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Best Shock Absorbing & Impact Protection Running Shoes

last updated Nov 08, 2018

The best shock absorbing running shoes utilize technologies, usually, within the midsole. Moreover, shock-absorbent midsoles help to treat each new step in its own unique way. With only part of the stored compression being released to create a 'springy' sensation, there are at least two separate available intakes of steps; light and rigid.

A light step intake best describes when you are walking in conjunction with the midsole. With good shock-absorbing technology, the midsole intakes the step with easy-like compression. While you run, on the other hand, a stiffer compression needs to occur to handle the heavier, more rigid step. In essence, this plurality in design helps to achieve a balance between walking and running. As such, it is easier to perceive the best shock absorbing running shoes when making a purchase.

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Products Evaluated
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Last Updated:
By Ana Rockov:

The latest update to this article removes discontinued items and replaces them with the latest editions of the best shock absorbing running footwear currently available for purchase. Including models by Brooks, ASICS, Saucony, New Balance and Salomon, you’ll easily find a pair that fits you perfectly, and meets all your personal preferences. In addition to the updated items, the Criteria for Evaluation section has also been heavily updated, while the entire article now has a more simple, easy-to-ready look that’ll help you find the info you need faster.

Sorting Options
Shock Absorption Support Outsole Overall Fit Weight By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97.2
Shock Absorption
100%
Support
97%
Outsole
98%
Overall Fit
98%
Weight
93%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$150.00
2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.8
Shock Absorption
99%
Support
97%
Outsole
98%
Overall Fit
98%
Weight
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$119.49
3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.6
Shock Absorption
98%
Support
98%
Outsole
96%
Overall Fit
97%
Weight
94%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$149.99
4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.8
Shock Absorption
92%
Support
90%
Outsole
98%
Overall Fit
95%
Weight
99%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$41.27
5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Shock Absorption
96%
Support
99%
Outsole
94%
Overall Fit
95%
Weight
79%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$159.95
6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.6
Shock Absorption
88%
Support
91%
Outsole
99%
Overall Fit
78%
Weight
97%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$90.94
7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.4
Shock Absorption
85%
Support
83%
Outsole
92%
Overall Fit
89%
Weight
83%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$46.12
8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82.8
Shock Absorption
81%
Support
76%
Outsole
84%
Overall Fit
73%
Weight
100%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$50.94
9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.8
Shock Absorption
81%
Support
78%
Outsole
74%
Overall Fit
81%
Weight
95%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$44.96
10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
79.6
Shock Absorption
72%
Support
74%
Outsole
80%
Overall Fit
87%
Weight
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.11.18)
$109.60
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Brooks Glycerin 16
  • Brooks Ghost 11
  • ASICS GEL-Nimbus 20
  • Saucony Cohesion 11
  • Mizuno Wave Horizon 2
  • Salomon X-Mission 3
  • ASICS Gel-Venture 6
  • ASICS Gel-Excite 4
  • ASICS Gel-Contend 4
  • New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v8
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Top 10 Shock Absorbing Running Shoes

1. Brooks Glycerin 16

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97.2
Brooks Glycerin 16
Shock Absorption
100
Support
97
Outsole
98
Overall Fit
98
Weight
93
best offer for today
$150.00
Pros:

Jacquard Mesh Upper

Stretch Inner Bootie

DNA LOFT Cushioning

Combined Rubber Outsole

Heel to Toe Drop: 10mm

Weight: 301g

Cons:

Expensive

Long Drying Time

A maximalist pair of runners by Brooks, the 16th version of the Glycerin is definitely the best one yet. Made for those who need neutral support and prefer to run on road surfaces, this is a shoe that’s so plushy, you’ll hardly want to take it off. The upper is made with engineered 3D mesh that’s highly breathable, but features overlays in the midfoot to provide stability. The internal bootie, however, is made with stretch material that’ll flex and compress with each of your steps, giving you a feeling that’s perfectly tailored to you.

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DNA LOFT
The entire midsole of the Glycerin 16 is mae with DNA LOFT, a material that combines foam, rubber and air for a ride that’s maximally cushioned and disperses shock perfectly. This material gives one of the best levels of energy return in the market, while making the transition from heel to toe incredibly smooth.

Winner Outsole
The Brooks Glycerin 16 uses two types of rubber in the outsole in order to give you all the benefits you need. Under the heel, it features HRP Plus, a more durable compound that will protect the midsole from being worn down by the pavement. The forefoot, on the other hand, features blown rubber that’s not only great for traction (even in wet conditions), but also adds a slight layer of cushioning for an even softer feel.

Cost and Value
This Brooks shoe is quite pricey, although it’s not the most expensive pair of running footwear you could purchase. Nonetheless, it’s a maximalist model that’s intended for road use, but has an outsole that’ll even handle light trail and wet conditions, so you get a versatile pair of shoes you’ll love wearing for everyday runs, or for recovery when you need something slightly softer to soothe your fatigued muscles.

