Best Beginner Running Shoes Reviewed & Rated

If you are thinking about taking up running, or have just begun running, you may be overwhelmed by the abundance of running gear you have to choose from.  Everything from GPS watches, to compression socks, to energy gels, to even Road ID identification bracelets; but running doesn’t have to be that complicated. The most basic piece of equipment you need is a good pair of running shoes. In this review, we’ll talk about what to look for when purchasing your first pair of running shoes.

Last Updated: March 13, 2018
By Alice Frutis:

This update adds five new beginner running shoes to bring the list to a total of fifteen great shoes for beginners. The original shoe reviews on this page have been revised to update the information and add more information as needed. The criteria for selection section of this page has been updated to include even more in-depth information to help you choose the best running shoe for you to start out with for yourself. A frequently asked questions section has also been added to give you additional information about the best beginner running shoes. Finally, the sources section has been updated to include more sources of relevant information to help you choose the best beginner running shoe for yourself.

 

Running is a great way to get and stay in shape, but you need to make sure you have the right gear for it. Running in shoes that are inappropriate for running could, at best, make running an uncomfortable, unpleasant experience. At worst, you could break a bone or tear a ligament. All of the shoes in this list of running shoes are specially designed for running to promote your foot health and safety. They utilize a number of specialized shoe technologies from cushioning to support to traction and fit. These technologies protect you and encourage you to keep running, as they reduce foot fatigue by absorbing shock and supporting each and every step you take.

Featured Recommendations

Asics Gel Venture 6
  • Asics Gel Venture 6
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Gel Cushioning System
  • Price: See Here
 
Saucony Cohesion 10
  • Saucony Cohesion 10
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Versatile design
  • Price: See Here
 
Asics Gel Excite 4
  • Asics Gel Excite 4
  • 4.4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Gel Cushioning System
  • Price: See Here

Running shoes can be quite expensive, but that should not be a turn-off for you. They truly are worth the investment. If you slip, fall, and break a bone, you could miss work or school and you would not be running anytime soon. It’s best to be prepared and spend a few extra dollars on a special running shoe. If you avoid getting hurt because you’re wearing proper running shoes, then you’ll be saving money on all of the medical bills you won’t have.

 

 

15 Best Beginner Running Shoes

 

 

 

1. Asics Gel Venture 6

The Asics Gel Venture 6 is an excellent all-around running shoe. It features a gel cushion in the heel for added comfort. The Venture 6 is a versatile shoe, equally suited for pavement or trail running. The outsole has special lugs designed to promote traction and ASICS uses their patented AHAR technology to increase the durability of your shoe.
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Comfort
The Asics Gel Venture is the most comfortable shoe in this review, without doubt. It comes with a gel cushion for the rear of your foot which makes heel strike barely noticeable.

Style
The Venture 6 looks stylish, plain and simple. It has great design and beautiful lines to compliment the great fit. Add to that a wide selection of color combinations, and you have a shoe that's built to be noticed.

Cost and Value
This stylish running shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range relative to the other shoes on this list. It offers great traction, support, and cushioning for the price!
Pros
  • Rearfoot Gel cushioning
  • Rugged Outsole
  • Removable Sockliner
  • AHAR Outsole
  • Reversed Lugs for Traction
  • Breathable Mesh Upper
  • Supportive Overlays
Cons
  • Shoe is narrow, not for wide feet

2. Saucony Cohesion 10

Runners know the name Saucony. If you aren't familiar with it, they are a brand that's been around since its founding way back in 1898. Saucony makes serious running shoes at an affordable price. The Cohesion 10 is a great Saucony running shoe in particular. It’s stylish, affordable, and comfortable. This shoe even offers great arch support for the overpronator!
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IMEVA
The stylish Saucony Cohesion 10 comes with an injection-molded EVA foam midsole, which offers extraordinary bounceback and shock-absorption with each footstrike. This protects your feet and reduces foot fatigue!

Arch Support
The Cohesion 10 provides excellent support to the arches of your feet, allowing you to have a comfortable footfall and a more natural stride. Combine this with the ankle support, and you have an extremely comfortable shoe that fully supports your feet.

Cost and Value
This running shoe comes in the low-to-upper price range, making it one of the most affordable on this list. The Cohesion 10 is a stylish, comfortable and supportive running shoe.
Pros
  • Breathable mesh
  • Removable sockliner
  • Superior arch and ankle support
Cons
  • Runs 1/2 size small

3. Under Armour Micro G Assert 6

The Under Armour Micro G Assert 6 is a beautifully designed, affordable running shoe. If you are worried about a heavy shoe weighing you down, this is the shoe for you. At barely 9 oz, this is one of the lightest shoes in this review.
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Weight
The Micro G Assert 6 is an extremely lightweight running shoe, barely over 9 oz. Running shoes at this price that are as lightweight are difficult to find.

Breathable Mesh
The mesh upper allows air to circulate around your foot, drying sweat and generally keeping your feet dry. This reduces foot odor as well as reducing friction that causes blisters.

Cost and Value
The Micro G Assert 6 can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. It offers a range of great cushioning features such as the Micro G midsole and EVA footbed.
Pros
  • lightweight
  • durable
  • breathable mesh
  • removable sockliner
Cons
  • Sizes run small
  • Narrow toe

4. Nike Revolution 3

4. Nike Revolution 3
The Nike Revolution 3 is a distinctly Nike running shoe. The familiar "swoosh" is prominent on the side. As far as support, It provides comfortable support to your ankle, and a soft foam cushioned midsole. Available in a myriad of colors, per usual with a Nike product.
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Color Availability
As with most Nike products, the Revolution 3 is available in nearly every color in the rainbow. Amazon offers 30 color combinations. The colors range from black and grey to bright orange and neon green.

