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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, we found options for you. We liked these picks because each model has a men’s and women’s version (some models also have a children’s version), which means lots of size options for your foot.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to well into the hundreds for a 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)
  • $$ ($130–$180)
  • $$$ ($180 and up)

Brooks Glycerin 17

Brooks Glycerin running shoe in blue
  • Price point: $$
  • Key features: Thick cushioned sole lasts a long time and is designed for maximum comfort on hard surfaces like pavement. Light 3D-printed mesh upper for lightness with multiple color options for all genders and tastes. DNA LOFT technology eases transition from toe-to-heel during run. Intended for long-distance running. Available in narrow, medium, and wide widths.
  • Considerations: Width may still not be enough for some people’s feet. Price point may seem high.
  • Shop for Brooks Glycerin in stores and online.

Brooks Ghost 12

Brooks Ghost running shoe in purple
  • Price point: $$
  • Key features: Popular city or road shoe for both novice and expert runners alike. Thick cushion engineered for both long distances and short sprints. Has a 3D-printed mesh upper to lighten overall weight. Available in a variety of colors for different styles and tastes.
  • Considerations: Some customers report that these shoes can be too tight or narrow for wide feet. The heavy weight (9.3 ounces) makes this hard for some to justify as a racing or marathon shoe.
  • Shop for Brooks Ghost in stores and online.

Salomon Speedcross 4

  • Price point: $
  • Key features: Snug and comfortable fit, with rubber sole designed for maximum traction and grip for unpredictable terrain. Patented Muscle Midsole intended for cushioning as well as protection from a variety of surfaces. On the lighter side for a trail runner at 300 grams.
  • Considerations: Has a quick-lace system rather than traditional laces. Many customers report that the sole wears down quickly on pavement or asphalt even with limited use. Paint may wear off easily from certain colors.
  • Shop for Salomon Speedcross in stores and online.

Hoka One One Bondi 6

  • Price point: $$
  • Key features: No-frills design with thick cushion meant for maximum comfort. Multiple width options for any size foot. Cushion adaptable to both pavement and rough terrain. Small 4 millimeter (mm) heel-to-toe drop.
  • Considerations: Widely considered to be more functional than stylish. A little heavier than similar running shoes. Some customers report mesh tearing away from sole during extensive use.
  • Shop for Hoka One One’s Bondi in stores and online.

Brooks GTS 19

  • Price point: $$
  • Key features: Designed specifically for runners with wide feet. A good choice for people with bunions or who have recently had bunion removal. Engineered for arch support. Patented Guardrail support system is meant to minimize damage or injury to the knees by stabilizing your gait. Cushioning protects 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.
  • Shop for Brooks GTS in stores and online.

ASICS Gel-Kayano 26

  • Price point: $$
  • Key features: Specifically designed for runners with flat feet. Lightweight materials make it good for racing or long-distance running. Also designed to help with overpronation, which commonly happens alongside flat-footedness.
  • Considerations: Price point can seem high for the quality. May seem tight if you add orthotics for further support or correction.
  • Shop for ASICS Gel-Kayano in stores and online.

Anything from Altra

  • Price point: $$
  • Key features: Altra’s shoe line is vegan (except for use of leather where noted). Variety of different styles for city, trail, competitive, and long-distance running. Wide toe boxes comfortably fit most feet. Some models designed for “female” feet. Zero-drop cushion design.
  • Considerations: Some customers report mesh and sole beginning to wear down and come off after vigorous use. Laces are long and may be awkward for some users.
  • Shop for Altra in stores and online.

Vibram KSO EVO

  • Price point: $
  • Key features: Five-finger design allows maximum toe flexibility. Waterproof. Fit snugly on almost any foot size, including wide feet. XS Trek sole design good for different terrains wet and dry. Zero-drop for comfortable footfalls. Extremely machine-washable.
  • Considerations: Design may not be comfortable or attractive to all people. Sizing can run large. Toe box can run a little small for people with wide feet.
  • Shop for Vibram KSO EVO in stores and online.

Merrell Trail Glove 5

  • Price point: $
  • Key features: Zero-drop from heel to toe. Made of vegan and sustainable materials. Rounded toe box for cozy and comfortable fit. Designed for all-terrain running with cushioning intended to protect heel and ball of foot from bruising or injury.
  • Considerations: “Barefoot” design may take some getting used to for first-timers. Reviews commonly mention tongue getting bunched up inside the shoe.
  • Shop for the Merrell Trail Glove in stores and online.

Xero Prio

  • Price point: $
  • Key features: Stylish and light design. More affordable than similar high-end minimalist shoes. Adaptable to many conditions including pavement and dirt. FeelTrue sole designed for maximum traction for stability on many kinds of terrain while giving you direct “feedback” from contact. Wide toe box for people with wide feet. Made from vegan materials.
  • Considerations: Some customers report the sole separating from the shoe after a few months. Others report that their feet hurt after a few months from minimal cushioning.
  • Shop for the Xero Prio online.

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 (US) and other national standards, such as UK, Japanese, and European.
  • Width: Your foot size can be anywhere from narrow (AA) to as wide as possible (EE). The most common size 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.

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 used it? 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 to keep your feet from stewing in sweat? 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 a 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.