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Finlay McAndrew  •  Running Gear •  18.04.2022 •  6 min read

Should running shoes be soft or firm? – Spring/Summer 2022 options to help you run at your pace

Soft or firm?

At Run4It we stock a range of running shoes from leading brands that offer different levels of cushioning. Certain materials deliver a specific underfoot feel, whether that’s soft, firm or somewhere in the middle. Running shoes are made with different types of cushioning so they suit the range of paces people may run at. This enables runners to pick the type of running shoe that best suits their needs. What one runner may like, might not be the same preference for another. The new Spring/Summer running shoe range at Run4It includes a variety of options for all types of runners. This is our guide to some of the new models and what might be best for you.

“I like to run at a steady pace and usually do a longer run at the weekend”

If you’re running at a consistent pace with the aim of building up your distance or simply getting out a few times a week, a running shoe that offers a balance between cushioning and energy return generally works well. This means the cushioning will feel protective and springy at the same time. Having a good level of cushioning will help reduce the load placed on muscles and joints which is always helpful if you’re running on tired legs or are trying to push a little bit further at the weekend. At the same time, if you want to inject a bit more pace into your run, a running shoe that gives you some energy back will make that feel a bit easier to do.

Running shoes in our Neutral Soft and Stability Soft categories will offer a more cushioned underfoot feel than running shoes in our Neutral Responsive and Stability Responsive categories as they’re firmer and therefore feel springier. Models in each category can share similar characteristics and some models can provide a balance of the two traits. Whether you need a neutral shoe or a stability shoe, here’s some of the best options that provide good cushioning and energy return:

ASICS Gel-Cumulus 23: This popular ASICS model uses a combination of GEL and foam to deliver a protective underfoot feel that’s ideal for slower to steadier paced runs. If you’re looking for a supportive feeling neutral shoe, the Gel-Cumulus is a good option.

ASICS Gel-Nimbus 24: The brand-new model features GEL cushioning with ASICS’ latest cushioning – FlightFoam Blast+. It’s roughly 10% lighter and 15% softer than Blast foam as well as delivering more energy return. This will offer amazing cushioning that feels like it’s propelling you along. 

woman tying running shoe laces

Brooks Ghost 14: Many runners say the Ghost has the perfect combination of softness and responsiveness. The DNA LOFT cushioning provides a padded underfoot feel which is great for longer runs. At the same time, runners who want to push the pace a bit will be pleasantly surprised by the energetic nature of the cushioning.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22: The latest version of one of the most popular running shoes in the running world has a great update. Like the Ghost, it now has a full DNA LOFT midsole so will offer a more cushioned feel than the previous version. The holistic Guide Rail support system (main difference to Ghost) hasn’t been changed and delivers the same level of stability. It’s usually a great option for runners who suffer from knee related problems or who tire later on in runs.

Saucony Ride 15: The new version of the trusted Ride has been made softer, more supportive and significantly lighter. It also features Saucony’s SpeedRoll geometry which helps lower the stress placed on the lower leg. This neutral model will work for a wide range of paces and is a great all-rounder.

Saucony Guide 15: Saucony’s most popular stability shoe has been updated with a new support system which is considerably lighter than the last edition. It’s also more cushioned and delivers a softer underfoot feel. Runners who need a stability shoe but don’t want a heavier underfoot feel should like the updates to the Guide 15.

HOKA Arahi 6: While the cushioning and support stays the same, the new model has a much more premium upper. The upgraded design has shaved a lot of weight but now offers more support. A win-win for runners and fans of the Arahi. The dynamic stability offered by this popular HOKA model works for a wide range of stability levels and is a great option for runners who fatigue later on in runs. The rocker midsole makes slower paced runs feel easier on the knees.

ASICS Novablast 2: Updated in a new colour for this season, it features an ultra-springy FlyteFoam Blast midsole that’s highly cushioned. The unique groove pattern combines with the material to create a trampoline-like effect.

“I want a running shoe that helps me run a bit faster but I still want to feel protected”

Traditionally, running shoes that were designed for faster paces didn’t offer much cushioning and were very firm - the firmness helped increase energy return. This often resulted in runners having sorer legs after their runs, due to the extra load placed on muscles and joints. The evolution in product innovation has led to the development of a range of running shoes that offer great energy return and protection. While these shoes are slightly firmer in nature, which is necessary to improve energy return, they still help to significantly offload the stress placed on muscles and joints. It doesn’t matter what pace you’re running at, if you’re trying to push a bit harder, you may want to try something that helps you along. These are some of our top picks:

HOKA Bondi X: This unique model is a maximum cushioned shoe with a full-length carbon fibre plate. HOKA specifically designed this to help runners, who are targeting a marathon in around 4 hours, go faster. The Bondi X reduces the stress placed on legs while also making running faster feel easier.  

HOKA Carbon X 3 (Expected soon): Designed to be firmer and more responsive than the Bondi X, the new Carbon X has a slightly softer and bouncier cushioning material that sits above a full-length carbon fibre plate. This is best suited to interval sessions and longer tempo efforts in training. It now has a knitted upper to provide a plusher overall feel.

man running along a clear road in the sun in orange running shoes
Adidas Adizero Boston 10: Like many shoes in this category, the Boston 10 features a combination of foam. It utilises Lightstrike Pro (Adidas’ highest energy returning material) which sits underneath the foot on top of a slightly firmer Lightstrike foam. This provides a balance between protection, durability and stability. To enhance energy return, but maintain flexibility, carbon rods are positioned between the two materials. This will work well for steadier paced efforts, all the way to some shorter harder intervals.

ASICS Magic Speed: Rather than having a full-length carbon plate that can feel stiff underfoot at slower paces, the Magic Speed combines a high energy returning foam with a partial carbon plate that sits in the forefoot. This means runners can enjoy a soft landing followed by a propulsive toe-off. For runners who want a shoe that feels forgiving and responsive, the Magic Speed ticks the box.

Nike Zoom Fly 4: Despite having a firm full-length carbon plate, the Zoom Fly feels ultra-cushioned underfoot. The combination of a thick cushioned midsole and curved plate creates a sensation of being pushed along at any pace. Slower to steady paced runs and tempo paced sessions are all made a bit easier thanks to the exceptional energy return. This model tends to work well for runners who struggle with lower leg tightness on faster runs.

Choose running shoes to match the level of effort

Everyone’s running pace may be different, but one commonality is that we all have to put a certain level of effort into a run. That effort may change depending on when we’re running, how far we’re going and what we’re trying to achieve. Choosing a running shoe that matches the effort you’re putting into your runs is always a great plan. You can find other options on and contact us with any shoe-related questions here and we’ll do our best to help!

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