Construction
The Nike Revolution 3 features a rubber outsole for excellent traction, combined with a mesh upper for increased breathability. This combination not only provides excellent support but looks great.

Cost and Value
The comfortable Nike Revolution 3 shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. The great features are well worth the investment if you shop around for the best price.
Pros
  • Mesh upper for maximum breathability
  • Soft foam midsole
  • Phylon Foam Cushioning
  • Breathable Mesh Upper
  • Rubber Outsole
Cons
  • Price

5. Puma Tazon 6 FM

5. Puma Tazon 6 FM
When I think of the brand Puma, I think of soccer cleats. But Puma makes all sorts of athletic shoes, and the Puma Tazon 6 FM is an excellent all-around athletic shoe. It is advertised as a running shoe, and it can certainly fill that need, but I consider it to be more of a cross-training shoe.
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Versatility
The Tazon 6 FM is a great shoe if you like to run, but also need a shoe for the gym or the occasional pickup basketball game. It provides the support needed for any physical activity and has durability to withstand wear and tear from cross-training.

EVA Heel Pod
The EVA Heel Pod in the Tazon 6 FM absorbs and disperses shock, which reduces foot and leg fatigue and it reduces the occurrence of foot, leg, and back pain.

Cost and Value
The PUMA Tazon 6 FM can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. It offers great cushioning and stability features at an affordable price for a versatile, stylish running shoe.
Pros
  • Versatile cross-training shoe
  • Stylish look
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Sizing runs narrow
  • Can get smelly

6. Adidas NEO Cloudfoam Race

6. Adidas NEO Cloudfoam Race
There is only one pair of Adidas shoes in this review, but they are good ones. The Adidas NEO Cloudfoam Race Running Shoe is unmistakably Adidas, with the signature three stripes logo. The shoe is named for the "cloudfoam" midsole, a soft, cushioned midsole that protects your feet from impact, so you can keep running longer and further.
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Cloudfoam
The Cloudfoam midsole of the Adidas NEO Cloudfoam Race Running Shoe makes you feel like you're running on clouds. Comfortable from toe to heel.

Fit
The NEO Cloudfoam wraps your foot and fits snug in all the right places. It has plenty of arch support to keep your foot from moving inside the shoe. Even after running, you can barely notice that you're wearing them.

Cost and Value
The simple Adidas Neo Cloudfoam running shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. Its Cloudfoam cushioning insole and midsole units provide excellent shock absorption for a reasonable price.
Pros
  • Cloudfoam midsole and sockliner for comfort
  • Breathable knit/leather upper
  • Synthetic Leather Overlays
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Wide Size Availability
Cons
  • Narrow fit; not for wide feet

7. Asics GT-1000 5

7. Asics GT-1000 5
The Asics GT-1000 5 running shoe is a no frills, but solidly built running shoe for beginners. Asics has long been a reputable name in the running shoe business. If you're looking for a reliable, affordable running shoe without all the gimmicks, the GT-1000 5 might be your shoe.
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Vivid Colors
The Asics GT-1000 5 comes in an assortment of bright, vivid colors. From neon green to bright orange and purple, this shoe will get noticed. It also comes in more traditional color schemes, such as all black, and grey/blue.

Mesh Upper
The mesh upper allows air to flow into the shoe, keeping your foot dry from sweat while running. This greatly reduces the formation of blisters, as well as reduces foot oder and fungus that causes athlete's foot.

Cost and Value
This shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range, making it quite affordable if you shop around. The GT-1000 5 uses responsive GEL and spEVA cushioning for optimum comfort.
Pros
  • Impact Guidance System (I.G.S.)
  • spEVA Midsole Technology
  • Guidance Line Midsole Technology
  • Vivid color combinations available
  • Gel technology reduces heel strike impact
Cons
  • Snug fit, runs 1/2 size small

8. Asics Gel Excite 4

8. Asics Gel Excite 4
Another Asics shoe shows up on the list of best beginner running shoes, this time it's the Asics Gel Excite 4. This shoe is a great choice for beginners because it's the most affordable shoe in this review. It comes with the signature Gel cushioning that Asics Gel shoes are known for. It also comes with a durable AHAR outsole.
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Reflectivity
The stylish and comfortable ASICS GEL Excite 4 comes with reflective detailing for safety, which helps drivers see you if you decide to go for an evening or night run.

Gel Cushioning System
The gel rear foot in the Asics Gel Excite 4 lessens the impact of heelstrike, allowing for a softer landing and maintaining a natural stride. This also reduces wear on your joints.

Cost and Value
You can find the GEL Excite 4 in the low-to-upper price range, which can be quite affordable for a durable, well-cushioned running shoe with reflective detailing for safety and comfort.
Pros
  • Reflective Detailing
  • AHAR Outsole
  • Breathable Mesh Upper
  • Removable Insole
  • Gel Cushioning System
Cons
  • Shoes can be narrow, not for wide feet

9. New Balance 541v1

9. New Balance 541v1
If you're looking for a lightweight, durable running shoe, the New Balance 541v1 is your shoe. At just 8 oz, this is the lightest shoe in our review. Not only is this a great running shoe, but it's also perfect for walking, or jobs that require you to stand for long periods of time. The removable comfort insole protects your feet during long hours on the job.
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Removable Comfort Insole
With the New Balance 541v1, you get a removable insole, removable so that you can replace it with a custom orthopedic insole if you chose. But who would choose to with an insole as comfortable as this one?

