Best running shoes: Break a sweat, not your arches

Stamina aside, nothing will take you farther while jogging than proper footwear. Use this guide to find the best running shoes whether you have flat feet, wide feet, high arches, or just want to upgrade your style.

Running is truly an exercise of convenience. You don’t have to learn how to do it, and it doesn’t require any equipment other than your own two feet. Of course, those need to be outfitted correctly. Running around with bare feet might be fun for toddlers, but a guy who wants to go the distance without falling apart will need cover and cushioning. A pair of the best running shoes won’t just keep your soles clean and gash-free as you glide over dirt, sand, rocks, and concrete. They can also protect your musculoskeletal system from the trauma your body endures every time your feet hit the ground hard.

It’s important to know when you need new running shoes. Experts suggest springing for a new pair every 300 to 500 miles. For those who are good with long distances only when running them, that averages to a switch about every four to six months, if you run 20 miles a week. Those of us who are a little more lax on our running schedules can wait to snag a new pair. But as a general rule, if the midsoles or outsoles look compressed or worn, it’s time to move on. When you’re ready to make a change, you’ll want to make sure you get the best running shoes.

Things to consider when buying running shoess

Before splurging on your next pair of the best running shoes, keep these five factors in mind: 1) Where you’ll be doing most of your running. 2) Proper fit. 3) Cushioning and support. You want to avoid the sensation of bare feet clamping down on hard concrete. 4) Foot odor and sweat protection. 5) Your running form. If your feet roll in or out when they come down on solid ground, you’ll need shoes that can handle your gait.

Where will you be running?

Running on the beach or on grass will produce less wear and tear on your shoes than running on asphalt, so you need a pair of running shoes that not only keep you up to speed but can handle rough and challenging terrain as well. Beach runners might be tempted to go barefoot, but stray rocks, shells, and other forms of litter and debris can wreak havoc on your feet, so it’s in your best interest to keep them covered. Look for a pair with a tighter mesh, which will allow water to drain out of your running shoes without letting sand in.

Big city concrete can be murder on your joints, so if you’ll be doing most of your running around town on the sidewalk, a shoe with a springlike effect in the heel will help keep your body in good working order. On the geographical flipside, a country road packed with dirt and gravel can be negotiated more easily with rubber spikes that provide the cleat-like traction.

Running on grass is generally easier on the knees than running on hard surfaces, but joggers should still approach green routes with caution. Since uneven grass can cause your feet to twist, arch support and cushioning are paramount. Also, because grass is slippery when wet, the running shoes you wear while jogging on it should give you good traction.

Best running shoes overall: Under Armour Men’s Charged Assert 8 Running Shoe

Tons Of Style Choices

Lightweight mesh lets your feet breathe and molded foam provides reinforced support. Amazon

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These running shoes by Under Armour tick enough boxes to make them compatible with a number of jogging environments. The rubber outsole provides traction for gliding over rocks and wet grass, while the compression-molded foam offers ample cushioning to get you over jagged, uneven terrain. Plus, the tight, lightweight mesh will keep sand out and drain excess water during leisurely beach runs.

Running shoes with the proper fit right from the start

First, forget everything you’ve ever heard about having to break in a new pair of shoes. If you can’t hit the ground running comfortably from the moment you first step into your running shoes, leave them on the shelf. Next, have your feet measured while you’re standing up. If they aren’t exactly the same length, go with the larger foot to determine the size your running shoes should be. You can always lace them up a bit tighter on the smaller foot.

When you stand on top of your running shoes, they should more or less line up with the size and shape of your bare feet, without your toes hanging over the front or sides. After you put them on, there should be a thumbnail’s worth of space between your longest toe (which might be the second toe, not the big toe) and the front of the shoe. Check that there is no pressure on your pinky toe and only a slight amount on your big toe. It should be about as snug there as a watch strap is around your wrist.

When you take off in new runners, your heel shouldn’t slip and the surface of the shoe shouldn’t rub uncomfortably against your ankle. If the fabric at the top bunches up, you might need a smaller size, and if it bulges or stretches, go a half size bigger. Running shoes will become more comfortable over time, but they should fit properly right out of the starting gate.

Best fitting running shoe for wide feet: New Balance Men’s Fresh Foam 1080 V8 Running Shoe

Structured Comfort

Look to this pair for the most specific fit—and for plush foam cushioning that babies your arch. Amazon

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When thinking about fit, width matters as much as length. Runners with wide feet need more spacious shoes that won’t cramp them. These men’s running shoes come in US sizes 4 to 14, with seven different widths, ranging from extra-extra-narrow to extra-extra-wide.

Why too much or too little cushioning can hurt you

Midsole material, which is typically EVA or polyurethane foam, helps absorb the impact as your feet hit the ground. Thickness is mostly a matter of personal preference. Maximum cushioning is thicker and softer, but it can produce a squishy feel. Moderate cushioning hits the middle ground between pillowy and firm. Barefoot cushioning leaves only a thin layer between your feet and the ground and offers minimal arch support and no stability features—not a great option for those with flat feet.. It may feel good strolling around town, but it won’t do you much good in the long run (literally).

Contrary to popular belief, more cushioning isn’t always better when it comes to the best running shoes. The extra softness can prevent the foot from functioning like a spring, as it should. Instead, it becomes a shock absorber, leaving the springing action to your joints and tissues and potentially leading to injury. The best cushioning is neither too hard nor too soft, hitting a happy medium characterized by soft and supportive and comfortable and lightweight.

Another consideration is the heel drop, which refers to the difference in cushioning between a running shoe’s heel and toe. A traditional drop is about 10mm and up, and it’s best for runners who land heel first. A lower drop of 8mm and under is ideal for runners who hit the ground on their toes or the middle of their feet. As running shoes approach a zero drop, they force the Achilles tendon to work harder, which can lead to painful injury.

