The Top 8 Shoes for All Kinds of Runners
By Brian Metzler
Raise your hand if running has become a bit of daily therapy for you. Yeah, me too!
Running has long been one of my single-most defining acts of daily affirmation. For me, lacing up a pair of running shoes and going for something as a simple, 30-minute run is the best way to relieve stress, life my spirits and widen my perspective about just about everything in life, but especially so lately during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there are no races to focus on for the time being, now is the perfect time to enjoy running and work on your fitness. Being mindful and soaking in the benefits of a daily run can make everything else in your life go more smoothly amid other life challenges. And for those reasons and more, it’s a great time to invest in a new pair of running shoes.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best models to consider this spring, no matter if you’re a new runner, a lapsed runner starting up again or a longtime committed runner who rarely misses a day.
Brooks Launch 7
Weight: 9.2 oz. (men), 8.1 oz (women)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm
Who says good running shoes have to cost an arm and a leg? The Launch 7 is a lightweight, energetic everyday training shoe, and one of the very best in the $100 price range. If you’re looking for an affordable, training shoe that’s versatile enough to endure long runs and also quick enough to run faster, shorter workouts, the Launch 7 is the shoe for you.
Plus: The latest version of the Launch has been updated with a new, one-piece engineered mesh upper that improves the fit and breathability and gives it a modern, lifestyle-oriented aesthetic.
Minus: For runners who need a bit of support to offset pronation, this shoe might be a bit too soft and unstructured, especially for long runs.
Jack of All Trades
aucony Kinvara 11
Weight: 7.8 oz. (men’s size 9.0); 6.9 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm
A lightweight cruiser with a low heel-toe offset (4mm), the Kinvara is a fun, versatile shoe that will make you feel fast and nimble every time you run. It’s low-slung geometry, minimal structure and soft, smooth ride promote quick-cadence running, agility and good running form. Whether you’re running fast or slow, you’ll feel the positive vibes it gives off.
Plus: With a new, more resilient midsole material, the Kinvara maintains the lightweight, low-to-the-ground feeling it has always been known for with a better fit and a more responsive ride than ever before.
Minus: The outsole is comprised mostly of exposed foam and two small rubber segments, meaning it’s not going to be quite as durable as many other shoes on the market.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10
Weight: 9.5 oz. (men’s size 9.0); 7.9 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm
New Balance didn’t rest on its laurels with one of its top-selling flagship shoes after 10 years. Instead, it broke the mold and updated this premium high-mileage, neutral cruiser into a masterwork model that is lighter, better-fitting, more energetic and more aesthetically pleasing. The shoe is built with data-driven design, incorporating thousands of runners footstrike patterns to create an optimal ride for a wide range of runners.
Plus: A new stretchy, form-fitting upper and a softer, cushier and more energetic Fresh
Foam X midsole foam have made a great shoe even better.
Minus: A few runners will understandably feel these shoes run a bit too snug and
ASICS Gel-Kayano 26
Weight: 11.1 oz. (men’s size 9.0); 9.2 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm
The Kayano has long been known as one of the best-fitting and most comfortable everyday running shoes for overpronating runners with low to flat arches. It’s a classic stability shoe with firmer medial-side foam to help offset a runner’s feet rolling inward upon hitting the ground, but it also provides plenty of cushioning and long-haul comfort thanks to the Gel cushioning units in the heel and forefoot.
Plus: Even if you mostly run in neutral shoes without much structure, the Kayano 26 can give you a twinge of additional support during the latter miles of a long run or race.
Minus: It’s a tad bit heavier than some contemporary training shoes and it also carries a higher price tag than many models.
Altra Escalante 2
Weight: 9.2 oz. (men’s size 9.0); 7.4 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 0mm
Altra builds all of its shoes on a level platform (aka “zero-drop”) with a wider toe box so a runner’s feet can move as naturally. It means your feet are more inclined to softer landings while the more accommodating forefoot allows your toes to splay during the toe-off phase of a new stride. The energetic Escalante is a sparsely cushioned trainer with a smooth, easy-flexing demeanor, ideal for medium-length runs and faster workouts.
Plus: A new upper has helped provide a more secure fit through the midfoot, while a bouncy polyurethane insole helps put more spring in every step.
Minus: Running in a zero-drop shoe will take a little getting used to, especially if you’ve been running in shoes with elevated heels for years. Make the transition gradually and be aware of Achilles tightness.
Hoka One One Clifton 6
Weight: 9.1 oz. (men’s size 9.0); 7.6 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm
Hoka made big waves a decade ago when it debuted the Clifton among its first maximally cushioned but surprisingly lightweight shoes. Now lightweight cushioning is all the rage, and the Clifton continues to be a leader in the category. If you’re looking for a sublime and cushy sensation in every step, give the Clifton 6 a try.
Plus: The upper has been improved to accommodate a wider range of foot shapes with an adaptable foot wrap and an embroidered design for a slightly more secure fit.
Minus: Although light and energetic, the midsole material isn’t as durable as some of its contemporaries and the outsole features a lot of vulnerable, exposed foam.
soft and sublime
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%
Weight: 6.6 oz. (men’s size 9.0) 5.2 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm
Nike’s developed a new paradigm for shoe design by embedding curvy, carbon-fiber plates into a thick, resilient foam midsoles and it has continued to evolve it with the featherweight Vaporfly Next% and the Zoom X Alphafly Next% models. The proof is in the results, which have included several world records and numerous marathon victories. At $250, they’re definitely expensive, but you get what you pay for. And if you’re serious about running a new half-marathon or marathon PR, it could very likely be a wise investment.
Plus: The Next% has 15 percent more Zoom X midsole foam than the Vaporfly 4% shoes and a lower heel-toe offset (8mm) for a smoother, more balanced ride, plus, additional outsole rubber for better traction and a hydrophobic upper that doesn’t absorb sweat or rain.
Minus: The Next% shoes give off an extraordinary bouncy feel at all paces, but it’s much easier to get in sync with the rhythm running faster than 3-hour marathon pace (or roughly 7 minutes per mile). If you’re outside of that range, buy a different pair of shoes.
Salomon Sense Ride 3
Weight: 10.5 oz. (men’s size 9.0), 8.2 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm
Let’s face it, now is a great time to hit the trails — if for no other reason than to temporarily escape the stress of the world. If you’re new to trail running, you’ll love the Sense Ride 3 for its road-inspired cushioning and smoothness. If you’re already a committed trail runner, you’ll love its versatility and ability to run nimbly on all types of terrain, its subtle but effective trail-specific protection and its reliably grippy traction.
Plus: The Sense Ride 3 has a new dual-compound midsole that offers exceptional impact damping and a burst of resilient energy in every step.
Minus: Salomon’s one-pull Quicklace closure system can create a secure, connective fit, but it can also be slightly cumbersome and hard to adjust in different places.
Brian Metzler quite literally wrote the book on running shoes as the author of the very well-reviewed “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture & Cool of Running Shoes.” He is a sports journalist who has tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes and has raced every distance from 50 yards to 100 miles. He was the founding editor of Trail Runner and Adventure Sports magazines, senior editor at Running Times, and Editor-in-Chief of Competitor magazine. He has also written for Outside, Runner’s World, Triathlete, Men’s Health, and Men’s Journal.