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You may have heard that running is one of the cheapest sports. Why exactly? Well, all you need to participate, beyond motivation, is a sturdy pair of running shoes.

The thing is, finding the right pair can be daunting — to say the least.

There are many brands and models to choose from. And even if you’re a seasoned pro, you should be replacing your shoes roughly every 350 to 500 miles. New models and brands come onto the market all the time. Is your head spinning yet?

Women’s feet have a number of differences in size and shape compared to men’s. Shoe brands take these into account when designing running shoes for women.

Most running shoes marketed toward women account for the heel difference in their design, so you can expect to see a difference in heel shapes and sometimes heel materials between the men’s and women’s models of the same shoe.

Women’s running shoes also tend to be lighter and softer than men’s.

However, you don’t need to stick to “men’s” or “women’s” shoes based on how they’re labeled or marketed. Choose the product with the fit, style, and features that work best for you.

The following shoes earn high marks for quality, comfort, and value. Beyond that, we included some top picks to fit specific foot structure or training needs.

It’s best to consult a podiatrist if you want to address any specific issues or injuries.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $100
  • $$ = $100–$150
  • $$$ = over $150

Best overall

Brooks Ghost 14

Price: $$

Weight: 9 ounces (oz.)

Drop: 12 millimeters (mm)

Key features: The newest version of Brooks Ghost (14) boasts an improved fit and added cushioning for enhanced comfort on the run.

The brand explains that the experience is “smoother and softer than ever” with this longtime favorite. This shoe is for runners who want added cushioning for longer runs with neutral support.

As a bonus, Brooks shares that the Ghost 14 is its first carbon-neutral shoe.

Considerations: Reviewers note that the Ghost 14 may be slightly bigger — about half a size — than the Ghost 13, so you may want to size down. Others mention that the wide offering isn’t as wide as in previous models.

In general, if you have worn the Ghost in the past, you may want to try the 14s on in a store to ensure a proper fit.

Pros

  • improved fit compared to previous models
  • added cushioning
  • environmentally friendly, made with recycled materials

Cons

  • possibly larger sizing than in previous models
  • may not have as wide of a “wide” offering as previous models

Best for cushioning

HOKA One One Clifton 8

Price: $$

Weight: 7.2 oz.

Drop: 5 mm

Key features: If you’re new to HOKA, the Clifton is a good entry shoe to get familiar with the brand. The Clifton 8 provides supreme, symmetrical cushioning for a soft, neutral ride every day of the week.

And at just 7.2 oz. — 15 percent lighter than its predecessor — the shoe may even feel like it’s “disappearing underfoot,” which is helpful on those longer slogs.

The Clifton is made of all vegan materials and comes with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee for exchange or full refund.

Considerations: Reviewers say the Clifton 8 in wide width isn’t as wide as previous versions. Some say the shoe’s high arch support is not comfortable for those with flat feet. And several people note that the cushioning deteriorates somewhat quickly. For one reviewer, it was after just 1.5 months of going 20 miles per week.

Pros

  • lightweight cushioning
  • comfortable for everyday wear
  • 30-day satisfaction guarantee

Cons

  • may not have as wide of a “wide” offering as previous versions
  • may not be comfortable for flat feet
  • cushioning material may wear out quickly

Best for flat feet

Asics Gel-Kayano 28

Price: $$$

Weight: 9.1 oz.

Drop: 10 mm

Key features: The Asics Gel-Kayano 28 offers maximum cushioning with a stable ride. It’s best for road running with either neutral pronation or overpronation (often found with flat feet).

This newest model of Kayano features the company’s FF BLAST cushioning at the midsole for improved responsiveness and stability.

Also new for this version is a gender-specific 3D SPACE CONSTRUCTION to keep the shoe lightweight while improving compression with each foot strike.

Considerations: Some reviewers note that the colors you see on the screen do not match up well to the colors of the actual shoe.

Beyond aesthetics, other reviewers share that this version is different from previous versions and did not work for them for various reasons (blisters, less stability, heel discomfort, etc.). And a few reviewers say the soles started falling off prematurely.

Pros

  • suitable for overpronation/flat feet
  • wide variety of color combinations
  • plush cushioning

Cons

  • possible differences between colors on screen and colors of actual product
  • may not fit the same way as previous versions
  • possibly lower quality materials than in previous versions

Best for high arches

Mizuno Wave Creation 20

Price: $$$

Weight: 11.6 oz.

Drop: 15 mm

Key features: The 20th version of Mizuno’s Wave Creation includes a wave plate that helps absorb shock, perhaps better than standard foam. This shoe also features a sock-like fit for added comfort and security.