2. Brooks Ghost 11

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.8
Brooks Ghost 11
Shock Absorption
99
Support
97
Outsole
98
Overall Fit
98
Weight
92
best offer for today
$119.49
Pros:

Stretch Mesh Upper

External Heel Counter

DNA LOFT Heel Crash Pad

BioMoGo and DNA Midsole

Carbon and Blown Rubber Outsole

Heel to Toe Drop: 12mm

Weight: 309g

Cons:

Short Laces

Looks Bulky

Considered to be the golden middle of running gear, the Brooks Ghost 11 features just the right amount of soft cushioning, strong support, flexibility and responsiveness. This neutral road running sneaker is made with the company’s attention to detail, providing you with excellent tech at an affordable price, and a shoe that will easily become your go to daily runner. The upper is made with a soft and stretchy mesh that wraps around the foot perfectly, while an external heel counter ensures a perfectly locked in feel for zero movement inside the shoe.

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BioMoGo DNA Cushioning
The Ghost 11 features a combination of BioMoGo DNA and a DNA midsole, two materials that are an adaptable form of cushioning that not only molds to the wearer’s foot, but even more, gives the right amount of firmness or softness based on input. So, a heavier runner will get a bit more firmness underneath the foot, while those running at a faster pace will get better energy return.

Omega Flex Grooves
As you already know, a lot of cushioning in the midsole may compromise the amount of flexibility your shoe may give. The Brooks Ghost 11 solves this problem through introducing Omega Flex Grooves, forefoot grooves that allow for the unhindered motion of the foot through the entire gait cycle. A heel crash pad aids those who tend to land with this part of the foot, protecting it from the force that’s created on impact.

Cost and Value
While its cost is slightly above average, the Brooks Ghost 11 is a shoe that probably offers best value for invested money, thanks to its versatile design, high level of shock absorption, as well as upper comfort. It even comes in a number of colorways, from sensible black, to more colorful options for those who like to be noticed, and even special editions that take the running shoe aesthetic to a completely other level!

3. ASICS GEL-Nimbus 20

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.6
ASICS GEL-Nimbus 20
Shock Absorption
98
Support
98
Outsole
96
Overall Fit
97
Weight
94
best offer for today
$149.99
Pros:

Seamless Mesh Upper

Heel Clutching System

Comfort Dry Sockliner

FlyteFoam Midsole

APMA Seal of Acceptance

Guidance Line

Forefoot and Rearfoot GEL Cushioning

AHAR Outsole

Heel to Toe Drop: 10mm

Weight: 303g

Cons:

Expensive

Narrow Toe Box

20 years in the making, the latest edition of the ASICS GEL-Nimbus makes for one of the best running sneakers currently available. Perfect for users who need a neutral shoe, or who have a slight tendency towards overpronation, this is a great everyday shoe for road conditions. The updated upper is made with seamless mesh with differing knit densities in different areas, allowing for the best possible breathability, while the synthetic overlays and external heel counter ensure the support your foot needs on a hard run.

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Forefoot and Rearfoot GEL Cushioning
There are several pieces of technology in the ASCIS GEL-Nimbus, the most notable of which is the Forefoot and Rearfoot GEL cushioning that absorbs shock in all parts of the foot, and allowing for movement in all directions. The FlyteFoam midsole is made with a performance foam that’s got better bounce back, and lower rates of packing than traditionally used materials, making the Nimbus 20 both a comfortable and a durable pair of equipment.

Seamless Fit
The upper is made without any exposed seams, which is great for those with more sensitive skin who tend to experience discomfort and blistering. The entire sockliner is made with moisture wicking materials that’ll eliminate sweat from the shoe, while an Ortholite insole adds a level of cushion underneath the foot that’s not just breathable, but also provides great rebound.

Cost and Value
One of the more expensive models on this list, the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 20 is definitely an investment that you might need to save up for. However, if you’re a fan of the brand, and if you feel like a lightweight, GEL cushioned shoe will work well for you, then you should definitely go for it. The AHAR rubber outsole will ensure a durable shoe that won’t deteriorate, giving you more use out of this pair of footwear.

4. Saucony Cohesion 11

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.8
Saucony Cohesion 11
Shock Absorption
92
Support
90
Outsole
98
Overall Fit
95
Weight
99
best offer for today
$41.27
Pros:

Breathable Mesh Upper

Durable Rubber Outsole

Heel Grid Cushioning

Memory Foam Footbed

Padded Tongue and Collar

Wide Widths Available

Heel to Toe Drop: 12mm

Weight: 264g

Cons:

Unsuitable for High-Mileage

Only for Summer Wear

If you don’t run every day, or stack up a lower weekly mileage, the moderately cushioned Saucony Cohesion 11 may be your best choice. Lightweight and comfortable, this neutral running shoe was made for road conditions, and features lots of great tech that the brand is known for. The upper is made with breathable mesh, using rubber overlays to add stability, and both the tongue and collar feature padding for a more comfortable wearing experience. The lacing system is a traditional one, allowing a good fit, while those who have wider feet will be happy to hear that the Cohesion 11 comes in several widths.

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Cushioning
With a full length foam that makes up the midsole, the shock absorption system in the Cohesion 11 is located mainly in the heel where it uses a Heel Grid system - a criss cross patterned unit that stabilizes the heel on impact, and helps disperse shock so that less of it travels up the legs and muscles. A memory foam footbed is a great addition, allowing these shoes to completely mold to the shape of your foot.

