Can Running Shoes Be Too Soft?

Can Running Shoes Be Too Soft? Expert Advice

Running shoes are an essential piece of equipment for runners, providing comfort, support, and protection during their workouts. However, the question arises: can running shoes be too soft? While cushioning is often seen as a desirable feature, excessively soft shoes can potentially lead to a range of issues. In this article, we will explore the concept of running shoes being too soft, examine the potential drawbacks and benefits, and offer insights into finding the right balance between cushioning and support for optimal performance and injury prevention. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting out, understanding the impact of shoe softness is crucial for making informed decisions about your footwear.

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

What Are Maximalist Running Shoes?

What Are Maximalist Running Shoes?

Maximalist running shoes are a type of running shoe that features significantly more cushioning than traditional running shoes. They are designed to provide enhanced shock absorption and impact protection, particularly for long-distance runners or those seeking extra comfort during their runs.

Maximalist shoes typically have thick midsoles with ample cushioning materials, such as foam or gel, throughout the entire length of the shoe. This increased cushioning aims to distribute the forces of impact more evenly, reducing stress on the joints and muscles. The purpose of maximalist shoes is to provide a plush and cushioned ride, allowing runners to experience a softer landing and potentially reducing the risk of certain injuries. They are often favored by runners who prioritize comfort and are looking for a more forgiving running experience.

A Brief History of Maximalist Running Shoes

Maximalist running shoes have gained popularity in recent years, but their origins can be traced back to the early 2000s. The concept of maximalist cushioning was pioneered by a French company called HOKA ONE ONE, founded in 2009 by Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud.

HOKA ONE ONE introduced their first maximalist shoe in 2010, featuring an oversized midsole with generous cushioning. This design aimed to provide maximum shock absorption and a smoother ride, particularly for long-distance runners and those recovering from injuries. The initial release of the Hoka One One shoes sparked interest among runners seeking a different running experience. The brand’s success led to the emergence of other companies developing their own versions of maximalist shoes, expanding the options available to runners.

A Brief History of Maximalist Running Shoes

Maximalist shoes gained attention in the running community as an alternative to traditional minimalist shoes, which had been popularized earlier. While minimalist shoes focused on a more natural and minimalistic approach, maximalist shoes offered a different philosophy by prioritizing cushioning and impact protection. Since their introduction, maximalist shoes have continued to evolve. Manufacturers have experimented with different cushioning materials, midsole designs, and weight reduction techniques to improve performance and address the needs of various types of runners.

Today, maximalist running shoes are widely available from multiple brands, offering a range of options to cater to different preferences and running styles. They have become a viable choice for runners seeking enhanced cushioning, comfort, and protection during their runs, particularly for longer distances or on challenging terrain.

Downsides of Maximalist Running Shoes

While maximalist running shoes offer several benefits, they also have some potential downsides that runners should consider:


Maximalist shoes tend to be heavier than traditional running shoes due to the extra cushioning and materials used. This added weight can impact running efficiency and may not be ideal for runners who prioritize speed or prefer a lighter shoe.

Reduced ground feel

The thick cushioning in maximalist shoes can limit the sensation of the ground beneath your feet. Some runners prefer a more connected and responsive feel, which may be compromised with the increased cushioning of maximalist shoes.

Adaptation period

Transitioning from traditional running shoes to maximalist shoes may require an adjustment period. The increased cushioning and altered running mechanics can affect your gait and muscle engagement. It’s important to gradually introduce maximalist shoes to your training routine to allow your body to adapt.

Stability and agility

The higher stack height and softer cushioning in maximalist shoes can potentially reduce stability and agility, especially on uneven or technical terrains. Runners who require precise foot placement or engage in activities that demand quick changes in direction may find maximalist shoes less suitable.


Maximalist shoes often come with a higher price tag compared to traditional running shoes. The advanced cushioning technologies and materials used contribute to the increased cost, which may be a consideration for budget-conscious runners.

Benefits of Maximalist Running Shoes

Maximalist running shoes offer several benefits that make them a popular choice among runners. Here are some of the advantages of wearing maximalist shoes:

  • Enhanced cushioning: Maximalist shoes provide a significant amount of cushioning throughout the midsole, offering superior shock absorption and impact protection. This can be particularly beneficial for runners who log high mileage or those who require extra cushioning due to joint pain or previous injuries.
  • Reduced fatigue: The ample cushioning in maximalist shoes helps to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness by absorbing a greater amount of impact forces. This can allow runners to maintain their pace and endurance for longer periods without experiencing as much discomfort or fatigue.
  • Injury prevention: The increased cushioning in maximalist shoes can help to minimize the risk of certain running-related injuries. The extra shock absorption can reduce the stress on joints, such as the knees and ankles, potentially lowering the likelihood of overuse injuries.
  • Comfort and support: Maximalist shoes provide a plush and comfortable feel, making them an excellent choice for runners seeking a more cushioned and luxurious running experience. The added support and cushioning can also benefit runners with high arches or those who require additional stability.
  • Versatility: Maximalist shoes are suitable for various types of running, including long-distance running, trail running, and recovery runs. Their cushioning and impact protection make them well-suited for tackling challenging terrain or providing relief during recovery periods.

