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The 10 Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Women, According to Podiatrist Guidelines

Plusa podiatrist weighs in on how to find the most comfortable sneakers that still offer support and shock-absorption.
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Choosing comfortable running shoes seems simple enough: Find the cushiest insoles possible and bounce along on your run, right? Wrong! Cushioning in running shoes is not just about pillowy insoles. It's also about adding shock absorption and a spring to your step, according to Pennsylvania-based podiatrist Tyler Austin, DPM

And that's not the only misconception shoppers have about cushioning. Too much of it can actually be detrimental to runners who don't really need it. Luckily, Austin has a few helpful tips for choosing the best cushioned running shoes — and even revealed his own top product picks. (FYI, these are the best running shoes for long distances.)

The 10 best cushioned running shoes, according to podiatrist guidelines: 

Are Cushioned Running Shoes for Everyone?

It feels like every new running shoe boasts a plush sole that promises to soften your landing, propel your step, and reduce your risk of injury — but that's not always the case. A 2018 study found that highly cushioned running shoes, or maximalist shoes, can actually increase the impact load and cause a higher risk of injury. This paradox is attributed to runners landing with stiffer legs in highly cushioned shoes than they would in a conventional pair. 

While you don't need to abandon cushioning altogether, the finding emphasizes the importance of picking the right level of cushioning for you. "Not all cushioned shoes offer softer landings for all runners, and this is because not everyone runs with the same form," Dr. Austin explains. "Not everyone needs increased shock absorption. Some runners have learned to use their own natural biomechanics to lighten their steps."

Dr. Austin also warns against claims of increased support or extra cushioned shoes. "Soft, foamy, malleable material is accommodative, but not supportive," he adds. "In fact, there are several studies that show that increased cushioning makes no significant difference in relation to support and injury in runners." (Related: The Best Running Leggings)

So, who can truly benefit from cushioned running shoes? Dr. Austin recommends these types of running shoes for heel-first and mid-foot runners because more of their foot makes contact with the ground than forefoot runners. "You don't need all the extra cushioning if you're only making impact with the ground using the balls of your feet," he advises. 

In addition, he suggests cushioned running shoes for anyone dealing with the loss of natural fat pads, i.e. seasoned runners whose fat pads have slightly atrophied over time, especially in the balls of their feet. "Extra cushioning in the shoe can certainly help redistribute pressure and make walking and running more comfortable on those bony surfaces," according to Dr. Austin.

How to Choose the Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Women

A reasonable amount of cushioning can benefit all runners —  but you want to make sure it also comes with support. When shopping for a cushioned shoe, Dr. Austin recommends that you place one hand on the heel of the shoe and the other hand at the opposite end, then try to fold the shoe in half at the arch. If the shoe bends, put it back on its display. A shoe still needs to be stiff and dense enough to supply support. 

Of course, this test works better for in-person buyers. Online shoppers can keep an eye out for a slight rocker bottom, which adds to the shoe's arch support, softens the heel-strike, and supplements propulsion. And whether you buy in person or online, it's important to try on both shoes fully tied up and to complete a slow jog or walk before committing. 

Still unsure where to start? Scroll on to discover the best cushioned running shoes for women, selected using Dr. Austin's guidelines for cushioning and support, as well as thousands of rave customer reviews from runners.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 Trail Running Shoe
Credit: Nordstrom

Most Comfortable: Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 Trail Running Shoe

Buy It, from $140

Best for: Everyday walking, standing, and slow jogs.

Your feet will love: Their lightweight feel, solid grip, and durable exterior.

A personal favorite of Dr. Austin, these hybrid shoes perform just as well off-road as they do on the pavement. Like other Hoka styles, they have an EVA foam midsole, but it's more firm than plush. This allows for spectacular shock absorption without losing comfort — and Dr. Austin raves about their "great support" and "excellent traction."

Rave review: "Oh, how I love Hoka One One shoes. They fit perfectly. Very lightweight. Excellent cushion and support right where I want it… I bought them for their waterproof design, but it's for much more than that. I wear them daily now on my walks/runs."

