Best Cushioned Shoes Reviewed & Rated

Shoes are essential; they protect your feet from the elements, and they give you support to prevent injury.  However, many shoes are painful to wear. They lack cushioning and padding and, as such, you step on a rock while you’re hiking and agony lights up your foot.  Or you step on something hard in your office shoes and you really wish that the universe conspired to make better shoes.  Fortunately for all of us, the universe did conspire to make better, more cushioned shoes.

Last Updated: March 16, 2018
By Alice Frutis:

This update adds six new shoes, replacing one previous entry with a better shoe and bringing the list up to a total of fifteen great shoes with ample cushioning. In addition to these six shoes, I have also added a list of criteria for selection of the best cushioned shoes, which will help you make an educated decision about the cushioned shoes that are best. A frequently asked questions section has been added with their answers to further provide you with important information. Finally, a list of sources has been added to give you resources to collect more information if you are interested in learning more.

Featured Recommendations

ASICS Gel Nimbus 18
  • ASICS Gel Nimbus 18
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • FluidRide Midsole
  • Price: See Here
Skechers Sure Track Trickel
  • Skechers Sure Track Trickel
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Memory Foam Insole
  • Price: See Here
Clarks Keesha Rosa
  • Clarks Keesha Rosa
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Ortholite Footbed
  • Price: See Here

Shoes come in a variety of cushioning levels.  There are minimalist shoes with the least amount of cushioning, which is supposed to help your feet move without being inhibited so you can run faster.  Then you have neutral shoes, which balance cushioning and minimalist traits, and you have maximalist shoes, which are shoes with the most cushioning available.  There are pros and cons to each type of shoe, but this list focuses on the shoes with the most amount of cushioning, and thus, the most comfort for your feet.  Your feet are likely your primary vehicle for getting around, and they deserve the very best in comfort and support.  So, why punish your feet for doing their job?  Find the most comfortable, cushioned shoes here and give your feet a treat.

 

 

15 Best Cushioned Shoes

 

 

1. Asics Gel Nimbus 18

The Gel Nimbus is a long-running model from ASICS, which means they’ve had a lot of time to figure out the best balance between cushion and support. Its padding is superb. The seamless construction protects your toes from rubbing against an abrasive seam. It comes in a variety of colors, too. This shoe is the best choice for maximum comfort.
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FluidRide Midsole
The FluidRide Midsole cushions your feet and gives you some bounce back to make your walk or run more comfortable. This midsole was also designed to be lightweight and durable.

GEL Cushioning for Rear- and Forefoot
ASICS’s GEL Cushioning absorbs the shock from running and walking, which gives the shoe a walking-on-air feel. The cushioning in this shoe gives protection to your heel and your toes.

Cost and Value
The Gel Nimbus 18 is in the middle-to-high price range, but you are getting the best deal by purchasing this high-quality shoe. It also bears a stylish and eye-catching design.
Pros
  • FluidRide Midsole
  • GEL Cushioning for Rear- and Forefoot
  • Seamless Construction
  • Athletic Performance Driven
  • Stylish and Eye-catching Design
Cons
  • Toebox is smaller than previous Nimbus models
  • Shoe size may run small

2. Skechers Sure Track Trickel

The Sure Track Trickel is great for office work environments that don’t require loafers or dress shoes. It has a clean design, doesn’t draw undue attention to itself, and the cushioning is superb. Skechers is a well-known brand with a lot of experience in making the finest shoes. This shoe even professes to have some electrical hazard protection built in!
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Removable Memory Foam Insole
Memory Foam is some of the softest materials used in mattresses and bath rugs and now it’s in your shoes! Memory foam conforms to your feet to provide maximum comfort.

FlexSole Shock Absorbing Midsoles
The FlexSole Shock Absorbing Midsoles in these shoes offer you added comfort and protection. The shock absorption can prevent injury and cushions your feet as you walk, run, or jog.

Cost and Value
The Sure Track Trickel is in the low-to-middle price range. The price makes it great for someone looking for a reliable, sturdy, and nice-looking work shoe on a limited budget.
Pros
  • Removable Memory Foam Insole
  • FlexSole Shock Absorbing Midsole
  • Electrical Hazard Protection
  • Composite Safety Toe
  • Slip Resistant
Cons
  • “Steel Safety Toe” is not an actual steel toe
  • May need to be broken in
  • Can get smelly

3. Nike Free RN Distance

The Nike Free RN is a more minimalist shoe with a sleeker, slimmer design than some other entries on this list. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t cushioned and comfortable! It gives you lightweight protection and comfort for that marathon. It’s stylish, as well, with the prominent Nike “Swoop” and a nice color balance between black, white, and silver.
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Zoom Air Pockets
Nike’s Zoom Air technology protects your feet and ankles from the shock of running, jogging, and jumping. The air pockets contract and return to their original shape as you run.

