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.
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.
In our opinion, it’s about finding a fine balance between the different attributes. For instance, the midsole should be cushioned with a level of step-in comfort that is immediately accessible upon wearing the shoe.
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, we have excluded models like the Nike Pegasus and Saucony Ride. Even the otherwise brilliant Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2 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. With the Reebok shoe, the upper is more business-like than plush.
So which shoes are on this list? Good you asked.
Along with the ‘safe’ choices from last year, there are a lot of new names here. If the Vomero 5 is gone, it’s been replaced with the cushy React Infinity Run. The Ultraboost has received comfort-oriented updates, so now it’s on our list.
Saucony’s Everun cushioning evolves into the bouncier and softer Pwrrun+, so the Saucony Triumph 17 reserves a spot.
Here you go – the 12 most comfortable running shoes in the order of our preference.
1) New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V10
The reformulated and softer ‘Fresh Foam X’ midsole earns the 1080V10 a spot on this guide. And it’s not just the uber-thick midsole that makes the ride comfortable.
Even the outsole is softer as the V10 leaves the large rubber outsole behind and adopts an articulated/split layout. This enhances the cushioning experience – and that directly co-relates to the ride comfort.
Be it daily runs or high-mileage workouts, the 1080V10 delivers gobs of comfort whenever – and wherever – you need it.
The upper fit is snug due to the Hypoknit mesh, so it’s a good idea to try before buying.
2) Hoka One One Bondi 6
The Hoke One One Bondi 6 – does it need introducing? No, but it’s worth pointing some of its traits that make it so comfortable.
The uber-thick foam stack is a good place to begin. The Bondi’s 4 mm offset means that the midsole volume is distributed evenly in the front and rear. With this set-up, there’s deep cushioning regardless of how you land. The rocker-shaped geometry allows the foot to swiftly work through the gait cycle.
The Bondi has a wide midsole footprint so the loading process feels planted.
There’s nothing special about the upper, but it gets the job done. There are no fit issues and the foot doesn’t slip.
3) adidas UltraBoost 20
For a long time, the stiff panels on the Ultraboost’s midfoot were a detriment to comfort – until now. The upper has panels, but they’re made of a soft rubbery synthetic that clasps the midfoot in comfort.
The heel clip is made of molded TPU, but that’s insulated by a soft and padded heel collar. The bootie design of the Primeknit upper fits securely – sans hot-spots.
And of course, you have an extra-sized Boost midsole that is comfortable enough for miles and miles of easy runs. The supportive Continental rubber outsole brings everything together with its multi-weather traction.
4) adidas UltraBoost S&L
This Ultraboost model trades the regular (and elastic) knit upper for a closed mesh with suede and leather overlays. The plastic midfoot cage (seen on the original) isn’t there either.
As a result, there’s more room inside the forefoot without the constricting feel of the midfoot cage. The S&L version uses a leather midfoot panel that feels a lot better than the plastic vice. The collar and the tongue use the same soft lining as the regular UltraBoost, thus giving the interiors a plush feel.
The full-length Boost midsole doesn’t need an introduction; the cushioned and bouncy e-TPU foam is excellent for both step-in and all-day comfort.
5) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit
The difference lies in the wider and higher-volume midsole of the React Infinity. As a result, there’s more of the lively React foam under the foot. Stability is ok – as long as you don’t take the shoe off-road.
The Flyknit upper has mellowed over the years. It provides a decent level of lock-down and is nowhere as compressive as some of the early Flyknit models. In other words, the fit is more comfortable.
6) Saucony Triumph 17
Saucony’s Pwrrun+ foam made its debut in late 2019 and has found its way into several models. The Saucony Triumph 17 benefits from the lively cushioning of the new foam. Pwrrun+ is similar to adidas Boost – with an added touch of firmness, that is.
The Triumph 17 makes liberal use of the new foam for its midsole, and that’s what makes it so comfortable. The midsole is wide through the heel and forefoot, thus resulting in more volume without trading stability.
