Let’s make one thing clear, right up front: there is no single “correct” way to run. While many coaches and elite athletes will encourage you to strike the ground with either your forefoot or your midfoot, there are countless runners–masses of casual athletes and even a few elites–who contact the ground heel-first. This is called “heel striking.”
In theory, striking heel-first slows you down. By throwing your leg too far out in front of you, with your foot impacting the ground while the leg is still in a forward position, contrary to the direction of your motion, you apply a braking motion to your gait, robbing you of speed and efficiency. In practice, however, heel striking can be caused by a number of factors, and not all of them slow you down. What heel striking does do is put extra strain and impact forces on your heel and ankle. Over time, this can lead to problems.
Take a look at the bottom of a well-used pair of running shoes. Where is it worn smooth? If the answer in on the heel, then you are very likely heel striking. Not to worry! There are shoes designed just for runners like you. With extra cushioning and soles shaped to rock you forward, smoothly transitioning your stride to your toes, shoes for heel strikers can still help you grab that shiny PR and who knows…even grab a place in the local 5k.
Ready for a new pair of shoes? These are some of the best running shoes for heel strikers.
Top 3 Products Section
1. Brooks Glycerin 17
The Brooks Glycerin 17 is a cushioned, neutral shoe (this term refers to pronation). Because of its high cushioning, it works well for heel strikers. The heel-to-toe drop is 11.8 mm, giving you plenty of padding when you land. This can also be more comfortable for people with tight Achilles tendons or plantar fasciitis.
These shoes incorporate Brooks’ DNA Loft foam, which has more air in it than previous versions. This makes for a lighter, more responsive shoe. It’s also a little springier than it used to be.
You’ll transition easily from heel to toe, propelling yourself through your gait with minimal effort. The grooves in the outsole help with this transition and let your foot flex as needed. The turned-up toe rolls you right into your next step.
Even though these shoes have plenty of cushion, they don’t feel clunky. You’ll connect with the road and move forward with ease.
The outsole has HPR Plus rubber on the heel. This abrasive material provides added protection and shock-absorption where you need it most, and helps delay the inevitable heel-wear than heel strikers see at the backs of their shoes.
- High heel-to-toe drop
- Great traction
- Smooth ride
- Take a long time to dry
- Insole may shift if it gets too moist
2. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36
A true running icon, and a classic shoe. For good reason: the Nike Pegasus, now in its 36th edition, works well for many runners, including heel strikers. Featuring a 10mm toe drop, this running shoe offers good balance for heel strikers who don’t want too much lift in the back of their foot. They feel natural and provide a quickness that more cushioned shoes may not offer.
If you’ve struggled with finding the perfect fit around your ankle in the past, you might enjoy the cushioned collar of the Pegasus 36. It is angled away from the Achilles and stays snug without feeling tight. These won’t rub on your heel like previous models may have.
Nike’s Zoom Air technology provides low-profile cushioning that remains responsive. When your foot touches down, tensile fibers compress, absorbing shock and springing back to return the energy for your push-off. It feels snappy, helping you move quickly.
The upper has also been redesigned with more breathable mesh. The bottom eyelet has been moved up, giving you more room in the toe box.
The Zoom Air unit extends through the length of this shoe, giving you a smooth transition as your foot rolls along the ground. You’ll get good propulsion no matter how your foot lands.
- Affordable daily trainer
- Low-profile, shock-absorbing cushioning
- Ideal for wide or narrow feet
- Breathable upper is easy to clean
- Cushion foam gets too soft in hot weather
- Midsole foam may break down easily with high mileage
3. ASICS Gel-Nimbus 21
This is a balanced, neutral running shoe with a drop that will suit heel strikers. It fits like a traditional running shoe, although it offers more cushion than some traditional sneakers. It’s comparable to the Brooks Glycerin.
This version is lighter than previous models. Even with an updated cushioning system, these running shoes feel firm and supportive. The gel in the forefoot and heel might feel even harder in cold weather.
The toe box is tapered, which might not be ideal for wide feet. You can size up, although there’s already plenty of room in the length. It should be noted that the heel drop is 10mm.