Full-Length Foam Midsole
The foam midsole covers the entirety of your foot from heel to toe. This provides optimal cushioning, and your arches will be cushioned as much as your heel and toes.

Cost and Value
The Nike Free RN is in the middle-to-high price range with some of the highest price tags on the list. Nike, however, has a long history of making excellent shoes.
Pros
  • Zoom Air Pockets
  • Full-length Foam Midsole
  • Phylon Wedge Midsole for Heel
  • Mesh Construction
  • 3-Inch Shaft From Arch
Cons
  • Can be tight
  • Low traction

4. Rockport Style Leader 2 Bike

4. Rockport Style Leader 2 Bike
The Rockport Style Leader is a dapper looking loafer, which is perfect for any office environment. The cushioning in this shoe protects your feet and prevents pain during those long days at the office. It comes in a few colors and the sleek design of the shoe will help you make a strong impression on your coworkers, boss, and clients.
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Sponge EVA Footbed
The Sponge EVA footbed conforms to your foot, like memory foam. It is durable and comfortable and offers your feet protection from the shock of briskly walking through the office.

Synthetic Sole
The synthetic sole’s grooves make the shoe more flexible. It gives the shoe a secondary layer of cushioning and shock absorption, which in turn reduces foot fatigue, improving your workday.

Cost and Value
The Rockport Style Leader 2 Bike is in the middle-to-upper price range. Wearing these shoes will prove to you, your boss, and your coworkers that comfort can be stylish, too.
Pros
  • Sponge EVA footbed
  • Synthetic Sole
  • Bicycle Toe
  • Dewix Anti-Microbial Lining
  • Leather
Cons
  • Size runs narrow
  • May be a little bulky

5. Merrell Dassie Buckle

5. Merrell Dassie Buckle
The Merrell Dassie Buckle has it all: comfort, style, and ease of use. This shoe is a slip on with cushioning and it’s perfect for the office! Gone are the days of running around in flats that feel like you’re barefoot. The day has come when you can wear a stylish shoe without the pain that usually comes with it.
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Padded Collar
The padded collar in the shoe protects your ankles and Achilles tendons from rubbing against a hard, unforgiving material. The padding reduces the impact of the shoe on your ankle.

Padded Tongue
The padded tongue gives the top of your feet protection from rubbing painfully against the top of the shoe. The cushioning here can help keep your feet from feeling sore.

Cost and Value
The Merrell Dassie Buckle is in the middle price range. It’s reasonably priced for a cushioned, comfortable, and stylish office shoe. It’s comfortable, which makes your workday so much better.
Pros
  • Padded Collar
  • Padded Tongue
  • Removable M-Select FRESH Insole
  • M-Select GRIP Traction Outsole
  • Elastic Goring at the Tongue Area
Cons
  • Can be stiff
  • Not a lot of arch support

6. Clarks Keesha Rosa

6. Clarks Keesha Rosa
The Clarks Keesha Rosa is a small heeled shoe which is more comfortable than its un-padded, poorly cushioned contemporaries. Its extra shiny toe gives it a little more pop and flair. The cushioning is noninvasive and soft. It’s perfect for the office and any other workspace that requires you to be on your feet all day in stylish formal attire.
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Ortholite Footbed
The Ortholite Footbed is a durable cushioning insole. It was designed to maintain its shape even after continuous use. Long days at work are less tiring in these comfortable shoes.

Cushion Soft Technology
Beneath the footbed is a layer of additional cushioning designed to further reduce the shock on your feet. Clarks uses this “cushion soft technology” to offer you very comfortable experience.

Cost and Value
The Keesha Rosa is the best value in cushioned work shoes. It rests in the low-to-high price range. This shoe is fashionable and comfortable. For the price, that’s pretty impressive.
Pros
  • Ortholite Footbed
  • Cushion Soft Technology
  • Soft, Synthetic Linings
  • Flexible Rubber Heel
  • Low Heel
  • Fashionable
Cons
  • Tight in the toe box
  • Needs to be broken in

7. Hoka One One Arahi

7. Hoka One One Arahi
The Hoka One One Arahi is designed with two things in mind: comfort and performance. This is an excellent running shoe, but it also bears a stylish wave-like design. The cushioning in this shoe is built into every aspect of the shoe from the frame to the outsole. The Hoka One One strives to give you a seamless, comfortable stride.
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3-D Puff Print Frame
The 3-D Puff Print Frame offers support and padding to protect your feet from injury and discomfort. The puff frame protects your feet from painful rubbing on a long run.

