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6 best men's running shoes in 2023, according to a competitive distance runner

Sneakers come in all shapes and sizes. On training runs, you can't go wrong with the following staples.

split screen of man wearing t-shirt and black shorts running in neon yellow running shoes on pavement against water, close up of man wearing orange ombre on sneakers running shoes, best running shoes review
I'm a competitive runner — here are six men's running shoes I approve of (photos via author).

I have been running competitively and entering races for more than a decade, which is enough time to hear my share of half-truths and downright myths about which kinds of running shoes are best. Big chunkies, small speedies, and even no shoes at all spent some time in vogue since I ran my first steps. I’ve even lived through the toe shoe era of the early 2010s that ended in blisters, shin splints and a class-action lawsuit led by banged-up runners against Vibram and their esoteric FiveFingers.

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Varying opinions about which kicks are king can make it tricky to shop for sneakers. That’s especially true nowadays, as new, bulky, carbon-laden competition shoes sworn to make people four per cent faster and valued at more than $300, like the Nike Zoom Alphafly Flyknit 2 or the Adidas Adios Pro 3, have pervaded the market. While I recommend investing in a pair of those super-shoes for races only, it’s rather mid-sized, classic sneakers that will get you through your everyday training runs without breaking the bank.

Here are the six pairs of sneakers that help me stay healthy and fit as I build towards summer races — and that could also help you prepare for yours.

New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 V13

man wearing neon yellow running shoes on pavement, New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 V13 sneakers in yellow
New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 V13

Need to know:

  • Neutral shoe

  • Weight: 10.6 oz

  • Heel to toe drop: 10 mm

Don’t be tripped up by the name, which sounds like it could belong to Elon’s next child. The Fresh Foam X 880 V13 is a mouthful precisely because it’s the latest iteration of a long line reliable trainers, which I’ve been using since New Balance rolled out their plush-yet-bouncy Fresh Foam midsoles in 2014. I like the 880s because they are in the goldilocks zone of responsiveness: springy enough to pick up the pace on training runs – while having enough cushion to wear them every day without developing aches and pains. This year’s version is bolstered with an NDurance rubber outsole that guards it against wear and tear, and a padded collar and tongue that make them the most comfortable shoes on this list. One thing to look out for: The 880 toe box feels a bit narrower than those of its competitors, so I recommend testing out various widths before purchasing.

Men's Fresh Foam X 880v13 shoes in cosmic pineapple.
$180 at New Balance

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V12

man wearing grey running shoes New Balance 1080 V12 on sidewalk near grass, running shoes review
New Balance 1080 V12

Need to know:

  • Neutral shoe

  • Weight: 10.7 oz

  • Heel to toe drop: 8 mm

As you read on, you will realize that I am generally brand-agnostic when it comes to running shoes. That being said, I have spent periods of time wearing New Balance only, and found great consistency in my training when alternating between the 880 and its close cousin, the 1080. The differences between both shoes are minimal: This version brings your heel closer to the ground and has an extra layer of cushioning, and yet the difference in weight is too slight to notice. I prefer the 1080 to the 880 for tempo runs — especially on hot days — because of its lightweight and breathable Hypoknit upper half. The 1080 also has a slightly curved sole, which rocks you forward and allows for an extra edge.

Men's Fresh Foam X 1080v12 in ocean grey.
$200 at New Balance

Brooks Ghost 15 

Brooks Ghost 15
Brooks Ghost 15

Need to know:

  • Neutral shoe

  • Weight: 9.1 oz

  • Heel to toe drop: 12 mm

The Ghost 15s are the only sneakers on this list that I’ve bought for myself and for my 57-year-old mother at once. The company’s flagship training shoe may be a plush fan favourite for walkers, but don’t let that fool you: It’s also one of the most tested and refined running shoes out there. I particularly enjoy these kicks for long runs, because I find their snug heel helps prevent a loss of form — like ankles rolling inwards in pronation or outwards in supination — when I get tired. This year’s version again boasts Brooks’ DNA Loft cushioning in the midsole, and between that and its 12mm heel to toe drop, feels as plush as its previous iterations while remaining a bit lighter than its New Balance counterparts.

Men's Brooks Ghost 15 Road Running Shoes in Black/Blackened Pearl
$180 at MEC

Hoka One One Clifton 9

HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 9, man wearing black running shoes
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 9

Need to know:

  • Neutral shoe

  • Weight: 8.7 oz

  • Heel to toe drop: 5mm

Five years ago, a pesky injury kept me out of races for nine months. Around that time, Hoka One One was making fast in-roads in North American running circles, and an increasing number of runners trained with their maximalist, almost clown-sized shoes. Desperate to fix my problem, I gave the Cliftons a try, and my ailment quickly went away. Coincidence? Hard to say, but I have nonetheless kept them in my rotation ever since for a few reasons: First, they have a narrow foot but a wide toe box, which allowed my skinny feet and widely-splayed toes to move naturally through the shoe. Second, while I was hesitant to buy shoes with such a high lift, their small 5mm heel-to-toe drop forced me to fall on my midfoot and clean up my stride. Third, they are shockingly lightweight despite their size, and I wear them for running workouts just as often as for easy runs.

Men's Hoka Clifton 9 in black.
$180 at Hoka

ON Cloudsurfer

man wearing orange running shoes ON Cloudsurfer on sidewalk, ON cloudsurfer running shoes review
ON Cloudsurfer

Need to know:

  • Neutral shoe

  • Weight: 8.6 oz

  • Heel to toe drop: 10mm

I’ll admit that this is the first year that I am training in ON shoes. I chose to add the Cloudsurfer to my lineup because I was curious if the Swiss-based company’s perforated soles, a feature of their unique CloudTec cushioning system, provided as soft a landing as those of its traditional competitors. So far, I’m a fan: The air holes make for a light sneaker with all of the sturdiness of its competitors. The Cloudsurfer strikes a balance between flexibility and integrity that allows it to steamroll over rooted trails and bumpy grass loops without the prospect of its wearer twisting an ankle. They’re like little ATVs for your feet, but that also conceal a deceptively fast gear: Their curved Speedboard in the midsole propel you forward with as much conviction as the 1080s.

Men's Cloudsurfer running shoes in flame/white.
$200 at ON

Asics Novablast 3 

man wearing black ASICS Novablast 3 running shoes, running shoes review, best running shoes asics
ASICS Novablast 3

Need to know:

  • Neutral shoe

  • Weight: 8.0 oz

  • Heel to toe drop: 8mm

The Novablast 3s are not your grandparents’ Asics — they’re not even your dad’s Asics — but a complete deviation from the company’s bulkier, heel-heavy training models of old. Coming in at eight ounces, the Novablast is in fact the lightest shoe on this list. Its 10mm heel to toe drop, plush tongue, and breathable upper mesh makes it a near dead ringer for the New Balance 1080 in terms of feel. Plus, its FlyteFoam Blast midsole provides ample spring for workouts. I love these shoes for progressive runs, in particular: I lean on their cushion and comfort for the first few kilometres, and then their bounce and responsiveness when I crank up the pace. Whether or not you’ve considered yourself an ASICS fan in the past should not matter, because, I repeat, these are nothing like the Nimbus or the Kayanos of old.

ASICS men's Novablast 3 Road Running Shoes in white/piedmont grey.
$190 at Altitude Sports

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