Best breathable running shoes for hot summers

by Solereview editors

The Saucony Ride 15 on the pavement.

This article has been updated with current models for June 2022. The Nike Vaporfly Next% V2 and Nike ZoomX Streakfly are new additions. The Saucony Endorphin Shift 2 has been removed.

If it’s just apparel, dressing for summer running is fairly simple. Wear a breezy and lightweight top over a pair of running shorts, a cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, and you’re good to go.

The process of finding a summer-worthy running shoe is slightly more complicated.

Over the years, we’ve realized that determining the level of ventilation in a running shoe is somewhat of a dark art. After reviewing hundreds of shoes, a pattern has emerged – one that informs us how footwear ventilation works.

Where it gets confusing is that not all shoes that appear breathable pass muster under real-world conditions. The sensory aspect of ventilation is also equally important.

The internal bumper of the Saucony Endorphin Speed

The total ventilation factor is the sum of a perforated mesh and roomy toe-box.

The insides of the Asics Metaracer

Not only does the Asics Metaracer have a breathable mesh, but the outsole also has a drainage hole.

For example, many knit upper designs have a generously perforated surface. Based on outward appearances alone, these shoes should be very breezy. But some of these uppers are stretchy and fit snug. Since the upper is in close contact with the foot, it feels hotter than a shoe with a regular mesh upper. 

A more spacious forefoot makes the shoe feel cooler – even though the mesh may not be generously perforated.

It gets even more complicated. Even if the upper mesh isn’t stretchy and doesn’t have an inner sleeve, how a shoe fits around the midfoot also alters the perception of ‘hotness’. A shoe could have a super breathable forefoot but a stuffy midfoot makes the shoe feel warmer.

There’s more.

If a running shoe has an insole top-cloth or a midsole geometry that results in friction, then heat is produced under the foot. That, or if we’re talking about a shoe where the midsole doesn’t offer sufficient thermal insulation from the warm road. Here, pancake-flat racing flats come to mind.

The toe-box of the New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2.

The breathable upper of the New Balance Rebel 2 keeps the heat down.

Even indoor running can get surprisingly warm – say, in cases of naturally-ventilated gyms without air conditioning. A treadmill inherently runs warm; given the high RPM of electronic treadmills, rubber belts acquire heat both through friction with the shoe and the warm motor.

Walking instead of running leads to different ventilation outcomes. A running shoe that breathes well at a 5:30 min/km pace may run warm during standing or walking.

If the principle sounds familiar, that’s because air-cooled combustion engines work in the same way. At slower speeds, air circulation becomes inefficient.

A scientific way of determining trapped heat would be to use an infrared thermal reader and measure the temperature of each shoe immediately after a run. But since we do not possess such an instrument, our recommendation is based on a sensory wear-testing experience.

Now that we’ve established the context, you’ll understand why we’ve excluded running shoes with knit uppers. Sorry, adidas Ultraboost 22.

You also won’t see shoes with full inner sleeves here. That means that products like the Structure 24 and Brooks Glycerin 19 are out. The lightweight trainer and road racer category is a great place to discover well-ventilated shoes, so you’ll find a few of them on this guide.

At the same time, there’re many regular neutral trainers to pick from. To make it simple, we’ve grouped shoes under their categories. This curated list is sorted alphabetically.

Daily neutral trainers:

1) Saucony Ride 15

Thanks to its redesigned upper, the Saucony Ride 15 features on this guide for the first time. Our in-depth review is here.

A breathable mesh exterior is also a part of the latest update, and that’s what makes this everyday workhorse excellent for warm weather.

The breathable mesh of the Saucony Ride 15.

The interior toe-box of the Saucony Ride 15.

The inner sleeve of the Saucony Ride 15.

The generously pored mesh keeps the interiors ventilated during runs. And even though the upper is sleeved, the thin porous fabric lets the air circulate.

While we’re at it, you should know that the Saucony Ride has been completely redone for 2022.

While the midsole cushioning (still) has a firm undertone, there’s a noticeable increase in the ride comfort due to the taller midsole.

The flush forefoot outsole of the Saucony Ride 15.

The Pwrrun+ insole of the Saucony Guide 15.

The Ride and Guide 15 both have Pwrrun+ (expanded Polyurethane) insoles.

The redesigned midsole also includes a thick insole that’s made entirely of expanded PU foam, or Pwrrun+. The outsole acquires a new transition groove that makes the loading process smoother.

Despite all the changes, the Saucony Ride 15 continues to be a versatile neutral trainer.

The Saucony Ride 15 on the boardwalk.

The optimal blend of firm and soft makes it suitable for different pace ranges – be it easy cruising or slightly higher speeds of 4: 30 min/km or 7 min/mile.

The breezy upper is true to size and available in multiple widths.

