Best running shoes for heavy runners

by Solereview editors

Best running shoes for heavy runners

This article has been updated with current models for March 2021. The Brooks Glycerin 18, and Nike React Infinity Run have been replaced with their updated versions. The New Balance 1400V6 and Saucony Peregrine 11 are new additions. The Brooks Transcend 7 has been removed.

You’re probably reading this guide because you weigh more than 200 lbs/90 kilos. The word ‘heavy’ has many contexts. For instance, you could be a large-framed runner with feet to match. Also, low or flat arches may not necessarily be a part of the package – there are many heavy runners with a regular arch.

When you go searching for suitable running shoes, you’ll likely hear the following shopping advice:

“Buy a running shoe with the softest cushioning. They’re the best for heavy runners.” That, or “You can’t go wrong with a stability shoe for over-pronators.”

Wrong. That’s not good advice at all.

We understand why most people recommend max-soft or motion-control shoes, though. The underlying (and misinformed) logic is that a softer ride equates to better shock absorption. However, that simply isn’t true.

In fact, an overly mushy shoe can do more harm than good when you’re north of 200 lbs. Here’s why:

An uber-soft running shoe is unstable for high bodyweight.

A shoe that feels supportive for a 150 lb runner might end up throwing a heavier runner around. If the midsole isn’t supportive, then that translates into more work for the body.

During each phase of the gait cycle, the body will have to work hard to compensate for the shortcomings of the unstable shoe. This increases the chances of injuries.

Excessive midsole softness can cause the shoe to bottom out.

The Asics Nimbus 17 was a perfect example of this in action. Its midsole was so mushy that it bottomed out even if you were a 150 pounder, and parts of the outsole were felt during runs. That defeats the entire purpose of the midsole, does it not?

An extremely soft shoe will lead to significant variance between the static and dynamic heel gradient.

An often overlooked aspect is that there can be a huge difference between the published heel drop and the dynamic one – especially when it concerns soft running shoes. The heel offset is the difference between the heel height and forefoot midsole height, and brands often advertise this number. For many shoe geeks, this number is an influencing factor when buying running shoes.

But you should take the static heel drop with a huge grain of salt. The heel offset of a shoe when fully loaded can differ a lot from the static drop. To minimize this variance, select a shoe with a firm midsole.

Running in a very soft shoe will result in a lower heel gradient than expected; more so when the footstrike load is in multiples of 200 lbs.

For all you know, a ’10 mm’ drop might turn into a 4 mm offset or less during running. This might strain your Achilles or Calf muscle if you’re not used to running in footwear with a lower offset.

Super-soft cushioning has lower durability.

Except for newer materials such as the adidas Boost, Nike React, Reebok Floatride, and Saucony Pwrrun+, EVA foam-based midsoles tend to lose their cushioning over a few hundred miles. A heavy runner using a shoe made of a soft EVA foam compound is likely to fatigue it sooner than a lighter runner.

So far, we’ve painted super-soft running shoes in a poor light, but there are exceptions to each generalization. Certain shoes made from new-gen foams can be very soft yet durable.

In short, firm and stable running shoes are a better fit for heavy runners.

Traditional ‘stability’ shoes can end up achieving the opposite effect

Conventional stability shoes have a firmer inner midsole and a softer outer side. While this design prevents rolling of the foot towards the inner side, it comes at the cost of midsole bias. The body weight will follow the path of least resistance and lean towards the outer side.

Not all ‘stability’ shoes are necessarily stable. However, the Brooks Addiction 14 is a medially-posted exception because of its high level of inherent support.

If very soft shoes and laterally-leaning stability models are off the menu, then what’s left to buy? Glad you asked.

Softness and cushioning are often used interchangeably, but cushioning – the ability to protect the foot from the impact forces – exist in firmer shoes as well. So it is important to buy a shoe that is cushioned yet supportive; one that is capable of handling 200+ lb body-weight over hundreds of miles.

There many such cushioned (and supportive) running shoes but it is a challenge to sift through the confusing assortment of products.

To help narrow your search, we’ve curated a list of over a dozen running shoes suited for heavy runners. This list is far from exhaustive but a good place to start – there are regular trainers, heavy stability shoes, trail running shoes, and road racers to choose from.

Category: Supportive neutrals without a medial post

1) Asics Gel Nimbus 23

Asics has emerged out of its ennui to churn new updates and models at a surprisingly quick pace. The Nimbus 23 is a good case in point.

