Best Running Shoes of 2021
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to render public gyms and workout facilities unsafe, more and more folks are looking for ways to stay active without a membership. While buying strength-training equipment or a fancy stationary bike might do the trick for some, others are looking for an affordable — and meaningful — way to incorporate movement into their routines. Running, perhaps the most straightforward and accessible form of cardio exercise, is great for your cardiovascular health, helps build strength and burns calories.
Best of all, you just need some open space and a solid pair of running shoes. Not sure where to start with that second one? The experts over at Fleet Feet note that "Everyone’s feet are different — not to mention their weight, footstrike, gait pattern and pronation." When selecting a pair that’s best for you, consider your running goals and exercise frequency; factor in any injuries or strains that need to be accounted for; and, of course, know your desired price point. There isn’t just one "best" running shoe out there, but we guarantee there’s a pair that fits you best.
Best Running Shoes for Beginners
If you’re new to running, picking the right shoes can be a bit daunting. After all, there are so many brands with so many models — all of which seem to hammer home that they’re the best of the best. The thing is, a good pair of running shoes not only aligns with your body — your weight, foot shape and so on — but it also aligns with your experience level and fitness goals. When it comes to picking shoes for a beginner, we recommend putting comfort first.
Think of it this way: If ill-fitting running shoes cause blisters or soreness, you’re less likely to keep running. For this reason we recommend New Balance Fresh Foam 880v10, which comes in what’s considered women’s sizing as well as what’s considered men’s sizing. We love this pair of New Balance shoes because they’re designed heel to toe with comfort in mind. For example, the Fresh Foam midsole delivers an ultra-cushioned, lightweight feel, while other elements of the shoe are designed to provide stretch, support and rebound where appropriate. Needless to say, breaking these in won’t feel like a chore.
Best Cushioned Running Shoes
When it comes to running shoes, comfort isn’t just for newbies. While super-padded shoes won’t make you the quickest runner out there, they’re certainly a great option to have in your lineup. That is, whether you’re looking to take it down a notch on a recovery day or want to avoid injury while training, shoes with more padding are the way to go.
Plenty of brands are packing their footwear with foam, but few do so in a sleek way. Enter: the Mizuno Men's Wave Sky 4 Waveknit Running Shoe and Mizuno Women's Wave Sky 4 Waveknit Running Shoe. These models feature the all-new Mizuno Enerzy foam, which provides both a "softer landing and more energetic takeoff" (via Fleet Feet). These lightweight, fitted shoes are so comfy you’ll forget you’re wearing anything on your feet at all, even after miles and miles of use.
Best Long-Distance Running Shoes
Sure, we’ve said that there’s no one perfect running shoe out there. And we’ve said that there’s no "one size fits all" solution to finding that elusive "best" shoe. However, if there was a preeminent running shoe, it would be the unisex Nike Vaporfly NEXT%. Wonderful for both short and long-distance races, Nike’s site touts that it’s a "racing shoe for breaking records" — and that isn’t an overstatement.
You’ll see a lot of professional runners (and serious marathoners) rocking the Vaporfly NEXT% shoes — and stepping onto the winner’s podium with them. What makes these shoes so special? Equipped with responsive ZoomX foam and a patented carbon-fiber plate that delivers a fast, propulsive sensation, these Nikes will encourage you to keep pushing. A nice bonus? The all-new Vaporweave material, which is both water-resistant and lightweight.
Best Stability Running Shoes
The name of the game here is reliability. If you’re in the market for this type of shoe, you’re probably most interested in footwear that combines comfort and support — and delivers consistent results in both of those fields. Simply put, most runners favor certain parts of their feet, meaning that some parts of their shoes undergo more compression than others. A stability shoe tries to mitigate that issue by harnessing the stabilizing powers of firmer foams or plastic inserts.
When it comes to this shoe type, we favor the On Running Women’s Cloudstratus Mesh Trainers and the On Running Men's Cloudstratus Running Shoe. These well-structured shoes — with their unique-looking, CloudTec midsoles and dual-layer cushioning — provide a soft, easy ride, all while remaining firm. A bonus? Stability running shoes tend to last a bit longer than other pairs because they’re built to resist wear and tear, and these are no exception.
Best Shoes for Trail Running
While your standard road-friendly running shoes might work for a relatively flat, dry trail, they won’t help you find your footing on more difficult surfaces. So, what separates a trail-specific running shoe from its brethren? Namely, trail shoes "employ stickier rubber compounds and more aggressive lugs" to create a more durable outsole, Fleet Feet explains.
When it comes to trail-appropriate footwear, ALTRA’s signature Lone Peak line is unbeatable. Both comfortable and trail-safe, the ALTRA Men's Lone Peak 4 Trail Running Shoe and ALTRA Women's Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Running Shoe, depending upon which fit you’d like, are ALTRA’s best trail shoes to date. The MaxTrac rubber outsole and TrailClaw lugs provide a much better grip than comparable models, the shoe’s "gaitertrap tech" protects against debris and the patented StoneGuard provides relief from on-trail hazards like rocks and roots.