Grooved Outsole
Made with hard wearing rubber, the outsole on the Saucony Cohesion 11 is great for those looking for a shoe that won’t wear down too quickly. A great feature is definitely the addition of Flex Grooves, lines that run across the entire outsole that allow for better flexibility, without compromising traction. These grooves allow for a more natural gait cycle, and an easier toe off phase, seeing that they won’t restrain the metatarsal area when bending.

Cost and Value
Even at full price, the Saucony Cohesion is affordable, and can be a great budget option for those who are just getting into running (or like wearing cushioned footwear on a daily basis), but are not ready to pay hundreds of dollars for professional equipment. Ticking all the boxes that a good sneaker should, it’s definitely a great investment.

5. Mizuno Wave Horizon 2

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Mizuno Wave Horizon 2
Shock Absorption
96
Support
99
Outsole
94
Overall Fit
95
Weight
79
best offer for today
$159.95
Pros:

Breathable Mesh Upper

Synthetic Stability Overlays

Premium Anatomical Sockliner

Padded Collar

X10 Rubber Outsole

Cloudwave Technology

U4ic & U4icX Midsole

Heel to Toe Drop: 12mm

Weight: 343g

Cons:

Slightly Bulky

Short Laces

Mizuno changed the game in the running sneaker industry with their invention of the wave plate - a unique system inserted in the sole of the shoe that has the purpose of providing better amounts of impact protection than traditional foam materials. The Wave Horizon 2 is one of the company’s latest models that’s made to be one of the softest, most cushioning shoes by the brand, and it features a breathable engineered mesh upper with synthetic overlays, a padded heel locking system that prevents any type of movement within the shoe, as well as a high level of support for those runners who tend to moderately or severely overpronate.

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Cloudwave
The Cloudwave plate that’s inserted into the sole of the Horizon 2 was specifically designed to disperse shock while still providing excellent bounceback, and a great deal of arch support for users who tend to overpronate. Paired with a midsole that combines U4ic and U4icX, you will get a shoe that’s both responsive and stable, with soft cushioning underfoot, and great shock absorption should you be one of those runners who tend to land with their heels.

Decoupled Outsole
The forefoot and heel section of the outsole on the Wave Horizon 2 have been designed to promote better flexibility, especially in the forefoot area, so as to ensure an easier toe off phase, without sacrificing traction or durability. The outsole is made with X10, a carbon rubber compound that’s among the most durable in the market. The anatomical flex grooves are gender specific, which adds to the feeling of a comfortable ride.

Cost and Value
The price of the Mizuno Wave Horizon 2 is above average, and may be deemed too expensive by a number of runners. However, if you’re after something with great cushioning and shock absorption, and are a fan of added tech in your gear, then this is definitely something you should check out. Do not, however, that this is a stability shoe, and won’t work for everyone, so if you’re in need of neutral shoes, but still wish to give the Wave plate a go, opt for one of Mizuno’s other models.

6. Salomon X-Mission 3

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.6
Salomon X-Mission 3
Shock Absorption
88
Support
91
Outsole
99
Overall Fit
78
Weight
97
best offer for today
$90.94
Pros:

Breathable Mesh Upper

Sensiflex & Sensifit Upper Technologies

Antimicrobial Lining

Injected EVA Midsole

Molded Ortholite Footbed

Quicklace System

High Abrasion Contagrip Outsole

Heel to Toe Drop: 10mm

Weight: 290g

Cons:

Runs Small

Tight Toe Area

Our definite go to company when it comes to trail running, Salomon has developed the X-Mission 3 for those who need excellent grip on a variety of surfaces and in mixed weather conditions. Made with a 3D mesh upper, this is a breathable shoe that’ll promote moisture wicking, while certain added features make it one of the best in the industry. A tongue cover prevents debris from getting into the shoe, stretch Sensiflex panels are added in the forefoot to promote flexibility, a Sensifit external cage wraps up around the foot, and a Quicklace system that uses kevlar laces makes putting these on and off a breeze.

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Cushioning
The cushioning in the X-Mission 3 is simple and effective, with an injected EVA midsole that runs along the entire length of the foot. It’s aided by a molded footbed that adds support in key places such as the arch, while a TPU insert in the toe area protects the sensitive part of your feet from obstacles on the trail.

Contagrip Outsole
Highly resistant to abrasion, the X-Mission 3 features a Contagrip HA outsole with lugs that are not too pronounced, which means you’ll even get great traction on the road. One of the main advantages of this material is its performance in wet conditions, when both trail and pavement become more difficult to grip. It does well in such situations, so you won’t have to worry about whether your shoes are up for the challenge.

Cost and Value
With a price tag that’s average on this list, and even considerably cheaper than some similarly performing running models, the Salomon X-Mission 3 is a great choice for anyone looking for an all-round great trail runner with a good amount of cushioning, support, and protective features that testify of a company with lots of experience. If you like running in a natural setting, then it’s highly recommended.

7. ASICS Gel-Venture 6

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.4
ASICS Gel-Venture 6
Shock Absorption
85
Support
83
Outsole
92
Overall Fit
89
Weight
83
best offer for today
$46.12
Pros:

Removable Sockliner

Rearfoot Gel Cushioning

Multi-directional Lugs

Stitched-down Toe Bumper

Heel to Toe Drop: 10mm

Weight: 318g

Cons:

Unsuitable for Road Running

These shoes have gel shock absorbing technology to help provide a less impactful strike when your heel hits the ground. This allows for a smoother transition to your mid-stance. Secondly, these best shock absorbing running shoes are, also, equipped with a removable sockliner; for those in need of orthotic support. Finally, the outsole is designed for rugged terrain; thereby, traction will not be an issue for trail runners.

