There’s no such thing as the perfect running shoe. When it comes to running, all sorts of things come into play – your biomechanics, your weight, the surface you run on and the shape of your feet, meaning no one shoe will suit every kind of runner.
One of the things we’ve noticed over the decades of producing shoe reviews at RW is the way our network of runners express themselves when they’re filing their feedback on the shoes they’ve tested. Quite often, they don’t talk about the things the shoe does but instead focus on the things it doesn’t do. As in: it doesn’t pinch, it doesn’t feel heavy, it doesn’t make their feet sweat – and so on. This shows that, for many runners, the aim in choosing footwear is simply to find shoes that stay out of your way, don’t intrude upon your run and just allow you to get on with it. The more experienced you become, the more you may look for a specific required characteristic within a shoe – which is why we give each model such a thorough inspection – but it’s worth remembering that, at a basic level, comfort is key.
How to choose your perfect best running shoe
Each shoe on the list below was chosen due to its high overall performance scores, but we also looked at three important categories that should help you find the best model for you:
Weight: Lighter shoes typically have less cushioning, which can make them feel faster. That said, if you’re going long distances, the extra cushioning of a heavier shoe might be a better option.
Drop: A shoe’s drop is the difference between the heel and forefoot measurements, or in simple terms, how much your toes drop below your heel. A higher drop can lead to more heel striking. Most shoes have a drop between 8 and 12 millimetres, some shoes have less than 6mm and a few minimalist designs have zero drop.
Cushioning: Cushioning provides impact absorption. In the lab, we looked at cushioning measurements in the heel and forefoot, to give you an idea of the overall cushioning in each shore.
How we choose the best running shoes for 2019
The sweat test: We receive multiple pairs of each shoe from the manufacturers. These go to more than 200 runners of varying abilities and preferences. Each spends a month running in their shoes over multiple sessions, before filling in a detailed questionnaire.
The lab test: Under the direction of veteran biomechanist Dr Martyn Shorten, mechanical tests – see below – are conducted on each shoe at the RW Shoe Lab in Portland, Oregon, US. When the detailed wear-test and lab-test results are in, we distil the information from both sources into the reviews you see here.
Cushioning: A machine called an impact tester measures how soft or firm each shoe is underfoot. An 8kg weight is repeatedly dropped onto the heel and forefoot of a men’s size 8 shoe from a height of two inches. The lab gauges the force of impact and how much the midsole compresses.
Flexibility: Flexibility indicates how smoothly a shoe will move with the foot from heelstrike to toe-off. We measure this by securing a shoe’s forefoot to a machine that bends it 45 degrees – about the same as the foot flexes on the run – 60 times in 20 seconds. The force required to achieve this indicates how pliable the shoe is.
Height and weight: We weigh men’s (size 8) and women’s (size 5) models. We also measure ‘stack height’: the outsole foam rubber, midsole foam and insole. We use a digital contact sensor to determine the shoe’s ‘heel drop’ – the difference in height from heel to forefoot.
What are the best running shoes for 2019?
The wait is over, here are the shoes that made it onto our list, and the ones we’re looking forward to seeing later in the year: