Choosing the best
running shoes starts with identifying your foot type
Running shoes are more than just glorified sneakers. They're
built to guide your foot through the most efficient stride possible, with
strategically placed cushioning to absorb the impact of each footfall. What it
takes to generate that efficient stride, and where you really need the
cushioning, depends on your foot type and gait.
Running shoes come in three main types: stability, motion
control and neutral cushioning shoes. Some pronation -- inward roll of the
ankle -- is normal when you run. But if you overpronate, experts recommend
stability shoes to correct your stride and prevent the injuries that can result
from this type of movement. Any foot type can overpronate, but it's especially common
in people with flat feet.
If you overpronate severely, motion control shoes provide
even more stability features to correct your stride. At the other extreme, some
people supinate, running with their weight on the outside edges of their feet.
This is especially common in people with high arches. If this is you, a neutral
cushioned shoe can absorb that impact and redistribute it, helping your feet
return to a neutral gait.
And finally, if you're lucky enough to have normal arches and
efficient biomechanics -- in other words, your feet don't roll too far in or
too far out as you run -- you will probably be most comfortable in either a
neutral shoe or a stability shoe that provides only mild support, so it doesn't
interfere with the natural flex and give in your feet as you run.
Clues to help you identify your foot type
Identifying your foot type and gait -- and from that, which
type of running shoe you need -- can take some trial and error. Specialty
running shops usually have equipment and trained staff to help with this. If
you prefer to shop online, Runner's World has a great guide for identifying your foot type with nothing but some water, a
pan and a piece of heavy paper. Examining the soles of your old running shoes
is helpful, too. If you overpronate, you'll usually see extra wear on the
inside edges of your shoes, and underpronators/supinators will notice more wear on the outside edges.
If you only use your running shoes for running, they'll last
longer. To help you find the best footwear for other uses, we've put together
reports on hiking boots and trail running shoes. And if you like tracking
your fitness stats, we've also researched the best fitness trackers.
The best running
shoes for most feet
While the running shoes in this section are best for most
people, do keep in mind that because we all have different feet, there's no one
single best shoe for everybody. Instead, choosing running shoes is all about
figuring out which shoes fit your feet the best. This is something we
cover further both in the introduction to
this report and in our buying guide.
running shoe for most feet, the (Est. $100 and up), builds on the kudos
its predecessor accrued after hands-on testing from the likes of
OutdoorGearLab.com, Competitor.com and GearPatrol.com. Testers from
SoleReview.com -- basically the Consumer Reports of running shoes -- praise the
Glycerin 15 for its smooth, cushioned and markedly non-mushy ride. Although
this isn't the fastest race day shoe out there, it's the sort of daily trainer
you can use to log hundreds of miles, and owners say its plush cushioning is
great for all sorts of "problem foot" conditions, including plantar
fasciitis, arthritis and high arches.
The Brooks Glycerin
15 runs a little smaller and narrower than its predecessor, so make sure you go
a half-size up -- possibly a full size if this is your first time in Brooks
shoes, which generally run small. The toebox also feels a little narrower than
the toebox on the Glycerin 14, thanks to increased heel padding that pushes
your foot forward. Still, this shoe remains ridiculously comfortable, and is
available in narrow and wide widths to help you get a better fit. Users also
say that the 15's mesh upper vents breathe much better than the previous
overlays of the 14.
Brooks Glycerin 15 now has greater forefoot flexibility than its predecessor. A
wider outsole encourages a more stable ride, while extra flexibility in the
forefoot makes for quicker toe-offs. These aren't lightweight shoes -- a pair
of men's size 9 weighs 21.2 ounces -- but they still feel agile underfoot.
Some of that extra
softness and flexibility might translate to reduced durability, with
SoleReview.com forecasting an average lifespan of just 300 miles. That said, we
also find notes from one reviewer who's logged more than 350 miles each on two
pairs of these shoes and says that both pairs are still going strong.
Not long ago,
zero-drop shoes were considered a part of the minimalist running
"fad" -- but they have since settled in as an accepted part of the
market. The most popular zero-drop shoe we've encountered by far is the (Est. $130), which comes in men's and women's
specific lasts and has an extra-wide toebox. It's nabbed an Editor's Choice
award from Runner's World, is picked by SoleReview.com as one of the best
neutral running shoes, and gets top marks from GearPatrol.com too. Heads up:
Despite Altra's trademark extra-wide toebox, many users say this shoe runs
about a half-size small in general fit.
Unlike many other
minimalist and zero-drop models, the Altra Escalante has just the right amount
of cushioning for long runs. "Feels squishy while standing around, but
changes to a springy feeling as you run," writes one user. Runner's World
verified this in their testing, which showed that the Escalante has better
energy return than 95 percent of other shoes they've tested. The zero-drop
build suits forefoot strikers, and the softness of the shoe makes adapting
easier if you're new to zero-drop shoes, which don't have the elevated heel
you'll find on typical running shoes. If you're a heel striker or tend to
overpronate this isn't the best shoe for you, although they do take Superfeet
insoles nicely for those who want to add a little support.