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GEL Cushioning System
Reducing force and impact is the goal of any shock absorbing technology. In this, the GEL cushioning system designed by ASICS does just that. Moreover, this system helps to smooth the transition from impact phase to mid-stance. In doing so, not only can you run in style, but you will be comfortable in the process.

Removable Sockliner
For those in need of a medical orthotic, you can have the benefits of owning an excellent pair of running shoes while achieving the support you need. These running shoes have a removable sockliner which allows you to easily place your medical orthotic inside.

Cost and Value
The price range jumps according to size. The attribute of having a removable sock-liner for orthotic support, however, makes the high-end of the range seem minute. Secondly, these shoes have a wonderful transition from impact to mid-stance. As such, this pair of running shoes is a great buy; especially, for those in need of orthotic support.

8. ASICS Gel-Excite 4

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82.8
ASICS Gel-Excite 4
Shock Absorption
81
Support
76
Outsole
84
Overall Fit
73
Weight
100
best offer for today
$50.94
Pros:

AHAR Outsole

Removable Sockliner

Rearfoot Gel Cushioning

Reflective Details

Heel to Toe Drop: 10mm

Weight: 255g

Cons:

Runs Small

For Moderate Use

For those of you who are looking for a shoe for moderate mileage running, the Asics Gel Excite 4 is the go-to choice. Having a forefoot and rearfoot Gel cushioning system in place, these are shoes which handle impact and give you a nice transition back to midstance. Furthermore, if you are in need of a medical orthotic, these shoes have a sockliner which is removable.

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Removable Sockliner
When an orthotic is needed, this pair of shoes helps to accommodate, as they come equipped with a removable sockliner. This aids in people's needs to extend the value of this shoe's worth.

AHAR Outsole
The Asics high-abrasion rubber outsole is designed with strategic points of interests in mind; that is, these outsoles are created to bring you the best in durability and grip.

Cost and Value
This pair of shoes is priced to be budget-friendly when compared to other shoes on this list. Furthermore, they are great for those running moderate mileages and have decent-quality build about them. As such, they are worth every penny spent.

9. ASICS Gel-Contend 4

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.8
ASICS Gel-Contend 4
Shock Absorption
81
Support
78
Outsole
74
Overall Fit
81
Weight
95
best offer for today
$44.96
Pros:

Rearfoot GEL Cushioning

ComforDry Removable Sockliner

Reduces Force and Impact

Smooth Transition to Mid-stance

Heel to Toe Drop: 10mm

Weight: 298g

Cons:

Loose Fit

Lacks Support

The ASICS Gel-Contend 4 is impressive. These shoes deploy a mix of technologies to help maintain a great run. Firstly, the shock absorption system is made of gel® midsole. Secondly, your feet are able to remain dryer through the ConforDry moisture-wicking sockliner. Moreover, the sockliner is removable to provide orthotic support. In conclusion, these shoes have a wonderful design and are constructed well.

Read more

GEL Cushioning System
First off, this pair of best shock absorbing running shoes utilizes a gel® midsole to provide excellent shock absorbency. Additionally, this technology helps to return to mid-stance after your heel strikes against the surface. At the end of the day, this system is great for handling the impact your feet produce while running.

Removable Sockliner
The ComforDry sockliner is moisture-wicking. This helps to keep your feet dryer throughout your workout. In addition, the sockliner is removable and can be replaced with orthotic support. This makes these running shoes quite impressive, indeed.

Cost and Value
As with many shoes on the market, the cost of these runners is size-dependent. Starting out a budget-friendly price, they quickly rise to the mid-to-upper range in cost. With all of the technologies implemented, however, these shoes do not seem to be overly priced.

10. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v8

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
79.6
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v8
Shock Absorption
72
Support
74
Outsole
80
Overall Fit
87
Weight
85
best offer for today
$109.60
Pros:

Engineered Mesh Upper

TPU Heel Counter

Seamless Sleeve

Roomy Toe Box

Fresh Foam Midsole

Blown Rubber Outsole

Forefoot Flex Grooves

Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm

Weight: 314g

Cons:

Not Plush Cushioning

Slightly Heavy

Ideal for those who prefer a lower heel to toe drop, a neutral shoe made for road conditions, and appreciate New Balance’s approach to running gear, the latest edition of the Fresh Foam 1080v8 is a solid choice. Like the majority of the options listed in this article, it features a mesh upper that’s great in terms of breathability, and it has a specially molded foam collar that improves comfortability in the back of the heel, providing both a soft feel as well as firm lock in. You’ll be happy to hear that the bootie itself is made with no-sew construction, which will eliminate any uncomfortable seams that may cause rubbing or blistering.

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Fresh Foam Midsole
Developed by using data driven input, the midsole of the 1080v8 features a hexagonal pattern in the midsole, giving you a shoe that’s not just cushioning, but also responsive and supportive, for an all-round great performance. Slightly stiffer than other models listed here, you’ll find that this version of New Balance’s Fresh Foam should allow a quicker transition and push off phase.

