Ever tried running in clogs?
Here’ a tip – don’t do it. The weight of wood will bring you nothing but a clacking sound, burning thigh muscles, and feet that want to kick you for their heavyweight ordeal.
When you’re running, lightness makes you feel you’re going faster, and saves you from muscle cramp and foot fatigue.
But it’s never quite that simple.
If you simply strip away layers of what makes a running shoe heavy, you’ll end up with a thin running shoe. But it will also be thin enough to let you feel every pound of impact, every stone, every ounce of shock transmitting up your legs. You end up with a lightweight running shoe that gives you none of the support you need to run safely for any great distance.
So what, then? Where’s the happy medium between lightweight running shoes and protective, supportive ones?
Shoemakers have been wrestling with just that problem. They’ve been experimenting with lightweight foams, supportive layering, even complete reconstructions in some cases.
And they’ve done it.
Lightweight and supportive. Strong but not heavy. It can be done. It has been done. And there’s a model out there that’s right for you.
Come with us. We can show you the lightest running shoes on the market today.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
The Lightest Running Shoes
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Nike makes incredibly good running shoes.
And what’s more, it makes running shoes with particular purposes and qualities in mind. So when it makes a lightweight running shoe, you can be sure it knows what it’s up to.
The Pegasus 2 does a couple of very clever things.
An earlier model from Nike, the Vaporfly 4%, introduced the world to a kind of sorcerer's stone of lightweight running shoes. It introduced us to ZoomX foam!
“What’s ZoomX foam and why should I care?”, right? It’s a kind of intensely lightweight shock-absorbing foam which works very well in the midsoles of running shoes.
Really, very lightweight.
Really, very shock-absorby.
Also, really, very pricy.
So that’s a thing worth bearing in mind.
ZoomX foam was a feature of the original Zoom Pegasus. There, it gave a combination of lightness, bounce and energy that made it practically float off shelves and onto runners’ feet.
In the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2, little has changed in terms of the lightweight ZoomX foam – it still has a midsole made of the bouncy miracle. Almost everything else though has been stripped down, stripped back or lightened, meaning a running shoe which for lightness alone is hard to beat. We’re talking 7.5 oz in the male variant, and just 5.9 oz in the female.
What’s been changed?
The upper has been stripped down, there’s a new thin synthetic mesh construction and where the original Pegasus had Flywire midfoot cables, they’ve gone from the Turbo 2. There’s also now an ultra-thin tongue and a heel counter turned upward to stop you injuring your Achilles tendon.
With the strip-back, Nike placed the Pegasus Turbo 2 at the nexus of two markets – the everyday training shoe and the racing flat.
More markets, bigger sales, clever Nike.
Users who want it as a daily training shoe might have more issues with the extreme diet the Pegasus Turbo 2 has been on. The ultra-thin tongue in particular might be a pain – some users have complained it won’t sit still. And if you’re just using it as a daily training shoe, it’s not clear what the loss of the midfoot cables has gained you.
As a lightweight running shoe for putting in the miles though, the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 is a rocket. It’s all in that ZoomX midsole, which delivers you some give but bounces back for great energy return.
There’s still probably work to do to make the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 the perfect lightweight running shoe. Some users have issues with the uppers, and other with the way the laces hang because of the restructuring and strip-down. But as a lightweight race day running shoe, the Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 is a list leader.
- ZoomX foam midsole gives you great energy return
- Lightweight mesh upper for breathability
- Ultra-thin tongue
- Stripped down shoe to lighten the weight
- Upward heel counter to protect Achilles tendon
- Needs work to really appeal to the everyday training shoe market
- Price – among the most heavyweight things about it
- The Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 is updated with a featherlight upper, while innovative foam brings revolutionary responsiveness to your long distance training
- The lofted mesh and synthetic upper is lighter and the translucent material makes it look as breathable as it feels
- The rubber outsole helps absorb impact and provide multi-surface traction
Ohh, it’s close though.
It almost literally depends on whether it’s a Wet Wednesday or a Sunny Saturday which of the two top lightweight running shoes on our list takes the gold.
The Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 edged it on the day, but another day, the Skechers Go Run Razor 3 Hyper could easily have been our top recommendation.
On paper, the Skechers shoe is easily lighter – men strap just 6.6 ounces on here, and women 5.3 ounces.
