If you’re on the hunt for the softest running shoes, you should know that it’s all about striking a balance between comfort and performance. You can grab the comfiest shoes out there, but they won’t be good for running in, and vice versa, so it’s important that you find the sweet spot where your shoes will be both comfortable and up to your performance standards. This can be difficult, especially if you’re new to buying running shoes, and involves sifting through a lot of design features.
Fortunately for you, we’ve already done all the hard work. We’ve gathered five of the best shoes that we think combine soft comfort with sports performance capabilities, with some being from reputable brands that are sure to inspire confidence.
See the products below, where their pros and cons are listed in a way that’s easy to see. If you’re wondering how we ranked these, you can also find a small buyers’ guide below where we’ve separated sneakers into a few of their components and properties, and described which ones are best for a soft but capable running shoe.
In a hurry?
Sometimes you want to get a purchase over and done with so, if this describes you right now, then check out our top recommended soft running shoe here. We chose the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v10 Running Shoes, a model that’s comfortable whilst remaining functional and accessible for all sorts of runners. See its features in more detail below:
- Is one of the softest padded shoes out there thanks to New Balance’s own Fresh Foam midsoles, which cushion your feet whilst offering a bounce to your run. Ortholite cushion inserts are also used to control sweat moisture and match the shape of your feet for better accessibility
- They’re topped with Hypoknit uppers that, whilst made with a combination of computer-molded rubber and knitted mesh, is only one structural piece for increased durability whilst being breathable. It also stretches, so both wide and narrow feet can be accommodated without alienating the other.
- The shoes are also lightweight despite all of the padding in them. Most of the materials used are laser-treated, so layers have been shaved off to keep it lightweight without decreasing the strength of the shoe as a whole.
Top 5 Softest Running Shoes
OUR TOP PICK
The first shoe we have for you is a great lightweight, padded shoe from a brand that you’re sure to recognize. We’re talking about the New Balance Free Foam 1080 v10, and yes, that’s right, there have been ten iterations of these shoes, so you can be sure that they’ve been reworked and refined to perfection.
They’re named after the premier cushioning you’ll find inside the shoes since they’re part of the Fresh Foam X series. Built into the midsole, it’s this Fresh Foam that’ll provide you with unrivaled softness whilst pushing back with a more effective rebound when you’re running in them, adding some much-needed bounce to your movement.
No matter the shape of your feet and soles, the OrthoLite cushion inserts in these sneakers should have you covered and avoid any biomechanical issues with sole shape incompatibility or uneven pressure distribution. They are also handy for controlling moisture, too, so sweat becomes less of an issue.
So, what else is upgraded in the 1080 v10 models? Two other features have been changed, too. The most obvious are the Hypoknit uppers, which combine mesh knit and molded synthetic material into a sturdy one-piece design. Its computer molded design is incredibly precise whilst the mesh paneling allows your feet to breathe, keeping your feet cool and comfortable when you run.
These uppers are incredibly dynamic, stretching to meet the space requirements of those with wider feet. This means you can find comfort in these even if your feet are usually wider than others but, unlike other shoes out there, the solution doesn’t alienate narrow feet either. All foot widths will be able to get what they want out of these shoes.
The second change is more of a subtle one. The materials used for these shoes have been laser-treated, removing layers off of them without comprising their structural integrity. What this means, is that all of the material used has been made lighter by this process without changing the fundamental shoe design, making this the choice if you want a soft running shoe that’s also lightweight.
- Namesake Fresh Foam midsoles deliver unparalleled comfort.
- OrthoLite cushion inserts match the shape of your feet and control moisture.
- One-piece Hypoknit combines the best of molding and knitting techniques.
- The upper stretches to accommodate wider feet.
- Laser treated to reduce weight.
- The outsoles can wear down quickly if you’re using them a lot.
Second on our list are the Brooks Glycerin 18 Running Shoes, the upgraded follow up to the popular Glycerin 17 running shoes that are known for their added padding when compared to the rest of the Brooks catalog.
The most important feature when talking about softness is the Brooks DNA LOFT midsoles in these shoes. More of this padding has been added in the jump from the Glycerin 17 to 18, so you can rest assured that you’re getting more padding than this line has provided before. Whilst soft, it’s also responsive to the pressures you apply to it, flexing and bouncing back to improve your running.
The interior is coated with an OrthoLite sock liner that snuggles your feet when you first step into them, so these shoes are soft from the get-go. The sock liner is still suitably breathable, however, so you shouldn’t have any problems with perspiration. There’s also a plush transition zone inside that makes the natural running movements of your foot, from heel to toe, more efficient and smoother.
