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Best running shoes 2021: The best running shoes for men and women from £100

Joe Coombs
26 Aug 2021

Whether you’re an experienced runner or a total novice, we help you pick the best running shoes with bite-size reviews and a buying guide

Picking the best running shoes for you can make an extraordinary difference. A good pair of running shoes from the likes of Nike, Asics or Saucony can reduce your risk of injuries, set you up for faster times and, above all, make the whole experience more comfortable. The problem is that everyone runs differently, both in terms of actual gait and physical ability.

Finding a shoe that matches your needs can be difficult, so we’ve asked the experts at our sister site Coach to lend a helping hand. Below, they explain all the key features you need to look out for and pick their favourite running shoes for everything from a 5km park run to a marathon. If you’re on a strict budget, you can also check out our best cheap running shoes list.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best fitness trackers you can buy

Save £30 on the Nike Pegasus 37

With a well-cushioned support, the Pegasus 37 is a comfortable shoe for the beginner runner, and at a retail price of £105 it's pretty good value too. Now, however, you can get it for even cheaper: The Pegasus 37 is currently to just £75 from Sports Direct.
Sports Direct
Was £105
Now £75

Save £56 on a pair of women's UA HOVR Machina

The Machina is a bit different in that it has a sensor in the sole that tracks your run and sends the information to UA's MapMyRun app. It's a comfortable shoe too, and now you can get a pair of women's Machinas for just £84.
Under Armour
Was £140
Now £84

Best running shoes: At a glance

  • Best for beginners: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 | Buy men's | women's
  • Best all-rounder: Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 | Buy men's | women's
  • Best under £100: Puma Velocity Nitro | Buy unisex now
  • Best cushioned shoes: Brooks Glycerin 19 | Buy men's | women's
  • Best racing shoes: Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% | Buy men's | women's

How to choose the best running shoes for you

What kind of surface are you going to run on?

The main thing to consider when selecting your running shoes is the type of running you’re likely to be doing, not only in terms of distance but also terrain.

  • Track/treadmill: If you plan to run only on the track or the treadmill, you can mostly ignore factors such as the amount of traction on a shoe’s sole.
  • Trails: Of course, if you plan to head off the beaten track and regularly run on trails, picking a shoe with better ankle support and a specialised sole will be much more important. If you are more of a trail bunny, we have an article for you dedicated to the best trail-running shoes.

What is “pronation” and how does it affect shoe choice?

There are three types of foot strike:

Neutral: Where the foot lands on the outside of the heel and rolls a little inward to absorb the shock. Neutral runners should be comfortable in most shoes, although neutral shoes are most suitable (unless your BMI is 27+, in which case some extra support might be advisable)

Underpronation: Also known as “supination”, is where you land on the outside of the heel and don’t roll inward enough. Underpronators should look for a lot of cushioning on their shoe.

Overpronation: As you’d expect, is where the foot rolls too much from the outside of the heel to the inner edge of your foot, rather than the ball. Overpronators will likely be best off with stability running shoes.

Any runner can get injured, but over and underpronation can lead to more problems if you don’t opt for the right shoe. All running shops will offer similar advice, but it’s also important to remember to listen to your body. If a shoe feels comfortable when you’re running, it’s likely the right shoe for you, even if it doesn’t follow the prescribed type of shoe you’ve been recommended.

What is gait analysis and is it worth doing?

Basic gait analysis involves a few minutes of jogging on a treadmill at your natural pace, while an expert casts his eye over your running style. This will be done for free at many specialised running shops such as Sweatshop and Run and Become.

The aim is to analyse how your foot lands in terms of pronation, which will inform your choice of shoes. It's a speedy process that's well worth doing if you plan on spending big money.

How long will shoes last and how do I know when it’s time to get new ones?