Reviewers say the arch support in these shoes has helped them address issues such as plantar fasciitis.

Considerations: One longtime Wave Creation wearer shares that this model’s materials might not be up to snuff compared to previous models. It’s also not a very lightweight shoe, coming in at 11.6 ounces. The price is on the higher end as well.

Pros

  • optimal arch support
  • enhanced shock absorption
  • sock-like fit

Cons

  • weighs more than other running shoes
  • lower quality materials than in previous versions
  • expensive

Best for wide feet

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v12

Price: $$$

Weight: 8.3 oz.

Drop: 8 mm

Key features: Version 12 of the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 is all about comfort, from heel to toe. The company combined premium cushioning with a lightweight ride and added foam in the midsole for wider widths.

The upper fits like a bootie for a snug fit without rubbing and blisters. As a bonus, the upper is made of more than 50 percent recycled materials.

The best part: You can purchase this shoe specifically in wide and extra-wide widths, which isn’t the case with every brand and model.

Considerations: Some reviewers say the heel of the shoe rides up and causes discomfort and blisters. Others say the sizing is larger than in previous models and that, overall, there were a lot of changes in version 12 that you may notice if you’ve been loyal to the shoe for several years.

Pros

  • lightweight
  • “second-skin” Hypoknit upper
  • narrow, standard, wide, and extra-wide width options

Cons

  • may have larger sizing than previous models
  • some reports of heel discomfort
  • may not be wide enough for some people, even in “wide” width

Best for long distance running

Saucony Ride 15

Price: $$

Weight: 7.8 oz.

Drop: 8 mm

Key features: Soft cushioning and a sock-like liner may make the Saucony Ride 15 a shoe that will take you long distances with comfort. The cushioning foam is lightweight and enhanced with a midsole geometry that promotes good motion from heel to toe.

Available in both standard and wide widths, the shoe provides some added flexibility in the forefoot for more fluid foot motion and is most suitable for neutral runners.

Reviewers say this is the “best” version of the Ride yet and that it may be especially good for runners who supinate.

Considerations: A few reviewers note that this version of the Ride may run a half to a full size too big or, alternatively, that it may run small, so you may want to order a few sizes to try. They also say the toe box is pointed and somewhat narrow, which may cramp your toes.

If you’ve worn this shoe in the past, note that reviewers say this version is far less structured. This may be important if you need that added stability.

Pros

  • lightweight, plush cushioning
  • soft, sock-like liner
  • standard and wide widths available

Cons

  • may not have the same sizing as previous models
  • narrow toe box
  • less stable than previous models

Best for trail running

Salomon Speedcross 5

Price: $$

Weight: 9.87 oz.

Drop: 10 mm

Key features: If you’re looking for superior traction, cushioning, and a lightweight feel on the trails, the Salomon Speedcross 5 may be your shoe. The latest version features even better grip than previous models, with a refined look to boot.

One reviewer says the Speedcrosses are the “best shoes ever” and that they combine durability with style that works for trail running, hiking, and even casual wear.

Considerations: Some reviewers note that the sizing is a little longer — about a half size up — and wider than in previous versions. One person says they had only run 120 miles in the shoes before the soles broke down.

A few people also say they miss the flashier color combinations that were offered in previous models.

Pros

  • great traction on trails
  • designed for mud and soft terrain
  • lightweight
  • durable upper

Cons

  • may have bigger sizing than previous models
  • soles that may break down quickly
  • muted color options

Best lightweight shoe

HOKA Rincon 3

Price: $$

Weight: 6.5 oz.

Drop: 5 mm

Key features: The HOKA Rincon 3 is a very lightweight shoe that offers balanced cushioning for neutral runners. This shoe comes in both standard and wide widths for comfort and offers a competitive cushion-to-weight ratio.

HOKA adds that this shoe is made of all vegan materials and this particular version has been modified for enhanced breathability.

Considerations: Reviewers share that the Rincon 3 is indeed lightweight but that it may be lacking in other areas, such as arch support.

A few people point out that while these shoes are cushioned, they may not have as much cushioning as the previous version. And some reviewers note that the wide width is still quite narrow.

Pros

Cons

  • not much arch support
  • may not be wide enough, even in “wide” width
  • less cushioning than previous version

Best for racing

ASICS Metaracer

Price: $$$

Weight: 5.5 oz.

Drop: 9 mm

Key features: At a feather-light 5.5 oz., the ASICS Metaracer racing flats may help shave a few seconds off your next race time.

