After researching dozens of the best running shoes over the last few years, we bought and tested the top 10 models for 2021 that will suit every running style. We tested each of these models extensively, maintaining an equal playing field by running the same test loop for each shoe. After that, we took each model on various long runs and dropped the pace in some uptempo efforts. We've made it easy for you to find the right product by analyzing five of the most crucial performance metrics, helping you narrow down the fit and feel for your running style and budget.Related: Best Running Shoes for Women of 2021
Best Running Shoes for Men of 2021
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|Pros||Responsive cushioning, breathable upper, lightweight||Lightweight, great cushioning, comfortable upper||Responsive, light, fast affordable||Responsive cushioning, smooth heel-to-toe rocker, durable||Comfortable, stable, supportive, unique design|
|Cons||Minimal support and stability||Less responsive, lacks rubber outsole||Minimal support, lacks cushioning, lacks outsole rubber||Loose heel cup, support under heel lacking||Heavy, expensive|
|Bottom Line||Excellent cushioning that provides great energy transfer with an extremely comfortable, performance fit upper||These lightweight shoes have top landing comfort and maximum cushion with a great upper||A model that makes you feel quick, fast, and light that provides maximum energy transfer and forward momentum||A rockered design with responsive cushioning keeps legs feeling powerful and fresh into longer efforts||Premium upper design with a responsive cushioned outsole perfect for longer outings|
|Rating Categories||Saucony Endorphin S...||Hoka One One Mach 4||Saucony Kinvara 12||New Balance Fresh F...||Adidas Ultraboost 21|
|Cushioning And Landing Comfort (25%)|
|Upper Comfort (20%)|
|Lateral Stability And Support (15%)|
|Specs||Saucony Endorphin S...||Hoka One One Mach 4||Saucony Kinvara 12||New Balance Fresh F...||Adidas Ultraboost 21|
|Weight (per shoe, size 9.5)||8.3 oz.||8.1 oz.||7.7 oz.||9.4 oz.||12.9 oz.|
|Heel to Toe Drop||8 mm||5 mm||4 mm||8 mm||10 mm|
|Midsole Material||PWRRUN||PROFLY||PWRRUN||Fresh Foam||Boost|
|Sole Rubber||XT-900||Rubberized EVA||Foam with rubber inserts||Ortholite||Continental|
|Upper Material||Engineered mesh||Engineered mesh||Mesh||Synthetic, mesh||Textile/recycled polyester|
|Width Options||Normal||Normal||Normal, wide||Narrow, normal, wide, extra wide||Normal|
|Sizes Available||7 - 15||7 - 14||7 - 15||6 - 20||5 - 14|
Best Overall Men's Running Shoe
Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
The Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is our overall winner for its lightweight, responsive design that we loved for all of our workouts. Saucony has done a great job combining ample cushioning with a responsive midsole that feels fresh and springlike. We kept coming back to this model for our long runs and tempo efforts, as the overall comfort and speed provided by this model stand above the rest. A great rocker design kept us on our toes and applying force into the ground. Our stride with this model felt smooth and explosive. The upper material feels made for performance, and we appreciated the rubber outsole design, which was light but added some confidence in wet conditions.
The long-term durability of this model may not be up to your standards if you are running on rough surfaces. While we experienced no issues during our testing, this is a lightweight design, and the rubber outsole will wear faster than those with heavier outsoles. This model did also not score as highly in the support and stability category, which puts a priority on maximum rigidity. This shoe is for those looking for a lightweight trainer with the best cushion to response ratio.
Read review: Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
Great Value for Racing and Speed
Saucony Kinvara 12
The Saucony Kinvara 12 is designed for speed and the lightweight design tells you that. From its lower overall stack height to its 4-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, this model is best for shorter distances where speed really matters. We were impressed with its subtle cushion that works great for users with aggressive form and who are light on their feet. The thin upper is a performance fit holding the toes and midfoot snug while keeping the heel locked in place. It is also very breathable, which we loved when the runs got hotter during the day.
Some users may find this model overly harsh if you are not light on your feet. We wish there was a more durable outsole but can't complain given the minimal weight. We think this shoe is for experienced runners who know their form and try to run as midfoot to the forefoot as possible. We would not recommend this to beginners or those who need more cushion or rigidity in their everyday trainer. If you already have a well-cushioned model, we would definitely recommend adding this to your quiver of options.
Read review: Saucony Kinvara 12
Most Responsive Cushioning
Hoka One One Mach 4
The Hoka One One Mach 4 impressed us with its ability to provide lots of cushioning while still being responsive. With its low weight, long runs felt awesome and left us with much less fatigue than some of the other competition. Their Profly compound felt responsive and the cushioning never felt like it bottomed out or created a sensation that was dull or unenergetic. A wider platform and ground feel due to a 5-millimeter heel-to-toe drop makes this shoe feel lively and confident. A thinner upper design creates a sensation of no upper and your foot and foam all as one unit. Even in temperatures reaching 100 degrees, we felt cool and experienced less sweating than other models in this weight range.
