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After the "barefoot" running boom, footwear is soaring to new heights. Enter: chunky, heavily cushioned kicks.

Priscilla Ward
March 17, 2015

Running is soaring to new heights thanks to those chunky, heavily cushioned kicks you’ve been eyeing on the feet of everyone from casual weekend runners to Olympic silver medalist and middle-distance runner Leo Manzano. And while the popularity of the book Born to Run extolled the benefits of less padding—which unarguably was the start of the whole minimal/barefoot running boom—we’ve decided we want (a lot) more. Enter the maximalist sneaker trend.

“Even at the height of the minimalist trend, there were many runners who said, ‘hey, this isn’t for me,’” notes Johanna Bjorken, Merchandise Director for JackRabbit Sports, a specialty running store in New York City. “So what we’re seeing now is the pendulum swinging the other way, and manufacturers making shoes for that consumer who doesn’t want to feel the ground.”

And since you don’t really have to “transition” into these kicks the way you did with their minimal counterpart, making the switch should be relatively easy. For Bjorken, personally, she likes to think of these as “hangover” shoes. “I like them best on days when my body just feels like it wants a little bit more protection, regardless of the distance of the run.”

Here are five plush pairs to consider for your next run.

Booster Babies

At first sight, the supersized midsole on the Hoka One One Clifton ($130; zappos.com) may make you chuckle, but, trust us, your body will thank you for its robust padding. And that nifty rocker bottom? It helps promote a nice fluid ride, from heel to toe.

Photo: Hoka One One

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Cushy Kicks

Not only are the Asics 33-M ($140; amazon.com) runners pillowy soft, but they're super flexible, too, which is good news for all 33 of those joints in your foot. Plus a wide toe box allows those tootsies to splay properly upon impact.

Photo: Asics

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Moon Walk

The New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay 980 ($120; amazon.com), which happens to be named after an island in the Philippines, comfortably cushions all of your steps, from mile one to marathon. Also handy: The neoprene stretch tongue allows you to adjust the fit without creating wrinkles in the toe area.

Photo: New Balance

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Sole Mates

Designed with a woman’s foot in mind—a narrower heel, longer arch, and higher instep—the Altra Paradigm ($83-$130; amazon.com), which still sports a zero-drop platform, offers neutral runners plenty of plush running miles.

Photo: Altra

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Star Tracker

Not only does the Brooks Transcend 2 ($170; zappos.com) offer pressure zones that help disperse impact across the foot, but its midsole “guide rails” keep moderate pronators in check. Did we mention that it’s super cute, too?

Photo: Brooks

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