Best Cushioned Running Shoes – 2021 Buyers Guide
Brands such as Hoka One One and Brooks are known for their high level of cushioning, but there are some other brands that have some pretty killer cushioning systems in their lineup. We made sure to select designs that utilize EVA midsoles that are not only springy but durable as well. Whether you want to go far or fast, we have included shoes that check all the necessary boxes.
In this guide, we have selected some of the best cushioned running shoes to transform hard sidewalks into fluffy clouds.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When it comes to comfort, it’s all about the cushion.
Will your feet feel like they are on clouds when you run in them? Do you want a triple layer of foam, or do you prefer gel cushioning? The amount of cushioning preference typically varies by user. A cushion is kind of a general term when it comes to running shoes, as their many different types of cushioned designs out there.
Even more so than just a few years ago, thanks to new developments in materials and technology, we are seeing a lot more interest in cushioning when it comes to running shoes for the heavier people out there. One thing to keep in mind these days is that a shoe design doesn’t necessarily need to be giant or bulky to provide more than adequate amounts of the cushion.
Take the footwear company On as an example. Their Cloud series isn’t what most would call a maximalist design, although they have figured out a way to offer decent cushioning within a pretty average mass. On the other hand, we have companies like Hoka and Altra. Both tend to produce models that mostly sport bulkier soles, which usually scream “comfortable ride” just at the sight of them.
The bulky sole isn’t for everyone and may take some time to get used to if switching from a lower profile model. For different tastes, running styles, and general personal preferences, we chose selections for our list which cover both ranges. If you are in the market for a runner that offers to cushion, well then you aren’t going to want a minimalist model of running shoes.
The idea is to find a shoe that is well ventilated and allows your feet to breathe easily.
This is typically provided by the upper materials of the shoe with holes in the fabric. This is obvious to most. More holes mean more airflow. But, with new advances in materials, we are starting to see uppers constructed of textiles and fabrics which don’t always have to look like a fishing net to allow plenty of air to move through.
With new styles such as knit construction and breathable membrane-type fabric, a shoe’s upper might not always appear as breathable as it is when used. Breathability is something important for a few different reasons. The first is overall comfort. It is horrible when you get halfway through your run and start to feel your sweaty feet move around.
This is because of the moisture that has built up from not having enough airflow to escape or evaporate. The second is the bacteria. With moisture building up and nowhere to go, the sweat will soak into the interior of your shoes. This will eventually start to stink quite a bit. The odor is coming from the bacteria which forms from old sweat that wasn’t able to escape during your run.
This could even result in foot fungus or other nasty foot issues. Another reason why breathability is so important, besides hygiene and comfort, is the fact that in some footwear moisture will eventually affect the structure of the shoe. And, we already mentioned that smell.
When you get a running shoe it’s imperative that it flexes properly when you run.
There’s nothing worse than a stiff shoe that won’t move to your every movement. Really, who wants to go on a long run with something that feels like a stiff board strapped to the bottom of your feet. Along with comfort, the model’s flexibility can affect your stride if your feet are kept from functioning correctly.
This, of course, means that your efficiency could be negatively affected. Taking into account the different styles we have gathered in our list, flexibility becomes something that differs some per model. The thicker soled models will have, in most cases, slightly less or a different range of flexibility. Then looking at the models which are of lower profile design, the flexibility will usually be a bit freer, as the soles are not as thick.
However, with newer technologies in rubber and foam materials, the flexibility found in those thicker shoes is still much more giving than earlier models.
There’s nothing worse than having toes that are all squished together.
Having adequate room in a toe box is essential. If your toes are cramped it could cause unnecessary foot pain or blisters. We’ve gone through these cushioned shoes to determine which shoes have a roomy toe box and which ones run a bit narrow.
If you are looking for a regular fit, but want a wider toe box, we added two choices from Altra. This brand is known for its “FootShape” design, which offers an anatomical fit around the toes to allow the more natural function of the forefoot.
Pointy toe running shoes is not exactly a feature that many want with their running shoes. However, those models with wide toe boxes aren’t for everyone either. At the end of the day, you need to understand your foot type and what your comfort needs are.
Depending on how much you run, you’ll need to buy new running shoes.
Typically, male runners need to buy a new pair of running shoes every few months. A good pair of shoes should last between 400 and 600 miles. We want you to know if these shoes meet those criteria as far as durability goes, or if they will likely wear earlier or last even longer.
Will the outsole wear quicker than expected, or the upper fray more easily? These are the things we consider when choosing our top 10. Durability doesn’t just factor into distance or gender. Where you tend to run matters quite a bit as well. The terrain or particular surface affects the longevity of your footwear’s lifespan.