We did not experience any durability issues with this model, but the outsole has zero rubber and only exposed foam. This exposed foam did not degrade during our testing, but we do not expect this to last as long as a more rugged rubber outsole. This would not be the first model we would suggest to those looking for maximum support and stability, but we don't think the low drop and weight should deter you. This shoe is for those looking for additional comfort in a responsive shoe. If you want to give the Hoka cushioning a try but feel concerned about it being overkill, we would recommend starting with this model because we also found it extremely fast and light.
Read review: Hoka One One Mach 4
Best Support and Stability
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 provided the best support and stability across all of the models we tested. Thanks to their GuideRail technology, our feet felt planted and grounded, which translated well up into our ankles and knees. This model maintains the priority of support and stability by using moderate cushioning and a high heel-to-toe drop of 12 millimeters. There is a subtle compression under the forefoot while the heel and midfoot feel solid and stable. We like the moderate arch support, which works well with the stretch laces and thicker tongue, which we normally don't prefer, but we quite liked on this model.
Often these shoes felt a bit slow due to their stable design, we wished there was a bit more responsiveness. Readers that emphasize support and stability will find this model most suited to your needs. If you have issues with pronation or are a heel striker, these could help compensate for this type of running. People that generally find themselves without needing stability assistance may still prefer this model for its grounded feel and higher drop if you struggle with Achilles or lower leg problems. We know Brooks is popular for their classic designs and are glad they are still offering these types of models to the people that love them.
Read review: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
Best All-Around Comfort
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 has one of the best heel-to-toe rocker designs, which, when paired with its great cushioning and responsiveness, was one of our all-around favorites. The cushion was supple but never felt overkill or too compressive. This model was great for long runs where all-day comfort truly mattered, the thin knit upper worked great at keeping our feet snug, and we experienced no blisters or hotspots. Unfortunately, we had a bit of heel slippage but it did not cause any blisters or discomfort.
Some users looking for high responsiveness could find this model a bit bouncy at times, but we appreciated this on longer runs where the ending miles could cause fatigue and harshness when landing. We think there could be a deeper heel cup and that the rise could come further up the Achilles to prevent any slippage. While we loved the thin knit upper, it may not last as long as some of the more durable shoes, which cost less. We think this shoe would be great for any user, that wants high scoring across the board for the highest weighted metrics we tested.
Why You Should Trust Us
Matthew Richardson has spent his free time for the last 15 years pursuing running as a sport and hobby. Running track and cross country through middle and high school, Matthew transitioned to higher mountain trails in college. Once out of college, he has pursued running in the mountains, competing in ultra-marathons and long-distance racing. Matthew uses road running to maintain his turnover and speed for fast descents, and heart rate pumping climbs.
By creating a test loop through his hometown of Durango, Colorado, Matthew standardized the initial shoe comparison, which took him over various gradients and surfaces. He put many miles in our test group, searching for the best shoe for each type of athlete. Matthew understands everyone's needs are different and that all factors should be considered even if they have less importance to him as a runner.
Related: How We Tested Running Shoes
Analysis and Test Results
We've tested and found the best men's running shoes for you by evaluating five key performance metrics we feel provide you the ability to pick and choose which attributes are most important to you: cushioning and landing comfort, responsiveness, upper comfort, lateral stability and support, and weight. How we tested for these metrics and which are our favorites are discussed below. Be thinking about what metric is most important to you and use our feedback to find your ideal model. Our scoring is based on our personal experiences and while we stand behind the results, don't discount a low overall score for something that may have the right features for you.
As with all gear, value is a consideration you must make when purchasing. Some users may feel confident purchasing a less durable, more expensive model, whereas others want to get the most mileage out of their dollars. The Saucony Kinvara 12 is one of our favorite models for its value, blending lightweight performance with a reasonable price. The two Hoka models that we tested also provide excellent all-around performance and come in with lower list prices than most other shoes in our lineup.
Cushioning and Landing Comfort
Comfort underfoot is one of the immediate things we test and look for in a road running shoe. The ability of the shoe to reduce the constant pounding on the harsh asphalt and concrete is essential for a good experience. We've tested various models that claim to have different levels of cushioning to narrow down what we feel is the best cushioning and landing comfort model. We tested this through long milage days and shorter tempo efforts, landing on our forefoot, midfoot, and heels.
The highest-ranked model in this category was our favorite overall men's running shoe, the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2. This model has a very responsive cushioning that sprung us forward in our tempo runs and absorbed a great amount of the ground impact but was still able to provide an excellent ground feel. We prefer models that are well cushioned but don't have a sinking feeling or dullness when pushing off.
If maximum cushioning is what you desire, then two of our favorites are the Hoka One One Mach 4 and Hoka One One Clifton 8. Each of these designs has a luxurious cushion which Hoka is known for. We were impressed with the bottomless cushion that still felt responsive when toeing off and preferred these for our longest of runs to help reduce fatigue.
