In recent years, there has been an increasing trend towards well-cushioned and lightweight running shoes. If you’ve been following running for a long time, you may remember that there was a strong barefoot trend just over a decade ago. There are undoubtedly benefits to running in barefoot shoes if you run a lot, but for the majority of your runs, it’s wise to run in well-cushioned shoes to avoid injury. Here I list the best cushioned running shoes 2023.
Top Running Shoes in this Guide:
Below I list in more detail the reasons why it is important to have good cushioning on running shoes. As I said, it is very much about preventing injuries, but it is also much more comfortable to run with well-cushioned shoes – especially on hard surfaces.
Nowadays, many manufacturers have also started to invest in lighter models that have good energy return in the midsole and also good rolling. This has also made a big difference in improving the running experience for all types of runners. Especially if you are a beginner, it is important to have good cushioning on your running shoes to avoid unnecessary injuries.
In my guide to the best running shoes online in 2023, you can read more about what you should consider when buying running shoes.
Best Cushioned Running Shoes 2023
There are more models than ever before on the market for well-cushioned running shoes. I’ve avoided picking the best running shoes with a carbon fibre plate in this guide, mainly because they are significantly more expensive and, in some cases, less durable.
Here are my picks for the best cushioned running shoes 2023:
1. Saucony Endorphin Shift 3
In its latest version, the Saucony Endorphin Shift 3 has been upgraded with an elevated bed of PWRRUN cushioning that is now 3mm thicker than before to provide optimal support with every step. The innovative SPEEDROLL technology allows the runner to get more out of each step, making the shoe ideal for all distances and days of the week.
These shoes are especially handy for those days when you wish your shoes would provide extra support. A new feature is the narrower TPU heel strap, which effectively reduces the weight of the shoe without compromising the heel fit. In addition, the upper has been enhanced with a more breathable mesh, providing all-day comfort.
Another improvement is the new central heel groove for torsion, making it easier than ever to land and roll the foot forward.
2. Asics Gel-Nimbus 25
When you run in the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 25, you get to enjoy cloud-like cushioning. This updated, lightweight and neutral running shoe promises to give you the softest and smoothest running experience ever.
As soon as you step into the shoes, you are embraced by the soft OrthoLite™ X-55 sole. The soft woven upper gives you a perfect fit and optimal ventilation, contributing to a comfortable and fresh feeling throughout your workout. The tongue of the shoe, which now extends to the ankle, offers additional flexibility and comfort.
The new PureGEL™ technology, combined with FF BLAST™ PLUS cushioning, offers an even softer landing. The running shoe is also extra durable thanks to the AHAR™ rubber sole that provides increased durability. This is one of my favourite among the best cushioned running shoes 2023.
Read more about the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 25 here.
3. Saucony Triumph 21
The new Saucony Triumph 21 is a comfortable and neutral running shoe, perfectly suited for daily training. This new model is lighter than previous versions and is specifically designed for runners who want to optimise their training.
One of the shoe’s distinctive features is its PWRRUN+ technology, which ensures excellent cushioning and suspension during running. Furthermore, the shoe has been equipped with a newly redesigned lacing system that offers a perfect fit.
The Saucony Triumph 21 is complemented by a padded placket and a soft collar, which contribute to a 360-degree fit. These details ensure that you can experience ultimate comfort during every kilometre of your run.
4. New Balance Fresh Foam More v4
The New Balance Fresh Foam More V4 is the brand’s most cushioned shoe yet. The shoe has been upgraded to be 80% softer than its predecessor, with energy return increased by 5%. Thanks to new technological advances, New Balance has managed to combine maximum cushioning and softness without compromising stability.
This stability is achieved through several design features, such as a base under the midfoot widened by 8mm and an outsole constructed with a stiffer rubber under the heel and midfoot for increased torsional rigidity. Stability is further enhanced by the design of the midsole upper, which is raised around the heel and midfoot. This allows the runner to actually stand in the midsole rather than on it, ensuring a stable forward motion.
The More V4’s upper is constructed from a robust technical mesh that fits the foot perfectly. This material is both lightweight and breathable, providing optimal comfort while running. The upper is also adorned with reflective details to increase visibility during dark runs.
5. Asics Gel-Kayano 30
The ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 offers the perfect balance of comfort and stability for runners. One of its key features is the 4D GUIDANCE SYSTEM™, which offers outstanding stability and support for every step you take during training sessions and races.
The shoes are equipped with a new midsole that utilises FF BLAST™ PLUS ECO cushioning. This, combined with ASICS’ renowned GEL™ technology, ensures a soft and springy landing.
The Gel-Kayano has a technical mesh upper for high breathability, keeping your feet cool and dry. Another great benefit of the ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 is its durability. The shoe is made from at least 75% recycled materials, so you are contributing to a more sustainable future. It also has an AHARPLUS™ heel plug, which makes the outsole last longer.
More info can be found in the following article about the new ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 running shoes.
6. Hoka One One Bondi 8
The HOKA Bondi 8 is a neutral running shoe that has gained a reputation as one of the best cushioned running shoes in the world. Its huge amount of foam contributes to an unrivalled softness, providing comfort during both short and long runs.
