Cumulus 26, are well into their third decade. New releases are rarely flashy, hence Asics sometimes carries a Dad Shoe reputation, but longevity is hard to argue with. In many ways, the brand’s shoes are like the Toyota Corolla of running shoes — quiet, unassuming, and rarely complimented, but always delivering best-in-class durability and consistency.

On the racing and super shoe front, the Metaspeed Sky makes a solid case as an excellent option for going fast. With its carbon fiber plate, lower-profile design, and lower price point, the Magic Speed 3 excels at up-tempo efforts. The Gel-Nimbus 26 was one of the top choices in our best cushioned running shoes guide.

While its road running shoe lineup is diverse and quietly high-performing, Asics has been slower to commit to the trail running category than other long-established brands like Nike and Saucony. However, their small lineup of trail shoes is known for their all-around versatility and the excellent performance of the proprietary AsicsGrip outsole compound. The Gel-Trabuco 12 is a high-stack all-rounder that manages most off-road terrain well and is an excellent option for runners who value a pared-down yet versatile running shoe quiver. You can explore more at our Asics Gel-Trabuco 11 review.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Asics Gel Kayano

Testing the Asics Gel Kayano running shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


Location: Waltham, Massachusetts

Popular Road Models: Endorphin Elite, Endorphin Speed, Ride, Guide, Triumph Pro

Popular Trail Models: Peregrine, Endorphin Rift

What We Like: Excellent road and trail options

What We Don’t: We miss the older models of the Peregrine

Few of the well-established, decades-old running shoe brands have embraced trail running more successfully or thoroughly than Saucony. It started with the Saucony Peregrine 14, an adaptation of Saucony’s iconic short-distance road racing shoe, the Kinvara. The Peregrine has since evolved dramatically from a race-oriented shoe to a more versatile daily trainer performing particularly well on wet and muddy trails. You can read more about this classic shoe in our Saucony Peregrine 14 review.

Saucony’s Endorphin Rift is now the brand’s speedier, performance-oriented trail shoe. It is an excellent all-around option with an energetic, responsive midsole that performs well over most trail surfaces. This Saucony Endorphin Rift review explains more about it.

On the roads, the Endorphin Elite is Saucony’s carbon-plated marathon super shoe and is one of our favorites in the best road running shoe guide. Thanks to Saucony’s Pwrrun HG foam cushioning, it is impressively light and propulsive. The Endorphin Speed 4 is an excellent daily trainer option. With a responsive Pwrrun PB midsole, a nylon plate, and a gently rockered design, it also performs well on tempo runs or intervals. The Saucony Ride 17 is a no-frills shoe and has been a popular high-value daily trainer for nearly two decades.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Saucony Endorphin Speed

The Saucony Endorphin Speed running shoes are one of our favorite road running options. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


Location: Beaverton, Oregon

Popular Road Models: Pegasus, Alphafly, Vomero

Popular Trail Models: Pegasus Trail, Zegama, Ultrafly

What We Like: Industry-leading design and material innovation

What We Don’t: Traction and lugs on their trail shoes come up short on more demanding terrain

Nike may not wield the cultural gravitas it once did, but it is still the biggest running shoe brand on the planet and still designs some of the best running shoes. That begins with the Alphafly 3 — Nike’s game-changing super shoe, which is at the top of our best marathon shoes guide. It’s not just marketing hype — thanks to Nike’s cutting-edge materials and design innovations, these shoes are making everyone faster. It’s fair to say that the brand is leading the charge in carbon-plated shoes, and other companies are watching closely. You can explore the details of this super shoe in our Nike Ultrafly review.

The Nike Pegasus 40, Nike’s flagship daily trainer, is entering its fifth decade and remains one of the most popular everyday running shoes and consistently ranks high in our best road running shoes guide. While not quite as old, the Pegasus Trail 5 is still an enduring favorite for non-technical off-road terrain and weekday door-to-trail runs. For something a little more trail-worthy, the Nike Zegama 2 has 4-millimeter lugs that provide significantly better traction, which has historically been a weak point for Nike’s trail running lineup.

