While it would be impossible to create a list of the “best” running shoes that fit the needs of every individual runner out there, that still hasn’t stopped us at Gadget Review from spending hours of research to help you learn how to choose running shoes, no matter if you’re entering your 10th marathon this year or just want something to help you get in shape over the weekend.
With an ultra-light profile of just 5.6oz, super-strong woven fabrics, a specialized rubber midsole and Nike’s seal of approval on top, we’ve chosen the Nike Flyknit Racer as the #1 best running shoe for 2018.
Best Running Shoes of 2018
|Nike Flyknit Racers||Adidas Adistar Boost ESM||Inov-8 X-Talon 200 Trail-Running Shoe||Brooks Transcend 3||Zoot Ultra TT 7.0|
|Rank||#1 - Editor's Choice/Best Running Shoes for Men||#2 - Best Running Shoes for Women||#3 Pick - Best Trail Running Shoes||#4 Pick - Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet||#5 Pick - Best Marathon Running Shoes|
|Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now|
How We Choose the Best Running Shoes
On a personal note, I’ve been an avid three-times-a-week runner for around 13 years, and have gone through upwards of 25+ pairs of running shoes of my own over that same period. Whether I was using the treadmill in my building, running through the hills of San Francisco, the forests of Portland, or the trails of Santa Cruz, I’ve seen many of the significant advances that running shoe technology has gone through in such a short period of time – and for flat-footed runners specifically – know how those improvements can affect your overall mile times and recovery period as a whole.
Compiling this list of the best running shoes of 2018 was no simple feat, requiring around 10 hours of research among dozens of different sites from around the web including the top picks from Runner’s World, Men’s Fitness, and the symposium of all things running shoes: RunRepeat. RunRepeat is a massive resource for upstart runners and marathon junkies alike, filled with thousands upon thousands of personal anecdotes from runners around the globe who have used the products themselves.
All these sites have various systems to rate which shoes won the accolade as the best, but we stuck to a few key features that helped us determine which shoes really stood out from the rest of the pack. These included first and foremost the weight of the shoe (no more than 12oz), the style of the shoe (trail vs. road vs. marathon), as well as the type of foot arch the shoe is built for.
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For example, a runner with a flat-footed arch won’t feel nearly as comfortable in a shoe made for those with high arches, because the shoe will deform the foot into an awkward position – which is pretty much the last thing you want if you plan on putting miles on your shoes and want to still be able to run the next day (or week, for that matter). Weight is also an important consideration, though this is probably a bigger issue for road runners than it is on trails. On the trail you want a durable, heavier weight shoe that can put up with a lot of mud and water without the materials breaking down in less than a month, while road runners can go as light as possible since these environmental needs won’t have to be factored into how the shoe is constructed.
I know what it takes to make a good shoe, and despite that I may be a flat-footed trail runner for the most part, I’ve still collected quite a bit of data over the years from friends, family, and runners I’ve met while I’ve been out in the freezing rain about shoes for just about every other kind of runner you can think of.
Why You Should Buy New Running Shoes
But how long do running shoes last? It’s no secret that running shoes can be a serious investment, especially if you’re planning for your next marathon and are looking at shoes that break past the $150 barrier. That said, every year manufacturers are creating new advancements both in materials science and in the art of what makes running shoes great, that improves upon the product in ways never thought possible before.
Often, manufacturers will release updates to some of their flagship brands anywhere from once to three times a year, which just goes to show how quickly things can change when it comes to the world of running shoes. If you’re someone who’s been trudging along on the same pair of trainers for a year or more, it’s definitely time to take a second look at the latest entries into the field.
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Some offer unique blends of foam/rubber that create a softer landing for over-pronated runners (like myself), while others (like Brooks) are experimenting with outer mesh technologies that spread the tension of your foot landing over the entire course of the shoe, rather than it wearing out a few select points every single time.
Although the shoes you have from 2014 may feel like they get the job done, you’ll be amazed at the level of comfort you’re going to get from shoes that have come out in just the past year thanks to the ingenuity and inventions companies like Asics, Nike, Adidas, and Brooks are consistently bringing to the table year in and year out.
#1 Pick Nike Flyknit Racer/Editor’s Choice – Best Running Shoes for Men
Price: $147.77 | Terrain: Road Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 5.6oz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Ultra-light and ultra-durable, the Nike Flyknit Racer shows you don’t have to compromise on your next running shoe.
The Nike Flyknit Racers have won a number of awards across multiple websites, as well as the praise of thousands of runners who either compete in marathons monthly, or just head out a few times a week for a jog down at their local track.
The ultra-light profile of just 5.6 ounces makes this one of the featheriest options on this list, but that doesn’t mean it won’t last you more than a race or two. Owners report that thanks to its revolutionary Flyknit wrapped fabric, the shoe manages to strike that perfect balance between light on the foot and still durable enough to make it a year or more before needing to be replaced.
At just short of $150 the Flyknit Racer is technically on the higher side of what you should expect to pay for a solid running shoe, but its extensive number of available color options mean you’ll be able to find a pair that fits any outfit without a problem.
