Best Beginner Running Shoes Reviewed & Rated
If you are thinking about taking up running, or have just begun, you may be overwhelmed by the abundance of gear you have to choose from. It is a great way to get and stay in shape, but you need to make sure you have the right gear for it. Running shoes utilize a number of specialized shoe technologies from cushioning to support to traction and fit. These technologies protect you and encourage you to keep going, as they reduce foot fatigue by absorbing shock and supporting each and every step you take.
Athletic gear can be quite expensive, but that should not be a turn-off for you. A good pair of running shoes truly are worth the investment. The list below features the ten best models for beginners looking to get their first pair.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
Molded Heel Counter
10mm Heel to Toe Drop
Top 10 Picks
1. Adidas Ultraboost
Molded Heel Counter
10mm Heel to Toe Drop
This is a flagship running sneaker by a leading brand, so you can expect to receive the absolute best if you decide to make this investment. Recently released, the Ultraboost is one of adidas’ most cushioned sneakers made for neutral runners who need a daily driver for road conditions. Compared to last year’s model, this one features more PrimeKnit in the upper for an improved fit, as well as a midsole with considerably more energy return that you’re bound to love, especially if you plan on going for longer runs.
The upper of the Ultraboost comprises of ¾ of their premium PrimeKnit material that will perfectly conform to your foot, and allow maximum flexibility so that you can go about your running session without any constraints. Being made to be soft and flexible, it’ll cause less irritation than traditional textile and mesh, and is suitable even for barefoot wear. An external midfoot cage will help securely lace the model up for a fit that won’t allow for movement, thus lowering the likelihood of blistering or rubbing.
The outsole of the Ultraboost is made to resemble a web, with a high number of sections that all adapt to the runner’s foot, providing one of the best grips of the surface underfoot. Combined with the Boost cushioning that features over 3k blown TPU pellets, you get one of the best energy returns in the market, as well as super-soft cushioning you’ll definitely appreciate, regardless of whether you strike with the heel, midfoot, or lean towards the balls of the feet.
2. Saucony Cohesion 11
Wave Grid Heel Cushioning
Memory Foam Footbed
Open-cell Mesh Upper
Unsuitable for Rain
Neutral Pronation Only
Made for all day, everyday running in all kinds of environments. The Cohesion 11 brings you high-tech features that are made for your hardest workouts with active fashion style that can be worn on your most casual days. Looking for your next favorite running shoe? This pair surpasses all of your expectations.
This awesome technology using filaments constructed with Hytrel to help center the heel of your foot during impact. While other running shoes use the most basic systems of cushioning, the Cohesion 11 uses a system that provides superb cushioning and stability.
The outsoles are constructed with rubber and are made with durability in mind. Very responsive, you’ll have protection from any abrasions and slips. Also, it helps with any shocks from impacts and to give you a good bounce back.
3. Asics GT-1000 6
Rearfoot GEL Cushioning
Impact Guidance System
Narrow Toe Box
Unsuitable for Long Distances
If you’re ready to go from beginner to advanced, the 1000 6 provides multiple amazing features to help the transition. The Guidance Trusstic System with Guidance Line enhances gait and structure, the I.G.S. (Impact Guidance System) improves the heel to toe transition, and the Rearfoot GEL Cushioning System attenuates shock absorption. With all those systems in place, you’ll have an easy and supportive experience leveling up your run to greatness.
A lot of sockliners are built-in but this sockliner is removable for easy cleaning. The ComforDry construction provides you with a moisture wicking material. Your feet will be cool, dry, and healthy from sweat based bacteria.
An enhanced version of the traditional EVA midsole, SpEVA is a combination of EVA and rubber. You’ll have an increase in rebound, responsiveness, and bounce plus any breakdown of the materials is greatly reduced.
4. Asics GEL-Venture 6
Rearfoot Gel cushioning
Reversed Lugs for Traction
Breathable Mesh Upper
Cushioning Limited to Heel
The Asics GEL-Venture 6 is an excellent all-around running shoe. It features a gel cushion in the heel for added comfort. The Venture 6 is a versatile shoe, equally suited for pavement or trail running. The outsole has special lugs designed to promote traction and ASICS uses their patented AHAR technology to increase the durability of your shoe.
