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The best running shoes 2021: find the perfect shoes for any runner

The best running shoe
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Choosing the best running shoes is a real challenge, particularly when you're shopping online, so we've been putting in the miles on your behalf so you can make the right choice. There's no substitute for trying a shoe for yourself, but here we've aimed to give you some great starting points, with options for all different types of terrain and distance - and both neutral and supportive.

We've tested all these shoes ourselves, so you can check our full reviews for in-depth details of what they're like to wear long term and decide which is likely to suit you best, whatever you're training for.

We'll be expanding this guide as we put more of the best running shoes through their paces, with both road and off-road shoes on the way, so bookmark this page and come back often for more recommendations.

The best running shoe: Asics GT-2000 9

(Image credit: Asics)

1. Asics GT-2000 9

The best road running shoe for stability

Weight: 281g (men's)
Heel drop: 10mm
Reasons to buy
+Reasonably priced+Hard-wearing+Secure fit
Reasons to avoid
-Too rigid for some runners

The latest iteration in the long-running GT-2000 series, the GT-2000 9 is one of the best running shoes around if you're aiming to control pronation and favor a stiffer shoe that'll give you plenty of support during long training sessions.

This stiffness comes courtesy of a resin plate in the shoe's midsole that prevents unwanted twisting actions as your foot rolls. This is combined with a lightweight foam midsole that gives a cushioned but not bouncy ride, plus additional gel in the heel and toe for shock absorption.

The newly redesigned single-piece mesh upper is noticeably more breathable than previous GT-2000 models, making this shoe a particularly good choice for warmer weather and indoor treadmill sessions. Highly recommended if you're looking for a shoe with plenty of guidance – and very competitively priced.

Read our full Asics GT-2000 9 review

The best running shoe: Saucony Endorphin Speed

(Image credit: Saucony)

2. Saucony Endorphin Speed

The best motion control shoe for fast sessions

Weight: 221g (men's)
Heel drop: 8mm
Reasons to buy
+Fast and springy+Well cushioned+Lightweight design
Reasons to avoid
-Not for slow training

If you've fallen out of love with running recently, the Saucony Endorphin Speed could be the best running shoe to rekindle your passion for the pavement. 

This is a neutral motion-control shoe, meaning it isn't designed to prevent the twisting motion of over-pronation, but does help your foot roll and transfer energy more effectively thanks to a nylon plate in the midsole. The result is a springy, fun (but not bouncy) feel with each step.

It's an exceptionally light shoe, and Saucony has pared down the design as much as possible to shave off extra grams. We can't guarantee that it'll help you hit a new personal best in your next race, but we wouldn't be surprised.

Read our full Saucony Endorphin Speed review

The best running shoe: On Cloudultra

(Image credit: On)

3. On Cloudultra

The best cushioned trail running shoe

Heel drop: 8mm
Weight: 295g (men's)
Reasons to buy
+Generous fit for long runs+Responsive feel+Great support
Reasons to avoid
-Slippery in wet conditions

The On Cloudultra might not be the lightest trail shoe around, but it's one of the best. In our tests, we found it surprisingly nimble and responsive, with plenty of support courtesy of a relatively stiff upper.

That doesn't mean this shoe is uncomfortable – far from it. The On Cloudultra is a pleasure to wear right out of the box, and is thoughtfully designed with a FlipRelease tool that allows you to loosen the laces in seconds if your feet swell during long runs or in hot weather.

Our only complaint was that it lacked a little purchase in wet conditions, particularly on urban surface, so it's perhaps best saved for fair weather sessions on the trails.

Read our full On Cloudultra review

The best running shoe: Asics Novablast Tokyo

(Image credit: Asics)

4. Asics Novablast Toyko

The best extra-cushioned neutral shoe

Heel drop: 10mm
Weight: 261g (men's)
Reasons to buy
+Springy, energetic ride+Light and breathable+Comfortable right out of the box
Reasons to avoid
-Can feel unstable at times

If cushioning is what you want, the Asics Novablast Tokyo is one of the best neutral road running shoes around. There's so much marshmallowy Flytefoam Blast material underfoot, the overall feeling is springy, energetic, and a lot of fun.

This is a great lightweight shoe, with a particularly thin and breathable upper. The lack of padding in the tongue took us by surprise, but the flat laces never become uncomfortable across the top of your foot and the thoughtfully designed mesh means increased ventilation for runs on hotter days.

The downside of all that cushioning is that the shoe can sometimes feel a little unstable if you're running on uneven surfaces, so you'll want to dodge the potholes, but on smooth roads it's a joy.

Read our full Asics Novablast Tokyo review

The best running shoe: Allbirds Tree Dasher

(Image credit: Allbirds)

5. Allbirds Tree Dasher

The best sustainably sourced running shoe

Heel drop: 7mm
Weight: 275g (men's)
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable upper+Good support
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than most-Some ankle rub

Whereas most running shoes are made from virgin plastics (with the exception of some like the Asics Sunrise Reborn Pack, which use recycled polymers), the Allbirds Tree Dasher uses eucalyptus fibers for the upper and a foam material made from sugarcane for the midsole.

The result is a neutral road shoe that's a little heavier than conventionally made and engineered alternatives, but surprisingly comfortable and supportive, particularly under the arch. It's less cushioned than many of the shoes in this roundup, though it's still far from a barefoot design; both the toe and heel offer a good degree of shock absorption.

The design of the eyelets (which are essentially rings stitched into the knitted upper) means we had less control over the tension of the laces that we'd like, and we found that the shoe rubbed a little when we pushed the distance. It's great for shorter sessions though, and unlike most shoes, the Tree Dasher can be thrown in the washing machine after a sweaty session.

Read our full Allbirds Tree Dasher review