These cushioned running shoes are like foot pillows
Some days, you simply need to wrap your foot in something a bit softer.
Our Top Picks: Best Cushioned Running Shoes
|BEST FOR UPTEMPOS Hoka Mach 5||Check Price|
|BEST FOR STABILITY Saucony Guide 15||Check Price|
|BEST FOR LONG RUNS Brooks Ghost 14||Check Price|
|BEST FOR RECOVERY RUNS Hoka Bondi 8||Check Price|
|BEST UPDATE Nike Nike Men’s Air Zoom Pegasus 39 Running Shoes||Check Price|
|BEST FOR WIDE FEET Topo Athletic Phantom 2||Check Price|
|SOFT AND PLUSH New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12||Check Price|
|BEST VALUE Reebok Floatride Energy 3||Check Price|
|BEST FOR TRAILS Hoka Speedgoat 5
|BOUNCY AND RESILIENT Adidas Ultraboost 22
Reviews: Best Cushioned Running Shoes
Choose Your Plush
Best Cushioned Running Shoes manufacturers have created distinctive foams that improve softness and provide a little spring to your step. Brooks’ DNA Loft v3—the plushest, nitrogen-injected edition of the brand’s foam—for example, e air pockets to adjust to your stride while also absorbing shock. To complement its protective Gel cushioning, Asics’ lightweight FlyteFoam Blast+ gives a smooth bounce and energy return. Saucony stream-fuses TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) beads into their Pwrrun+ midsoles to create a very responsive, if somewhat heavier, ride. Hoka mixes their marshmallow-soft Profly+ foam with a rocker-style sole to make turnover fast and agile without sacrificing comfort.
Only One Factor
Our lab tests determine how soft or firm a shoe is in the forefoot and heel—measurements that forefoot and heel strikers should consider when selecting a cushioned trainer. We employ equipment known as an “impact tester.” It uses a mechanical arm to replicate footstrikes by continually applying weight to the shoe’s heel and forefoot. Our lab then records the force of impact and how much the midsole compresses to establish softness ratings. A cushioned shoe is typically a better choice for runners prone to injury or who want more protection and support. Of course, if you’re new to the “running on clouds” experience, gradually increase your pace and mileage as you grow more acquainted with the shoe.
How We Test
ADM SHOES boasts the industry’s most extensive shoe-testing methodology. We conduct real-world wear testing on paved roads, gravel pathways, and rough single track with over 250 local runners of varying skills, ages, and sizes. After running more than 100 kilometers in a month, our testers report back on factors including fit, comfort, performance, and ride. While our testers put the shoes through their paces, the same models are subjected to a battery of mechanical tests in our Shoe Lab, allowing us to objectively quantify cushioning, flexibility, sole thickness, and weight. To evaluate the best of the most cushioned, we integrated lab data and wear-test comments with our own running experience in these shoes.
BEST FOR UPTEMPOS
Hoka Mach 5
After trying on the fourth edition of the sneaker, deputy editor Jeff Dengate wrote in his notes that the Mach 4 is “the greatest Mach yet.” The 5 starts up where the previous one left off. Hoka tinkered with the midsole structure for this upgrade to give the shoe extra giddy-up. The Mach now makes use of bouncy Profly+ foam, a modified version of the previously employed Profly substance. The switch enhances energy return and makes the switch seem somewhat more responsive at high speeds. The early-stage Meta-Rocker (a curved sole shape) hasn’t altered; it still moves you fast from heel to toe. This results in a shoe that is substantially cushioned yet does not make your run a slog. Some people like an enlarged heel pull tab (as shown on the Mach Supersonic) to make sliding your feet in easier, but the omission helps the 5 lose nearly half an ounce in weight.
BEST FOR STABILITY
Saucony Guide 15
The Saucony Guide is the stability version of the Ride, the company’s mainstay everyday trainer. The current generation has innovative technology in the midsole. On the medial side of the shoe, the TPU structure is replaced with a lighter Hollow-Tech post. The ample firm cushioning for extended runs was well received by testers; the Pwrrun midsole is combined with a Pwrrun+ sock liner for maximum plushness. “At no time in the previous several weeks did my legs feel fatigued from clocking regular daily kilometers,” claimed one RW Run Streak tester. “I also observed a speedier pace when wearing the Guide, although expending my typical effort on runs. I was able to get some speed out of these shoes while being comfortable.”
BEST FOR LONG RUNS
Brooks Ghost 14
Brooks deleted the BioMoGo DNA section of the midsole, leaving the Ghost 14 with simply DNA Loft foam, similar to the plusher Glycerin. Our testers discovered that this tweak has no discernible effect on the Ghost’s ride. “It had a wonderful blend of cushioning and stiffness during turnover,” one tester remarked, adding that the Ghost was more responsive than the Glycerin and Adrenaline GTS. The Ghost 14 is also the first carbon-neutral running shoe from the brand. The launching of the Ghost coincided with Brooks’ declaration of its ambition to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.