Lightweight
Weighing in at just 8oz, this is the lightest shoe in this review. It reduces weight by being constructed of a very simple design, and using lightweight materials in its construction. If you are worried about heavy running shoes slowing you down, check these shoes out.

Cost and Value
You can find the New Balance 541v1 in the low middle price range. It’s an affordable, customizable, and stylish running shoe and the removable insole can double the shoe’s lifespan.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Removable comfort insole
  • Breathable Mesh Upper
  • Supportive Synthetic Overlays
  • ComfortRide Outsole
Cons
  • Laces are shorter than most running shoe laces

10. Under Armour Dash 2

10. Under Armour Dash 2
The Under Armour Dash 2 is an impressive looking sneaker. Under Armour products have a look that makes them stand out in a crowd. At 9.45 oz, this is one of the lighter shoes in this review. It comes with soft padding on the tongue and collar and with a full-foot EVA footbed and midsole unit for added comfort.
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TPU Cleats
To improve the traction of this shoe, Under Armour uses thermoplastic polyurethane cleats in the outsole. These sturdy cleats give your feet extra grip so you won’t slip and fall.

Breathable Mesh Upper
The mesh upper on this shoe allows air to flow in and out freely. This mesh is teamed with supportive synthetic overlays to provide you with a safe, dry step.

Cost and Value
This sturdy, breathable running shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. The breathability and cushioning features make this Under Armour shoe a great investment for your running endeavors.
Pros
  • TPU Cleats
  • Breathable Mesh Upper
  • EVA Sockliner
  • EVA Midsole
  • Padded Mesh Tongue
  • Padded Collar
Cons
  • Runs 1/2 size small

11. Saucony Triumph 11

11. Saucony Triumph 11
The Saucony Triumph 11 comes with a dual-layer mesh upper to allow maximum breathability and comfort. To offset some of the fragility of the mesh, Saucony has utilized synthetic overlays in this running shoe, which support and enhance the shoe’s durability. The iBR+ outsole is designed to be more durable in high-impact areas and offers ample cushioning to reduce shock.
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HydraMAX Collar Lining
The HydraMAX lining in the Saucony Triumph 11 wicks moisture away from your ankle and foot to keep your feet cool and dry. It also reduces the occurrence of blisters.

PowerGrid Midsole
The PowerGrid midsole unit in the Saucony Triumph 11 running shoe provides exceptional bounceback and superb cushioning to make your run more comfortable and to reduce foot and leg fatigue.

Cost and Value
This stylish and comfortable running shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. Saucony uses some of its best running shoe technologies in this shoe, which is reasonably priced.
Pros
  • HydraMAX Collar Lining
  • PowerGrid Midsole
  • Breathable Mesh Upper
  • ComfortLite EVA Sockliner
  • Sauc-Fit Midfoot Technology
  • Reflective Detailing
  • iBR+ Outsole
Cons
  • Padding may wear down
  • Mesh is fragile

12. Mizuno Wave Creation 17

12. Mizuno Wave Creation 17
The Mizuno Wave Creation 17 is an excellent addition to the Mizuno Wave family of running shoes. It provides breathability and flexibility in its breathable mesh upper while it supports your foot’s grip on the ground with the X10 Carbon Rubber in the heel and toe areas of the shoe. The padded collar and tongue protect your foot from irritation.
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Infinity Wave Heel
Mizuno’s Infinity Wave heel is unique as it isn’t a solid piece of rubber, but a type of rubber spring attached to the heel, which produces better support and shock-absorption.

Dynamotion Fit
To promote flexibility and natural foot motion in the Wave Creation 17, Mizuno uses Flex Eyelets and Stretch Mesh technologies to produce a glove-like fit without sacrificing flexibility or breathability.

Cost and Value
This stylish shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. It has some of the highest price points, though, so be sure to shop around for the best deal.
Pros
  • Infinity Wave Heel
  • Dynamotion Fit
  • Breathable Mesh Upper
  • Synthetic Overlays
  • SmoothRide Sole
  • X10 Carbon Rubber
  • Vegan-Friendly
Cons
  • Poor arch support
  • Sizing runs small

13. ASICS FuzeX

13. ASICS FuzeX
The FuzeX running shoe utilizes revolutionary cushioning technology in its midsole, but it also offers many other great features! The ComforDry Lasting teams up with the ComforDry Sockliner to promote good foot health and comfort. The AHAR outsole material is extra durable to increase the lifespan of the shoe. For great traction on your run, it has a rubber outsole.
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fuzeGEL Midsole
The ASICS FuzeX combines ASICS GEL technology with memory foam technology to create an amazing midsole unit that provides the best cushioning and bounce to reduce foot and leg fatigue.

ComforDry Sockliner
The ComforDry Sockliner wicks moisture away from your feet to keep them dry and cool. This reduces the development of foul odors and foot fungi. It’s also a removable insert!

