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The best running shoes may not give you instant Olympian speed, but the right pair can improve your stride and prevent injuries. Shopping for athletic footwear isn’t just about finding a shoe that fits — you also need to make sure that your kicks suit your foot shape, your body mechanics, the terrain, and the mileage you plan to cover.
Whether your feet are pounding the pavement or running off-road, note that you should replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles. Keep in mind that unlike other types of footwear (such as hiking boots), you shouldn’t need to break in your new pair — they should feel comfortable from the get-go.
What Are the Best Running Shoes?
While it’s tempting to go for a stylish running shoe, function should be prioritized over fashion to ensure a good run. Here’s are some other things to keep in mind as you’re shopping for the best athletic shoes:
Heel-to-toe drop: This is the height difference between your heel and the ball of your foot when you’re standing. Most of today’s running shoes have a drop of 8 to 10 millimeters. Lower drops are often favored among runners with knee issues or those with good ankle and calf flexibility. Shoes with higher drops are popular among runners who need more relief on their lower leg.
Cushioning: Long-distance runners may prefer thicker and softer cushioning, while runners who prefer a more natural gait (but not barefoot-like) might do better with minimal cushioning. Moderate cushioning is a good place to start if you’re not sure.
Weight: Lightweight running shoes tend to be favored among runners who want speed — and don’t want to be weighed down by heavy steppers. Those who need extra support, stability, and cushioning may find that those features require a little bit of extra weight.
Support: Depending on your pronation (how your foot naturally rolls inward when it hits the ground), you may need more or less support to avoid pain and injuries. For example, it’s common for flat-footed runners to over-pronate (or roll inward excessively) and naturally high-arched runners tend to supinate (or roll outward). Runners with normal arches usually have neutral or basic pronation, and they can wear most types of shoes. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to consult with a podiatrist who can assess the biomechanics of your feet and make custom orthotics (or shoe inserts) to correct your posture and gait if needed.
Women’s vs. men’s shoes: In many (but not all) cases, women tend to weigh lighter and have less muscle mass than men, resulting in footwear designed to reflect these differences in terms of fit and weight. Women’s shoes tend to have a narrower heel and wider forefoot, while men’s shoes are typically wider. But these are also reasons why some women with wider feet opt for men’s silhouettes, and men with narrower feet prefer women’s footwear. Overall, it’s best to consider your individual foot shape and mechanics when choosing the size and fit of your shoe.
Top Tips for Buying Running Shoes
Consider your terrain: Shoes designed for road running will have different traction than trail running footwear. There are also cross-trainers, which are versatile and work well in gyms.
Measure your feet: Our feet change over the years, so make sure you measure both of your feet when trying on running shoes.
Make sure you have wiggle room: The shoe’s toebox should have enough space to allow your toes to wiggle while still fitting snug (and not too tight) on your feet.
Keep your socks and inserts in mind: Before you try on shoes, remember to bring your favorite running socks, insoles (which offer extra support and cushioning), and orthotics.
Test them in the evening: Experts point out that feet swell all day, which is why they recommend trying shoes on in the evening when our feet are most swollen.
If you’re ready to replace your well-worn kicks, we’ve rounded up some of the best running shoes that offer comfort, stability, and efficiency. All of these are available in women’s and men’s sizing as well as in range of colorways to match the rest of your stylish activewear. Read on below for our top picks.
1. Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit Women’s Shoes
Designed to reduce injuries, Nike’s React Infinity Run Flyknit shoe offers a responsive experience and stability without adding bulk to your feet. The lightweight upper features three layers that keep your foot secure, while the foam midsole is soft and supportive for road running. The rubber outsole rounds out this shoe to provide durability and traction.
2. Hoka One One Gaviota 2 Men’s Shoes
Flat-footed runners love Hoka One One’s Gaviota 2, which offers excellent mid-foot support, modest cushioning, and stability for road runners who overpronate. The lightweight mesh upper, breathable fabric lining, and molded OrthLite foam insole work seamlessly to provide a comfortable run, while the RMAT J-Frame gives this shoe durability and momentum.
3. Athletic Propulsion Labs Techloom Pro Unisex Shoes
Made with efficiency in mind, Athletic Propulsion Labs’ Techloom Pro running shoes feature the company’s lightweight Propelium midsole/outsole and a unique woven upper that’s designed from a single layer of high-performance fabric. The result: a supportive, breathable shoe that offers strategic support and flexibility for runners seeking a more natural gait, thanks to the eight-millimeter drop.
Each shoe weighs just under eight ounces. Plus, animal lovers will also be happy to know that these shoes are vegan, and everybody will love that they’re machine-washable.
4. Asics Gel-Kayano 27 Women’s Shoes
If maximum cushioning is what you need, try these Asics Gel-Kayano 27 running shoes. Designed with overpronators in mind, these everyday training shoes have a 13-millimeter heel drop and feature a more flexible sole that encourages feet to roll more naturally and efficiently. To do that, they’re equipped with Dynamic Duomax technology that boosts stability and provides support, and deeper forefoot flex grooves that help to create smoother runs.
The breathable jacquard mesh upper helps to keep feet cool. Nighttime runners will also appreciate the reflective materials in the rearfoot to keep them visible. We also like that these shoes are available in standard, narrow, and wide widths.
5. Adidas Ultraboost PB Men’s Shoes
Runners seeking speed and light-as-a-feather shoes to boot will find it in these Adidas Ultraboost PB shoes, which have a midsole drop of 10 millimeters and weigh 10.8 ounces per shoe. Made for long runs and races, these runners boast Adidas’ lightest Celermesh mesh upper material and offer support and responsive comfort all the way to the finish line.
6. Brooks Ghost 13 Running Shoes
There’s a reason why Brooks’ Ghost 13 shoes are a best-seller among road runners of all levels. Suitable for daily training, they’re designed with the company’s DNA Loft cushioning in the midsole for a smooth heel-to-toe transition.
These trainers offer neutral support and soft underfoot cushioning, and they work well for runners with medium to high arches. They have a midsole drop of 11.5 millimeters and each shoe weighs about 10 ounces, so they’re great for runners who need to take the stress off their calves, ankles, and feet.
7. Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2 Women’s Shoes
Reebok’s Forever Floatride Energy 2 running shoes feature a midsole drop of nine millimeters and responsive cushioning, which is why they’re great for runners who are looking for a neutral silhouette. These are lightweight and breathable, all thanks to the airy mesh upper and responsive Floatride Energy Foam cushioning.
8. Merrell Agility Synthesis Flex Trail Shoes
Trail running footwear requires more protection and durability since they’re facing the elements, which is why we think these Merrell Agility Synthesis Flex shoes are a great option. Already a trusted brand among avid hikers, the company’s running shoes feature a lightweight mesh upper, a protective toe cap, and a sturdy heel counter for extra support.
These shoes are also made with a dual-directional FlexConnect EVA midsole and a TrailProtect pad for stability and agility, while the M Select Grip outsole offers the necessary traction when running on rugged terrain.
These trail shoes are also vegan, and eco-conscious outdoor enthusiasts will be happy to know that a new dye-free version (which requires less water and energy to make) made with mostly recycled materials is also on the way.