With the introduction of the Nike Ultrafly, Nike brought many of the innovations in the Alphafly to the trails. The Ultrafly has an ultralight and propulsive 40-millimeter Pebax midsole. The carbon Flyplate adds some structure and stability while doubling as a rock plate to offer protection on rocky and rooty trails. The Ultrafly also features a Vibram Megagrip outsole — a substantial improvement in traction and performance over Nike’s proprietary trail shoe outsole materials.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Testing the Nike Pegasus 40

Testing the Nike Pegasus 40 running shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


Location: Annecy, France

Popular Road Models: Phantasm

Popular Trail Models: Speedcross, Sense Ride, S/Lab Pulsar

What We Like: Excellent design and build quality, huge trail shoe lineup

What We Don’t: Road shoes still don’t match their trail running collection

Unlike most other globally established running shoe brands, Salomon started with a focus on trail running. They’ve been the dominant trail shoe brand for over two decades thanks to their constant sport-defining innovation and an ever-expanding product line.

The Salomon Speedcross 6 is one of their most iconic trail shoes and remains a favorite more than 15 years after its inception. You can read more in our Salomon Speedcross 6 review. Aggressive lugs, a supportive upper, and Salomon’s reliable Quicklace system result in excellent training and racing shoes for demanding trail conditions.

The Salomon Sense Ride 5 offers solid and versatile performance on any surface with its gentler lugs and comfortable last. You can find more details in our Salomon Sense Ride 5 review. A newer addition to their trail lineup is the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3. Its lightweight, highly rockered design and minimal 2.5-millimeter lugs make it an excellent race shoe on fast and runnable trails.

While Salomon’s road shoe lineup does not have the same breadth as the trail side, the Salomon Phantasm 2 is a notable highlight and made it into our best road running shoes guide. It is a lightweight, responsive, and well-built shoe for tempo runs or shorter races.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Salomon Phantasm

Testing the Salomon Phantasm running shoe. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

New Balance

Location: Brighton, Massachusetts

Popular Road Models: Fresh Foam X 1080, FuelCell Rebel

Popular Trail Models: Fresh Foam X Hierro

What We Like: They excel with durable and versatile daily trainers

What We Don’t: Rolling back their trail shoe lineup when most brands do the opposite

Among the established running shoe brands, New Balance was an early champion and innovator of trail running shoes. However, they have since scaled back their trail offerings to a small but solid core lineup.

The New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v8 stands out from their now-limited line of trail shoes. The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v8 received a substantial makeover when the midsole changed from Fresh Foam to Fresh Foam X, which is slightly firmer and more responsive. The outsole is now Vibram Megagrip, a significant upgrade in both performance and durability. It is now a versatile and durable shoe that is well-equipped for most trail conditions. It even does surprisingly well as a door-to-trail option if your trail runs often require some road miles.

On the roads, New Balance remains a steady presence that has mastered the daily training shoe. The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 is a fast, light, and impressively versatile trainer. The 32- and 26-millimeter heel and toe stack height is plush but not clunky, and it has a 6-millimeter drop that will satisfy most runners. The FuelCell foam midsole is propulsive but not overly stiff. The shoe is also quite affordable. The result is one of our favorite single-quiver road shoes that works equally well for recovery days, long runs, and workouts and features in our best road running shoes guide, and our best marathon shoes guide.

Another everyday option is the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v13. Going into its 14th iteration, it has 38- and 32-millimeter heel and toe stack heights, and the 13th version features in our best cushioned running shoes guide. It is slightly more cushioned, has a softer ride than the bouncy and responsive FuelCell Rebel, and is a similarly versatile shoe for almost every type of run.

