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You may not think of it this way, but running shoes can be an investment in your feet and in your health.

Choosing the right pair of running shoes can encourage more comfortable movement and protect your lower body from impact damage caused by footfalls on hard surfaces.

So whether you’re looking for form or function, there’s an option for you here.

We chose these running shoes because they’re highly rated for comfort and value. There’s also a little something for every runner — vegan, wide width, minimalist, and more.

Many of these brands have also been trusted for years, and each model has a male and female version (plus some children’s versions, too!), which means there’s a lot of size options for your feet.

Pricing guide

You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to well into the hundreds for a good pair of running shoes.

We’ve eliminated most of the lower-end options from our selection in favor of recommending higher quality and more specialized pairs.

  • $ = $80–$130
  • $$ = $130–$180
  • $$$ = over $180

Best overall

Brooks Glycerin 17

Price point: $–$$

Key features: The Brooks Glycerin 17 features thick, cushioned soles that are designed for maximum comfort on hard surfaces like pavement. Several color options are available, and a light 3D-printed mesh upper keeps the shoes from weighing you down. They’re designed for long-distance running and are available in narrow, medium, and wide widths.

Considerations: The width options are a bit limited, so these shoes may not offer the perfect fit for some. The price point’s also a bit high for the budget-conscious runner.

Best road runner

Brooks Ghost 13

Price point: $$

Key features: It’s the perfect shoe whether you’re a novice who runs on country roads or an old pro who jogs on city sidewalks. The thick, cushioned soles are engineered for both long distances and short sprints, and the 3D-printed mesh upper helps to lighten the overall weight of the shoe. A variety of different colors are available.

Considerations: Some customers report that these shoes can be too tight or narrow for wide feet. The shoe weighs in at about 9.3 ounces, so marathon runners may find it a bit heavy.

Best trail runner

Salomon Speedcross 4

Price point: $

Key features: The rubber soles are designed for maximum traction and grip for unpredictable terrain. The feet are cushioned, as well as protected from a variety of surfaces. Weighs in at only 300 grams (about 10.5 ounces).

Considerations: Many customers report that the sole wears down quickly on pavement or asphalt even with limited use. It also features a quick-lace system, rather than traditional laces, which could matter for your personal preference. The paint may also wear off easily with certain colors.

Best cushioning

Hoka One One Bondi 7

Price point: $$

Key features: The no-frills design of this shoe offers thick cushioning that’s meant for maximum comfort. Multiple width options are available, and the cushion is adaptable to both pavement and rough terrain. Also has a small 4 mm heel-to-toe drop.

Considerations: A pair of Bondi 7’s are a little heavier than similar running shoes, and some customers report that the mesh can tear away from the sole during extensive use.

Best for wide feet

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19

Price point: $$

Key features: This shoe is said to be a good choice for people with bunions or who have recently had bunions removed. Designed specifically for runners with wide feet and engineered for arch support, the shoe’s support system minimizes damage or injury to the knees by stabilizing your gait. The cushioning is touted to protect your feet while also providing responsiveness from your running environment.

Considerations: Sizes can run a little larger than expected, so you may want to order a size down.

Best for flat feet

Asics Gel-Kayano 26

Price point: $$

Key features: These running shoes are specifically designed for runners with flat feet. Lightweight materials are great for racing or long-distance running, and they’re designed to help with overpronation, which commonly happens alongside flat feet.

Considerations: The price point can seem high in relation to the level of quality. They may also seem tight if you add orthotics for further support or correction.

Best vegan

Anything from Altra

Price point: $$

Key features: Altra’s shoe line is vegan (except for use of leather where noted). A variety of different styles are available for city, trail, competitive, and long-distance running. Wide toe boxes are said to comfortably fit most feet, and some models are designed for “female” feet.

Considerations: Some customers report that the mesh and soles begin to wear down and come off after vigorous use. The laces are long and may be awkward for some users.

