Running is a great way of getting fit while enjoying the outdoors—it requires very little skill and you can start today. The only real gear you need is a good pair of running shoes to protect and support your feet. Here’s what to buy, and why.
Shoe Types: City Streets or Dusty Trails
Spend five minutes looking at running shoes and you’ll realize there are a TON of choices out there. If you’re new to running, it’s intimidating. First of all, focus on where you’re doing your running. Are you exclusively running on pavement? Then, you need a pair of road running shoes. Planning on tackling a few off-road paths and trails? Trail running shoes are what you’re looking for.
There are crucial differences between the two. Road shoes are generally made from light weight material with thinner treads. They’re designed to absorb impact while you’re running on smooth surfaces like the pavement. In contrast, trail shoes are heavier with a thick sole so your shoes are harder wearing, and good to go if you’re tackling rockier terrain.
If you’re starting out, you probably won’t be going off-road very often which is why we’re focusing on road running shoes. Road running shoes aren’t designed for muddy or uneven surfaces but they’re appropriately cushioned for taking the impact off your joints, like your knees and ankles, when you’re jogging or running along the concrete path.
Gait Analysis: Personalize Your Pick
Now, this sounds like an cop out, but you need to actually go outside and try out some of the pairs we recommend to you. Everyone walks and runs differently—no pair of shoes is going to be perfect for every person. We’ve focused on running shoes that are for neutral gaits because—on average—that’s going to work for most people. However, you really need to check your pronation, the positioning of your foot, when you run. The easiest way for beginners is to head to your local running store, and have your gait analyzed.
The analysis is performed while you run on a treadmill for a brief time with a camera and computer monitoring how your foot is moving. It doesn’t take long at all and trained staff will give you feedback on what kind of shoes you require. Sometimes, you’ll have to pay a small sum for the service, other times you’ll get the money back by purchasing shoes there. Either way, it’s worth doing. You only get one pair of feet for life, and you don’t want to develop issues by wearing the wrong shoes for your running style. That’s why you also need to invest in some good shoes, rather than slap a bargain pair on. Cheap sneakers might be fine for mowing the lawn but if you’re running miles and miles, you need proper support.
Bear in mind your gait can change over time too. When I started out, I needed shoes for overpronation due to a long term ankle injury but now, I have a neutral gait. Similarly, just by building up muscle strength, you can change your gait to needing a neutral shoe.
So where does that leave us? There are literally hundreds of running shoes out there, so we’ve narrowed it down to the best running shoes for beginners: shoes the combine good construction and design, neutral gait, and features that will help new and experienced runners alike.
Best Over All: Nike Epic React ($154-$280)
Nike Epic React running shoes aren’t cheap, but they genuinely feel like a dream to run with. Super lightweight and form fitting, they snugly wrap around your foot, never feeling loose at a pivotal moment.
The average road running shoe should last you about 500 miles of running but the Epic React foam used on the base of the shoe promises to surpass that to 600 miles or more. It’s early days for this but extensive trials and testing suggests the proprietary technology has the right idea. Such bounciness somehow feels both firm but soft, so you feel like you’re hitting the ground but not too hard. By being so form fitting, there’s no risk of your foot being pushed in a particular direction either.
If you’re serious about running becoming a major hobby for you, these are a worthwhile investment.
Best for Mixed Use: Reebok Floatride ($98-173)
Reebok hasn’t been a major name in recent years when it comes to running shoes, but the Reebok Floatride is its comeback model. Much like the Nike Epic React, it uses a fabric exterior for comfort with a light foam cushioning for the sole.
Unusually, its sole is a little different, in terms of grip, compared to other road running shoes and offers more grip than is typically found in a designed-for-pavements sole. That means the Reebok Floatride is perfect for those rare occasions that you have to deal with some light trails or a slippery surface. Now, they won’t replace trail shoes entirely, but if you’re considering dipping a little into off-roading, they’re worth trying. The only downside? Lacing them up so they fit snugly is a little awkward due to limited lacing points.
Best for Shock Absorbtion: Brooks Ghost 10 ($100)
Priced keenly, the Brooks Ghost 10 are pretty comfortable if unremarkable looking. They’re suitably dependable, with enough breathability to their design to keep your feet cool and enough structure to survive miles of running.
The cushioning is Brooks’ BioMoGo DNA foam which does a great job of offering high energy return with each stride. Its stride is perfect for a neutral runner too, not once pushing your foot in an awkward direction. The only real issue here is that because they’re super breathable, they love to soak up water if you’re running in the rain. Depending on your local weather, the propensity of the shoes to suck up rain and winter slush may make them a poor fit.
Best for Slippery Surfaces: Adidas Solarboost ($150-270)
Supposedly inspired by NASA technology, Adidas’s Solarboost trainers have been a long time coming. Utilizing Adidas’s Stretchweb material, the outsole easily adapts to the surface you’re on, creating a high level of traction. For you, that means less risk of slipping, even if you’re running on snowy or icy surfaces. With improved balance, you’ll feel far more comfortable running at high speeds than with any other shoe. They’re super light too and appropriately breathable, so your feet won’t sweat too much on hot weather days.
So, what’s the issue? Well, durability isn’t ideal. Numerous reports have suggested that the shoes have fallen apart after a fairly average amount of time with premature wear on the soles. You need to look after these shoes carefully, and even then you might need to consider these an occasional pair rather than anything heavy duty. When they work though, their traction is second to none. Save them for those wet or snowy days.
Best Budget Pick: Asics Roadhawk FF ($50-$200)
Depending on where you shop, the Asics Roadhawk FF shoes are a bargain for the beginner runner. They’re lighter than most shoes in this price range, while still offering a medium amount of cushioning.
Sure, they might not wrap around your feet with perfectly cradled comfort, and they don’t look super cool, but they’re surprisingly competent for the price. The sole isn’t as thick as some competitors yet you’ll still feel less when moving on the road, but that’s a small price to pay for saving your bank balance.
The only significant issue is that they’re a little narrow around the toe box of your feet. If your toes are a little unusually shaped or sized, this is going to be an issue. Even if you buy a larger size than usual. Wide feet need not apply here.