Best Running Shoe Brands - New Balance FuelCell Rebel

iRunFar’s Alli Hartz testing the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 running shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


Location: Framingham, Massachusetts

Popular Road Models: Cyclone, Specter

Popular Trail Models: Ultraventure, Terraventure

What We Like: Comfortably wide toeboxes and well-designed

What We Don’t: There is not much design diversity across their shoe line

Few running shoe brands can boast about the dogged loyalty of their customers the way Topo can. People who love Topo shoes generally seem to really love them, and they have good reason to. Topos shoes consistently test well for comfort, versatility, and performance. They know what they do well — comfortable footbeds, low heel-to-toe drops, and wide toeboxes — and they consistently deliver.

The Topo Terraventure 4 is a moderately cushioned trail shoe refined for agility on technical trails. It has a 3-millimeter drop, a 25-millimeter heel stack height, and a rockplate. You can read more about the shoe in our Topo Terraventure 4 review. The Topo Ultraventure 3 is a little more plush, with 30- and 25-millimeter heel and toe stack heights. As the name suggests, it offers the comfort and support you’d want for ultra-distance efforts, and you can read more about it in our Topo Ultraventure 3 review.

Topo is perhaps best known among ultrarunners and thru-hikers, as their comfortable design is a natural fit for long days on your feet, but their road shoes are far from an afterthought. The Topo Cyclone 2 is one of our favorite running shoes for speed sessions and race-pace training runs, and we named it in our best marathon shoes guide. It features a lightweight and bouncy Pebax midsole and a rockered profile that encourages a quick turnover and is a joy to run in. The Topo Specter is another high-performance option that is more cushioned and has a less aggressive profile than the Cyclone. As a result, it is better suited for easy recovery miles, yet it still has the responsiveness you’d want out of a tempo or marathon shoe. Because of this, it found its way into our best cushioned running shoes guide.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Topo Cyclone 2

Testing the Topo Cyclone 2. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


Location: Seattle, Washington

Popular Road Models: Ghost, Adrenaline GTS

Popular Trail Models: Cascadia, Catamount

What We Like: Offers both iconic all-round models and newer high-performance options

What We Don’t: Innovations in design lagging behind its competitors

Brooks has a well-deserved reputation as an early innovator in running footwear. The brand has been designing running shoes for over 100 years. Its flagship trail shoe, the Brooks Cascadia 17, was one of the first trail-specific running shoes on the market, and it continues to endure. We’d bet that more runners got started on the trails in a pair of Cascadias than any other shoe, and it’s no surprise it features in our best trail running shoes guide. You can read more about the shoe in our Brooks Cascadia 17 review.

Where the Cascadia is Brooks’ all-round trainer, the Brooks Catamount 3 is the brand’s high-performing ripper. The plated trail shoe is one of our favorites for faster runs on buffed-out or semi-technical terrain. It’s got enough cushion to hold up for shorter ultras, and you can read more in our Brooks Catamount 3 review. But if you’re after maximum cushioning and protection, the mega high-stack Brooks Caldera 7 has you covered and is in our best cushioned running shoes guide. You can read more about this specific shoe in our Brooks Caldera 7 review.

Like the Cascadia, the Brooks Ghost 16 is a longtime favorite everyday road trainer and is in our best running shoes for women guide. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 has been one of the most popular stability shoes for over 20 years and is the top choice in our best stability shoes guide. When Brooks hits on something that works, they run with it, often for decades. They’re not always the most flashy or innovative brand but always get the job done.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Brooks Ghost testing

Testing a pair of the Brooks Ghost running shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


Location: Borås, Sweden

Popular Road Models: Pacer, CTM Ultra

Popular Trail Models: Explor Hybrid

What We Like: Nobody is doing road-to-trail shoes better

What We Don’t: Shoes run big, and thin mesh uppers lack durability

Craft has been making high-quality endurance sports apparel for over 50 years, but the Swedish brand has only recently begun making a big splash in the running shoe world. The Craft Pro Endur Distance is a great daily trainer, while the Craft CTM Ultra is a fast-running road-to-trail model. The soft and light EVA midsole is a fat 40 millimeters at the heel and features a 10-millimeter drop and aggressive rocker — a design well-suited to fast runs on a mix of pavement, gravel, and light trails.

