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The best running shoes 2021: the latest shoes put through their paces

Included in this guide:

Man fastening running shoe before workout
(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 neutral and stability options, and shoes for training and race days.

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.

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 is a running shoe built for speed, with an articulated carbon plate and plenty of foam to propel you forward (Image credit: Nike)

The best thoroughbred race running shoes available today

Weight: 206g (men's)
Heel drop: 8mm
Reasons to buy
+Super lightweight+Insanely fast+Great eye-catching looks
Reasons to avoid
-Not very durable

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 takes our award for the best running shoe of 2021, thanks to its impressive energy return that feels like nothing we've experienced before. This is a shoe made for running, and running fast. When we tested it, we were extremely impressed by its springiness, which courtesy of a full-length articulated carbon footplate and generous 40mm of ZoomX foam that never feels squishy or marshmallowy.

Its minimalist mesh upper is extremely breathable, with the bare minimum of padding strategically positioned for comfort without adding too much weight. Our feel felt well connected and secure throughout our runs

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 is a superb shoe for track days and races, with the potential to propel you to a new personal record, though we'd recommend supplementing it with another, more affordable shoe from this list for your everyday training.

Asics Metaspeed Sky

The Asics Metaspeed Sky is a carbon running shoe with a surprisingly affordable price tag (Image credit: Asics)

A speedy carbon race shoe that gives Nike a run for its money

Weight: 210g (men's)
Heel drop: 5mm
Reasons to buy
+Speedy and cushioned+Grippy rubber outsole+Lightweight design
Reasons to avoid
-Question marks over durability

If you're looking for a race shoe that's a great alternative to what Nike and Adidas currently have to offer, the Asics Metaspeed Sky is well worth your consideration. It's  a running shoe built to keep you quick over short and long distances

When we reviewed the Metaspeed Sky, we appreciated the spring provided by the full-length carbon plate and curved design, together with the shoe's lightweight, responsive foam. It compresses at each footstrike before springing back into shape, giving a controlled feel while propelling you forward.

It's pricier than the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 above, and we're not absolutely in love with the upper, which feels a little coarse to the touch, but it's a superb shoe nonetheless, and feels great to run in.

Asics GT-2000 9

The Asics GT-2000 9 is a hard-wearing everyday training shoe for anyone who wants a little extra stability (Image credit: Asics)

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 Asics 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.

Saucony Endorphin Speed

The Saucony Endorphin Speed is fantastic run to run in, and can help rekindle your love of the sport if you've lost your mojo (Image credit: Saucony)

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.

On Cloudultra

If you're looking for a cushioned trail shoe, the On Cloudultra is nimble and responsive (Image credit: On)

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.

Asics Novablast Tokyo

The Asics Novablast Tokyo is a super cushioned road shoe, with masses of springy foam underfoot (Image credit: Asics)

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.

Salomon Index.01

The Salomon Index.01 is a lightweight, breathable running shoe that you can return for recycling once it's worn out (Image credit: Salomon)

The best no-nonsense running shoe – and recyclable

Heel drop: 9mm
Weight: 285g (unisex)
Reasons to buy
+No-nonsense, comfortable design+Environmentally friendly+Also good for everyday life
Reasons to avoid
-Steep price

In terms of environmental impact, the Salomon Index.01 steals a lead on the Reebok Floatride Energy Grow (below) due to its closed-loop manufacturing process. The whole shoe is recyclable, and when you've run it into the ground, you can return it to Salomon to be transformed into other garments.

Of course, that would be little use if the Salomon Index.01 wasn't a good quality, high performance shoe – but thankfully, it is. It feels firmer than the Reebok, making it a better choice if you're looking for support, with a curved sole and unusual rear overhang that we found gave a welcome forward jolt of propulsion.

The upper is pleasantly breathable, and its understated design means it can shift easily between training sessions and running errands. We did find that the upper began to show dirt quite quickly, and the initial price is fairly steep, so it's worth considering the Floatride Energy Grow as a more affordable alternative.

Reebok Floatride Energy Grow

The Reebok Floatride Energy Grow is made largely from plant-based materials, and works as well for casual wear as it does for your regular training runs (Image credit: Reebok)

The lightest sustainably made running shoe

Heel drop: 9mm
Weight: 229g
Reasons to buy
+Reduced use of plastic+Extremely lightweight+Attractive retro design
Reasons to avoid
-Less hard-wearing than some

The Reebok Floatride Energy Grow is made from at least 50% plant-based materials, reducing the use of virgin plastic – but you wouldn't know that from looking at it. Unlike some 'green' running shoes, this one doesn't shout about its credentials; instead, Reebok has opted for a refreshingly retro design that goes as well with jeans as it does Lycra.

There's a moderate amount of (castor-bean based) cushioning, and in our tests we found it easy to forget during training runs. It's not excessively cushioned, and is quite flexible around the toe (particularly medially), which won't suit those with a tendency to overpronate, but is nicely responsive if your footstrike is neutral.

There's a lot to like about this shoe, which is also surprisingly light, leaving the similarly green but much weightier Allbirds Tree Dasher in the dust. We have some reservations about the durability of the gusset that secures the tongue to the inside, but the Floatride Energy Grow otherwise fared well after plenty of miles.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the fitness and wellbeing editor at TechRadar. She's been a technology journalist for 11 years, and cut her teeth on magazines including PC Plus and PC Format before joining TechRadar. She's a trained run leader, and enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the pavement. If you have a story about fitness trackers, treadmills, running shoes, e-bikes, or any other fitness tech, drop her a line.