Most comfortable running shoes

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 in a park.

This article has been updated with current models for September 2022. The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run has been replaced with its updated version. The Hoka Bondi 7 and New Balance Fuelcell Rebel have been removed. The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is a new addition.

The word ‘comfort’ means different things to different people. Some runners equate a soft midsole with comfort. Others don’t care about how soft the ride is, and instead use a plush and roomy upper as a yardstick.

At times, running shoe comfort is activity-dependent. Something that works for a 5K run may not for a marathon – with the opposite being also true.

What is Solereview’s definition of a comfortable running shoe? After all, we’ve reviewed hundreds of shoes and clocked thousands of miles over the last decade.

The transition groove of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

If you ask us, it’s about finding the sweet spot between the different attributes. For example, the midsole should be cushioned with a level of step-in comfort that’s immediately accessible.

At the same time, the upper should (preferably) be made of soft-touch materials for a plush over-the-foot experience. The fit shouldn’t be overly snug or have hot spots.

It’s easier to filter shoes when you apply these selection criteria.

For instance, models like the Nike Pegasus and Saucony Ride 15 (despite the 2022 redesign) are excluded. Even the otherwise brilliant Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 3 (now V4) does not make it to the list. Though it has plenty of high-quality cushioning, it’s not the same thing as step-in comfort. On the Reebok shoe, the upper is more business-like rather than plush.

So which shoes are on this list? Glad you asked.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V12 on the waterfront.

Along with the ‘safe’ choices like the Asics Nimbus 24 and New Balance 1080 V12, there are a lot of new products. Saucony’s brand new stability shoe – the Tempus- combines a novel EVA stability frame with a responsive PEBA (Pwrrun PB) to deliver a comfortable ride, so we’ve featured it here.

The Nike ZoomX Streakfly uses the namesake foam to create a soft ride experience for short-distance races.

The omission of the adidas Ultraboost and Saucony Triumph are worth discussing. The 2021 version of the Ultraboost has turned into a lifestyle sneaker with a firmer ride, so it gets knocked off this list. The Ultraboost 22 shares the same midsole, so it continues to be excluded.

Also, expanded Polyurethane midsoles have lost luster when compared to PEBA foams and other advancements, so the Saucony Triumph 19 is left out as well. We’ll see how the Triumph 20 turns out.

We’ve also made changes to how this guide is compiled. Unlike the previous edition that grouped all the models into a single list, we’ve grouped the recommended shoes by their use cases. After all, a shoe that’s comfortable for speed runs isn’t the same kind that works during high-mileage cruising.

These dozen running shoes are sorted in the order of our preference.

Category 1: Comfortable neutral trainers

1) Our top pick: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V12

The 1080 switched to a reformulated and softer ‘Fresh Foam’ midsole a couple of years ago. Despite the use of a humble EVA-blend foam, the Fresh Foam 1080 V12 continues to be an extremely comfortable running shoe that comes into its own during long-distance runs.

Its high-volume midsole helps the 1080V12 deliver copious amounts of comfort whenever it’s called upon – be it everyday runs or marathon-level efforts.

The forefoot of the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 V12.

The Fresh Foam midsole and blown rubber outsole create a very comfortable running experience.

The midfoot logo of the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 V12.

The soft knit upper elevates the interior comfort.

The softer sections of the blown rubber outsole muffle the hard landings and transitions. This enhances the cushioning experience – and that directly co-relates to the ride comfort.

The spacious and soft upper is the cherry on the top; the elastic toe-box is very comfortable. The interiors have a comfortable and accommodating fit that’s also available in different widths.

Our detailed review of the 1080V12 is here.

2) Asics Gel-Nimbus 24

The previous version of the Nimbus was an extremely comfortable shoe, and so is the Nimbus 24. Just like the Nimbus 23, the 24 is an uber-cushioned and comfortable running shoe, but with several note-worthy updates.

Its dual-density foam midsole is soft and responsive; most of that comfort comes from a soft Flytefoam stack rather than the Gel pads. And what’s new for the Nimbus 24?

The Flytefoam Blast midsole foam of the Asics Gel Nimbus 24.

The new Flytefoam variant works together with the updated midfoot shank placement to create a soft, yet peppy ride.

The latest version of Asics’s premium neutral trainer gets a Flytefoam Blast midsole – it’s a peppier variant of the Flytefoam that also features on the popular Novablast.

While the midsole is (still) generously cushioned for long-distance runs, it’s more responsive than the 23.

The redesigned plastic midfoot shank also plays a role in making the transitions smoother; our comprehensive review explains why.

The Asics Nimbus 24 on a footbridge.

An equally comfortable and premium upper is paired with the cushy midsole. The mesh has a soft hand feel, and so do the padded tongue and heel.

The true-to-size upper has an accommodating fit in multiple (optional) widths. The 24 gets a knit tongue that replaces the quilted part of the 23.

