There isn’t such a thing as the ideal shoe. When it comes to running, a variety of factors come into play, including your biomechanics, weight, running surface, and foot shape, thus no single shoe will fit every runner.
How can we pick the greatest shoes for the year 2021?
The sweat test: The makers provide us with many pairs of each shoe. More than 200 runners of all skills and preferences will receive these. Before filling out a lengthy questionnaire, each participant spends a month running in their shoes in many sessions.
Cushioning: Each tester will assess the softness or firmness of each shoe underfoot.
Flexibility: Flexibility refers to the ease with which a shoe moves with the foot from heel strike through toe-off.
Height and weight: Men’s (size 8) and women’s (size 5) models are both weighed. The outsole foam rubber, midsole foam, and insole are all measured for stack height.’ The ‘heel drop,’ or the height difference between the heel and the forefoot, is also measured.
What are the best shoes for 2021?
The wait is finally over. Here are the shoes that made our list, as well as the ones we’re excited to see later this year:
1. Adidas Ultraboost 21 Running Shoe
Weight: 340g (M), 297g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 10mm
The weight alone indicates that this shoe is made for long, steady runs. The heaviness and cushioning, on the other hand, were two of the nicest aspects of it. Despite the fact that the Ultraboost is a cash cow for Adidas, the firm enjoys playing with it. This version boasts 6% more Boost midsole foam, a Primeknit upper made from recycled ocean plastic, and LEP (‘Linear Energy Push’) plastic insert inside the midsole meant to deliver 15% more torsional rigidity – to provide a stiffer ride to help you speed up the pace. The response was mixed. The LEP feature went overlooked, with almost everyone praising the shoe’s smooth, fluffy feel; the extra Boost foam was praised, and numerous wearers stated that their fears about an uncomfortable recycled plastic upper were unwarranted. The upper isn’t as snug as Adidas advertises, so narrow-footed runners should search elsewhere. For the most part, this is a long-distance running shoe with a lot of bounce.
2. Saucony Guide 14
Weight: 298g (M), 266g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
We kept reading remarks like very reassuring,’ ‘heavy and solid, yet in a positive way,”really reliable,’ and so on when evaluating the feedback on this shoe. This is not a race shoe, but it is the best in class for heavier runners and overpronators as a daily shoe. The cushioning is firm, and the fit isn’t ideal for narrow-footed runners, but thanks to a newly constructed upper, normal-to-wide-footed runners enjoyed a right blend of flexibility and cradling across the whole length of the foot. The outsole grooves have been tweaked to make the transition from heel to toe a little smoother. This indicates that the shoe was responsive despite its strong feel. A bent shank under the midsole provides medial support, which our overpronating runners like because it didn’t feel clumpy like a standard medial post. Beginner to intermediate overpronating runners will love this long-run shoe.
3. Saucony Endorphin Shift 2
Weight: 10.4 oz. (296g)
Heel/toe drop: 4mm
The Saucony Endorphin Shift 2 is the Endorphin series’ well-rockered, stable maximum uptempo trainer. The top has been updated substantially, with a modified external heel counter and upper reinforcements for a more secure and better fit. Despite the fact that the sole is meant to be the same, it is slightly softer than the prior iteration. This allows for a more seamless transition and a quicker break-in period. The same exceptional durability is still present, making this a fantastic value for $140. For those looking for a well-fitting, stable, and rockered shoe, this is the shoe to get.
4. Hoka One One Rincon 2
Weight: 218g (M) 204g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 0mm
This is currently RW gear editor Kerry McCarthy’s go-to shoe, so it’s over to him: ‘I’m a middle-of-the-pack runner, and there’s nothing this shoe can’t do for me.’ It has one of the best weight-to-cushioning ratios I’ve seen — you’d think there wouldn’t be much to it when you hold it in your palm, yet it provides fantastic energy return off a somewhat solid foundation. The only issue is that I’ll rapidly wear them out because I’ll want to wear them to every session.’ Other testers were as enthusiastic, praising the shoe’s ease of use, pleasingly simplistic design, flexibility to a wide range of runs, and the fact that they could just put it on, forget it was there, and go about their business. The Rincon 2 is nearly identical to the original, but it has been made a little roomier, making it more appealing to a wider range of people. It is also now appropriate for long, slow runs where your foot swells with time. It’s a stunner of a shoe.
