Due to the pandemic, 2021 is set to be a banner year for running. According to a recent survey by RunRepeat, roughly 28 percent of current runners started pounding the pavement during the virus crisis. What's more, race organizers have postponed and squeezed every major marathon to autumn, and the Olympics (should they happen) will bring top athletes to Tokyo shortly before.

The industry shows no signs of slowing down either. Our favorite brands continue rolling out new versions of favorites, upgrades to classics, and more brand-new foams and lasts than you’d even think possible.

While finding the right pair of sneakers is incredibly personal, we keep tabs on the latest releases and try them out to see what lives up to the hype. This list incorporates recent winners as well as time-tested standbys so you can find the perfect pair of shoes no matter how you run.

The Best Running Shoes for Easy Days

    The Best Running Shoes for Speed

      The Best Running Shoes for Long Runs

        The Best Running Shoes for Easy Days

        Finally, these easy run shoes are the ones that we’d pick up to run on tempo days as well as days when we’re just headed out for a five-miler or need to escape the house for a quickie.

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        Saucony Kinvara 12
        saucony.com
        $110.00

        A decade after the original Kinvara appeared, this shoe is still a favorite for the Saucony Racing Team — and ours. "They offer enough support that my feet feel cradled," says one tester. The 12th iteration is a little lighter and more flexible than the previous one and has a more responsive blend of PWRRUN cushioning. One tester liked the past Kinvara for quicker workouts and tempo runs, and the new version is still great for that. Even though we have it in our easy run section, the Kinvara is a solid all-rounder, and you can consider it for long runs too.

        Weight: 7.5 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 4 mm

        Mizuno
        Mizuno Wave Rider 24 Waveknit
        mizunousa.com
        $130.00

        Mizuno wouldn't have to continually update its Wave Rider for the shoe to score high marks from all types of runner, but it does. The latest iteration includes the company's new midsole foam, called Enerzy, which provides more spring without compromising the shoe's not-too-soft, not-too-firm feel. "This feels like a Goldilocks shoe. No feature really stands out, but that's a good thing," says one tester. Meaning, this running shoe will be a good fit for most, particularly those looking for a supportive heel structure.

        Weight: 10 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 12 mm

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        Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit
        nike nike.com
        $180.00

        A lot of recent Nike buzz surrounds its record-breaking marathon shoes, but its best new release is for everyday runners. The ZoomX Invincible is part of the company's effort to help runners avoid injury. It does that by using a big platform made of the same foam as those high-octane shoes; one tester describes it as "bouncy but not too bouncy" and "super comfy." They also note that "it's quite supportive despite its softness," which makes it ideal for easy runs and long runs too.

        Weight: 11.07 ounces (size 10)
        Heel to Toe Drop: 9 mm

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        Asics Gel-Nimbus 23
        asics.com
        $150.00

        The Gel-Nimbus has long been a go-to for long-distance comfort, and its 23rd iteration carries that torch forward. The latest update has a more breathable mesh upper. Its Gel unit is a bit softer too, which creates a more forgiving landing and helps somewhat with underpronation, though, generally, this shoe is for neutral runners. Runners familiar with the Nimbus might also notice that this one is a bit more flexible than past versions.

        Weight: 10.9 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 10 mm

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        Adidas Ultraboost 21
        adidas.com
        $180.00

        When Adidas launched Ultraboost in 2015, it was revolutionary. The foam, fit and feel package was strong, and people loved the crossover value each sneaker carried, from runways to air travel to run commuting. The latest version has the most updates in a while, most notably a thicker Boost foam sole. That and midsole insert for additional stability bring the shoe back into the realm of performance running, though we've found its size and weight are ideal for easier efforts.

        Weight: 12 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 10 mm

        Allbirds Tree Dashers
        allbirds.com
        $125.00

        A surprise addition to our compilation is Allbirds’ first foray into performance footwear. “The one-piece upper is knit from FSC Certified eucalyptus trees, a lighter, eco-friendly alternative to merino wool,” our tester reports. “Since it’s all one piece, you don’t feel the upper stretching or rubbing in weird ways. There are no hot spots.” She’s impressed with the stability as well: “Your feet have a decent amount of support as you pivot to change running lanes on the track or quickly turn a corner to avoid having to stop at a light. The slightly wider toebox helps with fit, too.” Because the laces do not permit a heel lock, it’s not ideal for those with ankle issues, but it’s perfect for bouncing around town and light recovery runs.

        Weight: 10.05 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 10 mm

        The Best Running Shoes for Speed

        These shoes are, at their core, race-day shoes. They’re the ones you’ll pull on for track practices and 200-meter repeats. They are the ones you want to wear to log PRs in competitive situations. Note that with the cost high and the durability low, most of these shoes aren't built for longer-distance running, and you shouldn't wear them as such. Consider shoes like these as part of a quiver, not daily drivers.