The shoe enhances entry-level comfort with its padded heel collar, which fits perfectly around the heel. To reduce pressure from the laces across the top of the foot, the tongue is also padded. The mesh upper is both thin and light, providing increased breathability for the feet in warm conditions.
A key feature of the HOKA Bondi 8 is the internal heel cup, which effectively ‘locks’ the feet in place to provide a secure feel. The foam padding in the heel further enhances this feeling. The shoe’s robust sole provides a sense of running higher, while its Meta-Rocker technology ensures a smoother transition.
7. Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 3
The Nike Invincible 3 offers maximum support thanks to its high support technology that combines cushioning and stability in strategic locations to protect your foot from overpronation. It also offers superior underfoot cushioning thanks to Nike ZoomX cushioning in the form of a rocker and extra foam height, ensuring an ultra-soft landing with every step and protection from ground impact.
In addition, the responsive Nike ZoomX foam ensures a smooth and springy transition to the next step. Another key feature is the Flyknit upper which provides optimal ventilation in the areas where your foot gets the most heat. This robust and durable upper keeps the foot protected and firmly in place while the billow cables add extra stability and support.
The Invincible 3 also features a waffle-patterned sole that is designed from data collected from runners all over the world. This results in a sole that provides perfect traction at just the right time.
8. Adidas Adizero Prime X
The adidas Adizero Prime X Strung is one of my favourite carbon fibre running shoes. Here it really feels like you are running on a trampoline in the run, so good energy return has the sole.
One of the major innovations of the adizero Prime is the revolutionary STRUNG upper, which is based on a huge amount of data collected from athletes. This dynamic material is fully customised to the athlete’s needs, carefully placed and programmed, thread by thread, to ensure optimal performance.
The STRUNG material feels like a second skin on the foot, providing maximum comfort and perfect support during your run. In addition, ENERGYRODS in the outsole helps reduce energy loss, making every step you take more efficient. The shoe is also equipped with three layers of Lighstrike Pro, which provides fantastic cushioning and an incredibly responsive feel.
One of the disadvantages of this model is the high price. But in terms of running feel, this is one of the very best cushioned running shoes 2023.
9. Hoka Clifton 9
The HOKA Clifton 9 has undergone extensive updates to create an even smoother and lighter running experience. Among other things, the upper has been renewed, and the outsole has been redesigned, promising a completely new running experience.
With an increased stack height of 3mm, there is more material between you and the ground, reducing the impact you feel with each step. This is achieved with a new, more responsive foam that provides improved cushioning.
Worth noting is that the breathable vegan mesh upper has been removed entirely, and redundant overlays have also been removed. These changes contribute to a lighter shoe, but you also get a softer heel in exchange for extra comfort.
10. Adidas Ultraboost Light
The Adidas Ultraboost Light delivers great energy return with every step. Its BOOST Light technology ensures an ultra-light running experience, while providing unrivalled energy return and cushioning, making every step smooth and powerful.
The shoe also features a customised PRIMEKNIT+ upper, which provides extra comfort and support to the runner. In addition, the LEP system contributes to a smooth transition from step to step, further enhancing the running experience.
I have also previously written about the new Adidas Ultraboost Light, which you can read about on the link.
11. On Cloudmonster
The On Cloudmonster is a running shoe designed for long-distance comfort. It utilises Helion™ technology, which is the most comprehensive cloud-based technology to date, along with Speedboard® to provide more explosiveness. The shoe has a radical design at the forefoot to provide a better roll in the stride and thus reduce fatigue on longer distances.
The upper of the shoe is made of a mesh material, which contributes to a soft and comfortable feel during use. This material also allows for excellent ventilation and breathability, making the shoe ideal for long-term use.
12. Mizuno Wave Rider 27
The Mizuno Wave Rider 27 is a neutral running shoe that combines cushioning and stability in an excellent way. An important feature of the shoe is the upper midsole which is equipped with MIZUNO ENERGY FOAM. This material offers unrivalled cushioning and energy return, giving the shoe its unique feel.
The combination of the MIZUNO WAVE technology and WAVE PLATE contributes to the perfect balance between cushioning and stability, which means you will feel a good forward momentum during your runs. In addition, the Wave Rider 27 has a new upper that perfectly wraps the foot.
13. Puma Deviate Nitro 2
The PUMA Deviate Nitro 2 has a so-called NITRO Foam, which delivers just the responsive cushioning you need. Also included is INNOPLATE, which acts as a lever, propelling you forward with every step you take.
This shoe also features PUMAGRIP, which provides excellent traction on all surfaces. The breathable mesh upper ensures that your feet stay cool and fresh. In addition, the shoe includes a light and airy sock liner, as well as a TPU heel piece, to ensure the necessary stability while running.
14. Nike InfinityRN 4
The InfinityRN 4 represents a brand new edition of a beloved running shoe from Nike, with shock absorption that ensures a smooth running motion. This model introduces their latest foam material, Nike ReactX, which delivers a 13% increase in energy response over the traditional Nike React foam, contributing to an energised and resilient stride.