Heel strikers should appreciate the Guidance Line that runs along the sole. This groove improves the shift from heel strike to toe off.
The arch support is nominal, making it ideal for those with a neutral foot position or slight over-pronators. It’s also quite stable, which can help you maintain alignment, but might feel clunky if you prefer a more responsive experience.
- Improved forefoot fit in upper
- Durable for a long lifespan
- Ideal for narrow feet
- Firm for a plush trainer
- Firmness increases in cold weather
4. Hoka One One Bondi 6
One line of argument with heel striking says that you should build up the heel to provide cushioning. The logical end of this reasoning is Hoka One One, the undisputed champion of maximal shoe cushioning. The midsole on the Bondi 6 is colossal, providing for great shock absorption throughout the shoe. Even though it works well for people who strike the ground with any part of their foot, this shoe features an early fulcrum point that shifts the pressure away from the heel quickly. This results in a balanced roll from heel to toe, making it feel surprisingly quick.
Another line of argument says that heel-strikers should wear shoes with a lower drop, which will force them more toward a mid-foot stride. Well, in that case, the Bondi is still a great choice. With a heel-to-toe drop of only 4mm (which is fairly standard for the Hoka One One line), it’s not a zero-drop shoe, but it’s not that far off. The low drop helps rock your foot from back to front, making up for the less-than-bouncy feel that all the cushioning gives you.
People who loved the softness of previous models might find the 6 a little firmer. It still offers plenty of plushness, though. In fact, it features more cushion than any other Hoka running shoe.
Lycra has been added to the heel of the shoe to cup the heel better. The notch at the heel provides added flexibility.
This shoe is supportive from the heel to the midfoot, and opens up somewhat in the toe box. It’s great for people who want to splay out their toes as they run.
- Cushioning is durable and doesn’t compress easily
- Incredibly comfortable, snug heel
- Early fulcrum point creates an effortless transition
- Mesh could be more breathable
- Low heel-to-toe drop (for many this is a con; for others, it’s a pro)
5. Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14
This is another running shoe with a comfortable heel drop of 10mm. It also features Zoom Air units to provide extra shock absorption under the heel. It’s actually Nike’s softest trainer, and it is versatile for any sport or surface.
The cushion through the midsole is slightly firmer, enabling you to move rapidly to toe-off. Even so, these running shoes are soft to log many miles. The sole is designed with pressure mapping, offering you optimal comfort.
The circular knit design is an upgrade from previous models. This is supposed to make the shoes more breathable, but it feels quite thick.
Nike’s Flywire technology acts like a suspension bridge for your foot. It gives you plenty of support while keeping the shoe lightweight.
Some testers say that this can create hot spots and give them blisters, though. The comfort and fit should improve as you break in these shoes.
- Decent traction
- Competitively priced high-mileage shoe
- Narrow toe box might give you blisters
6. ASICS Gel-Kayano 26
These stability shoes with a 10mm drop and rigid heel are ideal for everyday use. The padded collar around the heel is extremely comfortable.
A TPU cup adds structure to the heel and supports the ankle. This acts as motion control, which keeps your heel where it’s supposed to be, and prevents blisters.
The cushioning is made with a combination of FlyteFoams and gels, making this shoe soft underfoot. There is also a TPU plate in the midfoot to add support and rigidity. The Ortholite footbeds enhance the soothing feel.
Making these even more luxurious, the ASICS Gel-Kayano 26 features a plush sock liner. The mesh upper is also stretchy enough to feel secure without creating pressure points.
Although these shoes are heavy for daily runs, they’re durable. You might find that you reach for them over and over again because they’re just that comfortable. That’s fine, because they’re made to last.
- Incredibly comfortable
- Soft sock liner
- Good rigidity and support
- Heavy for daily trainers
- Many layers of materials detract from a smooth transition
7. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19
With considerable cushioning and generous arch support, the Adrenaline GTS 19 is comfortable and supportive.
