The 9 best running shoes for ball of foot pain as chosen by our keen runners expert podiatry team.
It might be pain in the big toe joint (known as the 1st MTPJ).
Or it could be in the really complex area in between the 2nd and 3rd toe joints.
In clinic we accurately diagnose what your pain is, and what’s causing it.
We’re able to be really specific as to whether your ball of foot pain is turf toe, capsulitis, sesamoiditis, a neuroma or bursitis.
For the purpose of this guide we’re going to group them all together as we’re writing this for the many, not just specifically YOUR ball of foot pain.
If you wan’t to get super specific, you’ll need to get a thorough assessment with our team.
If you’re looking for the best general advice from experienced podiatrists and runners, well you’ve come to the right place.
The 9 Best Running Shoes for Ball of Foot Pain
- Hoka Bondi 7
- Hoka Clifton 8
- Hoka Carbon X 2
- Nike Zoom Fly 3
- Nike Infinity React
- New Balance Fresh Foam More v2
- Asics Glideride
- Adidas Adizero Pro
- Saucony Endorphin
Stats & Info
The stats we’re presenting for each shoe are important to consider when thinking about best running shoes for ball of foot pain
The weight in grams is standardised to a Men’s size 9 US shoe.
The heavier the shoe, the more you have to carry when running or walking which can negatively effect running economy.
This extra weight is often offset with extra features.
For example if you’re running longer distances over gravel you’ll want the extra weight of a nice thick midsole.
The drop and stack height are related measures.
The stack height is how high the midsole of the shoe is and is measured under the heel and the toes.
The drop is the difference between the two.
Higher stack heights = more foam.
Great for shock absorption but also requires some adapting to if you’re not used to it, or if you have poor proprioception.
A bigger drop can lead to greater loads on the forefoot, but not always.
As this is a general advice column we’ve steered clear of any running shoes with a drop of 10mm or more which is why some of the more popular running shoes from the likes of Brooks and Asics did not make the cut.
The Hoka Range
The Hoka range of running shoes have been a welcome addition to the cupboard for both runners and podiatrists.
Since entering the market only a few short years ago Hoka has managed to carve out a niche of keen runners and happy podiatry clients.
By building their shoes on a plush stack of cushioned foam with a handy forefoot rocker built in.
Wait, a forefoot rocker? What’s that you say?
Grab your current pair of running shoes. If their not too funky from too many miles place them on a flat surface in front of you and look at the scoop in the sole under the toes.
This is the forefoot rocker.
It encourages forward movement as you move your centre of mass anteriorly.
The big advantages here is that
a) you don’t have to work as hard to lift yourself up to move forwards (so less loading on the calf and Achilles area)
and b) your toes don’t have to dorsi-flex (bend back) as much when under their highest load.
It’s this b) result in particular which makes the Hoka range so good for runners with ball of foot pain.
Weight: 303g, Drop: 4mm, Stack Height: 33mm/29mm
The original “big daddy” of cushioning according to our podiatrist Gus McSweyn.
Plush, soft and smooth.
The Hoka Bondi is a full weight mileage shoe which is great for lots of different forefoot pathologies.
With multiple width options available for both Men and Women the Hoka Bondi works for most people and deserves it’s place on the top of this list.
For those who need an every day option or prefer a leather upper the Bondi comes in a fully black leather variant.
Great for nurses & doctors on busy wards, security guards and all those other professions where you’re on your feet for hours and hours per day.
Weight 247g, Drop: 5mm, Stack Height 29mm/24mm
If the Bondi is the big daddy, then the Clifton is the little daddy.
Using the same concepts as the Bondi, with a little less foam (less weight but less cushioning) the Clifton remains soft but a bit more responsive than the Bondi.
Also available in multiple colours and widths so suits lots of different runners out there.
Weight: 239g, Drop: 5mm, Stack Height: 32mm/27mm
This shoe from Hoka takes all the goodness from the Clifton’s midsole, and adds in a carbon fibre plate.
Carbon fibre is no longer just for Tiger’s golf clubs or Serena’s tennis racquets.
By combining a very light weight yet super stiff carbon plate inside the midsole Hoka have managed to borrow heavily from Nike’s leading work here to deliver a shoe that remains light and requries minimal effort by the toes to propel you forwards.
The main reason this shoe doesn’t reach the top of the list is that like the Saucony Endorphin it’s very difficult to source in Australia. Often out of stock due to high demand in the very few retailers Hoka allows to sell this special shoe.
Also the sock liner does not remove from this shoe making the addition of an orthotic quite difficult.
The Nike Range
Nike, that little brand from Oregan (ok, we know you’ve heard of them) are one of the most consistently innovative running shoe companies of all time.
This innovation has lead to some truly great advancements in running shoe tech in recent years.
Their move to use different shaped carbon fibre plates within their runners and constantly trialling new foams in their shoes leads us to confidently reccomend these two options.
Their absolute flagship running shoes (the Alphafly and Vaporfly) are also very close to making this list.
Weight: 252g, Drop: 8mm, Stack Height 36mm/28mm
The Nike Zoom Fly has been around for a couple of years now combining a carbon fibre plate with a nice soft cushioned foam.
Light and fast, they are one of the best running shoes for ball of foot pain we’ve tested in the last few years.
The upper had a big change from model 2 to model 3. Some people like the older woven fly knit while others like the lighter mesh in the latest model.
The Zoom Fly is not available in different widths so you need to have a rather “normal” shaped foot.
Weight: 291g, Drop: 9mm, Stack Height: 33mm/24mm
A great soft, cushioned and flowing ride that provides a gently “hug” to keep you stable.