Users say the
Escalante's flat-knit upper, the first ever from Altra, is a big hit. It
conforms to your foot for a supremely comfortable, breathable fit, and the
wide, foot-shaped toebox leaves plenty of room for toe splay. Users say you can
barely feel debris as you run over it, and we didn't find any complaints about
this shoe's durability. A pair of men's size 9 in the Altra Escalante weigh
manufacturer On has developed quite a following in a short time, and their (Est. $120 and up) shoe is a rising star in this year's
report, drawing a "Top Pick" from OutdoorGearLab.com and a lot of
love from consumers. Some reviewers call these racing flats, but they're really
everyday trainers that blend super light weight with great cushioning and
responsive handling, thanks to a very unusual midsole/outsole combination.
That combination is
called CloudTec. Instead of the standard layered
construction, On uses hollow blocks of firm EVA foam in the sole, adding a
carbon rubber outsole in the highest-wear areas. The channels between the EVA
blocks, paired with a comfortable, glove-like upper secured by quicklaces, really let the shoe flex and move with you.
Said channels also pick up gravel and other debris the minute you step off a
smooth roadway, so this shoe is at its best on clean surfaces. The 6mm
heel-to-toe offset suits any foot strike.
The one flaw we see
picked out by reviewers at OutdoorGearLab.com, and echoed by some users, is
that the upper's mesh overlay sometimes bunches over the big toe. The footbox
itself is plenty roomy, although users say that this shoe can feel narrow
through the midfoot.
The On Cloud weighs
just 14 ounces for a pair of men's size 8.5, and shoes this light usually don't
do well in terms of durability. But so far, so good: Although we're still
waiting on detailed feedback on the On Cloud's durability, testers from
OutdoorGearLab.com report that the mesh and synthetic overlays have held up to
abuse well, as has the carbon rubber on the outsole.
If you want a
reasonably cushioned shoe with some unobtrusive structure to it, the (Est. $105 and up) is excellent. It's
available in wide and narrow widths, and users say it offers plenty of toe
room. The laces snug the upper into a comfortable, sock-like fit over the
midfoot, and the tongue won't slide around on you.
This shoe earns a "Top Pick"
designation from OutdoorGearLab.com, along with praise for its responsive and
stable ride, and good cushioning after a short break-in period. That stability
is provided by a wedge of foam along the inside edge of the shoe; it's fused to
the rest of the sole, creating a flexible, sturdy joint so you don't get any of
the rigidity that typically accompanies a shoe with stability control.
SoleReview.com estimates the likely life of the
Nike Air Zoom Structure 20 at around 450 miles, although light runners might
get as many as 700 miles from a pair. A pair of Structure 20s in men's size 10
weigh about 22.4 ounces, and there is a 10mm offset from heel to toe.
The best running
shoes for high arches
For runners with high arches that cause them to supinate or underpronate (rolling their weight to the outside edges of
their feet), the best shoes usually have neutral cushioning or only a little
unobtrusive support, like all the models we've already discussed. That said,
the following shoes have drawn particular praise from reviewers with high
arches. Even if you have a neutral gait, the shoes in this section as also
worth a look, because they tend to "get out of the way" and let your
feet move naturally.
shoe in this category is the (Est. $120 and up), a perennial favorite for
runners with high arches. The Ghost 10 also wins a much-coveted Editor's Choice
award from Runner's World, thanks to its secure fit, soft midsole and quick
turnover. The high-volume toebox leaves plenty of room for your high arches and
even bunions, and you can find the Ghost in both narrow and wide widths. Like
most Brooks running shoes, the Ghost line typically runs a half-size small.
The overall feel of the Brooks Ghost 10 is
soft, comfortable and light, with good ventilation. Users say the uppers are
soft and comfortable and that the forefoot is softer and easier on the toes
than previous versions of the Ghost. Paradoxically, a few users also say the
Brooks Ghost 10 actually feels stiff underfoot -- but that type perceived
stiffness is usually the mark of a stable ride and good energy return. A
full-length "crash pad" in the midsole, a carryover from previous
iterations, accommodates any foot strike, although the 12mm heel-toe offset
makes a heel strike feel natural for most.
The Ghost also has great outsole traction,
although SoleReview.com warns that can create a week point in durability;
grippier outsoles usually wear down faster. They estimates the Ghost 10's
average lifespan at around 300 miles before that outsole starts to wear out or
the glued forefoot mesh weakens. A pair of men's size 9 weighs 20.8 ounces.
Another excellent neutral-cushioned shoe is the (Est. $100 and up), one of the longest-lived shoes still in circulation. Its
popularity hinges on the simple, efficient design that earned it a "Best
Buy" designation from OutdoorGearLab.com. They describe the Pegasus 34 as
"a pretty versatile shoe with enough padding, support, and cushion to make
most runners happy without sacrificing speed or fit."
