Whether you’re an experienced runner who pounds the pavements and parks on a daily basis or you’re just starting out on a Couch to 5k programme, the running footwear you choose is a decision you should not take lightly.
Making the right choice is vital, as running shoes these days are available in all different shapes, sizes, colours - and prices. Some are designed for speed, some for off-road, while others give extra support or stability. Sometimes the choices can be overwhelming, and you might not know where to start.
The UK running shoe market is worth nearly £3bn a year and there’s thousands of pairs to choose from. Comfort is one of the most important elements for both seasoned runners and athletes alike.
How do you find the right running trainers?
If you’re buying your first pair of running trainers, you might want to analyse your gait (it’s less complicated than it sounds). Your running gait is the way that your foot moves while walking or running and this determines how efficiently you run. If you’d like to get your gait analysed, head to an expert running shop or go online.
Peloton Instructor, Susie Chan says: “It’s so important to choose the right trainers, I recommend going into a running shop and trying them on. Not only will they be the best fit, but having the right trainers for your gait helps prevent potential injuries.
“I am a bit of a fan of the same or similar shoes once you have found what works for you. So maybe a trail version or the road shoes if you are taking running off the pavements.”
Jessica Judd, a middle-distance and cross country runner, adds: “Running is such an accessible and inclusive sport, all you need is a good pair of shoes and some kit and you’re set. That being said, you can’t underestimate the importance of comfort, cushioning and responsiveness in relation to injury prevention and good performance.”
For this review, each pair of trainers has been rigorously tested over a series of 5km and 10km routes around parks, streets and even a few Parkruns. At times they’ve even been wrestled away from me by a fashion-conscious teenager trying to sneak them into his school bag for a PE lesson.
Shop the best below
Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
Springy is an insufficient word for these shoes. The Endorphin Speed 2 makes you feel like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh bouncing through the Hundred Acre Wood. They’re ultra-light, weighing just 224g and are prefect for whether you’re running a 5k or a full marathon.
Built with Saucony’s new Speedroll Technology (which propels you forward, so you can run faster, not harder) and an engineered mono-mesh which keeps the upper light and breathable, it feels like you’re running on air (sort of) which in turn, makes those miles effortless.
The only downside to the shoe is that it can be slippery under foot in wet conditions compared to its competitors but this should not deter you from the trainer. It is available in up to seven different colours.
Buy now £155.00, Saucony
adidas Solarglide 5
With this new shoe in the Solarglide family, adidas aims to provide the runner with an extra energy return from the moment your foot hits the floor. The shoe features a new ‘Bubble Boost’ midsole that contains tiny capsules said to “boost” your run that feels like an extra energy burst with each step taken.
Previously the Ultraboosts have been my go-to shoe from adidas but my head has now been turned by this sleek new addition. The shoe’s upper is built with a high-performance yarn which contains at least 50 per cent Parley Ocean Plastic - material made from reclaimed marine plastic waste.
Available in up to nine different colours, make sure you order an extra half a size up as they tend to come up on the smaller side.
Buy now £120.00, adidas
New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12
Personally I’ve never really considered New Balance as running shoe but the new Fresh Foam X trainer is a revelation. New Balance claims “whether you’re training for world-class competition, or catching a rush hour train, the versatile application of the 1080’s technological features allow you to do something more: more miles, more often, more comfortably” - and it certainly lives up to the hype.
The lightweight shoe sits on a chunky Fresh Foam X midsole with “bounce, maximum comfort with every step”. It has a tough rubber outsole for extra grip for whatever weather conditions you chose to run in and it’s neatly finished off with the signature New Balance branding.
The shoe feels comfortable with every step, even if you’re dashing off on the school run or heading out for a 10km around your local streets, they’re designed with comfort and style in mind (although you’ll need a snazzy pair of socks to co-ordinate with the orange pair).
Available in either standard black or vibrant orange, you’ll certainly make a statement in these brightly coloured shoes. The Fresh Foam X also meets New Balance’s green leaf standards as 50 per cent or more of the materials are environmentally sourced.
Buy now £145.00, New Balance
Hoka Carbon X3
The Hoka shoe runs in the higher price bracket of the trainer market and is aimed at the more experienced runner. The X3 is an upgrade on the previous X2 with a significant difference as the midsole is now lighter and springier than before.
Another big noticeable change is the update to the knitted upper on the shoe, similar to its competitor the adidas Ultraboost, this now serves as huge advantage as it weighs in at 257g with the carbon being immersed within the sole. Although there are other brands on the market with a thicker foam sole, this feels as competitive as it gets if you’re looking for comfort.
Hoka claim is that it’s “delivering an even more propulsive ride from its predecessor through an energised new foam midsole, the new Carbon X 3 launches off the line with a brand new upper”.