Reviewers say the shoe “fits like a glove.” Better yet, the upper includes drainage ports to shed water in wet conditions for added speed. And the carbon plate midsole is designed to propel you toward the finish line with rolling foot motion.

Considerations: You won’t find a ton of user reviews for this racing shoe, but it has a solid 4.3 stars out of 5 on the ASICS website.

It’s most appropriate for runners who want something fast and light for races — it’s not an everyday training shoe. And at nearly $200, it may stretch the budget for something you’ll wear only now and then.

Pros

  • lightest weight
  • drainage ports for wet conditions
  • carbon plate for added responsiveness

Cons

  • not for everyday running
  • expensive
  • appears to come in only standard width

Best for treadmill running

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

Price: $

Weight: 8.2 oz.

Drop: 10 mm

Key features: The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 is designed to put some extra spring in your step, which could be helpful if you log miles on the treadmill. This shoe features a wider toe box than previous versions, along with breathable mesh to help keep your feet cool.

Considerations: Reviewers share that this shoe tends to have slippage at the heels, which could be a recipe for blisters. One reviewer notes that the included shoelaces are slick and prone to coming untied.

On the plus side, one person says they used to get knee pain while treadmill running, but these shoes fixed that issue for them.

Pros

  • responsive ride for added bounce on roads or treadmill
  • less expensive than many other shoes
  • option to design your own color combinations

Cons

  • may be prone to heel slippage
  • shoelaces that may come untied easily
  • may run small and narrow

Best for runners on a budget

Skechers Max Cushioning Elite

Price: $

Weight: 7.5 oz.

Drop: 6 mm

Key features: At just around $100, the Skechers Max Cushioning Elite is one of the least expensive running-specific shoes on the market. Still, it comes in a variety of colors and offers some impressive features, such as a thick layer of Ultra Go midsole foam and machine washability.

The breathable mesh upper is designed to keep feet cool. And reviewers compare the ride to HOKAs — just at a much lower price.

Reviewers again and again tout the shoe’s comfortable cushioning, good sizing (standard and wide widths available), and quality materials.

Considerations: Some reviewers say the cushioning on the Elite is too stiff. Others say the fit is uncomfortable and that the wide width isn’t wide enough, particularly when compared to older models.

And others basically say you get what you pay for and may want to consider spending more on higher quality shoes if you have foot issues.

Pros

  • thick cushioning
  • comparable to much more expensive shoes
  • machine washable

Cons

  • stiff cushioning, according to some reviews
  • may not be wide enough, even in “wide” width
  • lower quality materials

Beyond choosing a pair that strikes your fancy, you need to think about proper sizing.

One of the best ways to find the right fit for running shoes is to visit a running-specific store and be professionally fitted.

How to read sizing labels

You may notice a lot of numbers and letters on the inside of shoe tags. Here’s how to decode everything so you know what you’re buying:

  • Length. This is the numerical size based on the length of your foot. You’ll likely see U.S., U.K., European, and Japanese sizes, as well as centimeters.
  • Width. Sizes range from narrow (AA) to extra-wide (EE). You’ll likely encounter basic narrow (AA), medium (M or B), or wide (D) in most mainstream brands.
  • Sex. Some shoes indicate somewhere whether they’re made for men (M) or women (W). Occasionally, this letter will precede the item number.

Size is important, but try to not get stuck on the idea of being a certain size or sticking to shoes marketed for a specific sex.

Fit can vary by brand, so it’s good to keep an open mind and go by the feel of the shoe on your foot.

Order up

You may want to buy a half or full size larger than your usual dress shoe size. Why exactly? Your feet have different needs for different activities. And if you’re on your feet for a long time, they may swell.

If your feet swell and you continue running in shoes that can’t accommodate these changes, you may develop blisters or other uncomfortable foot issues.

Try on later in the day

Consider shopping at the end of a day when you’ve been on your feet. This helps ensure you buy an appropriate size to accommodate swelling.

Bring your socks

Be sure to bring the socks you plan to run in. If they’re thicker than your usual socks, you’ll want to size your shoes to accommodate them.

Know your arch

Certain shoes may be better suited for flat feet or high arches.

If you don’t know where you stand, dip your foot in some water and then step once onto a dry piece of cardboard. If your footprint is completely filled in, you may have flat arches. If you don’t see much of a footprint, you may have high arches.

Know your other foot quirks

Again, you’ll want to be familiar with your unique foot. So keep in mind the length, the overall width, and any extra room (or tighter fit) you’re seeking in the toe box or heel.

