Best breathable running shoes for hot summers

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

The Saucony Ride 15 on the pavement.

This article has been updated with current models for October 2022. The adidas Boston 10 and Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Asics Novablast 2 and New Balance Fuelcell Rebel 2 have been removed. The Nike Terra Kiger 8 is a new addition.

The colder months are here for most of us, but for our readers in Australia and NZ, the summers are just around the corner. So if you’re reading this from down under, we hope that this recommendation guide is helpful.

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, and 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 a 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 breathable interiors of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

The large tongue vents of the Endorphin Pro 3 take ventilation to the max.

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 20 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 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) Saucony Tempus

The Saucony Tempus is truly a unique running shoe. By combining an EVA foam frame with a PEBA (Pwrrun PB) midsole, the Tempus offers a stability running experience like none other. If you’re interested in a long read, our detailed review is here.

The EVA frame interlocks with the softer PEBA core to make the medial side more supportive, but without the bias of traditional stability shoes.

The breathable interior of the Saucony Tempus.

The vented upper of the Tempus is good news for breathability.

The Saucony Tempus in a park.

Given its novel construction, the Tempus works for most classes of runners. The inner midsole is more supportive, but the wide heel base makes the Tempus neutral as well. The Pwrrun PB midsole makes sure that’s there always enough cushioning to go around.

There’s another thing that the Tempus does well. The forefoot has built-in vents for air circulation, so this is an excellent daily trainer for the warmer months.

Cushioned marathon racers:

3) 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 Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 in a marathon.

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 no barrier obstructs the air circulation.

This hyper-shoe’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.

4) Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

The Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 is very breathable, and the Endorphin Pro 3 is even more so. Not only do the large vents on the mesh upper let the air circulate inside freely, but the redesigned tongue also has massive vents to help with the airflow.

The breathable interiors of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

The large tongue vents of the Endorphin Pro 3 make the interiors very breathable.

The breathable mesh of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

The thin mesh excels at keeping the feet cool.

The inner gusset of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

The use of lightweight mesh materials and linings helps with air circulation.

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 3 is, here’s a quick summary. The Endorphin Pro 3 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 responsive midsole that’s comfortable enough for marathons and high-mileage training.

In our in-depth review, we covered all the changes that are a part of the new Endorphin Pro 3. The midsole is taller and wider for a higher level of stability and ride comfort; the Pro 3 also gets a Pwrrun+ insole this time.

Lightweight trainers:

5) 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.

6) 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 deliver 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.

Breathable speed trainers:

7) adidas adizero Boston 11

Though the adizero Boston 11 is an updated version of the last year’s Boston 10, its ventilation levels haven’t been affected.

The Boston 11 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.

Under the airy upper is a dual-density midsole that uses adidas’s ‘Lightstrike Pro’ foam. It’s a resilient foam (TPE, perhaps?) that makes the ride soft and comfortable for long-distance training.

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 the high stack heights, the Boston 11 delivers on its brief. It’s a cushioned trainer that’s also tempo-friendly.

The adidas Boston 10 on the sidewalk.

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

Since both the Boston 10 and 11 share the same midsole, our review of the V10 is a helpful reference.

Also see: The adidas adizero adios 7, Brooks Hyperion Tempo.

8) Asics Metaracer

The Asics Metaracer is 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 runs 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.

9) 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.

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.

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.

Breathable trail running shoes:

10) Nike Terra Kiger 8

It’s a coincidence that both the trail shoes on this guide are speed-focused running shoes. However, the Terra Kiger 8 and Saucony Peregrine differ in their cushioning delivery.

Despite the low-profile stack, the Terra Kiger 8 doesn’t skimp on the ride comfort or protection. A forefoot Zoom Air and React foam midsole decreases the harshness on bumpy terrain, whereas the heel rock plate acts as a barrier against rocks and roots.

The outsole rubber has its lugs placed in two directions for adaptive grip. As with most trail running shoes, the outsole has limited traction on wet and smooth rocks, including algae-covered surfaces.

The minimally-design upper has speed loops for quick cinching, as well as a minimally-padded heel and tongue to keep the weight low.

Though the upper is reinforced with synthetic splash-guard on the sides, the mesh upper is super-breathable – it’s almost like a sieve. The mesh behaves similarly to the material used on the Vaporfly Next% to deliver excellent airflow.

11) 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 filter 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. For our review, we tested the Peregrine over different off-road surfaces.

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

Other reviews and guides