Blown Rubber Outsole
The outsole on the Fresh Foam 1080v8 is made with blown rubber, a material that gives a good amount of grip on road surfaces, for which the shoe was made. But, what’s great about the use of this material is not just the traction it provides, but also the fact that it adds a slight level of bounce, making the cushioning on the shoe just a tad better.

Cost and Value
The cost of this New Balance model is average, and is what you can expect to pay for a pair of footwear made by a reputable brand. It features excellent solution, both in the midsole as well as the upper, but if you’re after something more maximalist, you may want to skip this shoe. If you like a responsive ride, then it’s a great deal.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Shock Absorption

The thing that separates running footwear from other shoes is the fact that it is made with the purpose of allowing the feet to move without constraint, while protecting them from the shock that’s generated at impact. The force a runner generates while landing on their heel can be as high as three times their weight, which is a huge amount of power going from the heel, through the ankle, and up the legs. Repeated exposure to such force will eventually lead to fatigue, pain and injury, and may bring with it more serious problems that could have been solved with simply wearing the right pair of shoes.

All of the footwear listed above has been chosen for its ability to absorb shock, that is, its level of cushioning. You will find that different runners will need different amounts and types of cushioning, ranging from minimalist to maximalist. Most brands will cater to all types of runners, with different models in their offer, but will, generally, use a limited number of technologies in their products.

Based on the brand, here are some of the shock absorbing technologies you may find in your running gear:

  • GEL Cushioning - found in ASICS footwear, this type of cushioning can be located in the forefoot, rearfoot or both. It’s a special GEL compound that does a great job at absorbing and dispersing shock from impact, and it is always combined with some type of foam midsole that allows for a good amount of rebound. The brand’s higher end products will include U4ic and U4icX midsoles, or FlyteFoam that’s less likely to pack and lose its abilities. On the lower end of the scale, you will get regular EVA foam, with the addition of a Rearfoot GEL pad.
  • DNA - made by Brooks, the DNA system is gel based, and is lauded for being one of the most adaptable types of cushioning you can get in any running shoe. It’s often referred to as smart cushioning, as it becomes softer or firmer, depending on the force that’s put on it. A newer version, BioMoGo DNA was the update that started using materials that degrade 50 times faster than the midsole materials used in conventional running footwear.
  • Grid System - when they developed the Grid System, Saucony completely changed the cushioning game. Made of a literal grid, this is an insert found in the heel of Saucony shoes that works just like a tennis racket - the shock hits it at one point, and is then dispersed throughout the entire surface of the grid.
  • Double Density EVA - another piece of innovation by Saucony, Double Density EVA has managed to become the industry standard in terms of support. Perfect for heavier runners, it features a harder form of EVA placed on the inner part of the foot, preventing overpronation.
  • Wave Plate - introduced in 1998, the Wave plate by Mizuno significantly reduced the weight of running sneakers by placing a shock dispersing plastic plate in the sole of the shoe. Mimicking the motion of waves, this small piece of tech has several version, including those for stability and motion control runners.
  • Air Cushioning - Nike’s Air Max sneakers are considered fashion staples today, but they were, in fact, the first pair of running gear that actually showed users what was located in the midsole portion of their gear. Using pressurized air to absorb the force generated at impact, the Air cushion greatly reduced the weight of shoes, and now has several version, mostly found in maximalist running sneakers and lifestyle shoes.
  • Support

    After your feet land on the ground (while walking or running), they will have a natural and inward rolling-motion associated with them (pronation). Pronation is responsible for the reduction of impact after initial landing and stabilization when changing terrain types. Sound familiar? This is exactly what the best shock absorbing running shoes do in performance. They reduce the initial shock of landing, help to stabilize, and are shaped in such a way as to support your natural pronation-type.

  • Neutral Pronation - best described when your foot lands on the outside lateral heel. As you continue through your motion, the foot will roll inward and you lift your foot with most of your weight at the ball of your foot. This type of runner is known as a neutral runner, or pronator.
  • Underpronation - is exactly how it sounds and the foot does not pronate appreciably. A foot which underpronates will strike at the outside lateral heel and lift off with most of the weight at the little toe. As you might have guessed, this type of runner is known as an underpronator.
  • Overpronation - occurs during excessive inward rolling. In general, the heel strike is inner and continues throughout the motion. Instead of weight lifting off from the ball of the foot, the inner-side of the ball will receive the most pressure. As such, this type of runner is known as an overpronator.
  •  

    Now, the reason you need to be aware of these different types of pronation is that running shoes cater to each of these characteristics. For example, an overpronator is more likely to receive an injury while wearing running shoes designed for neutral runners. This is because the shoes are not supporting the feet in an optimal fashion and running can place a lot of stress on your feet. In addition, the shoes will feel uncomfortable and will not fit correctly. This will make your run feel like work and a lot less like an enjoyable activity. Moreover, your body may ache more than it should in relation to your run. Running should be about fun and exercise; not about injury and pain.

    The Eyeball Test

    First and foremost, always seek out a healthcare professional when matters of health arise. There are specialists which can help determine (via testing) your exact pronation pattern. As such, you will be better equipped when choosing your next pair of best shock absorbing running shoes. With that being stated, however, there is a quick way you can get a closer approximation to your pronation type; the eyeball test.

