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 instance, 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 foot-strike also didn’t occur to most runners, so the market didn’t exist. Even though the minimalist shoe phenomenon is credited with promoting low heel drop footwear and midfoot striking, online communities have 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.
Likewise for runners who prefer to make full-contact landings, which is loosely classified as midfoot/forefoot striking. 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 heel landing.
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 a marathon is on the mind, 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 Asics Novablast V2 exists on this guide, and the Nike ZoomX Invincible does not.
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:
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 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. For ease of use, we’ve grouped the running shoes by their use case.
Category 1: Daily neutral trainers
1) New Balance FuelCell Rebel V2
Though we’ve categorized the Rebel under ‘daily neutral trainers’, it’s capable of much more. It’s actually marketed as a speed shoe, but it can be an excellent shoe for daily runs. Our wear-tested review of the Rebel is here.
The thorough redesign of FuelCell Rebel makes it an excellent running shoe for tempo runs, and without any dilution in the ride comfort. The FuelCell foam on the Rebel is the same as the one used in the Fuelcell Elite.
In functional terms, that translates into a highly responsive and cushioned ride experience. The Fuelcell part also keeps the weight low; the Rebel V2 is a 7.2-ounce shoe.
The low bulk also builds the Rebel’s case as a speed trainer or a race-day shoe. The comfortable and well-ventilated upper keeps it simple with a minimal design.
A skewed lacing design alleviates the pressure over the forefoot, and the perforated tongue fits flush over the foot. The Rebels’ fit runs short, so buy a half size larger than your usual size.
Several aspects of the Rebel make it a suitable forefoot-striking shoe. The 6 mm heel-to-toe offset translates into a well-distributed cushioning spread.
The wide forefoot midsole creates a cushioned and supportive base for landings, transitions, and push-offs – and the generous outsole rubber coverage helps too.
2) Nike Air Zoom Structure 24
The Structure 23 finally ditched the medial post last year. Nike’s wildly popular stability running shoe went under the knife, and came out the other side as a brand-new product that bore very little resemblance to the ultra-firm Structure 21 or 22.
The Structure 23’s single-density midsole was neutral in its ride delivery, and it also acquired a significant amount of cushioning softness when compared to the previous versions.
As noted in our detailed review, the major changes turned the new Structure 23 into a Pegasus of sorts. Except that it was more supportive, thus entrenching it firmly within the ‘supportive neutral’ category.
In a curious turn of events, the Structure 23 was replaced quickly by the 24. Not that anything changed. Except for the mild cosmetic updates made to the upper, the Structure 24 featured the same sole composite as the 23.
The previous model was featured on this guide, and so is this one. The cushioned midsole and its forefoot Zoom Air bag are excellent for forefoot and midfoot strikers. The foam isn’t very soft, so the firmness infuses desirable levels of ride stability.
The Zoom Air in the front adds a satisfying pop during the landings, and the cushioning feels very consistent from heel to toe.
The supportive upper holds the foot in place during landings and transitions; the speed lacing loops make the cinching process easy.
3) 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 stable heel 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 forefoot.
We see this shoe best used as a daily trainer and long-distance cruiser. The ride isn’t mushy, so that also makes the Infinity V2 good for the occasional quick workout.
The redesigned upper includes a separate tongue, padded collar, and a higher lacing density. Which on paper, should be an improvement over the Infinity V1.
But we prefer the V1’s upper. The excessive material on the last two eyelets give them a lumpy appearance.
The tongue is a mite short, so the last lacing rows 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.
4) Asics Novablast V2
The Asics Novablast 2 does not feel like a running shoe with a 10 mm heel offset, and that’s why it’s included here.
We can thank the Nova 2’s beveled heel and rocker-shaped midsole. Here, a single-density construction in a rocker profile makes the transition process smooth and linear.
The forefoot is noticeably broader than the rear, thus forming a supportive and cushioned front midsole for footstrike versatility. The outsole rubber is split under the forefoot to enhance the cushioning softness.
Despite the thick midsole, the Novablast 2 feels anything but slow. The rocker shape and resilient Flytefoam material add a sense of quickness to the ride. The final product is a versatile running shoe that’s comfortable enough to be a daily trainer and a high-mileage shoe.
The low level of rearfoot stability is the only ‘gotcha’ on the Novablast 2. On the bright side, that’s a conditional opinion.
In other words, the Novablast 2 excels on straight road runs, but will struggle in fast corners or uneven terrain because of its scooped heel design. Also, the upper has a long and narrow fit – a quirk that’s common in recent Asics running shoes.
Category 2: Speed trainers and racers
1) Adidas Boston 10
The release of the adizero Boston 10 and adios 6 raised a few eyebrows earlier this year.
The Boston 10, in particular, was unlike any model that preceded it. Instead of the low-profile speedster that it once was, the Boston 10 transformed into a cushioned pacer with a high level of ride comfort.
That’s not all. The midsole abandoned the Boost + EVA combination for a stack of resilient Lightstrike Pro and firm Lightstrike EVA.
The Boston 10 is also equipped with the ‘Energyrods’ – a set of three tubes that add transition-friendly stiffness.
Only the snug, classically styled racer upper feels familiar. The synthetic suede and spacer mesh exterior is a visual throwback to the retro adizero Boston.
