There are many factors to consider when purchasing a shoe, but one thing is non-negotiable: comfort.
For many runners, this means prioritizing cushioning. After all, who doesn’t want a smooth, comfortable run each time you go out? For people prone to shin splints and foot pain, a cushioned running shoe can feel better. For the mileage monsters among us, softer shoes can help reduce fatigue from all those impacts as the miles mount.
Don’t mistake softness for lack of support, though. Many cushiony running shoes are also stability shoes, helping runners who over-pronate maintain proper foot alignment and a neutral position. For under-pronators, cushiony shoes help compensate for rigid arches.
Because of their ample cushioning, these plush shoes are some of the most comfortable options you’ll find. Some are better for road running, while others are designed for the trail.
Most of these shoes listed are made by one company: Hoka One One (pronounced “OH-nay”). Hoka is a newer company, but has been at the forefront of max-cushioned shoes for a few years. While they won’t win any beauty contests, these shoes are the most cushioned on the market right now.
If the high-rise look of Hokas is a deal-breaker for you, we’ve also added a few shoes that pack tons of cushioning with a more traditional running shoe look.
Here are our favorites for luxurious cushiness that might make your runs more enjoyable.
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1. Hoka One One Bondi 6
Hoka describes this shoe as feeling like marshmallows. They also doesn’t try to hide the fact that the shoe has a thick, chunky sole. The company refers to it as a “maximalist” shoe.
With a plush cushion that’s 36mm(!) at the insole, this is just short of a moon shoe. However, the sneaker has worked so well in the past, and been so popular, that it is in its sixth incarnation.
The thick midsole has two layers for consistency and smoothness. Even though it’s cloud-like, it’s not too soft.
In fact, once you’re wearing the shoe, you might notice that its firmness distracts you from the fact that your foot is inches off the ground. It handles well on downhills and around corners, which is not the case with every heavily-cushioned running shoe.
The concave sole design rocks your foot from heel to toe, offering you an effortless stride that saves you energy on long runs. It also reduces the impact from your foot strike.
The upper has been redesigned to offer more breathability and a more secure fit than its predecessors. The redesigned heel cup holds your foot in place, making this sneaker feel like a warm hug. A warm, marshmallowy hug.
- Interior feels connected from heel to toe
- Wide and stable
- Sits high off the ground
- Not the lightest shoe on the market
2. Hoka One One Clifton 5
The Hoka One One Clifton 5 has many benefits. It’s less expensive than some of the other maximalist shoes, it has plenty of cushion to get you through long runs, and it’s lightweight for a cushy running shoe.
The Clifton has always provided lots of pillowy softness without the heft. It has become a little heavier over the years, but it’s still not significantly bulky.
It has also gotten firmer. Instead of squish, you get plenty of firm support, especially in the heel. It feels like an average shoe when you strike the ground.
Some say that previous versions felt great going downhill, but you had to work a little harder to go up an incline because of the softness. Now, the heel is firmer, and the sides wrap around your foot, keeping it centered and stable.
Not much else has changed. The upper is made of engineered mesh with no overlays, giving it a cleaner look with the same support it has always had.
- Firm heel cushion
- Sole looks thick from a profile view
3. Hoka One One Arahi 2
Although Hoka is known for its thick sole, the Arahi 2 looks a little different. It has a geometric design, hiding the fact that it’s a highly cushioned shoe. It’s also less expensive than the Bondi 6 or the Brooks Glycerin 16.
You might notice that it’s especially responsive, even though it’s so thick. The signature Hoka sole rocks you forward from the heel, helping you move through your stride with minimum effort. It’s also wide, earning its name as a stability shoe.
The upper has been reworked to be more breathable. However, it is still just as narrow as its predecessor. This can make your foot ache around the midsole if you have wide feet.
When it comes to durability, this doesn’t disappoint. The rubber in the sole is firm at the sides of the heel, making it resistant to wear. It also a versatile shoe, equally at home on easy trails and roads.
- Breathable upper
- Ideal for narrow feet
- Heel might be too roomy for some
- Narrow in the midfoot
- Mesh upper allows water to soak through
4. Hoka One One Elevon
The Hoka One One Elevon is one style in the Hoka One One Fly Collection. The idea is that these shoes are so springy and light that they can help you “fly” over any obstacle.
Hyperbole notwithstanding, these neutral cushioned shoes are ideal for people with a stable arch. They might even work better for you if your arch is somewhat high.
They’re generally more flexible than stability shoes, which gives you the control that you need to hit the road and fly off with every step.
Some runners say that these aren’t exactly luxuriously plush. You might experience a harder landing than with the Bondi, but these are a little more cushioned than the Clifton. They might be a balanced option for someone who needs a little more shock absorption but doesn’t want to feel like they’re running on marshmallows.
The upper has openings to allow for airflow, and is softer than the slick mesh that’s used on many sneakers. However, this makes it prone to picking up dirt and absorbing stains.
- Upper is soft and breathable
- Balanced shoe for many types of runners
- Sleek aesthetic
- Good for runners who are prone to injury
- Run about ½ size large
5. Brooks Glycerin 17
If you have a neutral gait and want straight-up comfort, the Brooks Glycerin 17 offers delightful, plush indulgence in this highly cushioned shoe. Brooks refers to the shoe as “softness wrapped in comfort.”
Like version 16, the midsole is cushioned with DNA loft, a material that makes you feel as if you’re floating over the terrain. The foot strike feels balanced as you transition from heel to toe, because the shoe has a gradual transition zone. Therefore, you’ll hit the ground just as smoothly as you take off.
