(This list has been updated for 2018.)
Good running shoes aren’t cheap; at full retail price, a pair is easily above a hundred dollars. And if you wanted something fancy – say a running shoe with the latest knit upper and midsole tech – a price of $130 ~ $180 is the norm.
When you spend that kind of cash, you want your running shoe to last long. But there’s no telling how long a shoe will last unless you have personally accumulated mileage or if the model has been on the shelves long enough for other users to review.
So without any history, how does one go about choosing a durable running shoe? We’ve compiled a short list of durable shoes, but like all our buying guides, we’ll explain the rationale behind the curated list.
You can apply this thinking to any running shoe you buy, and you’ll likely end up with a product which exceeds the industry mean on longevity. These findings are based on thousands of hours of shoe testing by solereview and independent reader feedback.
You need to break down the shoe into three parts to assess the shoe’s potential durability or the lack of:
1. The upper: Decoding the estimated lifespan of the upper is the perhaps the most difficult factor for multiple reasons. At a very basic level, the materials used – be it the mesh or the synthetic overlays – must be pliable and have a certain amount of thickness. But what’s of greater importance is the working relationship between the materials used on the upper.
Even an upper made of thin materials can be durable – as long as it gets a couple of things right. The first is the absence of friction between materials, and the second is the lack of pressure points. This can be made clear by a few examples.
If your big toe touches the spot right where the stitched toe-bumper (if applicable) and the mesh meet, there is a chance that a tear could develop. This often happens if the toe-box mesh is thin and lacks an inner lining.
Certain brands use a backing fabric to reinforce this area, and you can feel this by inserting your hand under the toe-box. Other shoes skip the lining and rely on a thicker base material instead.
Some shoes use stiff materials around the last two rows of lacing closer to the heel. We’ve come across cases where this portion tears prematurely due to friction. There are a few cases of the heel counter lining coming apart, but that’s usually due to improper (shorter) sizing.
Lacing eyelets rarely tear these days. But if you want to be sure that this doesn’t happen, just turn over the lacing panel to check the presence of an extra layer of reinforcement.
And remember, the upper durability is also influenced by how it fits the runner. So it is important to buy the right size and leave enough room in the front. In many cases where the heel lining tears too soon is just an indication of tight-fitting running shoes.
2. The midsole material: The lifespan of the midsole will depend on three things – the compound, the density (firmness, softness), or a combination of both. Polyurethane-based midsoles will last longer than EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) ones. Polyurethane (PU) is used in two forms; a poured kind like the one used on the Puma Ignite and the Brooks Levitate, or the recently developed variety called the E-TPU.
EVA midsoles are ubiquitous and form the majority of running shoe midsoles. Though not as durable as PU and E-TPU midsoles, most last reasonably long. That said, there are a few things you should know. Softer the EVA midsole, the shorter its life. A softer density EVA midsole is more likely to lose its cushioning properties sooner than a firmer kind.
Besides the firmness, midsole inserts such as Nike Zoom Air (like the one inside the Pegasus 35) will increase cushioning durability. At the same time, Nike’s Lunarlon – which is said to contain a blend of EVA and rubber – is notorious for its low lifespan. So a Nike shoe with a significant volume of Lunarlon is going to be at the bottom of the durability ladder. That said, Lunarlon isn’t going to prove worrisome in 2018. Most of the Nike assortment is transitioning to the more durable React foam.
3. The outsole: In the majority of cases, the rubber outsole is the first point of failure. You might have a perfectly good upper and midsole, but later realize that the outsole has been shredded into wafer-thinness after a few hundred kilometers.
Just two things matter when it comes to how long an outsole will last – the quality of the rubber material and the layout/geometry. A running shoe which uses only hard rubber for its outsole will outlive a model which uses a mix of soft blown rubber (forefoot) and a harder rubber under the rearfoot.
The second factor is that a flatter and full coverage outsole profile will last longer than a design which uses prominent lugs and split sections. Outsole lugs which stick out tend to take the brunt of wear and tear, as opposed to a flat profile outsole which spreads wear and tear in a more even manner.
Needless to say, you’ll get more outsole mileage from a shoe (cue Saucony Freedom and Liberty ISO) which uses a hard rubber compound arranged in a flat profile. You’d also be surprised at the extent of positive effect a flat outsole has on durability – even with soft rubber.
When you go through the list of seven most durable running shoes below, you’ll see that it makes sense as they fulfill most of the criteria explained above. Though adidas sweeps this list clean due to its use of the Boost E-TPU midsole and Continental rubber outsole, there’re a few other shoes worth a mention.
1) The 2018 adidas Solar Boost
The recently released ‘Solar’ line-up is a much-needed reset of adidas’s aging Boost assortment. The adidas Solar Boost is the unofficial replacement for the Energy Boost.
And like the Energy, the Solar Boost retains the two components which makes it extremely durable – a Boost midsole protected by a large sheet of Continental rubber outsole.
2) adidas Solar Glide
adidas botched up the Supernova Glide replacement process last year with the mediocre Supernova. The brand tries to make amends – somewhat – with the new Solar Glide.
The new Glide uses a stack of an EVA foam rim, Boost, and a Continental rubber outsole. With this set-up, you can expect a lifespan of over 400+ road miles.
3) adidas Solar Glide ST
The newly released Solar Glide ST is a mild stability shoe and replaces the Supernova ST. The layered upper is durable, and so are the parts attached underneath.
A combination of Boost and Continental rubber is used for the shoe’s midsole and outsole, thus giving it a mileage advantage over most non-adidas running shoes.
4) adidas adizero Boston 7
The adizero Boston has been a popular choice for runners who want an ultra-durable shoe without the structured build of heavier daily trainers.
The upper fits narrow yet is breathable, and the lightweight Boost midsole provides durable cushioning. The outsole is formed using a large, single piece of Continental rubber which extends the Boston’s lifespan.
5) Nike Pegasus 35
This year, Nike’s popular daily trainer gets a major update. The Pegasus 35’s midsole is now equipped with a full-length Zoom Air bag which improves the cushioning durability over the last model. The upper is well put together like always and will outlive the shoe.
The outsole uses Nike’s proprietary rubber blend which is very durable.
6) Saucony Freedom ISO 2
This Saucony model gives you the Freedom from having to replace running shoes often. The firm Everun midsole will outlast the shoe, and the hard transparent rubber outsole takes all those hard running miles without complaint. The ISOFIT upper has a smooth and secure fit quality.
If a cushioned, low heel drop, and a durable trainer is what you seek, the updated version of the Saucony Freedom checks all the right boxes.
7) Saucony Liberty ISO
The Liberty ISO is similar to the Freedom ISO, except that it has a small ‘stability’ post – if you can even call it that. The low-profile, 4 mm drop midsole is made entirely of the responsive Everun foam. The latter is paired to a snug yet comfortable fitting upper with an ISOFIT closure system.
Like the Freedom, the Liberty ISO has the winning combination of Everun and a hard-wearing outsole so it scores at long-term durability.