Meta-Rocker Design
The Meta-Rocker Design provides a slightly different form of cushioning. The outsole of the shoe curves along the bottom to support your foot’s natural range of motion, reducing any discomfort.

Cost and Value
The Arahi rests in the upper middle-to-high price range with some of the highest price points on the list. However, this shoe’s support and cushioning promise to protect your feet.
Pros
  • 3-D Puff Print Frame
  • Meta-Rocker Design
  • J-Frame Technology for Support
  • Synthetic and Mesh Construction
  • Rubber Sole
  • Padded Tongue
Cons
  • Soles may come loose
  • Can be noisy

8. Brooks Ghost 10

8. Brooks Ghost 10
It may not look like much, but the Brooks Ghost 10 has state-of-the-art cushioning technology and protects your feet with a segmented crash pad. The tapering effect on this shoe supports natural foot motion and the soft fabric lining provides a gentle embrace. The rubber outsole helps cushion your feet as you run or walk. It’s stylish and sleek too.
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BioMoGo DNA
Brooks’s MoGo cushioning technology boasts increased cushioning compared to other synthetic soles, but the BioMoGo midsole in this shoe has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly because it’s biodegradable.

Plush Tongue and Collar
The tongue and collar of this shoe are soft and plush, giving your ankles and the top of your feet extra padding. This prevents injuries to your vulnerable Achilles tendons.

Cost and Value
The Ghost 10 is in the middle-to-high price range, but you are getting a respected brand and a comfortable running shoe. The Ghost 10 balances excellent cushioning with lightweight support.
Pros
  • BioMoGo DNA
  • Soft Fabric Lining
  • Plush Tongue and Collar
  • Full-Length Segmented Crash Pad
  • Soft Rubber Sole
Cons
  • Not very supportive
  • Grips may come loose

9. New Balance M1080v7

9. New Balance M1080v7
New Balance gets a lot of flack because it isn’t a big brand shoe like Nike, but New Balance shoes can be just as durable, affordable, and cushioned as other shoes on this list. The padding, paneling, and cushioning built into this shoe should not be dismissed before you try it. The M1080v7 New Balance shoe offers support and comfort.
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ABZORB Rubber Sole
The ABZORB Rubber Sole provides more cushioning and increases compression resistance, to absorb the impact of running or walking on your feet. This can prevent injuries while also providing comfort.

N2 Heel Cushioning
Cushioning doesn’t have to be big and bulky to be effective. The N2 Heel in the M1080v7 gives your heel maximum cushioning without giving your running shoe a high heel.

Cost and Value
The New Balance M1080v7 lies in the middle-to-high price range. Don’t let that scare you away, though. Shop around and you are sure to find a decently priced, comfortable pair.
Pros
  • ABZORB Rubber Sole
  • N2 Heel Cushioning
  • Air Mesh Panels
  • T-Beam Lightweight Support
  • FantomFit Upper
Cons
  • Cushioning is tapered from heel to toe
  • Wide heel

10. Clarks Escalade Step

10. Clarks Escalade Step
The Escalade Step slip-on loafer is a stylish work shoe for any office environment. The polyurethane and Cushion Soft sole and insole units offer comfortable cushioning and shock-absorption. The synthetic outsole with a low heel absorbs shock, as well, to protect your feet from painful impacts. This shoe’s upper is made of full-grain leather and has a soft textile lining.
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Polyurethane Sole Unit
Built into the synthetic sole of the Escalade Step is a flexible and soft polyurethane sole unit. This flexible foam unit absorbs and disperses shock to reduce pain and discomfort.

Cushion Soft with Ortholite
The Cushion Soft with Ortholite insole in this shoe is a comfortable, well-cushioned insole designed to provide cushioning in all the right places, specifically the heel, arch, and forefoot areas.

Cost and Value
These dapper loafers can be found in the middle price range. For a business casual shoe from a high-quality brand, this stylish, well-cushioned shoe is available for a great price!
Pros
  • Polyurethane Sole Unit
  • Cushion Soft with Ortholite
  • Leather Upper
  • Synthetic Outsole
  • Textile Lining
  • Low Heel
Cons
  • Not water-resistant
  • Stitching may come loose

11. Skechers Segment the Search

11. Skechers Segment the Search
The lovely Skechers USA Segment the Search slip-on loafer is a stylish business casual shoe that is perfect for work environments. Its premium cushioning technologies provide the wearer with comfort all day long. This stylish loafer also has elastic goring on the sides of the upper to allow the opening to stretch to allow your foot to enter more easily.
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Gel-Infused Memory Foam
The Segment the Search slip-on loafer has a gel-infused memory foam, which combines the stellar cushioning and shock-absorbing properties of gel and memory foam technologies to comfort your weary feet.