Last, the underfoot cushioning is both springy and well-balanced, meaning that for those heavier runners out there this is going to the best choice if you’ve got weak knees or just want to reduce the impact on your body after a 5km slog on the treadmill at the gym.
Note: Some wide-footed runners have reported that the Flyknit can feel a little narrow around the midsection, so be sure to get a proper measurement of your foot done before going for a model like this.
#2 Pick Adidas Adistar Boost ESM – Best Running Shoes for Women
Price: $79.90 | Terrain: Road Arch Support: Stability Weight: 10.7oz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Adidas Adistar Boost ESM is perfect for beginner-to-intermediate runners who need a solid fit.
But why do only men get to have all the fun? The Adidas Adistar Boost ESM shoes are the perfect choice for women runners everywhere, providing a super snug fit thanks to what the company calls its “TechFit” upper.
This essentially breaks down as a very thin, flexible layer inside the shoe that both wicks away moisture effectively while providing a snug, adaptive fit. If you’re not sure your foot type is right for a certain style of shoe, the Adidas Adistar Boost ESM is a solid all-around choice that can dynamically shift its materials around to conform to how you run.
If you’re a middle-striker or a sole-striker, over-pronater or under, this shoe can work with you to help you advance from a weekend jogger into a full-blown marathon finisher in just a matter of months.
#3 Pick Inov-8 X-Talon 200 Trail-Running Shoe – Best Trail Running Shoes
Price: $51.87 | Terrain: Trail Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 7.1oz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Inov-8 X-Talon are the perfect trail runners for those who need a lot of grip during slippery conditions outside.
For how durable and able to take a beating the Inov-8 X-Talon 200 Trail-Running shoes are, they have no business being this cheap.
At just short of $85 in my size and closer to $60 at smaller sizes, this is an extremely strong, long-lasting trail runner that could get you through a hail storm with only a slightly soggy sock to show for it.
The lightweight, extremely flexible X-Talon 200’s offer superior grip in all conditions, and are especially good for runners who live in rainier areas and need the most protection possible from the elements.
Their synthetic rubberized coating ensures you’ll never be left sloshing around in the shoe when it gets wet out, and also makes for easy cleaning if you don’t know how to wash running shoes the next time you step in a mud puddle and just want to hose in them off in the bathtub after your next trek.
#4 Pick Brooks Transcend 3 – Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet
Price: $119.94 | Terrain: Road Arch Support: Stability Weight: 10.9oz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Super DNA midsole on the Brooks Transcend 3 conforms to the size and arch of almost any foot out there.
These have been my daily drivers throughout most of this year, which involved an equal amount of running on a treadmill at the gym as it did through the hills and parks of a muddy. wet Portland fall.
As someone with flat feet and almost no arches to speak of, the Brooks Transcend 3 are perfect thanks to the Super DNA midsole material which conforms to your arch over time. This provides a steady, solid strike zone for someone like me who hits right in the middle of his foot, but comes off the front toe with a lot of power to glide into the next step with ease.
These are some of the best Brooks running shoes you can get, but the one drawback of this shoe is it can be a bit out of the price range of some at $120. This is almost always the case for any shoes that are built for flat-footed runners exclusively, though.
#5 Pick Zoot Ultra TT 7.0 – Best Marathon Running Shoes
Price: $39.95 | Terrain: Road Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 8.5oz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Zoot Ultra TT 7.0 is a lightweight, low-fatigue shoe for marathon (or triathlon) runners everywhere.
Despite their unconventional appearance, the Zoot Ultra TT 7.0 (we know, it’s a clunky mouthful) running shoes have cleared their way to the front of the pack and scored a first place finish as the best marathon running shoes.
This is the seventh version of the popular marathon runners shoe, featuring several additions that will help you get to the finish line faster than everyone else like a quick-lace system, as well as Tri-Dry materials which won’t soak your socks the next time you’re running in the rain.
The Z-Bound midsole is where this shoe really shines though, designed to conform over time to your running style so you can go extra long distances (13 miles or more) with as little fatigue on your feet and legs as possible.
Oh, and did we mention these are crazy cheap running shoes? At just $39.95 these shoes blow away the rest of the competition when it comes to cost, while still providing the same level of durability you’d expect from runners three times the price.
Most Important Features for the Best Running Shoes
- Of course, the most important part of what separates good running shoes from the rest is how heavy they feel on the foot.
- Getting the right weight is a matter of balance first, between durability and how much lift you have to exert to get one foot in front of the other.
- Lighter shoes tend to be better for distance running (marathons on road), while heavier shoes are more durable for those who do most of their exercise on trails and don’t mind getting a little dirt or mud between their toes.
- Ultimately the best weight in your shoe will depend on how you plan to use it, how much you have to spend (turnover rate per year), and what kind of surfaces you intend on using the shoe for most.
- As we talked about in the Why You Should Buy section, every year shoemakers are pairing up with materials scientists to create some of the lightest, toughest, yet most flexible runners designed to date.
- Options like our #1 pick use what Nike calls “flyknit” weaving, which makes the shoe extremely light at only 5.6 ounces, while still maintaining the durability that marathon runners need to “go the distance”.
