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The softest running shoes

Softest-running_shoes

This article has been updated with current models for May 2020. We’ve replaced the adidas UltraBoost 19 with its updated version. The Hoka Bondi 6, New Balance 1080V10, and the Saucony Triumph 17 are new adds. The Nike Vomero 5 and Vaporfly 4% have been removed.

Chances are, you’ll quickly scroll down to see which shoes are included on this guide.

When you do so, you may be surprised by the omission of the Brooks Glycerin, Asics Nimbus, or the Mizuno Wave Sky.

So why did we leave those out?

The terms soft, cushioned, and padded are often conflated. A cushioned shoe can do what it claims without being soft. A padded shoe may not be necessarily soft – that could simply mean a midsole with a top or bottom layer of cushioning.

There are two qualifiers for a running shoe to be truly soft. At least, that’s how solereview defines it. First, the foam material should compress as soon as you load weight. Two, the midsole made of the said foam should be a high-volume kind.

You must be thinking – what do I need a soft shoe for? I like my runs to feel lively and not be bogged down by softness. This generalization was true five years ago when a soft running shoe was the preferred footwear for easy runs.

But times have changed. Softness comes in various forms – and some are better than the others.

Nowadays, rarely are top-tier cushioning platforms made of EVA foam. Replacing EVA are various hi-tech formulations such as expanded TPU, PEBA, and others which are not only soft but also deliver dependable performance.

Only the New Balance FuelCell Propel, 1080V10, and the Hoka Bondi 6 use an EVA variant – the rest on this guide don’t.

The Brooks Glycerin, New Balance 1080, and the Mizuno Wave Sky are soft and comfortable, but this guide is about the ‘softest’ running shoes – so those models don’t make the cut.

Apart from the softness aspect, this guide focuses on decent – if not great – running shoes.

The list is not in the descending order of softness. Without further ado, here is our pick of the eight softest running shoes:

1) New Balance FuelCell Propel

You want soft, huh? Buy the New Balance FuelCell Propel and be done with it, then.

The FuelCell midsole is soft-cushy from the heel to toe, and the said ride quality is delivered without sacrificing stability. The unique flared design of the midsole creates a supportive base under the foot.

There’s plenty of interior space available inside the upper. That’s good news for wide-footed individuals and for ‘D’ sized runners who want more forefoot room.

2) Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo V2

The Pegasus Turbo V2’s soft ride doesn’t come at the cost of performance. The dual-density foam midsole is very cushioned, very responsive, and very useful. It’s a versatile shoe capable enough for long tempo runs or daily training. If the fit and ride works for you, then it has the potential to become your favorite running shoe.

But there is a catch. The midsole is narrow and flexes in the middle so it doesn’t work for everyone. The V2’s toe-box isn’t as shallow as the V1 – but that’s got more to do with the decreased heel collar padding rather than the last itself.

The Turbo is also a very expensive shoe.

3) New Balance 1080V10

The Fresh Foam midsole finally delivers.

After years of somewhat mediocre ride performance, the V10’s deep cushioning finally succeeds at keeping the feet fresh over long distances.

Making that possible is a high-volume foam midsole and multi-piece outsole that cushions each foot-strike. Fresh Foam is an EVA foam variant, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering a ride experience that is both comfortable and lively.

The redesigned outsole makes use of independent slabs divided by flex grooves. The forefoot outsole is made of soft blown rubber, so this new geometry flexes together with the midsole to elevate the cushioning level.

4) Hoka One One Bondi 6

The Hoka One One brand is arguably the original soft-shoe running brand. They became popular during a time when everyone was coming out of the zero-drop hangover, so they get extra credits for bravery.

If you were to ask someone to quickly name two Hoka shoes, we’re pretty sure that the Bondi and Clifton would be the answer. These models have been long-time ambassadors of Hoka’s maximal cushioning concept. There’s a good reason why a shoe like the Bondi has stood the test of time.

Here, the midsole isn’t pasted to an upper; it’s the other way around – the upper is an afterthought. The Bondi 6 is nearly all foam to ensure a healthy separation between your foot and the road.

This cushioning thickness doesn’t come at the cost of running efficiency. As with most Hoka shoes, the rocker design of the midsole allows quick turnovers. So it is possible for soft cushioning and smooth transitions to coexist, after all.

5) Saucony Triumph 17

The last year’s Saucony Triumph was left out of this list, but the Triumph 17 doesn’t share the same fate.

That’s because the new Triumph is a completely different running shoe than the one it succeeds. The Pwrrun+ foam is a slightly firmer version of the adidas Boost but it’s a lot softer than the Everun midsole used on the Triumph ISO 5.

Not only does the T-17 have a lot of vertical midsole volume, but it’s also wide across the sides. As a result, the lively cushioning is available no matter which part of the shoe you load the weight on.

The e-TPU foam has a non-mushy kind of softness, so this shoe also works for heavier runners.

6) Reebok Floatride Run 2

We want to make it clear that the Floatride Run 2 isn’t a serious performance running shoe. The fit is relatively easygoing and lacks the secure hold of other performance-oriented Reeboks such as the Floatride Run Fast 2. That said, the 2.0’s fit is an improvement over the V1.

Softness is abundant here. The Pebax foam used for the midsole is supremely cushy yet lightweight. As said, this is a shoe which feels at home during runs at relaxed paces; it’s hard to coax the Floatride to do anything else.

7) adidas UltraBoost S&L

The S&L version of the UltraBoost is much more comfortable shoe than the standard version. That’s because the Suede & Leather overlays replace the stiff plastic cage of the original model to improve the upper comfort. The upper is roomier inside due to its non-Primeknit mesh construction.

It shares the full-length Boost foam midsole with the regular UltraBoost, so you get the same cushy softness for high-mileage comfort.

8) adidas UltraBoost 20

Though the UltraBoost doesn’t look as fresh as it did back in 2014, its bag of tricks still work. The full-length Boost midsole has come to be associated with a soft ride that makes multi-hour wearings comfortable.

The UltraBoost 20 has the same midsole as the 19, and that’s good news – you get an identical high-volume foam stack under a redesigned upper. Though the heel is a lot thicker than the forefoot, you’ll find springy softness throughout the length of the shoe.

The new upper is an improvement over the 19. We say this mostly because of the new (and softer) midfoot panels. Instead of applying pressure over the foot, the rubber-like overlays work together with the knit upper to create a smooth fit.

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