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Best Running Shoes For Heel Strikers in 2022

 

Heel striking is the most common type of foot strike, accounting for about 70% of us. While it gets a bad rap for causing injury, the fact is that it’s not necessarily more dangerous than other type of foot strike.

However, if you are a heel striker, you need a pair of shoes with enough support and cushioning in the heel to protect your feet. Here are the ones that we consider to be the best running shoes for heel strikers.

Top of the pile we have the Hoka Clifton 8. It’s perfectly cushioned to absorb shock, has an extended heel crash pad to protect the foot better, and strategically-placed rubber on the heel for improved durability.

If Hoka isn’t your brand, keep reading, because we’ve got some excellent shoes on this list!

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Hoka One One Clifton 8

 

  • Plush and comfortable
  • Rolls easily through your stride
  • EVA foam underfoot
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39

 

  • Roomy toe box
  • Quick heel-to-toe transition
  • Durable, grippy outsole
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

ASICS Gel-Kayano 28

 

  • Incredibly comfortable
  • Soft sock liner
  • Good rigidity and support
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

Best Overall

1. Hoka One One Clifton 8

Hoka One One is known for their serious cushioning. While the Clifton 8 has a lower heel-to-toe drop, its lightweight cushioning is enough to provide ample shock absorption.

What We Like

The Clifton 8 is a comfortable, plush shoe with ample padding and protection for the heel. With 29mm of foam in the heel, plus a 5mm thick insole, there’s a whole lotta soft, compressive comfort under your heel.

This makes the shoe super comfy, but it also does wonders for shock absorption. Adding to the great feel of the shoe is a meta-rocker shape and a slightly beveled heel. Both of these assist with the heel-to-toe transition, taking strain off the foot and easing pressure on the heel specifically.

Although the Clifton 8 only has a 5mm drop, it doesn’t matter as much with the gigantic slab of foam under the heel.

There’s also an extended crash pad to disperse impact better and protect the joints. High-abrasion rubber also covers most of the heel, which is perfect for heel strikers.

Hoka uses sidewall grooves on the midsoles for better compression of the foam. You’ll find two colored lines on the midsole, which give the sole space to compress more and provide better protection.

Why We Like It

It’s not too soft but still manages to feel plush and protective in the heel. There’s still a touch of responsiveness (more so than other popular Hokas). We also like the durable heel rubber.

What’s New

Firstly, die-hard shoe weight watchers will notice that the Clifton 8 has gained a whole 0.2 ounces, heavier than the 7 at 8.9 ounces. It’s not likely to make much difference, but it’s not what we tend to hope for with updates.

Changes to the upper are minimal but significant. It’s been slightly tweaked aesthetically, and some more padding has been added to the upper. The toe box has been slightly widened, the meta-rocker a little exaggerated, and the midsole a touch more curved.

In the midsole, a new and improved foam compound is apparently 15% lighter than the previous foam, which is lovely and soft but makes us wonder where the extra weight is coming from.

Finally, the outsole rubber has been extended to cover more of the heel, and the lugs in the forefoot are diagonal now instead of horizontal.

PROS:

  • Perforated mesh upper enhances ventilation
  • Light, soft, and protective cushioning
  • Extended heel crash pad provides softer landings
  • Strategic outsole rubber placement

CONS:

  • Needs a bit of a break-in period
 

Top Value

2. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39

The Pegasus 39 is an excellently cushioned and nicely supportive shoe. And while many running shoes are creeping upwards in price, the Pegasus remains a true value.

What We Like

For a well-cushioned, superbly locked-down, all-around running shoe (that looks stylish too), the Pegasus 39 is a steal at $120 (at the time of writing).

A heel height of 27.5mm gives you a great shock-absorbing pad right where you need it most. The 10mm heel-to-toe drop also helps to take the pressure off the heel a bit, and it works really well with the nicely beveled heel to provide a lovely smooth transition.

Although the Pegasus 39 has the narrower fit Nike is known for, the toe box is actually a touch wider than usual, which is nice when you’ve got a higher heel-to-toe drop and your weight is more on the forefoot.

Nike React foam in the midsole strikes an exceptional balance between being soft and bouncy. You can take this shoe for a long, romantic run and feel great, but you can also do a bit of a speedier session and it should work with you nicely.

