Training for a marathon or just wanting to get outside for a few miles? Then you need good shoes. Shoes are one of the most important tools in your running arsenal. Yet, they are notoriously hard to shop for. Unlike other fitness gear that you can order solely based on good reviews, with running shoes, you really have to understand if an athletic shoe option will work for you personally, which depends on a lot of factors. The best running shoes share the same class-leading features with the best shoes overall—they’re light, comfortable, cushioned, and just supportive enough where you need it most.
Shopping for running shoes? Here is what to look for:
|Design: You’ll find two general types of running shoe structure: traditional and minimalist. Traditional styles are built up, meaning they have more cushioning, stability, and support. Minimalist shoes have little to no cushioning — they’re lighter and have more flexibility to move with your foot. The debate rages on about which type is better. Some studies show that experienced runners may develop greater running efficiency and speed in a minimalist shoe. But research also shows a correlation between minimalist footwear and injury.|
Special support or injuries: If you’ve ever been injured or have a collapsed arch, your needs will be different than other runners. You may need a stability shoe, since you’ll want a shoe that can support your ankles and joints more. Stability shoes will help give your ankle the most support possible. This will help reduce some of the stress on your joints caused by running, and allow you to run longer in the correct foot position.
Lightweight or neutral shoes: If you are injury-free and are free of arch issues, then it is best to go for a lightweight running shoe, referred to as a “neutral” shoe. These feel great on your feet, very light with medium support. These are excellent for sprints or any asphalt or concrete run.
Outdoor and trail running: If you primarily run on dirt trails, invest in a pair of running shoes meant for dirt or gravel. These are referred to as “trail running shoes,” which will help your traction as you run to avoid slipping and falling.
Check for chafing: The upper part of your sneaker shouldn’t have seams on the underside that could rub you raw. You’d be surprised how quickly that can happen, even through a comfort sock.
Grip level: Make sure you aren’t experiencing any heel slippage, either, which could quickly cause blisters. The shoe’s arch should mold to yours, but the toe box should stay out of the way of your piggy. For fit, use the thumb test. You should have enough room between your big toe and the tip of the shoe to press your thumb down on the upper. Your feet increase in volume when you’re running, thanks to all that oxygen and blood flow, so try on shoes later in the day when your feet have naturally swollen a bit.
Foot type: Your anatomy (such as flat feet or high arches) can play a part in your pronation and therefore in the type of shoe you need. Plus, other variations will determine whether you need a more generous toe box to avoid bruising your nails from too much banging.
Materials, colour, attitude: Style and taste may matter to you too. The “dad shoe” look might be your thing. Or maybe you want a bit of colour and sass or something simple you can wear on errands. Maybe you prefer shoes with eco-friendly materials.
Price range: Let’s not forget the cash factor. Sneakers can be pricey, with some reaching into the double hundreds. But you don’t have to shell out big bucks to find running shoe bliss. Plenty of lower-priced models get great reviews, while high-ticket pairs sometimes get blasted. Base your decision on finding a shoe that fits your needs and is your price range.
Shoe gender: Fit and feel matter more than shoe gender. Sure, men’s and women’s feet typically have some anatomical differences, and brands account for this with variations in shoe design. Studies show that some women would rather buy men’s running shoes. Why? Because many brands don’t carry their size in women’s. And some men buy women’s running shoes simply because they fit their feet better.
Your choice of which “shoe gender” to buy might also come down to colour. Some manufacturers offer neutral colours for men but only highlighter colours for women, and that may not be your thing. If the shoe fits and you like it, buy it.
Women’s vs. Men’s vs. Unisex Shoes
There’s more to female-specific shoes than a splash of pink or purple. Biologically speaking, females are generally smaller than males, which means they exert less impact when their feet hit the ground. As a result, running shoes made for women can be a little lighter and softer.
Another factor: Women are more likely to over-pronate (meaning your foot rolls inward as you move). So running sneaks made for women tend to compensate for that to reduce the risk of injury.
Of course, there’s no rule that women have to wear women’s running shoes. We know not all women are smaller than all men, and some runners identify as neither male nor female.
The bottom line: It’s really more important to go by what feels good to you, which is why this list focuses on shoes that meet the performance needs of all types of runners.
Best 6 Running Shoes for Women
Nike Air Pegasus 37 – Best Everyday Women’s Eunning Shoe
The Good: Thicker midsole, now with React foam, provides bottomless cushioning
The Bad: Heel fit felt slightly loose to some testers
The Air Pegasus is the bestselling running shoe of all time, so you know it’s got to be pretty good. Nike made big updates last year to its best-selling running shoe of all time, including female-specific details to give women a better feel. The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 is the same lightweight and snappy everyday trainer it has always been, but designers this year updated the midsole and Zoom Air unit for a faster ride. Nike swapped out the Cushlon foam midsole from the previous version for a React foam midsole in the Peg 37.
