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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

Best road runner

Best trail runner

Best cushioning

Best for wide feet

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’

Best zero-drop

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.