Most people run on treadmills only if they have to. Maybe you’re a business traveler trying to catch a quick workout between meetings. Or you live in one of these cities where the polluted air turns the lungs black.
Perhaps it’s a snowy winter, or there are no sidewalks or parks nearby. Or it could be the opposite, with the outside temperatures hot enough to fry an egg.
Whatever the reason, you’ve finally decided to embrace treadmill running, and guess what, you need a pair of running shoes. Finding one sounds easy, right? Not exactly.
There are two important differences between road and treadmill runs.
We’ll begin by stating the very, very obvious:
On the road, if you stop running, you stop. On the treadmill, if you stop running, you don’t. Also, people tend to run slightly faster on treadmills as compared to road running. This makes sense; considering how boring it is to run on a treadmill, you want to get it over with as soon as possible.
To account for both of these factors, a treadmill-friendly running shoe needs to be firm, stable, and grip well. Unless you’re walking on a treadmill (why on earth, though?), an ultra-soft shoe is a big no. There’s a good reason why the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run doesn’t get a mention.
Most treadmills are located inside a gym, so pre/post-run stretching with some lightweight training is likely a part of the workout. Under the circumstances, a stable shoe that isn’t overly soft is effective. Also, a shoe that’s suitable for treadmill runs works very well on the open road.
Here’s our recommended list of running shoes for treadmill use. We’ve prefixed the shoe name by its category so that you know what you’re buying.
1) Lightweight cushioned trainer: Saucony Kinvara 13
The Kinvara has always been an excellent low offset and lightweight trainer to do it all, including in-gym runs.
The midsole has a flared geometry that results in a more supportive heel and forefoot.
While firm, the EVA foam midsole has enough cushioning for high-mileage treadmill sessions. From a grip point of view, the grooved outsole doesn’t disappoint.
What’s also new about the Kinvara 13 is the smooth and well-ventilated upper that creates a secure fit environment. Unlike the 12, the K-13 doesn’t have a full sleeve, so the air circulation is better.
2) Lightweight trainer/racer: Adidas adizero Adios 6
Adidas completely overhauled its adizero assortment recently, and that led to many changes.
For example, the Boston we knew no longer exists, and in its place is a softer running shoe with a taller midsole. That’s the reason for the adizero Boston’s disappearing act on this guide.
Though the adizero Adios 6 is the most changed version to date, it remains a great pick for treadmill runs. The Lightstrike Pro forefoot and Lightstrike EVA frame are cushioned, lightweight (8-ounces), and speed-friendly.
The aggressive lug geometry of the Continental rubber outsole grips effectively over the rubber belts.
The upper fits snug as befits a tempo/race shoe; this narrowness keeps the foot locked down during runs. The adios 6 uses an inner sleeve and plush lining materials to create a comfortable interior.
On the treadmills we rather have the ride character of the older and slimmer adios though – so if you can grab one of the older adizero adios, you’re golden.
3) Lightweight trainer/racer: Nike ZoomX Streakfly
The Nike ZoomX Streakfly has most of the ingredients that a treadmill-friendly running shoe should have. At 6.0-ounces, it is extremely lightweight. It is also very cushioned, thanks to the soft and responsive midsole that’s made of nothing but ZoomX foam.
The ride comfort makes the Streakfly good for long-distance treadmills runs at a consistent pace. As pointed out in our review, we wish the outsole grip was better though.
Lastly, the thin mesh upper breathes very well. That’s very helpful when running indoors with no breeze to keep the feet ventilated.
4) Lightweight cushioned trainer: Skechers GoRun Razor Excess 2
Despite its name, the Skechers GoRun Razor Excess 2’s midsole is merely 2 mm taller than the Razor 3. However, the midsole has a wider base – thus increasing the outsole contact area for a planted grip on the treadmill.
Also, Skechers’s Hyperburst cushioning is a good fit for motorized running surfaces due to its hyper-lightweight and cushioned ride. Inside the forefoot is a stiff transition plate that helps with speed and turnover efficiency.
Here, the cushioning doesn’t equate to a mushy ride. The rebound from the Hyperburst foam is tinged with firmness so there’s plenty of stability for speedy runs. The relatively low-profile midsole with its 30 mm (heel) and 26 mm (forefoot) stack heights help too.
The snug upper keeps the foot securely held in place. The raised midsole sidewalls also create a ‘cupping’ action in the midfoot and heel to support the foot during the gait cycle.
5) Lightweight cushioned trainer: Brooks Hyperion Tempo
During our detailed testing, we found the Brooks Hyperion Tempo to be extremely versatile.
Just like the Skechers Razor Excess, the Brooks Hyperion Tempo uses a gas-infused EVA midsole foam (DNA Flash) to deliver a hyper-lightweight and cushioned ride that benefits the quality of transitions.
Bringing everything together is a rubber outsole that delivers superlative traction over most surfaces, including treadmill belts.
Speed shoes typically have a very narrow upper, but that isn’t the case here. The Hyperion Tempo’s soft upper is accommodating without feeling sloppy.
