If you love a cushioned running shoe, you’re in luck because right now brands are focusing on this more than ever! Stack heights are increasing as each one tries to create the best cushioned running shoes. I’ve been testing them all and here are my top picks!
As a runner since 2002, I’ve seen running shoes go through so many massive changes. Right now we are in the age of cushion, more cushion and MORE cushion.
My initial thought was that this could lead to injuries with the increasing stack height. But then again, I loved HOKA from the first run, so maybe not. And then to my great joy, people started doing studies to help us know exactly what all this cushion is doing.
Should You Run in A Super Cushioned Shoe?
And here’s where things come down…
If you deal with Achilles issues then the bigger stack and cushion may not be ideal. If you deal with Plantar Fasciitis, you might love the cushion, but remember you MUST keep doing foot strength work.
The research simply does not prove that a more cushioned shoe reduces injuries, though it does reduce the force of your landing. (Though one new study in European Journal of Sport Science has come pretty close!)
However, we do know that if you find a shoe and you adore how it feels, that alone can improve your running regardless of the shoe type.
What Does Max Cushion Mean?
Most of the shoes you will find on this list are categorized as max cushion by the brand. This simply means that compared to other shoes in their line up it has the most possible cushion and softness.
It now also tends to mean that the shoe is taller (stack height) and I think this isn’t always as good for a treadmill runners.
7 Best Cushioned Running Shoes
All right, now let’s get in to what I’ve found through a lot of testing this year. I happen to love a good cushioned shoe as a daily trainer or for marathon long runs, so these are high on my list of go to shoes.
Which running shoe has the most cushion? That’s hard to answer depending on how you like the cushion to feel, but most of these are going to be very similar with the Cloudeclipse having the biggest stack height right now.
None of these are stability shoes or trail shoes, sorry folks I went with things that will work for most folks in this first set of testers!
I’ve used the last few models of the Triumph for MANY training miles and definitely recommend.
The Saucony Triumph is known for its plush cushioning from the PWRRUN foam, which you can absolutely feel more than something like the Saucony Ride. This provides a soft and comfortable fit for runners who prioritize cushioning and impact absorption. That being said, I still found the shoe to feel really stable on runs up to 16 miles (I wasn’t marathon training so didn’t go farther).
This is the shoe I would probably recommend for most distance runners as a go to trainer from Saucony.
Whether you’re heading out for a 5k or your 20-mile long run, this shoe provides the comfort and support you need, especially on the days when your legs are feeling it a bit more than usual.
Another bonus? It comes in 13 colors!
- 10 mm drop
- 8.8 oz women’s, 9.8 oz men’s
- Available in wide
- Available on Saucony.com and Zappos for $150
#2 New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v13
Listen, I like a good cushioned shoe and this one fits the bill. It’s become one of my go to daily run shoes.
I’ve actually gone through 3 pairs of this shoe in the last few years. And while the increase in cushion means it’s lost some of the speediness I previously loved, it’s just changed places in my line up because I still really enjoy it.
The New Balance Fresh Foam X is just a winner for me. I’ve always found it to do well for high mileage without breaking down and it just feels good underfoot. The most recent version 13 of the shoe is slightly lighter (about 1 oz less) and has the knit upper, which makes the shoe simply feel like it’s hugging your foot a bit more. The stack height has also increased, but thus far I haven’t noticed that as an issue, so it remains a shoe I really enjoy.
The Fresh Foam midsole provides excellent cushioning and shock absorption, making it perfect for runners who enjoy long-distance running. Remember this isn’t a plush shoe, but cushion that still responds. The upper part of the shoe is made of Hypoknit, which is a soft and breathable material that provides a comfortable fit.
- 6 mm drop
- 9.2oz Men’s 9, 7.3oz Women’s
- Available in wide
- Available on New Balance and Zappos for $165
- See my full review of the New Balance 1080 v13
Those of you looking for that great recovery run and easy day shoe are going to really enjoy this one.
It doesn’t have the pep of the Cloudmonster, which is why I list it for those types of runs. That being said, I know plenty of folks who have already said this is a go to long run shoe for them because of the cushion.
While there is a double layer of CloudTec Phase® cushioning, I don’t feel like the shoe is plush. Meaning you don’t sink in to it and lose your ability to actually push off the ground. I think is because of the speedboard which is providing both that needed firmness and a light touch of stability.
