Comfort is king. In fact, somethat when you choose a shoe simply because it’s comfortable, you may be less likely to get injured. So to guide you on your sole searching, we’ve highlighted the models that offer a “made-for-me” sensation. Each shoe on this list was ranked on overall performance and also earned especially high scores from our testers in three specific categories: fit, cushioning, and—of course—comfort.
Take a look below at quick info on five of the most comfortable shoes from our testing. Then scroll down for some buying advice plus in-depth reviews of these and other top-performing models.
Find Your Fit
A shoe will never be comfy if you don’t have the correct fit. We advise you give yourself a full thumbnail’s width at the toe and also ensure that you have enough volume in the shoe. When you’re laced up, check how many fingers you can fit between the top pair of eyelets right over your bunny ears. It should be two—one finger means the shoe is too loose and you’ve tied your laces too snug to overcompensate; three can feel like your foot is bulging out of the upper. If you land in the first camp, try sizing down, adding a thicker insole to the shoe, or opting for a narrow fit. For more room, you might bump up a size, choose a wide fit, or swap in a thinner insole (or remove the sockliner altogether). Always keep in mind that your feet swell during a run, so it’s better to err on the side of a roomier shoe if you find yourself between sizes.
Read below for more features to look for in a comfy running shoe.
How We Test
Runner’s World has the most comprehensive shoe testing process in the industry. We work with more than 350 local runners of all abilities, ages, and sizes, for real-world wear-testing on paved roads, dirt paths, and rocky singletrack trails. After a month of running more than 100 miles in their pair of shoes, our testers report back their findings on features like fit, comfort, performance, and ride. While our testers are putting miles in, the same models undergo a battery of mechanical tests in our shoe lab to objectively measure the cushioning, flexibility, sole thickness, and weight of each. Our test editors combine their own experience in the shoe with data from the lab and feedback from our wear testers to create reliable, useful reviews of every shoe we test.
—BEST FOR UPTEMPOS—
Hoka One One Mach 4
The Mach 4 is incredibly lightweight and has knocked the cushy, race-ready Rincon off its mantel. “It’s the best Mach yet, and perhaps the best current Hoka,” said Runner-in-Chief Jeff Dengate. The updated design is modeled after the brand’s fastest shoes, the Carbon X and Rocket X. ProFly foam promotes high rebound, while the early-stage Meta-Rocker (a slightly curved sole) presses you on to catapult forward. The upgraded upper hugs your foot more securely so you won’t run out of these explosive Machs.
—BEST TRULY ZERO-DROP—
Altra Torin 4.5 Plush
The Torin is a less beefy trainer compared to others in its class, like Hoka’s Bondi, but it lives up to its name with a cushy interior that hugs your entire foot. The breathable knit mesh has a new padded and perforated tongue with a V-cut shape so it won’t dig into your leg bone. With truly zero drop, the shoe has less cushioning in the heel due to its equal stack height with the forefoot.
—BEST DAILY TRAINER—
Brooks Glycerin 19
Packed into the Glycerin GTS is plush cushioning, high energy return, and stability that supports overpronators and neutral runners alike. Brooks has redefined its “Go-to-Shoe” acronym as “Go-to-Support” to go along with its new naming convention. The stability counterparts of neutral shoes are now re-dubbed with the neutral shoe’s name and “GTS” attached. In this case, the shoe formerly known as the Transcend is now known as the Glycerin GTS. Its guide rails system—dense foam on the lateral and medial sides of the heel—bumpers erratic knee movement.
—BEST FOR RACING—
Saucony Kinvara 12
The Kinvara returns to its roots with its 12th iteration; it’s decreased in weight yet retained its soft feel. A dual-layered Pwrrun and Pwrrun+ midsole provides a supportive platform suited for daily training and marathon base building. Heel strikers appreciated a new tiny patch of rubber underneath the heel, which provides an extra boost during ground contact while absorbing impact.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v11
New Balance cranked up the Fresh Foam for the 1080 v9, adding a millimeter of softness underfoot to make the shoe more forgiving. In the 10th iteration, the company again upgraded the midsole, this time to Fresh Foam X, which felt soft (but not marshmallowy); laser-engraving shaved off about half an ounce from the previous version, making the shoe look sportier and more lightweight. Fortunately, not much has changed with the v11. Consistent with the v10, that thick slab of Fresh Foam X provides high energy return—and comfort. The designers tweaked the upper, making it stretchier in the forefoot for runners with wide feet.
—BEST FOR STABILITY—
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
Since its release in 1994, the Adrenaline GTS has gained a massive following for its soft platform and stability features that cater to both overpronators and neutral runners. It’s a flexible shoe that falls in the middle of Brooks’s more cushioned trainers, sitting between the plush Glycerin GTS and nimble Launch GTS—making it the true Goldilocks of shoe plush. The guide rails system provides bumper support for erratic knee movement caused by overpronation and late-onset overpronation due to running fatigue, i.e., that final stretch during your long run when your form breaks down.
—BEST FOR RECOVERY RUNS—
Hoka One One Bondi 7
Hoka One One’s Bondi is the king of cushioning in its family of maximalist shoes. Our RW Lab measured the Bondi 6 to be extremely soft compared to most shoes we tested, and wear-testers couldn’t stop gabbing about the incredibly plush foam. “The rocker-style sole took some getting used to, but I found that my feet and legs weren’t as tired as usual after long runs,” one tester noted. We’re happy to report that plush midsole remains unchanged in the seventh version. The major revision for this update is the new ankle collar made from a softer memory-foam-like material. It’s designed to conform better to narrow and wide heels alike for a secure, Achilles-hugging fit. Plus, the 7 feels just a touch lighter than its predecessor (lab measurements pegged the trainer right in the middle of the pack) with no loss of durability or support.
—BEST FOR TRAILS—
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4
The Speedgoat 4 builds on its predecessor’s legacy as a fast and furious trail monster known for sticky lugs and soft landings. But this time around, the shoe adds a little extra foam in the heel and updates the mesh upper to breathe and drain better. Some of our testers found the 4’s cushioning to be too pillowy and less reactive, but most thought the shoe was an overall comfortable and protective trail runner that feels much lighter than its stats suggest.
Adidas UltraBoost 21
This 2021 version of the UltraBoost has 20 percent more Boost than the original and 5 percent more than the 19th iteration. It’s also a shoe with a conscience: the Prime Blue upper is made of 92 percent recycled ocean plastic. When it comes to a plush ride that doesn’t lose its bounce below freezing or in the final miles of a long run, the iconic UltraBoost delivers.
—BEST FOR LONG RUNS—
Saucony Triumph 18
Test editor Amanda Furrer described the Editors’ Choice-winning Triumph 17 as “buttery soft” underfoot. And our lab tests backed this up; both the women’s and men’s models showed the cushioning in the forefoot and heel to be incredibly plush. The 18th version keeps its softness and extraordinarily high energy return but has added flex grooves and a new blown-rubber outsole that make an already impressive ride feel even smoother. (The 18 still weighs on the heavy side—in fact, it’s even a bit heftier than the 17—but you wouldn’t know it from its surprisingly propulsive bounce and new streamlined upper.) “Because of its weight, I was doubtful the Triumph would inspire me to pick up the tempo on my morning runs,” Furrer said. “And yet my smartwatch read race-pace miles on those jaunts, and I became addicted to the shoe’s bounce.”
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