In general, brands advise that running shoes will last 500 miles or so, but they’re not going to fall apart at that point, so unless there are clear signs of disrepair, there’s no need to move on immediately. Signs to watch out for are when the cushioning starts to feel squishy, rather than firm, and the grip on the sole being eroded.

Also if you suddenly start picking up injuries when you haven’t changed your running routine, it could be a sign that your shoes are no longer providing the support needed.

How much do I need to spend?

We advise you to pay attention to last year’s model in the more expensive (£110 to £160) lines – they will invariably cost less and offer near enough the same features. Of course, if you must have the latest thing, that’s okay too.

There are also good budget running shoes to look at, which cost £40 to £90 – you’ll find those on the best cheap running shoes list.

The best running shoes to buy

1. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11: The best running shoes for beginners

Price: £135 |Buy men’s | women’s from New Balance

The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 is a comfortable shoe with plenty of cushioning, which will help protect your body from the impact of running when you first start out in the sport. Don’t let the ample cushioning fool you into thinking this is a slow shoe, though, because the 1080v11 will help carry you to your first few PBs if you do start racing, and it’s a great option for long-distance events like the marathon in particular.

In the midsole, you have New Balance’s Fresh Foam cushioning, which delivers a stable ride that’s the right level of firm to be comfortable without becoming so squishy that you lose speed with each stride.

At £135, some beginners might consider the 1080v11 a little pricey for a first shoe, but it’s a durable option and, if you stick with the sport, you’ll get your money’s worth out of it. Moreover, it’s a long-running line and you can often nab a previous version in sales, with the 1080v10 being very similar to the next edition.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: Neutral; Best used for: Training; Weight: 269g (UK 9); Heel-to-toe offset: 8mm

Buy men's from New Balance

Buy women's from New Balance

2. Saucony Endorphin Speed 2: The best all-rounder running shoes

Price: £155 | Buy men’s | women’s from Sports Shoes

Aside from some minor upper tweaks and a jazzy new set of colourways, Saucony basically changed nothing about the Saucony Endorphin Speed with the second edition. We’re thankful for that, because the original Speed was a terrific shoe and the second is just as great.

The Speed 2 is similar to Saucony’s carbon plate racing shoe, the Endorphin Pro 2, using the same responsive PWRRUN PB foam in the midsole, which here is paired with a nylon plate, rather than the carbon plate of the Endorphin. This still provides some extra pop to each step, but is softer and more flexible than a carbon plate, which makes the Speed 2 more suited to everyday training.

You can use the Speed 2 for everything, and that’s exactly what we did with the original Speed for over 550km last year. Whether you’re heading out on some easy runs, fast training sessions, or short and long races, it will help you perform at your best in all of them – and it’s durable, too. If you’re a one-shoe runner, this is the shoe to get.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: neutral; Best used for: All-rounder; Weight: 235g (UK 9); Heel-to-toe offset: 8mm

Buy men's from Saucony Buy women's from Saucony

3. Puma Velocity Nitro: The best running shoes under £100

Price: From £45 | Buy now from ASOS

Puma slipped off the road running shoe radar in recent years, but has come back in a big way in 2021 with a line-up of shoes for all occasions. The Velocity Nitro is the everyday trainer in the range, offering comfort and durability, as well as plenty of grip thanks to the PUMAGRIP outsole, which we found had no trouble finding traction on wet pavements.

However, the Velocity Nitro is more than just a comfortable training shoe. The nitrogen-infused EVA foam used in the midsole is also responsive and light, and the shoe is surprisingly fast as a result. It would be a solid trainer/racer option for most runners, and would work well for longer races in particular.