Cost and Value
The ASICS FuzeX can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. It’s worth the investment because the moisture-wicking sockliner is removable allowing you to double the lifespan of your shoes.
Pros
  • fuzeGEL Midsole
  • ComforDry Sockliner
  • Seamless Construction
  • ComforDry Lasting
  • AHAR Outsole
  • Rubber Sole
Cons
  • Outsole may come loose
  • Sizing runs narrow

14. Reebok SkyCell DMX Run

14. Reebok SkyCell DMX Run
The Reebok SkyCell DMX Run is a unique and comfortable running shoe for beginners. Its breathable dual-layer mesh reduces the development of odors and blisters by keeping your feet dry and cool. The polyurethane sockliner was injection molded so that it will mold to your foot but also provide excellent cushioning. This shoe’s unique traction outsole has large, rounded cleats.
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Midfoot Caging System
To give you the very best and most comfortable fit in the Skycell DMX Run, Reebok uses a midfoot caging system to gently cradle your arch for a snug fit.

Air Channels in Outsole
Instead of using individual air pockets or solid rubber outsole units, Reebok uses air channels in the sole of this shoe to provide responsive cushioning where you need it most.

Cost and Value
This responsive Reebok running shoe can be found in the middle price range, which makes it a great deal on unique and effective running shoe technologies for the beginner runner.
Pros
  • Midfoot Caging System
  • Air Channels in Outsole
  • Rubber Traction Outsole
  • Dual-Layer Mesh Upper
  • Full-Foot injected PU Sockliner
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Round treads may come loose

15. Saucony Freedom ISO

15. Saucony Freedom ISO
The Saucony Freedom ISO is an excellent beginner running shoe because it has the maximum amount of cushioning they have available to protect your feet from the forceful impacts generated by running. The Freedom ISO’s stretchy, breathable mesh offers a comfortable fit without sacrificing flexibility. This running shoe also uses Saucony’s patented TRI-FLEX Crystal Rubber outsole for traction and cushioning.
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EVERUN Midsole
Saucony’s EVERUN cushioning technology provides lightweight, responsive bounceback and shock-absorption. This EVERUN midsole unit stretches across the full length of the Freedom ISO to absorb shock for your whole foot.

TRI-FLEX Crystal Rubber Outsole
The TRI-FLEX Crystal Rubber outsole used in the Saucony Freedom ISO is flexible and responsive, providing much-needed shock absorption. It also offers great traction and grip to keep you steady.

Cost and Value
This stylish Saucony running shoe comes in the middle-to-upper price range, leaning more towards the upper. It’s a great shoe, though, which offers excellent cushioning and shock-absorption for the price.
Pros
  • EVERUN Midsole
  • TRI-FLEX Crystal Rubber Outsole
  • Stretch Mesh
  • ISOFIT Technology
  • EVERUN Topsole
  • Rubber Sole
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
Cons
  • Mesh may tear
  • Poor support

When just starting out, the vast selection of running shoes can be overwhelming. Throughout this review, we have seen some excellent running shoes that won’t break your budget. It’s easy to get distracted with all of the running accessories available, but remember that the only thing you need to begin running is a good, affordable pair of running shoes.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Beginner Running Shoes

A good running shoe will come with a number of great features that help increase your safety, decrease your fatigue, and promote your comfort and health. The best running shoes are designed specifically for running in mind. Soccer, basketball, or other sport-specific shoes are not good running shoes, even though most sports require at least some running. These sport-specific shoes are designed with those environmental and activity-specific hazards in mind so the shoes can help you perform better in the sport. Running shoes are also built with features designed to protect you from running-specific hazards and injuries.

 

Why You Need Special Shoes for Running

As previously mentioned, there are many, many different technologies used in shoes for different purposes. Running shoes, in particular, come with special technologies designed to promote stability, shock-absorption, flexibility, and traction. All of these technologies protect you, the runner, from running-related injuries. However, not all running shoes are alike. There are running shoes for different environments and purposes, as well! A casual jogger wouldn’t need as heavy-duty of a running shoe as a marathon runner and someone running a marathon wouldn’t need the same amount of traction as someone who is running in the woods or up a mountain.

The Environment

The environment you will be running in matters when you are shopping for a pair of running shoes. If you will be running on mostly flat terrain, then a shoe with a low vamp, or the closure area of the shoe with the tongue, and low collar would suffice, because these shoes have little ankle support. Ankle support is a little less important when you’re running long distances in more or less a straight line on smooth terrain. Shoes designed for running on rocky, bumpy or otherwise hilly terrain have higher collars which protect and support the ankle to prevent falls resulting from rolling or twisting an ankle.

Shoes meant for flat and level terrain also have different kinds of grooves and lugs than running shoes that are meant for cross-country style running. The amount of cushioning in a running shoe varies depending on the environment the shoe is designed for, as well! While you search for a shoe, determine where you will be doing the most of your running and choose a shoe appropriate for that environment based on the rest of the criteria in this guide.

 

Support

Support is a very important feature in running shoes. Pronation problems can increase your risk of injury and supportive features in running shoes can reduce that risk. If you over or underpronate or hyper or hyposupinate, then you especially need to find a pair of running shoes that will help correct your gait and promote healthy pronation and supination.