The upper runs a mite snug so try before buying. Our detailed review does the deep dive of the Saucony Triumph 17.
7) Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3
This is a very un-Mizuno shoe. The Wave Sky 3 Waveknit midsole replaces the rigid TPE ‘Wave’ plate with a soft top-layer made of PU foam. Underneath that is another thick stack of EVA foam. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a thick sockliner placed on top of everything else.
Together, they create a very cushioned and comfortable base. On the upper, a traditional construction meets a modern design language. A spacious knit upper is mated with a conventional tongue and heel, both of which are foam-packed and use soft-touch textiles.
8) Brooks Glycerin 18
There’s a certain harmony in how the Brooks Glycerin 18 brings its attributes together. The midsole isn’t the softest but delivers a smooth and comfortable ride that has become a hallmark of this franchise. The multi-piece outsole bends and eases along with the midsole to make the transition(s) seamless.
Despite the upper redesign that relies on a single-piece engineered mesh, the interior has the familiar plushness the Glycerin is known for. Both the heel and tongue use a soft lining and foam padding that grips the foot in all-day comfort.
9) Reebok Floatride Run 2.0
This model succeeds the original Floatride Ultraknit – a shoe that was more lifestyle sneaker and less running performance.
The Floatride Run 2 is an improvement over the last model. The slip-on Ultraknit upper gets an additional pair of eyelets that help lock down the foot better. The urethane midfoot cage is slimmer and no longer feels overbearing.
That said, the Floatride Run 2 still has a very leisurely upper fit so use this Reebok shoe only for activities of a low-intensity nature.
If you’re looking for a soft yet ultra-lightweight ride, you’ll find it on the Floatride. The 10 mm drop midsole uses the namesake foam – a cushy and responsive PEBAX foam that makes run extremely comfortable.
The EVA midsole rim has been toned down for a cushier ride experience.
10) New Balance FuelCell Propel
To be honest, the FuelCell Propel has been overshadowed by its popular peers like the Rebel, Beacon, 1080, and doesn’t get the love it deserves. The FuelCell Propel is one of the most comfortable shoes in New Balance’s line; the midsole is softly cushioned without the instability-inducing mushiness.
The upper has plenty of room and uses soft textile lining and foam padding for interior plushness.
11) Asics Gel-Cumulus 22
Something (nice) has happened to Asics in the last year, and that’s reflected in their recent releases. They’ve (finally) shaken off the design inertia and infused their products with a dose of freshness. Intros like the GlideRide and Novablast are proof enough.
A lot of that is rubbing off on the regular models like the Nimbus and Cumulus. If the last year’s Cumulus 21 was a surprise improvement, the Cumulus 22 goes farther in 2020.
The one-piece engineered mesh upper has a soft and seamless feel with a true-to-size profile. The lack of stitched logos or overlays creates an interior that is free of seam bumps and pressure spots.
Who knew Flytefoam could be so cushy? But it is so here. The Cumulus 22 has a soft and comfortable midsole that is just right for daily training and when runs take you longer. A dual-density foam and Gel pad adds extra cushioning in the heel.
12) Saucony Kinvara 11
Given its low-drop and low-profile form factor, the Kinvara 11 seem like a misfit on this guide. But comfort isn’t just about the thickest midsole or a luxurious upper, it is about the absence of discomfort.
And there’s a lot of missing things on the Kinvara 11. A stiff upper mesh and thick overlays are absent, and so is a scratchy heel collar. A harsh ride is also absent on the Kinvara. And wait, there’s very little bulk too. This shoe weighs under 8-ounces.
All these missing pieces create a ride quality that is smooth, cushioned, and comfortable. The lightweight upper has an accommodating and breathable fit that keeps the foot locked down during runs.
It’s easy to describe the entire Kinvara 11 experience as distraction-free, and if that isn’t the definition of comfort, what is?