The Nike Air Zoom
Pegasus 34 is available in both narrow and wide widths, with Flywire cords that help wrap the upper around your midfoot
for a glove-like fit. It draws great scores for comfort from
OutdoorGearLab.com, thanks in part to having Nike's proprietary "air
bag" cushions in the forefoot. Most users say these shoes offer great transitions
from foot strike to toe-off, good support for high arches, and good outsole
grip -- even if they feel a little stiff.
the outsole rubber on the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 offers a good balance
between traction and durability. They estimate average shoe life at about 450
miles, a sentiment echoed by a user who routinely averages 500 to 600 miles of
heavy use per pair. A men's pair of size 10 shoes weighs 20.8 ounces and has a
10mm offset from heel to toe.
If you have high
arches and want a little more structure to your shoes, you might enjoy the (Est. $110 and up). Although this is
technically a stability shoe, we found reviews from runners with all foot types
-- including lofty arches -- who say they love its great cushioning and low
heel-to-toe drop. In fact, the arch support may be a little too much for those
with low arches or no arches at all.
The Hoka One One Arahi earns a "Top Pick" designation from OutdoorGearLab.com, where it is
declared "a unique, maximalist stability shoe that will meet the needs of
any runner." They praise its responsiveness, and a tester with
Competitor.com describes feeling "an immediate energy boost -- almost like
being propelled forward -- in her stride."
Hoka One One's characteristic thickly padded sole -- a good inch tall -- and low
heel-to-toe drop can take a little getting used to, but this shoe is frequently
named as a favorite for users with plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and other
types of "problem" feet, so it's worth a try for almost anybody. Fitwise the Hoka One One Arahi runs just a little
narrow, although wide sizes are available. because it encourages a natural
stride, which most thickly padded shoes do not.
Durability for these shoes is middle of the
road, no pun intended. Most users can expect to get around 300 to 400 miles out
of a typical pair, although we do see occasional reports of early problems,
perhaps due to the shoe's generally light construction. A standard pair of
men's size 9 weigh 18.6 ounces, and the heel-toe offset is 5mm for men and 4mm
The best running
shoes for flat feet
If you have flat feet, also known as fallen
arches, there's a good chance that your feet overpronate when you walk or run.
Stability and motion control shoes combat this by providing extra support in
the arch and forefoot to keep your feet in line.
Motion control shoes were once universally
clunky and heavy, but our best-reviewed shoes for flat feet, the (Est. $110 and up), are completely the
opposite. Reviewers say these shoes are very lightweight, fast and comfortable
without sacrificing support, thanks to the responsive Flytefoam midsole and an
unobtrusive medial post.
Several flat-footed, overpronating users make a
point of praising these shoes for their stability. The Asics Gel DS Trainer 22
also earns a high recommendation from the flat-footed expert at
RunningShoeGuru.com, who describes them as "a workhorse that can double as
a race day shoe." Their cushioning is notably firm in the forefoot but a
little softer in the heel, and the outsole offers some of the best traction
we've seen in this category, even in inclement weather.
Comfort is generally good, thanks to a
stretchy, glove-like upper and a rigid exoskeleton around the heel that really
locks your foot into place. However, several reviewers comment on the thin
tongue, which can slide around a bit and might let you feel pressure points
along the top when the laces are tied. The Trainer 22 is also a little narrower
in the toebox than people are used to, although it still fits most feet, and
runs a little short. Between those two factors, reviewers say you should order
a half-size to a full-size up.
We found no complaints about the durability of
this shoe -- in fact, some users say the upper feels unusually durable compared
to superlight knit uppers that are currently popular. The Asics Gel DS Trainer
22 has a 10mm heel-toe offset and weighs 8 ounces for a men's size 9.
If you want a
stability shoe that is available in wide widths, the (Est. $120 and up) is also excellent for
runners with flat feet. It's larger and heavier than the Asics Gel DS Trainer
22, but reviewers say it still feels light underfoot and offers plenty of
cushioning -- so it's a good choice for running long distances at a more
The consensus is
that the Wave Inspire 13 fits true to size, with a sturdy, solid heel that
keeps your foot locked in, although SoleReview.com notes that the ankle collar
tends toward the loose. Both users and the flat-footed expert at
RunningShoesGuru.com say that the Mizuno Wave Inspire 13 offers great
stability. "I do not have an arch, so I pronate hugely. This shoe holds my
foot straight and is so supportive and cushiony," writes one user.
However these shoes
can feel a little stiff at first, and unlike most models discussed in this
report, they take about 50 miles to break in. Once you do break them in, the
Mizuno Wave Inspire 13 will last a long time; heavier runners can easily get
400 miles or more per pair. More good news: the toebox on the Inspire 13, a
problem spot on previous iterations, now lasts longer. A pair of men's size 9
shoes weigh 22 ounces, and this model has a 12mm offset from heel to toe.
Expert & User Review Sources
We identified the best shoes for several foot types,
including flat feet and high arches, by evaluating input from a number of
expert sources. Runner's World is one of
the best, followed by SoleReview.com, OutdoorGearLab.com, GearPatrol.com, Competitor.com and RunningShoesGuru.com. Information from
the latter is particularly helpful for runners with flat feet. User input from
everyday runners is enormously important too, especially when it doesn't agree
with expert evaluations; the best sources we spotted for user input on running
shoes were RoadRunnerSports.com and Amazon.com.