Stretchy uppers form the top of these shoes, and they’re made with double-jacquard fabric and mesh, so you get the durability of woven fabric along with the breathability and ventilation of synthetic mesh. The fact they stretch helps them to fit your foot, no matter what shape that foot may be.
Brooks also produces those uppers in a variety of colors, both neutral and colorful, so they should be suitable for all ages and genders. Who they won’t appeal to, however, are those with heel pains and plantar fasciitis since the shoes have flat arches, making them uncomfortable to wear.
- Brooks’ DNA LOFT midsole tech provides soft yet responsive cushioning.
- OrthoLite sock liner increases step-in comfort.
- Plush transition zone smoothens movements from heel to toe when running.
- Stretchy double-jacquard mesh balances fit, flexibility, and breathability.
- Available in a variety of neutral and eye-catching colors.
- Flat-arched shoes that are unfit for treating plantar fasciitis.
- THIS SHOE IS FOR: The Glycerin 18 is perfect for runners who think there's no such thing as too much cushioning. The upper enhances comfort by perfectly balancing stretch and structure.
- SUPPORT AND CUSHION: Provides neutral support while offering the maximum amount of cushioning. Ideal for road running, cross training, the gym or wherever you might want to take them! Predecessor:...
- SUPER-SOFT CUSHIONING: Increased DNA LOFT super-soft cushioning allows for even more extreme softness, without losing responsiveness or durability, while the OrthoLite sockliner provides premium...
Continuing with our star-studded list of soft shoe recommendations, we have another suggestion from an established running shoe brand. We’re talking about the Saucony Triumph 17 Running Shoes, a neutral running shoe option that has some added padding for those on the search for more comfort.
This added padding is down to two Saucony-exclusive features, those being their PWRRUN+ cushioning and the FORMFIT plush shoe interior. The PWRRUN+ cushioning gets its name from the fact that, whilst generally softer than Saucony alternatives, they give springy feedback that adds bounce to your steps.
The FORMFIT plush interior only adds to how soft these shoes feel when they’re on your feet. They’re also accessible from all sides and directions, making them easy to put on and take off no matter which angle your foot is at. The FORMFIT system is also named after the fact that the shoe will mold to the shapes of your soles, providing the most compatible and comfortable experience for its runners no matter the shape of their feet.
The Triumph 17 is approximately 28% lighter than Saucony’s other shoes, so not only is it a great soft shoe for those who want added comfort when running, but they’re also easy to pick up speed in since they won’t weigh down on your feet and legs.
Whilst it’s a lighter offering from Saucony, they still have the chunkier profile that the rest of the Triumph series have, so if you’re not a fan of that bulkiness in your running shoes then you should be careful with these shoes.
- FORMFIT plush interior fits from every angle, making for an easy on/off.
- FORMFIT also molds to your foot shape, avoiding biomechanical complications.
- PWRRUN+ cushioning is flexible and responsive to your running movements.
- This shoe model is 28% lighter than Saucony’s last attempt.
- The shoe has a chunky profile that some may find unpleasant.
- PWRRUN+ gives you a springy and responsive underfoot feel that keeps you strong and feeling fresh.
- FORMFIT acts like a luxurious bucket seat for your foot, conforming to you for the perfect fit and providing comfort from every angle.
- Cushioning thats 25% lighter than our previous best, the lightweight comfort of these shoes means you'll never feel like something is holding you back.
At our fourth spot is a lesser-known brand, the Hoka One One Bondi 6 Running Shoe, but those that do know the brand will know that they have an extensive selection of padded footwear. The Bondi 6 is one of their latest examples of this, it has a lot of great features that give you a softer running experience and is perfect for those who prefer maximalist shoes.
The Bondi 6 shoes have what would be described as a high stack, meaning the distance between your feet and the bottom of the outsole is more significant than it may be in other shoes. This is relevant because most of that stack is actually EVA foam, softening the feel of the shoe when you’re standing on it.
This is because they’re actually designed to be stood in, among other things. The high foam stack makes these a great choice for those who want multi-purpose footwear, since they provide the same support whether you’re running, walking, or standing still. The same can’t be said for most padded running shoes from the more established brands on this list.
For all this talk about how soft and squishy they are on the inside, however, don’t make the mistake of assuming they might be vulnerable to damage. The Bondi 6’s rubber outsoles have been redesigned to increase their durability to external punishment, and this process also shaved a few ounces off of the total weight of these shoes.
