Lace on one of these models to add some spring to your step.
As both race flats and everyday trainers, the best lightweight running shoes have gone a long way. For example, to conserve ounces, you used to have to sacrifice some padding; this is no longer the case. Supportive and even fully cushioned shoes may now weigh far under eight ounces thanks to innovative midsole foams and top materials. This collection includes pairs that cater to every cushioning and support desire. The ten selections below are the razor-thin racers, cushy long-run-capable trainers, and trail shoes that most wowed our crew with their feather-light weights and remarkable performance out of the hundreds of pairs we test each year at Runner’s World.
Our Top Picks: Best Lightweight Running Shoes
|Most Stable New Balance FuelCell Prism v2||Check Price|
|Best for Race Day Asics MetaRacer||Check Price|
|Best Daily Trainer Hoka Rincon 3||Check Price|
|Best for Trails VJ Spark||Check Price|
|Best Zero-Drop Altra Rivera||Check Price|
|Most Versatile New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2||Check Price|
|Best for Speedwork Brooks Hyperion Tempo||Check Price|
|Most Cushioned Skechers Gorun Maxroad 5||Check Price|
|Most Affordable Saucony Kinvara 12||Check Price|
|Best Road-to-Trail Hoka Zinal||Check Price|
Reviews: Best Lightweight Running Shoes
It’s a Science
Lightweight shoes simply provide greater running performance that feels more effortless. Carrying less weight on your feet can result in reduced energy expenditure and better form and biomechanics, both of which enhance stride economy and efficiency. By researching stride and gait patterns, employing impact-measuring sensors, and developing custom foams that return more energy with each footstrike, brands have perfected their newest lightweight running shoes. In brief, advances in design, chemistry, and biomechanics have resulted in shoes that can help you run faster and farther—or, at the very least, make you feel lighter on your feet while doing so.
How We Tested
According to our RW Shoe Lab research, the shoes listed below are the lightest in the group, and each pair provides some protective padding underfoot. Experiential testing was also a key consideration in our choice of the finest lightweight trainers. Over 250 local wear-testers completed over 100 miles in each of the shoes on this list to measure ride, durability, comfort, and responsiveness.
New Balance FuelCell Prism v2
Stability shoes are a vanishing breed, but they are not yet extinct. They’re also not merely for slogging along: Consider the Prism, a lightweight, stable speedster ideal for track workouts, tempo runs, and even racing. While this sort of lightweight stability shoe was once more common, certain firms continue to provide decent solutions. (Asics’ Gel-DS Trainer 26, Topo Athletics’ Ultrafly 3, and Saucony’s Fastwitch 9 are all worth a look.) The initial Prism was overly soft, but the second generation is much more refined. It’s soft yet not squishy. Some testers report that it feels firm but provides all the cushioning required. “As a competitive runner with incredibly flat feet, some shoes might be painful when running.” “But I’ve gone through all of my exercises without any trouble in these shoes, even after putting 200 miles on them,” one of our collegiate wear-testers noted.
—BEST FOR RACE DAY—
Just when you thought Asics’ reputation was limited to dependable everyday trainers, the company releases the MetaRacer, its first carbon-fiber-plated racing shoe. It combines a rocker-style midsole with a forceful toe spring to assist prevent superfluous ankle movement, saving runners energy. This, along with a carbon-fiber plate in the forefoot, aids in stride efficiency. So, when you’re searching for that second-half pace in a marathon, you’ll still have enough gas to negative split. It also helps that the shoe is incredibly light, weighing around the same as the standard Nike Vaporfly. “Normally, Asics’ cushioning feels far too soft for me—but they were comfortable enough to finish 26.2 miles without being too plush,” remarked one tester. “And Wow, I felt fast—like I was ready to sign up for a huge race.”
—BEST DAILY TRAINER—
Hoka Rincon 3
Since the original Rincon debuted in 2019, it has been a runner-up favorite. It embodies everything we love about Hoka without being a regular Hoka. It’s cushioned to the max, but has a more streamlined profile—rather than the classic hulky Hoka exterior—and is designed for everyday runs, speed work, and even racing. The new mesh top weighs 0.3 ounces less and is considerably more breathable than prior editions, making this multipurpose trainer lighter than previous generations. The curved sole, which Hoka refers to as an early-stage Meta-Rocker, aids in smooth turnover.
