Whether you’re racking up miles on the pavement or stand on your feet all day for work, it’s essential that your shoes are comfortable. Leading makers of running shoes understand that, and for this reason, they’re constantly refining the technology behind the cushioning foam in their designs to make comfort a major selling point.
For example, New Balance has a line of cushioned shoes called Fresh Foam, while Nike touts its signature ZoomX foam for elite runners. And Saucony has what it refers to as PWRRN+ foam, says Howard Friedman, DPM, of Suffern Podiatry in New York.
“The point is that a lot of running shoes have moved toward being cushioned in general,” Dr. Friedman tells Health. How much support you need is a highly personal decision, though. Maximum cushioning isn’t always the way to go, because the extra thickness can detract from “ground feel,” or your foot's ability to sense and react to subtle changes in terrain.
But if you’re looking for a sneaker to absorb shock and lessen impact on your joints—both of which can help minimize the wear and tear running causes over time—a cushioned option will do the job. Not to mention, the soft, plush texture of extra cushioning will increase the comfort level of a shoe—and it just plain feels good.
We browsed thousands of customer reviews to find 9 cushioned running shoes that come highly recommended by shoppers. All of these options, below, come from podiatrist-approved brands and are constructed with cushioned insoles to maximize comfort with every step.
So whether you want to feel like you’re sprinting on clouds or prefer moderate cushioning that allows you to still feel the road beneath you, you’ll find something that works for you here.
These are the best cushioned running shoes in 2020, according to reviewers:
With a whopping 3,900 five-star reviews, Adidas’ Women’s Cloudfoam Pure shoes are the best-selling women’s sneaker on Amazon. Made with the brand’s signature Cloudfoam insole that hugs the foot, they’re great for staying comfortable and supported while working out, running errands, and everything in between. Fans give them high praise for their comfort and sleek style; they’re available in a slew of colorways. A reviewer writes: “Comfiest shoes I have ever owned and I get so many compliments and questions about them. Great sneaker! Good for running around.”
Available at amazon.com, from $63
Dr. Friedman recommends Hoka One One and says the brand is known for making some of the best cushioned running shoes on the market. The Clifton 6 provides balanced cushioning with compression EVA midsoles that provide Hoka’s signature support, plus a removable foam insole for even more comfort. What’s more, a rubber outsole provides long-lasting durability with minimal weight. Because of the high level of support, cushioning, and durability, these Hoka’s are a great option for people with foot pain caused by sports injuries, tendonitis, or other foot ailments. One reviewer noted: “I have Achilles tendonitis in both heels. As soon as I started running in Clifton 5's, the pain literally disappeared. Hip pain was eradicated as well. Such great running shoes for me!”
Available at zappos.com, $120
If you’re looking for a little less bulk, Dr. Friedman suggests a shoe with a lightweight foam midsole that isn’t as thick as Hokas but still provides comfort, like this Saucony option. Made with cushioning designed for responsiveness and a flexible sole for quick transitions, the Kinvara running shoes also look great—they come in eye-catching colors such as this berry and gold combo. One reviewer wrote: “These are comfortable from the word go. And now 50+ miles later, they are perfect, never a hint of a blister, so lightweight and cushiony. These are like the minimal running shoe I've been searching for, but with nice support and cushion.”
Available at amazon.com, from $100
Another lightweight option that still provides adequate cushioning, the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 Running Shoes are made with the brand’s signature full-length Fresh Foam insole for complete comfort. Constructed for a secure fit, these supportive shoes also get high marks from people with plantar fasciitis, a disorder of connective tissue in the feet that results in heel pain. “I am a nurse and avid walker with a terrible case of plantar fasciitis," one reviewer wrote. "For the first time in 8 years, I can get out of bed and walk down my hall in the morning without hobbling in pain. I don't come home from 45 power walks and throw my shoes in the corner. I actually keep them on. It's like walking on memory foam with support. I love them. I'm buying another."
Available at amazon.com, from $112 (was $150)
Designed to meet the needs of world-class marathoners, the Nike Vaporfly sneaker is as sleek and functional as they come. Featuring a carbon plate inside Nike’s ultra-light ZoomX foam, these elite running shoes provide maximum responsiveness without sacrificing speed. They’re also constructed with a lightweight knit outer for added breathability. Fans say the high-tech shoes are worth the splurge. One reviewer wrote: “With all previous shoes, I never could tell much difference from one brand to the other except in weight and in where the pressure was greatest on the various parts of my feet. But when I put on these shoes, I could tell IMMEDIATELY that there was something different in the shock-absorbing ability of the shoe and in the spring.”
Available at amazon.com, from $237
Looking for more bounce back on your runs? These shoes are made with Asics’ proprietary gel cushioning in the front and heel areas, which helps absorb shock and lessen impact on your joints. This popular pair also provides lots of support and comes in a range of fun colorways. One shopper said these offer “comfort and stability” and continued: “I have been buying gel-kayanos for years for my over-pronation. I am an avid walker, wearing my last pair down until there was no tread. New running shoes always seem to feel like I'm walking on a cloud, and these are no exception. It's cushioned in all of the right places, and creates a firm hold of the foot for great support.”
Available at amazon.com, from $144
From the internal bootie that surrounds your foot in comfort to the midsole cushions that disperse impact to a crash pad in the heel, these running shoes are optimized for comfort. They’re also surprisingly affordable compared to other similar models and have a knit upper and outsole that’s both stylish and breathable. One shopper called these shoes “heavenly” and said, “These shoes are so comfortable and I can wear them all day. I have/do suffer from plantar fasciitis and these shoes are great for me. And I love the way they look too!”
Available at amazon.com, from $66
Brooks has long been a go-to for runners because of the consistent quality of its running shoes. The Ghost 13 is no different; the reliable shoe is designed with moderate cushioning that provides shock absorption and stability while still remaining lightweight. They’re also great for cross-training. A reviewer notes: “I loved the Ghost 12, but this one went the extra mile. They extended the cushioning to the forefoot. I don't run so my priorities are a little different. I do HIIT and other cardio workouts that involve jumping and plyometrics. Since I have wide short feet with high arches, I tend to land hard on the forefoot. This shoe is like jumping on a foam mattress...soft and springy.”
Available at amazon.com, from $102
If you’re putting in lots of miles or work on your feet all day, these super durable running shoes are for you. They’re made with a 32-millimeter stack height cushion that’s designed to provide additional support for tired feet, along with a bunion window that offers a comfortable fit for all foto shapes. Notes one reviewer: “The Altra Paradigm 3 are THE BEST shoes. Most other shoes I try on, my feet start hurting instantly. These feel like I'm walking on clouds. I work in a lab and I am on my feet 12 hours a day and with these shoes, my feet, legs and back do hurt any more. I also walk/ run 4-6 miles on my days off, and with these shoes I feel like I could keep going for much longer.
Available at amazon.com, from $89