The word ‘comfort’ means different things to different people. Some runners equate a soft midsole with comfort. Others don’t care about how cushioned or soft the ride is, and instead find a plush upper the definition of comfort.
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 different characteristics. To begin with, the midsole should be cushioned with a level of step-in comfort which is immediately accessible upon wearing the shoe.
At the same time, the upper should 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 due to its firm-ish ride and minimal upper.
Even the Everun-equipped Saucony Triumph ISO 5 or the otherwise brilliant Reebok Forever Floatride Energy do not make it to the list. Though there’s plenty of high-quality cushioning packed within their midsoles, it’s not the same thing as step-in comfort. And on the Reebok shoe, the upper is more business-like than plush.
So which shoes are on this list? Good you asked. There you go – the 10 most comfortable running shoes in the order of our preference.
1) Nike Air Zoom Vomero 5
Some may argue that the Vomero 5 is a retro release. But hey, if one can run in the UltraBoost, why not in the Vomero?
The Zoom Vomero 5 first saw the light of the day in 2008. More than a decade later, its premium material package and the plush ride still gives the other shoes a run for their money. The meld of soft upper materials makes the upper a plush place to be in; underneath, the Cushlon EVA + Zoom Air + blown rubber layering makes the ride extremely comfortable.
2) 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 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 which 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 introducing; the cushioned and bouncy e-TPU foam is excellent for both step-in and all-day comfort.
3) 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.
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.
4) Brooks Glycerin 17
The Brooks Glycerin doesn’t have the soft ride of the UltraBoost or the Vomero. But the G-17 is a complete package in the sense that it brings together a plush and spacious upper with a smooth-riding insole and midsole.
In short, the Glycerin has a great balance of different shoe traits which contribute to the overall comfort level.
5) New Balance FuelCell Propel
To be honest, the FuelCell Propel has been overshadowed by its popular peers like the Rebel, Beacon, and the 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.
6) Brooks Transcend 6
The Brooks Transcend is a little bit like the Glycerin – smooth and supportive with all-around comfort. On the top, the engineered mesh upper secures the foot in sleeved plushness.
The Transcend also performs well – comfort-wise – on the cushioning and stability scale. The full-length DNA Loft midsole creates a padded and smooth ride experience.
7) Saucony Kinvara 10
If you raised your eyebrows on finding the Kinvara here, fret not – we explain why. Even though it’s a low-profile and a lightweight low-drop trainer, the Kinvara 10 scores well on the areas of all-around comfort.
The breezy upper uses soft materials everywhere, thus making the interiors very comfortable. The soft heel lining uses raised foam pods, and the plump tongue insulates the top-down lacing pressure.
If you look past the 4 mm drop, the midsole is easy on the feet regardless of the running distance. The Everun Topsole and the molded sockliner work together with the EVA midsole to produce a superior, distraction-free cushioning quality.
8) Asics Gel-Cumulus 21
Wait, the Cumulus 21 features on this guide but the Nimbus 21 does not? How’s that possible?
To the Cumulus’s credit, the midsole has a better balance of cushioning softness and smoothness than the Nimbus 21. The upper is traditionally constructed without a sleeve and uses soft lining materials to cocoon your feet in comfort.
9) Mizuno Wave Horizon 3
This is a stability running shoe with a difference. The engineered mesh upper has lots of room for splay while the premium materials hug the foot in luxurious comfort.
On one hand, the dual-stack of soft foam delivers a cushioned ride. Then there’s the signature Wave plate adding stability and a bit of a snap to the ride character.
10) Reebok Floatride Run Ultraknit
There’s a reason why the Floatride Run Ultraknit sits at #10 in this guide. It’s a shoe meant for athletic activities of a mild nature.
If you limit the ULTK to short and leisurely runs, you’ll find it very comfortable. The knit upper is soft and has an easy-going feel about it – though you won’t get the midfoot and forefoot lock-down of more serious trainers.
The Pebax-based Floatride foam is one of the best cushioning tech in the market today. It’s lightweight, responsive, and soft – which are the essential ingredients of all-day comfort.
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