Best ‘barefoot’

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO

Price point: $

Key features: These lightweight shoes are listed as waterproof and fit snugly on almost any foot size, including wide feet. The five finger design allows for maximum toe flexibility, and the sole design is supposedly good for both wet and dry terrains. They’re also machine washable.

Considerations: The design and fit may not appeal to every runner. Sizing has a tendency to run large, and the toe box can run a little small for people with wide feet.

Best zero-drop

Merrell Trail Glove 5

Price point: $

Key features: The Merrell Trail Glove 5 was designed for all-terrain running. The cushioning reportedly protects the heel and ball of foot from bruising or injury, and the rounded toe box provides a cozy and comfortable fit. They’re made of vegan and sustainable materials.

Considerations: “Barefoot” design may take some getting used to for first-timers. Many reviewers mentioned that the tongue frequently gets bunched up inside the shoe.

Best minimalist

Xero Prio

Price point: $

Key features: A light design accompanies this more affordable shoe. It can be used on pavement and dirt, and their FeelTrue sole is designed for maximum traction for stability on many kinds of terrain, while giving you direct “feedback” from contact. The wide toe box is also designed for people with wide feet and it’s made from vegan materials.

Considerations: Some customers have reported that the soles separate from the shoe after a few months. Others report that minimal cushioning led to sore feet after a few months.

Here’s a quick guide to sizing specifications found in most shoes:

  • Length: This depends on how long your foot is, and you’ll see numbers in both inches (U.S.) and other national standards, such as U.K., Japanese, and European.
  • Width: Your foot size can be anywhere from narrow (AA) to as wide as possible (EE). The most common sizes you’ll find are narrow, medium (M or B), and wide (D).
  • Marketing and design: Shoes will usually say whether they’re designed specifically for the male or female foot. But regardless of how they’re marketed, fit is what matters most. You may find wider shoe designs marketed to men and a more variety in smaller and narrower sizes in shoes marketed to women.

It’s not a surprise that even the most exhaustive list of features can’t compare to how a shoe feels on your own foot.

Many shoes have a lot of research, development, and engineering put into them, from the materials used to the design and style — but it always comes down to what fits you and your feet.

Here are some questions and things to keep in mind as you forage for footwear:

  • What’s the return policy? Can you return it if you don’t like it after you’ve worn them? How long do you have for a return and what condition does the store or manufacturer accept shoes in? Do the shoes have a warranty?
  • How thick are the soles? Sole thickness can tell you a lot about how long the shoe will last before the soles wear down. But thick can also mean heavy. It’s crucial to find resilient soles that don’t add too much weight, especially if you’re a frequent or competitive runner.
  • How much does the shoe weigh? Shoe weight does have an impact on how much energy you’re expending to run — or even walk and hike. You may not realize how much a shoe weighs you down until you switch to a pair that’s been engineered with lighter materials.
  • What’s it made of? Do you need it to be breathable for hot climates? You might want a shoe that has more mesh. Should it be waterproof for use in rain or through wet, muddy terrain? Gore-tex finishes may be your best bet. Or, is it enough for the shoe to dry quickly without being waterproof? This might give you more, and lighter weight, options.
  • What’s the heel-to-toe drop? What’s the difference in how much material supports your toes versus how much supports your heel? Is there no difference (zero-drop) or a few millimeters? What feels good when you run?
  • What kind of tread do you need? Is the tread made for a specific terrain, such as gripping pavement or preventing slip in the mud? Is it made for hard or flat surfaces? What about soft or uneven surfaces?
  • What socks will you wear with these? Knowing the general thickness of the socks you’ll wear with your running shoes can help with picking the right size. So try on shoes wearing socks of the same thickness.

There’s no avoiding trying shoes on, whether you can do it in-store or in the comfort of your own home, so make sure the store or manufacturer has a return policy that works for you.

Try to take your shoes out for a spin for a true test.