The best running shoes for forefoot and midfoot strikers

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

Midfoot striking in the Asics Superblast.

This article has been updated with current models for July 2023. The adidas Boston 11 has been replaced with its updated version. The Asics Superblast, Hoka Mach 5, and Saucony Ride 16 are new additions. The Brooks Hyperion Tempo and Nike Infinity 3 have been removed. Except for the narrower ‘B’ width, the women’s models are almost identical to men’s.

If you’ve been around for a while and have tracked the evolution of running footwear, you’d agree that as recently as the mid-2000s, shoes were purposely designed for rearfoot striking.

For example, most of the cushioning tech was crammed under the heel. Moreover, running shoes with a low heel-to-toe offset did not become popular until the barefoot running boom of the late 2000s.

The thought of altering the footstrike also didn’t occur to most runners, so the market didn’t exist.

Today, we have a slew of balanced choices. There’s something for everyone, no matter what your preferences or running mechanics are.

Do you want maximal cushioning, or for that matter, a shoe with a low heel-to-toe offset? Or do you want both in one shoe? Many products meet these criteria.

Runners who prefer to make full-contact landings are called midfoot/forefoot strikers. Having said that, if you currently land rearfoot and are injury-free, there’s no reason to alter the technique just because the internet tells you to.

While there is plenty of anecdotal support for forefoot striking – we also feel that full-contact landings are more efficient – but there’s scant scientific evidence proving that forefoot striking is biomechanically more efficient or leads to fewer injuries.

There are so many components of a good running form, and the foot-strike pattern is just one part of it. However, it makes sense to avoid over-striding and exaggerated dorsiflexion, a state where the toes point skywards when landing heel-first.

Running shoes that are suitable for forefoot and midfoot striking need to fulfill certain qualifying factors.

Ride stability is extremely important. This criterion could be met by either a firm midsole, a wide flare or surface area, or a combination of both – along with a secure upper fit. A high midsole stack isn’t a concern as long as the other two factors add up.

The quality of transition also determines whether a shoe is compatible with full-contact landings – or not. The transition quality is the product of design choices like the foam density and formulation, the outsole geometry and grip, or the midsole shape.

Though some runners prefer a cushioned forefoot, that depends on what the shoe is being used for. Is it just a 5K run or intense interval training? Here, excessive midsole softness will impede your workout.

On the other hand, if if one intends to run a marathon, then a cushioned and fast ride is desirable.

A high heel-to-toe drop is not a deal-breaker. We’re not talking about a 12 mm offset shoe here, but even 8-10 mm works as long as the heel midsole doesn’t have a long overhang. That’s the reason why the New Balance 1080 V12 and Asics Superblast feature on this guide.

Also, look for running shoes where the rear midsole edge is flush with the upper heel. A generous bevel is preferable. Here’s an example:

The beveled heel of the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.

A beveled heel makes full-contact (or forefoot) landings easier.

Most beveled heel designs work well for ground-contact landings. The New Balance 1080V12 isn’t exactly ‘low drop’, but it works perfectly for forefoot and midfoot strikers.

The bottomline is, if you get a low-drop shoe, that’s a bonus. Else, it’s a non-issue for most brands.

Now that we’ve done with the pre-guide spiel, let’s get to the list. Some of you might look at the list and say, hey – where’s Altra or Salomon? Those brands are relatively harder to find so the omission is intentional.

We cover a lot of categories here across half a dozen brands, ranging from supportive shoes like the Saucony Tempus to lightweight trainers such as the Hoka Mach 5.

1) Daily trainer for forefoot strikers: Saucony Ride 16

The neutral trainer category is very competitive, but the Saucony Ride has held up over the years.

The core of its success is a ride character that appeals to runners of all experience classes and footstrike patterns. The 8 mm heel drop midsole has plenty of cushioning, no matter where you land. Half-marathons are easily doable.

The flush forefoot outsole of the Saucony Ride 15.

The Ride 16’s midsole is widest under the forefoot, and has most of the outsole rubber.

The removable Pwrrun+ footbed of the Saucony Ride 15.

The removable insole is made of Pwrrun+, an expanded PU foam that’s similar to adidas Boost.

The wide forefoot is 27 mm tall and has most of the outsole rubber coverage. The heel midsole doesn’t stick out too far, and is beveled for gradual landings.

Despite the thick Pwrrun+ insole, the Ride 16 isn’t a very soft shoe. It’s relatively firm, and that’s a nice trait to have when building up speed.

The breathable upper is true-to-size with smooth interiors. Saucony offers the Ride 16 in multiple widths as well. The Ride 16 is based on the same midsole as the Ride 15, so there’s no difference in the ride behavior.

2) Daily trainer for forefoot strikers: Nike Pegasus 40

Very little has changed between the 2022 and 2023 models. Like its predecessor, the Pegasus 40’s cushioned React midsole and dual Zoom Air bags are excellent for forefoot and midfoot strikers. Read our comprehensive review for more details.