  • Pronation
    Pronation is a natural phenomenon that occurs when you walk. When you take a step, generally your heel strikes the ground first and then rolls forward to your toes, which you then use to push off the ground to propel yourself forward. Pronation is the inward rolling of your foot during that natural forward motion. However, some people pronate too much or too little. The best way to determine which, if either, of these you do is to inspect the bottoms of the shoes you use the most often. If there is excessive wearing on the inner sides of your shoes, you likely overpronate. However, some people have the opposite problem: they underpronate. This would result in excessive wear on the outer sides of your shoes.
  • Supination
    Underpronation can also be referred to as hypersupination. Supination is the natural outward rolling of your foot after you push off the ground and bring your foot back around to strike the ground again. If someone underpronates, it means that there isn’t enough inward rolling and too much outward rolling. This results in added pressure on your feet, ankles, legs, and even your back! Similarly, when someone overpronates, it means the opposite: there is too much inward rolling and not enough outward rolling to compensate for that. This is referred to as hyposupination.

Everyone Needs Ample Support

Now, just because you have normal pronation and supination doesn’t mean that you don’t need support. Shoes form a protective barrier between your vulnerable feet and the outside world. They provide protection against painful rocks, prickly thorns, and hot concrete. Furthermore, when you are running, your risk of tripping, stumbling, slipping, and falling increases, because you’re moving much more quickly than if you were walking. Support helps to stabilize your step to reduce your risk of fall-related injuries.

If you are going to be running in an environment that has flat terrain where the ground isn’t slippery and you don’t have pronation or supination problems, then you don’t need nearly as much support as if you were going to be running on a hiking trail or in the woods somewhere. However, even if you don’t have pronation or supination problems, you still need support.

Supportive Features in Shoes

Shoe manufacturers realize that the burden is on them to provide their consumers with shoes that provide enough support to help protect their consumers from fall-related injuries. As such, considerable progress has been made in the shoe industry in terms of supportive features built into running shoes. These supportive features can be found in the upper, the heel, the arch, the insole, the midsole, and the outsole sections of the shoe. Not every running shoe is the same! Always check the support features of your prospective running shoes to confirm that they offer the support where you need it and don’t provide support in areas that you don’t need it in! Supportive features that support areas of your foot that don’t need to be supported can result in injury and discomfort, too.

  • Arch Support Features
    If you have weak arches or have pronation problems, then you need a pair of running shoes that offers arch support. Arch support features include midfoot saddles, midfoot thermoplastic polyurethane shanks, and foam wedges. Some running shoes even come with customizable arch support features that you can adjust for your specific needs! Arch support features can be found in the sole, which consists of the insole, midsole, and outsole regions of the shoe.
  • Heel Support Features
    If you have heel pain or pronation problems, then you may also need heel support features. Heel support features include thermoplastic heel rings with foam centers, foam wedges, air pockets built into the heel, heel cups, and TPU shanks. As with arch support features, heel support features can be found in the sole from insole to outsole.
  • Insole
    The insole, also known as the sockliner or insert, is the footbed of the shoe and the only part of the sole that touches your foot directly. Insoles are most commonly associated with cushioning, but insoles can also provide support. Some manufacturers use specialized foam insoles that provide regions of support. The firmness and thickness of the insole can affect how supportive the insole material is for your feet. If you need a lot of support, look for firm insoles that still offer the shock-absorbing benefits of cushioning. If you were Goldilocks, would you want to wear these running shoes? Are the insoles too soft, too hard, or just right?
  • Midsole
    Midsoles are the monarchs of cushioning and support. Wedged between the insole and the outsole, the midsole is the location that commonly provides the most support in a running shoe. Foam wedges, heel rings, shanks, and the like are almost always located in the midsole region of the shoe. Many support features are found in the midsole region because support features are usually hard and possibly painful if you expose your foot directly to it. The insole cushions your foot to protect it from the firm, supportive materials in the midsole. As the outsole is exposed to the environment the most and experiences the most wear over time, it is usually not the location that has the most supportive features built in. Placing supportive features in the midsole location increases their longevity and effectiveness as a result.
    Even though the midsole has a layer of cushioning between it and your foot, it provides effective support that you can feel without discomfort if the support is located in an area that needs support. Every manufacturer of running shoes uses some form of midsole support technology and each has its benefits, so do some research before you invest in a specific shoe to confirm that it has the support features you need in the amounts that you need.
  • Outsole
    The outsole is supportive by default in running shoes because outsole materials are generally rubber or synthetic, which provides both cushioning and firm support without sacrificing flexibility. Supportive outsole features can include firm treads in high-impact locations and firm air pockets to elevate regions of your foot and provide support. If you are looking for a running shoe, never invest in a running shoe with a fabric, leather, or crepe outsole, because fabric and crepe are not supportive enough for running and leather does not provide the traction you need even though it is firm enough in terms of support.
  • Upper Support Features
    The upper can be supportive, too. However, you don’t want to go all out with the support and create an inflexible cage for your foot. Too much support can be a problem, too! The best upper support features are strategically placed to reduce your risk of rolling a foot or ankle, usually in the form of supportive overlays made from leather or synthetic materials. Some uppers in running shoes are entirely made with leather or firm synthetic materials, but unless there is some form of ventilation and cushioning built into the upper, this can become hot and uncomfortable quickly. Too much firmness in the upper can result in shock-related injuries.
  • Vamp Height
    How high the running shoe climbs up your ankle also matters. Excessively low vamps, such as those found in ballet flats and dress shoes, provide very little ankle support. Excessively high vamps, such as those found in hiking boots and dress boots, can provide too much support, which reduces your running performance. Wearing dress shoes or hiking boots on a run is also uncomfortable in general because these shoes are not designed for running and provide either too much or too little support in all areas, not just the ankle.

