Whether you’re a would-be runner, a casual jogger or even a competitive runner, chances are you’ve contemplated spending big bucks to find the best running shoes.
Maybe you have existing problems with your feet or knees that could be alleviated by a good pair of stability shoes, or you might be looking for running shoes to take your pavement pounding to the next level.
Whatever your reasons for needing a pair of legit trail runners, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re paying for and if the potential extra cost will help you reach your fitness goals — or if you’re just buying into a lot of hype.
We spoke to foot doctors for help identifying the best options in the running shoe market.
8 Best Running Shoes for Every Type of Runner
- Best for daily runners: Hoka One One Mach 4
- Best for occasional runners: New Balance 1080v12
- Best for runners with high arches: ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
- Best for runners with low or flat arches: Brooks Dyad 11
- Best for runners with bad ankles: Brooks Adrenaline GTS
- Best for treadmills runners: Brooks Ghost
- Best for sidewalk runners: Mizuno Wave Inspire 16 Waveknit Road Running Shoe
- Best zero-drop running shoe: Altra Escalante 2
The best running shoes can cost an arm and leg — but they don’t have to. If you’re on the hunt for new running shoes, here’s what to look for. The prices listed are suggested retail but you may run into sales on manufacturer’s websites and from online shoe retailers.
Many of the running shoe manufacturers release new versions regularly. For instance, the popular Brooks Adrenaline GTS is on No. 22 in 2022. You can save money by looking for models from previous years, knowing that the shoes don’t change that much. There may be limited selection of colors and sizes, but this tactic will help you reap some serious savings. Watch online sellers like Zappos and keep your eye out for coupons — then you will be paying Penny Hoarder prices!
Best Running Shoes for Daily Runners
Shoe: Hoka One One Mach 4
Why they’re the best: “I like the Hoka One One Mach 4 for a daily running shoe since it’s both stable and lightweight, with a good fit,” says podiatrist and foot surgeon Kimberly Hoang Nguyen of Philadelphia Podiatry. Keep in mind that other reviewers say traction isn’t the best on this model, meaning these make better road running shoes than trail running shoes.
Best Running Shoes for Occasional Runners
Shoe: New Balance 1080v12
Why they’re the best: This versatile New Balance shoe has an incredible midsole and outsole, according to George P.H., founder of physician-backed Shoethority who goes by initials rather than a conventional last name. “Occasional runners often have an excessive heel strike; this shoe’s sole helps protect their feet and knees from striking impact.” Lightweight, and with improved heel-counter and lacing (as compared to the previous 1080v11 model), this shoe allows for less pressure on the foot (especially the heel) while also providing a snug fit around the midfoot. “Put short, you get the same incredible sole but an even better upper,” says the Shoetority founder.
Best Running Shoes for Runners with High Arches
Shoe: ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
Why they’re the best: For runners with high arches, Nguyen recommends this Asics running shoe. “The FlyteFoam cushioning helps with impact while running, and this shoe has a GEL unit in the heel that allows for softer landing,” she says. “The shoe also has an inner heel counter that helps keep your foot in place.”
Best Running Shoes for Runners with Low or Flat Arches
Shoe: Brooks Dyad 11
Why they’re the best: Nguyen likes these Dyad running shoes for their roomy toe box — which makes them a great choice for wide feet or heavier builds. The cushioned shoes also have durable support and enough stability for overpronators (think: ankle rolling too far downward and inward with each step), and enough space to accommodate a custom insert.
Best Running Shoes for Bad Ankles
Shoe: Brooks Adrenaline GTS
Why they’re the best: According to Eric Barber, founder of the shoe review blog Steady Foot, one of the best shoes for runners with bad ankles is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS line (they are up to 22 versions now). Among other reasons for his choice, Barber cites the shoe’s versatility and “exceptional cushioning and ankle support” which helps runners with weak or injury-prone ankles. Prices start at $140 but watch for sales of last year’s models. In July 2022, the Adrenaline GTS 21 was on sale for $110 on the Brooks site.
