Best Lightweight Running Shoes Compared 2021

Last updated: November 12, 2021

Running Shoes / Best Lightweight Running Shoes Compared 2021

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Lightweight running shoes tend to feel more lightweight and nimble. They are a choice that many runners opt for in shorter races such as a 5K or 10K where your supporting muscle tissue has more wriggle room than a marathon for example.

When looking for the best running shoes for you, there’s so many choices to get your head around and it can often seem confusing. You should check out our page on picking the right running shoes for you if you need any help navigating.

If you however know that you’re deadset on a pair of lightweight running shoes then we’ve compared some of the most popular choices available today and compared them below. If you want more details on what to look out for when buying a pair of lightweight running shoes scroll to the buyers guide towards the bottom of the page where we go into detail a bit more as well as answer the most frequently asked questions lightweight running shoes.

Best Lightweight Running Shoes Compared And Reviewed

Best Overall
Saucony Kinvara 12
Saucony Kinvara 12
Best Durability
New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2
New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2
Best Toe Space
Altra Rivera
Altra Rivera
Shock Absorbing
ASICS MetaRacer
ASICS MetaRacer
Best Support
Brooks Launch GTS 8
Brooks Launch GTS 8

1. Saucony Kinvara 12

Key Features

  • PwrRun midsole and insole
  • FormFit upper
  • Weight: 213g (7.5oz)
  • Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

  • Wider toe box
  • Flexible outsole design
  • Lightweight yet supportive upper
  • Firm midsole for maximum return

Reasons to avoid

  • Uncommonly low drop
  • Minimal outsole can contribute to early wear

Whether it’s interval training, speed work, or long-distance racing, the Saucony Kinvara 12 will blast you through the finish line with its excellent features.

First up, it features an enhanced PwrRun midsole cushioning, which is a mix of polymers and EVA designed to be ultra-responsive. With this kind of firm yet comfortable cushioning, you get maximum energy return for every step.

To help keep you comfortable despite the maximum responsiveness, a soft layer of PwrRun foam insole is also included. As a result, you get a shoe that you can wear regardless if you’re simply doing your daily run or striving to win a medal.

The upper deserves some admiration as well. It features a seamless, lightweight mesh designed with FormFit technology to conform to the shape of your feet properly. It’s firm and supportive, but not restrictive, and the toe box is even roomier than previous versions. It’s also lightly padded, so you can rest easy in the amount of comfort that you get.

The outer sole features only a sparse amount of rubber cover. Not only does this make the shoes more flexible but also allows them to be lighter. However, this particular attribute can easily work against its favor – you won’t be able to use it on off-road trails or you risk premature wear.

You should also keep in mind that this shoe has an uncommonly low drop. At 4mm, it’s far from what traditional speedwork shoes have, so it might take some getting used to.

That said, speed and versatility are what make the Saucony Kinvara 12 shine, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for in this list of the best lightweight running shoes.

2. New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2

Key Features

  • FuelCell midsole
  • Re-engineered upper
  • Weight: 204g (7.2 oz)
  • Drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

  • Comfortable
  • High energy returns
  • Highly compressible midsole
  • Outsole provides good traction
  • Lightweight and breathable upper

Reasons to avoid

  • Toe box region is not durable
  • Doesn’t have any kind of support
  • Specialized for sprints and speed work

A curious blend of high energy return and plush comfort, the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 is for light runners who are looking to add sprints and uptempo runs to their repertoire.

Unlike other speed-oriented lines of New Balance, such as the Beacon and the Tempo, which are built on Fresh Foam midsoles, the FuelCell Rebel v2 is built on a FuelCell midsole. This provides a highly compressible, squishy sensation that energetically ‘explodes’ with every liftoff, giving you a bouncy yet smooth ride.

Compared to the previous version, the segmented outsole is sturdier and grippier. The company also revamped the Rebel v2’s upper. The heel is well supported, and the midfoot section also locks in. Other than that, though, there’s not much else to the upper at all except for the lightweight, breathable mesh.

This revamped upper might be its greatest weakness, though. Although light and airy, the material doesn’t provide much in the way of support. The toe box is also liable to tear after some time with how thin it is.

Also, the shoes are specialized for fast, snappy running, and any other type of running will likely feel awkward and clumsy.

Due to its specific nature, it’s best to run in the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 only if you’re chasing down the seconds.

3. Altra Rivera

Key Features

  • Altra EGO midsole
  • InnerFlex support grids
  • FootShape upper
  • FootPod tech outsole
  • Bio Heel technology
  • Balanced Cushioning
  • Weight: 257 g (9.1 oz)
  • Drop: 0mm

Reasons to buy

  • Thick neutral midsole
  • Helps improve running form
  • Padded yet lightweight interior
  • Conforms to your heel and midfoot region
  • Specialized fit for men and women

Reasons to avoid

  • Expensive
  • Zero drop shoes are not for everyone
  • Slightly smaller toe box compared to other Altra shoes

If you’re looking for a speed-oriented yet well-balanced zero-drop shoe for your daily runs, look no further than the Altra Rivera.