Cushioning

Shock-absorption is essential to reducing your risk of shock-related injuries. Cushioning is used to reduce and absorb the shock and force generated by running. The best running shoes provide ample cushioning to absorb and disperse shock effectively without compromising on support and flexibility. Cushioning in a running shoe can be found in the upper, insole, midsole, and outsole regions of the shoe. It can take the form of a gel cushion, air pockets, padding, and foams, including high-density, multilayered foams.

 

Shock, Force, and Motion: The Impact of Impact on Your Foot

Think back to a time when you were running. Imagine going through the motions associated with running right now. You push against the ground with your forefoot and propel yourself forward. Your foot supinates and rolls outward as you bring it back around heel-first for the heelstrike. Your heel connects with the ground and your foot rolls inward just a bit as it rolls forward. The process repeats as long as you are running.

Now, imagine two cars traveling at a high speed slamming into each other headfirst. What happens to the cars? The drivers? The fronts of the cars get crushed and the drivers are jarred inside their vehicles. The drivers develop pain and discomfort from injuries they sustained from the accident.

Sir Isaac Newton discovered three laws of motion, but the third one is the most relevant to running. Newton’s third law of motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The two cars barrelling towards each other slammed into each other with equal and opposite force, which halts their progress and causes damage to both cars. The equal and opposite force generated by the ground as you run allows you to propel yourself forward, but that’s not all it does.

Energy is required to run. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed according to the law of conservation of energy. The energy you use to run gets transformed from one form to another during the process of running. There are byproducts of this transformation of energy. These byproducts include sound, force, and shock. When you run, your feet make noise, but this doesn’t release all of the energy generated by the impact between your foot and the ground. Force is generated each time you go to take another running step, which is met in kind by an equal amount of force pushing back on your foot by the ground. That force transforms into shock, which is the jolting of your foot, ankle, leg, hip, and back resulting from the hard impact between your foot and the ground, just like how the two drivers were jolted during their car accident. The shock generated from each running footstrike can also cause injuries, just like the shock generated by a car accident.

  • Insoles
    Most commonly, the best running shoes for beginners use foam insoles or footbeds. Foam insoles are responsive, soft, and great at absorbing shock to reduce the impact of running on the rest of your body. Some companies use gel insoles for shock-absorption, which are also effective, but not as commonplace.
  • Midsoles
    The midsole is the Most Valuable Player of the shoe technology team. It provides support, flexibility, and cushioning! Midsole cushioning units can come in full-foot lengths or be localized. The localized midsole units are placed in the forefoot or heel areas, but sometimes midsole cushioning units are also placed in the arch of the shoe to support the arch and absorb shock.
  • Outsoles
    Ironically, the outsole absorbs more shock than the insole usually does. The outsole is your foot’s first layer of protection against the outside world. Good running shoes almost always have a rubber or other synthetic outsole, because it provides good traction and excellent shock absorption.
  • Padding
    When you’re running, you need padding around the collar and in the upper of the shoe, including the tongue, because the padding will reduce painful rubbing so you won’t develop blisters or other injuries due to rubbing against a hard surface. The padding also protects your foot from some minor impacts, so be sure to consider the padding in the shoe before you invest!

Traction

When you’re running, you absolutely need to have good traction. A good outsole in a running shoe has patterns and grooves in it that allow water to escape from beneath your shoe. For example, a shoe with grooves that end before the edge of the outsole would trap water beneath it and, like a car, you can hydroplane, fall, and get hurt. So, you want the grooves to make it to the very edge of the outsole so the water has somewhere to go.

Some outsoles have lugs, which are grooves in the shoe designed specifically to grip the ground whereas others have reverse lugs, which are protrusions in the outsole. Both lugs and reverse lugs promote traction and grip. The more lugs and/or reverse lugs the shoe has, the more effective the traction will be, but outsoles with fewer and larger lugs will also be effective.

Ultimately the only running shoe outsoles you should avoid are narrow, incredibly small lugs or nearly flat outsoles. These shoes offer very little by means of traction and grip, so you’d be more likely to slip and fall. You should also avoid any running shoe that has an outsole made of leather or crepe. These materials do not offer good traction and usually, don’t absorb enough shock to be effective in a running shoe.

 

Flexibility

Flexibility is another important safety feature to consider when you are looking for your first running shoes. Shoes which are too rigid and don’t bend and flex naturally with your foot can result in injury due to poor shock absorption, which jars the foot, ankle, leg, and your back.

It should be noted that any of the previously mentioned criteria is good only in moderation in that it doesn’t negate the effects of the others by drowning out the effect. You can have too much of a good thing, even in running shoes.

Flexibility can be fostered in a running shoe in a few ways. The upper, insole, midsole, and outsole can all be designed in ways that would foster flexibility without sacrificing support, cushioning, and traction.

