The best shoe for you depends mostly on… you. There are as many stride types, foot shapes, and foot strikes as there are runners, and no shoe will be perfect for everyone. That’s why we handpicked a team of 18 expert testers with a range of preferences—speedsters and cruisers, thick-sole lovers and minimalists—each of whom pointed us to different favorites. That’s the list we’ve pulled together here: ten of the best road, trail, and winterized running shoes, whatever your vantage.
Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3
GEAR OF THE YEAR
You won’t find a faster or better-fitting muck-ready shoe on shelves this fall. With a narrow last that feels like a second skin, big seven-millimeter lugs for packed-snow and off-trail traction, a low-drop heel, and stout toe protection, the Fellcross 3 ($170) is an extremely nimble all-terrain warrior for efficient runners. The moderately thin midsole is softened somewhat by those big, rubbery lugs, so you feel efficient on turf but cushioned on hard-packed flats and mountain descents. It’s not an ice shoe—the lugs can’t take studs—and the narrow last won’t work for wider feet. Bottom line: this is as aggressive as a top-line running shoe can get. 9.2 oz; 4 mm drop.
BEST FOR: Neutral-cushioning addicts who want a bit more pop.
THE TEST: ASICS is known for soft, but with the new Gel-Pursue ($110) the foam is firmer, lower to the ground, and more energetic than on marshmallowy classics like the Gel-Nimbus and Gel-Cumulus. speedy? No, but our faster runners appreciated the boosted responsiveness. “A great shoe for putting in lots of efficient miles,” said one tester. Still, the Pursue is a traditional trainer: it has a deeply cushioned heel with a ten-millimeter drop that caters slightly to heel strikers, a nice thick tongue, and generous outsole rubber for high-mileage durability.
THE VERDICT: A training workhorse without that flat-tire feel. 10.7 oz; 10 mm drop
Nike Free 5.0
BEST FOR: Minimalism fans who don’t like road sting.
THE TEST: The original minimalist runner returns with the biggest update since the Free dynasty was launched a decade ago. The deep, square cuts in the midsole have been replaced with a hexagonal pattern that offers even more multidirectional flex. Built to fill the niche between a lightweight trainer and a true minimalist, the 5.0 ($100) is still a higher-volume, lightly cushioned, flexy slipper that delivers a smooth and responsive feel. “It’s naturalism that doesn’t suck the fun out of runs,” one tester said.
THE VERDICT: New tech makes the reborn Free 5.0 the most user-friendly and well-made minimalist shoe we’ve tried. 8.9 oz; 8 mm drop
Adidas Supernova Sequence Boost 7
BEST FOR: Stability without the heft.
THE TEST: If you think most stability shoes overdo it, you’ll probably love the pared-back approach of the Sequence 7 ($130). It feels noticeably sturdy through all phases of the stride, but it’s still refreshingly lean, low, and energetic. Thanks to the springy Boost foam (which doesn’t firm up in cold weather), it’s surprisingly fast. “I was able to crank out solid sub-six-minute miles without feeling like I was laboring,” one tester reported. We also noticed a nice tackiness on slick roads with the Continental rubber outsole, which proved extremely durable.
THE VERDICT: Our easy favorite from this year’s crop of stability shoes. 10.4 oz; 10 mm drop
New Balance 110v2
BEST FOR: Efficient runners looking for good energy return—and a great deal.
THE TEST: The 110 ($90) got a head-to-toe upgrade this year, including much more substantial overlays for a locked-down fit, a more aggressive outsole (with better mud shucking), and a softer midsole. The changes added almost two ounces to its weight, making it more of a lightweight mountain shoe than a minimalist, but we loved the low and responsive feel, good ground control, and sting-free landing. Note: with only three lace crossings and a paper-thin tongue, the fit was a bit tough to dial in for technical terrain. Runs small by half a size.
THE VERDICT: A solid trail tool at a killer price. 8.8 oz; 4 mm drop
Hoka One One Mafate Speed
BEST FOR: Zero-impact cruising on flat and rolling trails.
THE TEST: Even by Hoka’s sumo standards, the Mafate ($170) is thick (31-millimeter forefoot, 35 in the heel), making it the plushest trail shoe on the market. We loved the bottomless, spongy, monster-truck-tire feel on recovery runs and cruises. Though our team reported that it seemed lighter than its 12-ounce weight, it’s hardly speedy. It felt soggy and slow on the turnover and a bit too tipsy to move confidently in technical terrain. Bummer: those foam lugs (that’s right—foam!) are too flaccid to bite onto anything, and they wear down quickly.
THE VERDICT: Trail running on super fluff definitely has its moments. 12 oz; 4 mm drop
Brooks PureGrit 3
BEST FOR: Just about everything on dirt.
THE TEST: This shoe went neck and neck with the Salomon Fellcross 3 for our Gear of the Year prize. Like a good politician, it knew how to find common ground with everyone on our team. We loved the semi-minimalist midsole, snug upper, and low weight—the Grit absolutely hammered on flat roads and steep, rocky terrain alike. Significant improvements over the PureGrit 2 ($120) include a much tackier outsole, better toe protection, and a more responsive forefoot, though there’s less ground feel. The only caveat? Steer clear of mud.
THE VERDICT: If you have higher-volume feet, this is the best shoe here, and it’s certainly the most versatile on dry terrain. 9.9 oz; 4 mm drop
The North Face Ultra Equity GTX
BEST FOR: Road-to-trail runs.
THE TEST: The new Equity ($130) is a stability shoe for real-deal pronators and heel strikers. It has the tools you need for flat and rolling trails—a locked-down midfoot, flexy and nimble forefoot, and Vibram outsole—but the heel has the deep-dish foam and stout medial post of a traditional road shoe. The low-profile lugs transition well from packed roads to pavement, although the Ultra Equity met its match in mud and slush. A seam in the heel rubbed some testers raw, but the non-Gore-Tex version ($115) couldn’t have been more comfortable.
THE VERDICT: Our favorite crossover shoe of the season. 9.6 oz; 10 mm drop
Saucony Xodus 5 GTX
BEST FOR: Rock gardens; packed snow.
THE TEST: Feeling a bit vulnerable? The Xodus ($140) is a winter-ready tank. The thick, stiff midsole absolutely crushed trail hazards; the deep, stud-ready lugs on the Vibram outsole gave this shoe the best packed-snow traction in our test; and the Gore-Tex-lined upper kept the cabin warm and dry in slush. All that armor gives the Xodus a sluggish turnover, however. “Heavy and overdone,” one speedy tester griped. But for bigger guys cruising up icy, rocky trails in winter, they’re perfect.
THE VERDICT: “This shoe felt like a manual-shifting Jeep rather than a luxury SUV,” said one tester. 11.4 oz; 4 mm drop.
La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 GTX
BEST FOR: Storm runs; snowshoeing.
THE TEST: If you’re often out running when the plows are working, you’ll love the Crossover ($175). The new version is updated with a more supple (but not waterproof)integrated gaiter and a longer zipper to allow better access to the laces. The fit feels confidently locked down and ready for the freeze-thaw chop of heavily trodden trails. At 13 ounces, it’s slow on the turnover but highly responsive. Bonus: the deep lugs are ice-stud-ready. Bummer: only the lower portion of the Crossover is Gore-Tex waterproof, and there’s more drop than needed for such a firm-heeled shoe.
THE VERDICT: An excellent stormchaser. 13 oz; 10 mm drop