Choosing new running shoes can be a baffling process – sometimes just reading the descriptions feels like entering a whole new world of indecipherable jargon. It doesn’t help that every major brand has their own proprietary technologies, so even similar features are often called something completely different. But while these properties do make a difference, the main things you have to look out for when choosing a pair of running shoes are fairly simple.

The first and the most important is, of course, the fit. This isn’t just a question of buying a pair in the right numerical size – different brands base their shoes off different “lasts”, so it’s worth finding a pair that closely matches the width and shape of your feet, as well as the length. And then there’s the question of pronation – or how your feet roll when you run.

You can work out some of it out by looking at an old pair of shoes and seeing which areas are the most worn. If the inside edge of the shoes are worn down, it’s probably because your feet over-pronate. Similarly, if the outside edge is more worn, your feet probably supinate (or under-pronate). Most of the shoes we’ve chosen here are for a neutral fit, but if your feet do over or under-pronate then it’s worth talking to shop staff in a specialist shop that offers gait analysis. They’ll help you choose shoes that will compensate accordingly.

You’ll also want to choose a pair of shoes that suits the kind of terrain and the type of running you like. Road and trail running shoes are quite different for example, and if you’re running ultramarathons you may want to pick a shoe with greater shock-absorbing properties than you would for a 5k Parkrun. The overall weight of the shoes is another important factor, while the final consideration (although it’s by far the least important) is how the shoes look.

With all that in mind, and after enduring many miles for this test, here are our favourites.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit: £140, Nike

When Nike set a group of elite athletes on the path to attempting a sub-two hour marathon, it inevitably designed them a special shoe. It later brought a version of this trainer to market, known as the Zoom Vaporfly 4 per cent, so called because it was supposed to make runners 4 per cent more efficient. They might not have broken the two-hour mark, but they came very close – Eliud Kipchoge’s final time was just two hours, zero minutes and 25 seconds.

Unsurprisingly, these shoes flew off the shelves (almost as quickly as the elite version had flown round Nike’s specially built marathon track) and are now very hard to come by. Which is why they’ve released the Zoom Fly Flyknit, a simpler, cheaper model. Like its bigger brother, this is built for distance road running. It shares the same one-piece Flyknit upper, designed to fit like a sock, and minimise any danger of rubbing, and boasts a similar carbon-fibre plate in the midsole. The foam isn’t as high-tech as in the Vaporfly – but this is still a great shoe, and is our best buy.

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Adidas Solar Boost shoes: £103.39, Amazon

Like the Zoom Fly, these Adidas shoes are designed for long-distance road running. The comfortable upper is combined with a heel that’s been remodelled since the previous iteration of this shoe to reduce pressure on the Achilles. But the main thing that makes these shoes special is the boost foam which provides the cushioning. A game-changer when it was first released a few years ago, Adidas’ Boost foam is continually being worked on and remains one of the best shock-absorbing materials on the market. They’re not the lightest on the list, at 305g a shoe, but they’re a great road runner nonetheless.

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Brooks Levitate 2: £140, Brooks Running

Despite the name, the Levitate 2 is actually one of the heavier shoes on this list – weighing in at 317g per shoe. However, it more than deserves its place thanks to its excellent energy return – how well it absorbs the energy from each footstrike and returns it into your next forward stride. This is thanks to the DNA AMP technology, designed to deliver a bounce to your run, which is featured in the mid-sole. The upper meanwhile, wraps snugly around the heel to stop it rubbing, while an internal, sock-like bootie helps offer extra comfort and support.

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Saucony Triumph ISO 5: £140, Saucony

As the name would suggest, this is the fifth iteration of the Saucony ISO, and the best yet. As with previous models, the brand’s focus has been on producing the best shock-absorbing shoe possible for longer runs. This means that like the Brooke levitate, this is at the heavier end of the spectrum, coming in at 323g per shoe. But the shock-absorbing properties of Saucony’s proprietary foam, known as Everun, mean that if you’re tackling longer training runs, marathons or even longer distances – this is a brilliant option.

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Reebok Floatride Run Fast: £120, Reebok

Reebok’s Floatride is the brand’s answer to Adidas’ Boost foam – a lightweight material that absorbs shock, but still provides excellent energy return. In this shoe, the brand has ringed the softer foam in the mid-sole with a slightly more rigid band of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate; an elastomeric polymer that produces materials which have a rubber-like flexibility), to give the shoe structure.

There’s a higher than average heel to toe drop (12.7mm, as opposed to the 10mm or so seen on most shoes) which gives you the feeling of being pitched slightly forward – this might not sound significant but we found it actually adds to the sensation of speed and bounce when you run. The upper meanwhile, is a thin mesh which helps keep the weight down – in fact, this is an extremely light shoe overall, tipping the scales at just under 200g. If you’re looking for a road running shoe that won’t break the bank, the Floatride should be on your shortlist.

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Asics Gel Kayono 25: £155, Asics

The 25 in this shoe’s name refers to the fact that Asics has reached an impressive milestone with this, the 25th version of the Kayono trainer. Of course, it’s been updated regularly over the past quarter-century, and Asics has made a couple of significant changes here from last year’s model. Most importantly, while this used to cater for both neutral and over-pronating runners, this year’s model has been specifically designed for runners whose feet roll inwards. The insole has been remodelled to offer more support under the arches – this, combined with the shock absorbent Flytefoam mid-sole, makes this an excellent choice if your gait tends towards over-pronation.

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New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon: £90, New Balance

Fresh foam is New Balance’s answer to Adidas’ Boost. It’s lightweight and offers impressive energy return, especially given the price – these are the cheapest running shoes we’ve recommended here. They’re also impressively light, weighing in at just 213g. New Balance has opted not to add rubber to the outsole of the Fresh Foam Beacons, which keeps the weight and the price down, but means they’re potentially less durable than the others here. If you’re looking for a running shoe that won’t break the bank, this is a great option.

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Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35: £104.95, Nike

Nike’s Air Pegasus is one of the Portland-based brand’s legendary models – one that’s been part of its range for more than three decades. Things have of course moved on since the original Pegasus was launched in the Eighties – this latest version is the first to feature a full-length air bubble, as opposed to two separate air bubbles or just one under the heel. These bubbles are wrapped in Cushlon, which isn’t quite as lightweight as Nike’s Zoom x Foam, but still offers plenty of comfort. A high heel-collar and tongue offer extra support to your ankle. These are designed above all to be versatile, and will work well whether you’re running a 10k or the legendarily gruelling Comrades ultramarathon in South Africa.

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The verdict: Men’s running shoes

It’s hard to argue with the Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit – a more affordable version of one of the best running shoes ever made, this offers high-end performance at a reasonable price. If you want to look elsewhere, however, then the Reebok Floatride Run Fast is a great place to start – it’s ludicrously light, at under 200g per shoe, and because of that high heel-to-toe drop it just feels fast underfeet.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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