  • Upper Design
    Some running shoes have uppers that are completely firm leather or synthetic materials, but the best running shoes have mesh uppers, specifically mesh uppers with supportive overlays. A mesh upper is like a net for your foot with very tiny holes so that it can protect your foot. You can compress and stretch out a net to make it the size and shape that you need it to take and the same goes for a mesh upper in a shoe. Mesh uppers can be made of textile or synthetic materials which are stretchy and breathable. These uppers don’t bind your foot in one position and allow your foot to move naturally by giving just enough without compromising the fit.
  • Padding
    Padding doesn’t actually make a shoe more flexible. It does just the opposite. Too much padding in the upper of the shoe can make it more inflexible and that can be just as bad as having an inflexible unpadded upper. It would absorb shock, but it would reduce your foot motion, which could result in injury on a run. So make sure that the shoe isn’t too padded when you’re shopping for the best running shoe for you.
  • Insole and Midsole
    Insoles and midsoles are primarily cushioning and supporting units in the shoe, but they also contribute to flexibility. Look for shoes with soles that bend and flex easily and for shoes that utilize insole and midsole technologies that offer flexibility as a benefit. Many shoe manufacturers have specialized technologies they use in insoles and midsoles to promote flexibility, which are usually detailed in the description on the site you are purchasing them from. If you’re in a shoe store shopping for shoes, you can usually look at the shoe and the box to identify specific shoe technologies that are used in it. For example, New Balance’s ABZORB cushioning is labeled as “ABZORB” directly on the shoe.
  • Outsole
    You want an outsole that is firm enough to support you but flexible enough to bend with your foot as you pronate and supinate naturally. Solid rubber outsoles offer some flexibility, but flex grooves and multi-section outsoles offer more, so look for good running shoes with these features built in. Remember that an inflexible outsole is just as dangerous as not wearing shoes at all because flexibility helps divert and disperse shock to prevent painful jarring of your feet, legs, and back.

Temperature Management

No one wants to run with wet, hot feet. It’s uncomfortable and unhealthy for your feet to be enclosed in a damp, hot space for prolonged periods of time. Damp, warm, closed spaces are prime locations for the development of foot fungi and to promote bacterial growth. Fungi and bacteria also produce foul odors, which are unpleasant. Temperature management features in a running shoe can reduce and combat the development of fungi and bacteria in your shoes. Shoe manufacturers manage temperatures in shoes in a number of creative ways.

  • Breathable Mesh Uppers
    Mesh uppers allow air to pass through freely through the entire shoe. These are the most effective for keeping your feet cool and dry.
  • Ventilating Perforations
    If you prefer or need a sturdier, more supportive shoe, then shoes that are made with firm materials like leather or synthetic leather can be adjusted to allow for better temperature management. Ventilating perforations in the firm upper allow air to pass through, which keeps your feet cool and prevents blisters because it also keeps them dry.
  • Moisture-Wicking Materials
    Moisture-wicking materials repel moisture and move it away from the surface it’s on. In this case, the moisture wicking materials in a great running shoe could be built into the upper or in the insole. These materials pull moisture away from your foot and towards the edges of the shoe where the breathability features allow air to pull the moisture out of the shoe.

Weight

Everyone will have their own preference for how heavy or light a running shoe needs to be. Ultimately, the best running shoes are lightweight and weigh less than a pound. Ideally, a good running shoe would weigh ten ounces or less. There are ultra-lightweight running shoes which fall in the seven ounces or less category, as well.

However, the lighter the shoe is, the less the manufacturer can put in it. Every supportive and shock-absorbing feature in a shoe adds to its weight. Fortunately, technological advances have allowed manufacturers to create lightweight but effective supportive and shock-absorbing materials to use in their running shoes to help reduce your foot and leg fatigue.

 

Value

Cost-effectiveness is essential to a good running shoe. Cost-effectiveness can be determined by considering the longevity and durability of the shoe, how easy, convenient, and comfortable the shoe is, and how easy or hard it is to take care of the shoe. The cost, of course, is an important factor to consider, but when it comes to your health, it’s worth it to invest a little more money.

  • Durability and Longevity
    Shoes which are durable last longer, so you are more likely to get your money’s worth out of them. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a pair of running shoes you’re going to have to replace in two or three months. Ideally, you should be able to wear your running shoes for a year, especially if you are a beginner who is just starting out. Shoe manufacturers use a number of amazing shoe technologies to promote the longevity of your shoes from high abrasion rubber treads and outsole materials to removable insoles that you can replace when they are no longer effective.
  • Convenience and Ease of Use
    Most of the best running shoes are lace-up, which may seem like an inconvenience, but lace-up shoes allow for more customizability of the fit, as you can tighten or loosen the laces as needed. Running shoes can come with other ease of use features such as pull tabs and loops to help you pull the shoe on easily. Many convenience and ease of use type features don’t necessarily make the shoe better for actual running, but they make the shoe more comfortable and convenient for you to use them, so this adds to their overall value and cost-effectiveness.
  • Maintenance
    Shoes which are made of leather materials are more difficult to maintain. They can require water resistance treatment or re-treatment if they came pretreated. You cannot get leather wet or it would ruin your shoes. Running shoes get dirty over time. Eventually, you’re going to need to clean them. Shoes that are easier to clean and cost less to maintain are more convenient for you and therefore more cost-effective. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintaining your running shoes, because not all running shoes are washing machine and dryer safe.
  • Cost
    Cost is a big factor in choosing a great running shoe, but it is not the only factor. Always be sure to consider safety features, such as cushioning, support, flexibility, and traction first. Hospital or doctor bills can add up to a lot more than a good running shoe might cost. That being said, you shouldn’t need to spend an excessive amount of money on your beginner running shoes. Shop around for the best deal once you’ve settled on a shoe that will work for you because many of these shoes can be quite affordable if you put in the extra effort.

Additional Considerations

When you are investing in a running shoe, the above-listed criteria will help you find the best shoe for you, but the criteria above can’t do it alone. You need to consider a few more aspects- personal aspects- before you make that final investment in your new running shoes.

