17 February, 2023
Cushioned neutral running shoes have been given a big boost in recent months with brands increasing the levels of cushioning both in terms of volume and the technical benefits of the foam used. Here we take a look at some of the latest and most cushioned training shoes from a range of top brands.
When a shoe has the numbers 25 behind its name it has a long history and reputation to live up to.
The latest version of ASICS’ range topping cushioned shoe is billed by them to be ‘the most comfortable running shoe’ based on a study they conducted in an Australian biomechanics lab. While the exact details of the study weren’t revealed we can indeed confirm that the shoe is incredibly comfortable.
The comfort comes from the deep stack of ‘FF BLAST PLUS ECO’ cushioning material and a new blend of the brands familiar GEL cushioning, PureGEL.
The GEL is now no longer visible but instead embedded inside the midsole to create a soft, ‘marshmallow’ like feel from heel strike to toe off. It’s not too soft, neither is it unstable. In fact, for a cushioned shoe of this nature it does incredibly well in terms of stability, feeling very balanced thanks to the nature in which the foot sits within the deep stack of cushioning and the broader footprint.
The upper of the shoe adds to the comfort, with a soft, stretchy feel and lots of soft, plush padding around the ankle, this knitted upper is one of the nicest around.
Fans of this model won’t be disappointed with the update and although it feels a very different shoe to the previous version, it’s everything you’d want from a long-distance daily trainer.
It’s the most expensive shoe in this line-up of premium shoes and it does indeed feel like a premium model from the moment you slip your feet inside. If it represents good value will of course be a very personal decision but the overall performance didn’t disappoint.
A well-established model, the Glycerin has always been known for its high levels of cushioning. In this, the 20th edition a new Nitrogen infused foam, DNA Loft V3 is used.
Scientists among us might have a better understanding of the way in which Nitrogen molecules behave with the foam material, but in plain English, it creates a soft, springy material that has great long-lasting benefits. In fact, I have ran in a prototype version of this shoe featuring the Nitrogen infused foam and it’s still going strong after over 12 months. Ok, it’s no longer my daily trainer, but the shoe seems to refuse to die and I eek out what I think will be the final few miles in them every week!
The ride is soft and springy but not perhaps as soft as the Nike featured here. That said, it is probably the most stable shoe in this line-up and has a stability version (The Glycerin GTS) available for those that require a little control.
The Glycerin 20 has a premium, engineered mesh upper and has a slightly roomier feeling fit that other shoes from Brooks. It’s not too wide, it’s just room and allows the feet to spread somewhat. The upper is typical Brooks quality, well made and with generous padding in the heel collar for a plush fitting experience.
Fresh Foam X is New Balances’ premium cushioning material and in the 1080 we get a great big slab of it! Carrying the ‘X’ suffix tells us the foam offers a softer, springier feel than the regular Fresh Foam material found in other shoes from the brand. This new version does indeed feel all together softer and smoother and with a very obvious rocker shape to the forefoot, you are almost encouraged to roll through your stride a little smoother, if not quicker.
The knitted upper has a very stretchy, sock-like fit to it and really does hug the foot. It can feel a little unusual if you’re not tried a shoe with this type of upper before, but it quickly becomes the standard and probably one of you most comfortable shoes.
The shoe has a versatile feel to it, being able to handle anything from a gentle recovery jog to a faster paced tempo run. The manner in which it smoothly rolls down the road just feels good, making you want to use the shoe for most of your running.
It’s a great one-shoe option for those wanting versatility from their daily trainer.
Now in its third generation, the Invincible has always been a very soft and responsive daily trainer. Utilising Nike’s Zoom X foam, a material first used in their very popular racing shoes, the Vaporfly and Alphafly, the material is well known for having an almost ‘spring-like’ feel.
In the Invincible, Nike have given all runners the opportunity to experience the energy return properties of Zoom X in a shoe that’s great for everyday training.
Previous versions of the Invincible, although very soft and springy, were a little unstable. This has been addressed with this update and the shoe feels altogether more balanced and under control. A wider base from the heel through to the toes ensures a more stable footing despite the increase in the amount of Zoom X used. The stack of cushioning is up to around 37mm in the heel and 28mm in the forefoot (9mm drop) so it’s a great big stack of Zoom X we are getting here! That said, when it comes to stack heights and drop, with such soft cushioning the effect can vary dependant on the runners weight etc. (A heavier, heel striking runner would compress a soft high stack shoe more than a slightly firmer lower stacked shoe)
The shoe feels incredibly soft from the moment you step into it and when you begin to run you notice that responsive ride. The Zoom X does indeed provide a high amount of ‘energy return’ that’s obvious from the first mile of your run to the last. Stability is no longer a concern and this update feels much more stable. That said, it’s still a shoe that ideally suited to neutral runners.
The upper features a new engineered mesh with Flywire sections incorporated (Nike’s clever upper design knit to create structure within a knitted upper) that provides a neat, stretch-like fit around the foot. The upper also has what feels like a water repellent texture to the finish, it’s not mentioned in Nike’s marketing but we found it does seem to brush away the kind of general dirt you’d encounter on a road run.
Overall it’s a great update and for those seeking an almost ‘bouncy ride’ it’s a great option.
With the arrival of PWRRUN+ cushioning foam into the brands most popular neutral training shoe, we have the added responsiveness and spring previously found in the brands popular racing models the Endorphin Speed and Pro.
With a deep 37mm stack of PWRRUN+ in the heel, there’s no skimping on the cushioning and the shoe delivers a soft, springy ride that remains stable and balanced too. This midsole cushioning isn’t as super-soft as others but it’s no less comfortable. It provides a confidence inspiring feel that tells you you’re in safe hands! No need to worry here, just enjoy the ride.
With a deep stack of cushioning a new geometry, an increased rocker in the forefoot ensures the shoe can roll forward and push off efficiently. Again the shoe feels capable and versatile, happy regardless of speed.
A neat upper features a midfoot support system that incorporates into the laces. This helps hold the foot securely in place with no slippage. The engineered mesh is very neatly finished and with well-placed padding holds the foot neatly and well controlled.
Of all the shoes here, the Triumph probably feels like the one that you’d feel most comfortable in when running at your fastest pace. That said, remember it’s a daily trainer and capable of mile after mile of everyday running.
If you're looking for more running shoe knowledge, you can check out more of Paul's articles. Looking for a brand new trail shoe? Click here to find out more. If you want to find the perfect running shoe for you, then you definitely need to click here.
Athletics runs in the Freary family. Paul’s father, Mike held the British 10,000m record in 1969 and Paul himself has been running for over 45 years.
As an athlete Paul has won Northern and Inter-County golds at 5000m as well as British half-marathon and trail running titles.
His claim to fame is beating Steve Cram over the classic mile distance on the road in Bermuda, a distance where Paul’s personal best in 3minutes 56seconds!
Having worked in the running industry for over 25 years he’s worked for Puma, Fila, Nike and adidas as well as now owning his own running store. An expert in video gait analysis, Paul is ideally placed to write authoritative reviews of running footwear, gadgets and gear.
For 2023 Paul has his targets set on improving his 2:39 marathon from Berlin in 2022.
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