Best cushioned running shoe: ASICS Men’s Gel-Venture 7 Trail Running Shoes

Like Running On A Cloud

This tough running shoe built for the rugged outdoors is soft and flexible enough to mold itself to the shape of your feet. Amazon

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Comfort is the key feature of these ASICS men’s running shoes, and they offer that in various ways. This model has rear-foot GEL technology that provides shock absorption and works in tandem with OrthoLite X-40 sockliner, which introduces an additional layer of cushioning and moisture-wicking.

Running shoes must let your feet breathe

Few forms of exercise guarantee you’ll work up a considerable sweat quite like running. Your feet might not get as drenched as your head, but they will perspire enough to require shoes that will offset the wet. Breathable shoes allow your sweat to evaporate more quickly while keeping your feet cool and protecting them from blisters and fungi.

Porous fabrics provide better breathability, so stay away from rubber anywhere but the soles of your running shoes. It traps moisture and heat. Leather may look and feel good, but the material is heavy and offers precious little ventilation. Canvas, on the other hand, breathes nicely, but it’s hard to beat knitted nylon or polyester, a.k.a mesh. One of the most popular fabrics in running shoes, nylon wicks sweat and it’s stretchy, so it will more easily conform to the shape of your feet while you’re on the run. Polyester has a lot of the same benefits as nylon, but it may not be as durable.

Best breathable running shoes: adidas Men’s CF Lite Racer Byd

Breathable Kicks

These are ideal for long, hot runs—plus, you can just toss them in the wash to clean. Amazon

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Wearing these might be the next best thing to running with just your socks on. These adidas running shoes are made of snug, stretchy mesh, ensuring your feet will breathe easily while you’re jogging in them. Cloudfoam midsoles and outsoles increase the comfort factor. When they get dirty, you can throw them into the washing machine, but after the gentle cycle is complete, air drying is recommended.

Match the shoe to your running form

Pronation refers to how your feet roll inward when they hit the ground and move you forward. The level of pronation differs from person to person, so it’s important to choose a pair of running shoes that complements your form.

Runners who overpronate roll their feet disproportionately inward when they land and require shoes with more stability, structured support, and motion control. Supination refers to rolling your feet outward upon landing, which is relatively uncommon. For those who run like this, however, shoes with more cushion and flexibility are ideal.

The way you pronate affects the way your running shoes age. Overpronation wears away the inside edge of the shoe, while supination erodes the outer edge. A 200-pound runner who overpronates or supinates will need to replace their running shoes more often than someone who is thinner and has basic pronation.

Best running shoe for stability and support: Brooks Men’s Adrenaline GTS 20

Keep Your Feet And Ankles Secure

Works well for those who run on hard surfaces, whether it be asphalt or rocky inclines. Amazon

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Overpronators can run safely without having to adjust how they hit the road. Rather than trying to fix your gait, these running shoes give you the stability and support you need to offset the effect of rolling your feet inward when they land. The GuideRails support system keeps your feet properly positioned while protecting your knees, hips, and joints from injury.

Brands to know

Adidas and Nike are the superstars of running shoes. Everyone has heard their names, and they never seem to go out of style. The iconic rap group Run-D.M.C. had a big ’80s hit with a song called “My Adidas,” and Nike is practically synonymous with basketball legend Michael Jordan. But they aren’t the only running shoes making the rounds. A number of other brands have found great success by offering runners premium physical and aesthetic benefits.

Brooks

When it comes to running, dedication is key, and Brooks couldn’t possibly be more committed. For the past 20 years, the Seattle-based brand has specialized exclusively in running shoes. The company’s focus on the sport has made it the top manufacturer of specialty running shoes for much of the past decade, so you can’t lose putting your faith—and your feet—in them.

ASICS

Founded in Japan in 1949, ASICS is an acronym for the Latin phrase “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano,” which means “a sound mind in a sound body.” The brand was initially dedicated to making basketball shoes, but it has become best known for making running shoes that can also function as bold fashion statements.

HOKA

This brand, founded in 2009 by French runners Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard, emphasizes luxurious cushioning—which is how it came to be called “King of Cushion.” Its Meta-Rocker design feature combines a low heel drop and a rounded sole to complement the natural stride of runners and promote forward motion. The Active Foot Frame provides additional support by cradling your feet deeper inside the midsole of the running shoes.

Best budget running shoes: What You Get for Under $50

As a general rule, more expensive running shoes isn’t necessarily a better or a safer pair of shoes. As with haute couture, some brands charge higher prices in accordance with their reputation—not because they are offering some special feature that will make going for a run in them better or safer than wearing anything else on the road. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t find a perfectly good pair of men’s running shoes for under $100.

If the idea of handing over a cool hundred to replace them every six months or so makes you wary of hitting the road, there are cheaper options. New Balance Men’s Fresh Foam Evare V1 Running Shoe is available for under $50 a pair, and the model offers many of the same features and benefits as shoes that cost more than twice as much.

Putting our foot down

Finding the right pair of the best running shoes can be as grueling an experience as what you do while you’re wearing them, but in the end, the extra effort will pay off. Most people just look for a pair that fits well, but it’s important to remember that other factors contribute to comfort and protection. If your running shoes don’t provide adequate support and cushioning, you might end up sustaining injuries that take you off the road and keep your kicks in the closet.

Different feet have different needs, but it pays to treat a new pair of running shoes like a new car. Take them out for a test run before you commit to them completely, and check that return policy. Your feet and other body parts connected to them will be grateful when you cross the finish line.