  • Your True Shoe Size
    The fit of the shoe matters. Wearing a shoe that is too tight can result in painful medical conditions in your feet and toes, as the added pressure on your feet from the squeezing causes injuries. Wearing a shoe that is too loose can result in injuries sustained by falling, slipping, or losing your shoe and stepping on something. Always make sure that you know your true shoe size before you buy your shoes, especially if you are shopping online. If you are shopping online, also always check the reviews and sizing recommendations by the manufacturer to see if the sizing runs large, small, or if it is inconsistent. It’s worth the extra effort.

 

  • Your Medical Conditions
    If you have diabetes, arthritis, or some type of foot, leg, or back injury, you may have special shoe needs. Talk to your doctor for specific recommendations for the right kind of shoes for you to help you maintain your health and manage your condition. Shoes which don’t fit properly or offer support and cushioning in areas that don’t need it can exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Can I use my running shoes for other athletic activities?

A: Yes, but it’s recommended that you only use your running shoes for running. This will increase the longevity of your running shoes, which will save you money in the long run.

Q: How can I prevent blisters?

A: First of all, wear shoes that fit properly. Shoes which are too loose can slide around on your foot, which causes friction that results in blisters. Shoes which are too tight can be abrasive, too, producing blisters from painful rubbing.

Secondly, wear socks that wick moisture away from your foot. Cotton socks absorb so much moisture, which will keep your feet hot and sweaty. Wet feet develop blisters more easily, so moisture-wicking socks can help reduce your odds of developing them.

Thirdly, wear shoes with temperature management features, such as breathable meshes or ventilating perforations to allow airflow. The passage of air in and out of the shoe will dry and cool your feet, reducing your risk of blisters. Moisture-wicking sockliners and uppers are also effective for helping to dry your feet.

Q: How can I avoid athlete’s foot and the development of odors in my shoes?

A: Foot fungi like athlete’s foot can be prevented in the same ways that you can prevent blisters. The culprits responsible for the development of foot fungi are moisture, darkness, and heat- all of which are commonly found in athletic shoes, especially running shoes. Temperature management shoe technologies and moisture-wicking socks will go a long way towards preventing athlete’s foot.

Foul odors can be produced by foot fungi, but they can also be produced by bacteria living in your shoes where it’s warm and wet. Some running shoes come with antibacterial and antimicrobial technologies built into the insole and upper of the shoe, which prevents some fungi, bacteria, and odor development.

Q: How can I prevent heel pain?

A: Wear a shoe that offers heel cushioning and support. Also, know your feet: if you have pronation or supination problems, you may be more likely to develop heel pain than other people, so look for stability and motion control features to correct your pronation or supination problems.

Q: How can I make the shoes I’ve bought more comfortable?

A: If you’ve bought running shoes that turned out to be uncomfortable, you can sometimes remedy this by using custom orthotic inserts and custom orthotic pieces, like heel pads and arch supports. Full orthotic inserts will only help if the shoe has removable insoles. Custom orthotic pieces can sometimes be applied to the original insole to give you the cushioning and support you need, but sometimes this won’t work. If the shoe has too much support built in, then adding custom orthotics may not help, so keep that in mind before you invest in some inserts and orthotic pieces.

Q: Do I need to buy custom orthotics?

A: No. Ideally, the best running shoe for you will come with the appropriate amounts of cushioning, support, and flexibility so that you won’t need custom orthotics. Sometimes, though, you may need them. If your medical professional recommends custom orthotics, always listen to your doctor and do what they recommend.

Q: What kind of socks should I wear with my new running shoes?

A: Nylon, lycra, and other moisture-wicking materials would be best. Whatever you do, don’t wear cotton socks, because these insulate your foot and keep them hot and sweaty. They also absorb moisture, so your feet will stay wet during your run.

Q: Do I have to waterproof or stain proof my shoes?

A: Not necessarily. It depends on the type of materials used in the shoe. If the upper is made of leather or leather overlays and did not come pretreated, then you may need to waterproof or stain proof your shoes. However, if you will rarely be exposing your shoes to water, this isn’t something you should concern yourself with. Similarly, you wouldn’t need to stain proof your shoes if you will only be wearing your running shoes on an indoor track or on a treadmill.

Q: Are my shoes machine washable?

A: Some running shoes are machine washable. However, many of them are not. It’s important that you check the manufacturer’s instructions and information about how to clean and maintain your running shoes before you toss them in the washing machine or the dryer.

Q: When do I need to replace my running shoes?

A: When the sole is crushed, the cushioning has become ineffective, or when the midsole can be seen through the outsole, it’s time to replace your running shoes.

Q: Where can I buy a good pair of running shoes?

A: You can buy a good pair of running shoes at any shoe retailer or at any website that sells shoes. Just be sure to shop around for the best price to make sure you get your money’s worth!

Sources

Asics, How to Choose Your First Running Shoes

WikiHow, How to Tell if You Pronate, October 21, 2016

Complex, Know Your Tech: Mizuno Dynamotion Fit, July 1, 2013

Shoes.com, What is a Lug Sole?

ASICS, What Makes a Good Running Shoe, November 15, 2016

Livestrong, What Are the Benefits of Running Shoes?, September 11, 2017

Huffington Post, 7 Important Things to Know When Buying Running Shoes, August 12, 2015

ePodiatry.com, Running Shoes, 2003

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