    Retrieve a pair of older running shoes and look at the outsole. Firstly, neutral runners will have an S-shaped pattern associated with wear. In addition, the 'S' will begin at the outside lateral heel and will end at the great toe area (the ball of the foot). Secondly, underpronators will have wear located on the outside lateral from the heel to little toe. Finally, overpronators will show most wear on the inside of the heel and the inner-side of the ball of the foot (great toe).

    *Remember, the eyeball test is only to help give you an idea of your running type and is by no means a replacement for a healthcare professional. Furthermore, any medical-related comments are for informational purposes only.

    The Gait Cycle

    The Gait Cycle is another method by which shock-absorbency can be measured. At its most simplistic explanation, the Gait Cycle begins when one foot makes its initial contact with the ground; toe's off and then touches the ground again. Nearly, 80% of runners make initial contact using a heel strike. Furthermore, most of the remaining runners land center-foot. Top speed is achieved through sprinting and most sprinters land closer to the forefoot. So, where does this all come into play when evaluating the best shock absorbing running shoes?

    Unless you are a sprinter, you are more than likely a runner who makes contact via a heel strike. Moreover, your body's vertical impact forces are in direct correlation to the support (pronation) your heel can attenuate upon initial impact and through to mid-stance. If you are running barefoot (heel-to-toe), your heel must cushion your body weight in a passive fashion while in continual motion. Furthermore, the loading rate is quick and spikes heavily as your enter mid-stance; the location at which your foot is now supporting your bodyweight.

    Remember, loading rate is the speed at which impact forces maximize within your joints (ankles, knees, and hip), per se. If you run heel-to-toe, then the obvious choice is to add extra cushioning to your heel area. After all, minimizing load rate means better health and longer-lasting joint integrity. Extra padding in the heel area, however, is not enough. As previously stated, initial contact for a heel-to-toe runner occurs at the heel strike but is passive in nature. Your full body weight is not supported by your foot; until, it reaches mid-stance. As such, the best shock absorbing running shoes need to support both heel strike (passive impact) and a return to mid-stance (active impact).

    Outsole

    As you’ve already noticed, there are two types of running sneakers you can get when it comes to the outsole. If you prefer to run on pavement and roads, road running shoes should be your go to option. If, however, you prefer runs in nature, parks, on trails, or even extreme conditions, then definitely go with trail runners. Most manufacturers will make both types of shoes, but some may put a bigger focus on one of the two (e.g. Salomon).

    The difference between road and trail runners is quite simple - it’s located in the outsole, with road runners being made with less traction, more lightweight materials, and a lower profile. They will almost always provide better responsiveness, and will be geared slightly more towards fast paces.

    Trail runners, on the other hand, need to ensure you’re getting the right type of performance in several areas:

  • Traction - trail running shoes will almost always have a slightly thicker outsole, with deeper lugs that’ll be able to grip both dry and wet surfaces without slipping. If you’re planning on venturing off the beaten path, definitely opt for a more aggressive tread to ensure a happy ride.
  • Stability - because trails are usually uneven and unpredictable, you will need a shoe that’ll allow you to get a decent footing in less than ideal conditions. This is usually achieved by a slightly wider outsole that may sometimes wrap up around the foot. Other ways of achieving this is the addition of stability systems in the soles of your footwear that are supposed to prevent torsion and injury that may be the result of it.
  • Protection - you’re very likely to come across a number of obstacles on your trail, including rocks and twigs, so an outsole that won’t allow you to get hurt is crucial. Most trail running models will have a protective toe bumper, and may even include other features such as water or abrasion resistant uppers for further protection.
  • Overall Fit

    Before making a purchase, you need to be aware of the fact that your running footwear should never require any breaking in! A good fit is instrumental in high performance and injury prevention, and can significantly influence not just your comfort levels, but also how long and how fast you can run.

    Fortunately, there is an abundance of running shoes available in the market, and anyone can find their perfect pair, regardless of foot shape and size. Even those with wider feet will not find sizes geared towards them, which was hardly the case a few decades ago. Furthermore, contemporary running gear will usually be made with mesh, knit or stretch materials in the upper, which will not only allow for a better fit, but will also prevent rubbing or blistering.

    You should note that the closure system and lining will also greatly influence how a shoe feels on your feet. There’s a number of lacing systems in today’s running gear, from traditional ones, to those made with high tech buckles, and even asymmetrical ones that are meant to take pressure off key parts of the foot. Whichever you opt for, you will need to make sure your sneaker fits snugly, but without causing any pain, with your heel securely in place, so to say locked in.

    Some models will feature removable insoles and this can be a great way of ensuring a food fit under the arch area. If you can’t find a properly supportive shoe, or require custom orthotics, then definitely purchase a pair of footwear with a removable insole, and simply replace it with your own. Not only will this positively influence your running, but it will also ensure the health of your feet.

    Weight

    There are a few important reason why you will want your athletic footwear to be as lightweight as possible. First and foremost, going for a run in bulky shoes is likely to tire your muscles, making you fatigued and shortening the time you are able to spend running. For optimal results, you will want to get the lightest shoe possible, which will allow you not just to run for longer periods of time, but will also make you faster, significantly improving your performance.