Don’t get in a rut

Did you recently gain or lose weight? Have you recently been pregnant, or has it been a while since you’ve been fitted for shoes? Any type of change to your body or activity level may impact your shoe sizing, so be sure to update as needed.

Consider older models

Look for sales on the previous models of the running shoe you’re interested in. Sometimes you can get a great deal on an older shoe that still has the same features.

Still overwhelmed with options? Take a step back and consider your top priorities.

Some shoes will say on the packaging if they’re intended for a specific use. Other times, stores may sort shoes according to certain features — like stability, cushioning, or trail running — to aid with your search.

For example, maybe you’re looking to run on roads and like a cushioned feel. Maybe you’re into bounding up trails and need stability. Or maybe you’re in the market for a lightweight racing shoe.

You may even want to make a list of “wants” and “needs” to bring with you on your shopping trip.

With this information at the ready, you can head to a local running shop for guidance. If you don’t have a trained professional to help, take a look at the following features:

  • Sole thickness (or stack height). Thicker soles mean more cushioning, which can be good for running longer distances. Thinner soles may mean a more minimal or natural running experience.
  • Shoe weight. Lighter tends to be good for racing. Heavier may mean a shoe has more stability or cushioning features.
  • Material. Are the shoes breathable? Are they waterproof? Do they feel good, or do they rub your foot? You may encounter anything from seamless knit to mesh to thicker materials suited for cold weather.
  • Tread. Shoes with more bumpy tread are generally better for rough terrain, such as trails. Flatter treads may work well for road racing. Spikes, on the other hand, may be good if you’re on a weekend warrior cross-country team.
  • Heel-to-toe drop. You may notice that shoes list a “drop” or “offset” measurement. This is the difference between the height of the heel and the toe. A larger number means the heel is higher than the toe, which may be good for heel-strikers. A smaller difference, on the other hand, may promote more of a natural forefoot strike.

Of course, you’ll need to try on the shoe (and probably several different pairs). It’s also a good idea to test-drive them on a short jog.

Some stores have treadmills you can use to take shoes for a short spin. Otherwise, try to find a quiet area and do a few slow strides.

Note how the shoes feel, whether they provide enough support, and whether you notice any areas of discomfort.

How long do running shoes last?

The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommends wearing shoes for 350 to 500 miles before buying new ones. So, your weekly mileage will play a part in how long it takes you to rack up this distance.

Body size and weight may also affect how quickly or slowly shoes wear out. For example, a shoe’s cushioning may wear out more quickly for heavier runners. As a result, they may need to buy a new pair closer to the 350-mile mark.

Shoes that are more than a year old should also be replaced — no matter how many miles they have on them — as materials can deteriorate over time.

How do I know when to replace my running shoes?

Don’t track your miles? Your shoes may tell a story that indicates whether they need to be replaced.

Take a look at the hard rubber outsole. If it’s mostly worn through, it’s time for a new pair. The cushioned midsole, too, can show signs of compression, such as creasing.

If you’re running in the shoes and they just don’t feel like they’re absorbing much shock, that’s another indication that they’re reaching their final days.

Uneven wear in any direction (usually from pronation) can put you at risk of injury. Place your shoes on a flat surface and look for any spots that aren’t wearing evenly over time.

How can I properly break in my running shoes?

Some people may not need to break in running shoes, particularly if they have worn the same brand and model before. If you’re trying something new or there are significant changes to a particular model, there are a few ways you can ease your way in without soreness or blisters.

The experts at Brooks recommend the following:

  • Take a walk first. Whether just around your house or around the block, walking will get your feet familiar with the new shoe.
  • Take shorter runs — 20 to 30 minutes at a time — versus starting out with one long run, which may cause blisters or soreness.
  • Alternate with an older pair of your running shoes to get accustomed to the new feeling.
  • Wear quality socks — they’ll act as a second skin and help you avoid issues such as blisters and trapped heat.

And don’t forget your inserts. If you wear custom orthotics or other special inserts, don’t forget to move them to your new shoes to get all the benefits.

If you regularly experience foot pain — whether in new shoes or old shoes — you may want to make an appointment with a podiatrist to get checked out.

Which shoe is right for you? It may take a few tries to find out.

Any added bells and whistles don’t necessarily matter if they aren’t on your “want” or “need” list. And a higher price tag doesn’t mean a shoe is inherently better, either.

Use the manufacturer’s listed features as a guide, but go with your gut and choose something that feels comfortable and gives you support for the miles you plan to run.