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The best running shoes for forefoot and midfoot strikers


This article has been updated with current models for May 2020. The Brooks Transcend 7, Levitate 2, Saucony Kinvara 10, and Freedom ISO 2 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Nike React Infinity Run is a new addition. The Nike Vaporfly 4% and Zoom Rival 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 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 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 low drop shoe? 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 needs 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.

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 thirteen 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) 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 landing zone. The forefoot is also shod with a soft blown rubber outsole, something that also helps with non-jarring landings while gripping effectively.

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.

2) 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 while allowing it to be stable during landings.

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

3) Hoka One One Bondi 6

Here’s a max-cushioned shoe that doesn’t feel lethargic, thanks to its rocker-shaped midsole. The midsole is wide throughout its length, and this geometry makes the shoe stable and cushioned regardless of the footstrike pattern.

The midfoot outsole is bridged on the medial side for smooth transitions during the gait cycle. If you think that the Bondi has too much midsole, then the next shoe – the Clifton 6 – could be just the thing.

4) Hoka One One Clifton 6

If you want to test waters with Hoka’s maximally-cushioned footwear, then the Clifton 6 is a good place to start. Like most of Hoka One One’s line, the Clifton 6 broad outsole footprint provides adequate stability during running.

You also get the transition-friendly rocker midsole for quick roll-offs and all the cushioning one needs for longer runs. The Clifton’s 5 mm heel offset also complements midfoot-striking.

Also see: The Hoka One One Rincon

5) New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon V2

This 6 mm drop shoe is a versatile trainer that weighs less than 8-ounces. The single-density Fresh Foam has a medium-soft cushioning that can be used for daily training as well as faster workouts.

We recommend the Beacon due to its consistent midsole character with an even spread of cushioning. The wide forefoot midsole packs lots of Fresh Foam for planted yet cushioned landings.

6) New Balance FuelCell Rebel

The FuelCell Rebel has all the tell-tale signs of the quintessential forefoot striker’s shoe.

The heel outsole is noticeably slimmer than the forefoot, and the latter even gets the FuelCell insert. The midsole base is flared from the midfoot to the forefoot.

If it isn’t already obvious, runners who land mid to forefoot stand to benefit from what’s abundant in the front. Namely, the cushioning, the midsole flare, the wide footprint, and the FuelCell insert.

7) New Balance 1080V10

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

Not everyone is sold on the Hoka uppers, so the 1080 is the perfect long-distance cruiser for forefoot and midfoot strikers who also like their uppers to come in widths.

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 mixed in equal measures.

8) Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo V2

This is no Vaporfly, and yet the Pegasus Turbo’s has a midsole very amendable to non-rearfoot strikers. When we cut open the Turbo V1 – which has the midsole has the V2 – we discovered that the forefoot has a higher ZoomX to React foam ratio than the heel.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Turbo’s forefoot feels very forgiving and fatigue-resistant over long miles. The dual-density midsole also feels very efficient and offers decent levels of support.

Also see: The Nike Pegasus 37.

9) Nike Air Zoom Structure 22

Unlike some Nike models, the Structure 22 has Zoom Air only under the forefoot. So what’s the takeaway? This stability shoe has a firm ride with a bit of responsive pop in the front.

Even with the Zoom Air bag, the midsole doesn’t have much compression ‘give’ so it’s an efficient shoe no matter how you land.

10) 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.

11) Saucony Kinvara 11

A 4 mm drop means that the forefoot and heel midsole thickness doesn’t vary 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.

12) 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.

13) 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.

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