If a specific model is meant for light or moderate trails, then it most certainly needs to be able to stand up to those expected conditions. If a shoe is meant for long distances over a hard road, well the best choices should be able to perform well there too. In addition to where another factor that needs to be considered with top picks is the climate in which you usually run.
10 Most Cushioned Running Shoes
1. Hoka One One Bondi 7
The words cushioning and support are synonymous with Hoka One One. This brand of shoes has a reputation of being a little bulky and heavy, but nothing else quite comes close to the level of cushioning and support offered. The reason that we selected the Bondi 7 is that it offers the highest level of cushioning and support for those that need a little something extra.Read more
The most notable feature of the Bondi 7 is the construction of the very thick midsole. It is composed of a super thick layer of EVA foam. Unlike some of the other options out there on the market, EVA is soft and squishy and doesn’t have the same level of bounce and energy feedback as, say, TPU foam. If you want softness that doesn’t feel rigid, this is an excellent choice.
Now, let’s talk about that upper. When unboxing this big boy, many users are a little shocked by the sheer mass of this design. The upper is composed of a blend of thin mesh that helps the foot breathe in key areas, synthetic overlays for added support, and EVA cushioned collars to provide even more cushioning on the top of your foot as well.
The Bondi 7 is big, but it isn’t the heaviest trainer out there on the market, weighing in at just over 10 ounces. Users are sometimes a little off-put by the sheer mass of this trainer, but it’s hard to match the level of cushioning and support that is offered. It’s a great shoe for heavier runners or running long distances without weighing you down too much.
2. Altra Olympus 4
The Altra Olympus 4 is the perfect option when you need to travel far and want to keep your feet supported. It boasts an incredibly high stack height that adds a little extra spring in your steps, and a lightweight upper that really flexes with your foot. The construction of the lugs makes this a perfect choice for running on trails and transitions easily to sidewalks.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it boasts a 33 mm stack height, which really helps to cushion your foot and is ideal for heel-strikers. It boasts an incredibly thick molded EVA midsole that makes you feel like you are running on a cloud.
As far as durability is concerned, this is one of the toughest trainers out there on the market. The thick EVA cushioning and Vibram rubber outsole makes this a perfect choice for long-distance runners. It also boasts a wide toe box, which gives your foot plenty of room to move while the flexible upper and unique laces boost lockdown.
The combination of the 33 mm stack height, EVA midsole, and Vibram outsole makes this design incredibly cushioned as well as durable. It is an excellent trail runner that transitions easily to sidewalks and provides runners with unmatched stability and support. It clocks in at a pretty steep price point, but the impressive durability makes it an excellent value.
3. Asics Gel-Kayano 27
The Kayano has been a solid shoe since the initial version was released so many years ago. It started out in the time of the bulky white sneaker, now fast forward to today, and what we have is still solid shoes that have been lightened, improved, tweaked, and enhanced.Read more
As far as cushioning goes, the Kayano has it. The responsiveness and support are what this shoe is known for, going back a few versions. The overall comfort and fit of the shoe is spot on for a majority of the runners who have given this one a try.
The grip is also pretty confident, even over various surfaces, including light paths. There is also some decently energizing bounce back in the midsole, which helps with impact resistance.
4. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V11
The Fresh Foam 1080 lineup from New Balance is a shoe that provides users with maximum cushioning and supports that feels like you are running on a cloud. The style of the midsole provides smooth and easy transitions, and the grippy outsole is ideal for staying in tune with the ground under your feet. The biggest change in the 1080 V 11 lies in the upper. This design is much more lightweight and flexible than previous models.Read more
Many cushioned stability trainers can be a little still and bulky because they apply the same level of cushioning to the upper. The latest update to the Fresh Foam series ditches the bulky upper and replaces it with a light, breathable, and flexible upper. This is a great option for runners that love light and easy uppers without sacrificing cushioning.
The midsole still packs all of the supportive features found in previous models. TI is composed of New Balance’s Fresh Foam-X. This material is a modern take on classic EVA foam. The midsole is molded to provide you with extra cushioning in high impact areas to help keep this shoe light and easy.
If you are on the market for something that is a little less block and heavy as other cushioned trainers, this design from New Balance is a great choice. It provides a ton of supportive features in the midsole while keeping the upper light and easy.
5. Brooks Glycerin 19
Looks can be deceiving. This neutral runner has a simple frame, but it is packed with a host of supportive features to provide maximum cushioning. Users found that this simple design can do just about anything. It is a great option for short or long runs and is also a great option for the gym. While it’s not ideal for speed, it is a great everyday trainer when you really want to rack up the miles.Read more
The most notable feature of this design is all of the supportive features found in the midsole. It is composed of Brooks’ DNA LOFT cushioning, which feels lightweight and springy with each and every step. It even hosts extra cushioning in transition zones for an even gait and heightened durability as well.
