Best running shoes for heel strikers – 2019


Wait. Do we really need a guide to tell us which shoes work for rearfoot landing runners? Doesn’t that include most shoes?

If only things were that black and white. It takes a lot more than just a cushioned heel for a running shoe to work efficiently for rearfoot strikers.

There are often overlooked aspects such as the heel-to-toe offset, the level of heel support, and a midsole design which promotes better landings. And how exactly do these factors help make a better rearfoot-friendly running shoe? Here’s a quick primer.

A higher heel-to-toe drop

The ‘drop’ of a shoe is the difference between the forefoot and rearfoot midsole thickness. Now, this might be subjective, but in our view, a gradient between 8 mm and 10 mm works better for heel strikers. And why is that?

A higher offset usually means that the rear is substantially thicker than the front. Not only do you get a higher level of cushioning upon impact, but the thicker back also promotes a rearfoot landing. The opposite is also true, and that is why midfoot/forefoot strikers prefer running shoes with a lower offset.

A supportive rearfoot

It isn’t just about the cushioning. If the rearfoot is the first point of contact during the gait cycle, it needs to be supportive. The midsole should have a fairly neutral behavior with zero or minimal bias – one side of the midsole shouldn’t be softer than the other.

To that end, the entire heel shouldn’t be overly soft. This is the reason why this guide leaves out models like the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit or Next %. While those are excellent running shoes, the heel isn’t stable enough for rearfoot landing.

A beveled heel edge

When the heel edge has an angled curve, it allows the foot to land gradually instead of ‘edge striking’ in an abrupt way. It also helps if the outsole crash pad is segmented or split from the main outsole by a groove. Such crash pads flex on landing for a smoother transition towards the midfoot.

There are variations of the split crash pad. The New Balance 1080V9, for example, has a crash pad made of harder rubber separated by a thin groove. This design is also effective.

Not all shoes on this guide feature an articulated landing area but we’ve tried our best to find ones which do.

Also, this list only covers neutral daily trainers. By that definition, running shoes from the stability category are excluded – there will be a separate article on that.

We haven’t mentioned low-profile trainers for tempo runs either. If you’re interested, we recommend the excellent adidas adizero Boston 8 or the Reebok Floatride Run Fast.

1) Asics Gel-Cumulus 21

Unlike the Nimbus, this is one of the nicer Asics Cumulus versions in recent history. The triple-density midsole below the heel is cushioned and adequately supported.

The consistent stacking of Flytefoam layers makes the ride smooth; the full ground contact outsole also helps. The upper is a little ‘traditional’ with the sleeve-less tongue and the welded overlays, but the plush insides fit true to size.

2) adidas Solar Glide 19

The Solar Glide has a high-volume, 10 mm drop midsole made of the Boost foam. Regardless, the rearfoot is fairly supportive due to the wide base and the raised midsole rims. The said Boost midsole also packs plenty of cushioning for rearfoot comfort – and more so than the front.

A beveled heel lip allows gradual foot-strikes. Though the crash pad isn’t segmented, the exposed outsole (Stretchweb in adidas-speak) flexes together with the midsole for a smooth landing process.

3) adidas Solar Drive 19

We prefer the Solar Drive’s rearfoot manners over the SolarBoost and Glide. There’s a good reason.

Unlike the other two Solar models, the Drive has a separate layer of firmer EVA over the Boost midsole. This makes the Drive’s cushioning slightly firmer but more supportive. You get a similar angled heel edge which promotes form-friendly heel strikes.

This year’s Drive gets a new midsole with raised sidewalls rim for increased support. The 10 mm heel drop stays the same for this year’s model.

4) Brooks Glycerin 17

Its single-density DNA Loft midsole is the reason why we recommend the Glycerin over the Ghost.

While the cheaper Brooks shoe is also a good choice for heel-strikers, its dual-density heel is a mite less stable than the G-17. The Glycerin has nearly no rearfoot bias, and its somewhat firm cushioning makes the midsole supportive too.

Landing rearfoot on the Glycerin is a more refined experience due to its single-density construction, the rounded heel edge, and the grooved crash pad which splays when loaded.

Also see: The Brooks Ghost 12

5) Mizuno Wave Rider 23

The Japanese brand hasn’t changed the ‘Wave’ plate material on the Rider 23, so heel strikers will experience the signature (and familiar) Mizuno ride quality. The large TPE plate makes the landings stable as well as snappy.

Though the landings feel slightly ‘harder’ when compared to shoes like the Glycerin, the decoupled crash pad and the rest of the notched outsole manage the transition well.

6) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy

Ok, this Reebok running shoe with a 10 mm drop doesn’t have a grooved crash pad and only has a hint of heel bevel.

Nonetheless, the Forever Energy works out as a good fit for rearfoot striking runners. Reebok’s version of the e-TPU midsole foam is firmer than adidas Boost; this leads to increased stability levels while being sufficiently cushioned and responsive.

Also see: The Reebok Harmony Road 3.

7) Saucony Ride ISO 2

Everything on the Saucony Ride ISO 2 is about balance. The 8 mm offset is the perfect middle-ground for heel strikers, and that’s made better by the firm and supportive EVA midsole. The latter’s single-density set-up makes the ride quality connected while delivering enough cushioning for most runs.

The outer and inner outsole is split by a wide groove to allow easier transitions from the rearfoot towards the front.

Also see: The Saucony Triumph ISO 5

8) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36

The Pegasus has always been a great neutral trainer for rearfoot striking runners, and that hasn’t changed for the 36. Featuring the same sole as the 35, the prominent heel flare allows the rearfoot to land smoothly on the outside edge.

A wide groove splitting the outsole helps produce a seamless loading experience. That’s not all; the midsole foam and Zoom Air combine to deliver a balance between cushioning and support.

Also see: The Nike Pegasus Turbo V2

9) Nike Epic React V2 Flyknit

What the Epic React lacks in the segmented crash pad department, it makes up with a landing heel flare, a wide midsole base, and plastic stabilizers.

The wide midsole base under the heel offers plenty of rubbery cushioning in a stable form. The high rearfoot spring (bevel) allows runners to rearfoot strike as gently as possible.

10) New Balance 1080V9

This max-cushioned trainer with an 8 mm drop will make most rearfoot strikers happy. The combination of the wide midsole and the beveled heel creates an optional landing zone.

At the same time, the softer-than-ever Fresh Foam midsole delivers ride comfort for the miles. The full-contact outsole not only delivers great grip but also creates a seamless connection throughout the gait cycle.

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