Running is the oldest and most simple form of exercise, and also one of the most enjoyable. It allows you to get a great cardio workout in, while strengthening and toning your lower body.
Depending on where you choose to run, you can also have a great outdoor experience while taking in the sights and sounds.
One of the most appealing aspects about running is the overall simplicity -- you really don’t need much. The one thing you do for sure need is a quality pair of running shoes.
The market is pretty vast when it comes to running shoes, so it can be difficult to determine what exactly are the best running shoes to purchase for yourself.
We’ve decided to do most of the work for you, as we’ve narrowed down the best running shoe offerings from major brands, for both men and women.
This guide discusses not only the best running shoes from the biggest brands, but also the many things you should both keep in mind and look for when shopping for your next pair.
*Notice: On mobile devices, scroll right to see entire table.
The Best Nike Running Shoes
The Best Adidas Running Shoes
The Best ASICS Running Shoes
Selecting a pair of running shoes is not something to be taken lightly. You are going to be logging lots of miles in your running shoes, so you need to make sure you're getting the right ones that are best for your own personal needs and preferences.
The actual type of running you will be doing makes all the difference in terms of the shoes needed. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume you are going to be running on pavement, or some type of track. In this case, you’ll need to select a pair of road-running shoes.
These are light and flexible, and made to cushion and stabilize feet when running on the hardest of surfaces. If you plan to go off the beaten path for your running, trail-running shoes should be your first choice.
These shoes are designed to handle mud, rocks, and dirt, and feature an aggressive tread style that helps to provide better traction, grip, and stability.
Cross-training shoes can be used for running, but they are more geared towards being used in a gym, whether that’s for aerobics, yoga, or fitness machines.
The most common running shoe type by far is road-running shoes, with cross-training shoes right behind them.
Everyone’s feet sit differently when striking the ground, but you can generally divide foot types into three specific groups, categorized by what’s known as “pronation”. This term refers to the foot’s natural inward roll when striking the ground heel-first.
Overpronation is when your feet roll too much inwards, while supination, or underpronation, is when the foot rolls outward upon striking the ground. Runner who overpronate need stability or motion control shoes, while those who underpronate need more cushioning and stability. Neutral pronation runners don’t have to worry about selecting certain shoes to help.
It can be a bit hard at first when trying to pin down what might make one pair of running shoes better than others you’re considering. Here are the biggest things you should keep in mind.
Aside from proper fit (which we’ll get to,) features make or break the running shoe. The features listed below are the most worthy of your attention.
Depending on the manufacturer, running shoes can often have advanced shock absorption systems that provide a huge amount of cushioning during impact, but without slowing you down or feeling mushy.
This can be done using anything from gel to air pockets.
Pay attention to the tread layout of the shoe. Quality running shoes will have a smooth, flexible tread with just enough grooving to provide suitable grip on a surface, but without being bulky.
Ventilation is a huge need with running shoes. Feet get hot much easier when running, and they can quickly build up moisture from sweat. This can cause blisters, and your foot to slip inside the shoe. Good running shoes have plenty of ventilation to allow heat to escape.
Seams on the inside of an upper can be very uncomfortable when you have the shoes laces tight. Look for shoes that have no seams inside the upper, but rather a smooth surface instead.
We’ve including this at the bottom for a reason. Style is important, but it takes a backseat to the actual features and fit of a shoe. Still, it’s nice to have shoes that look good.
Achieving the proper fit is essential with any type of shoe, but it’s even more important with running shoes.
While running is a natural exercise, it puts a lot of stress on your body as a whole, making your shoes the first line of defense.
A great fit means a pair of shoes that cushions impact in the right areas, while giving you the stability and traction needed to prevent discomfort and other issues that may arise over time.
The following serves as a sort of checklist when ensuring that your shoes fit you right.
Nike is one of the most well-known shoe companies in the world, responsible for iconic shoe lines and pioneering innovation. Their running shoes are beloved by runners of all levels, and feature the same high-level engineering and design found in all of their athletics shoes.
Nike’s Shox series is one of their more established running shoe lines, and for good reason. The Shox have always combined a high amount of shock absorption, with a well-constructed shoe body and firm, flexible tread, making them well-rounded for all runners.
The Shox NZ take things a bit further, offering the same core features of the Shox series, but with a lighter overall weight. The result is a very high-end feel that’s also incredibly lightweight, and all for an affordable price, making these perfect for entry-level runners.
The Shox NZ utilizes a smooth, minimalist leather style and design, with a rather aggressive stance that is centered around the Shox four column cushioning unit under the heel.
This perches the feet downwards slightly, while absorbing the brunt of heel impact with each step while rolling the foot forward in a natural manner.
The upper includes lots of ventilation, and seamless, one-piece construction for a smooth, comfortable fit. The shoe’s insole includes an extra layer of cushioning that protects your feet while adding even more shock absorption. This is all supported by a carbon rubber sole that is thin, yet equipped with an ideal tread design for better traction.
Overall, the Nike Shox NZ do just as they intended; offering a quick, responsive feel, while adding in an ultra-light aspect that makes the shoes even more nimble, and all without the expense of taking away cushioning.
