First time running shoes buyer ? Before diving into our reviews, take a moment to read this running shoes buying guide.
1. You need a shoe that was developed for running.
Yes, in theory you can run barefoot and you can run in stilettos. You might have some basketball, tennis or leisure shoes already at home.
All these shoes might be fine for an occasional run here and there, but if you plan to pick up running as a sport you’ll soon realize a pair of shoes that were developed specifically for running will be the best investment you can do.
Running involves a very specific and repetitive movement of the foot, from heel to toe and repeatedly bouncing your whole body weight up and down. The right shoes need to have the right grip and traction, they need to allow your foot to breathe, they need to be comfortable over the long distance.
We could be talking for hours explaining why shoes meant for other sports are dangerous while you use them for running – but just trust us on this one: buy a running specific shoe and you’ll never look back.
2.You want an expensive shoe, but you don’t need to pay a lot of money for it.
Marketing aside, premium materials and long design/testing processes, do cost more money. And in many cases the difference is sensible.
Better foam or cushioning material used in the sole will make the shoe last longer, better upper materials/construction will make it more comfortable on your foot. A countoured sockliner will keep you foot in place… these are all little things that add to the cost (and therefore the price) of a shoe.
Do you need these features? Comfort is a very important part of a running shoe. True, expensive materials will not automatically make a shoe more comfortable, but cheap ones will definitely render a shoe hell.
But you don’t need to spend much. If you like this year’s version of the Asics Kayano (the 20), check for version 19. Read our review (we have been reviewing shoes for years, chances are if a shoe is here, its predecessor will be there as well).
Comparing the two reviews you might noticed maybe not much changed at all – the 19 will still be a premium shoe and it will be as low as half price than the 20. So you might end up paying 75$ for a top-shelf running shoe instead of paying 60$ for a cheap one that might hurt you.
3. Fit is (by far) the most important thing.
Have you ever walked in a shoe that was too small, too large, too wide, too narrow, too shallow, in which your heel would slip off… ? These issues while running are annoying, painful and plain dangerous !
Here are some tips:
Make sure the heel is securely locked in. Try lacing the shoe so that the heel is well secured but not so tight that you can’t wiggle your toes.
Leave half a centimeter “empty” over the big toe. Your foot swells during exercise and you need to allow some space for the foot to grow.
Lace it tight enough for your foot not to wiggle inside it, but it should be possible for you to do so without cutting your circulation off.
Breathability. Most running shoes feature a mesh material on the top to allow your foot to breathe. But… match the breathability to the conditions you foresee to run in… If you are going to run on cold, rainy winter mornings, maybe a less breathable shoe is better. If you are running in Arizona in the Summer, maybe that anti-rain treatment is going to give you discomfort.
None of these are rocket-science, but sometimes these things get overlooked – while they should be the first factors in deciding what shoe to wear.
4. Going Miminal vs Going More Protected.
This is actually a very debated topic and we could discuss either option for hours (or years, as the running industry is doing). Here is a summary to help you make your own mind up.
In the 70s, the modern running shoe was born. The idea is “running is a high-impact sport that is dangerous for your joints, you need a shoe that cushions your impact and maybe guides your gait to an anatomically correct one”.
This gave birth to the traditional split of running shoes between “cushioning” (or “neutral”) and “stability”. Cushioning shoes are recommended for runners with high arches and/or underpronation issues (see here). Stability shoes are recommended for runners with low arches and/or overpronation issues.
In the past 5 years, a new current of thought, called “minimalism” (and barefoot running, in its most extreme incarnation), developed (mostly following the influence of the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall).
“Minimalists” say the running shoes industry had it wrong all along: heavily cushioned or stable shoes are against nature. A shoe should be as close to barefoot as possible (minimal) so the body will naturally get stronger and you’ll not be dependent on a shoe anymore to tell you how to run.
So -> who is right ? Unfortunately there is not a real scientific answer to this question yet.
Running Shoes We Recommend for Beginners
We test more than 100 running shoes a year. It is difficult to narrow down the selection.
The shoes we recommend here are the ones that we believe can serve a wide number of runners well.
(generally recommended to runners with high arches)
The Nike Zoom Pegasus 31 upholds the company’s long-standing tradition of cushioning and responsiveness blended into one package. This shoe is suitable for both high-mileage performance runners and beginners alike. It is a great choice for high school athletes just taking up the sport, or for those looking for a sturdy, workhorse trainer to go the distance towards their fitness goals. The Pegasus 31 has shed some weight with this edition, making it a somewhat faster shoe than such models in recent memory.
Recommended for: Neutral runners who enjoy a plush, yet responsive ride
At a very affordable price, it is one of those shoes I always recommend because it’s hard to go wrong with the Pegasus.
I thought that the 890 series could not be improved up; I was wrong. The 890V4 is a lighter version of one of the best neutral cushioning shoes on the market, and the improved fit will appeal to a larger percentage of runners.
Recommended for: Neutral runners looking for runners wanting a lot of softer cushioning in a lightweight package for high mileage as well as faster paced workouts.
Thomas says “any neutral runner this year would be doing themselves a disservice by not trying on the 890V4″.
This shoe is perfect for daily training, and light enough to be worn for racing. The ultra-lightweight frame combined with maximum cushion strikes a perfect balance between form and function delivering a shoe that is a downright pleasure to run in.
Recommended for: The Clifton is a shoe that can serve every runners need. I would recommend this shoe for all runners from the beginner to the seasoned veteran.
(generally recommended for runners with low to flat arches).
The New Balance 1260 v4 is a solid running shoe offering superior stability for those runners that overpronate while delivering ample cushioning from heel-to-toe allowing for a smooth ride and quick transition.
Recommended for: The New Balance 1260 v4 is excellent for those runners who overpronate and are looking for stability with the added bonus of plenty of cushioning for a gentle ride.
The Saucony Mirage 4 is a superb lightweight stability shoe that feels ready for tempo runs. Although stiffer than some may like, it still provides decent responsiveness.
Recommended for: The Saucony Mirage 4 is ideal for someone looking to shave some weight off their trainers, while keeping moderate stability.
CONS: Moderate toe box that I found a bit constrictive after getting used to the trail version of this shoe which has a much wider toe box., The durometer (firmness) of the midsole foam felt hard at times, especially on runs longer than 20 miles on the road
The Pearl Izumi Road M2 will surprise a lot of runners looking for a high mileage stability trainer that feels like a lightweight and neutral shoe. Offering just a modicum of support, the M2 should not be worn by runners needing a great deal of stability or motion control. On the flip side, this shoe can be worn by neutral runners looking for just a little bit of support and extra protection on recovery days. The Road M2 is a great all around shoe, and definitely a shoe I’d put at the top of any stability “best of” list.
Recommended for: The Road M2 is a fantastic lighter weight stability trainer for high mileage runners with a bit of overpronation, specifically late stage in the mid foot area.
Minimal / Transition
(look here if you are looking for lightweight shoes that will help you strengthen your feet)
The Nike Free Flyknit 4.0 is an incredibly comfortable shoe with a lightweight and flexible construction thanks in a large part to what has to be the greatest upper in any shoe I’ve had the privilage of wearing. The Flyknit upper felt like a second skins and didn’t cause the slightest discomfort on even long, rainy runs. For the price, however, the out-sole just left too much to be desired, with incredibly poor traction and perhaps questionable durability.
Recommended for: Somebody wanting a comfortable, highly flexible shoe without an ultra-low drop.