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 – paying $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 first lay out the rationale.
You can apply this thinking to most running shoes, 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.
Three factors determine 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.
Even an upper made of thin materials can be durable – as long as it gets a few 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 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.
The upper durability is also affected by how well (or not) it fits; it is important to buy the right size and have enough room in the front. In many cases where the heel lining tears too soon may indicate a short size.
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 Puma Ignite and the Brooks Levitate, or the recently developed variety called 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.
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. The upper and midsole may be in perfect condition, but the outsole could get shredded 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 how well it works together 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 a lot of adidas and Saucony 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. Pointy outsole lugs take the brunt of the wear and tear – as opposed to a flat profile outsole that spreads the wear and tear more evenly.
Needless to say, you’ll get a higher outsole mileage from a shoe (cue Saucony Freedom and Hurricane) 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.
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 SolarGlide ST 3
adidas no longer labels the SolarGlide ST by its release year. For example, the last year’s model was called the SolarGlide ST 19. The latest version doesn’t use the ’20 suffix; instead, it goes by SolarGlide ST 3.
The fundamentals of the shoe stay the same, though. The ‘ST’ is the stability version of the neutral SolarGlide 3, but only barely. The different versions of ’ST’ in adidas’ line-up have always received a mild stability treatment, beginning with the 2016 Ultraboost ST.
Even the SolarGlide ST 3 is neutral as they come. Both sides of the midsole have the same Boost foam, except that the arch (inner) side is covered with the EVA rim and a plastic stabilizer that extends from the outsole. Even the 2014 Energy Boost had the same stabilizing post, so this isn’t new at all.
One gets the same cushioned ride along with moderate stability features. The Boost midsole is durable, and so is the Continental rubber outsole with the Torsion shank. Admittedly, while the older Supernova outsole was more durable to the smaller lugs and covered forefoot, most runners should be able to extract several hundred miles out of the SolarGlide ST 3.
2) adidas adizero Boston 9
The adizero Boston has been a popular choice for runners who want a durable shoe without the structured build of heavier running shoes. The Boston is proof that a low-profile running shoe can also be long-lasting.
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 adds many miles to the Boston’s lifespan.
The 9th iteration of the Boston has the same outsole and midsole as the Boston 8. However, the older Boston outsole was more durable. The newer geometry has a latticed (windowed) outsole that isn’t as hard-wearing as the Boston 6 or 7.
But for a running shoe that is meant to be used as a speed trainer or road-racer, the durability levels are above average.
3) adidas UltraBoost PB
The UltraBoost PB is an ultra-plush running shoe for easy days or simply for casual wear. The Boost foam is highly resistant to compression fatigue so it lasts longer than comparable EVA midsole-based shoes.
The Continental rubber outsole helps too; it provides protective coverage from the heel to toe.
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) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit
Based on our experience with the Epic React, the React midsole foam is capable of delivering hundreds of trouble-free miles. So we recommend the React Infinity – it has a full rubber 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.
6) Saucony Triumph 18
Unlike the Saucony Triumph 17, the newest Triumph doesn’t feature the ultra-durable ‘Crystal’ rubber outsole. But it still has a couple of things going for it, durability wise.
The first would be the long-lasting Pwrrun+ midsole – a material made of the very reliable expanded Polyurethane. (e-TPU) The second would be its outsole.
Though the rubber isn’t the same as last year, there are no complaints of premature wear and tear. Large grooves allow the outsole to flex and work together with the midsole instead of taking direct hits from the landing and transitions.
The upper is solidly stitched and welded together and will outlive the rest of the shoe.
7) Saucony Hurricane 22
The Hurricane 22 is the support version of the Triumph 17. And we say the 17, because the Hurricane 22 isn’t updated for 2020 yet. And just like the latter, the Hurricane has a similar set of upper materials and outsole.
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 these stability shoes.
8) 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.
9) 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.