On the outsole, thick rubber not only provides extra shock absorption but also makes the shoe durable.

Other excellent features include a fully gusseted tongue, flat laces, a well-padded tongue, and a plush upper. Take note, though, that it can run warm due to its plushness!

Why We Like It

It’s super comfortable, extremely cushioned in the heel, and has all the features that make a heel-to-toe transition super easy. Add its stylish design and nice price, and you’ve got a winner!

What’s New

The best thing about the Pegasus 39 is that the much-complained-about heel lock issues from the previous version have been resolved.

A deeper, sturdier heel cup is to thank for it, as well as the looped eyelets. Aside from that, there’s a wider forefoot and a thicker, plush upper.

PROS:

  • Dialed in upper with roomy toe box
  • Quick heel-to-toe transition
  • Supportive, responsive cushioning
  • Durable, grippy outsole

CONS:

  • Runs slightly warm
 

Best for Stability

3. ASICS Gel-Kayano 28

Heel strikers who need a stability shoe to counter overpronation should seriously consider the ASICS Gel-Kayano 28. It has stability and support, plus exceptional heel cushioning – the best of both worlds!

What We Like

It’s a stability shoe with a ton of heel cushion. What’s not to like for heel strikers who overpronate?

In the heel, a thick gel layer hides between midsole foam. These two midsole layers include Flytefoam, which provides shock absorption – and a layer of Flytefoam Blast that does the same, just with a dash of bouncy responsiveness too.

Stability features include the Dynamic DuoMax system, which consists of dense foam in the medial side of the midsole, preventing compression and stopping the foot from rolling in.

The Guidance Trusstic System in the midfoot provides torsional rigidity, stopping the shoe from twisting and taking the foot with it.

Interestingly, there’s also a Gel Twist in the forefoot, for a touch more stability in the forefoot. And did I forget to mention that there’s gel in the forefoot too, for extra cushion?

A heel counter keeps the rearfoot quite stable too, so there’s all-around, unobtrusive support in this shoe.

Another interesting feature is the 3mm difference between the men’s and women’s heel-to-toe drops. Geared for each gender’s foot structure, they both provide a good chunk of cushion under the heel and reduce pressure on the heel.

Why We Like It

You can’t ask for better heel cushioning than this. Three layers in the heel do an effective job of dispersing pressure and reducing shock, keeping the feet comfy and protected on the foot strike.

What’s New

An extra millimeter of cushion might not sound like much, but it does add a touch more shock absorption. ASICS has switched out Flytefoam Propel from the previous iteration for Flytefoam Blast, a more responsive and lighter choice.

A slight position change to the heel counter and full-contact rubber on the bottom of the shoe are also helpful changes for heel strikers.

Other changes include a bit more space in the toe box and a bit of a position change for the Trusstic system.

PROS:

  • Versatile, everyday running shoe
  • Balanced cushioning that’s responsive and bouncy
  • Stable, peppy ride while the shoe flexes with your foot
  • GEL cushioning is molded into the heel and forefoot

CONS:

  • Run a touch heavy
 

Top for Wide Feet

4. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22

Heel strikers who happen to have wide feet will appreciate the width options of the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22. It has a nice 24mm of foam in the heel, protecting and easing pain in the heel.

It’s worth noting that it’s a stability shoe, but the support is unobtrusive enough that runners with a neutral gait can wear it comfortably.

What We Like

Available in a variety of widths, the Adrenaline GTS 22 is suitable for feet of almost any width. The toe box offers more than enough space for the toes to splay, and the wide fit remains throughout the shoe.

Although it caters to mild overpronators, neutral feet will find benefit in the heel cushioning and subtle support.

24mm of DNA Loft foam under the heel does a great job of absorbing shock on the landing. The 12mm heel-to-toe drop takes pressure off the heel too.

This midsole foam is a great balance between soft and firm. It’s lightly responsive but soft enough to be comfortable to run in for a good distance.

The GuideRails System cups the heel, firmly but not uncomfortably. You can see it from the outside, restricting lateral movement that could cause damage and pain to the heel. There’s also an internal heel counter for even more support.

On the outsole, a Segmented Crash Pad offers extra shock absorption in the heel, providing maximum protection along with the heel cushioning.

