Ever wonder what’s with those huge, super squishy cushioned running shoes everyone seems to be wearing these days? They’re the latest change in running shoes to become a very big deal.
Maximalist running shoes have gained astounding popularity recently, and more top shoe brands are catching on.
Over 20 companies now offer shoes with increased cushioning, and that number is on course to keep growing. These are great if you have bad knees heel spurs. They can be heavy but there are some lightweight versions.. Read on for more..
Which cushioned running shoes are the best?
As with any shoe, knowing your running gait is critical to determining which shoe will suit you best. We explain how to determine your running gait in our post about what to look out for when buying triathlon running shoes.
Remember, it’s important to consult with a footwear professional and your physician, to be sure you’re clear to try a new shoe style.
Once you’ve established your running style, jump on in to the corresponding category and find the shoe for you!
(Click any shoe name or photo to learn more about where to buy each shoe)
Neutral Road Running Shoes
If you’re a neutral pronator who primarily runs on roads or indoors, these 13 maximalist models are for you:
1. Hoka One One Bondi 4: 37mm/33mm
The Bondi 4 is the most highly cushioned shoe in the Hoka One One lineup, offering both superior sole cushioning (with a stack height of an incredible 37mm heel/33mm toe!) and great comfort in the upper.
2. Under Armour Speedform Gemini: 35mm/27mm
The Under Armour Speedform Gemini features high-tech Charged Foam cushioning, which is perfect for both longer runs and faster cadence, as well as shock absorption to combat muscle fatigue.
3. Saucony Triumph ISO 2: 32mm/24mm
Saucony’s Triumph ISO 2 is built with EVERUN cushioning, that, much like Under Armour’s Charged Foam cushioning, offers extreme shock absorption and energy return.
4. Mizuno Wave Enigma 5: 32mm/20mm
The Wave Enigma 5 by Mizuno has top of the line cushioning, using their U4ic midsole which is best known for its shock attenuation.
Fad or fact?
Curious if the maximalist trend is like the minimalist craze, the “natural running” fad, or any of the other plethora of trends that seem to have come and gone?
Though we can’t definitively say if the maximalist or cushioned running shoe trend is here to stay, it does appear that many runners are in love with the pain-relieving benefits that maximalist shoes seem to offer. Many even claim their joint pains have gone away entirely, due to the super shock absorption of highly cushioned shoes.
We like big stacks and we cannot lie.
Maximalist shoes are generally defined as having a stack height (measurement of the heel height and forefoot height separately) of at least 24mm and more often at least 30mm, though this is not set in stone.
For reference, minimalist shoes generally have a stack height between 9mm and 13mm, while barefoot shoes are incredibly thin at 1mm-8mm.
Keep in mind that a smaller stack height doesn’t necessarily denote less cushion. Some shoes with smaller stacks feature innovative midsole materials that help absorb shock and allow the foot to work its best.
5. Altra Paradigm 1.5: 31mm/31mm
Altra’s zero-drop standard complements the A-Bound™ cushioning technology in the Paradigm 1.5, creating a natural ride with great energy return and impact protection.
6. Asics 33-M 2: 31mm/27mm
With updated Amplifoam™ technology, SOLYTE® midsole material, and the blown rubber DURASPONGE® outsole, the Asics 33-M 2 is an insanely cushioned ride ready to soak up the miles.
7. Hoka One One Vanquish 2: 30mm/25mm
Reviewers claim the Hoka One One Vanquish 2 is an incredibly cushioned shoe, providing relief from basic occupation-related foot pain all the way to fibromyalgia and nerve damage!
8. Salomon Sense Propulse: 30mm/24mm
The Salomon Sense Propulse features an oversized EVA midsole (+7mm) that provides extreme comfort, especially for heel strikers.
9. Salomon Sense Pulse: 30mm/24mm
Much like the Propulse, the Salomon Sense Pulse offers a +7mm oversized EVA midsole, contributing to great cushioning and forward propulsion.
10. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v6: 29mm/21mm
It’s more than just a name! The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 includes a well-cushioned foam midsole and an Ortholite® foam insert that fights odor with its anti-microbial properties.
11. Hoka One One Clayton: 28mm/24mm
The Hoka One One Clayton is a popular choice for those looking to change pace from the Clifton, featuring PRO2LITE technology and a conformation that is bound to help heel strikers have a more comfortable run.
12. Nike LunarTempo 2: 26mm/18mm
Want a plush ride with a custom color palette? The Nike LunarTempo 2 features incredible comfort and cushioning with the ability to “design your own” color or pattern scheme when ordering from Nike’s website.
13. Altra Torin 2.0: 24mm/24mm
Similar to the Paradigm 1.5, the Torin 2.0 offers Altra’s zero-drop base with the A-Bound™ cushioning and FootShape™ Toe Box to really allow your foot to work its best. Reviewers say Altras feel like a running shoe crossed with a slipper – cosy!
Pumas and Newtons and Nikes, oh my!
There are scores of maximalist models to choose from that can meet your stability needs and running style. We’ve narrowed down the incredible list to just 32 of the best cushioned running shoes for the modern day runner.
Each of these shoes has been organized in descending order from tallest stack height to lowest (heel measurement/toe measurement), in categories by use (road or trail), and support type (neutral, stability, or motion control).
Fun fact: Hoka One One is the brand with the most maximalist models available currently, as well as the tallest stack height in each of our categories!
Alas, if the truly maximal “look” is not for you, fear not. Most models from other brands feature a more toned down appearance that still offers astounding cushioning.