ReactX helps reduce the midsole’s CO2 footprint by at least 43% compared to Nike React, making this shoe an eco-friendly choice. It also merges ReactX foam with Flyknit to create the best fit Nike Running has ever developed, meaning you can feel confident in every step thanks to a supportive, breathable and soft upper.
This is a shoe that delivers comfort with every step in style. You can find out more about the new Nike InfinityRN 4 here.
15. Saucony Kinvara 14
The Saucony Kinvara 14 is lighter than its predecessor without sacrificing cushioning. It is equipped with PWRRUN foam in the midsole, which ensures an extremely soft landing. It also continues to have PWRRUN+ cushioning to propel you forward.
This shoe is built to withstand everyday wear and tear and has everything you need for faster runs, as well as races.
Here are my picks for the best cushioned running shoes 2023. I hope I could help you on your way to choosing the right pair for your needs!
Why is it important to have good cushioning in running shoes?
Cushioning in running shoes plays an important role in both comfort and injury prevention. Whether you’re a casual jogger or an experienced marathon runner, good cushioning in your shoes can have a significant impact on your running experience and long-term health. Here are some reasons why it’s important:
- Shock absorption: The primary function of cushioning is to absorb the shock that occurs when your foot hits the ground. This is especially important because the force exerted on your body during running can be up to 2.5 times your body weight. Without sufficient cushioning, this force can lead to unnecessary stress on your joints, especially in your knees, ankles and feet.
- Comfort: Adequate cushioning contributes to overall comfort, which can determine whether or not you enjoy your run. If your shoes are not comfortable, you are less likely to continue with your running routine. A well-cushioned shoe can also reduce the risk of blisters and other discomforts.
- Injury prevention: By reducing stress on the lower limbs, good cushioning can help prevent overuse injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, runners’ knee and plantar fasciitis. For people who already have certain conditions, such as arthritis or other joint problems, good cushioning becomes even more important.
- Improved performance: Cushioning can help improve running performance. By minimising fatigue and discomfort, runners can maintain pace and form for longer periods of time, leading to improved times and distances.
- Energy return: Some advanced running shoes use cushioning technology that is designed not only to absorb shock but also to provide energy return. This means that some of the energy from the impact is returned to the runner, which can help improve efficiency and reduce fatigue.
- Support and stability: While cushioning provides comfort and shock absorption, it also contributes to the overall support and stability of a running shoe. This can be particularly important for runners who overpronate (roll the foot inwards) or underpronate (roll the foot outwards) when running.
- Adapting to different terrains: Different running terrains require different types of cushioning. For example, running on hard surfaces like concrete requires shoes with more cushioning to absorb the impact. On the other hand, trail running shoes may have less cushioning but more stability features to cope with uneven surfaces.
Frequently asked questions about running shoes and cushioning
Good cushioning in running shoes can absorb the stress that running puts on joints and muscles. This can reduce the risk of injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures. In addition, cushioning can increase comfort, improve performance and enhance the overall running experience.
Some popular brands known for their cushioned running shoes are Saucony, Hoka One One, Brooks, ASICS, New Balance and Nike. However, which brand is ‘best’ often depends on the individual runner’s foot shape, running style and personal preferences.
The easiest way to determine the cushioning in a shoe is to try it on and see how it feels. You can also search for specifications and reviews online. Shoe descriptions often specify the type and amount of cushioning. Finally, a professional in a specialised running store can guide you to shoes with the desired level of cushioning.
The most common types of cushioning materials are EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate), polyurethane, gel, and air- or gas-filled foam. Each material has its own strengths and weaknesses in terms of durability, shock absorption and weight.
Not necessarily. While cushioning can provide comfort and protection from impact, too much cushioning can reduce stability and feel less responsive. It really depends on individual preferences and running style. Some runners may prefer a more minimalist shoe that provides better feedback to the ground.
The durability of a running shoe depends on many factors, including the type and quality of the materials used, the runner’s weight, running style and terrain. Although cushioned shoes may wear out sooner due to the compressive properties of the cushioning material, this does not necessarily mean that they will wear out faster.
As a rule, we are advised to replace running shoes every 500 miles, but I personally often use running shoes for over 1000 miles before I stop using them. However, this varies depending on factors such as runner’s weight, running style and the type of surface you usually run on. Check for signs of excessive wear on the cushioning or outsole.
Many long-distance runners prefer shoes with more cushioning to absorb the repeated shocks and provide comfort over many miles. However, some prefer less cushioning for a more responsive feel. It’s a matter of personal preference and running style.
No, cushioned running shoes are not exclusively designed for any specific foot type or pronation problem. While some shoes may have features that target over- or under-pronation, cushioning itself is a feature that can benefit all types of runners by providing comfort and reducing impact forces.
While cushioned running shoes can reduce stress on joints and muscles, they are only one factor in preventing injuries. Other important factors are proper running form, adequate recovery and strength training. No shoe can completely eliminate the risk of injury, but the right shoe can certainly help.