2) New Balance FuelCell Rebel V2

A highly-ventilated upper is among the Fuelcell Rebel’s many talents. When New Balance decided to update the Fuecell Rebel with the midsole foam from the RC Elite, it must have known that this shoe would become a runaway hit.

And it has, and then some. The hyper-light and responsive midsole foam make the Rebel V2 an excellent shoe for either daily runs or tempo training. The Fuelcell foam midsole also packs sufficient comfort for long-distance runs.

The toe-box of the New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2.

Here’s how the toe-box looks from the inside.

Besides the versatile ride character, the lightweight upper does an excellent job at air circulation. The thin engineered mesh creates an airy feel inside the forefoot and midfoot.

However, there are concerns with the flimsy upper tearing in the midfoot. So if you’re a wide-footed and/or heavy runner, just know that the upper durability may be a potential problem area.

Other than that, the Rebel V2 is one of our favorite running shoes. Our in-depth review is here.

3) Asics Novablast 2

There are two reasons why the Novablast V2 is well-ventilated. The first one is pretty obvious; the engineered mesh upper has large vents on its surface.

The second reason is the slightly longer sizing that results in a roomy toe-box. The abundance of space leads to better air circulation.

Besides the well-ventilated upper, the Asics Novablast’s cushioned and responsive midsole is perfect for long-distance runs without compromising on speed. It may not be the most stable running shoe due to its slim heel, but that doesn’t pose a problem as long as the runs do not involve turning into fast corners.

The rocker shape of the Flytefoam design delivers a satisfying blend of distance-friendly ride comfort and tempo-pace capabilities. In many ways, the Novablast 2 is a leaner version of the Hoka Clifton 8.

4) Brooks Launch 9

In the past, the entry-level Brooks Launch used to be a firm trainer that worked for high-paced training. Last year, the Brooks Launch 8 went through a significant design transformation.

The midsole turned much softer, thus increasing its versatility and widening its appeal to a wider population of runners. The newly acquired softness packed sufficient comfort for daily runs, whereas the low-profile midsole was efficient enough for tempo speeds.

The Brooks Launch 9 is a top-to-bottom redesign, but it carries over the fundamental traits from the Launch 8. That includes the lightweight upper construction.

Its breathable upper is the reason why the Launch 9 appears on this list. The engineered mesh shell isn’t very thick, so the vents allow unrestricted air circulation.

As a bonus, the lightweight build of mesh upper disappears on the feet during runs.

Cushioned speed trainers:

1) adidas adizero Boston 10

Though the adizero Boston 10 is nothing like the V9, its ventilation levels haven’t been affected. The Boston 10 uses a traditional racer-like upper that breathes very well.

The midfoot is sleeved for support, but the thin mesh on the forefoot allows plenty of air circulation.

The outer sleeve of the adidas adizero Boston 10.

The Boston 10’s mesh is well-ventilated.

Under the airy upper is a completely redesigned midsole that uses adidas’s newest ‘Lightstrike Pro’ foam. It’s a resilient foam (TPE, perhaps?) that makes the ride much softer than the previous Boston.

Of course, it helps that the midsole is way thicker now because of its 39.5 mm (R) and 31 mm (F) stack heights.

Despite all the changes, the Boston 10 delivers on its brief. It’s a cushioned trainer that’s also tempo-friendly.

The adidas Boston 10 on the boardwalk.

That’s made possible by the Nylon ‘Energyrods’, heel board, and the firm ‘Lightstrike’ EVA base that make swift transitions happen. The tenacious grip of the ribbed Continental outsole doesn’t hurt either.

If you want to know more, our detailed review is here.

Also see: The adidas adizero adios 6, adidas SL 20, Brooks Hyperion Tempo.

2) Saucony Kinvara 13

If we had to pick just one lightweight summer running shoe to do it all, the Saucony Kinvara 13 would be it.

Everything about it is summery – be it the ventilated upper with the spacious interiors, or the overall lightness of the shoe. And since the Kinvara 13 now has only a partial sleeve (versus the K-12’s full sleeve), the ventilation is even better.

The breathable toe-box of the Saucony Kinvara 13.

The Kinvara 13’s interiors are soft and breathable.

The inner sleeve of the Saucony Kinvara 13.

The half-sleeved upper is soft and breathable.

At a mere 7.2-ounces, this 4 mm drop trainer creates a lightweight running experience with ample cushioning for longer runs. The balanced midsole and outsole design delivers excellent stability during runs.

The Saucony Kinvara 13 on the road.

There’s a bit of foam padding around the heel collar, but the rest of the upper is very breezy and non-stuffy. Everything that you need to know about the Kinvara 13 is here.

Road racers:

1) Nike Vaporfly Next% 2

The Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 is one of the best ventilated racers that money can buy. And to be honest, $250 is a lot of money.