Nike’s Women’s version of the Free 5.0+ offers a fast, light shoe that includes lots of small, strategic features that ensure a high level of comfort all throughout.
These shoes are simple, yet give the runner a firm base that’s incredibly responsive, and definitely plush.
Asymmetrical is the theme with the Free 5.0+’s. The lacing system slightly turns as it makes it way down the shoe, helping provide a snug and secure fit, but without adding too much pressure on the top ridge of the foot.
The front point of the shoe is slightly off-center as well, supporting the foot’s shape in a more natural way.
Diagonal cuts through the arch help provide natural motion and increase foot strength, allowing for a more confident plant with each strike.
On the inside, 5.0+s include a textured mesh full inner sleeve that makes getting the shoes on and off much easier, while providing a sock-like fit.
The Nike Women’s Free 5.0+ running shoes make the most of subtle features and engineering, and do so at a very agreeable price that makes them suitable for both entry-level and intermediate runners.
Adidas has mostly been known for soccer shoes over the years, but the company has always had an intense focus on manufacturing simple, quality running shoes that appeal to those looking for less flash and more performance.
The Adidas Energy Cloud series is one the more unique running shoes you’ll encounter. Using an innovative design that uses fashion as functionality, the Energy Clouds are incredibly stable, while still retaining lots of cushioning and breathability.
The body of the shoe is mesh throughout, making it soft and well-ventilated -- perfect for hot weather running.
The Adidas logos on each side of the foot are actually a hard plastic “cage” design that keeps the foot secure and in place, while being surrounded with plush cushioning on all sides.
This unique plastic cage design also results in just three loops for the laces, so you can get in and out of the shoes fairly quickly.
A cloud foam midsole provides the bulk of the cushioning, helping roll the foot forward with ease from each ground strike. The ADIWEAR outsole is extremely durable, and has a small tread design that ensures a high amount of flex and grip.
The Adidas Energy Cloud running shoes have it all. You get both fashion and function, along with superior cushioning and ventilation that makes them one of the top choices for summer running, or year round as well.
The women’s version of the Adidas Energy Clouds offer the same features of the men’s but with a slight tweak in design and sizing.
The unique lacing design combined with the plastic midsole cage gives the shoes a very snug fit in all the areas that matter most.
The mesh body design provides outstanding ventilation, while also remaining secure and tight on the foot without being to compressing.
The cloud foam cushioning system is perfect for those that need added softness for more sensitive feet, or for longer runs.
The shoe’s durable, wear-resisting ADIWEAR outsole resists slipping on dry and wet surfaces, and makes the shoes great for casual use as well, without worrying about needlessly wearing the tread down.
ASICS is one the more versatile athletic shoe companies out there, offering popular shoe lines for everything from wrestling, to cheerleading, to cross-training, and more. They have long been a huge name in running shoes and apparel.
ASICS’ Gel Venture 5 series is a popular trail-running shoe that gives runners a high level of stability and traction when running off pavement.
The shoes have a ton of smartly-designed features that are all geared towards a better trail-running experience.
The Gel Venture 5’s have a rugged, durable body that can withstand scrapes and bumps that come your way.
Mesh material is dispersed throughout in strategic areas to provide a suitable amount of ventilation, while also resisting water from getting inside the shoes.
ASICS’ proprietary gel technology can be found in the heel area, giving the Gel Venture 5’s an added measure of cushioning that also absorbs shock with ease. Those that use orthotics can easily remove the inner sole if needed.
A trail-specific outsole with reverse traction lugs are designed to grip irregular surfaces, while also being perfectly suitable for flat ground as well. All critical wear areas on the outsole have a tougher construction to give the shoes more longevity.
If trail-running is more your thing, or if you need a quality pair of trail-running shoes as backup for when you want to take things off-road, the Gel Venture 5’s are the best value for you money, hands down.
The women’s versions of the Gel Venture 5’s ensure the same trail-running quality as their men’s counterparts, with some size modifications and a different selection of colors.
The women’s Gel Venture 5’s utilize the same durable body construction, but in a more narrow shape.
Mesh material throughout the body gives optimal ventilation where it’s needed most.
The gel cushioning is the most noticeable feature when wearing the shows, as the plush, yet form heel area easily absorbs all of your strides with ease.
Like the men’s versions, you can remove the insole and replace it with orthotics if desired. The rugged, no-slip tread pattern and durable outsole makes the Gel Venture 5’s great for casual wear, or even to the gym for low-impact workouts.
Women that need an affordable, comfortable, all-around running pair of shoes that can be used both off the trail and on should give the Gel Venture 5’s strong consideration.
Just as a side note, sometimes selecting good shoes for toddlers/kids can be cumbersome too! After comparing several models, these were some selections that made the final entry for shoes and sandals. These can withstand the constant use and abuse when used by toddlers! Check them out!
Now you should have a much better understanding of running shoes, and what to look for when choosing the best pair for yourself. We highly recommend any of the shoes listed above for offering a great running experience over the long term.
Always be sure to use the right shoes for the right type of running, and check to ensure you have the proper fit. If you get the wrong size, you can always return them for the right ones -- a much better option than getting blisters or hurting your lower body.
Feel free to get in touch with us by leaving a comment below. Good luck, and happy running!