—BEST FOR TRAILS—
The lugs on the Spark aren’t as long or as sharp as those on a pair of YakTrax, but they provide some of the finest grips we’ve tried. How? The outsole of the Spark is made of 100 percent butyl rubber, which allows it to handle slippery terrain thanks to its tacky hold and general flexibility. The shoe is meant to be ultralight and quick, so while there isn’t enough cushioning for an ultramarathon, the foam underfoot feels enough for trail runs and obstacle events. No, the rather ordinary thick EVA midsole falls short of the latest bouncy nitrogen-injected TPU products. However, you do not purchase the Spark for its cushioning. You buy it for the grip to speedily sidestep roots and rocks, or even to leap an OCR fire pit and mount a rope wall. “I ran with a friend in the Adirondacks who was wearing the Spark,” said deputy editor Jeff Dengate. “He was clinging to the damp rocks of Giant Mountain like a gecko. We had 5,000 feet of vertical gain in the first seven miles and a 3,000 foot down in the last three miles, so it was a little risky.”
We sped down straightaways in Altra’s Rivera, which has taken the place of the Torin Mesh (both shoes have 26mm stack heights). It feels like you’re jogging barefoot, with just enough protection underfoot to keep errant pebbles at bay. A modest layer of cushioning is provided by the bouncy Ego midsole. The Rivera’s spacious toe box keeps your toes from feeling cramped, and reviewers appreciated the smooth top for its comfortable, hotspot-free fit. Please take your time breaking in these zero-drop sneakers. After a mile, one of our editors scraped her knee after collapsing on the sidewalk, but she got back up and ran five more.
New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2
The Rebel is all about energy return, which makes it an excellent choice for uptempo training. The original Rebel performed far above average in our lab testing for energy return, and New Balance believes the v2 is even more responsive, so you should anticipate a lively sneaker. It’s constructed with FuelCell foam for a snappy underfoot sensation, and it has a new mesh top for maximum ventilation and weight savings.
—BEST FOR SPEEDWORK—
Brooks Hyperion Tempo
The Hyperion Tempo is the “training shoe” to the Hyperion Elite 2, although it may also be used as a racing trainer. The shoe is reasonably cushioned, responsive, and less expensive than its $250 equivalent. Although it lacks a carbon-fiber plate, its DNA Flash midsole, which is constructed of nitrogen-infused foam, provides excellent bounce. Tempo also has an advantage in terms of size. The shoe is available in both men’s and women’s sizes, resulting in a more tight, true-to-size fit for ladies (in contrast to the unisex-sized Elite).
Skechers GOrun Maxroad 5
Skechers is always innovating with its performance running shoes, bringing high-tech materials to its whole portfolio after they’ve proven themselves on lighter, faster versions used by elites like Meb and King Ches. Its HyperBurst foam has been extensively used, but another innovation is working its way down the line, all the way to the Maxroad: an H-shaped carbon-infused plate. Skechers used carbon in their thickest sole, resulting in a more stable and dynamic long-run shoe. At slower speeds, it supports the forefoot by stiffening the platform; at quicker speeds, it adds a little pop on toe-off. One wear-tester, an overpronator who runs 45 miles per week at roughly 7:45 pace and had lauded the cushioning of the GOrun Razor Plus, commended the cushier Maxroad. “This shoe supported me in the correct places, gave me a spring in my stride for speed sessions, and kept its bounce throughout my long runs,” she explained.
Saucony Kinvara 12
With its 12th iteration, the Kinvara has returned to its roots. The Kinvara 12 has a greater rebound and rides quicker than the Kinvara 11. It is lighter and more flexible than the Kinvara 11. Saucony accomplished this by modifying the Pwrrun foam’s blend of EVA and polymers to increase energy return. This increases the responsiveness of the midsole while also providing a slightly firmer feel. A narrow layer of softer TPU-based Pwrrun+ foam lies closest to your foot to counteract some of that rigidity, keeping the shoe comfortable as a daily trainer—long runs included.
Hoka’s Zinal trail shoe is surprisingly light for a trail shoe—think of it as the brand’s Rincon on the trail. During testing, we discovered that the Zinal performed particularly well for short, quick runs. The obnoxious features, like rock plates, gaiter attachments, and higher lugs, have been dropped in favor of a faster, more nimble underfoot feel. The shoe’s nonaggressive tread (the Zinal has 4mm lugs) makes it a real hybrid for road and trail runs.