Why We Like It

A choice of widths, a comfortable and shock-absorbing heel cushion, and a balanced cushion. Perfect for those with wide feet who want heel protection and a comfortable feel underfoot.

What’s New

The update from the 21 to the 22 is very minor. Small tweaks to the upper and slightly adjusted GuideRails are the only changes, but they’re hardly noticeable.

PROS:

  • Structured mesh upper with spacious toe box
  • Great for runners with moderate overpronation
  • Versatile shoe for daily miles, long runs, and up-tempo work
  • Segmented Crash Pad offers maximum protection

CONS:

  • The firmness may take some getting used to
 

Best for Supination

5. Brooks Glycerin 20

Strong, high arch support and cushion in the midsole of the Glycerin 20 provide support for those who supinate. The cushioning is also the softest it’s ever been in the Glycerin!

What We Like

This neutral shoe features excellent arch support, which goes a long way towards preventing supination. Poor supinators don’t get nearly as much attention as overpronators, but this shoe will take good care of their feet.

There’s 33mm of DNA Loft foam in the heel, perfect for shock absorption and comfort. The forefoot doesn’t get left out, though, with a nice 12ish millimeters of padding.

Arch support, thick cushion, and the wider-than-previous base help to support the foot as it rolls out, as supinators are prone to do.

The 3D Fit Print upper also helps you to get a really nice lockdown on the foot, cinch down tightly and you’ll feel the stability kick in.

A durable rubber outsole adds a bit more shock absorption to an already great shoe for supinating heel strikers.

Why We Like It

It’s extra cushioned in the heel, has arch support to support the foot as it rolls outward, and the wide base also provides inherent stability. Ideal for supinators who heel strike.

What’s New

The changes between the 19 and 20 are subtle. The 20 is ever so slightly wider (0.2 inches) in both the forefoot and the heel. However, the midfoot remains relatively the same, which may feel strange if you’ve worn the 19.

There’s also been a minor design change to the flex grooves in the outsole, but it’s not likely to be felt in a huge way.

In the midsole, there’s no change in the foam although runners have reported that the midsole feels softer in the 20 than the 19.

PROS:

  • 3D Fit Print upper is stretchy, supportive, and snug
  • Wider base than previous version
  • Strong, high arch support
  • Durable rubber outsole

CONS:

  • The midsole may stiffen up in the cold
 

Top Heel Support

6. ASICS Gel-Nimbus 24

Another ASICS offering, the Gel-Nimbus provides excellent cushion as well as sturdy support in the heel. The best combination for those who want a plush ride combined with heel stability.

What We Like

The soft, layered cushioning in the heel is a dream for heel strikers. Flytefoam, Flutefoam Blast+, and gel create the perfect combo in the heel, providing softness and shock absorption without sacrificing support.

In the midsole, their Trusstic System is a rigid board that prevents twisting of the midsole. This effectively keeps the heels from moving in any way they shouldn’t.

A gusseted tongue and the soft mesh upper allow you to get a good lockdown, which is an underrated stability feature!

There’s minimal heel slippage in this shoe, as long as you cinch down well. Light synthetic overlays along the side of the heel add just a dash more support.

Why We Like It

It’s comfortable, it’s supportive, and it’s protective for those who strike heel first. You can’t beat that gel cushioning for shock absorption in the heel, and it adds a big element of comfort, too.

What’s New

The 24 has lost a touch of weight since the last version, although it’s probably not enough to be noticeable.

Although it’s lighter, ASICS actually added Flytefoam Blast+ cushioning, which is bouncy and about 15% lighter and softer than normal old Blast foam.

Other updates include a revamped upper and stretchy tongue, as well as an ASICS LITE rubber outsole for better impact protection.

PROS:

  • Soft, responsive, fun sensation underfoot
  • Trusstic System provides extra support
  • Gusseted tongue provides a snug foot lockdown
  • Combination of FF Blast foam and Gel cushioning

CONS:

  • High arch support may feel intrusive for some
 

Most Cushioned

7. Hoka One One Bondi 7

You can’t deny that the chunky cushioning of the Hoka One One Bondi 7 is great at absorbing shock.

