Although the winner of the best running shoes for any given year might always come down to subjective opinion, what’s a bit easier to determine is which company in the game continues to shine as one of the top producers of quality shoes year in and year out.
- Stellar ratings across dozens of domains
- 90-day full refund guarantee
- Sustainable shoe production
- 365-day new condition return policy
- Shoes might be on the heavier side for some
During our research, we found that across the board, Brooks Running holds more top spots in the best running shoes of 2018 lists than any other contender. This is mainly due to the fact that the company produces amazing running shoes for almost every type of foot you can imagine, but as a company also they’re dedicated to giving back to the community through efforts like their Running Responsibly program and their Run B’Cause community grants.
Similarly, the company has a great program called the Brooks True Blue Guarantee, which lets you try out any of their shoes for up to 90-days and return them with a 100% refund if they’re not the right choice for you. This is especially good if you’re buying online, because even reading all the reviews in the world (posted other runners that don’t have your specific feet) may not always net you the best result. With this program you can try as many pairs as you like before you land on the right fit.
- Run For Good donation campaign
- Strong results across dozens of lists
- Unlimited time return policy (free of defects)
- No exchange program
Saucony is the oldest brand in this roundup, dating all the way back to 1898, just two years after the first Olympic marathon was held in Athens, Greece. And if their results on the many roundup lists posted this year are any indication, that long-standing (no pun intended) dedication to all things running shoes continues to pay off even to this day.
The company has a strong sustainability record as well as a great community donation program, but what really sets them apart from the pack are the dozens of shoe lines that have topped professional runner’s must-have wish lists year in and year out. The Saucony brand ranks tip-top among amateur and professional runners in the sport, which is why we gave this company the #2 slot on our list.
- 60-day return policy
- Girls on the Run donation program
- Solid results in annual roundup lists
- Returns only allowed in new condition
ASICS is one of the oldest companies on this list, and that heritage shows in their stellar placements on dozens of the best running shoe lists for 2018. Both Amazon customers and professional runners alike seem to be more than satisfied with the quality of product that ASICS is producing year in and year out, and the brand continues to innovate in the space unlike any other company in the space (except for Nike maybe, but more on that later).
ASICS is also dedicated to sustainability and giving back to their community through programs like Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run has donated over 50,000 pairs of shoes to local charities since 2016 to encourage underprivileged girls to find confidence and motivation through the sport of running. Add this to a solid sustainability track record and you’ve got one of the best running shoe brands operating in the space today.
- 30-day no questions asked return policy
- 3-year defect warranty
- Strong ratings on most running-centric lists
- Strong focus on sustainability
- Shoes didn’t always hit the top of every list we considered
Aside from producing some of the best running shoes in the business, Salomon is also one of the most committed companies we found when it came to reducing their carbon footprint by the year 2025 (again, no pun intended). The company has a whole list of goals to become of the most sustainable shoe producers in the world in around seven years time, and many of their achievements have already set them well and above the curve in this department when compared to competing brands.
- Still one of the best running shoe producers, period
- Different options available for every segment of the market
- No refunds or exchanges due to fit problems
- No community programs
Nike doesn’t necessarily qualify on this list for their great (actually non-existent) return program or their dedication to giving back to their local communities. But what they lack in any sort of commitment to being a better company on those metrics, they make up for in pure production quality across the board.
Nike has always been (and continues to be) one of the top shoemakers in the world, and according to dozens of annual roundup lists — as well as thousands of positive Amazon reviews — the company looks to be firing on all cylinders when it comes to their running shoe division. The Flyknit line, in particular, has proven to be a massive hit among serious runners, providing the cushioning and firmness that runners crave while simultaneously weighing out to being one of the lightest shoes ever produced in the history of the sport. Nike may not ever go down as the friendliest company in the history books, but their contributions to innovation and design in running shoes simply can’t be ignored.
Other Running Shoe Brands to Consider
- Adidas: Adidas has both the history and the pedigree to make this list, though during our research we found that on the “bang for your buck” scale they measured up just short of the mark we set for our top 5. Adidas is better known for its women’s running shoes as of late, so if you’re looking to fill out your socks on that side of the market they would still be a decent pick regardless of rankings here.
- Inov-8: Inov-8 is a more recent entry into the running shoe game, but what the brand lacks in pedigree it more than makes up for in, wait for it…innovation. That’s right, the company lives up to its brand name by producing some of the most interesting and innovative running shoes we’ve seen in the past few decades, combining aggressive design elements with new research and development that continue to push the running shoe community forward with every annual release.
- Tesla: Like Inov-8, Tesla (no, not that Tesla) is a relatively new competitor in the race to the top of the running shoe heap. The brand is known for producing budget running shoes for your every day runner, and scores consistently high reviews on Amazon with thousands of satisfied buyers. The cost of most of Tesla’s shoes are almost suspiciously low, but according to a lot of runners with first-hand experience they seem to provide the same level of cushion you’d get from shoes twice or even three times the cost, and don’t fall apart even after hundreds of miles are logged.
Running Shoe Brands to Avoid and the Worst Running Shoe Brands
- New Balance: Although there’s not much necessarily wrong with New Balance shoes, overall there are just better options available for the same price. If you’re shopping on a budget (a part of the market New Balance is known for), Tesla can fulfill your needs there, while the higher end of the New Balance line is outpaced by the likes of Nike and Brooks.
Best Running Shoes Buying Guide
Feel free to shop around for shoes before you make up your mind. But in the process, don’t forget to focus on the most important features for you. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started.
- Shoe Quality
- Of course the #1 reason any brand even made it near this list is the quality of the shoes they produce.
- We determined this metric through hundreds of reviews by professionals and amateurs alike, as well as aggregating the general consensus through verified buyers on Amazon.
- Warranty/Return Policy
- Almost as important as the quality of a shoe is the fit, and finding the right fit while shopping online can be an admittedly frustrating process.
- In general we would recommend that you hit your local mall or shoe store to ultimately find the shoe that fits perfectly for you, but if that’s not a viable option than the only other choice is to buy online and hope for the best when the shoes finally arrive.
- That’s why it’s vital that a running shoe company offers at least some kind of return policy, so even if you only try on the shoes once and give them a walk around your home, you can know pretty close to immediately whether they’ll need to be returned or not.
- Almost all the companies on this list offer some kind of return program, with Brooks beating out the rest thanks to their no-questions-asked 90-day “if it doesn’t work out just send ’em back” policy. Salomon also has a similar 30-day policy in the same vein.
- Best List Placements/Amazon Reviews
- As non-experts ourselves, we deferred most of the heavy lifting to about a dozen other annual roundups of the best running shoes of the year, as determined by experts in their relevant fields.
- Amazon was also a great resource in this regard, because although the people adding reviews to that site may not necessarily be experts, the sheer number of purchases and the aggregate scoring gave us a great baseline on which to go off of when deciding which brands had the most purchases by amateur runners, which had the best scores from those runners, and which lasted the longest thanks to updated reviews posted long after the initial purchase.
- Community Donation Programs/Sustainability Efforts
- Finally, we took a deep dive into many of these company’s policies on sustainability as well as how much they give back to their communities or donate to programs designed to get children and adults alike involved in the growing sport of running.
- Almost every company we reviewed (aside from the biggest of them all, Nike), had pages which outlined community programs they were involved in or sustainability efforts they were actively participating in.
- The more they donated or the bigger their promises on sustainability, the higher of a score they achieved on our list!