When compiling a list of cushioned shoes, it’s easy to jump in and start thinking of our favourite neutral shoes and forget about any other category of running shoes.
Since the running shoe market has become so segmented the specific target audience for a new model can be really quite specific. Nowadays we have trainers, super-trainers, trail, road-to-trail, support, control, stability, etc, you get the point!
What people often seem to think is that if you have a support-type shoe you need to sacrifice cushioning and that’s not the case at all.
Regardless of the type of running shoe and its intended use, we now have a wide range of shoes that offer a wide range of cushioning and cushioning technologies.
Here, I’m going to try to select a range of shoes for particular users and use, all of which have one thing in common, good cushioning.
To give my selections a little background, these are based on my own recent training shoes and those I’ve recommended to runners in my own running speciality store.
I’ve been training for the Berlin marathon in recent months, covering around 50 miles a week on average, mainly on the road and occasional firm trail.
In the past, I’ve always worn a support shoe for training but in recent years I feel the cushioning properties of neutral shoes have naturally become better and more stable. With this in mind, I now display a more neutral-to-mild overpronated gait.
So, here’s my selection of the best cushioned running shoes on the market right now.
The 5 Best Cushioned Running Shoes
1. Best cushioned shoe for neutral runners: Saucony Triumph 21
2. Best cushioned shoe with support: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
3. Best cushioned trail shoe: HOKA Stinson 7
4. Best cushioned racing shoe: adidas Prime X
5. Best value cushioned shoe: Puma Velocity Nitro 2
The Best Cushioned Running Shoes
#1. Best cushioned shoe for neutral runners:
Saucony Triumph 21
Weight – 279g / 9.8oz; Heel stack – 37mm; Toe stack – 27mm (10mm drop)
Refreshed only a little compared to the previous version, the Saucony Triumph 21 is an improvement.
For me the improvement was in terms of the overall fit of the shoe, this latest model has a new seamless, flat-knit upper that enhances the premium feel of the shoe and provides a much neater and snugger fit.
The plush cushioning is now matched by the upper and from the moment you step inside, you can’t help but feel surrounded by a sense of quality and plush, gentle padding.
I’d probably go as far as to say the fit of this shoe is the best on the market right now. In fact, I find them so comfortable I find myself reaching for the shoe when running small errands and for general day-to-day wear!
But this piece is all about the cushioning and here that’s provided by the brand’s PWRRUN+ foam.
The midsole has the appearance of small, compressed polystyrene balls, but this Peba-based material is a little more durable.
It’s similar in look to the adidas BOOST midsole but takes on a totally different feel. It’s lighter than BOOST and for me has a more natural and runnable feel and feedback.
Where BOOST shoes feel heavy and (nowadays) not overly responsive, the PWRRUN+ is light and springy with a freshness that seems to provide great feedback with every step.
The overall geometry of the midsole contributes to the general stability of the shoe. It’s bulbous, but not overly and simply provides a wide enough base to cushion the whole of the foot however it may strike the ground.
Even with the high, 37mm stack, the shoe doesn’t feel unstable and the resilience of the midsole doesn’t easily compress or deform, making for a stable platform on which to run.
The Saucony Triumph 21 has become one of my go-to shoes for daily miles (and pretty much everything else) and I’ve liked it so much I am already on my second pair.
In a wide range of neutral, cushioned running shoes available right now, the Saucony Triumph 21 hits the perfect sweet spot for me in offering durable, lightweight, stable and just simply extremely comfortable cushioning that can cope with a wide range of paces from day to day.
#2. Best cushioned shoe with support:
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
Weight: 289g/10.2oz; Heel Stack: 28.5mm; Toe stack: 16.5 (drop 10mm)
Like the quote, ‘Power is nothing without control’, cushioning is nothing without stability. And the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
As I mentioned previously, stability is an often overlooked feature when discussing cushioning.
But this should not be the case as many require stability or control and, in controlling the foot adequately and maintaining a neutral position, the foot can more naturally adapt and use its own, built-in cushioning.
In this, the 23rd generation of the Brooks Adrenaline GTS the brand’s GuideRail technology provides the support and the cushioning is exactly the same DNA Loft v2 material as is found on that popular neutral model, the Ghost 15.
In days gone by, the Adrenaline used a familiar method of control favoured by many brands, the dual-density medial post.
This control feature tended to be an either on or off type of device and for many the overriding perception was one of a ‘hard piece’ sitting under the arch.
The Brooks GuideRails offer a much more user-friendly experience and work in a dynamic manner that means most people can use the shoe effectively.
Like the pop-up rails found at a bowling alley to help keep children’s efforts in the lane, so the GuideRails found here help keep the foot centred or neutral.
These higher sidewalls increase the sides of the cushioning creating a cup-like rearfoot to the shoe.
Should your foot roll laterally or medially, the rails will reduce these. And all the time, they use the most popular cushioning material from Brooks, DNA Loft v2.
Now, there’s nothing particularly special or indeed, outstanding about this cushioning material. Essentially, it’s a compression moulded EVA-type material, but it’s great.
I run in these shoes regularly as well as it being one of my favourites, it’s the most popular shoes I sell and indeed, one of the most popular shoes in running specialist stores globally.
You see, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 does lots of things very well. It’s light, flexible, supportive, well-made, durable, comes in width fittings, comes in a wide range of colours and it’s just a shoe that many people slip into and enjoy the ride.