Padded Collar
To reduce painful rubbing and shock on your ankle and upper foot, this professional looking loafer has a padded collar, which is lined with a soft fabric for added comfort.

Cost and Value
This stylish loafer can be found in the middle price range. As it’s a Skechers shoe, the Segment the Search slip-on loafer offers exceptional quality and comfort without sacrificing style.
Pros
  • Gel-Infused Memory Foam
  • Padded Collar
  • Fabric Lining
  • Leather Upper
  • Rubber Sole
  • Dual Elastic Goring
  • Shock-Absorbing Midsole
Cons
  • Soles may detach
  • Inconsistent sizing

12. Bostonian Mendon

12. Bostonian Mendon
This well-cushioned Bostonian loafer offers style and comfort in one neat package. In addition to its cushioning features, this loafer has a leather upper which is supportive and sturdy. The toe box is square shaped so your toes have plenty of space to spread out naturally. It’s also available in wide sizes, so you don’t have to squish your feet.
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FlexLite Insole
The FlexLite insole in this shoe provides ample cushioning and plush comfort that is lightweight and flexible. It’s also a removable insole that can be replaced if you need to.

Padded Collar
The leather collar on this loafer is padded to provide you with protection and comfort. It protects your lower ankle and upper foot from bumps while also preventing painful rubbing.

Cost and Value
This stylish Bostonian loafer can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. It’s quite affordable when you take into account the quality, style of the shoe and the cushioning features!
Pros
  • FlexLite Insole
  • Padded Collar
  • Squared Toe
  • Twin Goring Panels
  • EVA Sole Unit
  • Removable Insoles
  • Leather Upper
Cons
  • Outsole may wear
  • Not breathable

13. ECCO New Jersey

13. ECCO New Jersey
This stylish Oxford comes with padding and a foam insole to provide shock-absorption and comfort, but these are just the beginning of this shoe’s great features. The polyurethane sole provides extra shock-absorption and cushioning while the bicycle-style toe provides ample toe space for your toes to spread out naturally. The stacked heel also provides added shock-absorption properties to this Oxford.
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Leather-Covered Foam Insole
ECCO’s New Jersey Lace Oxford has a responsive, leather-covered foam insole which provides ample cushioning and great breathability features to help manage the temperature in the shoe as you walk.

Padded Collar
The lightly padded collar in this stylish loafer offers some protection against painful rubbing and minor bumps. It’s also lined with a soft fabric to add to your overall comfort.

Cost and Value
This dapper ECCO loafer can be found in the middle-to-upper price range, which can be quite affordable for the shock-absorbing polyurethane sole, high-quality leather, and AGION antibacterial and antimicrobial treatment.
Pros
  • Leather-Covered Foam Insole
  • Padded Collar
  • Firm Polyurethane Sole
  • Bicycle Toe
  • Stacked Heel
  • AGION Antibacterial and Antimicrobial Treatment
  • Lace-up
Cons
  • Insert is not removable
  • Sizing runs narrow

14. ASICS Gel-Lyte33 2

14. ASICS Gel-Lyte33 2
This stylish, eye-catching running shoe by ASICS provides ample cushioning in the insole and midsole regions of the shoe, but also in its durable rubber outsole. In addition to the exceptional cushioning and shock-absorption technologies, this shoe also uses Guidance Live and FluidAxis flex grooves for added comfort. This shoe’s F.A.S.T. Heel technology provides additional lightweight cushioning.
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Rearfoot GEL Cushioning
The responsive rearfoot GEL cushioning provides ample cushioning, shock-absorption, and bounce back to provide a safe walk or run. This cushioning is also durable, providing your foot with long-lasting cushioning.

spEVA Midsole
The spEVA midsole in the ASICS Gel-lyte33 2 is wedged between the insole and the outsole, providing much-needed lightweight shock-absorption and responsive cushioning to further protect your foot from injury.