It’s one of the most impressive shoes we’ve tested in 2021 all-round, and that’s before you take into account its relatively low price. The Velocity Nitro has an RRP of just £100, and the even better news is that it’s often on sale; we’ve recently seen it discounted by as much as £50 at ASOS. That’s absurd value for such a versatile and enjoyable shoe.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: Neutral; Best used for: Training; Weight: 276g (UK 9); Heel-to-toe offset: 10mm

Buy now from ASOS

4. Asics Gel-Kayano 28: The best stability running shoes

Price: £155 | Buy men’s | women’s from Asics

The Gel-Kayano has been a go-to for stability-seeking runners for almost three decades, and Asics has generally kept the year-on-year updates it makes to the shoe small in order to avoid offending long-term fans. However, that evolution-over-revolution approach can create the risk of the shoe getting stale and falling behind the competition, so we were pleased to see that Asics has made some significant modifications to this 28th iteration of the shoe.

Of these changes, the biggest is the addition of Asics’ bouncy FF Blast foam into the midsole. This is a softer cushioning that you’d typically get on a stability shoe, and it delivers a lively and springy ride. In order to ensure the Kayano 28 is still stable, Asics has also used firmer materials in the rear half of the midsole and updated the heel counter to cradle the foot better upon landing. The updates make the Kayano 28 a more energetic, enjoyable shoe than its predecessor while still retaining the stable, comfortable ride that has made the line so popular.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Best used for: All-rounder; Weight: 308g; Heel-to-toe offset: 10mm

Buy men's from Asics Buy women's from Asics

5. Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2: The best short distance racing shoes

Price: £210 | Buy men’s | women’s from Nike

The Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 delivers the same level of performance as the original NEXT%. Given how great the original was, that’s a very good thing, even if it might disappoint anyone who was expecting a bigger update with the second edition.

All of the changes made to the shoe are found in the upper, which is now a more breathable knit compared to the Vaporweave material used on the original NEXT%. The toe-box is roomier and more comfortable on the second edition and, aside from some mild heel rub concerns, the upper is an improvement.

Underfoot, the shoe is the same as the original NEXT%. Key to the Vaporfly’s success is the ZoomX foam in the midsole, which is lightweight, soft and springy. That foam is paired with a carbon plate to stabilise the midsole and add even more pep to your step when you’re aiming to set PBs.

The Nike Alphafly is now our favourite long distance racing shoe, but the Vaporfly edges it out over 5K and 10K events because it’s lighter and more stable, with that extra stability being very useful when rounding sharp corners at 5K pace. The Vaporfly is also a terrific long distance racer, so you could just save yourself £50 and opt for it over the Alphafly even if you’re lining up a marathon.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: Neutral; Best used for: Racing; Weight: 206g (UK 9); Heel-to-toe offset: 8mm

Buy men's from Nike

Buy women's from Nike

6. Brooks Glycerin 19: The best cushioned running shoes

Price: £140 | Buy men’s | women’s from Brooks

If you’re looking for pure comfort on your run, then Brooks’ Glycerin line can’t be beaten. The upper, collar and tongue have plush padding, and the soft DNA LOFT cushioning makes every step you take in the shoe a joy. It’s a great option for new and heavier runners concerned about the impact of the sport.

That’s more the case with the latest update to the Glycerin line than ever, because Brooks has added more of that plush DNA LOFT foam to the midsole of the 19th version of the shoe, making for an even more cushioned and comfy ride. The weight also has dropped, which makes it a little better for speedier running, but it’s still very much best-used for easy outings where you’re not trying to crack any PBs.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: Neutral (stability version available); Best used for: Training; Weight: 289g; Heel-to-toe offset: 10mm

Buy men's from Brooks Buy women's from Brooks

7. Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%: The best racing shoes

Price: £260 | Buy men's | women's from Nike

The Alphafly is the successor to the all-conquering Vaporfly and the shoe Eliud Kipchoge wore when he ran the first sub-2 marathon at an unofficial event in Vienna in 2019. When official races do return, you can be sure you’ll be seeing this distinctive shoe on the feet of many top athletes.

