The best running shoes for forefoot and midfoot strikers

by Solereview editors

This article has been updated with current models for December 2020. The Nike Structure 22 has been replaced with its updated version. The Nike Pegasus Turbo V2 has 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 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 in spreading 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 a lack of 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 to avoid 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. 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 factors 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 is present on this guide.

Most beveled heel designs work well for ground-contact landings. The New Balance 1080V10 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.

Now that we’ve done with the pre-guide spiel, let’s get into 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 stability shoes like the Brooks Transcend and Nike Structure to lightweight trainers such as the Skechers Razor 3.

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

2) Brooks Transcend 7

Be it the front or rear, the Brooks Transcend 7 has a lot of midsole. This makes sure that there’s plenty of cushioning regardless of the footstrike pattern. The forefoot is also shod with a blown rubber outsole, a factor that helps with traction and non-jarring landings.

The overall quality of transition is smooth due to the single-density midsole and the full-contact outsole. The Transcend is a stability shoe, so the midsole is very supportive throughout its length.

Also see: The Brooks Beast 20.

3) Brooks Levitate 3

The unusual Polyurethane (DNA AMP) midsole makes the Levitate 3 a unique running shoe. Nothing has changed in the ride quality since we reviewed the first edition, so if you already have the V1 or V2, you’ll feel right at home.

A softer Polyurethane core is encased inside a shiny TPU ‘skin’. This gives the Levitate its characteristic vertically-biased cushioning and the stability required during landings.

Forefoot strikers will discover the responsive pop from the firm DNA AMP with each landing. Hard-wearing strips of rubber provide dependable traction and protect the PU midsole.

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 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.

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 1080V10

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.

Thus, the 1080 is the perfect long-distance cruiser for forefoot and midfoot strikers who also like their uppers to be spacious. Wide and extra-wide widths are optional.

The Fresh Foam midsole got a new lease of life with the last year’s 1080V9. The V10 is equally enjoyable, with deep cushioning and lively responsiveness blended in equal measures.

9) Nike Air Zoom Structure 23

With its plush 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 is more consistent from the heel to toe. The supportive upper holds the foot in place during landings and transitions.

11) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit

The React Infinity Run looks similar to the Epic React 2, but there are notable differences. One of them is the higher-volume midsole that flares out wide under the forefoot and heel.

This geometry makes forefoot landings cushioned and supportive; it helps that there’s ample outsole rubber under the front.

A word of caution though – there’s a lot of foam softness so the React Infinity is best used for linear road running. The stability isn’t great when running on uneven surfaces.

12) Saucony Kinvara 11

A 4 mm heel-to-toe drop attests that the forefoot and heel midsole thickness do not differ by a lot. The Kinvara 11’s resilient Pwrrun cushioning ensures that landings – be it heel or forefoot – are comfortable yet efficient.

The forefoot midsole also has a wide flare so the landings and transitions feel planted during the gait cycle.

13) Saucony Freedom 3

Besides the popular Kinvara 11, the Freedom 3 is another running shoe from Saucony with a 4 mm drop.

But there’s a big difference – the Freedom’s midsole is made of the Pwrrun+, an expanded Polyurethane foam that is also used on the Triumph 17. This makes the ride more responsive during landings.

The ‘crystal rubber’ outsole is another distinguishing feature on the Freedom. This firm outsole is ultra-durable, thus making the Freedom’s $150 price tag somewhat bearable.

14) Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper

Like most Skechers’ shoes that feature the HyperBurst midsole, the Razor 3 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.

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

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