Comfort is king. In fact, some research even shows that when you choose a shoe simply because it’s comfortable, you may be less likely to get injured. So to guide you on your sole searching, we’ve highlighted the models that offer a “made-for-me” sensation. Each shoe we recommend here was ranked on overall performance and also earned especially high scores from our testers in three specific categories: fit, cushioning, and—of course—comfort.
adidas busenitz pure boost navy blue dress boots | 9 Most Comfortable Running Shoes
- Best for Uptempos: Hoka Mach 4
- Best Truly Zero-Drop: Altra Paradigm 6
- Best Daily Trainer: Brooks Glycerin 19
- Most Versatile: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v11
- Best for Stability: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
- Best for Recovery Runs: Hoka Clifton 8
- Best for Trails: Hoka Challenger ATR 6
- Most Resilient: Adidas UltraBoost 22
- Best for Long Runs: Saucony Triumph 19
The Expert: I used my own experience as a 14-time marathoner and longtime running shoe reviewer, as well as that of Runner’s World’s deputy editor, Jeff Dengate, one of the running industry’s leading experts. I also checked in with test editor Amanda Furrer, another authority on running shoes and gear. Both Dengate and Furrer test hundreds of new running shoes every year and have access to the Runner’s World shoe test data, a pool of feedback from dozens of thoughtful local runners willing to test-run new running shoes. You can read more about the process we used to evaluate these shoes below.
adidas busenitz pure boost navy blue dress boots | What to Consider When Shopping for a Comfortable Running Shoe
Thick Foam Midsole
More foam doesn’t always mean a marshmallowy ride; however, many of the shoes here feature a generous midsole that provides plenty of cushion between your foot and the ground. You can also expect a pillowy landing from most of these models, due to lots of lightweight, protective EVA foam. For example, the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 almost guarantees a comfortable footstrike, with a thick heel that’s one of the softest we’ve seen.
Even for runners who don’t have wide feet, a roomier forefoot gives toes plenty of space to splay naturally and helps prevent blisters and crowding. Altra’s signature foot-shaped toebox is one of the best examples of the added comfort benefits of a more generous forefoot; we also found the latest Saucony Triumph provided a more spacious fit.
Plush, More Breathable Uppers
We love those added details that make an upper more comfortable for the long haul. Daily trainers like the Saucony Triumph have extra padding around the tongue and heel for serious softness, while Brooks’s Glycerin has a bootie-like fit that hugs your foot with a mesh upper and plush interior lining. Shoes made from engineered mesh and open-weave knits provide better stretch and airflow to keep sweaty feet cool and ventilated.
How We Evaluated and Selected These Comfortable Running Shoes
Runner’s World works with more than 350 local runners of all abilities, ages, and sizes, for real-world wear-testing on paved roads, dirt paths, and rocky singletrack trails. After a month of running more than 100 miles in their pair of shoes, our testers report back their findings on features like fit, comfort, performance, and ride. While our testers are putting miles in, the same models undergo a battery of mechanical tests in our shoe lab to objectively measure the cushioning, flexibility, sole thickness, and weight of each. Our test editors combine their own experience with data from the lab and feedback from our wear testers to create reliable, useful reviews of every shoe we test. We were scrupulous in forming these recommendations of the most comfortable running shoes for every type of runner.
—BEST FOR UPTEMPOS—
Hoka Mach 4
Type: Road | Weight: 8.2 oz. (M), 6.8 oz. (W) | Drop: 5mm
The Mach 4 is incredibly lightweight and has knocked the cushy, race-ready Rincon off its mantle. “It’s the best Mach yet, and perhaps the best current Hoka,” said RW deputy editor, Jeff Dengate. The updated design is modeled after the brand’s fastest shoes, the Carbon X and Rocket X. ProFly foam promotes high rebound, while the early-stage Meta-Rocker (a slightly curved sole) presses you on to catapult forward. The upgraded upper hugs your foot more securely so you won’t run out of these explosive Machs.
—BEST TRULY ZERO-DROP—
Altra Paradigm 6
Type: Stability road | Weight: 10.8 oz (M), 9.3 oz (W) | Drop: 0mm
The Paradigm is Altra’s cushiest trainer to date, with a thick slab of firm cushioning at the midsole that makes it well suited to both easy recovery runs and everyday workouts. It’s an ideal shoe for runners who like the maximum padding of the Hoka Clifton but with a little more energy return and stability underfoot, as well as a zero-drop platform. Our testers found it to be more versatile than expected for a shoe with a 33mm-high stack. “Though I first thought the Paradigm was going to be too bulky, I even used it for speedwork,” said one. Altra-sponsored runner Kara Goucher apparently agrees—she says she wears the comfy shoe for 70 percent of her workouts.
