The Most Ridiculously Cushioned Running Shoes of 2023, According to Our Tests

These shoes are guaranteed to make you feel like you’re walking on clouds.

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 Best Cushioned Running Shoes

Shape / Kristin Kempa

Choosing comfortable running shoes seems simple enough: Find the cushiest insoles possible and bounce along on your run, right? Actually, not quite. 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 Tyler Austin, D.P.M., a Pennsylvania-based podiatrist.

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. "If you have a high arch, you are more likely to be OK with a neutral shoe and even minimalist shoes. Using a minimalist shoe can also be good to help strengthen your feet as they require more work from your foot and are less reliant on the shoe," John Honerkamp, RRCA and USATF certified running coach, previously told Shape. "Moderate and maximum cushioning come into play if you are looking for a more shock-absorbent ride. I will go with more cushioned shoes if my feet or heels start to hurt when I run. I will also opt for a more cushioned shoe if I am running on more concrete, sidewalks, or roads versus a nice soft trail." 

We wanted to truly understand the ins and outs of cushioned running shoes, so with the help of several eager walkers and runners, we tested dozens of pairs over the course of a month. We judged each shoe based on fit, design, support, stability, comfort, and more, wearing each tested pair at least twice a week for several hours at a time to truly get a feel for the shoe. If you crave that running-on-air feeling and love the maximalist feel of cushioned running shoes, these kicks are the best of the best.

Best Overall

Adidas Women's Ultraboost 22 Running Shoe



Why We Like It: These shoes securely hug your feet and offer a shock-absorbing effect for a bouncy step while you run.

It’s Worth Noting: There’s no rocker bottom to help with propulsion.

The Adidas Ultraboost 22 running shoes stand out for their sock-like fit, which hugs the foot from all directions. And even though these shoes are cushioned, they have the stability you need on the outsole to feel supported with every step. 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 color combinations to choose from.

While the soles on these sneakers are not rocker bottoms (which literally rock you forward to help with propulsion and momentum), they're engineered for female feet specifically and boast a responsive midsole to get more energy return, so you can run longer and longer. “That responsiveness is noticeable,” says Shannon Bauer, Shape senior commerce editor, “especially as you start getting tired or at the end of a speed interval. These sneakers gave me a pep that is rare for non-rocker shoes.” 

Price at time of publish: From $95

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Colors: 42 | Width: Medium

Best Everyday Running Shoe

Asics Gel Cumulus 25

Asics Gel Cumulus 25


Why We Like It: The cushioning is a combination of pillow-like and firm

It’s Worth Noting: The forefoot isn’t quite as cushioned as the rest of the shoe.

If you want to feel like you’re running on clouds, it makes sense to try a shoe named after clouds. When wearing the Asics Gel Cumulus 25, we felt propelled forward with each step, thanks to the toe-off design that gives you a sense of momentum. We also noticed that the cushioning hit a sweet spot between cushioned and firm, so we didn’t feel like we were sinking into the shoe. We thought it performed especially well on pavement, and we thought it was impressively versatile for a variety of activities (walking and errands, for example).

We did feel like the propulsion in the forefoot design came at the expense of cushioning in the area. We were also concerned about the shoe’s stability. Some runners felt that the cushioning was a little too thick for adequate support (and could lead to a twisted ankle). 

Price at time of publish: $140

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Colors: 14 | Width: Medium and wide

Best Under $75

Saucony Women's Cohesion 16 Running Shoe

Saucony Women's Cohesion 16 Sneaker


Why We Like It: These shoes have a supportive design and roomy toe box with plenty of wiggle room.

You don't have to spend over $100 to get a cushioned sneaker with plenty of support. This economical pick from Saucony combines a foam layer along the footbed with a cushioning system in the heel for maximum comfort. Available in an array of colors, we love the plush feel and breathable design. 

Just note that the heel-to-toe drop is 12 mm, which is quite high (meaning, the heel sits 12mm higher off the ground than the forefoot). These shoes are best for runners who strike the ground heel-first or have a history of foot or ankle pain or injuries.