Zoom Air on the Nike Pegasus 40.

Inside the React foam midsole are two Zoom Air bags.

The forefoot outsole of the Nike Pegasus 40.

The full coverage outsole of the Pegasus 40 has excellent grip for forefoot and midfoot strikers.

The foam isn’t very soft, so the firmness infuses desirable levels of ride stability. The Pegasus 40’s forefoot has a wide flare for stable full-contact landings, and the rubber outsole does its job.

The Zoom Air in the front adds a satisfying pop during the landings, and the redesigned midsole makes the cushioning very consistent from heel to toe.

The midfoot strap of the Nike Pegasus 40.

The lacing is linked to an internal midfoot strap system.

The sleeved upper holds the foot in place during landings and transitions; the midfoot straps make the cinching process easy.

The lacing system is the only performance-based change on the new Pegasus. The Pegasus 39 used Flywire cords; the Pegasus 40 uses internal straps that connect to the laces.

3) Stability trainer for forefoot strikers: Saucony Tempus

The Saucony Tempus 8 mm heel offset is the result of a 28.5 mm forefoot and 36.5 mm heel. So regardless of which part of the shoe you land on, there’s plenty of cushioning to manage the footstrike.

The forefoot gets a cushy PEBA foam stack and most of the outsole rubber, so full-contact landings are supported with a transition-friendly design. The wide midsole base translates into a high level of stability. For everything on the Saucony Tempus, our in-depth review is here.

The EVA frame of the Saucony Tempus.

The Saucony Tempus in the outdoors.

The Saucony Tempus on the road.

Speaking of stability, the Tempus is a unique running shoe that blends a firmer EVA frame with a softer Pwrrun PB (PEBA foam) core.

So this lightweight (8.9-ounces) stability trainer is cushioned, supportive, and extremely versatile – whether you’re using it as an everyday trainer, long-distance cruiser, or tempo trainer at 4:30 min/km speeds.

And like most contemporary Saucony shoes, the true-to-size upper is breathable, secure, and comfortable on the inside.

Also see: The Hoka Mach X.

4) Marathon racer for forefoot strikers: Saucony Endorphin Speed V3

At an MSRP of $170, the Saucony Endorphin Speed V3 offers the best value within the foam + plate racing shoe category.

A full-length Nylon plate is encased inside a lively PEBAX foam (Pwrrun PB) core, and its base is anchored under the forefoot. Saucony gave this popular shoe a design overhaul in 2022, and most of the changes are small, yet meaningful updates.

The transition groove of the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.

The deep channel under the heel is new for 2022. It improves ride stability by centering the weight and helping transitions.

The winged Nylon plate of the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.

This time, the PEBAX foam midsole gives us a glimpse of the embedded Nylon plate.

To be specific, the overall stability benefits from the deep transition groove under the heel, and the ‘wing’ design of the Nylon plate.

The firm base of the plate dials in a high level of stiffness to the cushioned forefoot, thus making the push-off phase efficient. There’s a reason why Saucony calls this design ‘Speedroll’, after all. Our wear-tested review covers this marathon racer in depth.

The 8 mm heel drop is derived from the stack heights of 28 mm (forefoot) and 36 mm (heel), so there’s abundant cushioning under the forefoot.

The speedroll forefoot of the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.

The inflexible forefoot acts as a rocker during roll-offs.

The Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 in a marathon.

Though forefoot and midfoot strikers may not fully benefit from the snappy heel part of the plate, the speed-friendly forefoot offers a satisfying blend of cushioning and quick turnovers. Also, there’s plenty of outsole rubber situated under the forefoot for traction.

The lightweight upper fits true to size and is extremely comfortable. Of late, Saucony has been knocking out of the park with its near-perfect upper designs.

Also see: The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.

5) High-mileage trainer for forefoot strikers: Asics Superblast

The Asics Superblast is proof that a higher heel drop – in this case, 8 mm – doesn’t decide whether a shoe is forefoot-striking friendly or not.

The Superblast is a premium, softer, and more responsive version of the Novablast – a versatile trainer with a cushioned ride and rocker midsole. Our detailed review explains what sets the Asics Superblast apart.

The toe spring of the Asics Superblast.

The rocker midsole helps the foot during the transition process. In short, this is a cushioned trainer that’s also capable of tempo runs.

The Asics Superblast on the road.

No matter which way you land first, the Asics Superblast is very forgiving.

The Superblast has a rocker forefoot for quicker transitions during toe-offs, and the 37 mm thick forefoot provides a lot of padding during full-contact landings. The midsole blends the Flytefoam Turbo foam over a firmer base, thus balancing long-distance comfort with decent levels of stability.

The upper is similar to the Novablast 3 in how it fits. It’s snug in the forefoot, and plushly padded in the heel.