6) Carbon-plated cushioned racer: Asics Metaracer
Don’t let the word ‘racer’ in the shoe’s name scare you. Unlike most speed shoes, the Asics Metaracer doesn’t have a harsh ride.
If anything, the Metaracer is one of the softest racers we’ve had the pleasure to review. By soft, we mean a cushy layer of foam above the Carbon fiber plate – a design that makes high-paced runs comfortable yet blazing quick. The internal plate adds stiffness to the ride, and in doing so, it makes the turnovers quick and connected.
The outsole may have an unusual tire-like design with a lug-less geometry, but it has an excellent grip over the road and treadmill.
The upper fit and comfort also belie the standard expectation of a ‘racer’ design. The interiors are soft, seamless, and breathable – and that makes the fit very comfortable. The collapsible heel is a bonus.
7) Lightweight cushioned trainer: New Balance Fresh Foam X Tempo V2
The Fresh Foam Tempo sounds like a new shoe with no history, but names can be deceptive.
For 2022, New Balance has updated the Tempo with a brand new upper and midsole. The Fresh Foam gets a ‘X’ suffix, but it’s not a huge step forward, but rather a fine-tuned version of the previous midsole.
The Fresh Foam X Tempo V2 delivers the same value proposition as the Tempo V1, except that the semi-stretch upper offers a higher level of interior comfort. There’s a bit of the Zante Pursuit in the Tempo V2, if you know what we mean.
The midsole cushioning delivers the sweet spot between firm and soft, and the overall ride experience feels very smooth. Though the Tempo lacks the responsiveness of newer Balance models like the Rebel V2, that isn’t a negative trait on motorized surfaces.
8) Lightweight trainer: Asics Hyper Speed
The Asics Hyperspeed is an affordable version of the plate-equipped Metaracer. This version also marks the reset of the eponymous shoe series; this model bears no resemblance – functional or otherwise – to the Hyperspeed 6 or 7.
It may not have an internal plate, but it has several qualities that make it suitable for treadmill runs. The EVA-foam midsole has sufficient cushioning for extended treadmills workouts, all while delivering a transition-friendly ride character. Our in-depth review is here.
The well-defined lugs of rubber outsole deliver a satisfactory bite over the motorized belt. Most of the outsole is covered with a single piece of rubber, thus making the transition process smoother.
With a design that’s inspired by the Metaracer, the well-ventilated upper has plenty of interior comfort and fit security.
And did we mention that the Asics Hyperspeed retails below $100?
9) Lightweight trainer: Brooks Launch 9
Last year, the Brooks Launch 8 stayed true to its brief as a lightweight daily trainer, but took a different path than its predecessors. The ride quality changed from noticeably firm (the Launch 7) to a more compliant and softer midsole.
Runners who found the past Launch models to be overly stiff (one reader even likened it to a plank of wood) appreciated the increased ride comfort of the Launch 8. Well, guess what – the 2022 Launch 9 is here. Brooks has given it a top-to-bottom redesign, but retains the essence of the Launch 8.
Like the Launch 8, the L-9’s lightweight upper is soft and very airy – attributes that work well within an indoor setting.
Despite the softened ride, the Launch 9 is no slouch. The low-profile midsole adds agility to the runs, and the rubber outsole provides ample traction over the treadmill.
10) Daily neutral trainer: Mizuno Wave Rider 25
The thermoplastic ‘Wave’ plate is what gives a Mizuno its ‘Mizuno-ness’.
The Wave Rider 25 (and 24) is softer than the older Wave Rider versions due to the softer foam and absence of a midfoot shank, but one thing hasn’t changed. A Wave plate is still part of the midsole, and with it comes a familiar and supportive ride character.
The stable midsole makes the Rider 25 an excellent candidate as a treadmill-friendly shoe. The rigid insert complements the soft midsole to make the transitions smooth.
At the same time, the flat outsole geometry helps create a better connection with the treadmill belt.
The spacious and smooth upper keeps the insides comfortable during indoor runs. Mizuno finally decided to put an inner sleeve on the Rider 24, and the 25 benefits from a similar treatment as well.
Also see: The Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 – a supportive version of the Rider 25.
11) Daily neutral trainer: Saucony Ride 15
The Saucony Ride had always been the firmest running shoe within the mid-priced neutral trainer category.
All that changes with the significantly redesigned Ride 15. The taller midsole has a higher level of cushioning, and even has a thick insole made of Pwrrun+ foam. For those who are unfamiliar with Pwrrun+, it’s an expanded Polyurethane foam – the same material that adidas Boost is made of.
Despite the sweeping updates, the Ride 15’s midsole is still firm, and that makes running on motorized surfaces less of a chore. The single-density firmness feels efficient when clocking higher speeds while providing enough comfort – should your runs be longer than 10 km. To know more, read our in-depth review of the Ride 15.
The Ride 15’s upper is exactly what it needs to be – comfortable, conforming, and near seamless. It’s a lot more breathable than any of the previous ride, and that’s ideal for running in an indoor environment.