The Best Cushioned Running Shoes for a Plush Pace
Running isn’t always about speed. Sometimes a smooth cruise around the neighborhood is rewarding enough. But just like you wouldn’t choose a sports car to haul your groceries in, you wouldn’t want to gently jog around the block in a pair of race-ready marathon shoes.
Enter padded running shoes, the family SUV of running shoes. With plush comfort that rivals the most comfortable mattresses, these silhouettes can be a great option for those who want a less tiring running experience. It’s not about how fast you get to the finish line in cushioned running shoes, it’s about how fun the ride is.
Before you hit the road and browse the best cushioned running shoes on the market today, it pays to understand what these plush silhouettes are and who can benefit the most from them.
What are cushioned running shoes?
Let’s eliminate that first. Most running shoes provide some form of cushioning. Where cushioned running shoes earn legend is in How many cushioning is present. Cushioned running shoes offer maximum levels of plush to provide excellent shock absorption and a comfortable ride. Cushioned running shoes are easy to spot, thanks to their foam midsoles and sometimes exaggerated stack heights. If it looks like an upper was sewn onto a pillow, it’s probably a max cushioning running shoe.
Who Should Wear Cushioned Running Shoes?
I’m sure there’s no shortage of runners who would prefer a cloudy feel with every step, but well-cushioned running shoes might not be the best for every type of gait. Due to the emphasis on plush support, there is not much room left in each silhouette to include stabilizing features or other pitch-correcting components. For this reason, cushioned running shoes are best suited for neutral runners. Those who are pronated or supinated may want to look elsewhere or opt for a comfortable insole to pair with their corrective kicks.
Despite their neutral design, cushioned running shoes remain a versatile choice for a number of training disciplines. They can be welcome shoe options for long-distance runs, providing plenty of comfort once the mileage hits the double digits. Cushioned running shoes are also a natural fit for short-distance jogs and neighborhood walks. However, all that foam underfoot can add weight to the profile, so if your focus is on tempo training, there are other, lighter options.
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Over the course of several weeks, I scoured the streets, sidewalks, and trails of Pittsburgh to test out a handful of these top picks, highlighting how comfortable each silhouette is over varying distances. I also regularly took these cloud-shaped sneakers on a walk around my neighborhood, to see if there were any noticeable differences between a jogging and walking pace.
Aside from how I felt underfoot, I also analyzed each shoe’s upper construction for durability, breathability, and of course, comfort. After all, what good is finding comfort in the insole if the tops of your feet are irritated and compromised?
BEST CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOE OVERALL
Hoka Bondi 8
BEST IMPROVED CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOES
Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 2
BEST BUDGET CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOE
Saucony triumphs 19
THE BEST CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOE FOR EVERYDAY TRAINING
New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12
BEST ALL-ROUND CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOE
Asics Gel Nimbus 24
THE MOST ATTRACTIVE CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOE
BEST CUSHIONED SHOE FOR WALKING
Adidas Ultraboost 22
THE BEST CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOE FOR STABILITY
Altra Paradigm 6
BEST CUSHIONED TRAIL RUNNING SHOE
Hoka Speedgoat 5
THE BEST CUSHIONED RUNNING SHOE FOR RECOVERY TRAINING
Brooks Glycerin 20
You Should Rotate Your Running Shoes More Often – Here’s Why
Buying multiple pairs of running shoes may seem like an extravagance, but it’s actually better for your body and your wallet.
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