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        Hoka One One Carbon X 2
        hokaoneone.com
        $180.00

        The original Carbon X was the first shoe with an energy-returning carbon plate designed for everyday runners, a distinction that earned it a place in our list of the best products of the year. Its successor helped Jim Walmsley run the second-fastest 100 kilometers ever, thanks to Hoka's beloved lightweight foam and an oversized, rockered heel that encourages a rolling stride. "Fans of the original might find it feels tamer," says one tester, "but that's just because it's more stable." That's due to an extended heel that helps you roll through a stride, which also contributes to its zippy feeling. Our tester continues, "Even though it has a carbon plate, this isn't a race-only shoe — I'll happily wear it for speed days and tempo runs too."

        Weight: 8.4 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 5 mm

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        Brooks Launch 8
        brooksrunning.com
        $100.00

        The eighth edition of the Launch boasts lighter cushioning than its predecessor. Even though there's extra blown rubber in the forefoot — this is to simultaneously create more nimble transitions and to enhance durability — it weighs in at 8.6 ounces. You can't beat $100 either, a price that makes a strong case for building a quiver of running shoes for different types of runs.

        Weight: 8.6 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 10 mm

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        Saucony Endorphin Speed
        $119.95

        One of the stars of Saucony’s big Endorphin rollout for the Olympics (sigh), this shoe is true to its name thanks to Speedroll tech; the angle of the forefoot ramp encourages a more forward hip position during propulsion for a stronger stride. Though streamlined for its specific use, the Speed remains steady. “They’re comfy and super lightweight,” our tester raves. “But they still feel quite stable, even with such a minimal construction. I tend to favor more rigid running shoes, but this is one I'd happily pull into rotation when training for or competing in a race.”

        Weight: 7.8 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 8 mm

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        New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2
        newbalance.com
        $129.99


        To kick the FuelCell into high gear, New Balance injected it with the highest-rebound foam it makes. Then it deconstructed the heel counter to make it lighter without losing too much support and created a close-fitting upper to buckle your foot into the cockpit that it is. "The ride is soft and bouncy, but it doesn't sink in," says one tester, who also gave it top marks for cushioning, comfort and overall performance. "If this isn't the best shoe on the market, it's the best shoe under $130." The same tester noted that the upper blew out after roughly 150 miles but says, "I'll probably buy another pair."

        Weight: 7.2 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 6 mm

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        Reebok Floatride Run Fast 3
        reebok.com
        $140.00

        Reebok got back into running in 2017, but that relatively short run has already proved impressive. The third iteration of this model is more streamlined than previous ones, thanks to a new breathable mono mesh upper. There's also ultralight but responsive Floatride Foam cushioning, and the whole stack is exceptionally lightweight at just 7 ounces. Though they shine at speed, they're a good bet for everyday runs too.

        Weight: 7 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm

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        Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT%
        nike nike.com
        $200.00

        You might be familiar with Nike's record-breaking Vaporfly Next% and Alphafly Next%, the latter of which Eliud Kipchoge used to bust the two-hour marathon barrier. To complement them, Nike made the Air Zoom Tempo Next%, a shoe with similar high-performance features that's more geared toward everyday training and non-elite runners than those other two. "You'll feel like you're wearing springboards on your feet," says one tester. Unlike those other shoes, though, it has a composite plate instead of a carbon fiber one, though it does have the same Zoom Air unit in the forefoot as the Alphafly. It also has the same ZoomX foam through the mid- and forefoot, but more durable React foam in the heel. It all makes for a great speed shoe, though our tester notes that it's not great for slower efforts (and perhaps everyday runners). Beware of the high $200 price tag too.

        Weight: 9.5 ounces (size 10.5)
        Heel to Toe Drop: 10 mm

        The Best Running Shoes for Long Runs

        Long run shoes are cushioned to the max. Some offer a rocker to propel you forward over the hundreds of miles you plan to put on them, and others let you still feel the ground while the foam underfoot might look like it’s not going to let you.

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        Mach 4
        Hoka One One
        $130.00

        "The first thing you notice about Hoka's new Mach is how comfy it is when you put it on," says one of our testers. "Then you start to move, and you notice how light it is, and then you start to run, and you notice how fast it is." All of these traits are a result of a build that includes lots of Profly foam and Meta-Rocker, a lightly curved sole that keeps you rolling from one stride to the next. You'll also notice the subtly elongated and swallow-tailed heel, which we found provides an extra bit of welcome stability, and even with it, the Mach 4 is light at 8.6 ounces. Even though we have this shoe in our long runs section, it's versatile qualities make it a worthy all-rounder.

        Weight: 8.6 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 5 mm

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        Brooks Ghost 13
        brooksrunning.com
        $109.95

        The Ghost has been a part of Brooks's running line for seemingly forever — and it's constantly at the top of the best-selling list for its all-around running prowess. Beginners to experts alike will find this shoe does what they need it to do. The new version has DNA Loft foam extending through the midfoot for smooth transitions and a plushy, supported feel that won't weigh you down, even through your long training runs. If you've run in the Ghost before, the latest version will still be very familiar.