Cost and Value
This eye-catching running shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range, making it an affordable and effective running shoe that is jam-packed with stellar ASICS comfort and shock-absorption technologies.
Pros
  • Rearfoot GEL Cushioning
  • spEVA Midsole
  • Guidance Live Flex Grooves
  • FluidAxis Flex Grooves
  • F.A.S.T. Drop Geometry
  • F.A.S.T. Sole
  • F.A.S.T. Heel
Cons
  • Tight toe box
  • Poor support

15. Rockport Cobb Hill Parker

15. Rockport Cobb Hill Parker
The Rockport Cobb Hill Parker CH is available in four neutral colors so it will go with almost any outfit. This shoe has a soft EVA footbed and EVA outsole for cushioning, but it also has a low heel to help position your foot to reduce pressure and absorb shock more effectively. The hook-and-loop strap has elastic goring for flexibility.
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EVA Footbed
Ethyl vinyl acetate, or EVA, is one of the most commonly used foam compounds used in shoes for cushioning. This EVA footbed is excellent and makes this stylish shoe comfortable.

Durable EVA Outsole
The outsole EVA foam in the Rockport Cobb Hill Parker CH is sturdy, durable, and offers more responsive cushioning than many other outsole materials without sacrificing traction, grip, and support.

Cost and Value
This dress shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. It is a gorgeous shoe made of real leather and is well-cushioned, which makes this shoe a great buy!
Pros
  • EVA Footbed
  • Durable EVA Outsole
  • Leather
  • Synthetic Sole
  • Low Heel
  • Elastic Goring
  • TR Forefoot Pod
Cons
  • Strap may snap
  • Narrow toe box

Naturally, many of the shoes on this list are for running, but in your search for cushioned shoes, don’t limit yourself to just athletic shoes.  Cushioned, comfortable shoes don’t have to be running shoes.  They can be office shoes, like the Merrell Dassie Buckle and the Rockport Style Leader.  You can walk around the office in style without sacrificing comfort.  Cushioned shoes also don’t have to be expensive.  Be a savvy shopper and you’ll be able to land a decent pair of well-cushioned shoes for a fair price.

In your search, be sure to consider the durability and longevity of each shoe and its cushioning.  If it’s going to fall apart after a day or two, you will want to look into a different pair.  Be sure to note if the shoe you are interested in runs small or runs large, too.  Otherwise, you may find yourself with a shoe that is your size, but it doesn’t fit.

Be good to your feet and invest in a cushioned shoe to decrease pain from walking, running and working.  Hopefully, this list will help you make an educated decision on finding the most comfortable shoes for you.

 

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Cushioned Shoes

The best cushioned shoes obviously have ample cushioning features from insole to outsole, but they also have padding and soft linings to further increase your comfort. It should be noted, though, that cushioning isn’t the only feature that matters in finding the best shoes with ample cushioning. A shoe can have too much cushioning and not enough support, flexibility, or traction. Support, flexibility, and traction are essential safety features to consider as you are looking for the best cushioned shoes, because the primary purpose of a shoe is to protect your feet and unsupportive, inflexible shoes with poor traction can cause injury related to falls and poor shock-absorption properties.

 

Why You Need Cushioned Shoes

Cushioned shoes provide essential protection for your feet. The cushioning layers add more protection between your foot and the outside world, which prevents injury from stepping on a rock or other hard or sharp object. The primary purpose of cushioning, however, is to absorb and disperse shock. If you were to take your fist and punch a concrete wall with all your body weight behind the punch, at best you would have bloodied knuckles and at worst broken knuckles. Now imagine pounding your bare feet on concrete. A thin sole provides some protection but added cushioning in the midsole and insole areas can prevent even more damage to your vulnerable feet.

When you walk or run, you are exerting more than just your bodyweight on your foot. The force of gravity is also pulling you down towards the ground while the ground presses back up against your foot when it strikes. These forces increase the impact and shock generated by your body and the ground on your feet.

Pronation and Supination

Pronation is the natural inward rolling of your feet as you roll your foot on the ground from your heel to your toe. Supination is the natural outward rolling of your feet as you push off the ground and bring your foot back around so that the heel is properly positioned so that it can strike the ground at the right angle to pronate again.

Unfortunately, many people have abnormal pronation and supination. It can be over or underpronation and hypo- or hypersupination. Overpronation and hyposupination occur when your foot rolls inward too much and doesn’t roll outward enough, which adds pressure and strain to your feet, ankles, and legs. Underpronation and hypersupination occur when your foot doesn’t roll inward enough and rolls outward too much, which adds pressure and discomfort to your feet, ankles, and legs on the other side of your foot.

Pronation and supination problems can result in more than just pain and discomfort – they can also cause medical conditions such as plantar fasciitis.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions arising from pronation and supination problems – or other foot, ankle, or leg medical conditions due to injuries, falls, or accidents – can be more than just uncomfortable. Some of these conditions require surgery to correct! Examples of medical conditions arising from pronation and supination problems include plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and arthritis, as well as many others.