Easy runs at slow to medium speeds are the best use case for the Nimbus 24’s ride character.

3) Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit V2

When we reviewed the first edition of the Invincible Run last year, we said that it had the cushiest ride of all the shoes we’ve had the pleasure to wear-test.

Even though the Invincible Run 2 has been updated for 2022, our opinion stands – the Nike ZoomX Invincible is an extremely comfortable shoe. That feat is made possible by the humongous PEBA foam midsole (ZoomX) that’s not only thick but also ultra-wide under the heel and forefoot.

Except for the (more) supportive heel stabilizer, nothing else has changed on the V2. As far as the ride quality is concerned, both the shoes feel the same.

The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 3 on the road.

The ZoomX midsole packs a massive amount of soft cushioning.

As a result, the underfoot experience involves a high level of ride comfort. The Invincible isn’t the best shoe for high-paced runs, but it’s game for everything else. In short, easy runs and casual-wear uses are its wheelhouse.

The inner sleeve of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 2.

The sleeve also forms the forefoot and toe-box lining.

The upper is spacious and packed with interior comfort. The Invincible’s tongue and heel forego the oft-seen minimalist approach, and opt for foam-filled goodness.

When compared to the Invincible Run V1, the redesigned upper has a (more) relaxed fit due to the modified lacing panel.

4) Asics Gel-Cumulus 24

The Cumulus is akin to a lower-tier version of the Nimbus 24, so it shares many features with the more expensive Nimbus.

As a result, the Cumulus 24 delivers a similar outcome from a ride and fit perspective. Our review covers various aspects of the Cumulus 24’s ride and fit character.

The Flytefoam Blast midsole of the Asics Cumulus 24.

The Asics Cumulus 24 gets a Flytefoam Blast stack for improved responsiveness.

The updated Flytefoam Blast midsole is a comfortable meld of soft cushioning and responsiveness, thus making everyday runs easy on the feet. The removable footbed and Flytefoam stack keeps the feet fresh, even during long runs.

The toe box of the Asics Cumulus 24.

Inside the Cumulus 24’s upper is a familiar sense of smooth plushness. The single-piece exterior keeps the interiors free of hot spots, and the gusset prevents the tongue from sliding. The tongue and heel collar use a soft lining that’s backed with foam.

5) Saucony Tempus

Generally speaking, stability running shoes have a firm ride that do not feel as comfortable as their neutral counterparts. The Saucony Guide 15 and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 are good examples.

The Pwrrun PB midsole of the Saucony Tempus.

The Tempus combines an EVA frame with a softer Pwrrun PB core – the same material that’s used on the Endorphin Speed and Pro.

The Saucony Tempus in a park.

Well, the Saucony Tempus isn’t your regular stability trainer. A firm EVA frame is interlocked with a soft and responsive midsole made of Pwrrun PB – the same PEBAX foam that powers the Endorphin Speed and Pro. Only a thick EVA foam insole separates the foot from the soft midsole.

The Tempus’s upper is mirrored on the likes of the Kinvara – which means that the interiors are extremely breathable and use soft-touch materials for comfort.

If we haven’t already made it clear, here’s the gist – the Saucony Tempus is a stability running shoe with a high level of ride comfort for everyday runs and long-distance training. Our ultra-detailed review covers everything that you want to know about the Tempus.

Category 2: Comfortable low-profile trainers and racing shoes.

6) Comfortable marathon racer: Nike Vaporfly Next% 2

The last few years have brought to us a smorgasbord of highly-cushioned racers, and it all began with the Carbon-plated Nike Vaporfly.

The industry abandoned the traditional racing flat template in the favour of this new form factor. At last, it was possible to combine a comfortable ride with a speed-friendly ride character. The Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 is an evolution of the original Vaporfly, and it has everything that made the original shoe great, and then some.

The ZoomX midsole of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.

The Carbon plate of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.

This simulated image gives us a pretty good idea of the Carbon plate’s position inside the midsole.

The soft ZoomX midsole and the embedded Carbon plate delivers a very high level of responsive ride comfort. The midsole comfort is paired with an equally comfortable upper that’s lightweight, breathable, and secure.

The breathable mesh of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.

The lack of lining and the sieve-like mesh results in excellent ventilation.

The Vaporfly Next% 2 has one of the most breathable upper we’ve tested – thanks to its sieve-like mesh that allows the air to circulate freely.

Everything that you need to know about the Vaporfly can be found in our ultra-detailed review.

7) Comfortable marathon racer: Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

For slightly less money than the Nike Vaporfly Next%, here’s another marathon racer that’s equally comfortable.

That would be the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 – an ultra-cushioned racing shoe that combines a Carbon plate with a voluminous PEBA foam midsole. The result is, as one may expect, somewhat predictable.

The toe spring of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

There’s a Carbon plate, PEBA midsole, and a rocker forefoot.