        Weight: 10.1 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 12 mm

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        Altra Rivera
        altrarunning.com
        $130.00

        Like Altra's Torin 4, which previously occupied a place on this list, the new Rivera is lightweight despite the very plush 26 millimeters of cushion underfoot. A foot-shaped toe box means your toes have room to breathe, though Altra made sure to equip the Rivera with a snug-fitting upper. As with all Altra shoes, this one has a zero-drop stack — Altra now refers to this as "Balanced Cushioning" — so it might take some getting used to. GP testers have found it more responsive as a result: "I was more responsive on the balls of my feet," one tester observes. Altra gave the Rivera lots of its EGO foam for spring and support but kept outsole rubber to a minimum to maintain its 9.1-ounce weight.

        Weight: 9.1 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 0 mm

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        On Cloudflyer
        on-running.com
        $159.99

        Like all its shoes, the Cloudflyer includes On's proprietary Cloudtec midsole pods. The company built them with lots of its Helion foam, which isn't as bouncy as others on this list but is plenty supportive and responsive. Additionally, the Cloudflyer has a super-comfy upper and a heel counter for stability; it's pretty light, though feels solid underfoot. Our testers note that the outsole channel on this and other On shoes can pick up gravel if you're running on dirt roads or paths, which can get annoying.

        Weight: 9.88 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 7 mm

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        Asics Gel-Kayano Lite
        asics.com
        $160.00

        The Gel-Kayano is another mainstay in Asics's stable, though the Lite version is much newer. To reduce its weight, Asics gave it a new, lighter mesh upper and tweaked its overall construction to move some of its stability-providing elements inside of the build. Those include firm shapes on top of the midsole — there's a concave one on the outside and a convex one on the inside — to help avoid overpronation. Runners without that issue might find these elements unwanted, though they're more subtle than in other similar models.

        Weight: 10.2 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 10 mm

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        New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
        newbalance.com
        $149.99

        New Balance nails the fit on version 11 of the well-cushioned and comfortable 1080s. Testers praised the previous iteration's supreme comfort, and nothing has changed with v11. Pull these on for your weekly long runs to feel supported yet springy, so your legs are fresh the next day. Testers also found the Fresh Foam in the midsole to be incredibly responsive and par with the plushest foams in any shoe. The new form-fitting upper is the icing on top of this cake, though one tester says it was a little snug and uncomfortable in the midfoot.

        Weight: 9.3 ounces
        Heel to Toe Drop: 8 mm

        How We Test Shoes

        Throughout the year, our crew tests and reviews some of the most buzzed-about running shoes. We work with a variety of brands to make sure we’re on top of what you’ll see when you walk into your local running specialty store.

        We take to the roads in 90-degree weather and 0-degree weather, noting how that temperature affects the foam and gel. We also wear the shoes to walk around all day and on long travel weekends to get an overarching picture of what each shoe can actually do and what its limitations are. Beyond pure fit, we evaluate shoes from a durability, comfort and reliability perspective. We note if the shoes make us feel zippy, help us slog through training miles or fall a little flat.

        We then separate them into three distinct categories because we know that in order to prevent injuries, it’s best to rotate sneakers. While it can seem pricey, it helps your sneakers last longer and will keep your feet in better shape.

        What's a Running Shoe's "Drop?"

        Simply put, a running shoe's drop is the difference in height between its heel and toe (it's often referred to more specifically as "heel-to-toe drop"). The difference puts you in a more forward position and builds extra padding into the heel, which is where many runners land in a stride.

        Ten millimeters is often considered the ideal amount of drop, though the number varies by shoe. You'll notice that many of the shoes in this buying guide have less than that — lower-drop running shoes are something of a trend, mainly because they promote a landing in the mid- or forefoot versus the heel. Altra has built its brand on the idea of zero-drop or Balanced Cushioning, which it says creates better alignment and form while reducing impact. Also, a shoe with lots of foam and a high stack height won't necessarily have a higher drop.

        If you're thinking of switching from a high-drop running shoe to a model with less, keep in mind that this is a change you'll feel. It'll take some getting used to, and you'll likely have to adjust your form. Start with lower-mileage runs and build up, even if you already have a high output.

        When Should You Buy a New Pair of Running Shoes?

        The lifespan of running shoes varies, but it's important to know that they do have a lifespan. You know a shoe is done when the outsole begins to peel off, or your toes explode through the mesh upper, but at this point, you're likely far past when you should've upgraded.

        A few brands will list a shoe's lifespan in miles on its product page, but most don't. Consider 400 miles a ballpark figure — that's five months of running 20 miles a week. Some can take more, some less.

        Keep an eye on your shoes too. Is the tread worn down? Does the foam feel less responsive? Are your muscles more sore or tired after running your usual loop than they should be? These are all signs that it's time for a new pair.