Craft is carving out a niche in the road-to-trail shoe category. The new Craft Xplor Hybrid strives to be the gravel bike of running shoes. Vittoria, the bike tire manufacturer, makes the unique outsole design to resemble and perform like a gravel tire. It is reasonably efficient on roads and equipped to easily handle chunky gravel or singletrack.

The Craft Pacer is another versatile addition to the brand’s lineup. Its minimal outsole tends more toward the road side of the spectrum, but the waffle-life design has enough bite to handle light gravel or trail. It has a slightly lower heel-to-toe drop, stack height, and overall weight than the high-cushion CTM Ultra and is a versatile speedwork weapon.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Craft CTM Ultra 3 product photo

The Craft CTM Ultra 3 running shoe. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell


Location: Logan, Utah

Popular Road Models: Torin, Vanish Carbon

Popular Trail Models: Lone Peak, Outroad

What We Like: Wide toeboxes ensure comfort for long trail days

What We Don’t: Zero drop is not for everyone

Altra is best known for an almost evangelical adherence to zero-drop shoe design. It was only in late 2023, nearly two decades after the brand’s inception, that they introduced a shoe that was not zero-drop — the Altra FWDExperience with a 4-millimeter heel-to-toe drop. It’s a subtle sign that the running zeitgeist only continues to move away from the zero-drop shoes.

Altra is also known for its foot-shaped, extra-roomy toeboxes. Its first hit, the Lone Peak 8, has only changed superficially throughout its decade-long existence and is still beloved by thru-hikers and ultrarunners. Versatile lugs, gaiter attachments, and moderate midsole cushioning make the well-suited for long days across variable terrain, and it made our best trail running shoes guide. You can learn more about the classic shoe in our Lone Peak 8 review.

For more cushioning on the trails, Altra offers a couple of options in the Altra Timp 5 and the Altra Olympus 5 shoes. You can learn more about the older version of the Timp in our Altra Timp 4 review and Altra Olympus 5 review. A newer addition to their trail lineup is the Outroad — a road-to-trail shoe with light lugs and a slimmer fit than most other Altra trail shoes.

The Altra Torin 7 is an excellent everyday running shoe for the roads and makes it into our best road running shoes guide. The cushioning is firm and bouncy, and it delivers a stable ride. Despite the higher stack height of newer iterations, the shoe mostly preserves its precise ground feel. The Altra Vanish Carbon 2 is Altra’s race and workout shoe. It features a carbon-fiber half plate and Altra’s Ego Pro supercritical EVA midsole foam.

For runners familiar with the wide toebox and roomy midfoot design of Altra’s trail running shoes, the form-fitting precision of the Vanish Carbon may be a surprise. However, the result is a lightweight, nimble-footed ride for race-pace efforts. Ease into these, though, and give yourself some time to adjust to running in a zero-drop carbon-plated shoe. Definitely don’t go out hammering speedwork sessions first thing if you prefer to retain intact Achilles tendons.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Altra Torin 7

Testing the Altra Torin 7 running shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Running Shoe Glossary

Running shoes have some common jargon or insider terminology. We break down the most common terms used when describing shoes below.