A great middle-ground design that is responsive and has substantial cushioning is the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11. This had one of the best rocker designs we tested, and it helped get us on our forefoot.
A responsive design allows for a strong, confident running experience, and we are always looking for a model that gives us that edge when the pace drops. Careful blends of foam and features must be dialed to allow for springlike takeoffs without feeling too harsh or squishy. We tested the compression or lack of for each of the 10 models and picked our favorites from our tempo efforts. The heel-to-toe drop of the shoe had to create a strong platform where our Achilles and lower legs felt engaged, they had to perform well under fatigue, and we had to feel fast. Out of all the categories we tested, this was the most important to us, greatly impacting our stance on each of the models.
Having the highest responsiveness was the lightest model of the group, the Saucony Kinvara 12. This is a model we have used for years here at GearLab and we continue to have it as one of our favorites due to the instantaneous response and peppy feel that leaves us excited and ready to run fast. There is subtle compaction that allows us to drive forward; this is partly due to the lower 4-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, which kept all of our muscles engaged.
Other high scorers in this category were the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 and Nike Pegasus 38. Both of these shoes have very comfortable cushioning but are also stiff and rigid, allowing for great power transfer. These are the models we would take on longer efforts when the milage was cresting double digits.
A comfortable upper can make or break a running shoe experience, as hotspots or blisters can quickly cause an abrupt end to your run. Our testing was kept standard by initially using the same pair of socks during the first test loop. After that, we mixed it up running in thicker and thinner pairs and tested the wicking abilities in hotter temperatures. Everyone has a different foot size and volume, and some make work better than others for you. High on our personal list of priorities was a snug fit that kept our foot stable and provided confidence through corners and uneven terrain. We wanted an upper that offered good support and locked down our heel without our toes feeling cramped. The tongue had to precisely wrap our midfoot and the laces had to hold us snugly but not cause pressure or hotspots.
Receiving high marks for its once-piece stretch knit fabric design is the Adidas Ultraboost 21. This fabric felt custom fitted to our foot, and the level of engineering to provide this fit is quite impressive. Slipping your foot into this upper gently expanded the fabric but left you with a firm, snug fit. The toe-box at first seemed small, but once the fabric expanded, we experienced minimal movement and no rubbing or irritation.
Also high on the comfort list was Hoka One One Mach 4 with a thin upper design and awesome tongue, which also securely held our foot and had a great heel cup. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 had a more classic durable upper, which felt stable and supportive.
Lateral Stability and Support
It's important to feel stable while running to reduce the chance of pain or injury. Our test lineup has a wide range of offerings with different levels of stability for every type of runner. Some of you may need or want a supportive grounded feel others may put less emphasis on this metric for a more lively model. We tested each shoe over various types of gradients and surfaces to give you our top picks that were both stable and supportive.
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 and Brooks Ghost 14 both provide excellent support and stability. This led to a grounded feel where each footstrike felt precise and well planted. Both of these models have a 12-millimeter heel-to-toe drop which keeps your heel engaged with the ground more often to offer stability through the heel, ankle, and knees. The Adrenaline has added Guiderails support features that help keep your foot balanced and stable. Both of these models could help if you experience pronation problems. Remember to seek a professional's help before self-diagnosing pronation problems. Choosing the wrong model could lead to even great problems in the future.
Also high on our list was the Asics Gel-Kayano 28, which is a classic design that offers a unique gel compound that is not found in other models. There is also substantial underfoot arch support which enhances the feeling of stability and support. This shoe felt wide enough to offer a natural foot position which helped maintain stability on uneven surfaces.
Weight is a tricky subject when talking about outdoor products. Often weight determines the price or the durability, and weight reductions may not always offer pure benefits. We took careful consideration when analyzing this review to determine how weight impacted our feelings about the models. We typically prefer a lightweight model for purely less weight on our feet when trying hard or putting in big miles. Weight often differs from the manufacturer listings, and we weighed each size 9.5 per shoe on our own scale to find the comparison.
Coming in at the lowest weight is the Saucony Kinvara 12, which felt like a dream on our feet during high turnover and faster paces. The Hoka One One Mach 4 and the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 were also minimalist designs that we preferred for our faster efforts due to their lightweight upper and fabrics, which felt agile and quick.
During our testing, we found that there is often a tradeoff with lightweight designs when it comes to overall stability and predicted durability. Many lightweight designs use thinner and lighter upper materials or reduce or eliminate the rubber tread on the outsole. More traditionally designed shoes with padded uppers and durable outsold are among the heavier designs we tested.
Finding the best men's running shoes is a difficult task, but we hope we've made it easier for you through our extensive testing. We've tested 10 unique styles and evaluated them across five crucial performance metrics. Don't forget to check out our individual gear reviews linked throughout this article for more detailed information about each design. We hope that this review will help you find the right shoe for your needs and budget and that will help provide you with an awesome running experience.
— Matthew Richardson
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