Price at time of publish: $75

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Colors: 6 | Width: Medium and wide

Best for Road Running

Asics Gel-Cumulus 25 Nagino

 Asics Gel-Cumulus 25 Nagino


Why We Like It: They were fantastic at relieving tightness and knee pain while running.

It’s Worth Noting: One runner developed a heel blister during testing.

Pounding the pavement can wreak havoc on your knees, and we found the Asics Gel-Cumulus 25 Nagino to be the best cushioned shoe for running. The shoes soaked up any shock like a sponge, leaving us feeling bouncy and energetic throughout the run. Plus, the outsole has tough, durable rubber that’s designed to resist abrasions and last for the long haul — crucial if your runs mostly take place on sidewalks or roads. Asics also recently increased the stack height (aka the amount of cushioning the shoe has) by 2mm, giving this edition the most underfoot cushioning of the Cumulus line.

One of our runners experienced a recurring heel blister while wearing these shoes, while the other did not. That may be because the heel counter seemingly hits a little lower on your Achilles. If you find that’s the case during your try-on, consider the classic Asics Gel-Cumulus 25 instead.

Price at time of publish: $140

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Colors: 15 | Width: Medium and wide

Most Responsive

On Running Cloud Monster

On Running Cloud Monster

On Running

Why We Like It: The foam and the sole structure exaggerate a rolling motion during your footfall.

It’s Worth Noting: This shoe performed exceptionally well on wet surfaces.

The On Running Cloud Monster shoes stand out from the crowd at first glance, thanks to the CloudTec cushioning technology and geometrical design. The goal is to combine soft cushioning with a powerful bounceback, and we found that the shoe delivered. We were impressed by the responsive, snappy transition — bouncy, but with enough firmness that you don’t feel like you’re “running on beanbags,” as one runner put it.

The unique design seems to also give the Cloud Monster outsoles a better grip. We tested this on wet pavement a few times, and each time we felt totally secure with every step. It’s a trustworthy running shoe to have in your bad-weather lineup.

Price at time of publish: $169

Sizes: 5 to 11 | Colors: 10 | Width: Medium

Best for Training

lululemon Chargefeel Mid Women's Workout Shoe

Lululemon Chargefeel


Why We Like It: The lateral stability supports your training, while the springy bounceback feels extra responsive.

It’s Worth Noting: These shoes aren’t quite supportive enough for running medium to long distances.

For a cushioned shoe that can pull double duty during HIIT classes, we found the Lululemon Chargefeel to blend the best of both worlds. Choose between the Mid model, which has an ankle-height socklike fit that’s ultra comfortable, or the low model, which more closely resembles your typical shoe shape. Either way, you’re getting cushioning that’s designed both for running and agility. 

“This is honestly one of the comfiest shoes I’ve ever worn, and I’m impressed by its versatility,” says Kristen Geil, Shape senior commerce editor. “It’s perfect for when I want to do a workout that blends cardio and strength. I can easily hop on the treadmill for a warm-up jog or speed intervals, then seamlessly transition to the floor for strength training or agility work.” Plus, she adds, the Chargefeel Mid feels like wearing “an ultra-comfy sock, but with an incredibly breathable upper.”

Heads up: Like most training shoes, the Chargefeel isn’t meant for running medium to long distances. In this case, the cushioning is less cloudlike and feels more like an energetic, bouncy ride.

Price at time of publish: $110

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Colors: 2 | Width: Medium

Best Support

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam X 1080 V12 Running Shoe

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam X 1080 V12 Running Shoe


Why We Like It: The extra-thick soles provide great arch support.

It’s Worth Noting: These shoes run large, so order down from your usual size.

If you have slight overpronation (where your foot tends to roll inwards) or high arches, the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v12 running shoes can help provide relief and comfort thanks to their precision-engineered cushioned midsole. One of our runners had a bout of plantar fasciitis while testing, and she noticed that these shoes felt supportive and stable enough without sacrificing cushioning. Along with lightweight construction and a bootie-style upper, the shoes have a special heel design that cradles the back of the foot for an extra supportive fit.

While the general rule of thumb is to order your running shoes a half-size larger than normal (to allow for potential swelling while running), New Balance notes that this model runs larger compared to previous versions. We ordered down a half-size when testing, and we were glad we did. 

