By Noel Paine
Welcome to my Top Cushioned Running Shoes review
“No doubt a brain and some shoes are essential for marathon success, although if it comes down to a choice, pick the shoes. More people finish marathons with no brains than with no shoes.” - US Olympian and marathoner Don Kardong
In a perfect world, we would all be barefoot and running on relatively soft paths or forest floors where shoes would probably not be needed. In reality, we live in towns and cities that have paved streets and concrete sidewalks. Most of us and our feet require some sort of shoe to help cushion our feet from the impact of running. When your foot hits the ground during a run it can be upto 3-4 times your body weight worth of shock that your foot and body need to absorb. Ouch!
Shoes not only protect our feet but cushion the impact of walking on hard, unforgiving surfaces. The midsole (Check out this great article about parts of a shoe) contains different types of foam (usually white) with brands putting things like gel, air and other substances in it to beef up the amount of cushioning and shock absorption their shoe can offer.
Most shoes used to have two different types of cushioning, EVA and polyurethane (PU) and each has its own characteristics with EVA usually being softer and PU being a firmer cushion often used to create a more stable shoe or hell portion of a shoe. Shoe manufacturers now use EVA or their own designer foam cushioning to give their shoes a unique feel.
What Kind of Cushioning do I Need?
Your weight and how stable the shoe needs to be to keep your feet happy will determine what type of cushioning you need. The heavier you are the more cushion you need to help absorb shock and a firmer cushion may be better for you.
Shoes can vary in how they feel, some will feel marshmallowy soft while other will feel cushioned but not as soft and squishy. The key thing to remember is you want to feel comfortable like your foot is protected and that you are not moving too much around while walking or running in the shoe (creating excess foot motion).
What Kind of Cushioned Shoes are There?
Running shoes are generally classified into cushioned, stability (giving the foot some support to help those who overpronate) and motion control (maximum amount of support for overpronators sometimes people with flat feet) categories. All these shoes have cushioning to protect a runner, but they are meant for different foot types. A Nike article online adds a third category, minimal shoes that have little to no cushioning or support.
Cushioned shoes generally can be racing shoes (often called racing flats) that will be designed for going fast and have very responsive cushioning, but it might not last very long. Other cushioned running shoes have varied amounts of cushion and can feel soft or firm. Choose one that will work for who you are, how much you weigh and that fits well.
You should never have to break in a running shoe.
What Type of Runner or Walker Should Choose a Cushioned Shoe?
A person who has what we can refer to as a neutral foot that does not overpronate (roll inward excessively) or need extra support for their foot should be able to wear a neutral (cushioned) shoe. So, if you have no foot issues that you know of this is the type of shoe to start with.
If you buy a shoe, try and find a specialty running shop with.
knowledgeable staff and get them to watch you walk or run in the shoe a few steps/strides. They can offer help and advice based on what they see.
Here are eight great cushioned running shoes worth checking out!
8 Top Running Shoes With Good Cushioning
1. Altra Escalante 3
This cushioned shoe is foot-shaped! This is a cushioned shoe from a brand not everyone will be familiar with but, well you should check them out. Most running shoes are not the shape of your feet, odd I know, shoes from Altra are.
If you have had trouble finding a good fitting shoe because the shoe rubs your big toe, or baby too or the forefoot feels too cramped, this could be the brand for you. Altra Escalante 3 is also zero drop (flat) with no change in height from heel to toe.
The shoe feature Altra’s ALTRA EGO™ cushioning, flex grooves in the midsole/outsole to help the shoe flex like your foot. The shoe has also received the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance, awarded to products found by the Association to promote good foot health.
I have run in an older version of this shoe and it has a moderate amount of cushioning, a nice breathable knit upper (quite comfortable) and I loved the room for my toes to move!
Racing version! Yes this shoe has a version called the Escalante Racer which is lighter (6.0 ounces) and has a more minimal and firmer midsole with what Altra describes as Race-tuned Altra EGO™ with InnerFlex™.
*Altra has 3 foot shapes for their shoes, original, standard and slim (the Escalate is in the middle (standard).
Advice: Try this shoe on, it will look different and feel different and if you have not worn a zero-drop shoe it may take some getting used to.
2. HOKA Clifton 9
Another different shoe for you to try out in the cushioned category! HOKA makes them chunky (big midsole) but light! The Carbon X3 model is not cheap but it is fun and fast. It is a well cushioned, super responsive shoe that has a carbon fibre plate and rocker in the forefoot.
Another different shoe for you to try out in the cushioned category! HOKA makes them chunky (big midsole) but light! The Clifton 9 is the first HOKA running shoe I ever tried. It was quite the surprise. It has a lot of cushion and it feels like there is a lot underneath you without being a heavy shoe. Lots of cushion and not lots of weight.
The shoe has the same EVA cushioning as all the HOKA shoes but is one of the beefier regular training shoes they have. I would recommend this shoe for easier paced, everyday running. It is a pretty stable platform for heavier runners. This version has more midsole but les weight (4 grams, to be exact) than the last model.