The Asics Gel Venture is the most comfortable shoe in this review, without doubt. It comes with a gel cushion for the rear of your foot which makes heel strike barely noticeable.
The Venture 6 looks stylish, plain and simple. It has great design and beautiful lines to compliment the great fit. Add to that a wide selection of color combinations, and you have a shoe that's built to be noticed.
5. Under Armour Dash 2
Breathable Mesh Upper
Padded Mesh Tongue
The Under Armour Dash 2 is an impressive looking sneaker. Under Armour products have a look that makes them stand out in a crowd. At 9.45 oz, this is one of the lighter shoes in this review. It comes with soft padding on the tongue and collar and with a full-foot EVA footbed and midsole unit for added comfort.
To improve the traction of this shoe, Under Armour uses thermoplastic polyurethane cleats in the outsole. These sturdy cleats give your feet extra grip so you won’t slip and fall.
The mesh upper on this shoe allows air to flow in and out freely. This mesh is teamed with supportive synthetic overlays to provide you with a safe, dry step.
6. Skechers GoRun Ride 7
3D Printed Overlays
FLIGHT GEN Midsole
High Traction Outsole
6mm Heel to Toe Drop
Skechers athletic footwear is a great choice for any enthusiast who is starting out, seeing that it provides the perfect balance between affordable price and great tech that’s meant to feel and perform just like any other model that’d cost twice or more the price. The GoRun Ride 7 is their latest edition of running gear, made for those who want something lightweight yet cushioned, with an upper that will even work well for casual everyday wear.
The upper of the GoRun Ride 7 is made with a two-tone knit fabric that’s nearly seamless and will perfectly hug your feet while still providing a good amount of flexibility and breathability. 3D printed overlays ensure a heightened level of support and stability, while a traditional lace system gives you that locked-in feel that will keep these securely on your foot. Additional features include a lightly padded collar, a pull tab for easy on and off, as well as reflective details for night time runs.
Made for neutral runners, the GoRun Ride 7 is perfect for those with a medium arch who do not need any added stability features. The FLIGHT GEN midsole is in charge of providing you with shock absorption, and it is focused on maximum protection while maintaining excellent responsiveness. A Midfoot Strike Zone is also integrated in the midsole, encouraging runners to strike with the midfoot that results in a quicker pace and less weight on the heel.
7. Nike Revolution 4
Single Layer Mesh Upper
Padded Tongue and Collar
Simple in its construction, the Revolution 4 has a responsive but comfortable structure. The mesh upper is single-layer for breathability and the vamp underlays plus toe-tip underlays give structure and support. There are molded pods on the outsole for traction on multiple surfaces and the outsole itself is rubber for durability. The midsole gives cushioning that is lightweight but still responsive.
The rubber outsole has pods that are molded to give you multi-surface traction for different kinds of running conditions. When an impact is made, the pods flatten to absorb the impact and shock but during toe-lift, the pods spring back with a piston-like effect to provide responsiveness.
Multiple-layer mesh in the upper can give better fit and lock but can generate excessive heat and sweat. With a single-layer mesh, you have greater breathability and flexibility but your foot stability will still be in place with the shoe’s other stabilizing features.
8. Asics GEL-Excite 6
Rearfoot Gel Technology Cushioning System
The Gel Excite 6 by ASICS is the latest edition of the Gel-Excite line and is a great shoe for anyone that is just starting to run. The breathable fabric mesh upper is perfect for keeping your feet cool and dry when hitting the pavement. The comfort of the 6 cannot be understated and we highly recommend this runner to anyone with foot or joint issues.
With a rubber sole for extra traction and grip, the synthetic make of the outsole means this shoe can last you up to two years, depending on how often you run. A cushioned midsole is engineered to keep its shape, even at softer densities. Considering the midsole is usually the first thing to wear on a running shoe, this is a great feature.
In addition, ASICS licensed Ortholite technology to wick away moisture and give you a great run without smelly and wet feet. With cool colors like Indigo Blue or Steel Grey, the Gel-Excite is as functional as it is stylish.
9. UA Micro G Assert 7
Durable Rubber Outsole
Micro G Foam Midsole
Removable EVA Sockliner
Affordable for the first time runner, the Assert 7 has an EVA sockliner that is soft with a comfortable step-in ability. The leather overlays are durable and stable and help to lock-in your midfoot and the mesh upper provides breathability. The midsole is Micro G for additional comfort the rubber outsole is lightweight but high impact absorbent.
