Running shoes? Not so much.
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 recognition has emerged – one that tells us how good or bad a shoe will be at air circulation.
Where it gets confusing is that not all shoes that appear breathable pass muster under real-world conditions. Also, there’s a sensory aspect of ventilation that needs to be considered.
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 roomier forefoot also makes the shoe feel cooler.
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’. You could have a super breathable forefoot but a stuffy midfoot makes the shoe feel warmer.
If a running shoe has an insole top-cloth or a midsole geometry that results in friction, then you’ll feel the heat below the foot. That, or if you’re running in a shoe where the midsole doesn’t offer sufficient thermal insulation from the road.
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 through the warm motor.
A scientific way of determining how much heat a shoe traps would be to use an infrared thermal reader and measure the temperature of each shoe during, and immediately after a run. But since we don’t have this equipment, our recommendation is based on a sensory wear-testing experience.
Now that we’ve established the context, you’ll understand why we left out running shoes with knit uppers.
There’s an exception though – the New Balance 890V7 makes it to this list. It’s the most breathable running shoe on this guide, so if you’re okay with a firm ride, then you can stop reading the guide right now and buy the 890.
You also won’t see shoes with full inner sleeves. This means that popular models like the Nike Pegasus 36 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 you can choose from. To make it simple, we’ve grouped shoes under their categories.
Daily neutral trainers:
1) Asics Cumulus 22
There are a couple of reasons why the Cumulus 22 gets a mention here. Its engineered mesh upper has built-in ventilation pores over the forefoot to allow air circulation.
The lack of an inner sleeve is something that we usually list under the ‘cons’ of our ‘pros and cons’ section in our reviews. However, when you’re talking about breathability, a lack of additional layering is actually helpful.
Add to that a just-right upper fit, and you have a shoe that performs very well in warmer conditions. The ride is also cushioned, so the Cumulus has all the makings of a summer-worthy daily trainer.
2) Brooks Ghost 12
There’s a reason why the Brooks Ghost 12 has always been a safe running shoe pick. It does most things well – including ventilation.
Just like the Cumulus, a lack of an inner sleeve makes the interiors breezier than sleeved uppers. The forefoot and toe-box have an accommodating fit, so there’s plenty of space for the air to circulate.
3) Mizuno Wave Rider 23
Unless Mizuno makes drastic changes to the Wave Rider formula, future versions of this shoe will also feature on this particular guide.
Most Mizunos with non-knit uppers breathe well. Making that happen are factors such as the spacious forefoot and engineered mesh with ventilation holes.
Though the Rider 23 isn’t as breezy as the 22, it’s cool enough for warm weather running.
Also see: The Mizuno Wave Inspire 16.
1) Saucony Kinvara 11
If we had to pick one summer running shoe, the Saucony Kinvara 11 would be it. Everything about it is summery – be it the ventilated upper with the spacious interiors, or the overall lightness of the shoe. At less than 8-ounces, this 4 mm drop trainer creates a lightweight running experience while being cushioned enough for even longer runs.
There’s a bit of foam padding around the heel collar and inside the tongue, but the rest of the upper feels very breezy and non-stuffy.
2) New Balance 890V7
This is a very lightweight and well-ventilated running shoe with a firm ride. Unlike other running shoes in the market with a knit mesh, the 890 differentiates itself with an upper which is non-stretchy and incredibly spacious at the same time.
This set-up works like a charm for breathability, and at no point during your run do you feel any heat trapped inside. The only drawback of the 890 is its limited versatility due to its firm ride.
1) adidas adizero adios 5
Despite its narrow fit, the adidas adios 5 handles ventilation rather well. That’s thanks to the use of a traditional spacer mesh with ample breathability. There’s no elasticity either, and that means the upper isn’t stuffy like how some knit shoes are.
There’s very little padding inside the heel and the tongue. Fewer materials inside and around the shoe equate into better breathability, so here we are.
A word of caution: The adios 5 has a very narrow fit, so it’s best to half-size up for optimal results.
2) Nike Air Zoom Streak 7
The Streak has long been a popular choice for runners who want a breathable and lightweight racing shoe without compromising on ride comfort.
The structured mesh upper offers ample breathability through its vented design. A blown rubber forefoot outsole and a cored midsole insulate the foot from the hot summer roads.
Also see: The Zoom Streak LT4.