5. Asics Gel Cumulus 22
Weight: 264g (M), 215g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 10mm
It’s reassuring to buy a pair of shoes and practically know what you’re going to get. The Gel Cumulus is fast becoming Asics’ Famous tomato soup. It has a formula that hardly ever changes, and it has a devoted and long-standing fan base. Version 22 provides the expected smooth, pillowy cushioning, a standard fit that will fit the great majority of feet, a sense of security, and a consistent ride mile after mile. The heel has been redesigned to better disperse shock and given larger flex grooves to help the shoe roll forward more smoothly to the midfoot. Smaller modifications like this can often go missing, but that was not the case here. The Cumulus has always been a dependable shoe, however, it might be a little heavy for lighter runners. It now feels more fluid, nimble, and responsive. Good for any style of the run when comfort and enjoyment take precedence over pace.
6. Brooks Levitate 4
Weight: 286g (M), 258g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
When you test a shoe, you just know it’ll end up being a staple in a brand’s stable for a long time, and we knew the Levitate would be one of those shoes for Brooks from the moment we laced it on. For lovers of the model, version 4 provides a lot of the same. Some improvements have been made, including a slightly modified midsole foam formula, a tweak to the outsole grooves to allow for improved roll-through on footstrike, and a lighter, more breathable upper. Only the final of these modifications was noticed– it appears to be significantly different– but the overall vibe remained consistent, which is a positive thing. Mile after mile, this is a shoe that just gets the job done. While the shoe is not inexpensive at $110, it is quite durable, showing less wear after a few hundred kilometers than many of its immediate competitors, and the ride and cushioning remain consistent. Consider this one a dependable running companion when all you want to do is turn off and go.
7. Altra Provision 5
Weight: 11.2 oz. (M), 9.2 oz. (W)
Heel/toe drop: 0 mm
For being a stability shoe, Altra’s Provision 5 rides like a neutral trainer. Altra’s guiding rail and InnovArch are incorporated into the shoe for support, but they’re only used “when it’s needed,” according to the brand. The stability elements don’t interfere with the runner’s experience—no one wants a shoe with control issues—but the support is there if your stride becomes irregular, according to our tests. As a result, the shoe is more suited to runners who overpronate late in their run owing to exhaustion rather than extreme overpronators who require a shoe with more built-in stability.
8. Brooks Transcend 7
Weight: 303g (M), 269g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 4mm
In the Brooks stable of shoes, this shoe is only second to the Glycerin in terms of cushioning. The Transcend is stiffer than the Glycerin, but it is softer than the Transcend version 6. The midsole’s overpronation guide-rail system makes it less soft in the heel than it is in the forefoot. (The guide rails, which run along either side of the midsole, act as foot bumpers, preventing the knee from erratically shifting from side to side and thereby preventing overuse issues, according to Brooks.) One flat-footed tester, who is also an overpronator, ran without insoles since Transcend’s stability system and cushioned base provided her with the necessary support. A small lack of breathability was mentioned on a few occasions, but this is a good shoe overall. ‘I would recommend this shoe to anyone who needs a dependable, comfortable training shoe that could be used over a wide range of weather and courses,’ said tester Paul Fenton.
9. Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% Flyknit
Weight: 279g (M) 225g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 10mm
It’s difficult to know where to begin with this sneaker because there’s so much going on. To begin, the Zoom Tempo Next percent, if you can afford it, will shave significant time off your personal bests. It’s intended to be a more practical – in comparison to the Alphafly Next percent – version of the Alphafly Next percent. This shoe has a softer carbon composite plate than previous shoes, two types of midsole foam (the more durable React in the heel and the more bouncy ZoomX in the midfoot and forefoot), and air pods under the metatarsal heads to add even more bounce. The shoe’s massive stack height (46mm in the heel, 36mm in the forefoot, according to RW) worried testers that it would be unstable laterally, but the reinforced knitted mesh secures the foot nicely. The fit is our one complaint: it’s too broad in the toebox and too narrow in the midfoot, but just right in the heel. Aside from that, it’s a sneaker that’s every bit as amazing as you’d anticipate.
10. New Balance 880v11
Weight: 290 (G) (10.2 oz)
Heel/toe drop: 10mm
This shoe has a high-end feel to it, and the fit is no exception. For starters, this shoe runs true to size and has a luxuriously soft upper. I was able to tailor the lock-down to my exact specifications. A toe bumper is also included on the 880v11, which aids in the shoe’s fit. This bumper adds height and structure to the shoe, which my feet enjoyed. I also really enjoyed the fit of the heel counter. It wasn’t super stiff, but stiff enough to keep it secure. If I wanted to slide out of the shoe, I could – because there was a slight give in the heel. Quick access and removal are huge for me. The heel counter also has a hard plastic in the heel. This helps keep the heel counter secure.