The Impact of Cushioning on Pronation and Supination Problems

Generally speaking, pronation and supination problems require more support, but cushioning placed in the right areas can provide that support, especially if it is a supportive midsole foam wedge beneath the arch or in the heel. Cushioning also absorbs shock and disperses it so that it doesn’t all hit the bottom of your foot at once and then travel up your ankle and leg to your lower back! Just as people jarred in a car accident would be injured, your foot, ankle, leg, and back can be injured by the painful jarring associated with heavy steps, prolonged walking, or hard running. As such, cushioning can reduce and help you manage the results of pronation and supination problems while more supportive features can correct the problems themselves.

girl-in-pink-running-sport-shoes-picjumbo-com

Environment

The environment that you are walking, running or working in matters when you are considering what kind of cushioned shoe would be best for your current situation. Not all situations call for running or athletic shoes. Some situations, such as working in an office, going for a casual walk, or taking a trip, would require less cushioning than running and other athletic pursuits. So be sure to consider where you intend to be wearing the cushioned shoes that you need to buy before you make a selection. Some work environments allow only closed-toe dress shoes due to safety concerns while others allow sneakers and athletic shoes and others allow open-toed shoes.

 

Types of Cushioning

Cushioning in shoes can take many forms. Generally, it’s a type of foam or a type of gel, but these aren’t the only forms cushioning can take. Cushioning can also be found in the outsole material when the material used can absorb shock and disperse it properly so that the force from each footstrike doesn’t painfully jar your feet.

  • Foam Cushioning – There are many different types of foam cushioning out there. They are all great for shock-absorption, but some are better than others. Some commonly used examples of foam cushioning include memory foam, polyurethane (PU), and ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA).
  • Gel Cushioning – Instead of foams, some manufacturers use gel cushioning. Usually, gel cushioning doesn’t take up the entire length of the foot but is rather used in specific areas to add cushioning in high-impact areas. Such high-impact areas include the rearfoot and forefoot areas.
  • Hybrid Cushioning – Some manufacturers use combinations of more than one type of foam cushioning in the insole or midsole, to maximize the cushioning potential of both materials. However, others use gel-infused foam compounds that combine the best of foam and gel materials to provide excellent shock-absorption and cushioning.
  • Rubber – Rubber can be firm, but with modifications, it can be flexible enough to absorb shock very well. Rubber provides protection and shock-absorption to a shoe, making it a commonly used material in shoes of all types.

Cushioned Regions

Cushioning can be found in four regions of the shoe: the upper, insole, midsole, and outsole regions of the shoe. While insoles are commonly associated with cushioning and comfort, midsoles as cushioning units are less well-known and outsoles are generally not associated with cushioning.

  • Padded Upper – Padding in the upper can absorb shock from bumps and scrapes, acting as a protective barrier between the top of your foot and the outside world. Padding in the upper can come as padded linings, padded tongues, and padded collars. Shoes without this small layer of protection between your foot and the firm outside of a leather shoe, for example, would be abrasive and could cut into your Achilles tendons or your feet!
  • Insole – Insoles are the location where most cushioning is expected to be found. Insole cushioning can come as foam footbeds, heel pads, cushioned forefoot regions, and others. Generally, most shoes use foam insoles and insole pieces, but sometimes manufacturers use gel compounds and components.
  • Midsole – Midsole foams and gel cushions are the real secrets behind a comfortable, well-cushioned shoe. This is the area of the shoe that has the most effective cushioning components. To increase the longevity of the midsole foam and gel units, manufacturers wedge the midsole between the insole and outsole. The insole is exposed to your foot more and can wear down more quickly. The outsole, naturally, is on the outside and is the part that always hits the ground and wears down more quickly. As such, the midsole is where manufacturers put their best cushioning technologies.
  • Outsole – The outsole, as previously stated, is not commonly associated with cushioning. The outsole is the first line of defense between your foot and the outside world. It protects your foot from rocks, abrasive surfaces, thorns, and many other such threats to your feet, but it also protects your foot from shock! Rubber and synthetic materials are the most commonly used materials in the outsoles of the best cushioned shoes. They easily absorb and disperse shock!

Flexibility

Flexibility is important in a shoe for a number of reasons. It improves the comfort of your feet by allowing the shoe to move with your foot for a good fit and to reduce painful rubbing of your foot against the shoe. Flexibility also contributes to shock-absorption. Flexible shoe materials disperse and absorb shock to prevent that shock from jarring your ankles, legs, and back. Flexible materials also prevent shock arising from your foot pounding against the shoe. Flexible materials can be synthetic or textile and can be found everywhere in the shoe from the upper to the outsole.