Redesigned with guide rails in place of traditional support found in other stability shoes, this model provides support when a runner needs it. If you over-pronate a little, it provides just enough support. If you over-pronate more, it will give you more support. Guide rails also make the shoe lighter and allow for better wear in the midsole.
The Adrenaline has a high heel drop of 12mm. This is ideal for heel strikers who want cushioning instead of stride correction, but that height of heel could feel bulky if you land on your midfoot or toes.
The streamlined mesh upper has few overlays, which means that it’s less likely to rub your feet and give you blisters. The shoe is true to size and ideal for average feet that aren’t too narrow.
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 is softer than the 18, featuring Brooks’ new DNA Loft foam. Loft foam is soft and cushioning – but weighs less than standard EVA foam.
That being said, this is not a mushy running shoe. It has that Goldilocks just-right feel. It’s flexible while being supportive, and it offers control without being too sluggish.
- Customized support fits more types of runners
- Good arch support
- Stabilizes heel
- Fairly stiff shoe
- Toe box is shallower than the previous model
8. Mizuno Wave Rider 22
The highlight of the Mizuno Wave Rider 22 is the wave plate design that reduces impact while helping you keep a spring in your step–and that spring is important when transitioning from a forward-reaching heel strike to toe-off. The midsole in this edition has been modified for a softer ride and smoother transitions. The 12mm heel-to-toe drop works well for heel strikers.
This shoe isn’t exceptionally cushioned, but it does feel comfortable. Even so, this model continues to get softer with every new edition.
Grooves in the sole provide smooth transitions. This helps the shoe maintain flexibility.
The engineered mesh upper runs the full length of the shoe. It’s extremely breathable and adapts to your foot shape.
However, there is a nylon liner at the top of the forefoot inside the shoe, which blocks some ventilation. It may reduce friction, though.
This shoe is ideal for neutral runners who want something that they can wear every day. It’s versatile and supportive without being too soft or too stiff.
- Standard weight
- Responsive midsole
- Breathable, adaptive upper
- Might have to size up due to narrow toe box
9. Brooks Ghost 12
Runner’s World says that the Brooks Ghost 12 is the ideal shoe for new runners and long runs. We’ll add heel strikers to that list. This neutral sneaker offers ample cushioning, a quick ride, and a 12mm heel-to-toe drop.
The midsole has been revamped. Now, it’s just as soft as it always was, but it feels lighter and more responsive. It didn’t actually make the shoe weigh less, but it feels bouncier, improving on the bulkiness that many users complained about in previous versions.
One of the benefits of the upgraded midsole is that it absorbs shock better than before. This is helpful for heel strikers. Impact is dispersed effectively, giving you a smooth, fast transition from heel to toe.
These shoes offer a deep grip, giving you plenty of traction. They can handle a variety of surfaces, including blacktop, grass, dirt and tame trails.
The upper has been updated with more stretch and structure. This helps it fit like a glove.
- Better traction than the average road shoe
- Roomy interior
- More flexible than previous versions
- Offers less stability than previous model
10. Hoka One One Clifton 5
Never was there a heel strike that couldn’t be absorbed by a Hoka One One midsole. Their Clifton 5s offer a great deal of cushion without detracting from your speed. They’re great trainers for recovery days. Although they’re heavy, they’re not bulky, and they’re soft but not too squishy.
This new model features a firmer heel, which may help you if that’s where you tend to strike; the firmness helps the shoe rock your foot forward toward the toe. Another update is streamlined mesh, which continues to provide support without extraneous overlays.
Like most Hokas, these running shoes don’t have a high heel-to-toe drop. However, the flatter profile still works for heel strikers because of the substantial cushion.
One piece of EVA foam underfoot creates nice transitions and helps your foot stay in the center of the shoe. Therefore, this is a good stability shoe that will help you stay aligned.
The minimal amount of rubber on the sole reduces the weight of the shoe. However, some runners are concerned about the durability.
The foam that makes up most of the sole wears away over time. But there is plenty of it, so the Clifton is still a great shoe that will help you float through many, many miles.
- Plush and comfortable
- Rolls easily through your stride
- Not especially responsive
- Lacks flexibility