But when you spend that cash, you get a running shoe that’s not only hyper-cushioned and responsive, but also does an excellent job of preventing overheating.

The breathable tongue of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.

The interior toe box of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.

The mesh upper is so porous, it’s like a see-thru screen. This sieve-like exterior also lacks an inner sleeve or lining, so there’s no barrier that obstructs the air circulation.

This hypershoe’s claim to fame is a bouncy midsole made of the soft ZoomX foam and Carbon plate. The generous amount of ride comfort and springy snap of the plate makes the Vaporfly an excellent shoe for long-distance runs. Our in-depth review has all that you need to know about this shoe.

2) Asics Metaracer

The Asics Metaracer is one of our favorite racing shoe picks of 2021. It’s not a conventional racing flat, but a Carbon-plated kind with a surprisingly high level of ride comfort.

And it’s also not just any plated running shoe; the plate-foam integration is perfect. The plate rests below the soft Flytefoam layer, so it works silently in the background without being conspicuous. It’s great for speed-work without trading ride comfort.

The insides of the Asics Metaracer

Along with a breathable mesh, there’s a drainage hole punched into the outsole.

The heel collar of the Asics Metaracer

Even the heel is breathable. How’s that for ventilation, eh?

But we’re digressing here. Above the efficient midsole is an upper that breathes extremely well.

As if the well-ventilated mesh wasn’t enough, the outsole tip has an in-built drainage hole. Don’t believe it? That’s why we included a picture. And that isn’t the end of it; even the heel has breathable windows. Now that is a rarity.

Our detailed review has everything worth knowing about the Metaracer.

3) Saucony Endorphin Pro 2

The Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is very breathable, and the Endorphin Pro 2 is even more so. The mesh upper has large vents that let the air circulate inside freely.

The lack of layering on the deconstructed-style upper results in a lightweight wearing experience.

If you don’t know what kind of shoe the Endorphin Pro 2 is, here’s a quick summary. The Endorphin Pro 2 has a full-length Carbon plate inside a soft, bouncy, and lightweight midsole made of a high-performance PEBA foam that Saucony calls Pwrrun PB.

From a ride viewpoint, that translates into a cushioned and comfortable midsole that also encourages high-speed excursions. The Pro v2 uses the same midsole as the V1, so our review contains a lot of relevant information.

4) Nike ZoomX Streakfly

Trying to buy a pair of the ZoomX Streakfly online reminds us of the early days of the Vaporfly 4%.

This new low-profile racer is always sold out, and we had to try for over a week – often during the early hours of the day late at night – to successfully acquire a pair. But we did manage to buy one, so here’s our lowdown.

We’ll get to the other parts in a bit, but first, let’s explain why the shoe is featured here.

The printed Swoosh logo of the Nike ZoomX Streakfly.

The interior toe-box of the Nike ZoomX Streakfly.

The ZoomX foam creasing on the Nike ZoomX Streakfly.

This hyper-lightweight road racer uses a thin mesh upper that’s great at letting the air circulate. There’s no inner sleeve or superfluous layers of lining – just a breathable exterior that keeps the insides ventilated during high speed runs.

As the name suggests, the midsole is made entirely of ZoomX foam, the same cushioning material that’s used on the Vaporfly Next%. There’s a stiff shank under the midfoot to make the transitions efficient.

With these components, the Streakfly offers the best of both worlds – a soft and lightweight ride with a sense of quickness. Our full review of the Streakfly is here.

Trail running shoe:

1) Saucony Peregrine 12

The newest update to Saucony’s go-to trail shoe has shades of the Kinvara in it. Though the upper is protected by the fused guards over the toe and sides, the exterior is made of a lightweight and breathable mesh.

The interior toe-box of the Saucony Peregrine 12.

Even the tongue is very Kinvara-like. Its soft and thin flap doesn’t smother the foot and lets the air circulate.

Besides the lightweight and breezy upper, there are other things we love about the Peregrine 12.

The Pwrrun+ footbed of the Saucony Peregrine 12.

Everun, Pwrrun+ – call it whatever you will. The unique insole is no longer EVA foam, but steam-expanded Polyurethane.

The Saucony Peregrine 12 on rocky gravel.

The midsole and rock shield also filters the pressure from small rocks on gravel trails.

The removable insole is now made of the bouncy E-TPU foam that Saucony calls Pwrrun+, and the Pwrtrac outsole works together with the rock plate for a protective ride that promotes proprioception.

The end product is a versatile trail running shoe that’s suitable for most trail run categories and mileage ranges. Our in-depth review is worth a read.

Also see: The Nike Terra Kiger 8 – its upper is almost like a sieve; that’s how breathable it is.

Do you own any of these shoes? Improve this review by sharing your insights – submit a review here.

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