Sneakers are many things to many people—from professional athletes who need the latest tech to the sneakerhead who stacks boxes high just to have a few pairs on ice. But one defining aspect is that they represent comfort in a field full of uncomfortable footwear.
But finding a sneaker that stays secure without being overly tight, offers all-day support that won’t fade and doesn’t feel like a sweatbox is not an easy task. Not to mention, our feet contain about one quarter of all the bones in the human body, and arch height, foot width and pressure points vary wildly. Point being: not every sneaker will be comfortable for every person.
With that in mind however, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most comfortable sneakers on the market that you should consider picking up right now.
New Balance in general is at the crest of the dad sneaker trend, but its reputation for comfort is not a passing fad. The 990’s firm rubber midsole is supportive and props your heels up. A soft encapsulated EVA insert provides cushioning and the mesh panels on the upper keep things breathable. They might look like they were made for chubby white guys, but that’s worth the sacrifice.
The Nike Air Force 1’s comfort fresh out of the box is questionable, but after a couple of wears, it’s undeniable. The substantial sole doesn’t degrade and contains a hidden Air pocket for all-day comfort. While they’re a bit on the heavier side, they aren’t so clunky they become obstructive. For under $100, you can’t ask for much more.
Nike’s response — or reaction? — to the success of adidas’ Boost, the Epic React Flyknit comes from the brand’s extensive running legacy. The new React foam is firm, but responsive, and the Flyknit upper is sock-like without being too flimsy. The result is a pair that feels equally comfortable whether you’re setting records on the track or running errands on a weekend.
While Nike’s Vaporfly series was engineered to break the two-hour marathon mark, the Zoom Fly SP leans more toward lifestyle. It still has the signature pointed heel and built-in carbon fiber-nylon plate to spring you forward, but the crazy lightweight ripstop upper and hefty Lunarlon sole make for casual shoe that looks fast.
At this point, adidas’ enormously successful crossover hit is more known for its everyday comfort than the promise of better running when it debuted in 2013. The sneaker really speaks for itself: a full-length Boost midsole with durable rubber treads and a tight Primeknit upper that ensures a secure, but breathable ride, making the Ultra Boost a more than reliable choice.
For a less sporty, but still springy sneaker, look to the Pure Boost. The low-profile shape and knit upper has a double-folded tongue that doesn’t shift and the beefy Boost sole is as comfortable as advertised.
Slip-ons come equipped with 40 years of history behind them. The canvas construction is light, the lack of laces means no undue stress on your feet’s pressure points and the signature waffle soles can take a beating. But the most important element here is the Ultracush sockliner, which builds a strong case for wearing Slip-ons every single day when the weather is warm enough.
There’s a reason ASICS uses its signature GEL technology on so many of its sneakers. For the casual set, there are few better choices than the Gel Lyte V. The built-in neoprene sock liner, thoroughly cushioned soles and layers of material that don’t pinch any joints or nerves make these a go-to.
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On the more technical side of the Gel universe, the Gel Quantum 360 brings crazy cushioning to every inch of the shoe, plus a SOLYTE midsole compound that is lighter than most other foams. With a stretchy mesh upper that comes in a variety of multi-colored looks, the Gel Quantum 360 is comfort personified, even if you aren’t running full-speed.
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Runners can be a hard crowd to satisfy. Small differences in gait, arch and foot width can quickly mean different experiences from the same shoe, but the Bondi 5 has met (most of) their rigorous demands. The huge EVA foam midsole and beveled heel helps with everyday activity for serious runners or anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet.
There’s a reason the One Stars have become so popular among skateboarders. The suede upper stands up to most wear and conforms to your feet, the hard rubber soles break in quickly and the Lunarlon liners are worth any extra price of admission, and (pro tip) can be swapped into pretty much any other pair you’d like.
Most sneaker brands have their own cushioning tech and for Saucony, it’s GRID (Ground Reaction Inertia Device), which acts like a hidden matrix of strings layered into the midsole. Think of it like more comfortable tennis racket wires. Paired with a built-in bootie (and an agreeable price point) the Grid 9000 is budget- and foot-friendly.
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While Brooks offers some lifestyle sneakers, a few of its running models can easily cross the aisle. The Launch 5 is a lightweight running shoe that doesn’t look the part of bulkier, technical runners thanks to its low-profile sole and airy upper. Its extra padded ankle collar ensures an additional layer of comfort, and the variety of colorways doesn’t hurt either.
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The Trigenic Flex is one hybrid style shoe we can get behind. The upper doesn’t scream sneaker, but the paneled Vibram sole moves with the intricacies our feet demand. Like most Clarks models, they take a bit of break-in, but the second-skin nature of the upper and “barefoot” structure should keep your feet feeling good.
Reebok may be the brand of choice for avid Crossfit athletes, but the Classics are where to find comfort designed for everyday wear. The Workout Plus doesn’t boast any game-changing foam or cushioning technology, but the balance of padding around the interior and ankle collar along with a no-frills sole unit show that the ‘80s classic has 2018 comfort.