  • Mesh Uppers – Many of the shoes on this list don’t have mesh uppers, but some do. Mesh uppers have many benefits, but flexibility is one of the most important of them. Meshes act like nets which can be stretched and pulled in different directions to allow movement. Sometimes mesh uppers come with synthetic or leather overlays to provide some upper support, as meshes are so flexible that they don’t offer any support on their own.
  • Midsole – The midsole of a shoe can sometimes consist of more than one layer or more than one component. Midsole materials are almost always flexible, as they need to be to keep from counteracting the flexibility features of the rest of the shoe. Some, however, are optimized for flexibility, so do some research into the shoe you are considering purchasing to see what kind of flexibility features the midsole contains.
  • Flex Grooves – An overly firm or a solid piece of rubber or synthetic material used in an outsole isn’t usually especially flexible, which inhibits the material’s natural shock-absorbing and cushioning properties. As such, shoe manufacturers cut grooves and lugs into the bottom of your shoe to promote flexibility and traction.

 

Support

Support is an important aspect of a shoe that needs to be considered, even though support doesn’t contribute that much to shock-absorption. However, it does contribute to your shoe’s shock-absorbing capability. It just isn’t quite as important as cushioning and flexibility.

How Support Contributes to Shock-Absorption

Everyone needs at least a little support. Without the right amount of support, someone could easily roll an ankle or their foot, which would result in injury. However, support also reduces the shock generated by each footstrike, as it corrects pronation and supination problems and promotes normal foot motion. Support features include foam wedges beneath the arch, heel, midfoot, and full-foot TPU shanks, and supportive overlays. Over and underpronation put more strain and stress on your feet and reduces the natural ability of your feet to absorb injury and pain-inducing shock.

 

Value

Ultimately, the cost-effectiveness of the shoe, or it’s overall value, depends mainly on cushioning, flexibility, and support, but also relies on their durability, convenience, ease of use, maintenance, and their actual price.

Durability
You want and need a shoe that won’t fall apart right away. A shoe that wears down too quickly cannot protect your feet from injury and cannot properly absorb shock. Every region of the shoe needs to be durable from the upper to the outsole. Fortunately, manufacturers have come up with ways to increase the longevity and durability of their shoes by creating high abrasion compounds and interlocking units in the outsole. They have also come up with special foam and other cushioning compounds that last longer than many early foams used in shoes. Always check the reviews and the technologies used in the shoe you are looking to buy to confirm that the shoe is durable and won’t fall apart in a week or two.

Convenience and Ease of Use
Many of the shoes on this list are slip-on shoes while others are lace-up or hook-and-loop shoes. The slip-on shoes are the most convenient, as you can just slip them on and go, but the lace-up and hook-and-loop shoes also have convenience features, such as pull tabs, velcro straps, and heel loops to make it easier to pull the shoe on and secure them with a proper fit.

Maintenance
A time-consuming maintenance routine is inconvenient and can really devalue any product. We live fast, busy lives and we often barely have time for everyday activities, let alone have the time to treat and re-treat and clean, polish, and dry shoes every time you wear them somewhere. So, look for shoes that are easier to maintain and clean. Shoes that are easier to maintain and clean are also less expensive over time, as they don’t require a lot of materials to maintain them.

Cost
The actual price of a shoe matters, too. The best cushioned shoes don’t have to cost a lot of money! Most of them can be found for a very reasonable price, so always shop around if it looks like the shoe you have decided on is going to cost you an unreasonable amount. Someone, somewhere, will probably be selling it for less!

Additional Considerations

Cushioning, flexibility, support, and value are the most important features of a shoe to consider, but there are other details you should think about before you make your final decision about which cushioned shoe you want to purchase for yourself.

Traction
A slick bottom or outsole with thin, narrow grooves is a safety hazard. You need to consider the type of outsole material and the tread and lug patterns before you make a purchase. For traction, the best materials are rubber and synthetic materials. Always avoid crepe and leather outsoles in a cushioned shoe unless you won’t be walking or running around in them much or the environment you are in won’t be slippery at all.

Temperature Management
No one wants stinky feet, but sometimes this is unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is stinky shoes. Temperature management features can reduce the development of odors while also keeping your feet cool and dry. Odors in shoes develop when microbes and bacteria start to grow. Shoes are oftentimes the best possible home for these microbes and bacteria because the inside of a shoe can be hot, dark, and damp. Temperature management features in shoes often include breathable mesh uppers, moisture-wicking insoles and linings, and ventilating perforations in the upper of the shoe. These features allow airflow and pull moisture away from the foot to keep it dry and cool. If you have cool, dry feet, you’ll have cooler, drier shoes. An additional benefit to temperature management features is a reduction of the occurrence of blisters, as dry feet are less likely to develop blisters.