Price at time of publish: $160

Sizes: 5 to 13 | Colors: 27 | Width: Medium and wide

Most Responsive

Asics Women's Gel-Nimbus 25

ASICS Women's Gel-Nimbus 25 Running Shoes


Why We Like It: The highly engineered sole is designed for the softest landing ever.

It’s Worth Noting: The toe box is narrower than expected.

If you want to feel like you’re walking on clouds, the Asics Gel-Nimbus 25 is your go-to cushioned running shoe. 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 responsiveness on your run. A firm favorite with many seasoned runners, it also comes in tons of colorways, so you're spoiled for choice.

These shoes do have a narrow toe box, which may impact the fit of your usual size. Consider ordering a half-size up to account for that quirk.

Price at time of publish: $160

Sizes: 5 to 13 | Colors: 10 | Width: Medium and wide

Best for Trail Running

Hoka Women's Challenger 7

Challenger 7


Why We Like It: The lightweight feel, solid grip, and durable exterior stand up to the elements.

It’s Worth Noting: The wide shoe colorways are limited.

A personal favorite of Dr. Austin, these hybrid Hoka Challenger 7 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." 

While there are options for wide feet, the colorways are limited — so you don’t get the full rainbow of options when shopping. That said, it’s still worth purchasing these cushioned running shoes based on fit rather than fashion.

Price at time of publish: $145

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Colors: 6 | Width: Medium and wide

Best for Speed Workouts

Brooks Women's Launch 9 Running Shoe



Why We Like It: This cushioned running shoe has a lightweight construction, ventilated mesh upper, and responsive cushioning.

It’s Worth Noting: These have a lower amount of cushioning compared to other shoes on this list.

Hot days and sweaty runs won't be an issue with the ventilation provided by the Brooks Launch 9 running shoes. 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. Dr. Austin switches to this style for fast runs, and we noticed that it supported a biomechanically sound stride (translation: our running form was on point).  

However, compared to the amount of cushioning in the other shoes on this list, the Launch 9 shoes aren’t quite as maximalist. They didn’t absorb shock well, and the foot strike was more intense than we’d expected. 

Price at time of publish: $110

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Colors: 14 | Width: Medium and wide

Best for Shock Absorption

Nike Women's Revolution 6 Next Nature Running Shoes

Nike Women's Revolution 6 Next Nature Running Shoes


Why We Like It: The comfortable cushioning and shock absorption reduce the risk of post-run pains.

It’s Worth Noting: These shoes feel stiff at first and can take time to break in.

By distributing the weight evenly as you run, the Nike Revolution 6 Next Nature 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 fewer body aches and pains after each run (as long as you run with the correct form). These shoes also have a removable cushioned insole that you can replace with your own custom orthotics. 

Don’t expect these shoes to feel gentle and flexible right out of the box. They’re a tad stiff for the first few wears, so build in break-in time when wearing these shoes at first.

Price at time of publish: From $45

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Colors: 10 | Width: Medium and wide

Best for Wide Feet

Altra Women's Lone Peak 7 Trail Running Shoe

Altra Women's Lone Peak 7 Trail Running Shoe


Why We Like It: The roomy toe box prevents numbness and blisters.

It’s Worth Noting: The 0 mm drop encourages a forefoot or midfoot strike.

If you have wide feet or a unique foot shape that conventional sneakers can't seem to accommodate, the Altra Lone Peak 7 trail runners could be your saving grace. Altra is known for shoes that are designed for wide feet. In addition to an extra spacious toe area, they also feature a responsive midsole for added comfort, a rubber grip sole for extra traction on the trail, and special balancing cushioning for stability. 

While most cushioned running shoes have a heel-to-toe drop of 6 to 10 mm, these Lone Peak 7 shoes have a 0 mm drop. Translation: There’s minimal arch support, but they also have a more lightweight, flexible feel. 

Price at time of publish: $150

Sizes: 5.5 to 12 | Colors: 5 | Width: Medium and wide

Best for Treadmill

On Running Women's Cloud X 3 Training Shoe



Why We Like It: The cloud-like landing is still supportive enough for the high-impact treadmill.

It’s Worth Noting: These shoes are best suited to shorter distances.