    Nonetheless, there’s a direct correlation between shoe weight and cushioning - the more shock absorbing properties and tech your chosen model has, the more likely it is to be a heavier shoe. That’s why making a choice can be quite a task. If you’re after something that will allow you to feel as little fatigue as possible, you should go with a more cushioned models, such as the Brooks Glycerin 16, or one of the many maximalist styles by Hoka One One, Skechers, Mizuno, Brooks or Altra.

    But, if you’re looking for something to wear for a race, then you might opt for something more lightweight that will allow you to be faster. Competition running shoes are almost always less cushioned, and may even feature a smaller heel to toe drop which means you’ll have more cushioning underneath the back of the foot. You may also find that, when sprinting, you tend to land with the forefoot, in which case, you need to look for a bit more cushion and energy return in this part of the shoe.

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    What Your Footprint Says About You

    As noted in our FAQ section, you can visit a specialty running store or running boutique where folks have been trained to help you identify what kind of support you need in a running sneaker. Usually they can look at an older pair of sneakers, and tell where your foot impacts the most due to wear. Sometimes, they'll have you imprint with your foot, to determine what arch shape your foot has. All these tell tale signs will help you get the best fit, and support level, for your unique running gait.

    Tell Tale Signs It's Time To Replace Your Sneakers

    Although a recommended replacement pair of sneakers comes between 350-600 miles of wear and tear, this largely depends on your weight, the shoe's cushioning and durability, and if you wear your sneakers out in weather that perhaps isn't ideal sunny skies. If you experience knee pain, or hip pain when previously you haven't, it's a good sign you'll need to replace your old sneakers. If pain persists after a new pair, see a doctor to determine if something else is going on!

    Other Factors to Consider

    Effectiveness

    According to a research article published in the Journal of Biomechanics, people who run barefoot (De Wit, B; De Clercq, D; Aerts, P. 2000) have shown a significant increase in impact pressure. More specifically, these impacts included higher load rates (speed by which you apply force to your body) and vertical impact forces (knees, hips, etc.).  In other words, it is a bad idea to run long-term wearing no shoes at all. But what about shock absorbency in shoes? Can shock-absorbent technology improve health?

    Shock absorbency in running shoes must serve two central purposes. First, the technology needs to lessen the point of impact by reducing vertical impact forces. Generally speaking, runners strike the heel first and this is where most of the pressure lands the hardest while running. Secondly, shock-absorbency needs to support the foot-in-motion. Do the running shoes have the ability to help return your foot to mid-stance in a fluid motion, as to allow a continuance to the ball of your foot? Shock-absorbent technology should contain a fluid-like property which allows the foot to continue its natural motion from heel strike to the forefoot.

    Breathability

    Running is one of the most difficult types of exercise you can do, and if you’ve decided to take up daily jogging, or want to train for a marathon, you have to be ready for the fact that you’re going to be sweating. You’ll want to wear the right clothes, including an adequate pair of moisture wicking socks, and you should consider the amount of air flow your shoes allow.

    While most models are made with mesh or knit materials that are lightweight and breathable, some will perform better than others. A key thing to have in your runners is a lining that draws sweat away from the feet, and that allows fresh air to enter the shoes. Not only will this help keep you dry and comfortable, it can also greatly contribute to the prevention of blisters, corns and calluses.

    You should also consider how quickly your shoes will be drying. In an ideal world, you will have at least two pairs of running sneakers, so you can alternate between them, allowing them to thoroughly dry out between two wears. This should help prevent fungal and bacterial overgrowth that leads to bad odors, but should also prolong the lifespan of your shoes.

    A key thing to note is that you should never try to dry your running gear near a direct source of heat, or chuck them in the dryer. Do it in a well ventilated space, that’s dry and away from direct sunlight. This way you’ll avoid discoloration and heat damage that may compromise the protective features and construction of your shoes.

    Value

    If you’ve skimmed over the list above, you’ve probably found that the models listed range greatly in terms of price - from those that are cheaper than the average everyday shoe, to those that cost a couple hundred dollars and are obviously geared towards professionals.

    Price is often a great indicator of the quality and performance abilities of a pair of footwear, but it’s not always necessary to go with the most expensive item. If you’re an amateur runner, or are just looking for a comfy pair of sneakers you can wear every day without experiencing knee and hip pain, then you can definitely go with something in the lower end of the price range. If, however, you have specific needs, are familiar with a certain brand, or have to have the best of the best, you may find that you’ll have to invest a bit more - which could definitely pay off in terms of durability.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    q: What are the different types of running shoes?
    a:

    There are four general variations of classes for running shoes. Each class serves its own purpose and is directed toward a specific function. These variations are cushion, lightweight, motion control, and stability.

