Running isn’t always about speed. Sometimes, a smooth cruise through the neighborhood is rewarding enough. But just like you wouldn’t pick a sports car to haul your groceries, you wouldn’t want to gently jog around the block in a pair of race-ready marathon shoes.
Enter cushioned running shoes, the family SUV of running footwear. With loads of plush comfort that rivals the coziest mattresses, these silhouettes can be a great option for those wanting a less strenuous running experience. It’s not about how fast you get to the finish line with cushioned running shoes but how enjoyable the ride was.
Before we hit the road and journey through the best cushioned running shoes on the market today, it helps to understand just what these plush silhouettes are and who can most benefit from them.
What Are Cushioned Running Shoes?
Let’s get this out of the way first. Most running shoes offer some form of cushioning. Where cushioned running shoes earn the callout is in how much cushioning is present. Cushioned running shoes offer maximum levels of plush to provide excellent shock absorption and an overall comfortable ride. Cushioned running shoes are easy to spot, thanks to their foam midsoles and sometimes exaggerated stack heights. If it looks like an upper was sewn onto a pillow, it’s probably a maximal cushioned running shoe.
Who Should Wear Cushioned Running Shoes?
I’m sure there’s no shortage of runners that would prefer a cloud-like feel under every step, but well-cushioned running shoes might not be the best for every gait type. Because of the emphasis on plush support, there’s not a lot of room left in each silhouette to include stabilizing features or other step-correcting components. For this reason, cushioned running shoes are best served for neutral runners. Those who pronate or supinate might want to look elsewhere or opt for a comfortable insole to pair with their corrective kicks.
Despite the neutral-favoring design, cushioned running shoes are still a versatile pick for a number of training disciplines. They can be welcome footwear options for long-distance running, providing plenty of comfort once mileage hits double digits. Cushioned running shoes are also a natural fit for short-distance jogs and neighborhood walks. All that underfoot foam can add some weight to the profile, though, so if you’re focused on tempo training, there are other, lighter options out there.
How We Tested
Over the course of multiple weeks, I took to the streets, sidewalks and tracks of Pittsburgh to test a handful of these top picks, highlighting each silhouette’s comfort across varying distances. I also took these cloud-like sneakers routinely on a stroll through my neighborhood, seeing if there were any notable differences between a jogging and walking pace.
Outside of what I felt underfoot, I also analyzed each shoe’s upper construction for durability, breathability and — of course — comfort. After all, what’s the point of finding coziness in the footbed if the top of your feet are irritated and compromised?
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