If you’re a foam-head, you’re going to want to strap in for this, because Nike’s not the only company to do clever things to get a world-rocking lightweight midsole.
The Skechers version is called Hyper Burst. And it’s a testament to the human spirit that people would go this far to get a lightweight foam for a running shoe.
Whereas in traditional EVA, you have tiny gas-filled cells throughout the midsole to give you your energy return and cushioning, that’s old hat over at the Skechers lab. Over there, they take solid slabs of plastic and expose it to some pretty sick chemical skills. Take CO2 gas, heat it up under pressure till it runs back into a liquid, and then expose it to the plastic.
Irregular shapes in the cells of the plastic. And irregular shapes mean a lighter foam, without losing responsiveness or cushioning.
See? Only humans would go this far to get a lighter foam for their running shoe.
Bottom line though – it works. Oh, it works just fine. It’s got a firm feel underfoot that will reward you the faster you try to take it, while still protecting you from pavement stress.
Where the Nike might possibly have spread itself a little thin on some days, the Skechers Go Run Razor 3 Hyper demands you punish it, and push it hard.
This is a hardcore running and training shoe. Use it as an everyday shoe and it will be judging you. It’s got a thin mesh build and keeps its reinforcements to a minimum, so that it can deliver the lightness and speed you need.
That mesh upper looks like it should be solid, but it breathes particularly well, keeping your feet drier and cooler than the Nike does on hot running days. The toe box is wider than you might expect of a full-on race-happy shoe too.
Whether you’re pushing it hard for a 5K or chugging it out for a marathon, the Skechers Go Run Razor 3 Hyper is a phenomenally good lightweight shoe.
Just don’t ask it to play nice in softer, everyday situations. That’s like riding a thoroughbred racehorse to the mall. It’ll do it, but under no circumstances should you expect it to be happy about it.
- Science-heavy foam for springy support in the midsole
- Firm racing underbelly
- Lightweight, breathable mesh upper
- Wider toe box than expected
- Demands hard usage to show its best side
- Durable translucent ripstop mesh upper ensures support and breathability - Seamless non-stretch upper for added comfort
- Mid-foot strike zone promotes efficiency in each stride
- Strategically-placed rubber outsole provides durability and traction - Molded heel counter for a stable and secure fit
From a shoe that’s purposeful as an arrow, let’s turn to one that’s at home in most environments. The Altra Solstice XT has lightweight bones, but is not in the stripped-back super-lean greyhound class of the first two shoes on our list. Racing vest? Maybe not so much. Motivational T-shirt? Yep, that’s about where we are with the Solstice XT.
That’s because the Solstice XT tells you what it’s about in its name. It’s not a hard-running Mercury, stripped back and ready for marathons. It’s a cross-training shoe, which, should the urge take you, you can use for short runs with no ill effects at all.
As such, the Solstice XT Cross Training shoe qualifies to be on our list of lightweight running shoes, but its first home is really in the gym.
That means it’s less geared to foam that’s lighter than prayer and uppers that are barely there than some on our list. You will at least never mistake the fact that you’re wearing a training shoe in the Solstice XT. Men will feel the 8.4 ounces on their feet, and women the 6.9 ounces.
You can also tell where the Solstice XT is most at home by its midsole. The midsole of the Solstice is made of standard EVA, for a solid support but nothing to give you additional energy return.
If all this sounds like we’re down on the Solstice XT, we need to set your head straight. It’s a great shoe for gym-work, with all the support that entails. And let’s say this once more for the people at the back: it’s a running shoe that will take you comfortably on reasonably short runs. It’s just not a racing shoe, which demands extra support and extra lightness if it’s going to carry you to victory.
For instance, the heel of the Solstice XT is extra firm. Put that through a marathon and you’ll be sobbing. Try and lift weights with it in a gym though, and you’ll get the benefit of that firmness. Similarly, run practice runs to build strength, endurance and cardiovascular power, and the Solstice XT will serve you perfectly well.
Overall, it’s a lightweight shoe that, while its heart is in the gym, will take you on all the runs you need as part of a general fitness regime. It’s also not going to cost you anywhere near as much as the leading lightweight dedicated running shoes.
- Lightweight without being overly stripped back
- EVA midsole for strong support
- Ideal for general fitness runs
- Flexible in the midsole for speedwork
- Significantly cheaper than longer-distance shoes
- Not a dedicated shoe for longer runs
The Hoka One One Rincon is a shoe with a purpose in its padding.