You’ll also notice this has a different bottom than older On shoes. You won’t find any issues with rocks getting stuck and you will absolutely be able to feel the cushion in this shoe, which didn’t used to be the case.
- 6mm drop
- 8.4 oz women’s, 10 oz men’s
- See my full review of the On Cloudeclipse >>
- Available at On Running and retail stores for $179
#4 HOKA Bondi
Maybe the original max cushion shoe! It was the first shoe I ever said was plush.
If you want to feel like your feet are running on actual pillows…this is it.
It’s a heavenly shoe for recovery days and I’ve talked with a number of back of the pack runners or heavier runners, who have said this shoe is a big time winner for them. It provides cushion that helps get through the miles, but with the wider base remains something that feels stable.
I’m also a fan of the low heel drop, those are becoming harder to find. But I’ve found rotating that in helps with IT Band issues for many runners.
The flipside of a super plush cushion is that you need to be aware of your form. You can easily start to sink in to your low back creating pain and lose a little speed without that spring off the ground.
- 4mm drop
- 8.9oz women’s, 10.7oz men’s
- Available in wide
- Available in the most sizes and colors on HOKA.com for $165
- Read my review of the Clifton vs Bondi >>
The Novablast has been a winning max cushion shoe from Asics since it first launched and they have continued to increase the amount of cushion in the shoe, while working to drop the weight.
This is in fact the most lightweight daily trainer on the list!
The midsole is Flytefoam Blast+ Eco, made from 20% bio-based materials to keep moving toward a goal of sustainability. For our purposes, what that means is it lives up to the name of MAX cushion! Again, I like that this shoe is a more responsive cushion and you don’t sink in to it so much.
While this is a neutral shoe, with no guiderails or anything for stability, it absolutely has some of that built in to the design. The width of the platform from toe to heel reduces pronation and provides a really good ride.
- 8mm drop
- 7.9 oz women’s, 9.1 oz men’s
- Read my full review of the Asics Novablast 4 >>
- Available at Zappos $140 (my favorite for easy returns)
Considered their most cushioned shoe, I’m going to say it doesn’t feel wildly different than the Paradigm to me. The main difference here is it’s a neutral shoe.
The Torrin is also one of their most popular models, so they have continued to create new versions or offer different styles from leather to waterproof. After taking the 7 out for some runs, I can see why this model has remained so popular.
It’s that sweet spot of cushioning and makes it really easy to transition from your standard running shoes with the padded tongue and heel collar. I could easily see this being a favorite for long runs, once I’ve built up my body to do more zero drop miles.
- 0mm drop
- 8.3 oz women’s, 9.9 oz men’s
- See my full review of the Altra Torin 7
This feels like cheating, so I almost didn’t include it in the list. But the truth is that the best carbon plate running shoes have INCREDIBLE cushion. It’s got bounce and is so light and super fun to run in when pace is the focus.
Other brands are certainly catching up, but right now Nike has the lead when it comes to the bounciest and most responsive carbon plated shoe on the market. I was skeptical until I put them on and then, I started to understand all of the hype.
With a wider platform they feel pretty stable though again we’re increasing that stack height all the time to squeeze in ever more cushion, while keeping the weight as light as possible.
Definitely file this under a racing shoe and not a necessary one by any means, but so fun. We know that these shoes absolutely can help improve speed, but that seems to happen mostly once you’re under around 8:30 mile or so.
- Neutral Carbon Fiber Shoe
- 8.4 oz men’s, 7.1 oz women’s
- 8mm drop
- Best size arability on Nike.com for $285
- Checkout the Nike Vaporfly vs Alphafly >>
All right friends how was that for a round up of the best cushioned running shoes? Feel like there is one missing from the list, I’d love to hear what you’ve been running in that’s got that great feeling.
There are some notable really popular shoes like the Nike Pegasus and Brooks Adrenaline GTS missing from this line up. That’s because in comparison they don’t have the same amount of cushion as these shoes. So it comes down to what you want from the shoe!
Looking for more running info?
- What is Heel Toe Drop?
- Best Treadmill Running Shoes
- How To Get Back To Running After a Long Break
- How Long Should Your Longest Run Be?
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