One complaint about running shoes with cushion is that they’re not as responsive as minimalist shoes. But the Glycerin’s maintain springiness and energy throughout your run.
The softness extends to the inside with an internal stretch bootie that hugs your foot and moves with every stride. The outer 3D Fit Print mesh upper is stylish and more breathable than ever before.
It has a wide outsole and deep treads, making it feel sturdy even if you take it on a trail. Because it’s one of the cushiest running shoes out there, it’s also one of the heaviest.
- Ideal for any type of runner
- Good for any type of gait
- Good traction
6. ASICS Gel-Nimbus 21
If you train daily and are looking for a comfortable ride, you might want to consider the ASICS Gel-Nimbus 21. These running shoes are highly cushioned without the thick sole that marks the most-plush running shoes.
The Gel-Nimbus 21 contains a FlyteFoam insole, which is a new addition since the previous version. The combination of FluidRide and FlyteFoam at the heel and the foot provides for smooth transitions, making landing and pushing off a breeze. The midsole provides support to keep you going on long and short runs.
Because they’re lightweight and have a thinner sole than some other cushioned shoes, the Gel-Nimbus 21 is extremely responsive, helping you move a little more quickly and get a feel for your running surface. On the other hand, they may not provide the softness that you crave in a running shoe.
The upper mesh stretches in multiple directions. However, it’s reinforced in a way that molds to your foot’s shape, helping it provide support where you need it. These running shoes fit like a glove.
- Stretchy upper conforms to your foot
- Fit is improved for narrower feet
- Provides a smooth transition as you transition from heel to toe
- Fits differently than previous models
- Might feel firmer than some other cushioned shoes
7. Altra Paradigm 4.0
Another shoe that’s great for runners with neutral foot positioning, the Altra Paradigm 4.0 is stable when you need it. Although it provides ample support, it handles corners well.
The thick sole is similar to that of Hoka One One models. It’s soft from heel to toe, giving you plenty of bounce without throwing off your balance. The Zero Drop platform makes the sole rock naturally, giving you a low-impact landing and helping you stay aligned.
Even if your legs get tired, you’ll still feel a liveliness in your step from the AltraEGO midsole, designed to return energy efficiently. The GuideRail system supports your feet even when your form starts to suffer during a long run.
The engineered knit upper is one of the most distinguishing features. In previous versions, it was made of mesh. Now it’s softer, giving you an experience that’s similar to sliding into a warm bed.
Some knit running shoes can get warm, but these release heat near the toes. This keeps you cool and comfortable throughout your training session.
- Features GuideRail system to direct pronating feet
- Uses technology to help feet flex naturally
- Knit upper is not ideal for wet conditions
- Sole may feel too rigid for some
8. New Balance 1080v9
Sink your feet into cloud-like softness with cushioning both above and below. The puffy tongue feels good against the top of your foot. The Fresh Foam midsole runs the length of the shoe, making your stride feel consistent.
This shoe is specifically designed for high mileage. The outsole contains ample blown rubber, making it durable while also providing great traction.
The mesh upper contains cage-like support around the midfoot. The heel collar is soft, helping prevent blisters and keeping you comfortable no matter how long your run is.
The wide toe box can be compared with that of Altra shoes. If you like having plenty of space up front, you might want to try out this style.
In that regard, these are a good option for wide feet. Some testers with a narrow foot shape said that they had to tighten the laces securely to get the support that they needed.
The mesh upper is extremely breathable, and the tongue has nonslip mesh so that it doesn’t scrunch down as you move. The laces hold well once you break them in.
- Neutral running shoe
- Sleek styling
- Supportive upper
- True to size
- Wide toe box
- Not as bouncy as some other options
9. Saucony Hurricane ISO 3
One of Saucony’s leading stability shoes, the Hurricane ISO 3 provides a smooth run for any length of time. The Everun midsole keeps an extra layer of compounded foam near your foot. This type of foam is considerably lighter than the EVA that’s used on many other running shoes.
It’s also bouncy and shock-absorbing. Your heel strikes softly, but you can exchange the energy for a strong push-off at the toe without feeling a transition.
These shoes are incredibly flexible for a stability shoe, and they re surprisingly quiet as they contact the ground. If you like to have a high level of control, you may enjoy these sneakers.
Some testers feel that the toe box is too small. You might want to go up a half size if you prefer plenty of room in front.
When it comes to the back of the shoe, the heel cup is snug. However, it gets hot. If you sweat a lot, you might find your foot sliding around significantly.
- Fit adapts to your foot
- Sock liner
- Smooth ride
- Inconsistent lacing system
- Keeps your foot warmer than some other shoes
- Small toe box
10. Hoka One One Speedgoat 2
The Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 incorporates new features into the original version. They’re wider than the previous style, although they still may feel narrow for those with wide feet.
This running shoe is also more supportive than it used to be. The EVA foam below the foot is firmer. The upper contains cage construction at the midfoot and speed frame overlays to hold everything in place.
The lugs on the outsole provide great traction. You can take this shoe from the sidewalk to the trail without worrying about their ruggedness. In fact, these are constructed for off-roading, which is not the case for many running shoes with maximum cushion.
Because you might be more exposed to moisture while running on soft surfaces, you want a shoe that’s not absorbent. These fit the bill. The upper contains welded overlays to keep water out while remaining breathable.
The tongue isn’t gusseted, which means that you could end up with bits of twigs and dirt inside the shoe. However, there is a lace pass-through, which holds the tongue in place.
- Deep lugs and improved outsole pattern for traction
- Ideal for trail running
- Repels water better than its competitors
- May be too narrow for wide feet
- Might feel too stiff for some runners
- Runs about ½-size small