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The best cushioned running shoes to buy in 2023: Find ultimate comfort with our top picks

Inject a little comfort into your runs with our pick of the ultimate cushioned running shoes for all distances and all abilities

There are lots of factors that come together to produce the best cushioned running shoes. Cushioning is just one component that affects what a shoe feels like to run in, but it’s arguably the most crucial in terms of how comfortable that shoe feels and whether it’s going to be a good fit for short run outs or going long.

There are plenty of running shoes that have lots of cushioning, but it’s important to pick a model that best fits your running habits: it needs to balance maximal cushioning with an upper and outsole design that’s suited to the way you run and the terrain you run on.

There are a lot of different foams packed into running shoes these days, so in this article we’ll highlight the ones that we think stand out for all the right reasons. Whether you want a versatile all-rounder or you’re on the hunt for something that will help you break your PBs, read on and we’ll explain all everything you need to consider before splashing out and stepping out.

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Best cushioned running shoes: At a glance

How to choose the best cushioned running shoe for you

Do I need soft or firm cushioning?

Not all cushioned shoes are built the same. Indeed, foams combine with other elements of a shoe to deliver very different feelings underfoot. While most new cushioning foams provide a soft feeling, there are plenty that offer a firmer feel too.

A softer foam can create a more comfortable, cushioned feel, absorbing impacts while still offering a nice spring in your step, even when your pace starts too slow. Firmer cushioning can offer better stability and support for some runners and tends to work better at faster paces.

If you’re not sure what works best for you, it’s well worth trying on some shoes to find out if you should go soft or firm before deciding which shoe to grab. Even if you don’t have a good bricks-and-mortar running store nearby, you can always order a couple of pairs of shoes to try in the comfort of your own home.

Going long or keeping it short?

For longer runs, it’s a good idea to opt for a bigger stack of cushioning as that bigger volume of foam can help to fight fatigue when the legs start to tire.

For shorter distances, however, cutting down on cushioning can help to keep weight down and create a more nimble feeling shoe.

There are always compromises to be made, so it’s all about choosing a shoe that works with your running habits and what you find works best for you.

How we test cushioned running shoes

At Expert Reviews, testing is paramount to offer an accurate assessment of what you can expect from a pair of cushioned running shoes. This involves testing them for comfort, their ability to absorb impact over an extended running time, and whether this can help you up your running speed.

We test cushioned running shoes by using them for a series of runs at different distances and paces, totalling at least 50km. These consist of short, 5km runs at easy and moderate paces; quicker interval sessions to test the responsiveness of cushioning at speed; and longer runs of over an hour to test whether there are any changes to the feel of a shoe’s cushioning as you run further and more regularly. Across all runs we consider a shoe’s fit, feel, performance and outsole grip and durability on first wear, as well as when the kilometres ratchet up.

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The best cushioned running shoes you can buy in 2023

1. Puma Velocity Nitro 2: The best affordable cushioned running shoe

Price: £100 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from Amazon

The Puma Velocity Nitro 2 is the sequel to one of the best running shoes of 2021. It takes a versatile and well-cushioned shoe and makes it even better. Puma retains the Nitrogen-infused Nitro midsole foam that made the first Nitro so good for both slow and moderate paces, but the sequel ups the cushioning levels to turbocharge the comfort and responsiveness.

The Nitro 2 gives a smooth yet bouncy ride, with the TPU heel piece providing some much needed stability. The shoe retains the grippy Puma Grip rubber outsole, and this continues to work well on dry and wet roads alike, maintaining grip levels when the route gets twisty. The softer, more snug-feeling upper is a big upgrade, and this makes the Nitro 2 a better option for longer runs.

Overall, this cushioned shoe offers performance that belies its price tag. If you don’t want to spend big money and want a cushioned shoe that feels great at slow, moderate and easy paces and is fit to go long distances too, then this is a great option.

Key specs – Weight: 257g | Drop: 10mm | Pronation: Neutral | Midsole foam: Nitro foam

Buy men’s from AmazonBuy women’s from Amazon

2. Saucony Triumph 19: Best cushioned shoe for easy runs

Price: £145 | Buy men’s from Wiggle | Buy women’s from Saucony

The Saucony Triumph features Saucony’s wonderfully plush PWRRUN+ foam, and this makes it the perfect shoe for dialling back the pace and enjoying the ride.