Nike has built-on the success of the Vaporfly by updating the design to include two Air Zoom pods under the forefoot. These are firmer and more responsive than the (also very springy) ZoomX cushioning used in the rest of the midsole, and add a little more pep to your toe-off. As a result, the Alphafly is an even better option for long races, where the carbon plate and bouncy cushioning help you to maintain your pace all the way to the finish line.

The massive stack of cushioning does mean the shoe can feel unwieldy when turning sharp corners, but once you’re up to speed you’ll barely notice it. You will notice the hole in your bank balance, though clearly that’s not deterring runners chasing a PB, because the shoe is often out of stock everywhere.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: Neutral; Best Used for: Racing; Weight: 232g (UK 9); Heel-to-toe offset: 4mm

Buy men's from Nike Buy women's from Nike

8. Under Armour Flow Velociti Wind: The best smart running shoes

Price: £140 | Buy men’s | women’s from Under Armour

When it comes to connected running shoes, Under Armour is well ahead of the curve, with many of its recent models linking to the MapMyRun app to beam over information like cadence, stride length and footstrike angle from a chip in the shoe. The shoes can even provide real-time feedback during your run to help you achieve the right cadence for you, which could help runners who over-stride to reduce their risk of injury.

The Flow Velociti Wind combines this tech with the best running shoe Under Armour has released in years, being lighter and faster than other options, most of which use Under Armour’s HOVR foam instead of the Flow material used here. The Velociti Wind is still a comfortable enough shoe to do regular training in, too, and although Under Armour has removed the outsole of the shoe to make it lighter, the textured Flow foam on the bottom grips well and should still last you many miles of running.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: Neutral; Best used for: Training and racing; Weight: 241g (UK men’s 8); Heel-to-toe offset: 8mm

Buy men's from Under Armour

Buy women's from Under Armour

9. Hoka Rocket X: The best-value carbon plate running shoe

Price: £140 | Buy unisex from Hoka

Unlike most carbon plate shoes, the Hoka Rocket X has a price that comes in under £150 and, almost as important, it always seems to be in stock. Of course, those things would mean little if it’s performance wasn’t up to scratch, but there’s good news on that front as well – the Rocket X is a lightweight speedster that has the durability to be used for both fast training and racing.

The midsole is made from an EVA foam and doesn’t match the softness and energy return of the PEBA foams on shoes like the Vaporfly. However, it’s still comfortable enough for long races like the marathon, and the rocker design helps you to roll through your stride in efficient fashion. PBs will definitely be on the cards in this shoe, and the durability and low price mean that it isn’t one you’ll have to save exclusively for race day, unlike many other carbon plate shoes.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: Neutral; Best used for: Racing; Weight: 217g (UK 9); Heel-to-toe offset: 5mm

Buy unisex from Hoka

10. On Cloud X: Best running shoes for the gym

Price: £130 | Buy men’s | women’s from On

While soft running shoes with big stacks of cushioning are great for protecting your body from the impact of road running, they’re not ideal for weight training, especially with heavy lifts such as squats and deadlifts when you want more stability. However, if you’re also spending a fair chunk of time on the treadmill in the gym, or doing HIIT workouts that are high impact, you don’t just want to simply use a dedicated weightlifting shoe, either.

If splashing out both running and gym shoes doesn’t appeal, the Cloud X is a versatile shoe that you can use for both your running and your gym work. It’s a firm, lightweight shoe that offers enough stability for weight training and agility sessions, with the outsole designed to provide support no matter what direction you’re moving in.

The midsole is a mix of On’s signature CloudTec pods and the company’s Helion foam, and while it’s a firm shoe it still provides enough cushioning for regular running. It’s also a pretty quick shoe that’s become popular on race days, especially for shorter events such as 5Ks and 10Ks.

If you're looking for a versatile option for all your training, including plenty of running and even races, the Cloud X is an excellent choice.

Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch support: Neutral; Best used for: Training and racing; Weight: 240g; Heel-to-toe offset: 6mm

Buy men's from OnBuy women's from On

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