The best running shoes for forefoot and midfoot strikers

by Solereview editors

Best running shoes for midfoot and forefoot strikers

This article has been updated with current models for March 2021. The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V10, Nike React Infinity Run, and Saucony Kinvara 11 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Asics Kayano Lite, Brooks Hyperion Tempo, and Saucony Endorphin Shift are new additions. The Brooks Levitate 4, Transcend 7, and Saucony Freedom 3 have been removed.

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

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

The thought of altering the foot-strike also didn’t occur to the general population of runners, so the market didn’t exist. Even though the minimalist shoe phenomenon is credited with promoting low-drop footwear and full-contact landings, social media and smartphones have certainly helped spread the word.

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.

Likewise for runners who prefer to make full-contact landings, which is loosely classified as midfoot/forefoot striking. We must point out that here that if you currently land rearfoot and are running injury-free, there’s no reason to alter your technique just because somebody says you should.

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 that proves that forefoot striking is biomechanically more efficient or leads to reduced injuries.

There are so many facets of a good running form, so a mere foot-strike change isn’t the panacea to all ills. That said, we do suggest avoiding over-striding and exaggerated dorsiflexion, a state where your toes point skywards during heel landing.

Running shoes that are suitable for forefoot and midfoot striking need to fulfill several requirements.

To begin with, it must have a stable forefoot. This selection 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 an issue 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. Again, smooth transitions are associated with multiple design choices like the foam density and formulation, the outsole geometry and grip, or the midsole structure itself.

Though some runners prefer a cushioned forefoot, this need depends on what you’re using the shoe for. Is it just a 5K run or short interval training? In this case, a soft midsole will impede your workout.

On the other hand, if a marathon is what you plan to run, then a cushioned ride is desirable.

We also don’t think that not having a low heel-to-toe drop is 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 Asics Novablast exists on this guide. If you’re interested, read our in-depth review of the Novablast.

Most beveled heel designs work well for ground-contact landings. The New Balance 1080V11 isn’t exactly a low-drop running shoe but it works like a charm for forefoot and midfoot striking runners. The bottomline is, if you get a low-drop shoe, that’s a bonus. Else, it’s a non-issue for most brands. Only adidas is an exception. Their existing high-offset models feel like high-offset models. We’re hoping that will change soon.

Now that we’ve done with the pre-guide spiel, let’s get to the list. These fourteen shoes are sorted alphabetically by brand. Some of you might look at the list and say, hey – where’s Newton or Topo? 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 Nike Structure to lightweight trainers such as the Brooks Hyperion Tempo.

You’ll also find ultra-cushioned shoes in the form of the New Balance 1080 and a couple of Hoka models. Take your pick; this list is sorted alphabetically.

1) Asics Novablast

The Novablast does not feel like a running shoe with a 10 mm offset, and that’s partly the reason why it’s included here. We have the beveled heel and ‘un-Asics’ midsole design to thank for; here, a single-density construction in a rocker profile makes the transition process smooth and straightforward.

The forefoot is noticeably broader than the rear, and with that set-up comes a supportive and cushioned front midsole for footstrike versatility. Our detailed review covers different facets of the Novablast’s fit and ride character.

2) Asics Kayano Lite

The Asics Kayano Lite has a 10 mm heel-to-toe offset, so a few runners may be wondering whether it deserves a place on this guide.

But as we said before, a running shoe’s ride character cannot be simplified to its heel drop. The flared forefoot midsole is at least 20 mm thick, so this means there’s still plenty of foam separating the foot from the road.

The dense yet comfortable Flytefoam cushioning adds ride stability, and the blown rubber outsole grips well and smooths the transition process. Unlike the regular Kayano, there are no complications like a medial post or visible Gel windows.

The upper is typical Asics; very plush and comfortable while fitting true to size. Read our detailed take on the shoe here.

3) Brooks Hyperion Tempo

Most people will look at the Hyperion Tempo’s 8 mm heel-to-toe offset and wonder if it’s going to work for full-contact landings.

After 50 miles of testing, we can assure you – it does. Like most running shoes, the heel drop isn’t the only thing that determines how the shoe behaves under various foot-strike patterns. One has to factor in the overall midsole and outsole design, and it is here where the Brooks Hyperion shines.

The midsole is made of the featherweight DNA Flash, so even though the heel is 8 mm higher and has more volume, it isn’t much heavier than the forefoot. There’s very little weight discrepancy across the length of the midsole, so the ride feels very uniform.

Also, it helps that the outsole has an aggressive lug geometry for excellent traction during landings, transitions, and take-offs. Our full review is here.

4) Hoka One One Bondi 7

The essence of the entire Hoka One One running shoe collection can be distilled into six models or fewer. The Hoka Bondi 7 is one of them.

Just look at the Bondi 7; this is the quintessential Hoka shoe. The midsole has a heel-to-toe gradient of 4 mm. The said midsole also happens to be supremely cushioned; the kind that makes ultra high-mileage runs go easy on the feet. The now-familiar rocker midsole helps the foot roll through the gait cycle.

The generous application of outsole rubber adds both durability and traction. And this is what sets the Bondi apart from shoes such as the Clifton; there’s a little more of everything that affects the overall ride and fit character.

That also applies to the upper. High-density printing and welding add design depth and functional support; new features like the memory foam collar enhance the overall plushness.

5) Hoka One One Clifton 7

Ah, the Hoka Clifton 7. This is the year when Hoka One One elevates the Clifton to near perfection. We’ll get to the midsole in a bit, but the highlight of the Clifton 7 is its upper.

Gone are the tight hot-spots and sub-par material finish. In their place is a spacious and smooth-fitting interior that complements the maximally-cushioned midsole.