Zero-drop shoes may not be for everyone, but for the firm believer and the curious, the Altra Rivera is an example of what the best of it can achieve. These types of shoes are made to promote a more natural gait, and the Rivera does that with its Balanced Cushioning technology, which keeps all parts of your foot at equal distance to the ground.

More than that, this shoe also features a grid-like, Neutral InnerFlex midsole technology to provide more flexibility. At the same time, it allows better weight distribution through the FootPod technology. Meanwhile, the Bio-Heel technology is designed to be a perfect mold for your heel, adding stability and preventing joint movement.

The upper is also designed for maximum natural performance. Altra shoes use FootShape technology specifically made to cater to the biological differences between men’s and women’s feet. The interior is also padded and comfortable without taking away from the lightness of the shoe.

Though, as previously mentioned, zero-drop running is not for everyone, and it might not be for you. You should be sure that you’re up for the experience, especially since these shoes are expensive. If you’re an Altra fan, be prepared for a slightly narrower toe box compared to their other shoes.

Aside from those minor issues, the Altra Rivera is a comfortable, supportive, and lightweight shoe that would be a great addition to your daily running wear.

4.  ASICS MetaRacer

Key Features

  • AsicsGrip and WetGrip outsole
  • FlyteFoam midsole
  • Guidesole toe spring
  • Weight: 190g (6.7oz)
  • Drop: 9mm

Reasons to buy

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Improved energy transfers
  • Specially designed to wick water
  • Maximum, all-weather traction outsole
  • Carbon fiber plate for impact absorption

Reasons to avoid

  • Expensive
  • Not durable
  • Rigid with minimal cushioning

If you’re looking for a firm, responsive, and lightweight workhorse shoe that you can use for your everyday, all-weather speedwork, the Asics MetaRacer is for you.

The MetaRacer features a more responsive, firmer FlyteFoam sole that stays in tip-top shape even after heavy use thanks to the mixture of organic fibers that mitigates compression. It also has Guidesole technology, which calls for a stiffer and more pronounced toe spring for better energy transfer.

More than that, this shoe is also made for training under any weather. The sturdy upper is specially designed to wick water, and the outsole features dual AsicsGrip and Wet Grip technology to provide top-notch traction on any surfaces, wet or dry.

The seamless engineered mesh upper also features a comfortably padded collar and a firm heel counter to help keep you stable and comfortable. To top it all off, the carbon fiber plate ensures that your feet are protected from the brunt of impacts.

Undoubtedly made for speed and performance, the MetaRacer has somewhat questionable durability. The cushioning wears out easily, which is unfortunate since it sits on the pricier end of the scale. Some runners might also dislike the rigidity of the FlyteFoam rubber used.

Minor inconveniences aside, however, the Asics MetaRacer is definitely a great option for those looking for the best lightweight running shoes.

5. Brooks Launch GTS 8

Key Features

  • Supportive GTS version
  • BioMoGo DNA midsole
  • Air-injected rubber outsole
  • Smart GuideRails
  • Weight: 229.6g (8.1oz)
  • Drop: 10mm

Reasons to buy

  • Supportive inserts
  • Sturdy and flexible outsole
  • Comfortable interior padding
  • Responsive and light midsole

Reasons to avoid

  • Runs large
  • Shorter and thinner laces

If you want speed without sacrificing support, then you should pick the Brooks Launch GTS 8, with its lightweight functionality and integrated guide-rails smart support.

Some runners tend to devolve into a bad running posture, especially in the middle of their running session when they start to get tired. To counter this, their shoes must have some type of movement support.

Take the Launch GTS 8, for instance. It features two rails on the outer and inner part of the heel area, which works to restrict joint movement and keep your whole feet in position. This way, your shoes assist you in achieving the ideal posture, and you are less likely to break it even if you undergo strenuous running.

Better yet, this supportive feature doesn’t add anything to the weight, as the Launch GTS 8 remains to be a lightweight shoe. With an airy yet responsive BioMoGo DNA midsole combined with an air-injected rubber outsole, you have a flexible, functional shoe that facilitates greater energy transition and responds to your natural gait.

This model does tend to run large, though, so be careful about the sizing. Also, compared to the previous version, the laces are shorter and thinner – barely enough to tie a runner’s knot. This can result in an unstable heel, defeating the whole purpose of the shoe.

As long as you’re careful about the sizing and prepared to replace the laces if it doesn’t work out for you, the Launch GTS 8 is a speedy and stable offering that you can take advantage of any day of the week.

6. Topo Athletics Ultrafly 3

Key Features

  • ZipFoam outsole
  • Multi-density midsole
  • TPU-rubber heel counter
  • Medial post
  • Weight: 272g (9.6oz)
  • Drop: 5mm

Reasons to buy

  • Wide toe room
  • Flexible outsole
  • Hybrid multi-layer midsole
  • Supportive medial post and heel counter
  • Super comfortable one-piece mesh upper

Reasons to avoid

  • Not that durable
  • Stiff tongue can be uncomfortable

Another shoe in the roster for supportive lightweight running shoes, the Topo Ultrafly 3 combines firm heel support with an innovative dual-density midsole for a smooth, stabilized run.