Users really love the fit of this upper. It is made from a blend of mesh materials and synthetic overlays. The mesh works to lift hot air up and away from the foot to keep your feet cool and dry on long runs. Synthetic overlays help to promote lockdown as well as provide an even and supported ride.
The price tag is a little steep, but when you consider the unmatched durability and support, this design is an excellent value. Runners love that it provides a little extra cushioning and support in key areas of their gait, and it doesn’t feel too heavy or blocky when worn for long distances. It’s not ideal if you want to go fast, but it is a perfect option if you want to travel far.
6. Adidas Ultra Boost Parley 4.0
This shoe hits the mark for good cushioning and has been given a lot of supportive feedback for having an appealing silhouette. Reliable and durable materials are used in the construction of the shoe and many runners have praised the midsoles level of response. Adidas Ultra Boost 4.0 offers superb cushioning which is reflected in the price.Read more
These women's running shoes have been put together to ensure maximum comfort right through a run, be it a short or long distance (there are men's models too). For neutral runners, this shoe runs well on all road surfaces while offering plush cushioned comfort, stability, traction and good protection.
The midsole boost system gives invigorating underfoot spring while the upper affords a high level of breathability, the shoe is ultra-comfortable and gives a sound sense of freedom. The upper features a prime knit weave which offers breathability and is designed to aid the upper stability of the shoe.
Designed in shoe tech in the form of a high return energy boosting system which means runners get underfoot cushion with a high level of responsiveness.
7. Saucony Triumph ISO 5
If you are looking for a running shoe that you can really pound out many miles in, then the Saucony Triumph ISO is a great choice. With its EVERUN midsole, you are sure to get a comfortable ride on every run. The price of this running shoe runs average to quite pricey depending on where you purchase them from.Read more
The Isofit upper wraps around the foot for an individualized fit and its Support Frame provide structure and stability while remaining lightweight. Ut gas Pwrgrid+ that provides midsole cushion, a Run-dry moisture collar that keeps away sweat, and SRC Impact Zone that provides shock absorption.
Although these cushioned running shoes do provide some breathability, they do not offer as much breathability as some users would prefer--so, if you have sweaty feet or run in hot weather you might want to think twice about these shoes.
As far as flexibility goes, these cushion running shoes are flexible enough to allow for a full range of motion. However, it is important to note that they do have a break-in period, so they won't be as comfortable at first.
The Triumph ISO has an amazing amount of cushioning that will provide comfort and stability. The EVERUN cushioning in the midsole is responsive and supportive.
8. Mizuno Wave Inspire 16
Mizuno's Wave system is a little more than simply the shape of the outsole. It works with the midsole to offer responsive control while maintaining a cushioned landing throughout a stride.Read more
Many shoes from Mizuno are ideal options for heavy guys who want to get into running to lose some weight. Their Wave Inspire 16 has some decent cushioning for longer runs, but is also good for a little speed training too.
Mizuno's "Wave" support design is in full force with the Inspire 16, offering premium support, responsiveness, and of course effective cushioning.
9. Saucony Triumph 18
If you have a need for speed, but also a need for plushy comfort, the Triumph 18 from Saucony is worth a look. At first glance, this design looks like your average neutral runner. However, smart design choices and premium materials in the midsole make this design a super comfortable and supportive trainer that is made to travel long distances while also allowing you to pick up the pace as needed.Read more
One of the first things that we noticed about this design is that it boasts a PWRRUN+ midsole. This midsole is super flexible and supportive and adds an extra spring in your step. It offers the same level of support as midsoles found in Brook’s lineup of trainers, but it is designed for speed as well as distance.
We also love the fit and style of the upper of this design. It really hugs your foot and locks it in place, which is ideal when picking up the speed. The TRIFLEX design of the upper is great for running, but it is also ideal for cross-training and weight lifting as well.
If you are in the market for something that is lightweight and made for speed without sacrificing support and comfort, this design from Saucony is a great choice. It is a little more lightweight and forgiving than other stability trainers and is the perfect fit for those that want to pick up the pace.
10. Under Armour Speedform Gemini 3
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the Geminis is just how perforated the upper is, and how breathable that means they are. The Speedform Gemini 3 provides great comfort that you'll be pleased with. They are our top pick for the most comfortable running shoes with cushions.Read more
It has a dual-layered midsole that allows for strong take-offs. These are well ventilated allowing your feet to breathe easily and have an embedded sock liner that helps keep moisture away.
When it comes to flexibility, you will love these cushion running shoes. Although they do have a break in period, once you get used to them, you will find they allow for a full range of motion. ArchForm offers additional support, and Ultrasonic welded seams for a snug, yet flexible fit.
The is a durable running shoe that is made with quality materials. It has flex grooves that are good for heel-to-toe smooth transitions and has a molded toe cap allowing for durability and support.