The Infinity reach uses great foams and a few other nifty Nike tricks to keep you running or walking.
While there is no carbon plate the decent forefoot rocker makes this shoe a good option for lots of different people.
It’s a bit easier to accommodate an orthotic inside this shoe compared with the Zoom Fly above. And good news for those who like to chase a small white ball around the park, there’s a golf version.
The Asics One
Weight: 305g, Drop: 6mm, Stack Height: 35mm/29mm
After many years of minimal innovation (be honest Kayano wearers, how much has actually changed in the Kayano for the previous 10 years?) Asics has come back with a bang.
The Glideride has the biggest forefoot rocker ever seen on an Asics shoe.
Standing in these shoes just makes you want to run!
This rocker and some foam developments has lead to a really great running shoe for ball of foot pain.
For those on a budget, the Evoride is a decent choice if unable to get the full Glideride experience.
The New Balance One
Weight: 266g, Drop: 4mm, Stack Height: 34mm/30mm
Now this is a shoe and a half.
The Fresh Foam More v2 gives you more… More of New Balance’s proprietary Fresh Foam under foot with a whopping forefoot rocker.
Despite all this foam New Balance has managed to keep the weight in check.
As always, New Balance looks after a variety of different foot shapes and sizes. In Australia they only have the Wide variant however online there is a standard width available from international suppliers.
Another plus is that there is plenty of depth in this shoe if you have to fit both a high volume foot and an orthotic in there.
The Adidas One
Weight: 198g, Drop: 9.5mm, Stack Height 31.5mm/22mm
Real light, real soft, real stiff, real fast.
The Adizero Pro uses a few tricks like carbon fibre and responsive foams to deliver a fast running shoe that also is great for those with ball of foot pain.
Like the more specialised race variants above, the Adizero Pro does not offer any widths and comes in limited colourways.
What this shoe lacks in customisation (width and colours) it makes up in speed.
Did we mention it’s fast?
The Saucony One(s)
Weight: 221g, Drop: 8mm, Stack Height 33mm/25mm (Speed)
It takes a bit to get our podiatrist Gus excited for non-Nike shoes but the Endorphin range does that.
A perky and energetic spring board to get you rolling, the Endorphin range are really interesting sneakers.
The Pro and Speed use a great forefoot rocker, very light foams and a carbon fibre plate to keep you moving forwards.
The Shift gives you the rocker and a thicker dose of the foam without the carbon fibre plate.
Lightning Round FAQ
Where should I buy my running shoes?
When getting a new pair of running sneakers, whether you have wide feet, narrow feet or pretty normal feet it’s always best to try them on first.
Trying before you buy can be really difficult if you live in a remote area or work conflicting hours with your local specialty running footwear retailer.
For those who do need to buy online having a really clear idea of your own foot size (and how different brands vary) helps.
Keep in mind the return policies of online retailers as well. With some stores you can return ill-fitting runners for free, other times the postage and “re-stocking” costs can build up. Worthwile reading any fine print before buying online.
What about Metatarsalgia?
Ok, we are really reluctant to include metatarsalgia information here. The reason being, metatarsalgia is not a diagnosis we use anymore.
In the old days when podiatrists were armed with rusty bone saws and a butcher’s apron sure, you could easily find your local pod diagnosing metatarsalgia as the cause of your forefoot pain.
These days we’re able to be much more precise and get a diagnosis that relates exactly to your pathology.
If you’ve managed to find someone who is still diagnosing metatarsalgia, or you’ve snuck into that corner of the web and worked out your own self diagnosis then any of the options above would be a solid starting point for your footwear journey.
And the best running shoes for my Bunion?
Depending on whether your bunion is thicker on top of the foot (dorsally) or the side (medially) you will have to check the exact fit of these shoes before you try.
A deep shoe suits those who have a large dorsal bunion (from large osteophytes on the top of the 1st MTPJ).
A wide shoe at the forefoot (but still with a narrow heel) will be best for those with a bigger bunion on the side of the big toe joint.
What about my orthotic or arch support?
Some of these shoes above accomodate an orthotic really well, others less so.
As this is all general advice, and orthotics are personally prescribed for each individual foot it’s past the remit of this post to say whether you still need to use your orthotic or not.
Best to check in with your podiatrist or our team for a session to find out exactly what is best for you.
All our custom foot orthotics are guaranteed so you can be confident in getting a great result.
Do I need a motion control stability shoe for my ball of foot pain?
Just like podiatrists have left the diagnosis “metarsalgia” in the past, shoe companies are fast moving away from the category motion control shoes.
Back in the 90’s motion control shoes had big chunks of hard foam or plastic on the inside of the sole to limit (or hope to limit) excess rolling in (pronation).
Sometimes, for some runners they worked great.
And other times, for other runners not so great.
With a bit more research and understanding the biomechanists at the big athletic footwear retailers have sharpened their categorising and moved away from motion control.
Not always completely, but enough that now it’s really not a useful term to steer towards or away from when you’re buying shoes.
So when considering the best running shoes for ball of foot pain don’t stress about whether it’s a motion control shoe or not.
How come you haven’t mentioned any Brooks running shoes?
Oh we love Brooks running sneakers for many different reasons.
In fact, you’ll find that the Brooks Ghost is one of our most recommended shoes for lots of different conditions including plantar fasciitis.
Whilst Brooks do have a plenty of great running shoes you can buy right now, they aren’t pipping any of the options above for the majoriy of runners.
We’ll keep testing and check in to see what next seasons Brooks running shoes are like. Maybe then they will be top of our list of the best running shoes for ball of foot pain?
If you know any runners with ball of foot pain please share this post with them.
We love helping runners run!