Running shoes come in three main types: stability, motion-control and neutral-cushioning. Stability shoes are designed to discourage overpronation -- an inward rolling of the foot while running -- through the use of firm foam or posts along the arch (or medial) side of the shoe. This prevents the foot from rolling inward excessively, which can lead to a variety of running injuries, including shin splints. These shoes are recommended for runners with normal arches or mild to moderate overpronators. Stability shoes are the most common, since most runners have normal arches and tend to overpronate at least a little bit. Motion-control shoes are designed for those with low arches and severe overpronators, whose feet roll inward too much when they run. Neutral-cushioning shoes are designed for runners with high arches who usually underpronate, which means their feet can't properly handle the impact of their weight.
The Brooks Adrenaline shoe series has long been considered a top pick in the stability category. Previously, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10 was favored by both users and experts who said it was a good fit for runners who need a solid amount of stability to prevent moderate overpronation. The Adrenaline GTS 10 was discontinued in December 2010 and replaced with the updated Adrenaline GTS 11 (*Est. $100). This shoe wins a Best Update award from Runner's World magazine, where testers praise its "soft ride and excellent arch support." The newest version of the shoe features a new heel cradle to help hold the foot in place and added gel underfoot for a more supported landing. It also has a new arch saddle in the upper for midfoot support.
Like many Brooks running shoes, the Adrenaline GTS 11 uses the BioMoGo midsole, which is made of a material that biodegrades faster than traditional midsoles. The rearfoot and forefoot feature the Brooks DNA, which the brand says adds "cushioning and resiliency." In addition to the Runner's World distinction, the Adrenaline GTS 11 earns praise from the editors of Shape magazine, who deem it their favorite pick of 2011 for distance running. Self calls the Adrenaline GTS 11 the perfect shoe for "runners of all sizes, foot shapes and levels." The shoe is also selected as a top pick by Runner's World U.K. and Women's Health. Wear-testers there particularly praise its arch support.
The shoe receives stellar reviews from customers of RoadRunnerSports.com and Amazon.com, and more than 100 users give the men's and women's versions of the GTS 11 positive feedback. Many say the shoe provides an incredibly comfortable yet supported ride. Some users had complained of the Adrenaline GTS 10's narrower fit. The GTS 11 has a similar fit, but Brooks offers the shoe in four different width options, making it easier for runners to find a width that matches their foot.
The number of stability shoes with loyal followings can be overwhelming. Brooks, in particular, is a brand favored by serious runners. In addition to the Adrenaline GTS 11, we found positive reviews for the Brooks Ravenna 2 (*Est. $100). This lightweight shoe has plenty of cushioning and support, and is well-suited for mild overpronators. At 10.8 ounces, it's relatively light (though not as light as those discussed later in the lightweight stability category); traditional road-running shoes weigh about 11 to 14 ounces per shoe. The Ravenna 2 provides slightly less stability than the Adrenaline GTS 11, but has more flexibility and a low-to-the-ground profile for speed. The Ravenna 2 earns the highly coveted Editor's Choice award in the May 2011 Runner's World shoe guide. An improved 3D adjustable arch saddle allows the shoe to hug the foot, and both consumers and experts are impressed with the shoe's fit.
Other running-shoe brands with well-received stability shoes include Asics, Mizuno, Nike and Saucony. First introduced in 1993, Asics' Gel-Kayano has long been a top seller and has a dedicated following. The latest Gel-Kayano 17 receives several tweaks that set it apart from the previous Kayano 16, making it lighter and more responsive. Plus, improvements in midfoot cushioning provide a smoother landing and transition. At 12.6 ounces, the Asics Gel-Kayano 17 (*Est. $140) is relatively hefty. That means runners receive an incredibly cushy shoe with solid support and an outstanding fit; it earns great marks with customers at Amazon.com and other online retailers.
The Nike Zoom Structure Triax+ 14 (*Est. $100) is another well-reviewed stability running shoe. In its Spring 2011 Running Shoe Guide, Runner's World magazine awarded the Zoom Structure Triax+ 14 an Editor's Choice distinction, saying it has an excellent balance between stability and weight. The shoe also receives good feedback from users and on running sites like RunningShoesGuru.com. At 11.5 ounces, it isn't as heavy as the Asics Gel-Kayano 17, for example. Still, this shoe lends a smooth, stable and well-cushioned run.