- Other advancements like woven rubber and synthetic leather also add tons of durability to newer shoes, without weighing them (or you) down.
- How much flex a running shoe has (or doesn’t have) can drastically alter its performance on road running or trail running conditions.
- Overall, depending on your instep and striking location you want a shoe that can deform when you make sharp turns and keep your foot snug in position, but also isn’t so flexible that it loses durability or stacks up wear and tear too quickly.
- You’ll want a shoe with more flex for trail running to conform to the demands of the dirt, while a stiffer shoe is better in road conditions
- Getting the right kind of cushion underneath your foot is an important part of the buying process, and is dictated by many factors including your weight, the type of runner you are (pronated vs. non-pronated), as well as the distance you plan to run in them over time.
- This also bleeds into what’s known as “striking position”, which dictates where you strike your foot first.
- If you strike at the sole of your foot you’ll want shoes that favor padding in that area, while middle strikers (like my flat-footed self) will want cushioning that distributes evenly over the whole of the shoe to reduce strain and the possibility of injury.
- This material is what adds to the overall comfort and support of the shoe, arguably the most important part of the entire equation.
- Speaking of support, you’ll want to make sure a shoe is actually comfortable for your foot type before you hit the road with them.
- The overall comfort of a shoe comes down to three factors: your arch type (flat vs. regular vs. high arch), the insole, and how the width of your foot squeezes inside the shoe itself.
- You’ll want to make sure you have as comfortable of a shoe as possible, because without it you’ll be subject to all sorts of runner-related ailments including blisters on your toes (not enough width), blisters on the back of your ankle (wrong arch support), or the dreaded “runner’s knee”, which is pretty self explanatory.
- Hitting the sweet spot between these three factors is the Holy Grail of running shoe manufacturing, and no maker has pinned it down to a science just yet.
- Unfortunately even with all the research you can do online, ultimately the only way you’ll know if a shoe is comfortable or not is to head to your local sports supply store and try them on for yourself!
Trail vs. Road vs. Marathon
- Last, there’s the differences you’re going to see in trail vs. road vs. marathon running shoes.
- Trail runners are most notable, thanks to the big pronounced treads that run along the bottom and give you consistent grip even in the muddiest, dirtiest, rockiest terrain. Trail runners also have a lot more flex to them than a runner or marathon shoe might, because they need to adapt to hazards on the fly but still keep you locked to the ground.
- Road shoes and marathon shoes are a bit more difficult to tell apart, and the main difference is both in cost and durability.
- Road shoes will generally be cheaper than marathon shoes, and be tuned for more of an all-around experience.
- Marathon/competition running shoes on the other hand are built primarily for lightness and durability, but also come at a higher price to compensate.
Mistakes or Things to Avoid
Don’t Buy Just for Looks: It’s always as struggle when it comes to running shoes, because nine times out of ten you’re going to run into “those kinds” of people who rock the eye-bleaching neon Nikes and want to show off that they run, rather than actually posting results. If you’re spending anywhere between $75 and $250 on your next pair of shoes your first instinct is to look good in them, but believe me when I say you should buy the shoe that’s right for your feet first, with looks being a consideration in distant second.
Assuming Your Shoe Size: If there’s one mistake that people make more often than anything else when it comes to buying running shoes, it’s assuming that “one size fits all”. For example, while I wear a 9.5 when it comes to my daily drivers (black Chuck Taylor Converse hi-tops since I was in high school), I only wear about an 8.5 on my current Brooks Transcends. That full size gap can mean the difference between a comfortable 10 mile run and a one mile run with dead feet afterward, so be sure you have your running shoe size locked in by visiting your local sports retailer first to get a proper measurement.
Don’t Buy Trail for Road and Vice Versa: There’s a reason trail-specific shoes exist, and there’s a reason road runners are sold just the same. While sometimes it might be tempting to take road runners on the trail once in awhile, you can run the risk of injuring yourself in muddy conditions without any treads to grip you to the earth, and taking trail runners on flat ground will not only wear down the tread, but also cause your foot to strike the ground unevenly, resulting in injury over time.
There is No “Best” Running Shoe: Although we’ve just spent this entire article telling you about the best of the best running shoes, it’s important to remember that the shoes listed here are only the best in their respective categories. What’s “best” for you when you run on the road at the New York Marathon might be terrible for someone else who just likes to hit the trail once or twice a week, and vice versa. Ultimately the running shoe for you will be the one that fits your running style, your running environment, and your foot size the best.
What Else You Should Think About
Now that you know everything you need to about the best running shoes of 2018 and why the Nike Flyknit Racers took the first place gold, it’s time to load yourself up with the rest of the equipment you’ll need to tackle that next marathon head on.
Our list of the best headphones for running will make sure you’re never left without something to entertain you when you’re passing mile 10 of 26.2, and you should definitely be sure to fuel up with the right kind of nutrition by either using the best blender for green smoothies or best juicer before you hit the race track.
Last but not least, you can be sure that your lungs hit their maximum recovery potential once you get back home by making an investment into the best air purifier of 2018, because a healthy body is the one that will get you across the tape fastest at the next marathon of your choosing!