The Ultrafly 3’s main feature is its stability elements, namely the subtle medial post and the external TPU-rubber heel counter. The heel counter serves as a rigid cage for your heel to prevent additional movement, while the medial post minimizes pronation tendencies. With the Ultrafly 3, your runs are more stable and the only thing you’ll notice is the feeling of sweet relief.

Aside from being extremely supportive, this shoe is also a functional speedwork shoe. The bottom part of the midsole is made of firm rubber for snappier returns, while the top side is made for comfort. Combined with a durable ZipFoam outsole, the Ultrafly 3 grants you a lively yet comfortable run.

The seamless mesh upper is also one of the most comfortable in the market, made of breathable materials that fit like a second skin. The collar is generously padded, as well.

That said, one of the main weaknesses of this shoe is its durability. The soles wear out pretty fast, and at this price point, we’re sure you wouldn’t appreciate being forced to buy another pair of running shoes after just a few hundred miles. Lastly, the tongue of this shoe tends to be stiff and uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a relatively lightweight stabilizing shoe to add to your running shoe rotation, then the Ultrafly 3 could be your next pick.

7. On Cloud X

Key Features

  • CloudTec midsole
  • Speedboard insert
  • Zero-Gravity foam
  • Double-dense sockliner
  • Weight: 240g (8.47oz)
  • Drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

  • Zero gravity foam
  • Supportive heel cage
  • Cloud module midsole
  • Versatile running shoes
  • Carbon fiber plate insert

Reasons to avoid

  • Heel cage is stiff
  • Shoe sizes tend to run narrow

On Cloud X’s main selling points are its unique, casual look and its flexible versatility – and on those fronts, it does deliver pretty well.

Design-wise, the Cloud X is pretty unique. It has a slightly minimalist look with an appealing techno edge. The shoes look great and can go well as a fashion statement, which certainly makes them more versatile than most ‘sportier’ offerings on the list.

It doesn’t just look good, though; it’s also functional. Another stand-out feature is its sole design, which features individual “cloud” modules made of responsive Zero-Gravity foam instead of one streamlined slice of material.

On claims that this design makes the shoe lighter without sacrificing functionality, and we believe them because it is indeed one of the lightest on the list.

The Cloud X also features a rigid heel cap and a dense, comfortable sockliner. It even has a Speedboard carbon fiber insert for a snappier ride.

However, the heel cage is its main weakness. The supportive rigidity can actually go beyond the point of discomfort. Also, this shoe runs small and especially narrow in the toe box. You have to be careful about the sizing, especially since this shoe is on the expensive side.

If the On Cloud X fits you, though, then it’s a great shoe that you can wear anywhere and can run around with at any time.

How to Pick the Best Lightweight Running Shoes

Lightweight running shoes are not created equal: they all have different features that can drastically change your running experience. To pick the best lightweight running shoes for you, consider these three factors: responsiveness, support, and inserts. Below we go into detail on these and what to look out for.

Responsiveness

The main reason why someone shops for lightweight running shoes is to help increase their running speed. In this case, responsiveness should be a primary concern.

Responsiveness refers to how your shoes react to your running and has everything to do with the quality of your shoe’s midsole.

Lightweight running shoes generally tend to have more responsive shoes compared to cushioned running shoes, but they still differ in the level of responsiveness they have. If you want ultimate responsiveness, the Saucony Kinvara and the Asics Metaracer are amazing picks.

Support

Posture plays a crucial role in running – all the more so when you’re aiming for maximum speed. Bad running posture equals less speed, so naturally, if you tend to have bad posture, you should be looking for plenty of support.

Even if you have good posture, you’re still not safe. Form tends to break down as runners become more fatigued, so unless you’ve trained to overcome this, it would be wise to rely on subtle supports, like the ones the Brooks Launch GTS 8, the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2, and the Topo Athletics Ultrafly 3 has.

Inserts

By nature, lightweight shoes have thinner midsoles compared to more cushioned ones. This exposes your feet to more ground impact every time your foot touches the ground, potentially leading to strain and even injury.

To mitigate this problem, some shoes like the Asics MetaRacer and the On Cloud X have plate inserts in the midsole that serve as shields to absorb the shock. As an added benefit, it also adds to the ‘snappy’ response of the shoe as the plates snap back into shape.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are lightweight running shoes?

Lightweight running shoes are lighter than traditional running shoes, typically sitting between 9 to 6 ounces or 255 to 170 grams.

Do light running shoes make a difference?

Lightweight running shoes reduce the weight you carry, requiring less energy to run and making you more agile. With the right shoes, you also get outstanding responsiveness that can further propel your strides.

How light should running shoes be?

It depends on your use. Lightweight running shoes are made to help you achieve the fastest speeds possible. Meanwhile, cushioned running shoes are made to keep you comfortable, so weight is not much of a concern.

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