Whether you’re a would-be runner, a casual jogger or even a competitive runner, chances are you’ve contemplated spending big bucks to find the best running shoes.
Maybe you have existing problems with your feet or knees that could be alleviated by a good pair of stability shoes, or you might be looking for running shoes to take your pavement pounding to the next level.
Whatever your reasons for needing a pair of legit trail runners, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re paying for and if the potential extra cost will help you reach your fitness goals — or if you’re just buying into a lot of hype.
We spoke to foot doctors for help identifying the best options in the running shoe market.
7 Best Running Shoes for Every Type of Runner
The best running shoes can cost an arm and leg — but they don’t have to. If you’re on the hunt for new running shoes, here’s what to look for.
Best Running Shoes for Daily Runners
Shoe: Hoka One One Mach 4
Why they’re the best: “I like the Hoka One One Mach 4 for a daily running shoe since it’s both stable and lightweight, with a good fit,” says podiatrist and foot surgeon Kimberly Hoang Nguyen of Philadelphia Podiatry. Keep in mind that other reviewers say traction isn’t the best on this model, meaning these make better road running shoes than trail running shoes.
Best Running Shoes for Occasional Runners
Shoe: New Balance 1080v11
Why they’re the best: This versatile shoe is Nguyen’s number one pick for occasional runners in part due to its stretchy mesh upper, which makes the shoe both more breathable, and a better fit for wide feet. “The Fresh Foam X sole also makes the shoe more comfortable and boasts a higher energy return,” she says. This shoe feels light weight without sacrificing cushioning. While not necessarily meant for trail running, the traction is good enough to be used on a variety of terrains.
Best Running Shoes for Runners with High Arches
Shoe: ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
Why they’re the best: For runners with high arches, Nguyen recommends this Asics running shoe. “The FlyteFoam cushioning helps with impact while running, and this shoe has a GEL unit in the heel that allows for softer landing,” she says. “The shoe also has an inner heel counter that helps keep your foot in place.”
Best Running Shoes for Runners with Low or Flat Arches
Shoe: Brooks Dyad 11
Why they’re the best: According to Nguyen, these running shoes have a roomy toe box — making them a great choice for wide feet or heavier builds. These cushioned shoes also have durable support and enough stability for overpronators (think: ankle rolling too far downward and inward with each step), and enough space to accommodate a custom insert.
Best Running Shoes for Bad Ankles
Shoe: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20
Why they’re the best: According to Eric Barber, founder of the shoe review blog Steady Foot, one of the best shoes for runners with bad ankles is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20. Among other reasons for his choice, Barber cites the shoe’s versatility and “exceptional cushioning and ankle support” which helps runners with weak or injury-prone ankles.
Best Running Shoes for Treadmill Runners
Shoe: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
Why they’re the best: For treadmill runners, Nguyen likes the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21. “This shoe is really a good overall cross-training shoe that provides just the right amount of stability and cushioning.” The stiff sole provides arch support, while also preventing any excess foot movement. “Since it’s made for runners, the guide rails’ holistic support system can also help prevent knee injuries.”
Best Running Shoes for Sidewalk Runners
Shoe: Mizuno Wave Inspire 16 Waveknit Road Running Shoe
Why they’re the best: If most of your running takes place on hard surfaces like a sidewalk where you need extra shock absorption, Nguyen recommends this shoe. “The mesh upper portion of the shoe makes it very soft and breathable,” she says. It also has more cushioning than many other running shoes, which should provide a soft ride and extra comfort on high-impact runs.
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Are Running Shoes Worth It?
The short answer is yes, and as it turns out, picking the right running shoes can not only help keep your feet and joints happy, but might even give you an advantage over your running buddies.
“Running shoes are a necessity since this is one of the few equipment items that a runner actually needs, as they hit the ground with three times their actual body weight,” says Nguyen. “Running shoes help to provide arch support and cushioning, promote performance and aid in the prevention of injuries.”
If you’re ready to invest in premium running shoes, foot and ankle surgeon Tom Biernacki says the technology built into some high-end models can make a difference.
“Nike Vaporfly Next % shoes are a major breakthrough in running technology, and were recently used to break the marathon world record,” he said. “These shoes have actually been declared illegal by many running governing institutions, as they’re very light and have a carbon plate that’s been shown to create a springlike effect— in what some say is an unfair advantage.”
Despite the light weight and springiness of these shoes, the main reason they’ve been blacklisted in competitive environments is the prohibitive price tag. “Some runners simply can’t afford a $250 – $400 range shoe for a high school event,” says Biernacki.
Tips for Finding the Right Shoe
Finding the best running shoes for your needs (without spending the equivalent of a down payment on a car) isn’t always easy. Here are some general tips for picking the right running shoes.
1. Make sure the shoes fit your foot shape and foot width.
“My biggest tip would be to make sure to fit the shoe properly,” says Biernacki. “Try on shoes later in the day when your feet are more swollen, and be sure to test the toe box room while standing (not sitting).”
Ideally you want some wiggle room between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe to ensure you don’t have any bad friction points.
2. The right running shoes for most runners are cushioned and supportive.
You’re not looking for the best running shoes for Olympic competition. You need the best running shoes for you — meaning adequate cushion and support based on your age and the type of running and exercise you plan to do.
“Younger people in general can find decent results with a more minimalist shoes or more unique shoes,” says Biernacki. “But in our experience the older, the stiffer or the less athletic runners would benefit more from a more supportive shoe with a slight heel lift (8-12mm), more cushion and more support, like a shoe from Brooks, Asics, Hoke, On, or Nike.”
3. Bring your inserts to the running store.
“If you have custom orthotics, try them out in your running shoes to make sure it is the proper fit with these devices in,” says Nguyen. “Remember, if running shoes aren’t comfortable while trying them on in the store, they won’t be any more comfortable when running.”
Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
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