Evolved from a previous Hoka shoe, it was designed to shed weight after the ancestor, the Clifton, drifted towards the everyday shoe market. At just 7.7 ounces for the men’s size 9, the Rincon certainly addresses that drift towards heavier weights.
Ideally, you’d use the Rincon for things like speed days, when you needed to get a lot done. You could push yourself to break through to greater feats of speed in the Rincon, while staying comfortable and cushioned. There’s a lightweight mesh to keep your foot in place – again, useful for speedwork.
If you’re familiar with the Hoka Clifton, the Rincon is the Scrappy Doo to its Scooby – lighter, faster, with a sleeker profile and more bounce than seems possible. It’s a shoe for the days when you need a lightweight shoe to give your speed a boost.
- Highly cushioned for comfort
- Lightweight version of the Clifton everyday shoe
- Mesh keeps your foot firmly in place
- Padded heel to avoid abrasion
- Some users find the outsole wears down quickly
There’s a reason the Brooks Asteria is last on our list. It weighs in at 8.7 ounces for men and 7.1 ounces for women. That’s heavy for a lightweight.
For all that though, it’s a heck of a shoe.
In fact, the Brooks Asteria is all about combining support and performance. It wants to help you reach your goals, but doesn’t strip away every needed ounce of support along the way.
Midsole cushioning? There’s plenty of that here – Brooks’ version is called BioMogo. That gives your feet support for the running you need to do, without weighing the shoe down unnecessarily.
And for all it might weigh in heavy compared to others on this list, it has a lightweight feel, especially if you’re accustomed to heavier models from Brooks.
The uppers here are nicely tech-heavy – they’re made of a 3D printed mesh. More importantly, the mesh lets your feet breathe, for comfort and dryness whatever run you’re doing.
Bottom line, if most of the shoes on our list sacrifice one thing for another, like support for lightweight speed, the Brooks Asteria is the point of balance. It’s the shoe you want if you’re not yet ready to carve off most of the shoe and rely wholly on foam. But it’s also the shoe you want if you’re determined to lighten the load so you can hit your personal running goals.
See what we mean? Even at the bottom of our list, it’s a heck of a shoe.
- BioMogo foam for great midsole support
- Lightweight 3D printed mesh upper
- Highly balanced to help you meet your next running goal
- Not the most subtle cushioning – feels firm to some users
The Lightest Running Shoes - Buying Guide
When looking for lightweight running shoes, you might think there’s only one thing to consider – the weight.
But what you’re actually looking for is a lightweight running shoe that suits your needs. That means there are questions to ask.
What Sort Of Running?
Lightweight shoes are useful for speed, absolutely, but how much speed do you need? Are you a competition runner, for whom the lost ounces could make all the difference over the course of a long distance? Or a multi-trainer with some running involved to build stamina? Or a pavement-pounder determined to break your next personal best?
Assess how much you need the speed, and it will guide you to the right section of the lightweight spectrum.
In any physical system, there are trade-offs. At the high end of the lightweight running shoe spectrum, you get lighter weight by shedding structure. To maintain support, you then have to do very clever things with foam.
At the lower end, you keep some of the weight in your footwear, but the support you can get is more traditional and reassuring. Where do you want to go? High end and technical? Or cheaper and traditional?
Remember those very clever things with foam? When was the last time a more complex, more highly engineered product cost you the same as something more rudimentary?
Assess how much of your disposable income you’re willing and able to dedicate to lightening the load of your running shoes, and buy accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the point of getting lightweight running shoes?
Speed, usually. Less weight moves more easily through space. That means it moves faster when equivalent force – from your muscles – is applied. The lighter the shoe, the faster you can usually go.
Are lightweight running shoes always less supportive than heavier shoes?
No – but it usually takes some serious science to stop that being the case. Many manufacturers have their own clever foams which are both lightweight and supportive. But they’re relatively expensive to produce. So you’ll usually pay more for shoes with fancy foams than you will for shoes with EVA midsoles.
Are lightweight running shoes better than ordinary running shoes?
That depends as much on you as it does on the shoe. Usually, a lightweight running shoe will add to your performance, yes. But that only works if all else is equal. If you need a shoe with ankle support, arch support or a wider fit, buy the shoe that helps you feel that support first. It’ll do more to help your performance than going lightweight will ever do.