When it comes to running, a great experience starts at your feet, and understanding the difference in the types of running shoes out there is key to unlocking that potential. After several years where minimalist shoes that mimicked barefoot or natural running were all the rage, there has recently been a major shift towards more underfoot cushioning along with the emergence of a category called maximalism.
So, should you go for the max?
Maximalists feature a big, thick mid-sole with lots of cushioning like the original, Hoka One One. These shoes include design features that stem from the minimalist trend; a lower heel to toe drop and often a natural foot shape as well, which really just means they have a wider, more accommodating forefoot that mimics the shape of the foot. Maximalists descended from ultra-running (longer than marathon distance, often over variable terrain) where foot protection is particularly important. Maximalist running shoes are for those looking for more cushioning and protection: likely, high-mileage runners.
For many runners today who are pounding the pavement, minimalist shoes are best for those who are biomechanically efficient and/or running shorter distances. Designed to mimic barefoot running, minimalist shoes are light and flexible, however, they may not be sturdy enough for many runners, as they lack the cushioning and support found in more mainstream shoes.
While extra cushioning may sound dreamy, maximalist shoes may not end up being a fit for every runner. What is right for you will ultimately depend on a range of factors, from what type and distance running you’ll be doing to your gait. For those runners opting for all of this great cushioning technology from our favorite brands, we’ve rounded up some of our top picks below.