With upwards of 30mm of foam in the heel, pain in the heel will be a thing of the past for rearfoot strikers.

What We Like

The cushion! 33mm in the heel of the men’s shoe and 31mm in the women’s is a serious platform, and it’s soft enough to be comfortable and shock-absorbing all the way.

Now, the Bondi isn’t known for being the most responsive shoe out there. It will suit heel strikers who like long, romantic runs instead of short, sharp, speedy ones. The thick cushion does rebound decently, but it just doesn’t have that jazz that’s needed for the speedy stuff.

Between the cushioning and the plush upper, memory foam collar, and thick tongue, it’s a pretty luxurious experience for your feet. Oh, and the slightly beveled heel also makes the heel-to-toe transition a breeze.

Why We Like It

You’ll hardly feel your heel strike the ground with this padding. Protective, comfy, and shock-absorbing, wearing the Bondi 7 is a luxuriously comfortable experience.

What’s New

There aren’t huge changes between the Bondi 6 and the Bondi 7. The upper is the most changed bit, now featuring a different perforation pattern, tweaked synthetic overlays, and a more padded heel collar.

Everything else remains pretty much the same. If you liked the Bondi 6, you should find that the 7 has a better lockdown, increased breathability, and an ever-so-slightly lower stack height.

PROS:

  • Very thick midsole cushioning
  • Memory foam collar hugs your foot
  • Midsole cushioning rebounds quickly
  • Slightly beveled heel provides smoother transition

CONS:

  • Not responsive enough for speedwork
 

Best for Road Running

8. Nike Air Zoom Vomero 16

The Vomero has an excellent mix of soft comfort and springy responsiveness. It’s also pretty durable, making it ideal for use on the road.

What We Like

The Vomero’s soft yet fun, bouncy foam is what it’s all about. A ZoomX core provides a really happy dash of energy return, making it easy to kick up the pace a little and have some fun.

Also adding to the pep in your step is the Zoom Air unit in the forefoot. Toe-offs have never been so easy!

On the flip side, the heel is medium-soft and does a really good job of absorbing impact and reducing pain in the heel. The shoe also features an external heel clip, which really helps to lock the heel in securely.

A highly durable, waterproof rubber outsole means you’ll be perfectly safe on most road conditions. It also takes a pretty long time to wear down, giving you more bang for your buck with these shoes.

Why We Like It

It has a great combo of comfort and bounce. Perfect for the road, whether you want to take it easy or push yourself a little. The durable outsole will keep you going for many miles before it wears out.

What’s New

Changes are few and minor between the 15 and the 16. The midsole and outsole remain the same.

On the upper, the Flywire has been removed and a midfoot cage has been added for extra stability. The tongue is also a bit thicker than the previous one.

Somehow, despite these very small changes, the 16 has managed to gain 0.7 ounces of weight. Not sure how, but that’s how it is.

PROS:

  • Medium-soft cushioning in the heel
  • ZoomX core offers great energy return
  • Midfoot panels distribute pressure evenly
  • Thick, hard-wearing rubber outsole

CONS:

  • May be a little heavy for some
 

Best Lightweight Shoe

9. Mizuno Wave Rider 25

The Wave Rider 25 is a neutral shoe that’s very versatile. It’s relatively lightweight, at less than 10 ounces, making it perfect for whatever you want to do in it, be it running or walking.

What We Like

This shoe is nice and light. Although it’s a neutral shoe, your feet will be protected from turning over by the stiff wave plate. A touch of extra stability without adding much weight is always appreciated!

As well as being light, though, the shoe is fairly responsive. It’s noticeably lighter and more energetic than the previous version, with the wave plate offering a nice bit of a pop on top of the easy roll that the rocker shape offers.

There’s a huge wedge of foam in the heel, 36mm of it. Shock absorption is inevitable! A stiff heel counter is also a bonus for heel strikers.

The only possible downside is a bit of heel slippage, but you may be able to get around this with a good cinch down and a slightly thicker pair of socks.

Why We Like It

It’s light, it’s just supportive enough to feel stable but not uncomfortable, and it’s got plenty of heel cushioning.

What’s New

Instead of Enerzy foam being limited to the heel, it now stretches the full length of the midsole, sandwiching the reshaped wave plate between two layers. That’s about it!