This premium neutral cushioned trainer gets a much-needed refresh. The dual-density Flytefoam midsole is not only softer, but visually appealing as well.

The ride is smooth and supportive, a trait that’s useful for heavier runners. The use of traditional running shoe features such as a plastic midfoot shank adds stability to the ride. The generously segmented outsole helps spread the weight evenly to make the loading process smoother.

There’s a lot of secure plushness within the upper. The single piece of engineered mesh results in a seamless fit, whereas traditional components like the padded heel and tongue add interior comfort. A hard internal counter locks the heel in place.

2) Asics Kayano Lite

Here’s another Asics shoe that works for weightier folks – the Kayano Lite. Despite the shared name with the multi-generational Kayano, the two shoes are nothing alike.

The Kayano Lite owes its supportive ride not to a firmer medial post or a midfoot shank, but rather to a wide and stable midsole.

The full-length Flytefoam stack has a prominent outwards flare to result in a stable, albeit cushioned foundation. The lack of a bias makes the Kayano Lite very neutral; a characteristic that works for runners across different weight classes. There’s enough softness within the midsole to add comfort to most runs.

The engineered mesh upper blends interior smoothness with plushness and a secure grip. Our in-depth review has all the details.

Also see: The Zoom Nike Structure 23.

3) Brooks Glycerin 19

Except for the redesigned upper and slightly softer midsole, not much has changed over the Glycerin 18. Even the Brooks Launch 8 has turned softer, so how could the premium Glycerin be left behind?

As always, the G-19’s cushioning strikes an excellent balance between ride comfort and stability.

In the context of this guide, that’s an ideal trait. The full-length DNA midsole isn’t super cushy, so that makes the ride supportive. The midsole is single-density, so you get the smoothness along with ample traction from the grippy outsole rubber.

In true Brooks style, the sleeved upper is plush as always; no complaints there.

Also see: The Brooks Glycerin 19 GTS – which is just a Glycerin with raised sidewalls. Or the Asics Nimbus Lite 2.

4) Saucony Ride 13

Nobody will be surprised to see the Saucony Ride 13 featured on this guide. Saucony Ride loyalists are well acquainted with this model’s firm and supportive ride. The kind of ride that is transition-friendly while being cushioned enough for most runs, be it short and long.

There’s a new Pwrrun foam midsole on the Ride 13, but that does not affect the shoe’s do-it-all versatility and supportive character. The firm-ish foundation is stable enough for weighty runners while providing the required cushioning levels.

The secure upper fit also helps with overall stability. It’s hard to go wrong with this one.

5) Brooks Beast 20

Hold on a moment – why is the Beast part of the ‘supportive neutral’ list? Isn’t the Beast the fairy godmother of all traditional, medial-posted shoes?

Sweet summer child, that was in 2019. Last year, the Beast traded the Octo-density midsole for a design with GuideRails. The newest Beast has a wide BioMogo DNA (EVA-based foam) midsole with raised sidewalls.

The inner Guiderail has a firmer density for a higher level of support. With these changes, the ride character takes a decidedly neutral and supportive turn.

The comfortable upper is spacious and is offered in a range of widths for runners with wide feet.

6) Mizuno Wave Rider 24

Though the new Wave Rider 24 is softer than the 23, it still makes it to this list. That’s because the Wave plate still plays an important role in the heel cushioning and overall stability.

The snappy TPE plate adds plenty of support to the now-softer midsole. This way, heavier runners benefit from the comfortable ride without having to worry about instability.

Owing to this unique construction, the ride quality is very neutral and a safe choice for the demographic that this guide targets.

The said midsole is paired with a comfortable upper constructed in the traditional Mizuno style. By that, we mean a spacious upper made of soft engineered mesh and plush lining.

7) Mizuno Wave Sky WaveKnit 4

Last year’s Wave Sky Waveknit 3 was a new Mizuno. New, not because the model was an annual refresh. New, because the Sky 3 came without the characteristic Wave plate that usually is a part of the midsole scenery.

Instead, what we got was a dual-density stack of foam that was part Polyurethane and part EVA. This combination made the ride cushioned enough for long-distance running but without trading stability. The new top layer added a responsive pop that was otherwise lacking on plate-equipped Mizuno shoes.

Below the upper, nothing has changed; the Wave Sky 4 has the same ride as the V3. Therefore, the 4 works for heavy runners as well as the V3 did.