  • Stack height — The stack height is the amount of space between the bottom of your shoe and the bottom of your foot. It’s generally measured in millimeters and ranges in size between 10 and 40 millimeters. Most stack heights, however, will stay in the 20- to 35-millimeter range.
  • Drop – Drop is the height difference between a shoe’s heel and toe. Drop, or offset, is usually measured in millimeters and typically ranges between 0 to 12 millimeters. To calculate drop, you subtract the stack height at the toe from the stack height at the heel.
  • Midsole – The midsole is the layer of the shoe between your foot and the outsole that provides cushioning and maximizes energy return. Most brands have proprietary foams that range in cost and performance. Most racing shoes have the highest-performing midsole foams that are incredibly lightweight with high energy returns.
  • Outsole – The outsole is the bottom part of the shoe that comes into contact with the ground. It’s typically a rubber material and can have lugs (see below).
  • Upper – The upper is the part of the shoe that covers the top of your foot and connects to the shoe’s midsole. These days, most uppers contain engineered mesh.
  • Lugs – Lugs are the protrusions on the outsole of your shoe that provide traction on off-road surfaces. Trail running shoes have lugs, while only some road running shoes do. Most lugs on trail shoes range in size between 3 and 6 millimeters. Road shoes that have lugs have much smaller-sized lugs.
  • Rockplate – The rockplate is a thin sheet of plastic found in some trail running shoes that adds underfoot protection from rocky, uneven terrain.
  • Carbon Plate — A carbon plate is a carbon fiber plate placed between the midsole and outsole. Running shoe brands place them in their high-end racing shoes as they provide excellent energy return.
  • Toebox – The toebox is the front section of the shoe surrounding the toes. Brands like Topo and Altra have large toeboxes, allowing your toes to splay as you run.
  • Rocker – Rocker is a shoe design that encourages efficient heel-to-toe transitions. The front and back of the running shoe will be slightly raised compared to the middle section of the shoe, similar to skis or snowboards with rocker technology.
Best Running Shoe Brands - Nike Ultrafly - Product Photo

The Nike Ultrafly trail running shoes are some of our favorite shoes for racing and running fast on trails. Photo: iRunFar/Nathan Allen

What to Consider in Running Shoe Brands

Road Running Shoes vs. Trail Running Shoes

The outsole is the most notable difference between road and trail running shoes. Road shoe outsoles are smooth, designed to minimize friction and maximize energy return on smooth surfaces like pavement. Trail shoe outsoles, on the other hand, provide necessary traction for dirt, mud, and mountain scree via lugs and sticky rubber compounds.

Some trail shoes will include other burly additions, like rock plates, toe guards, and Gore-Tex uppers, to suit mountainous and technically demanding terrain. Others, like the Nike Pegasus Trail, resemble road shoes with small lugs that provide just a little bite on buffed-out singletrack or shale paths.

Brands are increasingly experimenting with shoes that blur the line between road and trail. In recent years, shoe brands have continued to create a slew of new shoes categorized as hybrid, road-to-trail, or all-terrain. This trend, in many ways, echoes the gravel cycling boom. New additions, like the Craft Xplor Hybrid, even have soles that mimic a bike tire: a strip of smooth rubber down the center for efficiency on pavement, surrounded by shallow lugs for traction on gravel or light trails.

Hybrid shoes, in some ways, counter the trend toward hyper-specialized shoes built specifically for racing, tempo sessions, or recovery runs—both on roads and trails. They’re not the best at anything, but they’re pretty good at most things and are a versatile option for those routine weekly runs from home that blend pavement, bike paths, and city singletrack.


Drop refers to the difference in height between the heel and toe of a shoe. While variations in drop height between shoes can seem minimal, they can substantially affect your foot strike and gait. High-drop shoes, with 8 to 12 millimeters of difference, encourage heel striking, which engages more movement in the hip and knee but less in the ankle and calf. Low-drop shoes with 2 to 6 millimeters of difference encourage a midfoot strike. Zero-drop shoes encourage a forefoot strike, which involves more ankle and lower leg movement and less knee and hip movement.

There is no “right” drop height, but it helps to find one that aligns with your natural gait. Running in shoes with various drop heights can also be beneficial, as subtle adjustments to your gait and muscle activation can help mitigate overuse injuries.

