What's the best way to run? For many proponents of “good form running”, proper running—fast, injury free, and efficient running—means avoiding heel striking and landing on the middle of the foot. Landing on your mid-food or forefoot, good form advocates say, softens the strike's impact to your body, whereas heel striking generates a greater shock to your heels, Achilles, and ankles. Many other runners and exercise physiologists say that there's no conclusive evidence that heel striking is detrimental.
Most shoe brands understand that the vast majority of runners instinctively strike the ground with their heels. As a result, brands build in heel support, plenty of cushioning, and design great heel-to-toe response systems that soften a heel striker's impact. The following shoes are great for runners who are heel-strikers: they absorb shock, extend the life of the shoe, and ensure that even the most egregious heel strikers can run, mile after mile.
Neutral (arch only slightly collapses with each stride)
Like the Adidas Energy Boost, the Ghost wasn't designed specifically for heel strikers. But that doesn't mean it's not a great shoe for those that strike with their heels. Brooks' DNA cushioning technology and Caterpillar Crash Pad allow for a responsive, heel-to-toe transition. Add in a soft inner and a very durable outsole, and you have a great shoe that feels great on every heel strike.
Find the best deal on the Brooks Ghost, MSRP: $120
The Wave Rider—like all Mizuno shoes with its wave plate technology—is built with the heel striker in mind. The wave plate, which sits underneath the body of the shoe, absorbs heavy landing (i.e heel striking) by distributing the shock across the body of the shoe. The result? A great shoe that even the most aggressive heel striker can run in. While heel strike often cuts down the useful life of a shoe, the Wave Rider is exceptionally durable: if you're a relatively lightweight heel striker runner, you can get at least 550 miles in them.
Find the best deal on the Mizuno Wave Rider, MSRP: $120
After devoting millions to researching and developing a springy midsole technology, Adidas launched their signature Boost technology in 2013 with the Adidas Energy Boost. The Boost, and its eponymous shoe, has been a hit ever since. The Energy Boost works great for heel strikers, even though it wasn't designed exclusively for such an audience. The shoe's for-motion decoupled heel system makes for an adaptable running style and a very easy heel-to-toe stride transition; the torsion system uses (and this is from the manufacturer) a “wishbone shaped thermoplastic unit,” which basically just allows some more independent mobility between the front of the shoe and back of the shoe, helping heel strikers land easier. More important than any technical feature, this shoe just feels great: we named it our number one running shoe for neutral runners in another post.
Find the best deal on the Adidas Energy Boost, MSRP $180
Moderate/Severe Over Pronators (arch collapses with each stride)
The bestselling running shoe for almost every running store in the country (and ShoeKicker's number one stability shoe), the Brooks Adrenaline works incredibly well for heel strikers. Made with Brooks' signature DNA cushioning technology and BioMoGo foam, the Adrenaline helps absorb nearly every heel strike blow. Like its neutral counterpart the Ghost, it also has a Caterpillar Crash pad that helps increase cushioning and stability to make for an easy heel-to-toe transition. The Adrenaline isn't just one of the best shoes for heel strikers, it's one of the best shoes ever made.
Find the best deal on the Brooks Adrenaline, MSRP $120
Yes, we have two Mizuno shoes in a row. The Wave Paradox is for the runner who needs a bit more stability than what the Wave Inspire offers. Like all Mizuno wave shoes, the Pardox's wave plate works exceptionally well for heel strikers. But this shoe also has an extremely comfortable mesh upper, plenty of cushion (at least for Mizuno's traditionally firm shoes), and a blown rubber that permits for even more high mileage than the average Mizuno sneaker. You can easily get 600 miles in the Wave Paradox.
Find the best deal on the Mizuno Wave Paradox, MSRP $135
Thanks to its famous gel cushioning under the heel, the Asics Gel-Kayano works for even the most extreme heel strikers and especially for those needing plenty of stability. And the newest Kayano, now version 22, is the best yet. With a re-engineered heel counter to provide a more secure, adaptive fit, the average heel striker will barely know when they're hitting the ground. Coupled with a superbly plush feel, the Kayano is the perfect shoe for someone who wants plenty of cushioning and plenty stability.
Find the best deal on the Asics Gel-Kayano, MSRP $160
The Inspire is not just ShoeKicker's CEO's favorite shoe (and the shoe that helped launch ShoeKicker) but it's also one of the bestselling stability shoes in the country. Like its sibling shoe the Wave Rider, the Wave Inspire's extended wave plate absorbs the shock from a heel strike, distributing it evenly throughout the shoe. This not only helps reduce the jolt to the body, but it helps preserve the life of the shoe.
Find the best deal on the Mizuno Wave Inspire, MSRP $120
Supinator (lands on outside of foot)
The most cushioned shoe from Saucony, the Triumph ISO is an incredibly plush, smooth shoe that works great for the heavy heel striker. Featuring EVERUN, Saucony's cushioning compound that distributes force throughout the shoe, the Triumph prevents the heel from taking the brunt of the impact. The shoe has a great fit, Saucony's famous POWERGRID cushioning, and feels incredibly responsive for such a cushioned shoe. The Triumph is durable and, even for aggressive heel strikers, you can get 500 miles in this shoe. If you're a supinator who lands on their heel, this shoe is golden.
Find the best deal on the Saucony Triumph ISO, MSRP $150
The Asics Gel-Nimbus is the neutral and supinator version of the Gel-Kayano. With an almost laughable amount of cushioning—you will feel like you're wearing marshmallows on your feet—the Nimbus will almost certainly be the softest shoe you ever try on. Add in the rearfootGel that sits underneath the heel and there is plenty of cushioning to reduce the shock of heel striking. If you're a neutral runner or supinator runner seeking max cushioning and max softness, this is definitely your shoe.
Find the best deal on the Asics Gel-Nimbus, MSRP $160
The most cushioned neutral shoe from the sports giant, the Nike Air Zoom Vomero is incredibly soft and incredibly light. Made with Nike's signature Lunarlon midsole, the Vomero adds extra cushioning underneath the heel with its Zoom Air impact protection. Unlike many highly cushioned shoes, the Vomero is light (only 10 oz for the men's size 9) and feels springy, meaning it's great for both faster runs and slower days.
Find the best deal on the Nike Air Zoom Vomero, MSRP $140