—BEST DAILY TRAINER—
Brooks Glycerin 19
Type: Stability road | Weight: 10.2 oz. (M), 9.0 oz. (W); GTS, 10.7 oz. (M), 9.4 oz. (W) | Drop: 10mm
Packed into the Glycerin GTS is plush cushioning, high energy return, and stability that supports overpronators and neutral runners alike. Brooks has redefined its “Go-to-Shoe” acronym as “Go-to-Support” to go along with its new naming convention. The stability counterparts of neutral shoes are now re-dubbed with the neutral shoe’s name and “GTS” attached. In this case, the shoe formerly known as the Transcend is now known as the Glycerin GTS. Its guide rails system—dense foam on the lateral and medial sides of the heel—bumpers erratic knee movement.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v11
Type: Road | Weight: 10.2 oz (M), 8.7 oz (W) | Drop: 10 mm
New Balance cranked up the Fresh Foam for the 1080 v9, adding a millimeter of softness underfoot to make the shoe more forgiving. In the 10th iteration, the company again upgraded the midsole, this time to Fresh Foam X, which felt soft (but not marshmallowy); laser-engraving shaved off about half an ounce from the previous version, making the shoe look sportier and more lightweight. Fortunately, not much has changed with the v11. Consistent with the v10, that thick slab of Fresh Foam X provides high energy return—and comfort. The designers tweaked the upper, making it stretchier in the forefoot for runners with wide feet.
—BEST FOR STABILITY—
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
Type: Stability road | Weight: 10.4 oz. (M), 9.1 oz. (W) | Drop: 12mm
Since its release in 1994, the Adrenaline GTS has gained a massive following for its soft platform and stability features that cater to both overpronators and neutral runners. It’s a flexible shoe that falls in the middle of Brooks’s more cushioned trainers, sitting between the plush Glycerin GTS and nimble Launch GTS—making it the true Goldilocks of shoe plush. The guide rails system provides bumper support for erratic knee movement caused by overpronation and late-onset overpronation due to running fatigue, i.e., that final stretch during your long run when your form breaks down.
—BEST FOR RECOVERY RUNS—
Hoka Clifton 8
Type: Road | Weight: 8.9 oz (M), 7.2 oz (W) | Drop: 5 mm
The Clifton is beloved by dedicated distance runners and casual walkers alike for its maximum cushion and comfort on a very lightweight, streamlined platform. This latest version of the shoe has a new EVA midsole with even more bouncy energy return, plus a smoother ride and longer heel to soften your landings. Hoka also tweaked the mesh upper to be softer and more lightweight, with improved breathability. It’s a shoe that works well as an everyday training shoe, long-run shoe, or recovery shoe, but tends to feel a bit sluggish for race-pace efforts.
—BEST FOR TRAILS—
Hoka Challenger ATR 6
Type: Trail | Weight: 9.8 oz (M), 8.1 oz (W) | Drop: 5mm
Beloved as a “crossover” shoe that’s equally capable of tackling smooth roads, technical trails, and unpredictable weather conditions, the Challenger ATR is the shoe to grab when you’re not sure where your run will take you. It boasts a thick EVA foam midsole that absorbs impact well, protecting your feet from the pavement or rocks, and stubby, 4mm lugs for traction on loose surfaces. A shoe tester with wider feet praised the fit and comfort of the upper, as well. “The padding all around the interior of the shoe felt cozy,” he said. “I commend Hoka for a great feel in these shoes. This is one pair I would feel comfortable going long distances in without hesitation.”
Adidas UltraBoost 22
Type: Road | Weight: 11.7 oz (M), 10 oz (W) | Drop: 11mm
When it comes to a plush ride that doesn’t lose its bounce in the final miles of a long run, the UltraBoost delivers. The Boost foam midsole has a well-cushioned feel with excellent shock absorption for long runs, and a durable Continental rubber outsole that grips the road or crushed-gravel trail in wet and dry conditions. The Primeknit+ fabric upper—made from 50 percent recycled ocean plastics—provides a glove-like fit. And women can expect even more customization and comfort—our version of the 22 sports a new last modeled on extensive research of women’s foot shape.
—BEST FOR LONG RUNS—
Saucony Triumph 19
Type: Road | Weight: 10.2 oz (M), 9.1 oz (W) | Drop: 8 mm
Although it’s one of the heavier shoes here, the Triumph rides light and bouncy, largely due to a new Pwrrun+ midsole that’s 28 percent lighter and even more responsive than the previous model’s. It’s Saucony’s softest shoe, and also among its most versatile—equally well suited to recovery runs and ample everyday mileage. The new airier, more breathable mono-mesh upper has plenty of space in the forefoot for toes to wiggle, while the pillowy collar and tongue provide a plushness on par with the overall coziness of the shoe.