Altra popularized zero-drop shoes, which, until last year, exclusively designed those shoes. Proponents of zero-drop shoes say they encourage a more natural forefoot striking pattern that reduces long-term injury risk. But zero-drop shoes put more stress on the ankle and Achilles tendon and don’t work for everyone. When adding a low- or zero-drop shoe to your rotation for the first time, it is best to take it slow to allow the muscles and tendon in your ankle and lower leg to adapt to the additional stress that comes with changes to your footstrike.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Saucony Guide 17

The Saucony Guide 17 is one of our favorite pairs of stability running shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Nathan Allen


Like drop, running shoe cushioning is highly subjective. The best option depends on personal preference, pace, running surface, and more.

Highly cushioned or high-stack shoes like the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v13 are comfortable and protective. Thick midsoles absorb impact forces, which makes them better suited for long runs and everyday training. Minimally cushioned shoes, like the Salomon Phantasm 2, typically feel lighter and nimbler. They’re usually better for tempo runs and shorter races. The superior ground feel of low-stack shoes is often advantageous for navigating technical trails confidently, but less cushioning means more foot fatigue.

The type of cushioning arguably matters even more than the amount. Almost all high-quality modern running shoe midsoles feature synthetic foam-like materials such as Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) and Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), which have become favored for their cushioning, energy return, and durability. More expensive shoes feature premium foam materials, like Pebax, which offer a lighter — and better — energy return.

Many of the best running shoe brands have proprietary midsole foam materials. Differences in materials and engineering mean that the cushioning of shoes with similar stack heights can vary significantly. For example, the plush midsoles of the Asics Gel-Nimbus 26 are comfy and shock-absorbent but can also feel imprecise or mushy. Meanwhile, the similarly high-stack Craft CTM Ultra midsoles are smooth and responsive but at the expense of some stability and the plush, cloud-like comfort softer foams provide. Both are considered high-cushion shoes but deliver very different running experiences, so it’s important to consider both the amount of cushion and the type of cushion.


Thanks to recent innovations in material engineering, we’re in the midst of a golden age of running shoe design. The advent of super shoes like the Nike Alphafly 3 and Asics Metaspeed Sky best illustrate this. Lightweight, ultra-efficient midsole foams and the introduction of carbon plates are a big part of why athletes are running faster than ever.

Even beyond super shoes, the best running shoe brands are engineering innovative midsole materials into all their running shoes. Advances like nitrogen-infused supercritical foams and dual-density midsoles are leading to high-performing shoes for every runner and every type of run.

Road shoe outsoles are often smooth rubber compounds designed to minimize friction and energy loss. Trail shoe outsoles and lugs are far more variable. They are often a rubber compound, either from a third-party brand like Vibram or a brand’s proprietary material. Proprietary outsole compounds, tread patterns, and lug depth are tweaked across different shoe models to meet various performance criteria. For example, Salomon’s Contagrip outsole material has several variations for road, mud, and all-terrain running.

Upper materials are slightly less diverse, and most employ lightweight and breathable mesh or knitted fabric. Certain trail running shoes have a Gore-Tex upper, making them waterproof and breathable. You can learn more about shoes with a Gore-Tex upper in the best waterproof shoes guide.

Various brands have different takes on the best materials for various parts of a shoe. Nike is famous for their game-changing proprietary midsole foams. Niche brands are introducing innovative materials to enhance their products’ durability, sustainability, or overall performance. Shoes from Norda feature laces and uppers made of Bio-Dyneema, a lightweight and highly durable bio-based material often used in ultralight backpacking gear.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Nike Vomero 17

The Nike Vomero 17 is one of our favorite overall shoes, as it crosses over well from pavement to dirt and crushed gravel and easy runs to uptempo workouts. Photo: iRunFar/Nathan Allen

Price and Durability

Most high-quality shoes from the best running shoe brands typically cost $120 to nearly $300. At the high end, you’re paying for performance-enhancing features like carbon plates, along with exceptional design and build quality. However, the price is sometimes correlated with performance and not durability — the $500 single-use Adidas Adizero Adios Pro Evo is an astounding case in point. Some pricier race-oriented shoes’ lightweight and unique build means they’re fast but do not last.

