The best running shoes for forefoot and midfoot strikers

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 on the road.

This article has been updated with current models for September 2022. The adidas Boston 10 and Saucony Endorphin Speed V2 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Nike Pegasus 39 is a new addition. The Asics Novablast 2, New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2, and Nike Structure 24 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 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 footstrike 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.

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. 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 New Balance 1080 V12 exists on this guide, yet the Nike ZoomX Invincible 2 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:

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 Brooks Hyperion Tempo.

For ease of use, we’ve grouped the running shoes by their use case.

Category 1: Daily neutral trainers

1) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39

The previous edition of this guide featured the Structure 24, but we’ve replaced it with the Pegasus 39. Our comprehensive review explained what made the newest Pegasus a better running shoe, but here’s the gist in the context of this guide.

The cushioned React midsole and its dual Zoom Air bags are excellent for forefoot and midfoot strikers.

The Zoom Air on the Nike Pegasus 39.

There’s a lively Zoom Air bag under the heel and forefoot for a balanced cushioning feel.

The forefoot outsole of the Nike Pegasus 39.

The full coverage outsole of the Pegasus 39 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 39’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 the heel to toe.

The Flywire lacing of the Nike Pegasus 39.

The Flywire cords connect to the laces for a secure midfoot fit.

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

2) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 3

We did not have a very high opinion of the React Infinity V3, but this shoe has its strengths. One of them happens to be its forefoot and midfoot strike-friendly road manners.

The bevel heel of the Nike React Infinity Run 3 Flyknit.

The rubber outsole of the Nike React Infinity Run 3 Flyknit.

The liberal rubber coverage maximizes the contact surface.

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.

The Nike React Infinity 3 in a park.

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 V3 good for the occasional quick workout.

Though the true-to-size upper is comfortable enough, just know that it has a shallow toe-box and less-than-perfect heel fit.

3) 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 will be plenty of cushioning under the foot.

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 midsole has a wide base, so that 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.

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.

4) 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 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.

Category 2: Speed trainers and racers

5) Adidas Boston 11

The release of the adizero Boston 10 and adios 6 raised a few eyebrows last 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.

The removable insole of the adidas adizero Boston 10.

adidas adizero Boston 10 Energy Rods

The ‘Energy rods’ of the Boston 10.

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 was also equipped with the ‘Energyrods’ – a set of three tubes that add transition-friendly stiffness.

Only the snug, classically-styled racer upper felt familiar. The synthetic suede and spacer mesh exterior is a visual throwback to the retro adizero Boston.

adidas adizero Boston 10 Continental outsole

Not a lot has changed between the adidas Boston 10 and 11, as both versions share the same midsole. Only the upper gets a few tweaks. Though the Boston 11 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.

adidas adizero Boston 10 Continental outsole

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 11 offers great value for money.

6) 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.

Midsole material of the Brooks Hyperion Tempo

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.

7) Low-profile trainer: 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 were 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.

The Saucony Kinvara 13 on the pavement.

The Kinvara 13 is one of the most popular trainers with a 4 mm heel drop.

The tongue overlay of the Saucony Kinvara 13.

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.

The 4 mm offset midsole of the Saucony Kinvara 13.

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 under the 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.

8) Marathon shoe: 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 various aspects of this marathon racer.

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.

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.

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