Brooks Launch 8 Running Shoe
Credit: Nordstrom

Best for Sprinting: Brooks Launch 8 Running Shoe

Buy It, $100

Best for: Those who love a fast-paced run and even some racing.

Your feet will love: Their super lightweight construction, ventilated mesh upper, and responsive cushioning.

Hot days and sweaty runs won't be an issue with the ventilation provided by these kicks. Their specialized mesh lets feet breathe easier, while their responsive heel cushioning absorbs impact and provides a rebounding effect for a comfortably springy kickoff.  Plus, the cushioned insole is removable, so you can swap it for your own custom orthotics. No wonder Dr. Austin switches to this style for fast runs!

Rave review: "Most dependable running shoe. Been buying these for about 10 years. I have run marathons, half marathons, and many other races in these shoes. I have many different types of running shoes but always go back to these. They are the best combination of comfort and lightweight."

Saucony Unisex-Adult Women's Cohesion 11 Running Shoe
Credit: Amazon

Best Affordable: Saucony Cohesion 11 Running Shoe

Buy It, from $40

Best for: Runners on a budget.

Your feet will love: Their supportive design and roomy toe box with plenty of wiggle room.

You don't have to spend $150+ to get a cushioned sneaker with plenty of support: This economical pick combines a foam layer along the footbed with a cushioning system in the heel for maximum comfort. Available in an array of colors, it's already trusted by more than 4,500 shoppers who love the plush feel and breathable design — including professionals who are required to stand or walk around all day, such as healthcare workers.

Rave review: "My very favorite Saucony shoes (and I own three pairs of different styles). I have many foot problems that make shoes hard to find, and I'm usually in pain. Saucony shoes have changed my life. They are perfect for work, running errands, walking the dog, weekend running around, pretty much everything."

ASICS GEL-Nimbus® 23
Credit: Zappos

Best Soft: Asics Gel-Nimbus 23

Buy It, $130 (was $150)

Best for: Anyone who prefers a plush feel to their shoe.

Your feet will love: The highly engineered sole designed for the softest landing ever.

The sole packs three types of technology to cater to each part of your foot: gel at the heel reduces shock upon contact, soft cushioning at the midsole adds a plush feel underfoot, and a propelling foam gives a bouncy effect for extra assistance on your run. A firm favorite with many seasoned runners, it also comes in 15 colorways, so you're spoiled for choice.

Rave review: "I can't believe how lovely these feel on my feet, even after miles of pounding the pavement. They are supportive, soft, and cushiony, perfect flexibility, bouncy and just enough structure to the shoe to make it secure-feeling without being too restrictive. I've always had issues with bruising on my toes after a long run, and these have enough room in the toe box for some movement."

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam 1080 V11 Running Shoe
Credit: Amazon

Best Support: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

Buy It, from $120

Best for: People who need extra stability for their feet.  

Your feet will love: The arch support provided by these running shoes with extra thick soles.

If you have slight overpronation (where your foot tends to roll inwards) or high arches, these kicks can help provide relief and comfort thanks to their precision engineered cushioned midsole. (FYI, Chronic foot issues should always be looked at by a professional.) Along with a lightweight construction and bootie-style upper, the shoes have a special heel design that cradles the back of the foot for an extra supportive fit.

Rave review: "Love the cushion and support this shoe offers. These are my third pair of this version. I'm a nurse and on my feet for long stretches. These are supportive of my high arch and very soft while giving enough support."

Nike Revolution 5 Running Shoe
Credit: Nordstrom Rack

Best Shock Absorption: Nike Revolution 5 Running Shoe

Buy It, $57

Best for: Anyone who tends to experience foot pain after running.

Your feet will love: The comfortable cushioning and reduced risk of pain after runs due to the shoes' shock absorbing features.

By distributing the weight evenly as you run, these running shoes provide consistent comfort. More importantly, they offer maximum shock absorption to lessen the impact of each step on your body. This means that you'll hopefully experience less body aches and pains after each run (as long as you run with the correct form, etc.). These shoes also have a removable cushioned insole that you can replace with your own custom orthotics.