Inside the new midsole, designers used a single Zoom Air unit in the forefoot instead of the full-length unit in the previous Pegasus. The Air unit is shorter, but Nike doubled the thickness to create greater rebound than ever before. This is also where Nike used feedback from its female testers to create a unique ride. Women who tested the Pegasus 37 wanted a less stiff feeling, so Nike tuned the Air unit to roughly 15 psi—a little softer than the 20 psi unit in the men’s model.
Nike made the big changes to the midsole but kept the Peg’s same low-profile silhouette and lightweight feel that makes it a great women’s running shoe.
Whether you’re logging serious miles or hitting the track for some speedwork, the women’s Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 remains a versatile and speedy performance running shoe.
Salomon Wildcross – Best for Soft, Muddy Trails
The Good: Spaced out, pronounced lugs for reliable traction
Water-repellent mesh upper
The Bad: No rock plate
Prime your legs for mud-splattering, because that’s what the Wildcross is made for. Deep, spaced out, toothy lugs ensure a strong hold on gloppy terrain, while the upper’s snug, locked-in fit will give you confidence on sloshy, soupy trails post-rainstorm. Both rugged and nimble, this shoe is for racing in dirt, gravel, and even snow, thanks to its protective, water-repellent mesh upper.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20 – Best for Knees Protection
The Good: Support for both neutral runners and overpronators
DNA Loft foam provides firmer heel cushioning
The Bad: Feels heavy for speedwork
Brooks sneakers are an enduring favorite among runners, and this iteration of its Adrenaline model is likely to convert any remaining uninitiated. New additions to the shoe’s design include supportive “GuideRails,” which allow the wearer to maintain a healthy range of motion while reducing the kind of excess movement that leads to knee injuries, and a cushioned shock absorption grid along the sole.
The attention to detail in this running sneaker’s construction, like the engineered mesh upper, makes it one of the best running shoes for anyone looking to protect their gait and extend their longevity as a runner — which will come in handy if you’re training for a marathon.
Skechers GORun Ride 8 Hyper – Best for Cushion and Bounce
The Good: Very soft forefoot cushioning still feels fast
Moderate drop felt accessible to a variety of footstrikes
The Bad: Toe box felt slightly small to some testers
Yet another sneaker built for comfort, these Skechers are similar to Hokas in terms of comfort and fit, as several reviewers noted, but at a slightly more appealing price point. In addition to the lightweight shoe’s cushiness, its sole’s wide platform offers stability for the wearer’s strides and encourages the foot forward with a propulsive response. But this feature can make for surprising loud landings, some reviewers noted.
This clunkiness is likely a product of the shoe’s design, rather than its weight, as reviewers tended to describe the Goruns as “lightweight.”
Altra Escalante 2.5 – Best as a Versatile Everyday Shoe
The Good: Sock-like, breathable engineered knit upper
Moderately cushioned midsole
The Bad: Runs slightly narrower than past versions
This shoe is designed with running and everyday wear in mind, so it makes sense that reviewers praise the Escalante for its comfortable fit — whether that’s for everyday wear or long runs. The fast and responsive Escalante now adds more cushion and support with a high-rebound midsole that feels stiff and snappy for speedwork, yet cushy enough for long runs. Like previous Escalante models, the 2.5 sports a wide toe box and a flexible flat-knit upper to satisfy runners used to a generous fit. Plus, Altra’s women-specific last takes into account the wearer’s narrower heel, higher instep, and longer arch. The flexible design allows your feet to flex for more comfort and still provides some stability.
Saucony Kinvara 11 – Best All-around Daily Trainer
The Good: Locked-in fit with plush tongue and collar
New midsole foam provides higher energy return
The Bad: Exposed outsole foam can show early wear
Feels shorter in length compared to predecessor
Sometimes cushioning can make a shoe feel like you’re hauling around bricks on your feet. That’s not the case with the Saucony Kinvara 11. These shoes provide the right amount of bounce and snap in a lightweight design, so they’re perfect for everyday runs.
One downside, according to reviewers, is the shoe’s pillowy tongue. But the rest of the upper is a breathable mesh that locks your foot into place.
Best 6 Running Shoes for Men
Brooks Ghost 13 – Best Overall Running Shoes for Men
The Good: New full-length DNA Loft midsole for more softness
Air mesh upper improves breathability
The Bad: Not for racing
The Ghost shoes in particular have garnered their own devoted fan base. The Ghost 13s are the newest version of these long-time favorites. They have a hefty 12mm heel-to-toe drop, which means the heel-end is 12 millimeters taller than the toe-end of the shoe. The Ghost 13s also feature significant arch support and full-foot support for optimal comfort.