Your Medical Conditions
Before you invest in a new pair of shoes, you need to consider your own health and medical conditions. Oftentimes, people with specific medical conditions, such as diabetes, need special shoes to help protect their feet. If you have chronic back, hip, or foot pain, then it would be to your benefit to invest in a more supportive shoe. Supportive shoes can also have plenty of cushioning!

Your Pronation and Supination
Knowing whether or not you over or underpronate is essential to choosing a good shoe that will be comfortable for you in any environment. A shoe that has the most cushioning and padding available can still fail to absorb shock and result in pain and discomfort if they do not support your feet and arches properly to correct any pronation and supination problems. To determine whether or not you have a pronation or supination problem, find an old pair of your shoes that are well-worn. Look at the bottom of your shoe.

  • Is there more wear on the arch side of your shoe?
  • Is there more wear on the outer side of your shoe?
  • Is the wear spread out evenly?

If there is more wear on the arch side of your shoe, then you likely overpronate. You probably need to invest in shoes that correct overpronation problems. If there is more wear on the outer side of your shoe’s outsole, then you likely underpronate. This means you probably need to invest in shoes that correct underpronation problems. If the wear is spread out evenly across the outsole of your shoe, then you probably have normal pronation, which means shoes which aren’t designed for pronation problems will be fine for you and your needs.
However, there are some cases when these guidelines may not apply. If wearing certain shoes causes you pain and it’s not from the shoe being too tight or narrow or from it not offering enough cushioning, then you could benefit from a visit to a podiatrist or your general physician to assess your gait for pronation and supination problems.

Your Shock-Absorption Needs
Finally, before you make your final decision and invest in your new pair of cushioned shoes, you need to consider your specific shock-absorption needs. These needs will vary from person to person and not everyone will be comfortable in every type of shoe. Your gait and pronation problems are the first thing to consider, as pronation and supination problems can reduce the effectiveness of your foot and shoes to absorb shock. You also need to consider how heavy your average step is. Not everyone walks lightly by default. Some people stomp around naturally. You need more cushioning if you have a heavier step. If your footstrikes are too heavy, though, you might still injure yourself even if you have ample cushioning, so it’s worth considering lightening your step to reduce the force generated by your footstrikes.
Similarly, the speed you will be traveling in will also matter. If you will be walking around or standing around all day, you need a different amount of cushioning than someone who is going to be running long distances, because the force generated by walking or standing is less than the force generated by running. That doesn’t mean that an uncushioned shoe would be comfortable if you were going to be walking or standing, especially if it would be for a long period of time, but you would need less cushioning if you are walking or standing.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Where can I find a good shoe that is well-cushioned?
A: You can find a good shoe that is well-cushioned at any shoe retailer and online. Always be sure to check the sizing and determine if the shoe has consistent or inconsistent sizing and if the shoe is true to size if you are going to be ordering online. If you are purchasing in person, always try the shoe on and walk around in it a little bit to confirm that it has the right cushioning and support in the right places for you and your feet.

Q: Can I use my cushioned shoes for athletic activities?
A: It depends on the type of cushioned shoe. I wouldn’t recommend using a cushioned dress shoe, sandal, or loafer for athletic activities, but a running or other athletic shoe would be fine for athletics. Casual sneakers could also suffice for low-energy, casual physical activity such as a light jog or casual game. However, you should invest in shoes specific to the athletic activity in question if it’s something that is high-energy or professional or competitive game.

Q: What outsole materials should I avoid if I want a shoe that has ample cushioning?
A: Leather and crepe are the worst outsole materials because they provide very little cushioning and shock-absorption. However, you should also consider the patterns and depths of the grooves in the outsole regardless of what kind of material the shoe’s outsole is made of. Narrow and shallow grooves provide very little traction, which can result in a slip and fall. Narrow and shallow grooves also reduce the flexibility of the sole. If the rubber or synthetic outsole is too thin or inflexible, then they will still be ineffective at absorbing shock.

 

Sources

Footsmart, Pronation

Presented by Klekt, Everything You Need to Know About Sneaker Cushioning: A Definitive Guide, March 15, 2016

WikiHow, How to Tell if You Pronate, October 21, 2016

Complex, The Complete History of Cushioning Technology in Sneakers, December 11, 2012

The Podiatry Center, P.C., The Importance of Proper Foot Support

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