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 accumulate mileage. That, or if the model has been in the market long enough for other users to review.
So without any history, how does one go about choosing a durable running shoe? We’ve curated a list of durable shoes, but like all our buying guides, we’ll lay out the criteria first.
You can apply this thinking to any running shoe you buy, and you’ll likely end up with a product that 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 thereof:
1. The upper: Decoding the estimated lifespan of the upper is difficult for several reasons. At a very basic level, the materials used – be it the mesh or the synthetic overlays – must flex 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 or an inner sleeve 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 for 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 may mean that you’re wearing a size smaller.
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, PEBA, and SBES 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.
Both materials have a higher resistance to abuse from repeated compression and temperature, making them extremely durable. E-TPU is commonly known as Boost from adidas or the Saucony Everun. Even the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy uses expanded PU.
The Nike Epic React 2 uses SEBS polymer, otherwise known as synthetic rubber in plain-speak.
The Epic React’s midsole and the upper are durable but you won’t see the shoe on this guide. That’s because most of the outsole is foam. Since the Epic’s traction is average to begin with, even minor wear decreases the grip quality.
Reebok uses PEBA (Poly Ether Block Amide) and e-TPU foam on its Floatride running shoe line. But since the Floatride Run 2.0 has a casual shoe vibe than a performance runner, we’ve excluded the model. On the other hand, the versatile Forever Floatride Energy gets a mention.
EVA midsoles are ubiquitous and form the majority of running shoe midsoles. Though not as durable as newer foams, 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 36) will increase cushioning durability.
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 the outsole might ground into wafer-thinness after a few hundred kilometers.
Three things matter when it comes to the outsole life – the rubber material, the layout/geometry, and whether the lugs flex along with the midsole.
A running shoe that uses only hard rubber for its outsole will outlive a model that 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 will last longer than a design that features prominent lugs and split sections. Outsole lugs which stick out take the brunt of the wear and tear, as opposed to a flat profile outsole which spreads the wear and tear more evenly.
Needless to say, you’ll get a higher outsole mileage from a shoe (cue Saucony Freedom and adidas Glide) which uses a hard rubber compound arranged in a flat profile. You’d also be surprised at the extent of the positive effect a flat outsole has on durability – even with soft rubber.
At times, the outsole lifespan depends not on the material but in the way it works together with the midsole. Though the Pegasus Turbo is not on this list, it is a good example of what we mean. The Turbo uses a thin outsole that flexes along with the soft midsole. This slows down the rate of the wear and tear.
When you go through the shoes on this guide, you’ll see that they satisfy most of the selection criteria. Though adidas sweeps this list clean due to its use of the Boost E-TPU midsole and Continental rubber outsole, there’re several other brands worth a mention.
Under normal usage conditions, these shoes will last at least 400 miles. Unless you’re a heavy runner living in a warm country, most of these shoes will give you 600 miles without a loss in performance.
1) The adidas UltraBoost 19
The UltraBoost 19 has all the ingredients of a durable running shoe. The midsole is made of full-length Boost foam which not only performs well across a wide temperature range but also holds its cushioning over several hundred miles of use.
The Continental rubber outsole is as durable as they come, and the knit upper isn’t exactly flimsy.
2) adidas Solar Glide 19
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 ‘19
The ‘ST’ or the stability variant of the Solar Glide shares parts with its neutral counterpart, so the durability levels are similar. The Boost midsole has excellent resistance to fatigue so it retains its cushioning over the lifetime of the shoe.
You’ll get a high mileage from the hard-wearing Continental rubber outsole. There are no weak spots on the thick mesh upper either.
4) adidas adizero Boston 8
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 breathes well, and the lightweight Boost midsole provides durable cushioning. The outsole is made using a large piece of Continental rubber which extends the Boston’s lifespan.
The eighth iteration of the Boston updates the upper and sole design but without altering the shoe’s durable nature.
5) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36
The outsole uses Nike’s proprietary rubber blend which is very durable. While there have been concerns about the thinner outsole used on the 35 and 36 as compared to earlier Pegasus models, the outsole has proved to be long-lasting.
6) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy
Our vote for the best running shoe of 2019 went to the Reebok Floatride Energy. While it possesses most of the performance characteristics of an excellent running shoe, the reason for including this model here is its durability.
The midsole uses an e-TPU foam material which is similar to the adidas Boost. We’ve not come across even a single case of e-TPU cushioning failure since 2014. The Reebok midsole will deliver a mileage which is in high triple digits (km, not miles).
The outsole isn’t Continental but holds out well over several hundred miles. We haven’t heard anything adverse about the upper either.
7) Saucony Triumph ISO 5
The Triumph ISO 5’s new outsole is the reason for its entry into the 2019 list of durable running shoes. Both the Triumph and Hurricane abandon the blown rubber outsole for a translucent compound which Saucony calls ‘Crystal rubber.’
This is the same outsole which makes the Freedom and Liberty durable. And since the Triumph already has a full-length Everun midsole and an over-engineered ISOFIT upper, the new outsole is no longer the weakest link.
The Everun midsole is made of the same e-TPU material as the adidas Boost and will outlast the rest of the shoe.
8) Saucony Hurricane ISO 5
Just like the Triumph ISO 5, the 2019 Hurricane ISO 5 has an outsole made of Saucony’s crystal rubber. The combination of the layered upper, the durable Everun midsole and the updated outsole helps the Hurricane exceed the median lifespan.
The medial post is made of firm EVA foam but it is topped by an Everun layer which takes the brunt of weight loading.
9) 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.
10) Saucony Liberty ISO 2
The Liberty ISO 2 is similar to the Freedom ISO, except that it has a small ‘stability’ post – if you can even describe it as such. 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.
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