6) High-mileage trainer for forefoot strikers: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V12

One of the great things about a thickly-stacked shoe like the 1080 is that mileage-friendly cushioning is available no matter how or where you land. The 8 mm heel offset is the perfect middle ground too.

The outsole is segmented into multiple pieces, a layout that allows it to flex together with the soft midsole. The soft-blown rubber on the forefoot muffles the landings and delivers dependable traction.

The forefoot of the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 V12.

The New Balance 1080V12 on the road.

The Fresh Foam 1080V12 is equally enjoyable as the last year’s V11, with deep cushioning and lively responsiveness blended in equal quantities. Everything that you need to know about the 1080 is in our detailed review.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V12 on the road.

Also, the 1080 V12 is the perfect long-distance cruiser for forefoot and midfoot strikers who also like their uppers to be comfortable.

The soft upper is extremely comfortable. The toe-box is soft, and the stretchy knit mesh will accommodate most foot profiles. Wide and extra-wide widths are optional if you need them.

Also see: The Asics Nimbus 25. As our review noted, the 2023 model is a radical departure from the tried-and-tested Nimbus formula.

The forefoot outsole of the Asics Nimbus 25.

Not only is the Nimbus 25 softer, but it also behaves differently than the 24.

In its place is a cushioned trainer that has more in common with the 1080V12 than the Nimbus 24. The midsole gets a wider footprint as well as a semi-rocker profile, thus turning it into a running shoe that works equally well for heel and forefoot strikers.

It just runs very hot, so the Nimbus 25 isn’t the best summer shoe.

7) Tempo trainer for forefoot strikers: Hoka Mach 5

Hoka positions the Mach 5 as a speed shoe, but it’s a lot more than that. At 7.5 ounces, the Hoka Mach 5 is light as it gets.

However, this 5 mm heel drop trainer has stack heights of 30 mm (heel) and 25 mm (forefoot). From a performance point of view, that’s adequate cushioning regardless of the footstrike and distance. The dual-density midsole is responsive and comfortable for everyday runs as well as half-marathons.

The Hoka Mach 5 in a marathon.

The low heel-to-toe offset (5 mm) and wide midsole make it ideal for forefoot and midfoot striking.

The racer-like upper complements the lightweight midsole. The true-to-size interior combines comfort-oriented features like a padded heel with the minimalist design of a road racer.

8) 4 mm heel drop trainer for forefoot strikers: Saucony Kinvara 14

Past Kinvara’s have usually proved to be an excellent choice for midfoot and forefoot landing runners. It’s no different this time; the Kinvara 14’s 4 mm heel-to-drop midsole makes it easier for forefoot and midfoot strikers.

A 4 mm heel-to-toe drop means that the forefoot and heel midsole thickness do not differ by a lot. The Kinvara 14’s resilient Pwrrun cushioning (EVA foam) ensures that landings – be it under the heel or forefoot – are comfortable yet efficient.

The forefoot outsole of the Saucony Kinvara 14.

The heel landing zone of the Saucony Kinvara 14.

The grooved landing zone and wide forefoot make midfoot striking easy.

The Saucony Kinvara 14 on the road.

Though the forefoot outsole is still (mostly) made out of foam, the wide base and grooved heel help with full-contact landings.

The lightweight upper runs true to size, and delivers a smooth and secure fit. A full inner sleeve keeps the tongue locked in place.

The inner midsole of the Saucony Kinvara 14.

The Kinvara 14 adds 2.5 mm of height to the midsole over the Kinvara 13.

Between the Kinvara 13 and 14, we prefer the last year’s model. The Kinvara 14’s 2.5 mm thicker midsole makes the ride softer than last year. Saucony, there’s a time and place for everything – a softer ride isn’t what the Kinvara needs.

9) Adidas Boston 12

The Boston 12 is here, and it’s based on a similar template as the Boston 10 and 11. That makes the Boston 12 equally suitable for forefoot strikers.

Like the last couple of versions, most of the soft and responsive Lightstrike Pro foam is loaded under the forefoot. The forefoot is also where outsole coverage is maximum, and the Energy rods have maximum articulation. The forefoot is also generously flared for maximum contact. Half marathons are perfectly within the Boston 12’s performance boundaries.

The Energy rods are a glass fiber-infused structure that splits into five separate tubes under the forefoot. These tubes add transition-friendly stiffness during the gait cycle, and one of the reasons why the Boston 12 is excellent for speed training.

The Boston 12 derives its 6.5 mm heel drop from stack heights of 37 mm and 30.5 mm, so the midsole absorbs impact throughout its length. Forefoot and midfoot strikers will benefit from the thicker Lightstrike Pro foam, articulated Energy rods, and Continental rubber outsole coverage.

The Boston 12 ditches the retro upper of the Boston 10 and 11. In its place is a modern upper with a breathable mesh and midfoot clasping system. That’s not all; the Boston 12 is the roomiest version to date. The toe-box is spacious, and the forefoot no longer squeezes the foot in a vice-like grip. The upper runs true to size.

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