There are a lot of shoes to work with here but fortunately, Hoka makes full use of that space with a variety of colors and designs, some more dull and neutral for wear in everyday scenarios and others bright and eye-catching for those runners out there who like to be seen. The fact it’s a tall stack shoe should be kept in mind, as they can take getting used to for those unfamiliar with wearing them.
- Loaded with soft, stacked EVA foam at the midsole.
- High foam stack design is great for runners, walkers, and workers.
- Redesigned rubber outsoles reduce weight.
- They’re available in a wide array of colors and designs.
- Tall stack height may take some getting used to.
The last pair of shoes we have on the list is for those who want a softer running experience when traveling some of the roughest terrains out there. If that sounds like you, you should think about grabbing the Ultraventure Trail Running Shoe from Topo Athletic.
We thought we’d finish with something a little different and bring some padded trail running shoes to the spotlight. Trail and mountain shoes can be especially punishing on your feet if you don’t take certain precautions, and running on uneven terrains will only make the problem even worse, so it’s handy to have trail running shoes that are soft and padded too.
As was the case in the last pair we showed you, these too benefit from thick, multi-density EVA midsoles that cushion and comfort your feet whilst also providing guidance in the way they respond to the downward forces of your foot, pushing back slightly so your running is more bouncy.
At the front, the toe box is nice and roomy as you’d expect from a pair of trail shoes like these. This encourages your toes to spread out into their natural position instead of being crammed together, which is uncomfortable and can exacerbate perspiration issues. Speaking of, the whole footbeds of these shoes are designed to avoid foot compression and have natural anti-microbial properties, keeping them fresh and odor-free for longer.
The Athletic Ultraventures feature Vibram XS Trek traction patterns at the bottom of their outsoles. They bring the grip that trail running shoes need whilst being subtle enough that they can be used for standard urban running or even the gym without raising eyebrows.
What has raised a few eyebrows, however, is the interior size of these shoes. There’s a lot of space in there, to the point that it may be worth downsizing your usual shoe size in order to fit without having your foot slip from within the shoe.
- Thick, multi-density EVA midsoles don’t compromise on comfort.
- Anatomical toe box ensures your toes are spread naturally.
- Anti-compression footbeds have antimicrobial properties.
- Vibram XS Trek patterns improve traction and durability.
- They tend to run big, and the abundance of space isn’t welcomed by some.
The Softest Running Shoes - Buying Guide
How to grab the best soft running shoes
Sometimes getting the softest running shoes is more than just grabbing the shoes with the most padding, so it’s a good idea to know the different sections of these shoes and how they affect your running experience. That’s why we’ve written this buyers’ guide, so curious shoppers like yourself can learn what makes a good soft running shoe, which you can then use to judge shoes for yourself in the future.
We’ve split the shoes into three main but broad sections, the insoles, the outsoles, and the uppers.
When looking for soft shoes, we tend to look for a third-party cushioned insole called OrthoLite, or the brand equivalent of this if we’re dealing with more established brands who have their own patented tech. We recommend this because it’s great for morphing to the shape of your soles, making the shoes much more compatible with your feet, and avoiding any painful situations when running in them.
This section also includes the midsoles that are built into the center of the shoe’s outsoles. You should look for shoes that have midsoles that are packed with a named foam. EVA is the standard third-party one but, again, brands tend to have their own named variants so be sure to find the equivalents if you are shopping around. You can see them in some of the entries above.
Heel-to-toe drop may also be a consideration, depending on what you’re used to. Twelve-millimeter drops used to be the average, though many running shoes are moving towards eight to ten-millimeter drops.
If you want a very soft shoe, checking for flush padding at the toe box and/or heel is also a good idea since it adds extra cushioning to the parts of your feet that’ll be dealing with the most pressure when walking and running.
The key to a good outsole is having one that’s made with a sturdy material that’s durable in the long term, without being too hard to sabotage the biomechanical movements our bodies go through when running. Many shoe manufacturers also opt for making their shoes as light as possible, adding another complication to the delicate balance you want your shoes to cover.
Once you’ve got that under control, it doesn’t hurt to check out the traction patterns on the bottom. It depends which environment you’re running on, but durable and aggressive grip may have been just what you needed to stabilize, and so smooth, your run.
Uppers are what ultimately make a shoe a shoe, so you want high quality, useful materials for them. In running shoes, they’ll either be synthetic knit, mold, or mesh, or a combination of any two or all three. Most shoes will be durable enough, but we would recommend, for running, that you grab shoes with some kind of woven or mesh component to them. This is because mesh paneling or woven slits in the shoe’s surface aerate the shoe, keeping moisture away and contributing to a more pleasant experience overall.