This is the padded foam mesh your feet stands on in the shoes and the Assert 7 sockliner is constructed with EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate). EVA is durable and lightweight and provides great cushioning.
Positioned between the upper and the outsole, the midsole provides comfort, cushioning, fit and support. With the Micro G, you have a lightweight midsole that keeps your feet closer to the ground to give you better lateral stability.
10. Puma Tazon 6 FM
Suitable for Cross Training
Grippy Rubber Outsole
Supportive for Weightlifting
Synthetic Leather Upper
When I think of the brand Puma, I think of soccer cleats. But Puma makes all sorts of athletic shoes, and the Puma Tazon 6 FM is an excellent all-around athletic shoe. It is advertised as a running shoe, and it can certainly fill that need, but I consider it to be more of a cross-training shoe.
The Tazon 6 FM is a great shoe if you like to run, but also need a shoe for the gym or the occasional pickup basketball game. It provides the support needed for any physical activity and has durability to withstand wear and tear from cross-training.
The EVA Heel Pod in the Tazon 6 FM absorbs and disperses shock, which reduces foot and leg fatigue and it reduces the occurrence of foot, leg, and back pain.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Support is a very important feature in running shoes. Pronation problems can increase your risk of injury and supportive features in running shoes can reduce that risk. If you over or underpronate or hyper or hyposupinate, then you especially need to find a pair of running shoes that will help correct your gait and promote healthy pronation and supination.
Now, just because you have normal pronation and supination doesn’t mean that you don’t need support. Shoes form a protective barrier between your vulnerable feet and the outside world. They provide protection against painful rocks, prickly thorns, and hot concrete. Furthermore, when you are running, your risk of tripping, stumbling, slipping, and falling increases, because you’re moving much more quickly than if you were walking. Support helps to stabilize your step to reduce your risk of fall-related injuries.
If you are going to be running in an environment that has flat terrain where the ground isn’t slippery and you don’t have pronation or supination problems, then you don’t need nearly as much support as if you were going to be running on a hiking trail or in the woods somewhere. However, even if you don’t have pronation or supination problems, you still need support.
Supportive Features in Shoes
Shoe manufacturers realize that the burden is on them to provide their consumers with shoes that provide enough support to help protect their consumers from fall-related injuries. As such, considerable progress has been made in the shoe industry in terms of supportive features built into running shoes. These supportive features can be found in the upper, the heel, the arch, the insole, the midsole, and the outsole sections of the shoe. Not every running shoe is the same! Always check the support features of your prospective running shoes to confirm that they offer the support where you need it and don’t provide support in areas that you don’t need it in! Supportive features that support areas of your foot that don’t need to be supported can result in injury and discomfort, too.
Even though the midsole has a layer of cushioning between it and your foot, it provides effective support that you can feel without discomfort if the support is located in an area that needs support. Every manufacturer of running shoes uses some form of midsole support technology and each has its benefits, so do some research before you invest in a specific shoe to confirm that it has the support features you need in the amounts that you need.
Shock-absorption is essential to reducing your risk of shock-related injuries. Cushioning is used to reduce and absorb the shock and force generated by running. The best running shoes provide ample cushioning to absorb and disperse shock effectively without compromising on support and flexibility. Cushioning in a running shoe can be found in the upper, insole, midsole, and outsole regions of the shoe. It can take the form of a gel cushion, air pockets, padding, and foams, including high-density, multilayered foams.
Shock, Force, and Motion: The Impact of Impact on Your Foot
Think back to a time when you were running. Imagine going through the motions associated with running right now. You push against the ground with your forefoot and propel yourself forward. Your foot supinates and rolls outward as you bring it back around heel-first for the heelstrike. Your heel connects with the ground and your foot rolls inward just a bit as it rolls forward. The process repeats as long as you are running.
Now, imagine two cars traveling at a high speed slamming into each other headfirst. What happens to the cars? The drivers? The fronts of the cars get crushed and the drivers are jarred inside their vehicles. The drivers develop pain and discomfort from injuries they sustained in the accident.
