Most comfortable running shoes

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

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

This article has been updated with current models for April 2023. The Asics Cumulus 24 and Nike Invincible 2 have been replaced with their updated versions.

The New Balance 1080V12 in a marathon.

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 be 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 14 years.

The Fuelcell foam midsole of the New Balance Rebel V3.

The New Balance Rebel’s cushioning is accessible immediately upon wearing.

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 16 (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 25 and New Balance 1080 V12, there are other interesting products. Saucony’s innovative 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 Light is worth discussing. The 2021 redesign of the Ultraboost has turned it into a lifestyle sneaker with a firm ride, and the trend continues. The Ultraboost Light isn’t as plush as we would have liked it to be, so it continues to be excluded.

Also, expanded Polyurethane midsoles have lost luster when compared to PEBA foams and other advancements in cushioning technology.

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 25

We loved the previous iteration of the Nimbus for its plush ride.

While the Nimbus 25 has been completely redesigned from the ground up, it continues to be an extremely comfortable running shoe. Making that happen is the thick and wide midsole with stack heights of 41.5 mm (rear) and 31.5 mm (forefoot).

The Pure Gel midsole of the Asics Nimbus 25.

There is no visible Gel this time – just a midsole made of foam.

Removing the visible Gel from the heel and filling the gap with foam makes the Nimbus 25 more neutral than before. There are two other things that the Nimbus 25 does differently (and arguably, better) than the 24.

The forefoot outsole of the Asics Nimbus 25.

Not only is the Nimbus 25 softer, but it also behaves differently – or quicker.

The first is the thicker forefoot which makes the cushioning comfort more balanced between the heel and forefoot. Unlike the Nimbus 24, the Nimbus 25’s forefoot comfort feels substantial. Secondly, the relatively inflexible midsole has a rocker profile that makes it easier for the forefoot to roll off.

The upper isn’t made of stretch mesh, but the fit is spacious and true to size. Optional 2E (wide) and 4E (extra wide) widths are also available.

3) Nike Invincible 3

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

The Invincible 3 has arrived with several updates, but our opinion stands – the Nike Invincible 3 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.

Two changes on the Invincible 3 that make it firmer than the last two editions.

The fabric lasting of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 3.

The Invincible 3 gets a fabric lasting covering the midsole – something that the V2 did not have. As a result, the cushioning is slightly firmer.

The grooved sidewall of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 3.

The grooves on the midsole contribute to the added firmness.

The first update is the addition of a textile lasting on top of the midsole. The V1 and V2 did not have this, so it was easier for the foot to tap into the ZoomX cushioning. The other update is the new midsole with scoops on the side – this dials up the firmness as well.

The heel view of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 3.

The ZoomX midsole packs a massive amount of soft cushioning.

Other than that, the underfoot experience is ridiculously well-cushioned. 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.

Unlike some Nike running shoes, the upper is spacious and packed with interior comfort. Unfortunately, optional widths are unavailable.

4) Asics Gel-Cumulus 25

The Cumulus is akin to a lower-tier version of the Nimbus 25, so it shares many features with the more expensive Nimbus.

As a result, the Cumulus 25 delivers a similar outcome from a ride and fit perspective. However, just know that the Cumulus 24 and Cumulus 25 differ by a wide margin. For the Cumulus’s 25 anniversary, Asics has decided to re-do the midsole from the ground up.

The brand-new Flytefoam Blast+ midsole combines soft cushioning with responsiveness, thus making everyday runs easy on the feet. The removable footbed and Flytefoam stack keep the feet fresh, even during long runs.

There’s a wider transition channel under the midsole, so the ride is smoother with better stability. The outsole traction is a step down from the Cumulus 24 – that’s due to the lack of forefoot rubber coverage.

Inside the Cumulus 25’s upper is a familiar sense of smooth plushness. The single-piece exterior keeps the interiors free of hot spots; 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 favor 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 deliver 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 result in excellent ventilation.

The Vaporfly Next% 2 has one of the most breathable uppers 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 equally comfortable marathon racer.

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 Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 in a marathon.

The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is a better marathon racer than the Speed 3.

The Saucony Endorphin Pro in the outdoor.

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.

Even though the Endorphin Pro 3’s claim to fame is the soft and transition-friendly midsole, let’s not discount 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: New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V3

There are many reasons why we love the Fuelcell Rebel V3. Not only does it offer an exceptionally cushioning-to-weight ratio, but the Rebel V3 also shines as a tempo trainer that doesn’t feel harsh at all.

A quick look at the midsole tells us why. The Rebel uses the lightweight and responsive Fuelcell foam from the higher-priced SC Elite, but without any internal plate.

New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V3 Homepage.

On the road, that translates into high levels of ride comfort, thus making the Rebel V3 ideal 10K trainer. Our in-depth review explores the various capabilities of this lightweight tempo trainer.

New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V3 in the outdoors.

The new Rebel V3 packs several improvements over the previous version.

There were upper-related durability concerns on the Rebel V2, but the V3 has a brand-new upper with a stronger mesh and an inner sleeve – both of which were absent on the Rebel V2. The fit is true-to-size and conforming.

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 soft midsole of the Nike ZoomX Streakfly.

The Streakfly during a 10K race.

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. (our review)

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 4.

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 summer.

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

Also see: The Nike Wildhorse 8, Nike Pegasus Trail 4. (Our review)

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