Do higher-cushioned running shoes actually reduce injuries?

The relationship between higher cushioned running shoes and injury prevention is a topic of ongoing debate and research within the running community. While higher cushioning can provide benefits such as shock absorption and impact reduction. It does not guarantee injury prevention on its own.

Several factors contribute to the risk of running-related injuries, including biomechanics, training volume, running form, and individual differences. While cushioning can help to reduce the stress on joints and muscles. Other factors such as proper training, gradual progression, and maintaining good running form are equally important in injury prevention.

It’s worth noting that some studies suggest that excessive cushioning may lead to altered running mechanics, potentially increasing the risk of certain injuries. Additionally, the individual needs and preferences of runners can vary. And what works for one person may not work for another.

Read More: Are Running Shoes Good For Everyday Use?

Read More: Are Running Shoes Supposed To Be Tight?

The difference between firm, balanced and plush running shoes

Firm, balanced, and plush are terms used to describe the cushioning and support levels of running shoes. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between these types of shoes:

Firm ShoesBalanced ShoesPlush Shoes
These shoes have minimal cushioning and are designed to provide a more responsive and firm feel. They are often preferred by runners who prefer a more natural and ground-feeling experience. Firm shoes are typically lighter and offer a greater sense of stability and control.These shoes have minimal cushioning and are designed to provide a more responsive and firm feel. They are often preferred by runners who prefer a more natural and ground-feel experience. Firm shoes are typically lighter and offer a greater sense of stability and control.Plush shoes are heavily cushioned and prioritize comfort and impact absorption. They provide a soft and luxurious feel, making them ideal for runners seeking maximum cushioning and protection. Plush shoes are often chosen for long-distance running or for those who prefer a more cushioned experience.
The difference between firm, balanced and plush running shoes

Caution when buying maximalist running shoes

When considering maximalist running shoes, it’s important to exercise caution and keep a few factors in mind:

  • Fit and comfort: Maximalist shoes often have a bulkier design, so it’s crucial to ensure they fit properly and provide adequate support. Try them on and walk or run in them to assess their comfort level.
  • Transition period: If you’re transitioning from traditional or minimalist shoes to maximalist ones, be aware that it may take time for your body to adjust. Gradually increase your mileage and listen to your body to avoid potential discomfort or injuries.
  • Weight and flexibility: Maximalist shoes tend to be heavier and less flexible due to the extra cushioning. Consider whether the added weight and reduced flexibility align with your running style and preferences.
  • Terrain and purpose: Maximalist shoes are often favored for long-distance or trail running due to their enhanced cushioning and impact absorption. Consider the terrain you’ll be running on and the specific purpose of the shoes before making a purchase.

4 tips for buying soft running shoes

  • Consider your running style: If you have a neutral gait and prefer a softer feel, look for shoes with ample cushioning. However, if you overpronate or have specific foot conditions, consult with a specialist for recommendations.
  • Test the shoes: Try on different brands and models to find the right level of softness that suits your preferences. Walk or jog around the store to assess comfort, support, and overall fit.
  • Look for responsive cushioning: Soft shoes should still provide a responsive feel, meaning they should quickly return energy to propel you forward. Look for shoes with technologies like foam midsoles or air pockets that offer both softness and responsiveness.
  • Consider durability: Soft shoes may wear out faster than firmer ones. Look for durable materials and construction to ensure the shoes maintain their cushioning and support over time, especially if you’re a frequent or long-distance runner.


The question of whether running shoes can be too soft is a complex one. While cushioning is important for absorbing impact and providing comfort. Excessively soft shoes can potentially lead to a lack of stability and support, increasing the risk of injuries. It is crucial for runners to find the right balance between cushioning and support. That suits their individual needs and running style. Consulting with experts, such as podiatrists or experienced running shoe specialists, can provide valuable guidance in selecting the appropriate footwear. Ultimately, prioritizing proper fit, comfort, and functionality will help runners. Optimize their performance and reduce the likelihood of injuries, ensuring a safe and enjoyable running experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, running shoes can be too cushioned. Excessive cushioning can lead to a lack of stability and responsiveness, potentially affecting a runner’s gait and increasing the risk of injuries. Finding the right balance is crucial for optimal performance and injury prevention.

Running shoes are designed to provide a certain level of cushioning for comfort and impact absorption. But they should not be excessively soft, as this can compromise stability and support.

Yes, soft running shoes can potentially cause injuries. Excessive softness can lead to a lack of stability and support, increasing the risk of ankle sprains, foot pain, and other injuries.

Running shoes should not be overly stiff, as flexibility is important for natural foot movement. However, they should provide enough support and structure to maintain stability and prevent excessive pronation or supination.

Related To: What Running Shoes Are Banned? You Want To Know


Hi, I’m Mr. Tiger! CEO of and have 30 years of experience in the Sports Shoe industry. This scientific and vast experience equipped me with the knowledge and understanding to assist you in finding the perfect pair of shoes for your specific sports and individual needs. I always stay up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements in sports footwear technology, ensuring that my recommendations are always relevant and reliable. Thanks for visiting my site. I hope you enjoy the resources.

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