We’ve been testing this shoe for several months now, and we found the Boston to be an excellent forefoot striker’s shoe. Though the Boston has an 8 mm heel-to-toe drop, the forefoot stack has a higher percentage of the Lightstrike Pro foam.
Thus, most of adidas’s latest foam compound is accessible to forefoot and midfoot strikers. The stiff tubes under the front guide the foot towards push-offs without wasting energy.
Finally, the ultra-grippy section of the Continental rubber outsole is also available under the forefoot. It’s worth underscoring that despite the Lightstrike Pro foam (TPU blend, we assume), the ride is very stable throughout the loading process.
At $140, the performance feature-laden Boston 10 offers incredible value for money.
2) Brooks Hyperion Tempo
Most people will look at the Hyperion Tempo’s 8 mm heel-to-toe offset and wonder if full-contact landings are doable.
After 50 miles of testing, we can assure you – it is perfectly capable.
Like most running shoes, the heel drop isn’t the only thing that decides how the shoe behaves under various foot-strike patterns. One also has to take the overall midsole and outsole design into account, and this is 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.
It’s also worth mentioning that the midsole edge is almost flush with the upper. This means that there’s no overhang for the foot to catch, thus resulting in a ride behavior that’s friendly for forefoot strikers.
It helps that the outsole has an aggressive lug geometry for excellent traction during landings, transitions, and take-offs. Our full review is here.
3) Saucony Kinvara 13
Though the past Kinvara’s have usually proved to be an excellent choice for midfoot and forefoot landing runners, the Kinvara 12 and 13 are even better.
The Kinvara 12’s midsole and outsole was redesigned to make the ride quality even better. The flared midsole resulted in better overall stability, and a newly introduced groove on the outsole led to an improved transition quality.
Though the forefoot outsole was still (mostly) made out of foam, the better lug definition resulted in improved traction.
The Kinvara 13 is now here, but since it shares the same midsole and outsole with the K-12, nothing has changed – at least from a ride perspective. And no, it does not have the Pwrrun+ insole from the Guide/Ride 15 and Peregrine 12.
A 4 mm heel-to-toe drop means that the forefoot and heel midsole thickness do not differ by a lot. The Kinvara 13’s resilient Pwrrun cushioning (EVA foam) ensures that landings – be it heel or forefoot – are comfortable yet efficient.
The lightweight upper runs true-to-size, and delivers a smooth and secure fit. A partial sleeve keeps the tongue locked in place. Learn more about the Kinvara 13 in our detailed review.
4) Saucony Endorphin Speed V2
At an MSRP of $160, the Saucony Endorphin Speed V2 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.
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.
The 8 mm heel drop is derived from the stack heights of 27.5 mm (forefoot) and 35.5 mm (heel), so there’s abundant cushioning under the forefoot.
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, most of the durable outsole rubber is situated under the forefoot for traction.
The lightweight upper fits true-to-size and is extremely comfortable. Saucony has been knocking out of the park with its near-perfect upper designs.
Our review of the Endorphin Speed V1 will help, as both the V1 and V2 are virtually indistinguishable.
5) Skechers GoRun Razor Excess
Like most Skechers’ shoes that feature the HyperBurst midsole, the GoRun Razor Excess has a high cushioning-to-weight ratio. The last edition of our guide featured the Razor 3 Hyper, so what is the difference between the latter and the Razor Excess?
As the name suggests, the Razor ‘Excess’ is 2 mm taller than the Razor as well as wider. The redesigned midsole in a low heel-to-toe offset of 4 mm works particularly well for midfoot and forefoot strikers due to its supportive and responsive midsole.
These qualities make the Excess an excellent pick as a speed trainer that is lightweight and cushioned.
The articulated geometry of the Goodyear rubber outsole helps achieve a smooth transition cycle while providing confidence-inspiring traction.
Though the upper looks downmarket for the shoe’s $140 price, its offers a secure fit without irritating hot spots.
Category 3: Cushioned long-distance trainers
1) 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 easy on the feet. The now-familiar rocker midsole helps the foot roll through the gait cycle.
The generous application of the outsole rubber adds both durability and traction. This is what sets the Bondi apart from the Clifton; there’s a little more of everything that affects the overall ride and fit character.
The upper too, is the beneficiary of premium trims. The high-density printing and welding adds design depth and functional support; new features like the memory foam collar enhance the overall plushness.
2) Hoka One One Clifton 8
Hoka has refined the Clifton’s upper over the years, but the Clifton 8 has the best upper to date. The mesh is new, and the tongue is plusher than the V7. The heel collar changes to a dual-mesh design for a minor upside in interior comfort.
The ride is marginally firmer under the forefoot due to the outsole design that doesn’t expose as much foam as the V7 did.
The rest of the EVA foam midsole feels familiar – its very cushioned ride excels during high-mileage runs.
Speaking of the midsole, the 5 mm heel offset stack is perfect for all foot-strike patterns. During full-contact or midfoot landings, the flat outsole geometry makes the transitions smooth yet grippy.
When landing forefoot, 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 doesn’t result in slowness.
The max-cushioning doesn’t mean that the shoe is heavy. The Clifton 8 appears bulky, but all that material is stitched, glued, and molded into an 8.9-ounce/252-gram package.
3) 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 Fresh Foam 1080V12 is equally enjoyable as the last year’s V11, with deep cushioning and lively responsiveness blended in equal quantities.
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.