Rave review: "I needed some new trainers for exercising during lockdown, and these were a great choice… I ordered a size bigger than I normally would and they fit perfectly. My feet no longer hurt now after exercise!"

Reebok Women's HIIT Training Shoe Cross Trainer
Credit: Amazon

Best for Training: Reebok Women's HIIT Training Shoe

Buy It, from $47

Best for: Lovers of high intensity exercise, such as HIIT, circuit training, and cross training.

Your feet will love: The breathable mesh upper and lightweight foam cushioning.

Already trusted by more than 1,400 people, this stabilizing shoe provides ample arch support for optimal comfort. Its cushioning is soft without being too spongy, so the sneakers give great lateral support for the quick side-to-side movements used in high-intensity workouts, like skater squats. Plus, the sole has a solid grip pattern that's perfect for interval training, whether you're on a laminate gym floor or carpet.

Rave review: "They are very well cushioned and have lots of padding on the bottoms to protect your feet during high impact training. They also hug the foot well and my foot doesn't slide in/sink in when jumping side to side, etc. Finally, the traction is good… I'm so happy to finally have footwear that's going to protect and support my feet."

Altra Footwear Lone Peak 5
Credit: Zappos

Best for Wide Feet: Altra Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe

Buy It, $105 (was $130)

Best for: Those who usually have trouble finding a good pair of running shoes for wide feet.

Your feet will love: A roomy toe box that even gives your pinky toes enough space to party.

If you have wide feet or a unique foot shape that conventional sneakers can't seem to accommodate, these trail runners could be your saving grace. In addition to an extra spacious toe area, they also feature a responsive midsole for added comfort, rubber grip sole for extra traction on the trail, and a special balancing cushioning for stability. 

Rave review: "I love these shoes! I'm using them for moderate difficulty trail hiking, and they are much lighter and more comfortable than hiking boots. My feet feel free, not confined but still protected. Comfortable right out of the box, I can go for miles and miles and no blisters or foot pain at all! A miracle! Especially since I have a bunion. The wide toe area is great; great traction, [and] cushion."

adidas Women's Ultraboost 21 Running Shoe
Credit: Amazon

Best Fit: Adidas Ultraboost 21 Running Shoe

Buy It, from $78

Best for: Anyone who likes to slip their shoes on like socks and dash.

Your feet will love: The way these shoes securely hug your feet and offer a shock absorbing effect for a bouncy step while you run.

While the soles on these sneakers are not rocker bottoms, they're still one of the pairs on this list that provides the most cushioning. A popular pick among 1,500+ shoppers, the running shoes stand out for their sock-like fit, which hugs the foot from all directions. The stretchy upper also allows the sneakers to easily be slipped into, although there are also laces for those seeking a more secure fit. Plus, you'll have an impressive array of more than 30 color combinations to choose between.

Rave review: "I run and walk five dogs outside, and I'm just really active, including many treadmill miles every day… The shoe feels and fits more like a really snug sock, and it's super comfortable. What I really like about them are the soles. They are much wider and [I] feel a lot more sure-footed when running. Still super lightweight, but something about the new sole and snugger sock-like fit makes them so much better."

On Cloud X Training Shoe
Credit: Nordstrom

Best for Treadmill: On Cloud X Training Shoe

Buy It, $140

Best for: Anyone who prefers indoor training and the treadmill to the great outdoors.

Your feet will love: How stylish they look despite giving a cloud-like landing with each stride.

These training shoes aren't called "cloud" for nothing: They're truly lightweight with an innovative cushioned insole that provides a soft landing with every stride. Though you can comfortably use these shoes outside, the brand recommends indoor activities — such as the treadmill, HIIT, gym sessions, or workout classes — for the best usage. If you do hit the road with these, however, they're best suited to road running rather than trails, shorter distances, or non-competitive runs.

Rave review: "This is a great shoe for training. I do a lot of treadmill, weights, kettlebell training, and these shoes are great. They are extremely light weight, very good traction, good looking. I bought my boyfriend the men's version of this shoe and he loves the shoe as well. I find them to run true to size, nice roomy toe box, and cushioned nicely. A big winner, and I am picky."