In previous years, experts overwhelmingly recommended the Nike LunarGlide+ (Discontinued) for runners with mild overpronation who need only a touch of stability. The shoe was introduced in 2009 and won a host of awards, including the Best Debut distinction in Runner's World magazine's Fall 2009 Running Shoe Guide. It also won a Gear of the Year award from Outside magazine. This lightweight running shoe weighs just 8.6 ounces for women and 10.6 ounces for men, but experts say it still provides adequate pronation control for those with normal arches.
The original Nike LunarGlide+ was discontinued in mid-2010 and replaced with an update called the Nike LunarGlide+ 2 (*Est. $100). Owners say the new version features a firmer cushioning system -- which earns praise -- but lament the shoe's minimal upper support. The LunarGlide+ 2 has garnered far less attention than its predecessor but does receive positive user feedback. Users say the shoe is comfortable and provides enough support for mild overpronators. However, several question its quality, noting that its durability seems worse than comparable models.
For those who are new to running, the name Mizuno may not ring a bell. Despite being a lesser-known brand, Mizuno's stability shoes receive incredible feedback from both users and experts. The Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7 (*Est. $130), Wave Inspire 7 (*Est. $100) and Wave Alchemy 10 (*Est. $110) all have loyal followers, and receive their fair share of positive reviews from both experts and consumers.
These running shoes vary primarily on the level of support they provide. The Wave Inspire 7 is the lightest of the three, weighing just 11.4 ounces, and is hailed for its fast feel yet ample support. The shoe lacks the cushioning of the Alchemy 10 and Nirvana 7, which users say is noticeable. The Wave Inspire 7 is also cut relatively high, which some say makes the shoe rub uncomfortably on the ankle bone.
For runners who need more stability, Mizuno offers the Wave Alchemy 10, which weighs in at 11.8 ounces. There's no consensus as to which shoe is more popular or better reviewed, but the Wave Alchemy 10 received the most attention over the past year. It was selected as Runner's World's Best Update in the Fall 2010 Running Shoe Guide, where editors and testers say the shoe is "remarkably lightweight and flexible." The shoe was discontinued and replaced with the new Wave Alchemy 11 in July 2011, and we couldn't find any reviews of the updated version at the time of this report.
Runners who need more support might try the Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7. This shoe is recommended for those who need sturdy, durable stability, and is well suited for heavier runners who benefit from a firmer heel.
As previously mentioned, the latest trends in running shoes favor lighter, more minimalist models. For those who aren't quite ready to try a minimalist or zero-drop shoe, some options straddle the line between these and a traditional road-running shoe. This type of light shoe typically weighs less than 10.5 ounces and has a very low-to-the-ground profile. For the purpose of this report, these shoes are referred to as lightweight stability shoes, but you'll often see them listed as performance-training shoes. They're excellent for speedwork training, but experts say they aren't suitable for everyday use.
By far, the Nike LunarElite+ 2 (*Est. $100) and the Saucony ProGrid Mirage (*Est. $100) are the most popular current models in this running-shoe class. The Saucony ProGrid Mirage was first introduced in February 2011. It features a low 4mm drop from back to front; by comparsion, traditional road-running shoes are in the 12mm to 14mm range. At 9.8 ounces and 8.3 ounces for men's and women's models respectively, the ProGrid Mirage is also substantially lighter than other stability shoes. Despite the light weight, the shoe provides a surprising amount of support thanks to a plastic post under the medial side of the foot.
Of all the models in this shoe category, we found the most recommendations for Saucony's ProGrid Mirage. However, the Nike LunarElite+ 2 is selected as the Editor's Choice in the Spring 2011 Runner's World running-shoe guide, and earns praise from Fitness and Shape magazines, and Women's Running Magazine.
The LunarElite+ 2 is slightly heavier than the ProGrid Mirage, weighing in at 10 and 8.2 ounces for men and women, respectively. Experts say the shoe offers more comfort, stability and flexibility than its predecessor. It's a good pick for mild overpronators who want a shoe for speedwork or performance training. The K-Swiss Kwicky Blade-Light (*Est. $130) isn't as popular as the LunarElite+ 2 or the ProGrid Mirage but receives positive feedback.
Motion-control shoes are designed for severe overpronators or heavy runners. Shoes in this category are typically heavier and more rigid than other shoes, since they use more materials -- usually firm foam, wedges or posts -- along the arch side of the shoe to correct overpronation (too much inward roll of the foot). Due to these extra materials, motion-control shoes are far less flexible than other types of running shoes, especially in the midfoot. They aren't recommended for neutral runners or underpronators (those with high arches whose feet don't roll inward at all).
Unfortunately for severe overpronators, there are fewer choices available in the motion-control category than ever before as manufacturers focus their attention on minimal and lightweight running shoes. As a result, major reviewers are testing fewer of these models. For instance, Runner's World magazine includes noticeably fewer motion-control shoes in its quarterly shoe guides.