Neutral Trail Running Shoes
If you are a neutral pronator who likes to hit the trails or run off road, check out these 9 models of maximalist trail shoes:
14. Hoka One One Stinson 3 ATR: 41mm/35mm
It doesn’t get any squishier than this! A 41mm stack height in the heel means the Hoka One One Stinson 3 ATR offers up superior cushioning and protection while running trails and off the beaten path.
15. Altra Olympus 2.0: 36mm/36mm
The Altra Olympus 2.0 is the king of trail shoes if you’re looking for max cushioning and superior trail grip. With all the cushioning and design features of Altra’s best shoes, and a Vibram® Megagrip outsole, the Olympus 2.0 is a superior trail shoe.
16. Hoka One One Speedgoat: 35mm/30mm
Designed with the Speedgoat 50k in mind, the Hoka One One Speedgoat is perfect for long distance off-road runs. Featuring an injected EVA midsole and 4mm Vibram® rubber lugs, the Speedgoat is ready to take on the toughest conditions.
17. Skechers GoRun Ultra 3: 34mm/30mm
The Skechers GoRun Ultra 3 features a dual-density Resalyte® midsole for maximum cushioning, and the Skechers Performance FITKNIT® upper provides extreme ventilation and perfect fit for a comfortable off-road ride.
18. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2: 31mm/26mm
New for 2016, the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 features the 4mm Vibram® rubber lugs of the Hoka Speedgoat, with a versatile construction that fosters an honestly all-terrain ride.
19. La Sportiva Akasha: 31mm/25mm
The La Sportiva Akasha is a shoe truly built for the trails, with maximum cushioning and roomy fit, as well as a Trail Rocker™ sole that will protect your feet over perilous trail terrain.
20. Pearl Izumi EM Trail N3: 29mm/21mm
Pearl Izumi’s EM Trail N3 is a fantastic addition to their E:MOTION lineup, with max cushioning for a plush ride, and excellent protection from potentially dangerous terrain.
21. Newton BoCo AT II: 28mm/25mm
The Newton BoCo AT II isn’t just an incredible running shoe, it’s a superior trail shoe with the ability to traverse back-country snow and mush, thanks to its multi-directional lug system. Add the almost 100% recycled materials that its made from, and the BoCo AT II is a force to be reckoned with.
22. Vasque Ultra SST: 28mm/22mm
The Vasque Ultra SST (formerly known as the Shapeshifter Trail) is a unique shoe that offers a molded upper, BOA lacing system, and excellent cushioning with multi-directional lugs for great trail grip.
Stability Road Running Shoes
If you prefer a stability shoe, 5 of our 32 are perfect for road running:
23. Hoka One One Conquest 2: 34mm/30mm
Offering the famous Hoka One One cushioning and high stack height, the Conquest 2 is a great shoe for those seeking a bit of stability with maximum impact relief.
24. Pearl Izumi EM Road H3 v2: 32mm/24mm
The super-cushioned stability shoe in the Pearl Izumi E:MOTION line, the EM Road H3 v2, offers extra stability and support for rear-foot pronation stability for “highly flexible feet”.
25. Brooks Transcend 2: 29mm/21mm
Brooks has gone all-out in their Transcend 2, with great cushioning and amazing stability features, such as midsole guide rails, ideal pressure zones for better energy distribution, and “super DNA” that provides an energy return to keep you moving forward.
26. Saucony Omni 14: 26mm/18mm
So much support that it almost qualifies as a motion control shoe, the Saucony Omni 14 will provide all the cushion you want, with structural soundness to help moderate to severe pronation stay in check.
27. Brooks Ravenna 5: 26mm/16mm
Though the Brooks Ravenna 5 is no longer available direct from the manufacturer (thanks to the updated models available), it remains a favorite amongst runners who love maximum cushion and just a bit of stability.
Stability Trail Running Shoes
Those who want a stability shoe for trail blazing might enjoy any of these three models:
28. Hoka One One Mafate 4: 37mm/33mm
So you want Hoka One One maximalist cushioning, with stability features for pronation control, and you want to hit the trail? The Hoka One One Mafate 4 is the perfect shoe for the job, with a 37mm stack height, grooves for trail stability, and encapsulated RMAT® midsole for the perfect maximalist stability trail shoe.
29. Puma FAAS 1000: 37mm/26mm
The Puma FAAS 1000 is a less traditional cushioned trail shoe that falls on the more neutral side of pronation support, meaning this shoe is a great step up from a basic neutral trail shoe.
30. Hoka One One Constant 2: 33mm/29mm
The Hoka One One Constant 2 is, as the manufacturer claims, the most stable shoe in the Hoka One One line. Perfect for a bit of all-terrain use, this stability shoe will keep you feeling comfortable and fresh no matter how many miles you put on it.
Motion Control Road Running Shoes
Finally, if you need a motion control shoe for overpronation, check out these two models of maximalist motion control shoes:
31. Hoka One One Infinite: 30mm/26mm
For those who love the Hoka One One Clifton 2, but need more support, the Infinite is the perfect match. With a similar construction that has been upgraded for a better, more stable and padded fit, the Infinite is one of the best maximalist motion control shoes on the market.
32. Skechers GoRun Forza: 30mm/22mm
The two part Resalyte® stabilized midsole, molded heel counter and inner support strap of the Skechers GoRun Forza create a motion control shoe with an incredibly smooth ride and a fantastic, locked down feel.