The Waveknit 4’s upper is similar to the 3, save for a few updates. Mizuno has made some tweaks to the lacing system and removed the padding from the tongue flap. They’ve added a Urethane logo and a fused heel overlay as well.

In our view, the Waveknit 3’s upper design was superior. The plush tongue flap was a good fit for the cushioned ride, and the printed logo blended into the upper scenery better than the fused one.

8) Saucony Echelon 8

There are many reasons why the Echelon 8 features here.

Saucony uses the firm Pwrrun compound for this model, thus imparting the Echelon with high levels of in-built stability. If that wasn’t enough, the outsole has an ultra-broad footprint for increased contact surface.

Together, the material and geometry create a ride that is cushioned but is also solid-footed. And of course, the Echelon 8 weighs more than 12-ounces; what did you expect?

This shoe also comes equipped with a thick insole that can be swapped with an aftermarket orthotic. There’s more upper space available in the optional wide and extra-wide sizes.

The upper is very old school; lots of stitched overlays cover the spacer mesh exterior. The fit is comfortable, a bit snug, and true-to-size.

9) Saucony Triumph 18

The Triumph 18 builds on the goodness that was the Triumph 17 by introducing minor tweaks. For example, the collar padding gets toned down a bit, thus creating some room in the front. The fit is still snug, but noticeably less so than the T-17.

The rest of the interior is excellent. The use of high-quality and plush trims is evident throughout the shoe, and the pleasing exterior detailing is a bonus. The treatment befits the Triumph 18’s price premium. Fit-wise, the forefoot and heel have a secure grip, and the toe-box is secure yet accommodating.

There’s the familiar responsive and fluffy ride from the T-17. The expanded Polyurethane midsole is lively and perfect for easygoing daily runs or punishing endurance feats of a high-mileage nature. The ride is soft, but its inherent resilience keeps it from bottoming out when weight-loaded.

Also see: The Saucony Hurricane 23.

10) Nike React Infinity Run 2

We like what Nike has done with the second iteration of the React Infinity Run. The upper now has a separate tongue as opposed to the sock-like construction of the V1.

This change will make many runners with a higher instep very happy, as a tongue makes the shoe much easier to get in.

The collar is plusher too, and when combined with the padded tongue and higher lacing density, the new Infinity provides a better lockdown. The forefoot has a bit of mechanical stretch for a secure fit. Overall, the V2’s upper is a functional improvement over the previous model.

Under the upper is a React midsole – a synthetic rubber blend that Nike debuted a few years ago. The resilient and medium-soft cushioning makes the shoe suitable for heavier runners. The wide forefoot flare and plastic stabilizer over the heel add ride stability.

The high levels of ride comfort make the V2 ideal for long miles, whereas the efficient transitions also work for slightly faster paces.

Category: Stability shoe with a medial post

1) Brooks Addiction 14

The Brooks Beast may have ditched the medial post, but the Addiction 14 sure hasn’t gotten the memo.

An ultra-wide midsole joins forces with a reassuringly large medial-post to create a cushioned ride that delivers stability without a noticeable bias.

The upper has plenty of room in its stock form, so you can substitute the insole with an aftermarket kind. And of course, the Brooks upper plushness comes standard.

This is a shoe that weighs nearly 13-ounces, so it’s best to restrict it to easy-paced runs.

Category: Lightweight and stable road racer

1) New Balance 1400V6

As a road racer, the New Balance 1400 just works for most runners, heavy or not. (Related: Read our detailed review)

It’s lightweight, rock stable, and doesn’t cost the earth. The aggressive outsole lugs provide plenty of bite for speed runs, while the snug upper keeps the foot planted inside. For more room, there’s a wide version available too.

The EVA foam midsole (Revlite) is very firm and low-profile, thus make it supportive enough for heavier runners.

Also see: Saucony Type A9

Category: Supportive trail running shoe

1) Saucony Peregrine 11

The Saucony Peregrine has always been an under-rated trail running shoe. The upper is protective and secure-fitting while possessing helpful features like gaiter attachment points. It also comes in a wide, and the interiors are very comfortable for longer trail runs.

The stable ride is what makes the Peregrine a great choice for large-framed runners. The firm midsole has inherent stability over uneven surfaces, and the rock-plate adds forefoot protection and stiffness. The 4 mm heel-to-toe offset helps make the transitions smoother.

The outsole grip is great, due to the combination of the sticky Pwrtrac compound and lug design.

Also see: Brooks Cascadia 15.

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