Previously, the Saucony ProGrid Stabil CS (Discontinued) was the top motion-control running shoe. It received Runner's World magazine's Best Update award for 2009, where it earned high marks for flexibility and responsiveness. The updated ProGrid Stabil CS 2 was released in February 2011, but at the time of this report there are few reviews from experts or users. Runner's World includes the shoe in its Spring 2011 Running Shoe Guide, saying it "delivers the hardest landing" of any of the other 20 shoes in the guide. The real change in the new model comes in the structure of the outsole in the forefoot, which is now much firmer than it was previously. It also receives a new, lighter mesh upper. At 11.6 ounces, the shoe is lighter than comparable motion-control running shoes. Wear-testers aren't thrilled with the cushioning, though some say the shoe simply needs some time to be broken in. The ProGrid Stabil CS 2 is recommended for runners who need a seriously supportive shoe that won't slow them down as a result.
For severe overpronators or heavier runners, the Brooks Beast 11 (*Est. $130) -- or its women's version, the Brooks Ariel 11 (*Est. $100) -- is a good choice. Now in its 11th incarnation, the Beast has a name befitting the shoe. It uses a diagonal roll bar for maximum pronation control, and gel pads under the heel and forefoot provide extra cushioning. This isn't a lightweight, sleek shoe; it's a monster whose wide base and maximum stability posting along the medial side helps correct even the most dire overpronators. We found few expert reviews of the Beast/Ariel, but we did see plenty of user feedback vouching for the stability and motion control offered by this shoe. At 14.4 ounces, it's very heavy, plus it lacks in the aesthetics department. Still, the model's loyal followers say it makes running -- even long distances -- comfortable.
Like both the Brooks Beast/Ariel and the Saucony ProGrid Stabil CS, the New Balance 1123 (*Est. $150) has been around for a while but continues to receive positive user reviews. Designed for high-mileage runners, the women's version of the New Balance 1123 earns a 4.4-star rating from nearly 500 reviewers on Buzzillions.com. Several runners praise its generous sizing, which accommodates wide feet and leaves plenty of room for orthotics. "I have plantar fasciitis, wear orthotics, walk/run about 50 minutes every day, and these shoes make that possible," one reviewer writes. Most find that the cushioning and support hold up well during long runs. The men's version of the New Balance 1123 receives far fewer reviews (just 30) and a lower 3.4-star rating. Most complaints center on fit -- the shoe's too roomy for one person, too narrow in the heel for someone else -- which is just more evidence that one running shoe won't work for everyone. A few reviewers say the New Balance 1123 has a firm midsole that feels hard on impact.
For those looking for a plusher ride in a motion-control running shoe, the Asics Gel-Evolution 6 (*Est. $120) is a good pick. The shoe was released in January 2011 and featured in the Spring 2011 Running Shoe Guide of Runner's World, where editors say it feels "like a pillowy mattress laid on a concrete floor." The Gel-Evolution 6 also receives generally positive reviews from users at Amazon.com and Zappos.com. It's a heavy shoe at 13.5 ounces, but users say it has a sleeker, faster feel than other motion-control shoes without sacrificing support.
Asics also offers the lighter 10.5-ounce Gel-Foundation 10, which was just released in June 2011 as we were updating this report, so there are no reviews of the shoe available yet. Like its predecessors, this shoe provides a firm ride but has more flexibility than comparable models.
Neutral running shoes are designed for runners with high arches and underpronators. They're typically lighter and less rigid than motion-control or stability shoes, and encourage the foot to pronate naturally. Many neutral running shoes are also recommended for runners with big builds who have normal to high arches.
We found many reviews for the Brooks Glycerin 8 (Discontinued) in this category, but the shoe has been discontinued to make way for the Glycerin 9. At the time of this writing, you could still widely buy version 8, which was a ConsumerSearch Best Reviewed pick and an Editor's Choice in Runner's World's Spring 2010 running-shoe guide. It also receives high marks from testers at Competitor.com and Fitness magazine, as well as users at Buzzillions.com and Amazon.com.
Brooks introduced the updated Glycerin 9 in June 2011, so at this time the shoe has received very few reviews from users and none from expert sources. It appears that the new incarnation will hold up to the Glycerin 8, which included the Brooks DNA, a liquid-cushioning technology designed to improve energy return and tailor cushioning for each runner's weight and pace. Most reviewers of the Glycerin 8 comment on the balance this technology provides: It's not too soft nor too firm. For the Glycerin 9, Brooks added Omega flex grooves to improve gait efficiency and flexibility.
