Because you can run during quarantine, but you can’t pop in to the running store.
BY EMILY ABBATEApril 15, 2020
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There’s a solid chance that if you’re looking for the best running shoes right now, it’s because you—like so many—have taken up running as a newfound addition to your indoor workout exercise regimen. In the wake of coronavirus shuttering gyms and keeping us cooped up, pounding some pavement has emerged as one of the rare, semi-sanctioned outdoor activities available. (If you can stay six feet from anyone you don’t live with, it’s generally considered safe.) As so many new runners are learning, counteracting social distancing by tackling a few miles feels like one of the few genuine releases we’ve got right now.
While a new running hobby is great (endorphins! cardio!) and fairly cheap, it does require one very key piece of equipment: running shoes. But there’s no such thing as the best running shoe—only the best running shoes for you and your particular style. As Dan Giordano, CSCS and co-founder of physical therapy practice Bespoke Treatments explains: “Wearing the right shoe for your workout is a game-changer, not just because you’ll be able to perform better, but you’ll also reduce your risk of injury.” But navigating the mountain of available brands, styles, and models is damn near impossible without help.
In normal times, we would suggest that new runners visit a specialty shop to get a running analysis—the kind where they put you on a treadmill and geek out on how your foot hits the ground, how your knees respond to impact, and what type of running you plan to do. (Wind sprints? Trail runs? 5Ks on a high-school track?) You’d get some dialed-in advice about what sort of shoe might work for you, then try on a bunch of pairs to see what feels right. Needless to say that that’s not really an option now.
Option B is what you’re doing: some proper research on the best running shoes for your style before buying on the Internet. It’s not ideal, but it’s still better than jogging in the sneakers you bought for CrossFit.
Six Tips to Get the Right Shoe in the Right Size
Find your exact shoe size.
Sure, you’ve been a size 11 since ninth grade. But we’d still recommend tracing your foot onto a sheet of paper and measuring it to the sixteenth of an inch and using a conversion chart to double-check.
When in doubt, go up a half-size.
When you’re pounding the pavement repeatedly, your foot tends to swell. A slightly roomier fit reduces the potential for busted toenails and other too-snug issues, like irritation of the tendons on top of your foot.
Figure out what kind of feet you have.
Everyone has a unique gait, and manufacturers offer shoes that conform to—or help address—specific gaits. Particularly over-pronation, where the feet roll inward (pronate) excessively, transferring weight to the inner edge instead of the ball of your foot. There’s an easy at-home test for this: Get your feet damp and step onto a piece of cardboard or a paper grocery bag. If there’s more than a thin sliver of arch showing in your footprint, you’ve got flat feet and should look for shoes that say they’re designed to help with stability. People with normal arches can opt for a neutral shoe. And if there’s a gap between your heel and the ball of your foot, you’ve got high arches, and should opt for a neutral shoe, too—a stability design will be counterproductive—and consider a thicker-midsoled shoe, because high arches don’t absorb pounding as well.
Think about what the type of running you’ll be doing most.
Are you feeling really fiery and want to sprint a quick mile or two every single day? Try a lightweight shoe with a thinner sole. Hoping to tune out the world while logging double-digit miles? Consider something with more substance that stays cozy for the long haul.
Note the return policy.
A lot of running specialty stores offer some sort of 60-day satisfaction guaranteed situation—if you head out and don’t love the fit, you can still ship them back for a refund. While this is easier said than done depending on your access to a shipping location, consider buying a couple pairs and sizes and keeping the best.
Don’t overthink it.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by running shoe fads and debates. (Remember the barefoot craze?) But for all the back and forth, it appears that the best shoe for you is probably the one that simply feels best to run in right away.
Ready to get out there? Check out these sneaker picks for every type of runner—which basically all of us until we can go back to the gym.
Saucony Triumph 17
This is the most cushioned shoe that the brand offers, which means it also has some weight to it. That makes it ideal for anyone who is looking to run longer distances and spend some solid time on their feet.Saucony$150Buy NowIf you need some extra stability
Asics GT-1000 9
The Asics GT-1000 is a classic stability design, great for overpronators, but its design is also mild enough that plenty of runners with neutral strides love it too. Asics$100Buy NowFor both fashion and function
Nike Pegasus 36
This is one of Nike’s most classic offerings. It’s light enough to wear for quick bursts, but substantial enough to wear on even your longest runs. (Plus, it comes in a ton of colors.)Nike
$120$96Buy NowIf you want to feel fast
New Balance 890 v8
This is always a stellar go-to when it comes to fast sprint work. Comparable in weight to a racing flat, think of it as a good option for something like a track session or a quick 5K. New Balance
$120$110Buy NowIf you’re lucky enough to live near trails
The North Face Ultra Swift Futurelight
This sneaker is for those of you lucky enough to have easy access to trails. The sole is covered in lugs, raised rubber studs, which help with grip on rocks and loose dirt.The North Face$145Buy NowIf you like to be a little flashy
Brooks Hyperion Tempo
A new offering from Brooks, this lightweight trainer is great for runners who want to log some solid distance and feel fast. They’re made with a decent chunk of foam to give a springy feel without a bunch of bulk.Brooks$150Buy NowIf you’re on a budget
Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2.0
The Forever Floatride has got a decent amount of cushioning and a pretty luxurious feel considering its approachable price—it’s a great option for anyone who isn’t sure they’ll stick with this running thing.Reebok$100Buy NowFor the aspiring marathoner
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080
Another high-cushion option, the 1080 feels lightweight even though it’s stacked with the New Balance’s signature Fresh Foam. Comfortable enough for hours on the road, it’s also got enough zoom for track intervals.New Balance$150Buy NowFor the daily runner
Hoka One One Clifton
When a lot of us hear “Hoka” we think “clunky,” but the Clifton is remarkably light for the level of cushion it delivers. They’ll make you feel super comfortable without weighing you down.Hoka One One$130Buy NowIf you’re a geek for new tech
Adidas 4D Run 1.0
Made with a wild-looking 3D-printed midsole, these are like a sneak peak from the future.Adidas$220Buy Now