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Running shoes are a staple item in many people’s workout wardrobes. By wearing suitable running footwear for any terrain, a person may improve their performance and reduce the likelihood of injury.

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The most appropriate running shoes will vary among individuals based on their exercise preferences and what they find desirable in footwear. Manufacturers may also alter the construction of a running shoe to make it more fitting for males or females, while a transgender person can look to their own preferences, running style, and feet to select a suitable shoe.

This article will examine what to look for in a running shoe, with some top examples to consider.

Medical News Today chooses products that fit the following criteria, where possible:

  • Type of exercise: MNT chooses shoes that are suitable for a range of exercise, such as trail, track, and cross-country running.
  • Features: MNT chooses shoes that have different features, such as spikes for more difficult terrain, and extra cushioning to help reduce impact.
  • Comfort: MNT chooses shoes that are lightweight, breathable, and comfortable.

The footwear market offers a vast range of running shoes to buy. Below, we provide a list of running shoes appropriate for different terrains.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for traction spikes: Nike Zoom Rival D 10

Nike Zoom Rival D 10
  • Type of exercise: This shoe is suitable for track and field.
  • Pro: People can customize the level of traction by removing the spikes on this shoe.
  • Con: Some reviewers state that the shoe does not offer enough cushioning.
  • Weight: Nike does not list the weight of this shoe.
  • Heel-toe drop: Nike does not list the heel-toe drop of this shoe.

This unisex track shoe offers five removable spikes and comes in three color combinations.

Nike has incorporated various technologies into the shoe, including a Phylon midsole cushioning and a special Pebax plate. The company states these features allow the shoe to be breathable, comfortable, and light.

As these track shoes feature removable spikes, users can customize the level of traction.

Best for cross-country: Brooks Mach 19 Spikeless

Brooks Mach 19 spikeless
  • Type of exercise: This shoe is suitable for track and cross-country.
  • Pro: The shoe is lightweight and has good traction.
  • Con: Some reviewers state that the sizes of this shoe run small.
  • Weight: The shoe weighs 4.5 ounces (oz).
  • Heel-toe drop: Brooks does not list the heel-toe drop of this shoe.

The Brooks Mach 19 Spikeless shoe for females is a spikeless track shoe available in two color patterns. The manufacturers designed the shoe to feature an ultralight upper and a rubberized spike plate.

Brooks notes that this competitive racing shoe offers optimal traction suitable for both track and cross-country courses.

Best for trail running: Saucony Peregrine 12

Saucony Peregrine 12 against a green background.
  • Type of exercise: This shoe is suitable for trail running.
  • Pro: The shoe may provide more traction on uneven ground.
  • Con: Reviewers say that this shoe may not be suitable for people with wider feet.
  • Weight: The women’s model weighs 8.3 oz, and the men’s weighs 9.7 oz.
  • Heel-toe drop: This shoe has a heel-toe drop of 4 millimeters (mm).

The company has designed this running shoe for trail running. It has an outsole designed to provide traction on unpredictable terrain. Recycled uppers provide flexible protection from trail elements.

A new rock plate provides support and protection, as well as moisture resistance. The shoe features cushioning and a contoured sock liner.

Best for asphalt running: On Running Cloudflow

On Running CloudFlow
  • Type of exercise: This shoe is suitable for training and racing.
  • Pro: The company offers a 30-day returns policy for people who wish to try the shoes on at home.
  • Con: Reviewers say that this shoe may not be suitable for wet surfaces.
  • Weight: This shoe weighs 6.98 oz.
  • Heel-toe drop: The shoe has a heel-toe drop of 9 mm.

This On Running Cloudflow shoe comes in five colors and weighs in at only 6.98 oz. The company says the shoe features Helion superfoam, making it lightweight and comfortable.

This model may be suitable for asphalt running of any distance. The company also offers a 30-day returns policy for those who wish to try the shoes on at home.

Best for most terrains: inov-8 RocLite 275

Inov8 Roclite 275
  • Type of exercise: This shoe is suitable for trail running.
  • Pro: The shoe is breathable and may be suitable for most terrains.
  • Con: Some reviewers say that this shoe does not offer a secure fit.
  • Weight: The shoe weighs 9.625 oz.
  • Heel-toe drop: This shoe has a heel-toe drop of 8 mm.

