Here’s a look at some of the most cushioned shoes you’ll see in 2016.
Although shoes with copious amounts of cushioning have been around for a while, maximally cushioned running shoes have exploded in popularity over the past two years. The category was pioneered by Hoka One One in 2010, but that’s certainly not the only brand producing shoes with thick, cushy midsoles in 2016. Are they all “maximalist” models? Maybe, maybe not. Most brands don’t use the “maximalist” moniker, but then again there isn’t a universal midsole thickness or stack height dimension that defines maximal cushioning. Here are 15 highly cushioned models you’ll see at running stores this spring and summer.
Brian Metzler is the editor of Competitor.com and Competitor magazine.
Altra Olympus 2.0, $150
The maximally cushioned Olympus is very stable and relatively light for the thickness of the midsole material under foot. (It's one of the most thickly cushioned shoes available, but also one of the most stable.) As with all Altra shoes, it has a zero-drop (or flat) platform and a wide, "foot-shaped" toe box. The Olympus 2.0 now has a Vibram MegaGrip outsole, giving it superior traction on just about any wet or dry surface you'll encounter out on the trails. weights: 11.0 oz. (men's), 9.0 oz. (women's); heel-toe offset: 0mm; 36mm (heel), 36m (forefoot)
Hoka One One Vanquish 2, $170
Hoka completely overhauled this cushy neutral shoe for 2016, making it lighter and more energetic. Weights: 9.8 oz. (men’s 9.0); 8.3 oz. (women’s 7.0) Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm; 32mm (heel), 27mm (forefoot)
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080, $150
Continuing on the heels of its successful Fresh Foam line, the new Fresh Foam 1080 is a premium neutral cushioned shoe with near-maximal cushioning, a plush interior, securely-fitting interior booty and a soft engineered mesh upper. ($150, 8mm heel-toe offset, 10.4 oz.)
Nike Free RN Distance, $120
Like its Free predecessors, the Free RN Distance a very lightweight shoe with a snug, sock-like fit, amazing flexibility and smooth ride. What's new about this shoe is the copious amount of well-balanced, moderately soft midsole cushioning and some added structure that comes from the Flywire arch support system. Weights: 7.8 oz. (men’s size 9); 6.6 oz. (women’s size 7); Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm; 20mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)
Saucony Triumph ISO 2, $150
Saucony is debuting a new Everun cushioning system in 2016—a lively new foam material that it says provides considerably more energy return than its previous foam packages and maintains its resiliency three times longer than standard EVA foams. The new material will be inserted over the strobel board (underneath the sockliner) to enhance the ride in almost every one of Saucony's shoes in 2016 and it will also been inserted in the landing zone of the neutral Triumph ISO 2 ($150, 8mm heel-toe offset, 10.2 oz.) and the stability-oriented Hurricane ISO 2 ($160, 8mm heel-toe offset, 10.8 oz.).
Saucony Kinvara 7, $110
Saucony isn't doing too much to this popular lightweight neutral trainer, but it is giving it a nice wedge of its new Everun foam in the heel and adding some additional bits of durable rubber on the outsole. ($110, 4mm heel-toe offset, 7.8 oz.)
Under Armour Fat Tire, $150
The Fat Tire trail running shoe is designed to mimic a mountain bike tire rolling over terrain. It has a water-resistant upper, it features two layers of soft foam and a new Michelin rubber compound, plus a slightly rockered profile from heel to toe as well as side-to-side. (Due out in July 2015.) weights: 13.0 oz. (men's), 10.8 oz. (women's) heel-toe offset: 10mm; 27mm (heel), 17mm (forefoot)
Hoka Bondi 4, $150
With one of the thickest midsoles in the marketplace, the Bondi is in an extreme class of high-off-the-ground, oversized cushioning shoes. But it’s not just the amount of cushioning, it’s the balance of the shoe and its unique design features—specifically the rockered profile, beveled heel and significant toe spring—that make running in the Bondi 4 such an exalted experience. weights: 10.6 oz. (men’s), 9.4 oz. (women’s); heel-toe offset: 4mm; 37mm (heel), 33mm (forefoot) for men; 34mm (heel), 30mm (forefoot) for women
Brooks Transcend 2, $170
The Transcend 2 is a super-stable guidance shoe with loads of cushioning underfoot. The second edition is functionally softer than the original (but not super soft or mushy) and has a slightly beveled heel for smoother heel-impact flow. weights: 11.1 oz. (men’s), 10.2 oz. (women’s); heel-toe offset: 8mm; 29mm (heel), 21mm (forefoot)
Skechers GoTrail 3, $110
Skechers continues to evolve its trail running line. The new GoTrail has more cushioning than ever before—although still less than the GORun Ultra 3. It shares the same aggressive knobby outsole as the GORun Ultra 3, but the GoTrail also has a forefoot protection plate. (9.6 oz., 4mm heel-toe offset) (Available July 1.) Photo: Brian Metzler
Salomon Sense ProPulse, $150
Salomon's most thickly cushioned shoe ever, the Sense Pro Pulse (due out in July 2015) is built for runners with a heavier foot strike who want a cushier ride. It has a hybrid outsole for use on both paved and trail surfaces. weights: 12.0 oz. (men); 10.2 oz. (women); heel-toe offset: 6mm; 29mm (heel), 23mm (forefoot)
Pearl Izumi N3 Trail, $135
Pearl Izumi launches this ultrarunning trail shoe in the spring with a seamless upper, a forefoot rock plate and an aggressively lugged carbon rubber outsole. Although it has similarly high-off-the-ground cushioning and stack heights to its road running N3 counterpart, it has a slightly wider footprint to offer maximal stability out on the trails. (8mm heel-toe offset, 10.8 oz.)
Hoka One One Clifton 3, $130
Hoka made a few small but significant tweaks to the award-winning Clifton for 2016, most notably making it a few millimeters wider in the forefoot and replacing the overlays on the upper with a sleeker, seamless TPU-reinforced mesh. ($130, 5mm heel-toe offset, 8.6 oz.)
Lunar Tempo 2, $100
Much like the first version, this flyweight trainer offers an amazing mix of lightweight performance and resilient cushioning. The full-length Lunarlon foam midsole/outsole chassis offers enough softness and protection for marathon-length runs in a svelte package that’s sufficiently agile and responsive for interval workouts and short races. The engineered mesh upper has been tweaked slightly, offering a more structure/support (in conjunction with the arch-wrapping perforated internal bootie and Flywire support system), while still offering optimal forefoot flex and comfort. Oh, and believe it or not, this shoe actually dropped $10 in price! Weights: 7.5 oz. (men’s 9); 5.9 oz. (women’s 7); Heel-toe offsets: 8mm; 26mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)