*HOKA makes a good effort to make all aspects of its shoes with as much recycled materials as possible.
3. Saucony Triumph 21
Saucony has some great light cushioned shoes like the Kinvara, this is one that is decently light but has a bit more too it. This model has been a few years and I have had a number of versions on my feet over the years. Saucony describes it as providing maximum cushion and comfort. The 21 is only slightly heavier than the Triumph 20 but has the same drop.
The years’ model had a new type of foam called PWRRUN+ that is supposed to give it a softer feel and it has been given more of a rocker at the forefoot. A durable runner outsole helps this shoe endure more running miles.
The shoe is APMA Certified (American Podiatric Medical Association) which recognizes products that have been found beneficial to foot health. This model is also vegan (but not edible!) and contains recycled materials.
If you want something cushioned but not thin and uber soft, then might be a good well-cushioned training shoe for you.
4. Puma Velocity Nitro 2
Okay, I have included this shoe because Puma is often overlooked and does make some decent shoes. Strange though as the website does not list the weight or drop but says this shoe is lightweight. Puma which has been around since 1948 is the third largest sportswear manufacturer in the world. The founder of Puma had brother who founded Adidas.
This shoe comes with what looks like a relatively low drop, Puma Nitro Foam and a Pumagrip rubber outsole (durable). This shoe is meant to be a well-cushioned trainer.
I have always had a hard time finding many Puma shoes to try but if you see this one it might be worth trying. Do your research, try it on and see what you think.
5. Brooks Glycerin 21
This is a well cushioned training shoe from Brooks. A version of this model has been in the lineup for a number of years (say 20) and I quite like the feel of one of its predecessors.
This neutral cushioned shoe uses Brooks DNA LOFT v3 cushioning with 32.4 % recycled materials in the upper. I have tried other versions of this shoe and like it, not super lightweight but not heavy and a good shoe for everyday training. This brand has been around for a while and can usually be found in running shops.
The version 21 of this shoe is just a bit heavier than its predecessor (0.4 ounces) but has 2mm more of cushion and now comes in other versions, the Glycerin GTS 21 for more support, Glycerin Stealthfit 21 for a sleeker fit, a GTS version of the Stealthfit for a sleek fit and support. This opens up this shoe model to more people, offering a different fit to the upper or more fit if they want it.
I like the Glycerin shoe, it comes in widths and I love the #RunHappy hashtag the company was using for a number of years!
6. New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13
This is the 13th version of a shoe I never ran in but have tried on many times and saw it become a staple of the New Balance cushioned shoe arsenal. It’s a training shoe for sure. Its cushion type is part of the name, and the Fresh Foam X midsole foam has 3% bio-based content.
The NDurance rubber outsole provides a durable outsole for daily training. The other thing that is great about this shoe is that it comes in multiple widths to fit more feet (men and women). One of the things I do love about New Balance is it dedication to offering multiple widths in most of its shoes.
I would recommend this shoe as a training shoe for someone who wants a workhorse training shoe that is not too expensive, not too soft or too firm and just does the work. Reliable.
7. Mizuno Wave Rider 27
I have tried many versions of this shoe on and have not used it as a training shoe but have seen many people try it and walk out with it. It tends to be a low-volume, fairly snug fit for a responsive decently cushioned shoe.
The plastic wave plate used in the shoe has changed a bit over the years but offers a boost to the regular foam cushioning (MIZUNO ENERZY) Mizuno uses. The upper tends to be very breathable and the shoe has a good rocker (roll from midfoot to toe). The outsole is the same X10 rubber that I remember seeing years ago.
The version 27 of this staple of the Mizuno line is upgraded with an even lighter upper and refined fitting heel. It continues to be a great cushioned everyday training shoe.
For even more cushioning in the Mizuno line (max cushion), try the Mizuno Creation 20 which has been around for almost as long!
I like Mizunos and have used a couple models for racewalking. They have a distinct feel that helps set the shoes aside form others. This is a good cushioning training shoe that some could use as a long distance race shoe as its relatively light feeling and responsive.
8. Adidas Ultraboost Light
This shoe is meant to be light and responsive and as the name implies, it uses the latest Adidas UltraBoost cushioning. For the female runner the women’s version is specifically created to with a narrower heel fit plus lower instep curve designed to reduce heel slip and blisters. It may be a light and well-cushioned training shoe, but it may be light enough to be a race shoe for some, the color says fast!
With the environment being more and more of a concern for all, Adidas states that the yarn in this shoe’s upper contains at least 50% Parley Ocean Plastic and 50% recycled polyester. It all adds up!
I have worn some Adidas shoes and liked them but they are not overly deep and have a snug midfoot fit. Like any shoe, try it on to see if it’s the one for you!
Shoe Fitting Tips
Remember finding the right shoe is part science and research and part gut feel. It can be a bit of trial and error. The more information you have, hopefully the fewer errors!