Best Running Shoes for Treadmill Runners
Shoe: Brooks Ghost
Why they’re the best: With an extra-thick sole that keeps the feet energized as you run on treadmills, there’s a reason the testers over at Shoethority love Brooks Ghost running shoes. “There’s a little extra support in the midsole, helping you maintain good foot posture without feeling stiff. Most importantly, the upper keeps the foot stable and secure while still being light and well-ventilated — which is important when you’re indoors,” says George P.H. of Shoethority.
Best Running Shoes for Sidewalk Runners
Shoe: Mizuno Wave Inspire 16 Waveknit Road Running Shoe
Why they’re the best: If most of your running takes place on hard surfaces like a sidewalk where you need extra shock absorption, Nguyen recommends this Mizuno Save Inspire running shoe. “The mesh upper portion of the shoe makes it very soft and breathable,” she says. It also has more cushioning than many other running shoes, which should provide a soft ride and extra comfort on high-impact runs.
Best Zero-Drop Running Shoe
Shoe: Altra Escalante 2
Why they’re the best: When it comes to zero-drop running shoes (aka the “barefoot” shoes that have become popular), the Altra Escalante reigns supreme. With a quality lacing system, an insole that stays springy (even after months of use) and a highly breathable stretchy upper, it’s easy to see why runners love this shoe.
“It combines a zero drop with the kind of cushioning modern runners are used to,” says the Shoethoirty founder. Meaning, you can use it to easily transition from regular running shoe to zero-drop model. “There’s also a lot of toe space thanks to the extra-wide forefoot. Together with the zero drop build, this gives you an easy, natural running gait that’s easy on your joints.”
Are Running Shoes Worth It?
The short answer is yes, and as it turns out, picking the right running shoes can not only help keep your feet and joints happy, but might even give you an advantage over your running buddies.
“Running shoes are a necessity since this is one of the few equipment items that a runner actually needs, as they hit the ground with three times their actual body weight,” says Nguyen. “Running shoes help to provide arch support and cushioning, promote performance and aid in the prevention of injuries.”
If you’re ready to invest in premium running shoes, foot and ankle surgeon Tom Biernacki says the technology built into some high-end models can make a difference.
“Nike Vaporfly Next % shoes are a major breakthrough in running technology, and were recently used to break the marathon world record,” he said. “These shoes have actually been declared illegal by many running governing institutions, as they’re very light and have a carbon plate that’s been shown to create a springlike effect— in what some say is an unfair advantage.”
Despite the light weight and springiness of these shoes, the main reason they’ve been blacklisted in competitive environments is the prohibitive price tag. “Some runners simply can’t afford a $250 – $400 range shoe for a high school event,” says Biernacki.
3 Tips for Finding the Right Shoe
Finding the best running shoes for your needs (without spending the equivalent of a down payment on a car) isn’t always easy. Here are some general tips for picking the right running shoes.
1. Make sure the shoes fit your foot shape and foot width.
“My biggest tip would be to make sure to fit the shoe properly,” says Biernacki. “Try on shoes later in the day when your feet are more swollen, and be sure to test the toe box room while standing (not sitting).”
Ideally you want some wiggle room between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe to ensure you don’t have any bad friction points.
2. The right running shoes for most runners are cushioned and supportive.
You’re not looking for the best running shoes for Olympic competition. You need the best running shoes for you — meaning adequate cushion and support based on your age and the type of running and exercise you plan to do.
“Younger people in general can find decent results with a more minimalist shoes or more unique shoes,” says Biernacki. “But in our experience the older, the stiffer or the less athletic runners would benefit more from a more supportive shoe with a slight heel lift (8-12mm), more cushion and more support, like a shoe from Brooks, Asics, Hoke, On, or Nike.”
3. Bring your inserts to the running store.
“If you have custom orthotics, try them out in your running shoes to make sure it is the proper fit with these devices in,” says Nguyen. “Remember, if running shoes aren’t comfortable while trying them on in the store, they won’t be any more comfortable when running.”
Contributor Larissa Runkle frequently writes on finance, real estate, and lifestyle topics for The Penny Hoarder.