It’s a shoe best suited to neutral runners, and that soft, springy foam feels best suited to long, easy runs. They’re so comfy, in fact, that you’ll probably want to keep them on after the running is done – they make pretty solid shoes for walking around in, too.

Saucony’s FormFit upper is lovely and light. Soft sponge laces and a padded tongue and heel collar ensure that it’s comfortable in the right places. At 290g for the men’s shoe, it’s fairly lightweight, and the XT-900 outsole is well equipped to handle plenty of road running time.

The ride is comfortable, the cushioning is soft and the upper is both light and breathable, making it good for training in the sun. Whether you’re adding a shoe to your collection for easy runs, or just want something that’s enjoyable to use when not chasing speed or PBs, these are among the best cushioned shoes you can buy.

Key specs – Weight: 290g | Drop: 8mm | Pronation: Neutral | Midsole foam: PWRRUN+

Buy men’s from Wiggle Buy women’s from Saucony

3. Hoka Mach 4: Best training cushioned shoe for quicker runners

Price: £125 | Buy men’s from Sportsshoes | Buy women’s from Wiggle

Hoka’s Mach 4 is a daily trainer that works at a variety of paces. Go fast, however, and the Mach 4 comes alive; its Profly midsole is soft enough to work at easy paces, but it feels snappy and responsive when you pick up the pace. The cushioning provides a lovely bounce and Hoka’s early stage Meta Rocker helps to keep things smooth and stable at speed.

A nice, light and breathable mesh upper combines with a removable sockliner to offer added comfort. Underfoot, the rubber EVA outsole keeps the weight down but makes sure you feel every bit of that midsole cushioning. This does mean that it’s not the most durable shoe out there, but it should be good for a fair amount of running before it starts to lose some of that liveliness.

All told, it’s a standout neutral shoe for Hoka and proves you don’t need a carbon plate if you want to go faster. If you want something that works as a daily trainer and at a range of paces, the Mach 4 is a great all-rounder.

Key specs – Weight: 232g | Drop: 5mm | Pronation: Cushioned/Neutral | Midsole foam: ProFly

Buy men’s from Sportsshoes Buy women’s from Wiggle

4. New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12: Best cushioned daily trainer

Price: £145 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from Sportsshoes

New Balance’s Fresh Foam X midsole foam is a real winner when it comes to providing strong comfort on longer runs, and the 1080v12 is arguably the brand’s best showcase for it.

There’s a generous amount of that Fresh Foam X foam packed into the 1080v12 – enough to offer a good bounce and smooth transitions when you decide to pick up the pace. It’s a shoe that feels like it’s built for going easy and long, so you still feel comfortable at the finish line.

New Balance matches that dense cushioning with a blown rubber outsole that offers strong grip – it feels durable enough to survive a lot of pavement pounding. Up top, you’ve got a stretchy HypoKnit upper that wraps nicely to the foot while maintaining structure and support in equal measures.

It’s not a particularly light shoe, and you might need to play around with sizing to get the perfect fit, but if you’re looking for a comfortable, cushioned daily trainer that handles plenty of mileage and looks the part too, the Fresh Foam X 1080v12 is a standout option.

Key specs – Weight: 292g | Drop: 8mm | Pronation: Neutral | Midsole foam: Fresh Foam X

Buy men’s from Sportsshoes Buy women’s from Sportsshoes

5. Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 2: Best cushioned shoe for long runs

Price: £164.95 | Buy men’s from ProDirect | Buy women’s from Nike

Building on its predecessor, the Flyknit 2 is a supremely comfortable shoe that’s ideal for long or short runs at a very easy pace.

Nike has packed its midsole with its soft, bouncy, yet responsive ZoomX foam, the same foam found inside its carbon-packing AlphaFly and Vaporfly racing shoes. The result is a shoe that offers good protection on long runs while also producing an enjoyably springy and controlled ride underfoot.

Nike has tweaked the upper to make it more breathable for those hot, summer runs, too: the spongy laces and nicely padded tongue sit snug on the top of the foot to boost comfort. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the waffle-style outsole. It’s still best suited to roads, but there’s just enough grip to handle some light off-road jaunts.

If you want one of the best cushioned shoes for long, easy paced runs, the ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 2 needs to be on your shopping list.

Key specs: Weight: 275g | Drop: 9mm | Pronation: Neutral | Midsole foam: ZoomX

Buy men’s from ProDirect Buy women’s from Nike

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