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 – $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 how does one go about choosing the most durable shoes for running? We’ve compiled a short list of durable shoes, but like all our buying guides, we’d like to 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 shoe 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 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 last a long time as long as it gets a couple of things right. The first is the absence of friction, and the second is the lack of pressure points. This can be made clear by a few examples.
The under-arch area of the Nike Zoom Streak 6 has a thin mesh material bonded directly to the midsole edge. Since the Streak 6 has a narrow midsole waist, this weak area will suffer from both pressure (the bodyweight) and friction (against the midsole edge) and has a high probability of tearing.
Other areas would include the toe-box. If your big toe touches the mesh right under the point 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. Some brands use a backing fabric to reinforce this area, and you can feel this by inserting your hand under the toe-box.
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 this doesn’t happen, just turn over the lacing panel and see if there’s an extra material 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 and on the sides.
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, or the recently developed variety called the E-TPU.
Both 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. Standard Polyurethane midsoles can be distinguished from EVA with the help of a few visual cues. Read this solereview article for more.
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, shorter its life. A softer density EVA midsole is more likely to lose its cushioning properties than a firmer kind.
Besides the firmness, midsole inserts such as Nike Zoom Air can contribute to additional 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.
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 find that a large section of the outsole has been shredded into oblivion after a couple of 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 greater outsole life of a shoe 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 – even with soft rubber.
When you go through the list of five 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 couple of other shoes worth a mention.
|adidas Supernova M||E-TPU foam (Boost), Continental rubber||Amazon|
|adidas Supernova ST||E-TPU foam (Boost), Continental rubber||Amazon|
|adidas adizero Boston 6||E-TPU foam (Boost), Continental rubber||Amazon|
|Nike Zoom Pegasus 33||EVA foam, dual Zoom Air Bag||Amazon|
|Saucony Freedom ISO||E-TPU foam (Everun), Clear rubber||Amazon|
1) adidas Supernova M (aka the Glide 9)
The successor to the insanely durable Supernova Glide 8 (buy one if you haven’t done so already), the Supernova M (aka the Glide 9) proves to be a durable shoe courtesy of the full-length Boost midsole and a full coverage Continental outsole.
2) adidas Supernova ST (aka the Sequence 10)
The ST version is a Supernova M with a wee bit of medial side support. Other things stay the same, such as the excellent Boost midsole and the Continental rubber outsole, both of which make the ST a long-lasting shoe.
3) adidas Boston 6 Boost
If you’re looking for a lightweight trainer which will outlive its peers, then the Boston 6 fits the bill.
It features the Continental outsole design renowned for its durability, and the E-TPU Boost midsole will maintain its cushioning quality no matter what the mileage.
4) Nike Pegasus 33
The Nike Pegasus 33 might not have an E-TPU midsole or a Continental rubber outsole, but it has consistently demonstrated superior levels of durability.
The outsole uses a hard and long-lasting kind of rubber throughout, and the midsole is augmented with twin Zoom Air bags which add extra life to the midsole cushioning.
5) Saucony Freedom ISO
The Freedom ISO is an outlier in Saucony’s assortment. The midsole is made entirely of an expanded-TPU material called the Everun, and the outsole uses a hard and clear rubber sheet in a flat profile. The upper is thick and comfortable with no pressure points.