The inov-8 RocLite 275 is a graphene-enhanced trail running shoe featuring a tough mesh upper portion to protect the foot from trail hazards.

The shoe also comes with a rubber toe cap, padded tongue, and rubber outsole to provide traction against a variety of trails.

It also features some of inov-8 proprietary technologies, including the POWERFLOW midsole for shock absorption and the META-PLATE to protect the foot.

Best for endurance training: Adidas SL20.3

The Adidas SL20.3 against a green background.
  • Type of exercise: This shoe is suitable for endurance training.
  • Pro: Reviewers say that this shoe has good traction and is durable.
  • Con: The shoe may not provide as much traction on rough terrain.
  • Weight: Adidas does not state the weight of this shoe.
  • Heel-toe drop: This shoe has a heel-toe drop of 8 mm.

This lightweight running shoe features Lightstrike cushioning, which the company claims can help runners try to run faster.

The flexible upper consists of at least 50% recycled materials. The shoe is designed to provide support and security for endurance runs and speed work alike.

Best for efficient energy return: Brooks Levitate 2

Brooks Levitate 2
  • Type fo exercise: This shoe is suitable for exercise that requires neutral support.
  • Pro: The shoe has a wide toe box, which may increase comfort.
  • Con: Some reviewers state that this shoe does not provide enough cushioning.
  • Weight: The women’s shoe weighs 9.9 oz, and the men’s weighs 11.2 oz.
  • Heel-toe drop: This shoe has a heel-toe drop of 8 mm.

The Brooks Levitate 2 running shoe features the brand’s DNA AMP midsole technology. The company claims this allows the foot to spring off the ground with each step for speedy, efficient energy return.

The shoe also features the company’s Fit Knit design, which Brooks says moves and expands with the foot as the user runs.

Best for soft landings: ASICS DYNABLAST

ASICS Dynablast
  • Type of exercise: This shoe is suitable for road running.
  • Pro: Some reviewers state that this shoe provides a good level of cushioning.
  • Con: The shoe has a high heel drop, which may increase the risk of injury.
  • Weight: The shoe weighs 8.8 oz.
  • Heel-toe drop: The shoe has a 12-mm heel-toe drop.

ASICS claims the DYNABLAST shoe is suitable for runners looking for a responsive underfoot experience during their run.

The company also states the running shoe is comfortable and features a lightweight and breathable upper to keep the feet cool and provide support. ASICS emphasizes the cushioning of its FLYTEFOAM material, which helps generate soft landings.

The shoe contains recycled materials, and the company made it using manufacturing processes that reduce carbon emissions and water usage.

Best for mixed training: Hoka ONE Challenger ATR 6

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6
  • Type of exercise: This shoe is suitable for trail running.
  • Pro: The shoe may be suitable for all terrains.
  • Con: Some reviewers state that this shoe does not provide enough cushioning.
  • Weight: The shoe weighs 9.8 oz.
  • Heel-toe drop: This shoe has a heel-toe drop of 5 mm.

The Challenger ATR 6 shoe from Hoka is a hybrid shoe suitable for trail and road running, making it a good option for those who like to mix up their running.

The shoe has a thicker midsole yet is lightweight enough for road running. It also features moderate cushioning with dual layers of mesh to keep the feet cool whatever the activity.

The best running shoe for a person can depend upon their feet, running pattern, and type of surface they run on. The footwear industry may also use several terms or definitions to describe their running shoes.

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) notes that running shoes should match a person’s foot arch and provide shock absorption.

A 2020 study notes that other important features include breathability, stiffness, and shoe mass. Another 2020 study also lists other features, such as:

  • Cushioning: This helps minimize the shock to the feet and legs, which in some cases may help prevent injury. This feature may be especially useful for those who run on hard surfaces.
  • Heel-toe drop: This refers to the difference in height between the heel and the toe. This can affect how the foot strikes the ground.
  • Heel cup support: This feature may also reduce impact while running, especially when the heel strikes the ground.
  • Midsole support: This feature may further reduce impact and help protect against shock.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also adds that people may wish to consider the following factors:

  • whether the shoes pinch or rub against the feet
  • whether the shoes are durable
  • whether people require regular or wide fit options
  • the terrain they run on and whether this affects their need for shoes with extra grip or more cushioning

The ACSM also advises that a person measure their feet in a store and buy different shoe sizes if their left and right foot are not the same size.