  • Cushion - Cushion running shoes are made of the softest midsole, provide excellent flexibility, and retain the least amount of medial support. Light-to-midweight underpronators having high arches are best suited for this class. The shock-absorbent technology is usually based on silicone gel pads and encapsulated or compression molded EVA.
  • Lightweight - These running shoes serve to gain speed. In the quest to gain speed, cushioning and support is minimized. As such, they should only be used for racing and/or fast-paced training.
  • Motion Control - These running shoes centralize their focus on heavier overpronators having low-to-flat arches. They provide maximum medial support. The shock-absorbent technology is usually found in the form of a polyurethane (PU) midsole.
  • Stability - These running shoes have an overall best mix of medial support, flexibility,  durability, and cushioning. Midweight neutral runners having low-to-medium arches are best suited for this class.
  • q: What is an EVA midsole?
    a:

    EVA is an acronym which stands for ethylene-vinyl acetate. EVA is a lightweight polymer. When referring to running shoes, EVA is produced as a foam and classes as a cushioning system.

    q: What is a PU midsole?
    a:

    PU (polyurethane) is an organic polymer. It is heavier in density than EVA, but more durable. When referring to running shoes, PU classes as a cushioning system

    q: What is a gel midsole?
    a:

    A gel midsole is made from silicone and classes as a cushioning system when referring to running shoes.

    q: What is motion control when referring to arches?
    a:

    Motion control refers to a shoe's ability to control mobility; or at the very least, the ability to set up the follow through motion associated with a foot landing. There are three types of pronation-types. Likewise, there are three descriptions associated with motion control systems, per se.

  • High Arch: Motion Control System (lack, thereof) - Those with high arches are sometimes predisposed to being an underpronator. Avoidance of stability and/or motion control running shoes is recommended, as these shoes will further decrease mobility when mobility is most needed.
  • Flat Arch: Motion-Control System - Those with flat arches are sometimes predisposed to being an overpronator. Stability and/or motion control running shoes is recommended, as these shoes will provide more support when support is most needed.
  • Normal Arch: Motion-Control System - Those with normal arches can wear cushioning or stabilizing shoes. Cushioning is great if no abnormalities in pronation are present. Otherwise, if there is a mild-to-moderate abnormality, a stabilizing motion control system is recommended.
  • q: When should I replace my running shoes?
    a:

    To begin with, the recommended mileage of running shoe replacement varies according to the weight of the person, the demand of resulting impact when striking the ground, pronation, type of surface you are running on, and environmental variables such as cool mornings versus hot days. With this being stated, there is a range you can keep an eye out for. The generalized mileage recommendation is between 350-600 miles. Furthermore, you should rotate your running shoes to help the midsoles last longer instead of wearing them consecutively. One such reason is allowing time for dampness to naturally dry from sweat.

    q: Can I run in the rain?
    a:

    Generally speaking, it is recommended you don't run in the rain, as a wet midsole is 40% - 50% less effective in shock-absorbency.

    q: What is the proper care for my running shoes?
    a:

    As previously mentioned, it is a better idea to rotate between two pairs of running shoes versus wearing them in consecutive order. This gives time for the shoes to recover naturally; and yes, they need to do this. Your shock-absorbing midsoles will last much longer. In addition to rotating between running shoes, there are other things to consider when properly caring for your gear.

  • First, always take the time to untie your shoes after a run. Exhaustion makes it easy to just kick them off but this habit will destroy the heel counter and will lower your running shoe's stability and effectiveness.
  • Secondly, washing running shoes in a machine-wash will deform their shape. It is highly recommended you do not do this.
  • Next, allow your damp shoes to dry naturally (air dry). Running shoe components can degrade when temperatures become too high, such as in a machine dryer.
  • Finally, always wear your running shoes only for your running activity.
  • q: How do I fit my shock absorbing running shoes properly and still make the purchase online?
    a:

    You can easily make an online purchase after you visit a specialist store and fit your running shoes which you are planning to buy later. This will help you to be certain of the shoes you are interested in purchasing. For those who do not have the means to visit a specialist store, another alternative is to read the reviews. People can be loud and clear when running shoes do not fit true to size. Feel free to post up questions on those websites which allow it. Reviewers can be very helpful.

  • Firstly, you should be aware of your pronator-type (i.e. neutral, underpronator, or overpronator). In addition to using the 'eyeball test' previously mentioned, you should seek out a healthcare professional. In doing so, you will be certain of your pronation.
  • Secondly, your shoes should be fitted in the evening and/or your feet measured, as this is the time when your feet will be their largest. Additionally, a half-inch needs to be between the end of the toe box and your longest toe.
  • Thirdly, if you are able to visit a specialist store before your online purchase, wear your running socks and bring any orthotic you need to place inside. In this, you will be able to gain the best fit.
  • Finally, always remember if the running shoes are not comfortable, they are not the right shoes for you.
  • Sources

    1. Patents, Shock absorbing midsole , Article, Oct 01, 2002
    2. De Wit, B. et al, Biomechanical analysis , Research Article, Mar 01, 2000
    3. Schmidt, J., Biomechanics! What is Loading Rate?, Article, Oct 04, 2016
    4. Brückner, K; et al, Polyurethane-foam midsoles , Research Article, Jun 01, 2010
    5. Logan, S; et al, Ground Reaction Force Differences , Research Article, Mar 01, 2010
    6. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society®, How to Select the Right Athletic Shoes, Article,
    7. MAJ Asplund, C. M.D; MAJ Brown, D. M.D., The Running Shoe Prescription, Article, Jan 01, 2005
    8. Cook SD; et al, Shock absorption characteristics , Research Article, Jul 01, 1985
    9. Novacheck, T., The biomechanics of running, Research Article, Aug 25, 1997