In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Versatile daily trainer for treadmill runs: Nike Pegasus 40
- 3. Versatile daily trainer for treadmill runs: Saucony Ride 16
- 4. Lightweight cushioned trainer for treadmill runs: Brooks Launch 10
- 5. Lightweight tempo trainer for treadmill runs: Saucony Kinvara 14
- 6. Lightweight tempo trainer for treadmill runs: Nike ZoomX Streakfly
- 7. Lightweight tempo trainer for treadmill runs: Brooks Hyperion
- 8. Speed shoe for treadmill runs: adidas adios 8
- 9. Speed shoe for treadmill runs: Asics Hyper Speed 3
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 Invincible 3 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) Versatile daily trainer: Nike Pegasus 40
This versatile everyday trainer gets nearly everything right. The React foam midsole is cushioned yet supportive, and the embedded Zoom Air bags (one each under the heel and forefoot) make the ride snappy and versatile.
Last year, the Pegasus 39 went back to the dual Zoom Air bag setup, so the cushioning distribution was superior to the 37 and 38. The Nike Pegasus 40 shares its midsole with the 39, so the ride character stays unchanged. Our in-depth review of the Pegasus 40 is here.
The Pegasus excels at delivering an optimal blend of cushioning and support, and that’s what makes it a good treadmill shoe. It’s not just the midsole; the aggressive forefoot lugs of the rubber outsole offer reassuring traction.
The upper has an excellent fit. The sleeved interior and midfoot straps lock the foot in for stability during treadmill sessions.
2) Versatile daily trainer: Saucony Ride 16
Despite the Saucony Ride 16’s tall midsole, the cushioning isn’t overly soft – even with 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.
There’s an element of firmness in the ride, 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. As both the Ride 15 and 16 share the same sole, our in-depth review of the Ride 15 is still relevant.
The Ride 16’s upper is exactly what it needs to be – comfortable, conforming, and near seamless. The breathable interior is ideal for running in an indoor environment.
3) Lightweight cushioned trainer: Brooks Launch 10
Runners who found the past Launch (V7 and prior) versions to be overly stiff (one reader even likened it to a plank of wood) will appreciate the increased ride comfort of the newer models like the Launch V10.
Brooks has given the Launch its annual refresh, but retains most of the traits from the previous shoe. That isn’t surprising, as the Brooks Launch 10 is an upper-only tweak with no changes made to the midsole and outsole.
Like the Launch 9, the Launch 10’s lightweight upper is soft and very airy – attributes that work well within an indoor setting.
On the treadmill, the Launch 10 is no slouch. The low-profile midsole adds agility to the runs, and the rubber outsole provides ample traction in both indoor and outdoor environments.
Editor’s note: There are two versions of the Brooks Launch – the standard and ‘GTS’. The GTS variant has higher midsole sidewalls and is marketed as the ‘stability’ version. To be very frank, the difference in performance is negligible.
4) Lightweight cushioned trainer: Saucony Kinvara 14
The Kinvara has always been an excellent low offset and lightweight trainer to do it all, including in-gym runs.
The Kinvara 14 is (still) a versatile trainer, but it helps to know that the Kinvara 14 isn’t the same shoe as Kinvara 12 and 13. The midsole is taller by 2.5 mm in the front and rear, so the ride is softer and not as low profile as it once was.
Our view is that the Kinvara 13 performs better on the treadmill than the newest model. So if you can find a Kinvara 12 or 13 on sale, we suggest you buy one of those instead.
That said, many features make the Kinvara 14 a sensible choice for running indoors. The midsole has a flared geometry that results in a more supportive heel and forefoot.
The EVA foam midsole has enough cushioning for high-mileage treadmill sessions. The outsole traction isn’t the greatest, but it doesn’t slip either.
The Kinvara 14 goes back to the full-sleeve configuration of the Kinvara 12, so it’s not as breathable as the Kinvara 13. The improved fit security is the silver lining.
5) 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 treadmill runs at a consistent pace. As we said in our review, we wished that 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.
6) Lightweight cushioned trainer: Brooks Hyperion
A couple of years ago, we found the Brooks Hyperion Tempo to be an extremely versatile trainer. The Brooks Hyperion is an updated version of the H-Tempo with many of the same ingredients.
The Brooks Hyperion uses a gas-infused EVA midsole foam (DNA Flash) to deliver a lightweight and cushioned ride that benefits the quality of transitions.
Bringing everything together is a rubber outsole that delivers dependable traction over most surfaces, including treadmill belts.
Speed-training shoes typically have a very narrow upper, but that isn’t the case here. The Hyperion’s lightweight upper is accommodating without feeling sloppy.
7) Lightweight trainer/racer: Adidas Adios 8
The adios 8 has a noticeably softer ride and roomier upper than the adios 6 and 7 but it continues to be a great pick for treadmill runs.
The Lightstrike Pro foam forefoot and Lightstrike EVA frame create a cushioned, lightweight (8-ounces), and speed-friendly midsole.
The large contact surface of the Continental rubber outsole delivers excellent grip on treadmill belts. The forefoot is fully covered with Continental rubber; that improves the traction efficacy on the treadmill.
The breathable upper fits like a speed shoe should; the secure fit keeps the foot locked down in runs. The adios 8 uses an inner gusset and lightweight lining materials to make the interiors comfortable.
8) Lightweight trainer: Asics Hyper Speed 3
The Asics Hyper Speed 3 may not have an internal plate, but it has many qualities that make it suitable for treadmill runs. The EVA-based Flytefoam midsole has sufficient cushioning for extended treadmills workouts, all while delivering a transition-friendly ride character. Overall, it behaves similarly to the Hyper Speed V1 from a few years ago.
The well-defined lugs of the 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 3 retails at $90? That makes it excellent value.