Running on ultra-plush, inflated-looking shoe outsoles may be trendy, but it's probably not making a difference in your economy or efficiency, according to new research from the University of Nevada. That said, they can make your workouts more comfortable. And that's pretty huge. After all, comfort is the only factor you should consider when choosing the right running shoes for you, per research from the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
There's not enough evidence to prove maximalist running shoes can safeguard your joints from injuries or reduce soreness from impact. And to play Devil's Advocate, minimalist shoes make you more cognizant of your form, reducing how heavily you strike the ground, and positioning your strides so you fall more on the ball of your foot than the heel (though we don't recommend barefoot running—practically ever). But, if you've got any foot injuries, suffer from joint pain, or generally like the feel of a more cushioned ride, we've got six pairs of running shoes that fit the bill.
The Paradigm 1.5 is Altra's only maximalist zero-drop shoe—meaning it has a neutral base with little to no space (or "drop") from heel-to-toe—despite having ultra cushioning. This one is ideal for runners searching for a light shoe that encourages low impact and complete protection internally and externally. The toe box anatomically resembles the shape of your foot so your toes don't get cramped during foot strikes, and the sides of the shoe boast a sort-of guard rail, keeping you stable when your legs begin to tire.
Enhanced flexibility, durability, and cushioning make the 33-M running shoe from Asics a standout pick. An exaggerated foam platform offers a plush ride. Internally, the toe box mimics the shape of your foot, allowing your toes to splay comfortably as you strike; the secure heel fit and seamless construction reduce irritation, too.
The Clifton 2 takes the award-winning features of its predecessor and amplifies them. The shoe's upper is incredibly lightweight; the tongue is softer and slightly padded to increase protection across your foot; and overlays provide midfoot support. Hoka's classic pumped-up outsole has strategically placed rubber pods to improve durability to boot.
The Transcend 3 is perfect for runners looking for major support—especially for those of you who pronate (sole turns in when you strike the ground). Brooks' most cushioned running shoe adapts to your step; the midsole is super responsive and evenly disperses impact to reduce shock on your joints. Guide rails along the side serve as bumpers, preventing excessive rolling and jolting.
The impressive all-terrain performance and gripping capabilities of bicycle fat tires have been reimagined in Under Armour's running shoe. Go off-road with unrivaled traction, impact protection, and support. The shoe is bottom-loaded with a softer foam. That means unparalleled energy return and maximal cushioning. The Fat Tire Low is even crafted with bonded abrasion panels so you can tear through the most rugged landscapes and come out unscathed (well, your shoes will at least).
The oversized midsole on the Sense Pulse provides loads of cushioning for hard heel strikers and retains a relatively low heel-to-toe drop to engage more of the muscles in your foot. An internal foot sleeve ensures a snug fit and the specialized rubber along the outside of the sole provides added stability and security no matter where your run takes you.