Good running shoes aren’t cheap. At full retail price, a pair can easily cost 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 money, 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 Pwrrun+. Even the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2 uses expanded PU.
The Nike React Infinity Run 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 2 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 37) 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.
Some compounds like Saucony’s crystal rubber and adidas Continental have proved to be more durable than regular rubber. You’ll see plenty of Saucony’s on this buyer’s guide.
The second factor is that a flatter and full coverage outsole will last longer than a design that features prominent lugs. 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) that 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.
We’ve removed the adidas UltraBoost – it featured on the last version of this guide. We have received some negative feedback about its outsole durability. Though the UB is going to last a few hundred miles, we recommend getting something like the Solar Glide or the Saucony Triumph instead.
The Pegasus 36 showed up in our October update but since the new Pegasus 37 has just been released, we lack sufficient feedback on it. Our review is also in progress.
At times, the outsole lifespan depends not on the material but in the way it works together with the midsole. The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2 is a good example of what we mean.
Its thin outsole flexes along with the soft midsole and slows down the rate of wear and tear. Our readers have unanimous praise for the Floatride Energy’s high mile-per-dollar value.
When you go through the shoes on this guide, you’ll see that they satisfy most of the selection criteria. The adidas Continental rubber outsole used to be the only show in town, but that time has passed. Other brands have caught up and now offer a wide selection of durable running shoes.
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) 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 the cushioning is retained over the lifetime of the shoe.
You’ll get high-mileage wear from the hard-wearing Continental rubber outsole. There are no weak spots on the thick mesh upper either.
2) 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 that extends the Boston’s lifespan.
The eighth iteration of the Boston updates the upper and sole design without altering the shoe’s durable nature.
3) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit
We kept the Epic React 2 off this guide due to its sparse outsole coverage. Otherwise, the React midsole foam is perfectly capable of delivering hundreds of trouble-free miles. So we recommend the React Infinity instead – it has a full outsole under a high volume React midsole.
It’s not just the amount of rubber; the outsole geometry also plays a role in extending the shoe’s lifespan.
The outsole has a lot of grooves exposing the midsole foam. This helps the outsole telescope into the foam during the gait cycle to reduce wear and tear but also provide durable traction at the same time.
4) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2
This shoe from Reebok turned out to be a surprise durability hit of the last year. We knew it was durable, but then the 1000 mile+ reader feedback started pouring in.
The V2 shares the same sole design as the V1, so expect an identical outcome.
So what makes the Floatride Forever Energy 2 long-lasting? The midsole is bulletproof; the expanded Polyurethane foam lasts forever without losing its cushioning properties.
As it turns out, the outsole geometry also plays a huge part in extending the shoe’s lifespan. The thin rubber outsole flexes along with the midsole to distribute wear and tear. The absence of raised lugs also means that abrasion doesn’t happen locally but is spread out over a wider area.
The upper of the V1 was durable to begin with, and the V2 takes it further. The revised Reebok logo adds structural support on the outside, and so do the reinforced lacing panel.
5) Saucony Triumph 17
The Freedom ISO V1 gave Saucony’s newly acquired status as a maker of durable running shoes. It’s not that Saucony didn’t make durable shoes; the Everun midsole and crystal rubber outsole combination turned to be a durability booster.
From a longevity perspective, Saucony’s Pwrrun+ midsole and crystal rubber outsoles are the new game in town. The softer Pwrrun+ is made of the same base material as the firmer Everun and they’re as long-lasting. It is this set-up that the Triumph 17 comes boxed with.
Saucony calls its translucent outsole ‘crystal rubber’ and boy, does this material last long. It doesn’t grip as well as traditional rubber on damp surfaces, but it makes up for it with a 400+ mile lifespan.
6) Saucony Hurricane 22
The Hurricane 22 is the support version of the Triumph 17. And just like the latter, the Hurricane gets a set of new clothes and sole.
It ditches the ISOFIT midfoot strap for a thick, durable upper. Underneath, the firm Everun of the ISO 5 is replaced with the softer Pwrrun+ foam and is protected by the ‘crystal rubber’ outsole.
Expect several hundred miles of trouble-free running from this set-up.
7) Saucony Freedom 3
The Freedom ISO was the first Saucony shoe to be built with the ultra-durable Everun midsole + crystal rubber combo. Like the rest of the Saucony pack, the Freedom ISO switches to a simpler upper design while retaining the long-lasting sole design.
Expect 500-600 miles out of the Pwrrun+ and the translucent rubber outsole combo.
8) 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.