We’ve tested $100 shoes that chugged along for more than 600 miles and $300 shoes that barely hit 200. However, in general, pricier shoes usually have higher-quality materials and are backed by more brand research and development, so the extra cost usually translates into durability gains, especially once you are above the $120 threshold.

Creating any best running shoe list is always fraught with challenges, not least because every foot is different. What may be the greatest shoe ever to one runner may feel miserable on your feet.

Just as every foot is different, so is every shoe, but most running shoe brands have specific characteristics that stay true across different models. Altra and Topo are known for their wider toe boxes and more relaxed fit. Salomon shoes almost always run narrower than many other European mountain running-oriented brands like La Sportiva and Scarpa.

You will likely find that certain brands work more consistently for you than others. The best way to find the right fit is to go to your local running shop, have an expert analyze your gait and feet, and recommend shoes.

Why You Should Trust Us

To assess the best running shoe brands, we pulled from the experiences of iRunFar’s team of expert runners and gear reviewers, further informed with comprehensive research by author Steve Edgerton.

Our review began by collecting testing insights from dozens of shoes in both road and trail categories. Many of these were longtime favorites from iconic brands. We built on that initial list, sending out dozens of pairs of newly introduced shoes to a few of our core testers. We sought shoes from new or lesser-known brands or specific categories where a brand may be less established.

Each tester aimed to accumulate 100 miles on each new pair. Many shoes on our list have been worn for hundreds of miles, sometimes by multiple testers. Most new testing occurred in late winter or early spring as runners began big training cycles leading into the summer race season. Testers ran on pavement, gravel, dirt, mountain trails, muddy singletrack, snow, and ice. Our objective was to assess the best brands in terms of overall quality, consistency, and breadth of their running shoe product line.

Best Running Shoe Brands - Saucony Endorphin Speed 4

The Saucony Endorphin Speed 4 are some of our favorite road running shoes for long runs, uptempo work, and some light racing. Photo: iRunFar/Nathan Allen

Frequently Asked Questions About Running Shoe Brands

What is the best running shoe brand?

In assessing the best running shoe brands, we considered the overall quality and diversity of their road and trail shoe product lines. Hoka was our top pick, followed by Asics and Saucony.

What is the best trail running shoe brand?

Hoka is the brand to beat: their trail running shoe line is diverse and consistently impressive, and we ranked the Speedgoat as the best overall trail shoe. Other top brands include Salomon and Topo.

What is the best road running shoe brand?

We ranked Asics as the best road-running shoe brand for its outstanding durability, consistency, and overall performance. Saucony and Nike followed.

Should I only run in the same brand of shoes?

If you find a brand that works well for you, there is no reason why you can’t run exclusively in their shoes. However, running in a few different models from that brand can be beneficial. Varying drop height and cushioning can help with injury prevention, and using shoes only on their designed terrain can help extend their lifespan.

Why do different running shoe brands have different fits?

Shoe fit between brands can vary because of different materials and construction methods. This is why many runners will feel subtle but significant differences in shoes of the same size from different brands. The targeted end use also influences fit. Brands born from mountain and trail running origins, like La Sportiva, have a famously narrow fit, which is often better suited for fast and technical terrain.

Call for Comments

  • Do you have a favorite running shoe brand?
  • Do you tend to stick with a single brand, or do you have a diversity of shoes in your quiver?
Steve Edgerton

Steve Edgerton is a freelance writer and trail runner based in Calgary, Alberta. When he’s not out training for ultramarathons or off the grid on multi-day fastpacking adventures through the Canadian Rockies, he’s busy testing the gear that helps him move fast and light through the mountains. A veritable gear nerd, Steve is deeply tuned into the outdoor industry and has reviewed hundreds of products, with a particular focus on trail running, fastpacking, and ultralight backpacking.