Whether you were a religious runner before the first lockdown or you began pounding around your local park to stave off boredom and try to stay fit, you will know that the shoes on your feet shouldn’t be an afterthought.
They can increase your enjoyment and decrease your injury risk, all of which will make you more motivated to lace up and smash your training goals.
A comfortable, cushioned and secure fit is paramount, as the repetitive nature of running can turn any minor niggle with a shoe into a major issue in no time. The best running shoes also provide a stable base on which to land each time.
In our round-up, we looked for an upper that locks the foot into position so you don’t have to worry about blisters or chafing.
The best shoes will do this without compromising on the dynamism needed to keep moving you forward, offering a discernible energy return from the materials used in the midsole and outsole.
Ultimately, the right shoe will help develop your passion for running, so if you don’t think you’ve found the right match quite yet, or you’re looking for an update on a current favourite, here are the kicks to consider next for your running rack.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Saucony men’s endorphin speed
This is what is called a “takedown” model, put together with similar specs as Saucony’s much-loved endorphin pro, but swapping out some of the more expensive materials. What does remain is the very responsive midsole and outsole, which provides generous amounts of bounce underfoot and the curvature of the sole. This is something Saucony refers to as “speedroll” and really adds to the momentum of a run.
The mesh upper was comfortable and secured the foot well. Even with all these features, the endorphin speed is still a lightweight shoe (221g), which means it’s very versatile and performed just as well when we tried to turn on the speed with some interval work as it did when we took it out for a long haul.
Buy now £155.00, Saucony.com
The first thing you’ll notice about these shoes from the Swiss manufacturer is the striking cloud pods that make up the outsole, providing superb cushioning while keeping the weight of the shoe to just 252g. This is a support shoe, so will interest anyone whose running style isn’t entirely neutral, as the pods do a great job of guiding a runner whose feet roll inward as they run (otherwise known as overpronation) and support them at every stride. The meshed upper is very well padded, almost slipper-like, but just because they’re a support shoe doesn’t mean they wouldn’t suit most running styles given the excellent energy return from the cloud pods.
Buy now £135.00, On-running.com
Under Armour men's flow velociti wind running shoes
The first thing you’ll notice when lacing up is the glove-like mesh upper, which does a great job of allowing the foot to find its optimum position in the shoe and hold it there throughout the run. The flow’s midsole is bursting with energy and no matter what pace you’re at the shoe is always willing you to go faster, which is a treat at any level of experience.
Under Armour has eschewed the traditional rubber sole and instead etched a tread into the midsole, which has kept the weight of the shoe down to 241g, without compromising on the confidence you get from each foot strike. All this is underpinned by Under Armour’s excellent connectivity, that pairs your shoes to the Map My Run app and feeds back all kinds of useful data, from cadence to ground contact time, which can help you improve your form and stay one step ahead of any injuries.
Buy now £140.00, Underarmour.co.uk
Brooks glycerin 19
Glycerins have always been a well-cushioned trainer, but with the 19, Brooks seems to have streamlined the other elements to make it feel like a shoe that is more than capable of achieving good times and distance, while protecting you from the ravages of the road. As expected, the brand’s “DNA loft foam” gave a supremely cushioned ride, and this comfort translates to the upper too, while we never had any problems with the traction offered by the outsole. Lightweight (289g) and durable, this is an excellent update that really moves the shoe forwards.
Buy now £140.00, Brooksrunning.com
Hoka One One men’s mach 4
If it’s speed and stability you’re after for your eventual return to competitive running then Hoka has come up with a terrific update. The brand has made the comfortable upper even more breathable (handy for when you’re hammering out a PB) and tweaked the midsole foam to up the responsiveness you get when you need to turn on the afterburners towards the end of a race. At 232g, it’s lightweight, while also managing to combine plenty of dynamism and just the right amount of cushioning to be comfortable, without feeling that you’re running through a bog.
Buy now £125.00, Hokaoneone.eu
Nike react infinity run flyknit 2
Nike has beefed up the cushioning of this update, while also increasing the “react foam” underfoot to enhance the geometry of the shoe, which gives your foot a smooth transition between heel and toe and adds momentum every time you hit the ground. The design is effective, and we really enjoyed the way it seemed to smooth out our strides and speed up our cadence, while keeping our feet securely positioned in the updated flyknit upper. Breathable, stable, versatile and for just 302g, the weight of the shoe doesn’t detract from the energy it produces.
Buy now £139.95, Nike.com
New Balance fresh foam 1080v11
With the brand’s “fresh foam X” running along the entire sole of the shoe, the v11 will give you plenty of bounce with a honeycombed midsole taking the blows and keeping your feet from suffering from any bumps in the road. The upper has also been tweaked from the v10 to protect and secure the heel and achilles, while also allowing just enough movement when you run to make things comfortable without having to worry about chafing. At 263g, they are lightweight enough to keep legs fresh for a variety of runs.
Buy now £135.00, Newbalance.co.uk
Adidas ultraboost 21
The latest ultraboosts weigh 384g and manage to combine sustainability and suppleness into an upper made from recycled ocean plastic. The upper does a good job of creating a sock-like fit, helped by a lace closure that finishes the job of moulding the shoe to the foot. The midsole, which packs in the brand’s “boost capsules” under the heel, infuses your stride with more energy and bounce, and cushions the foot for long run days. This isn’t just a reboot of a popular shoe; a lot of thought has gone into the redesign to make this a solid upgrade on a running classic.
Buy now £160.00, Adidas.co.uk
Saucony endorphin shift
If you’re after shoes to specifically see you through your day-to-day training, and maybe some recovery runs, then the shift entry in Saucony’s endorphin range could be ideal, as they were one of the most comfortable shoes that we trialled. The upper was loaded with cushioning and comfort, but our feet didn’t feel cramped, and as it only tips the scales at 330g, it didn’t weigh the shoe down. The brand’s “speedroll” sole is great at encouraging good running economy, which could also really benefit rookie runners.
Buy now £130.00, Saucony.com
If you run a little flat-footed and are looking to get a little more bounce into your runs, then the novablast, which uses the brand’s “flytefoam” in the midsole, will launch each foot and really put a spring in your step. Considering the 10mm of extra foam that Asics have added to the shoe, they still offer good stability, minimal weight (263g) and we didn’t feel like we were teetering around when we were out running. On the top of the foam is a nicely designed, cradling upper and on the bottom an outsole that grips well on the roads, even in wetter conditions.
Buy now £120.00, Asics.com
Under Armour men’s HOVR machina 2 colorshift running shoes
This shoe features a mesh upper with a comfortable fit allowing for plenty of foot flexion, and a HOVR foam midsole that tends to get better with every run, as the shoes mould to your feet without losing bounce or energy. At 283g, they won’t weigh you down, and like the Under Armour flow velocitis, they connect to MapMyRun to give you a complete debrief on each running performance.
Buy now £140.00, Underarmour.co.uk
On cloud X
Combining On’s innovative cloud pod outsole with a more rigid speedboard means that you still get comfort and cushioning with every stride, but also a real dynamism that will transfer lots of energy into your next stride. The breathable upper is giving without ever feeling loose, and the fact that everything inside is seamless meant we were never troubled by rubbing niggles, even when we were gone for over an hour.
Buy now £130.00, On-running.com
The verdict: Men's running shoes
Runners of every experience level are looking for a compromise between comfort and performance, and the Saucony endorphin speed ticks both boxes, imparting control and cushioning when running, while responding well when its pure speed you’re after.
For more running gear to help you pick up the pace, read our review of the 6 best running watches 2020