The beveled heel of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

The Pwrrub PB midsole of the Endorphin Speed 3 creates a soft and responsive underfoot feel. The Carbon plate does the rest.

Much like the Vaporfly, the Endorphin Pro produces a soft and springy ride with a dual purpose – be comfortable over longer distances, while delivering a fast and lightweight ride experience.

The Endorphin Pro 1 and 2 were excellent marathon racers, and so is the Pro 3. It’s been redesigned from the ground up, and now has cut-outs for a glimpse of the Carbon plate.

The vented tongue of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

The Endorphin Pro 3’s upper is insanely breathable. The tongue has large vents punched over it, and the mesh is well ventilated.

The inner gusset of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

Even though the Endorphin Pro 3’s claim to fame is the soft and transition-friendly midsole, let’s not overlook the upper.

This shoe has the most breathable upper of this year, and that’s made possible by the vented tongue and generously-ventilated mesh. Our in-depth review is here.

8) Comfortable lightweight trainer: Saucony Kinvara 13

The firm and low-profile ride of the 4 mm drop Kinvara returns for the 13th time, and it carries over the comfort-oriented E-TPU topsole and molded insole. Our in-depth review is here.

The 13 may not be as cushy as the 10 and 11, but the Kinvara was never meant to be a soft shoe.

The EVA foam insole of the Saucony Kinvara 13.

The breathable toe-box of the Saucony Kinvara 13.

The Kinvara 13’s interiors are soft and breathable.

So while the Kinvara 13 is always willing to go hard and fast, it does so with plenty of midsole and upper comfort. It’s worth noting that recent Saucony products have been on a tear with their soft, secure, lightweight, and breezy uppers.

The Kinvara 13’s redesigned upper with its disappear-over-the-feet character is a perfect match for the midsole that combines versatile comfort with an efficient ride.

Given its low-drop and low-profile form factor, the Kinvara 13 seems like a misfit on this guide. But sometimes comfort isn’t just about the thickest midsole or a luxurious upper, it is about the absence of discomfort.

It’s easy to describe the wholesome Kinvara 13 experience as distraction-free, and if that isn’t the definition of comfort, what is?

9) Comfortable tempo trainer: Nike ZoomX Streakfly

Our in-depth review made it clear that while the ZoomX Streakfly isn’t the best running shoe for short-distance races, it is certainly the most comfortable one.

This 6-ounce shoe’s midsole is made entirely of ZoomX foam, so that translates into a soft underfoot experience. Don’t worry – the midsole isn’t overly thick, so this shoe keeps up at medium-fast paces of 4:00 min/km or so.

The heel bevel of the Nike ZoomX_Streakfly

The Nike ZoomX Streakfly in a 10K race.

The Nike ZoomX Streakfly is a comfortable 10K shoe for speeds slower than 4:00 min/km.

If you’re looking for a lightweight tempo trainer to finish your 10K runs in, the Streakfly is worth considering. The lightweight and breathable upper also disappears on the feet during runs.

Category 3: Comfortable trail running shoes.

10) Comfortable road-trail hybrid: New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V7

A characteristic that’s often found lacking in trail running shoes is ride and fit comfort.

Their purpose dictates that the ride needs to be stiff for stability and protection. The upper of a trail shoe is usually narrow to prevent the foot from sliding inside.

While the said feature set works for technical trails, runners may find the cushioning comfort lacking over longer distances.

This is where a trail running shoe like the New Balance Hierro V7 adds value. Its thick Fresh Foam stack adds ride comfort to your high-mileage trail workouts while possessing all the required performance bits.

Under the cushy midsole is an aggressively lugged Vibram outsole for reliable traction. The upper has an accommodating fit with soft interiors, thus resulting in a high level of comfort.

The tightly woven mesh, inner sleeve, and padded entry work together to make the fit secure. The Hierro 7 also retails in three widths for an adjustable fit.

Also see: Nike Pegasus Trail 4.

11) Comfortable trail shoe: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 8

Technically speaking, the Terra Kiger 8 occupies the sweet spot between the softer Wildhorse 7 and Pegasus Trail 3.

It has a comfortable ride due to the cushy React foam midsole and forefoot Zoom Air unit. Also included are a heel rock plate and two-piece outsole, so the Terra Kiger combines distance-worthy comfort with protective outdoors-oriented features.

The Kiger 8 has the same midsole and outsole as the 7, so the ride quality is identical.

The upper is basic, but trail-functional – a sleeved tongue with a soft flap results in a distraction-free midfoot fit. The toe-bumper is reinforced for protection, and the speed loop-assisted lacing locks the foot down.

The Kiger 8’s mesh has larger pores, so it’s a lot more breathable than the 7 – this feature makes it an excellent trail shoe for the summers.

A heel pull loop makes the Kiger easy to slip into.

Also see: The Nike Wildhorse 7, Nike Pegasus Trail 3. (Our review)

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

Other reviews and guides