Chances are, you’ll quickly scroll down to see which shoes are included on this guide.
When you do so, you might be surprised by the omission of the Brooks Glycerin, Asics Nimbus, Mizuno Wave Sky, Saucony Triumph, and the Epic React. Ok, the last one – the Nike Epic React – was left out because it hardens in the cold.
And 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 might not necessarily be soft – it could mean a midsole with a top or bottom layer of softness.
There are two qualifiers for a running shoe to be really 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 wondering, why 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 the humble 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 uses an EVA variant – the rest on this guide don’t.
How about Hoka One One? We deliberated including the Bondi 6 but it is too much shoe. The Clifton 6 doesn’t have the cloud-like softness of the Clifton 1. And max-soft as it may be, the Stinson ATR is trail-oriented. Also, Hoka (and Altra) have limited global distribution so the recommendations will not be useful for a lot of our readers.
The guide is laid out in a straightforward way and listed in the order of competence. Besides the softness aspect, the recommendation also needs to be a decent – if not great – running shoe.
The list is not in the descending order of softness. Without further ado, here is pick of the six 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 best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice 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 room for forefoot splay.
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 you can do long tempo runs or daily training in. 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) Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit
The Vaporfly has a full-length Carbon plate inside, but it is one of the softest running shoes you can buy. The ZoomX foam is soft and lightweight, and you can feel the responsive squish underneath with every step.
Keep in mind that the Vaporfly is best used for faster-paced runs rather than walks or slow workouts. The stiff forefoot performs optimally under a certain pace range – read our detailed review for more.
4) Reebok Floatride Run 2.0
We want to make it clear that the Floatride Run 2.0 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. 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.
5) adidas UltraBoost S&L
The S&L version of the UltraBoost is a far 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.
6) adidas UltraBoost 19
We like what adidas has done with the Ultra Boost 19. It’s got an improved upper which cuts down on the use of molded plastic – both over the midfoot and heel. On the outside, that leads to less clutter. On the inside, the upper is a better place to be – the knit covering has a comfortable and easy-going fit.
A familiar sight greets you under the new upper. The midsole has high-volume Boost and nothing else, thus making the ride very soft and easy on the feet. A butterfly clip clasps both the upper and the midsole to improve stability.
There’s a good reason why the UltraBoost 19 features last on this guide. It is a very soft shoe but it takes performance running less seriously than the others on this list. The UltraBoost 19 should be one of the many shoes in your rotation because it’s not very versatile.
Wear it on easy days at relaxed paces – that’s pretty much that the shoe is good for.
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