Sir Isaac Newton discovered three laws of motion, but the third one is the most relevant to running. Newton’s third law of motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The two cars barrelling towards each other slammed into each other with equal and opposite force, which halts their progress and causes damage to both cars. The equal and opposite force generated by the ground as you run allows you to propel yourself forward, but that’s not all it does.
Energy is required to run. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed according to the law of conservation of energy. The energy you use to run gets transformed from one form to another during the process of running. There are byproducts of this transformation of energy. These byproducts include sound, force, and shock. When you run, your feet make noise, but this doesn’t release all of the energy generated by the impact between your foot and the ground. Force is generated each time you go to take another running step, which is met in kind by an equal amount of force pushing back on your foot by the ground. That force transforms into shock, which is the jolting of your foot, ankle, leg, hip, and back resulting from the hard impact between your foot and the ground, just like how the two drivers were jolted during their car accident. The shock generated from each running footstrike can also cause injuries, just like the shock generated by a car accident.
When you’re running, you absolutely need to have good traction. A good outsole in a running shoe has patterns and grooves in it that allow water to escape from beneath your shoe. For example, a shoe with grooves that end before the edge of the outsole would trap water beneath it and, like a car, you can hydroplane, fall, and get hurt. So, you want the grooves to make it to the very edge of the outsole so the water has somewhere to go.
Some outsoles have lugs, which are grooves in the shoe designed specifically to grip the ground whereas others have reverse lugs, which are protrusions in the outsole. Both lugs and reverse lugs promote traction and grip. The more lugs and/or reverse lugs the shoe has, the more effective the traction will be, but outsoles with fewer and larger lugs will also be effective.
Ultimately the only running shoe outsoles you should avoid are narrow, incredibly small lugs or nearly flat outsoles. These shoes offer very little by means of traction and grip, so you’d be more likely to slip and fall. You should also avoid any running shoe that has an outsole made of leather or crepe. These materials do not offer good traction and usually, don’t absorb enough shock to be effective in a running shoe.
Flexibility is another important safety feature to consider when you are looking for your first running shoes. Shoes which are too rigid and don’t bend and flex naturally with your foot can result in injury due to poor shock absorption, which jars the foot, ankle, leg, and your back.
It should be noted that any of the previously mentioned criteria is good only in moderation in that it doesn’t negate the effects of the others by drowning out the effect. You can have too much of a good thing, even in running shoes.
Flexibility can be fostered in a running shoe in a few ways. The upper, insole, midsole, and outsole can all be designed in ways that would foster flexibility without sacrificing support, cushioning, and traction.
No one wants to run with wet, hot feet. It’s uncomfortable and unhealthy for your feet to be enclosed in a damp, hot space for prolonged periods of time. Damp, warm, closed spaces are prime locations for the development of foot fungi and to promote bacterial growth. Fungi and bacteria also produce foul odors, which are unpleasant. Temperature management features in a running shoe can reduce and combat the development of fungi and bacteria in your shoes. Shoe manufacturers manage temperatures in shoes in a number of creative ways.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
If you're just starting out in running, a few tips can help you start to build a solid base.
1) Find your own pace. There will always be someone faster, or slower that what you're comfortable running at pace-wise. Start off figuring out just where you feel good!
2) Decent shoes will last you 300-600 miles. Head into a local runner shop and get your foot shape and arches evaluated, to understand what level of support or cushion you need in a running sneaker.
3) Train smart. Increase mileage by no more than 10% distance per run. So, if your longest run during the week is 5 miles, you'd increase that next week to 5.5 miles. This helps prevent injury and overuse!
There is nothing more motivating that running with fellow enthusiasts! Even if you're not super competitive, running at a race event makes it fun, rewarding, and entertaining. Many times, races will have sponsors that supply race swag and freebies, post race festivities, music, food, and other great bits. It makes for a great day of fun for everyone!
Other Factors to Consider
The environment you will be running in matters when you are shopping for a pair of running shoes. If you will be running on mostly flat terrain, then a shoe with a low vamp, or the closure area of the shoe with the tongue, and low collar would suffice, because these shoes have little ankle support. Ankle support is a little less important when you're running long distances in more or less a straight line on smooth terrain. Shoes designed for running on rocky, bumpy or otherwise hilly terrain have higher collars which protect and support the ankle to prevent falls resulting from rolling or twisting an ankle.