Brooks says the Ghost shoes are intended for road running, but I’ve taken my Ghosts on plenty of trails and they’ve performed fantastically as a trail running shoe — although they’re not waterproof, so I wouldn’t take them out to muddy trails.
Upper mesh keeps the shoes breathable for long runs on hot days, and at 10.1 ounces, they’re sturdy but won’t weigh you down.
Adidas Supernova – Best Budget Buy
The Good: Testers praised the upper’s comfort and soft heel collar
Lighter than the Ultraboost, but still provides soft cushioning
The Bad: Some testers wanted a more locked-in fit at the midfoot
The new Supernova is a revelation in Adidas’s running lineup—and for the $100 and under shoe category across the board. Previous renditions of the shoe were well-cushioned and protective for long runs, but felt clunky and heavy underfoot. Now, it feels like one of the smoothest shoes around, with Boost heel cushioning that soaks up braking forces and seamlessly transitions to a soft EVA foam forefoot. At 10-minute pace or five-minute pace, the Supernova feels brilliant and more lively. The mesh upper is similarly great, with no hot spots or uncomfortable seams, and a snug midfoot fit that opens up into a spacious toe box.
New Balance Fresh Foam X Beacon v3 – Best Lightweight Trainer
The Good: Softer cushioning than the Beacon v2
Upper fit has been improved
The Bad: Outsole shows some earlier wear
Slightly heavier than the Beacon v2
There’s a lot to love about the Beacon. It’s light. It’s comfortable. It can go fast, but it has enough cushioning to keep you going through double-digit mileage. The third version significantly improves the fit (the upper in the shoe’s second version felt a little loose and sloppy to some testers). Plus, New Balance also switches the Beacon over to Fresh Foam X cushioning, which makes it feel a little softer this time around. If you regularly bounce from speedwork to long runs and need a shoe that can keep up for both, this is a great candidate. “The Beacon takes the prize for being my favorite shoe,” one tester said. “It’s lightweight, cushioned, and comfortable, and the way the collar cradles the heel is perfect for me.”
Saucony Endorphin Speed – Most Versatile
The Good: PEBA-based foam is soft and bouncy
Nylon plate provides fast turnover
Excels at training and racing speeds
The Bad: Snugger racer-style fit felt slightly short to some testers
While most of the fastest runners will still reach for pricier racers with carbon fiber, like the Endorphin Pro and Nike Alphafly Next%, the Endorphin Speed is a suitable racing option for most of us. It’s still stiff—though the nylon plate is far more flexible than carbon fiber—and snappy, and the cushioning works well for short, fast races all the way up to the marathon distance. Where the Speed shines, however, is in everyday training. For tempo runs and interval sessions, the Speed delivers all the hustle you need for your workout, while saving you some cash versus those more expensive race-day models.
On Cloudflyer – Best Long-distance Running Shoes
The Good: Supportive without extra weight
Firm and responsive
The Bad: Stiff, and inconsistent traction
The most important thing to look for in all running shoes, but especially long-distance running shoes, is comfort. Everyone’s feet are different, so when the miles are adding up, you need to feel good the whole time. Definitely test the shoes in the shop on a treadmill if you can.
The On Cloudflyer is a uniquely designed running shoe that uses the spaces between the outsole and midsole. The spaces make the shoes lighter and give them more bounce, which may make them more comfortable for longer runs.
Reviews on Amazon are mixed, and it seems like people either love or hate these shoes. The fans are die-hard but so are the naysayers, but no one can please everyone.
Altra Lone Peak 4.5 – Best for Sloppy Trails
The Good: Gaiter traps and tacky outsole for wet trail conditions
Wide, foot-shaped toe box
The Bad: Heel and forefoot cushioning may be very firm
That “.5” in the name signals that Altra has tinkered with only a few features of the rugged Lone Peak. The shoe has the same outsole as the 4 and a slightly tweaked midsole foam for more durability. Its upper has undergone the most changes, with fewer overlays and a new lacing system, which translates to a less flimsy tongue and more locked-in saddle that hugs the arch. “The fit and comfort was the best thing about the shoe,” said a tester. “It wrapped perfectly around my foot. The cushioning is a little bit hard; it’s a shoe I’d save for races.” One plus for the show is that the midsole Stoneguard shields the pads of your feet on rocky trails, yet still feels pliable and lightweight so you aren’t encumbered with stiffness.