The Glycerin's sister model, the Brooks Ghost 4 (*Est. $100), also receives positive user and expert feedback. This neutral shoe is lightweight (11.3 ounces for men and 9.3 ounces for women) and has a good deal of arch support, so reviewers recommend it for high- to normal-arched runners who like to run fast. Like the Glycerin, however, we found many more reviews for the Ghost 2, which was discontinued in June 2010 and replaced with the Ghost 3. The Ghost 3 receives some positive user and expert feedback, and was awarded the Editor's Choice award in Runner's World's Fall 2010 guide. It was also a 2011 favorite of the U.K.-based Ransacker.co.uk. In June 2011 the Ghost 3 was replaced with the Ghost 4, which incorporates the Brooks DNA into the heel and forefoot.
In November 2010, Saucony introduced the neutral-cushioned ProGrid Triumph 8 (*Est. $130), the successor to the discontinued ProGrid Triumph 7. This shoe is known for providing excellent heel protection and delivering a more responsive feel than plusher neutral-cushioned models. Expert and user reviews of the ProGrid Triumph 8 are incredibly positive. Buzzillions.com users rate the shoe an average 4.5 out of 5 stars, saying it's a great balance between a firm, responsive ride and a plush base that encourages pronation. It should be noted that because the ProGrid Triumph 8 is firmer than a typical neutral-cushioned shoe, it's best suited for those with mildly high arches. Those with moderate to severely high arches should consider the Brooks Glycerin 9.
The Asics Gel-Nimbus 12 (*Est. $125) is also seen as a good choice for those who want an incredibly plush neutral-cushioned shoe. It was praised by both experts and reviewers for its stellar impact protection and fit. The Gel-Nimbus 13 is the latest version, and the brand says it has shaved 0.75 ounce from the shoe to make it lighter and faster. RuntheLine.com's Ross Middleton offers a nice comparison of the two models, saying that running enthusiasts like him will be tempted by the weight savings, but noting that the Gel-Nimbus 12 can now be found at a fraction of the cost. Amazon.com features a handful of user reviews, all of which are very positive and say the shoe feels closer to the ground.
Fitness magazine editors say runners in the market for a neutral running shoe should consider the Adidas Supernova Glide 3 (*Est. $110). This secure, well-fitting shoe is "overwhelmingly soft," but remains both supportive and responsive thanks to subtle arch support and strategic flex grooves on the outsole. The Glide 3 also gets fantastic feedback from users at Amazon.com, Buzzillions.com and several blogs, including ActiveGearReview.com. Reviewers say the superb cushioning makes it a particularly good pick for those recovering from injury. Some warn, however, that the heel pocket is large compared to other models and can be uncomfortable for some runners.
For those who want a light shoe with cushion, the Karhu Forward Fulcrum Ride (*Est. $115) was released last year, and weighs just 10.4 ounces for men and 8.9 ounces for women. National Geographic Adventure magazine editors love how the shoe allows you to feel the ground while still providing cushion and support. The Forward Fulcrum Ride has a unique design, with a high heel and a low-to-the-ground forefoot, that takes some getting used to. Testers at Runner's World praise its heel-to-toe transition, but some users say the high heel feels awkward. As a result, most experts -- including those at Running Times -- recommend this shoe for efficient, fast-paced runners. It should be noted that while the Forward Fulcrum Ride fared well with experts, users give the shoe more mixed reviews, often questioning its durability.
New Balance's newly introduced 890 (*Est. $100) has also been on the receiving end of high praise by runners looking for a lightweight neutral-cushioning shoe. It features a soft, seamless upper and plenty of heel protection for everyday use. Unlike other models, however, the New Balance 890 was designed to feel more minimalistic. The brand has increasingly offered pared-down shoes, and reviewers and consumers seem to appreciate the new design direction. At just 9.7 ounces for men and a mere 7.65 ounces for women, the 890 is one of the lightest neutral running shoes on the market and reviewers adore the lightweight feel. The shoe also features the New Balance RevLite midsole, which helps the shoe strike a nice balance between responsiveness and cushion. Plus, at just $100, it's one of the more budget-friendly models available, making it our Best Reviewed pick in this category. Self magazine selects the New Balance 890 as a top new shoe for 2011, saying it'll keep "distance runners all smiles." The 890 also wins accolades from Women's Running Magazine, who says the shoe is "surprisingly responsive and durable." Women's Health, Outside and Men's Fitness magazines also call the shoe a top pick of the year.