Shoes meant for flat and level terrain also have different kinds of grooves and lugs than running shoes that are meant for cross-country style running. The amount of cushioning in a running shoe varies depending on the environment the shoe is designed for, as well! While you search for a shoe, determine where you will be doing the most of your running and choose a shoe appropriate for that environment based on the rest of the criteria in this guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Can I use my running shoes for other athletic activities?
Yes, but it’s recommended that you only use your running shoes for running. This will increase the longevity of your running shoes, which will save you money in the long run.
q: How can I prevent blisters?
First of all, wear shoes that fit properly. Shoes which are too loose can slide around on your foot, which causes friction that results in blisters. Shoes which are too tight can be abrasive, too, producing blisters from painful rubbing.
Secondly, wear socks that wick moisture away from your foot. Cotton socks absorb so much moisture, which will keep your feet hot and sweaty. Wet feet develop blisters more easily, so moisture-wicking socks can help reduce your odds of developing them.
Thirdly, wear shoes with temperature management features, such as breathable meshes or ventilating perforations to allow airflow. The passage of air in and out of the shoe will dry and cool your feet, reducing your risk of blisters. Moisture-wicking sockliners and uppers are also effective for helping to dry your feet.
q: How can I avoid athlete’s foot and the development of odors in my shoes?
Foot fungi like athlete’s foot can be prevented in the same ways that you can prevent blisters. The culprits responsible for the development of foot fungi are moisture, darkness, and heat- all of which are commonly found in athletic shoes, especially running shoes. Temperature management shoe technologies and moisture-wicking socks will go a long way towards preventing athlete’s foot.
Foul odors can be produced by foot fungi, but they can also be produced by bacteria living in your shoes where it’s warm and wet. Some running shoes come with antibacterial and antimicrobial technologies built into the insole and upper of the shoe, which prevents some fungi, bacteria, and odor development.
q: How can I prevent heel pain?
Wear a shoe that offers heel cushioning and support. Also, know your feet: if you have pronation or supination problems, you may be more likely to develop heel pain than other people, so look for stability and motion control features to correct your pronation or supination problems.
q: How can I make the shoes I’ve bought more comfortable?
If you’ve bought running shoes that turned out to be uncomfortable, you can sometimes remedy this by using custom orthotic inserts and custom orthotic pieces, like heel pads and arch supports. Full orthotic inserts will only help if the shoe has removable insoles. Custom orthotic pieces can sometimes be applied to the original insole to give you the cushioning and support you need, but sometimes this won’t work. If the shoe has too much support built in, then adding custom orthotics may not help, so keep that in mind before you invest in some inserts and orthotic pieces.
q: Do I need to buy custom orthotics?
No. Ideally, the best running shoe for you will come with the appropriate amounts of cushioning, support, and flexibility so that you won’t need custom orthotics. Sometimes, though, you may need them. If your medical professional recommends custom orthotics, always listen to your doctor and do what they recommend.
q: What kind of socks should I wear with my new running shoes?
Nylon, lycra, and other moisture-wicking materials would be best. Whatever you do, don’t wear cotton socks, because these insulate your foot and keep them hot and sweaty. They also absorb moisture, so your feet will stay wet during your run.
q: Do I have to waterproof or stain proof my shoes?
Not necessarily. It depends on the type of materials used in the shoe. If the upper is made of leather or leather overlays and did not come pretreated, then you may need to waterproof or stain proof your shoes. However, if you will rarely be exposing your shoes to water, this isn’t something you should concern yourself with. Similarly, you wouldn’t need to stain proof your shoes if you will only be wearing your running shoes on an indoor track or on a treadmill.
q: Are my shoes machine washable?
Some running shoes are machine washable. However, many of them are not. It’s important that you check the manufacturer’s instructions and information about how to clean and maintain your running shoes before you toss them in the washing machine or the dryer.
q: When do I need to replace my running shoes?
When the sole is crushed, the cushioning has become ineffective, or when the midsole can be seen through the outsole, it’s time to replace your running shoes.
q: Where can I buy a good pair of running shoes?
You can buy a good pair of running shoes at any shoe retailer or at any website that sells shoes. Just be sure to shop around for the best price to make sure you get your money’s worth!