These shoes can be used for training as well as racing and also offer comfort and support wherever your travels take you. Available in Blue Coral, Billowing Sail (off-white) and Radiant Yellow (which appears to be orange), you’re paying a higher price for a complete running shoe.
Buy now £160.00, Hoka
Swiss brand On have broken the mould when it comes to aesthetics of running shoes and they push this narrative even further with their latest version of the Cloudmonster shoe.
Breaking new ground with their CloudTec elements (which are the hollow pods in the midsole), they’re so big you can almost get your finger through it and it makes for a unique-looking running shoe from the specialist brand.
These shoes are incredibly comfortable. While they also are at the higher end of the price bracket, when you see the bounce and kick back of the foam sole, it shows why.
The upper of the shoe lets the top of your foot breathe and contains a mesh material with just the right amount of give as you run. This is also very soft on the top of your foot inside the trainer. There’s also a nod to their country of origin with a tiny Swiss flag sewn in at the back of the shoe.
The men’s version of this shoe is slightly heavier weighing 275g but On promises “extremely soft landings and maximum rebound, for energy return you won’t believe”. The trainer comes in Acai/Aloe (purple) or Frost/Surf (which is white) and also fits true to size.
Buy now £160.00, On
Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit
The Nike Invincible Run Flyknit running shoe is the first of its kind from the sportswear giant using the ZoomX foam (the foam cushioning that uses cutting-edge engineering to give you the greatest possible energy return) on a trainer without carbon embedded within the sole.
The carbon element in shoes such as the Vaporfly gives you greater stability - remove this and it could be a problem, but not with this shoe. The wider base of the foam sole gives you maximum stability and strength in your stride for a more comfortable and steady run.
The stack of the shoe (total amount of shoe material between your foot and the ground) is big, rising to a whopping 3.6cm at the heel making you feel like a running giant as you hit the streets.
Although the shoe does look larger than your average running trainer, you can’t tell as you rack up the mileage, and is surprisingly light and comfortable when you’re out on those long runs. Despite being at the higher end of the price bracket, I feel these shoe are worth every pound for each mile logged.
Buy now £165.00, Nike
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
Being known as the reliable and go-to shoe of the running community, Brooks is back with an update to one of its most popular trainers and they’ve got a fresh new look. The Adrenaline shoe enters its 22nd year on the market and features the GuideRails technology (which helps you run comfortably by keeping excess movement in check). It’s located in the midsole and “engineered with your knees in mind”.
You can’t go wrong with this trainer, the fit is true to size, it has phenomenal grip on the sole, and is consistent in all conditions. They’re also available in nine different colours and even a wide medium or an extra wide fit.
The shoes are a little heavier than others - weighing 289g - but if you’re not happy Brooks will let you return the shoe after 90 days.
Buy now £130.00, Brooks
Asics Gel-Cumulus 24
The Gel-Cumulus trainer is now on to its 24th version of the shoe which rivals its siblings (the Nimbus and Kayano) and to say it’s a staple of the Asics family is an understatement.
The Cumulus 24 is a solid performer in the market made for miles that maximise comfort on those long hard runs and they keep your legs feeling fresh regardless of distance. The shoes fits perfectly, it’s true to size and is ideal for whether you’re just starting out or veterans of the running world.
Tomohiro Nagasue, Product Development at ASICS said: “At ASICS we understand the challenges that runners face every time they run and are committed to providing runners with the highest level of performance and protection, to help uplift their body and mind.”
They’ve been designed to increase comfort as the bottom of the shoe now features a vastly improved heel fit and foam underfoot, allowing for a smoother run while you’re hitting the streets and pavements.
These shoes are built to last and well worth the reasonably priced outlay compared to other trainers available and with the new technology it now makes the shoe approximately 24 grams lighter than its predecessor.
Buy now £130.00, Asics
Veja Condor 2 X Ciele
Veja, the sustainable shoe company that can count Meghan Markle and Emma Watson as fans have released their latest foray into the running trainer market. The VEJA X Ciele Condor 2 is made in collaboration with Ciele Athletics, a Montreal sportswear company that right now, is on-brand with trendsetting runners across the globe.
The shoe (and Veja) lives up to its reputation and nothing is compromised, especially comfort, given they’re mostly constructed from plastic bottles.
With the uppers being made of recycled plastic, the Alveomesh uppers (Alveomesh is a technical fabric made out exclusively of recycled polyester) they’re light and breathable so that the excess heat drains away from your feet during your run.
The soles of this running shoe are crafted from a combination of sugar cane and polyester with the colours ‘inspired by a sunset run through Paris and Montreal’ and both cities being home to the respective brands.
Whether if you are an athlete or adventurer of any kind, this shoe is sturdy, solid and perfect for the combination of roads or trail running under any weather conditions, the only thing you won’t want to do is dirty the shoes as it can also be worn for any occasion.
Buy now £146.00, Veja