BEST FOR RECOVERY RUNS
Hoka Bondi 8
The Bondi, Hoka’s softest trainer, receives a new appearance along with some performance and comfort improvements. The midsole material is now lighter and softer than that of the Bondi 7, and the heel has been lengthened and reshaped to improve shock absorption and stability. The top of the shoe has also been updated, with a pillowy tongue, memory foam heel collar, and breathable designed mesh providing a snug yet secure fit. Despite the lighter midsole foam, the shoe weighs 10.8 ounces (men’s size 9), which is somewhat heavier than the Bondi 7. You won’t be reserving this shoe for speed work, but you can rely on its big slab of cushioning and excellent ride for longer runs and workouts.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39
The 39th Peg lives up to its reputation as a competent “workhorse with wings.” This variant, like the Pegasus 38, has a React foam midsole; it’s not as light and bouncy as ZoomX, but it feels medium soft and somewhat flexible. The most noticeable modification to the midsole is the addition of an air unit in the shoe’s heel to complement the one in the forefoot. It provides more lightweight cushioning while also assisting the shoe in losing some of the weight gained in the 38th edition. The Peg 39 seems more competent for both every day kilometers and uptempo workouts in your training cycle now that it is lighter. “Overall, this is a tough trainer for any distance or exercise,” remarked one tester. “I wore the Peg shoe for a long time.” Easy runs (10-12 miles at 8:30 pace), sprint sessions (around 7:00 pace), and everything in between. The 39 seemed softer to me than the prior edition. My only concern is that the toebox is tiny and cramped.”
BEST FOR WIDE FEET
Topo Athletic Phantom 2
The new Phantom retains the original’s characteristics, providing an accommodating fit with enough space. Some testers sneered at the sight of such a large toebox, but they loved how its unusual form avoided black toenails and blisters. The two-piece midsole, however, is the main feature, providing substantial cushioning and shock absorption—ideal for high mileage for runners with an aggressive cadence. “I found the cushioning to be top-notch from front to back,” one tester, who describes himself as a heel striker, remarked. “It was like jogging in a soft moccasin that kept your foot safe and free of undesired motion.” The Phantom’s comfort ranks it with the Brooks Glycerin and Altra Paradigm. Add additional stability elements, such as an external TPU heel counter, a broader base, and a solid lacing system, and you’ve got a well-rounded trainer that locks in your foot and prevents ankle rolling.
SOFT AND PLUSH
New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12
The 1080’s continuous journey is predicated on providing a maximally cushioned shoe with a strong rebound. For the 1080v9, New Balance boosted the Fresh Foam, providing a millimeter of softness underfoot to make the shoe more forgiving. The midsole was improved to Fresh Foam X in the 10th generation, which felt soft (but not marshmallowy); laser-engraving cut off nearly half an ounce from the prior version, making the shoe seem sportier and lighter. Designers altered the upper in v11 to make it stretchier in the forefoot for wider-foot runners. The v12 features even more foam in the midsole, which reduces the continual hammering on your legs and feet when jogging on harsh concrete sidewalks. “These are bright orange Lazy Boy recliners for my feet,” one tester commented of his pair’s comfortable ride (and neon upper). “My feet felt right at home from the first wear; it’s a ‘luxury experience’ for everyday usage.” The more flexible Hypoknit top is also breathable.
Reebok Floatride Energy 3
The “Forever” from Reebok’s entry-level shoe has been dropped, but it retains the finest feature of both the original Floatride Energy and its sequel—the midsole. Floatride Energy Foam offers a dynamic, well-cushioned ride that feels fantastic throughout lengthy workouts as well as tempo runs. The 3 also gets a new, more comfy top that breathes better than its predecessor. The upgraded materials atop a sturdy and grippy full rubber outsole offer the shoe a surprisingly luxurious feel at a very reasonable price range.
BEST FOR TRAILS
Hoka Speedgoat 5
The Speedgoat 5 carries on the reputation of its predecessor as a fast and furious trail monster with sticky lugs and smooth landings. Because some of our testers felt the 4’s cushioning to be excessively pillowy and unresponsive, Hoka also upgraded to a new midsole compound, which helped the shoe save nearly half an ounce in weight. Overall, the new ‘Goat is a protective trail runner that feels lighter and more comfortable than its toughness suggests. “The new mesh has the perfect amount of rigidity and elasticity. “I felt like the shoe enveloped my foot pleasantly and securely instead of restricting my movements as the Speedgoat 4 did,” one tester stated. “Unlike the Speedgoat 4, the Speedgoat 5’s revised tongue is highly forgiving.” “My tongue dug into my ankle.”
BOUNCY AND RESILIENT
Adidas Ultraboost 22
The legendary Ultraboost has turned 22. A team of female runners, designers, and researchers examined foot scan data from across the world to create the women’s model for this iteration. Adidas used their findings to develop a new women’s last with a thinner heel and lower instep. According to the brand’s shoe development team, the Ultraboost 22 also provides higher energy returns—four percent more than its predecessor. The Boost midsole is well-known for its gentle cushioning and long-lasting sturdiness. The 22’s protective ride and feel underfoot impressed testers, particularly those with a history of running-related injuries and strains. “I particularly enjoyed the heel cushioning and midsole bounce,” one tester stated. “Given the thickness of the sole, I was expecting a much squishier experience. However, I was really satisfied with the overall comfort and shock absorption.”