PROS:

  • Rounded toe box offers plenty of wiggle room
  • Stiff heel counter
  • Lots of foam cushioning in the heel
  • Great for those who need mild stability

CONS:

  • May be some heel slippage
 

Most Versatile

10. Brooks Ghost 14

The much-beloved Ghost 14 provides good cushion in the heel, a wide base, and a good combination of softness and light energy return.

Take it on the road, walk it around the house, wear it to the store… It can go anywhere comfortably.

What We Like

The Brooks Ghost is a beloved favorite, like comfort food or an old sweater. You can take this shoe out on the road for a hard training session or run it lightly around the block. Either way, your feet will love it.

A chunk of foam in the heel absorbs shock very well, and the wide base adds a kind of stability that’s welcomed on shoes with such a high stack height.

DNA Loft midsole foam offers a balanced mix of softness and light responsiveness. If you want to go for a slightly faster-than-average run, you sure can. On the other hand, if you want to take it easy, it will happily do that too.

Lastly, a segmented crash pad on the outsole helps to disperse your body weight evenly across the foot, taking pressure off the heel and absorbing a bit more impact.

Why We Like It

The heel cushion is a nice mix of firm and comfortably soft, absorbing shock effectively. Another appreciated feature is the wide base, adding stability and security.

What’s New

DNA Loft foam has been extended throughout the whole midsole, and a tweak to the 3D Fit Print upper helps to get a firmer lockdown. That’s all!

PROS:

  • Great blend of cushioning and support
  • Roomier fit in the forefoot
  • Wide, stable platform
  • Excellent traction on most surfaces

CONS:

  • Fairly heavy shoe
 

Buyers Guide – Running Shoes for Heel Strikers

Here’s what you should be looking for when shopping for the best shoes for heel strikers.

High Heel Drop

If you land on your heel when you run, you want a nice, padded heel for protection. It makes sense, though, that a high heel-to-toe drop would be the better choice.

A heel drop of 8mm and above is ideal, as it ensures a good chunk of foam below the heel to absorb shock when you land. Anything less than that isn’t going to offer as much protection and impact absorption.

A high heel drop also takes some pressure off the heel, which can be very helpful if you already suffer from heel pain.

Supportive Heel

As well as cushioning in the foot, the shoe should have some kind of support in the heel. If your heel hits the ground first, it needs to be as stable as possible.

A solid heel counter is always good to see, as is a deep heel cup and any other stability features that provide extra compression and structure in the heel.

Beveled Heel

A beveled heel is when there’s a slight angle at the point of impact on the heel. Instead of the shoe’s heel simply being straight, it looks like it’s indented, or like a piece has been sliced off.

This is actually a helpful feature for heel strikers. It helps to absorb shock as the foot lands more naturally and not as hard as it would in a shoe without a beveled heel.

A segmented crash pad, or a heel that’s separated from the rest of the outsole by a flex groove, is also a good idea. It allows it to move more naturally.

Cushioning

A high heel-to-toe drop doesn’t help much if there isn’t good cushioning under the heel. A lot of force goes into a foot strike, so it needs a decent bit of padding under the heel to absorb all that impact and protect the foot.

It’s up to you whether you prefer soft cushioning or firmer padding. They both absorb shock, as long as there’s a good sized bit of foam under the heel area.

FAQs

Not sure about heel striking? Here are some of the most common questions we get and their answers.

What Is a Heel Striker? What Are the Other Types?

A heel striker is someone whose heel lands on the ground first when they run. The other types of strikers are midfoot strikers and forefoot strikers.

What Causes Heel Striking?

Some people just heel strike naturally. It’s not necessarily a case of something specific causing it – for many, it’s just how their body works.

The knee extends more than other types of strikers, so when the foot lands, it’s out in front of the body. This naturally means that the heel lands first.

What Are the Benefits of Heel Striking?

While heel striking doesn’t necessarily have specific benefits, it also doesn’t really have disadvantages over other foot strikes. Let’s put it this way – changing from a heel strike to a midfoot or forefoot strike won’t give you any added benefits.

Heel striking gets a bad rap, but it’s really not a bad thing. Which is great news, considering the majority of us are heel strikers!

Shanna Powell

Shanna Powell

Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.

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