New Balance 980
Just because you prefer a highly cushioned shoe doesn’t mean your footwear needs to feel like a block of wood. The 980 is lively and still protective. “The weight is what you would expect from a traditional trainer, but it feels lighter on your foot—not at all cumbersome or heavy,” said one tester. And the unique foam used in the sole creates a natural feel. Several testers reported that the 980 has a smooth ride that seems responsive and never mushy, especially compared to equally robust trainers. The forefoot has a tight fit—the toe box snugly presses down on the foot. The rear of the shoe, however, holds the foot more loosely. Runners looking for subtle corrective stability will appreciate the laterally firm sole that prevents arch collapse without over-correcting.
Skechers GoRun Ultra
Think of this shoe as a very soft-soled version of a speed-and-distance shoe hybrid. Its weight feels very low, yet the cushioning, not the mass, is the most noticeable feature during runs. “This shoe feels like running on pillows,” described one tester. “It’s soft, cushioned, absorbent and comfortable, but not exactly speedy.” Thick and forgiving padding encourages a delicate landing. Some testers enjoyed the extreme cushioning and still felt light in the shoe, but others thought the sole was too soft. To lock the foot in place, be ready to tightly cinch the laces down and accept some gentle pressure on the arch.