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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 — and fewer injuries in the long run. Here’s are some other things to keep in mind as you shop for the best running shoes
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: The best running shoes are able to keep weight to a minimum, all while providing support, stability, and cushioning. Generally, the best running shoes weigh around nine to 11 ounces.
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.
Tips for Buying the Best 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 toe box 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.
The Best Running Shoes
If you’re ready to replace your well-worn kicks or pick up your first pair, 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 a range of colorways to match the rest of your activewear. Read on for our top picks.
1. Brooks Ghost 14
We’ve run through two pairs of Ghosts over the last couple of years, and they’ve treated us well every mile — whether on slick city streets, rough trails, or tracks. And we’re not alone in our love for Brooks’ Ghost line, as the trainers have enjoyed near-universal acclaim from gearheads and seasoned runners alike.
Great for just about every type of runner (although especially good for those with high arches), the Ghost 14 expertly balances cushioning with responsiveness. It features DNA loft cushioning and a segmented crash pad midsole for smoother transitions. Plus, although they’re lightweight and breathable, the shoe is stiff enough for miles of support.
2. On Cloudflyer
The On Cloudflyers are one of a few pairs of sneakers that can run a marathon, hit the gym, and do CrossFit all in the same week. This versatility is in part due to lightweight Helion foam that lends power and ample cushioning for long runs, as well as a light overall weight of 10 ounces. Built for normal to wide feet and overpronation gaits, the Cloudflyers also feature a soft, breathable sock liner that’s good enough for barefoot training sessions.
3. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
Those of us with flat feet can experience ongoing pain due to overpronation, if not addressed with the right shoes. We think these Brooks Adrenaline GTS trainers are the best running shoes for flat feet, although they’re excellent shoes for just about any runner. Thanks to a beefy rear outsole and a supportive arch, the Adrenaline GTS 22 excels at comfortably returning ankles to the right position. Otherwise, its a super smooth shoe that shines on distance runs and everyday jogs.
4. Hoka One One Clifton 8
Hoka’s thick-soled running shoes have garnered it a cult following. The rocking motion and exceptional shock absorption provided by the uniquely large sole yield some of the smoothest and most comfortable steps, plus the shoes are great for anyone with wide feet. Up top is a textile and synthetic fabric that’s both breathable and flexible, although you still get amble support from a padded ankle collar.
5. Asics Gel-Nimbus 24
It’s likely that some people who have quit running did so because their high arches ruined it. Too much room in the midsole can cause severe supination, but that doesn’t have to happen if you choose the proper footwear. We like these Gel-Nimbus 24s from Asics for anyone with high arches, as the trainers provide security around the midfoot and enough lateral support to prevent that ankle roll.
6. Adidas SolarGlide 4
If your ankles tend to roll outward (this is called supination or underpronation), check out these Adidas SolarGlide 4s. They feature an EVA rail to guide the foot with each strike, as well as a long drop of 10 millimeters. You also get Adidas’ BOOST midsole, which brings responsive energy feedback as you launch forwards. Plus, as expected from a fashion-forward activewear brand, the SolarGlides look pretty great too.
7. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
Whether you’re just getting started running or returning after a long hiatus, try Nike’s Air Zoom Pegasus running shoes. The shoes are approachable with plush cushioning and a good shape to encourage proper form. Nike’s Air Zoom midsole also provides good power feedback as you build up endurance. Plus, they’re incredibly lightweight at just under eight ounces.
8. Superfeet Orange Insoles
Custom insoles are always a great idea, and an absolute necessity if you’re suffering from shin splints or ankle pain. We like Superfeet, a brand offering insoles with excellent support, a heel stabilizer, and comfortable foam cushioning. Once they arrive, you can trim them as necessary to fit inside your shoes. These Orange insoles are specifically designed for athletic shoes, but Superfeet also has great options for hiking boots and casual shoes as well.