It’s a very good value shoe too, and in this day and age, that’s a great plus point.
The Adrenaline GTS was previously referred to as the ‘go-to-shoe’ within Brooks, such was its popularity.
It was a shoe anyone in any local running store could reach for the it would simply work.
Now, the GTS is taking on the meaning of ‘go-to-support’ thanks to the highly effective nature of the control it offers.
#3. Best cushioned trail shoe:
HOKA Stinson 7
Weight: 365g/12.9oz; Heel Stack: 42mm; Toe stack: 37mm (drop 5mm)
When it comes to cushioning, many people will immediately think of HOKA. Since they launched their brand just over 10 years ago, they were instantly recognisable with the high stack of cushioning.
It must be said that initially, the shoes were simply regular shoes with a deeper stack of EVA foam midsole. Just that, no super-foam or special technology, just more foam.
It’s only in 2023 that they have stepped away from the more traditional EVA materials and introduced the more modern, Peba-based foams.
While the Stinson 7 is still largely a compression moulded EVA midsole, it does have a feel of being blended with more elastic materials, although HOKA hasn’t said exactly what!
The large, oversized stack of cushioning is present and it’s better than ever. At 42mm deep in the heel with a 5mm drop into 37mm of forefoot cushioning, this shoe offers more under the forefoot than many regular training shoes.
The midsole is high, but it’s also broad and this is important as it adds stability. If it weren’t, as a trail shoe, this could be almost suicidal.
Stability also comes courtesy of the new H-Frame support system. Picture if you will a firmer H-shaped section of foam with softer elements sitting with the ‘H’. The whole construction makes for a great combination of cushioning and stability.
It’s not a support, control or anti-pronation shoe, remember this is a trail model, but it does keep a stable footing given its high stack.
The upper is beautifully made. I think it’s the nicest HOKA I’ve tried to date, very high quality, plush and simply a nice place for your feet.
The outsole features 4mm deep lugs. The majority of the more aggressively shaped lugs surround the outer edges of the sole.
This combination works well on creating traction but also allows the shoe to be smooth enough to ride on firmer sections of trail.
Overall, for the trails, the Stinson 7 offers exceptional cushioning!
#4. Best cushioned racing shoe:
adidas Prime X
Weight: 251g / 8.85oz; Heel Stack: 50mm; Toe stack: 41.5mm (drop 8.5mm)
Many of the latest carbon-plated road racing shoes now also feature an important element, super-foams.
These new-generation materials are soft, springy and highly responsive. But, when it comes down to out-and-out cushioning in a racing shoe, the Prime X stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The Prime X literally does stand above the rest simply due to its enormous stack of cushioning.
Measuring 50 mm deep, it’s the deepest stack of cushioning on the market right now.
The shoe is banned by World Athletics as it exceeds its stack height limit of 50mm. This move was a clever tactic from adidas and instantly provided them with a talking point. ‘The shoe they banned’ etc.
To be honest, I am a little unsure as to if World Athletics did actually ban the shoe. Did they measure it? Was it submitted to them for measurement? Or did adidas simply self-regulate themselves and pronounce it banned?
When I last checked the World Athletics footwear list, it wasn’t there, so I assume adidas played a master stroke in marketing here.
Regardless, if you intend to attack a World mark or championship qualification, don’t wear the Prime X unless you want to risk the wrath of World Athletics.
The midsole is Lightstrike Pro and given the amount of it here, the shoe is indeed very light, coming in at just 251g even with the 50mm stack.
Adidas don’t use a carbon plate, instead opting for carbon-infused rods. These rods follow the lines of the foot’s metatarsals and aim to provide a little added propulsion on toe-off.
It is an interesting point in the brand’s marketing of this shoe in that they say it ‘limits energy loss’. This is in contrast to other brands using works like energy return etc.
Adidas is actually correct here in that any shoe with modern foam although feeling ‘springy’ doesn’t actually return any energy, simply doesn’t lose as much energy as more basic EVA-type foams. When we do see a foam that returns actual energy the game will move on!
One caveat with the Prime X is its stability. It’s as stable as a house of cards, wobbly in fact. But in a straight line, the cushioning is amazing and simply has to be experienced.
#5. Best value cushioned shoe:
Puma Velocity Nitro 2
Weight:257g/9oz: Heel Stack: 33mm: Toe stack: 25mm (drop 8mm)
My final choice in this line-up of the best-cushioned shoes is a great value option.
It’s easy to pick expensive shoes in any category, but finding the best value is perhaps the trickiest selection.
The Puma Velocity Nitro 2 doesn’t have bells and whistles, but it does offer great cushioning and great value.
The midsole is the brand’s version of Nitro foam. I say their version as other brands such as Brooks also use Nitro foam in shoes such as the Glycerin. Except for the Glycerin, you’ll pay £165.
So, we have a reasonable, 33mm heel stack and 8mm drop of Nitro foam in a shoe that’s perfect for everyday running.
It’s proved popular for Puma too and is available in a variety of upper options, collaborations with fashion houses and waterproof versions.
Is a simple, neutral cushioned shoe but it does the job and it does it very well. At this money, it excels.
The sole uses the Pumagrip rubber, a feature that has now become synonymous with great traction on a variety of surfaces.
The upper is neat, well made and fits well. Again is a rather simple design yet perfectly functional.
For beginners or those wanting a reasonably priced, well-cushioned shoe, the Puma Velocity Nitro is perfect.