Just one factor
Our lab tests separately measure how soft or firm a shoe is in the forefoot and heel, measurements that should be considered by forefoot and heel strikers when choosing cushioned shoes. We use a machine called “impact tester”. Repeatedly apply the 18.7-pound calibrated weight – the average leg weight – to the heel and forefoot of the shoe using a mechanical arm to simulate molding. Our lab then records the strength of impact and how much the midsole compresses to mix parlay determine softness scores. A more cushioned shoe is generally the preferred choice for runners prone to injury or who want extra protection and support. Of course, if you’re new to the feeling of “running in the clouds”, gradually increase your pace and mileage as you become familiar with the shoes.
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How we test
Runner’s World has the most comprehensive shoe testing process in the industry. We work with over 300 local runners of all abilities, ages and sizes for real-world wear tests on paved roads, dirt trails and rocky trails. After a month of running over 100 miles, our testers report their results on features such as fit, comfort, performance and steering. While our testers are putting miles on their shoes, the same models undergo a series of mechanical tests in our shoe lab so that we can objectively measure cushioning, flexibility, sole thickness and weight. We combine lab data and wear test feedback with our own running experience with these shoes to determine the best of the most cushioned. Branded Shoes
Brooks Glycerin 18
Testers were thrilled with the pleasant feel of glycerin 17 in their runs, so comfortable they would continue to wear their trainers long after they hit the last mile. But their feedback hasn’t been without criticism. Some would like the shoe to be lighter; others wanted more flexibility. Brooks has acted on both fronts, making Glycerin 18 lighter and more flexible. And somehow, the brand has added even more foam to the midsole.
Skechers GOrun MaxRoad 4 Hyper
We like MaxRoad because it is very attractive. Like the previous version, it’s still a lightweight, well-cushioned sneaker, but this model has Skechers’ HyperBurst midsole. The material is made with fun science: when exposed to super-cooled carbon dioxide, the foam forms small pockets to create a platform that is responsive and cushioned, but weighs less than traditional EVA foam. Best Sneakers
Hoka One One Bondi 7
Hoka One One’s Bondi is the king of cushioning in its max shoe family. Our RW lab measured the Bondi 6 as extremely soft compared to most of the shoes tested, and the wear testers couldn’t stop chattering about the incredibly fuzzy foam. “It took me a while to get used to the rocker style sole, but I found that my feet and legs weren’t as tired as usual after long runs,” noted one tester. We are pleased to inform you that the soft midsole remains unchanged in the seventh version. Shoes And Sneakers
Saucony Triumph 18
Test editor Amanda Furrer described Editor ‘Choice winner, Triumph 17, as “buttery” underfoot. And our lab tests confirmed it; female and male models have proven that forefoot and heel cushioning is incredibly luxurious. Version 18 maintains its softness and energy return impressively high, but has added flex grooves and a new blown rubber outsole that makes an already impressive ride even smoother. Kacamata Rayban