These On Running Cloud X 3 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.

Price at time of publish: $150

Sizes: 5 to 11 | Colors: 7 | Width: Medium

How We Selected

To choose the best cushioned running shoes for women, we interviewed Tyler Austin, D.P.M., a podiatrist based in Pennsylvania, and Alex Tallman, director of retail experience at Fleet Feet, where he oversees outfitter education and training. These experts provided insight into how to choose cushioned running shoes, who should wear cushioned running shoes, and what to look for when shopping. Using their guidance, we narrowed down our choices to these 10 picks, judging each pair of shoes on their features, comfort, durability, value, and size availability. 

At Shape, we regularly test running shoes of all types to understand which shoes are best for specific runners. Based on several real-world tests, we curated this list of best cushioned running shoes. In each test, we began by checking the shoe's quality and wearing them for 30 minutes around the house to make sure the fit was as expected. Once they'd passed that test, we progressed to wearing the shoes for 3 hours at a time, at least twice a week during the duration of the approximately four-week test. During the testing period, we took copious notes on fit, design, cushioning, support, comfort, and more. At the end of the testing period, we asked each tester for a thorough download of their experience so that we could analyze the results and choose the best running shoes for those who want max cushioning.

What to Know About Cushioned Running Shoes

Tallman recommends that anyone running multiple times a week should consider incorporating a cushioned shoe into their rotation. “While some runners may prefer something lighter and more responsive for harder workouts, cushioned shoes are a great option to give your feet a break on the days you’re just looking to go for a run and get some miles in,” he explains. “Many people like to wear them for their long-run days too, since it keeps them feeling comfortable longer.” Here are more things to consider when buying cushioned running shoes.


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.

Injuries and Pre-Existing Conditions

Cushioned running shoes will not single-handedly solve any injuries, and you should speak to a podiatrist or physical therapist if you frequently have pain associated with running. “When it comes to specific aches and pains, cushioned shoes can sometimes help alleviate discomfort, but not always,” says Tallman. “For example, one person with knee pain might feel more comfortable in high-cushioned shoes because of the increased shock absorption, while another person with knee pain might do better with a firmer, more stable platform.” A specialty running store or expert can help you try several pairs of shoes to find the best fit for your goals.

Foot Strike

Dr. Austin recommends cushioned 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.


Certain running shoe brands are known for their cushioning, such as HOKA, Asics, New Balance, and On Running. However, each brand has different quirks and features, so trying running shoes on in person (with the help of an expert) is the best way to shop, rather than assuming one popular brand will work for you.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What are the benefits of cushioned running shoes?

    Cushioned running shoes come with plenty of benefits, such as increased shock absorption and better protection underfoot, according to Tallman. The biggest benefit of cushioned running shoes is comfort, which has been linked to improved efficiency, delayed fatigue, and even a reduction in overuse injuries.

  • Are cushioned running shoes bad for you?

    While cushioned running shoes aren’t bad for you, they tend to be a bit heavier than the average everyday trainer, according to Tallman. “Some shoes are able to get around this and create a more cushioned feel using lightweight materials, though the tradeoff is that these materials are often less durable,” he adds.

  • What’s the difference between cushion and support in running shoes?

    “I like to think of cushion vs. fit in terms of mattresses,” says Tallman. A waterbed, for example, has all cushion and no support — a combo that may feel comfy at first but will cause back issues over time. A hard, firm mattress is supportive, but not cozy. You’ll want an option in the middle, based on your personal preference. A local specialty running store can help you find the best cushioned running shoe for you.

  • Do cushioned running shoes cost more?

    Cushioned running shoes tend to cost more than minimal running shoes. “The premium cushioned options are normally about $20 - $30 more than their moderate-cushioned counterparts,” says Tallman. 

Why Trust Shape

Kristen Geil is an endurance runner with several marathons and half-marathons under her belt, and she also has her NASM personal trainer certification and USATF running coach certification. She runs 20 to 30 miles weekly and regularly tests and reviews running shoes for Shape. Kristen recently led the Shape Best in Fitness Awards and the Sneaker Awards, both of which involved lengthy testing and nomination processes to drill down into the features and differences of cushioned running shoes. 

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