Speaking of the midsole, the 5 mm offset is perfect for all foot-strike patterns. During full-contact or midfoot landings, the flat geometry of the outsole makes the transitions smooth yet grippy.

With forefoot landings, the flared midsole and cushioned stack work together with the rubber lugs to deliver optimal cushioning and traction. The rocker-shaped midsole makes the transitions easy so the soft ride isn’t detrimental to efficiency. That amazed us when we reviewed the first Clifton six years ago, as it does now. We reviewed the Clifton 7 in late 2020.

The max-cushioning does not result in a heavier shoe. The Clifton 7 may appear bulky, but all that material is stitched, glued, and molded into an 8.7-ounce/247 gram package.

Also see: The Hoka One One Rincon

6) New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon V3

Fresh Foam everywhere – that should be the Beacon V3’s marketing punchline. The said foam is molded in a 6 mm heel-to-toe offset, and the use of rubber in the outsole is kept to a bare minimum. This means that the midsole also doubles as the outsole; the result is a smooth and cushioned ride for runners with varying foot-strikes.

Besides being friendly towards forefoot strikers, the Beacon is also very versatile. At just over 8-ounces (232 grams), the Beacon disappears on the foot during everyday and long-distance runs.

At the same time, the cushioned foam stack minimizes fatigue. The foam is not too soft, so the Beacon also works for slightly higher-paced runs.

As a bonus, the smooth and snug-fitting upper looks pretty cool with its molded and printed details.

7) New Balance FuelCell Prism

The FuelCell Prism is a shoe from the FuelCell family that differentiates itself with an in-built medial post. But it is not like the 860. Or even the Vongo.

It lies somewhere in between. To be specific, the ES is a lightweight (244 gm/8.4 Oz) trainer that makes itself useful as a versatile trainer. It’s good for tempo runs as well as being comfortable enough for daily use.

Though the firm medial-post is a nice bonus (supportive ride and all), that isn’t the reason why the Prism ES exists on this list.

Take a look at the outsole and midsole. The forefoot has a wide flare. The midfoot outsole bridges the cushioned forefoot and the heel, with no gaps in the transition path. There’s a lot of volume and coverage area in the front to cushion landings and facilitate take-offs.

8) New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V11

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 landings and grips well.

The V11 is equally enjoyable as the last year’s V10, with deep cushioning and lively responsiveness blended in equal measures.

Also, the 1080 V11 is the perfect long-distance cruiser for forefoot and midfoot strikers who also like their uppers to be comfortable. Just watch out for the stiff last two lacing rows, though. Wide and extra-wide widths are optional.

9) Nike Air Zoom Structure 23

With its soft ride, the Nike Zoom Structure 23 is nothing like the 22. But there’s one thing that makes it suitable for forefoot and midfoot strikers – a cushioned midsole with a forefoot Zoom Air bag for front-end responsiveness.

Even the Nike Pegasus 37 has a forefoot Zoom Air bag, but the Structure’s cushioning feels very consistent from heel to toe. The supportive upper holds the foot in place during landings and transitions.

11) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2

For midfoot and forefoot landing runners, the performance of React Infinity Run V2 is par with the original V1.

The full-length React midsole has a flared and cushioned forefoot as well as a supportive rear that’s supported by the plastic clip. This geometry is conducive for forefoot landings; also, it helps that there’s ample outsole rubber under the front.

We see this shoe best used as a daily trainer and a long-distance cruiser. The ride isn’t mushy, so that also makes the Infinity V2 suitable for the occasional pick-me-up runs.

The upper redesign results in a separate tongue, padded collar, and a higher density lacing. Which on paper, should be improvements over the Infinity V1.

But we prefer the V1’s upper. There’s two much material on the last two eyelets, so they bulge out. The tongue is a mite short, so the last rows of lacing rest slightly forward over the tongue instead of being aligned with the opposing eyelets. The fit is true to size, though it feels a bit long.

12) Saucony Kinvara 12

Though the past Kinvara’s have usually proved to be an excellent choice for midfoot and forefoot landing runners, the Kinvara 12 is even more so.

The midsole and outsole have been redesigned to make the ride quality even better. The midsole now flares out for better overall stability, and a newly-introduced groove on the outsole makes transitions smoother.

The forefoot outsole is still (mostly) made out of foam, but the better lug definition improves the grip.

A 4 mm heel-to-toe drop attests that the forefoot and heel midsole thickness do not differ by a lot. The Kinvara 12’s resilient Pwrrun cushioning ensures that landings – be it heel or forefoot – are comfortable yet efficient.

The upper has been simplified with decreased tongue padding and a cleaner-looking exterior. The sizing runs true while delivering a smooth and secure fit.

13) Saucony Endorphin Shift

We found out during our testing that the Endorphin Shift lacks the forward-rolling transitions of either the Endorphin Speed or Pro.

However, that has no negative effect on the Shift’s use-case as a forefoot striking-friendly running shoe. Several things make that happen.

The first is the thick and firm mid/forefoot that manages to deliver a finely-tuned blend of cushioning and stability. The firmness means that energy is not wasted going through the landings and transitions.

This is also a 4 mm offset shoe with comparable rear and forefoot thickness of 38 mm and 34 mm respectively. These specs, when combined with the single-density midsole, makes the loading process smoother.

If you’ve already read our detailed review of this model, you’d know that we think very highly of the upper design and fit.

14) Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper

Like most Skechers’ shoes that feature the HyperBurst midsole, the GoRun Razor Hyper has a high cushioning-to-weight ratio.

The low-drop shoe works particularly well for midfoot and forefoot strikers due to its supportive and responsive midsole. The outsole geometry helps achieve a smooth transition cycle and adds durability.

The Razor is a great buy if you’re looking for a speed-trainer that is lightweight and cushioned.

Do you own any of these shoes? Improve this review by sharing your insights – submit a review here.

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