According to the ACSM, there are several features people may wish to avoid when purchasing a running shoe:

  • Too much cushioning: While cushioning can be beneficial, too much may worsen running motions and increase the impact on the joints. A 2018 study also suggests that too much padding can increase the risk of injury.
  • Walking gait: People should not choose shoes based on their walking gait, as foot motions differ when running.
  • Stability features: Some shoes may highlight stability features, such as additional arch support, but these may cause problems with the feet or knees.
  • High profile: Shoes with a high heel-toe drop may injure the foot due to the unnatural position of the foot while running.

It is also advisable that a person shopping for running shoes avoid shoes that fit incorrectly or those unsuitable for running, as this can result in injury.

The foot has three arches. Together, they form a strong, flexible base of support for the body. One of the arches, the medial longitudinal arch, can impact how a person walks or runs.

Aches, pains, and conditions such as plantar fasciitis can develop due to overuse or instability in the foot. Running shoes can help provide extra support and flexibility for the arch, which may help prevent injuries.

Heel drop, or heel-toe drop, is a term that refers to the height difference between the forefoot and the heel of the foot.

Larger heel drops, such as 10 mm and higher, may increase the risk of injury due to the way the foot is positioned while running.

Road running involves running along streets and sidewalks, whereas trail running involves going off-road. People who run trails may encounter rocks, roots, and other rough terrains.

Trail running shoes may have spikes to improve traction, whereas road running shoes may have more cushioning to decrease the impact of the foot hitting concrete.

A person can help maximize the life of their running shoes by following these steps:

  • Refrain from leaving shoes in direct sunlight or excess heat, including heat from the dryer.
  • Remove shoes by untying them, instead of kicking them off, to help maintain integrity.
  • Clean the shoes using a brush or soft-bristled toothbrush, mild soap, and warm water to remove exterior dirt.
  • Store shoes on a shelf, stuffed with newspaper or other paper to help the shoes keep their shape.

A person can also consider alternating running shoes daily. Wearing one pair for a run one day and then switching to a different pair the next day gives the protective foam sole time to revert to its original shape.

The APMA suggests that people replace running shoes after 600–800 miles of running or walking, or approximately every 6–8 months. If individuals begin to notice the following, they may need to consider buying new running footwear:

  • The bottom of the shoe appears worn-down, with little tread remaining.
  • The back support of the heel starts to lean inward. This can indicate that this supportive part is breaking down.
  • A person notices that their legs and feet are more tired than usual after a run, even though they have not adjusted their running style.

Replacing running footwear is vital to avoid injury. Even if shoes do not physically appear worn, they may require replacing.

People new to running or training may wish to seek advice from an expert. Many stores specializing in running and athletic wear will have staff who may be able to suggest suitable options.

In some cases, stores may offer gait analysis. This is where a person runs on a treadmill so staff can determine their running style and recommend suitable running shoes. This service is often free.

Some people may also need to seek help from a podiatrist if they have any injuries or specific footwear requirements.

Below are some commonly asked questions about running shoes.

Which brand of running shoes has the highest rating?

Each brand of running shoes has its own advantages and disadvantages. A brand that is suitable for some people may not be suitable for others.

A person may wish to consider brands that offer returns or test run policies when purchasing a new shoe. Testing a shoe before committing to a purchase may help a person choose a brand that meets their requirements.

Which running shoes are best for beginners?

There is no one best running shoe for beginners.

People may wish to consider factors such as the terrain they are going to be running on and how much stability the shoe offers. Many stores that specialize in running shoes will also offer advice and recommend certain shoes.

How often should I buy new running shoes?

The APMA recommends replacing running shoes after 600–800 miles of running or walking, or roughly every 6–8 months.

What is the number one running shoe?

There is no one best running shoe that would suit everyone.

People should consider various factors, such as how often they run, which terrain they intend to run on, and what their budget is, to find the best shoe for their circumstances.

Running shoes are important footwear for those who enjoy running. Shoe manufacturers craft them for a variety of purposes and with different features. Individuals may wish to consider what features are most desirable in a running shoe when shopping for them.

If someone feels they need help with buying suitable running shoes, they can consult a shoe-fitting specialist.