Running is the perfect way to keep fit. It’s free to do, you can do it alone or with friends, and you need minimal equipment to do it, making it one of the most affordable and accessible activities to get into. In the US alone, almost 60 million people participated in running 2017, and this figure is likely to increase as awareness rises around the benefits of regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
There is however one thing that every runner should have - whether amateur or athlete - and that’s a good pair of running shoes. Running shoes are essential for providing support to your foot, guiding your stride, and giving you grip and stability. The right running shoe can help you improve your running gait and technique and allow you to reach your full potential as a runner.
When you’re starting out, it can be tricky to know what running shoes to buy, which pair will provide the best fit, and most importantly - how much to spend. You don’t want to break the bank for your first pair, but you also want them to be reliable, durable, and comfortable, too. Your first running shoe probably won’t be your favorite pair you’ll ever own, but they should be a good starting point. As you increase your mileage, your taste will evolve, too.
With thousands of brands and styles on the market, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the choice, but that’s what we’re here for. We’ve scoured the internet in search of the top five running shoes for beginners, and we’ve even put together a handy buyer’s guide, too, so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to purchasing your first pair of running shoes.
In a hurry? Here are our top tips for finding the perfect pair of beginner running shoes:
- Buy the right type of shoe for your foot shape. If you have a high arch, you’ll need a cushioned midsole and heel for shock absorption and support; for a low arch you’ll need a stability shoe with a supportive upper and a slightly curved and cushioned midsole, and for a normal arch go for a neutral level of cushioning to begin with - though you may want to progress to more lightweight shoe eventually.
- Don’t buy too cheap or too expensive. Anywhere around the $100 mark is perfect for a good running shoe, as this is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
- Decide how far and where you’ll be running. If you’re planning on running long distances, cushioned running shoes are your best friend. If speed is your thing, go for something lightweight. If you’re trail running or running on rougher terrain, then you’ll need something with a rubber sole and plenty of traction.
- Prioritize comfort. Comfortable shoes are necessary for every runner, especially beginners. Don’t be enticed by the latest designs or technologies, go for something that is reliable, durable, and most importantly, comfortable and supportive.
Top 5 Best Running Shoes For Beginners
OUR TOP PICK
The Saucony Ride 13 is a great all-rounder, making it ideal for beginners who are still finding their feet in the running world! This shoe will fit those with a normal arch best, and they’re comfortable enough for long distances thanks to the PWRRUN cushioning that makes it feel like you’re running on a cloud.
Thanks to the smooth, blown rubber outsole, these are durable enough to get you through your first year of running and have enough tread for added grip and stability on rougher surfaces. Thanks to the FORMFIT outer combined with a breathable engineered mesh, these shoes combine lightness with structure and fit.
If you’re not quite sure how far you'll be running, these are a good shoe to start out running with. They’re springy and cushioned enough for long distances but lightweight enough for faster runs, too.
- PWRRUN cushioning for comfort
- Blown rubber outsole for durability
- FORMFIT outer with breathable mesh for increased airflow
- Neutral cushioning for a normal arch
- Won’t fit a low/high arch too well
The Wave Rider 22 has two layers of engineered mesh for ultimate lightness and breathability. Cloud Wave cushioning in the midsole softens your stride without compromising on responsiveness and structure of the shoe. These are perfect for flat feet thanks to the slightly curved U4ic midsole with soft heel center which provides extra support and stability for a low arch.
The rubber sole is ideal for road running and longer distances and will provide traction on rougher surfaces. The mesh of this shoe is specially made for comfort and flexibility, improving your range of movement and helping you to run more efficiently and smoothly. The Articulated Heel Zone provides added support for narrower heels and makes for a smoother transition between strides.
- Two layers of breathable mesh
- Cloud wave cushioning for comfort
- Ideal for flat feet
- Rubber outsole for durability
- Articulated Heel Zone
- Fit tends to be on the narrow side
Asics are well known worldwide for being one of the most reliable running brands out there. The Gel-Venture 6 doesn’t disappoint. The rearfoot gel technology cushioning system provides shock absorption during the impact phase and allows for a smooth transition to midstance. The trail-specific outsole and reversed lugs provide uphill and downhill traction, making these perfect for running and walking on a variety of surfaces, from asphalt to gravel, flat surfaces to hills.
These are also great if you suffer from foot pain, as the Gel-Venture 6 features a removable sock liner to accommodate a medical orthotic insole. For added durability, Asics have added their very own High Abrasion Rubber to the outsole, providing grip in the most critical places, so you can run regularly in these and don’t have to worry about them wearing down anytime soon.
- Rearfoot gel technology for shock absorption
- Great for a range of surfaces
- Fits a medical orthotic
- AHAR outsole for durability
- Affordable compared to similar styles on the market
- Some people have trouble breaking these in. They’re best for a neutral arch.
The Ghost 12 is designed for a more “connected” run, so you can fully feel the movement of each stride and feel more connected with the ground. These have a neutral cushion level and are well-suited for long-distance, treadmill and road running, and provide great support for those with a high arch. The BioMoGo DNA and DNA LOFT cushioning work together to provide softness underfoot without losing responsiveness and durability.
These feel incredibly lightweight thanks to the breathable mesh outer, yet they’re also surprisingly fitted and secure thanks to the strategically placed stretch and structure, which makes for a perfectly balanced running shoe. These also take into account a range of running techniques and styles, and the Segmented Crash Pad on the outsole of the shoe provides supreme shock absorbance for a super smooth run.
- Neutral cushioning
- Responsive and connected for a natural running feel
- Breathable mesh outer
- Segmented Crash Pad
- Strategically placed stretch
- Good for a high or normal arch
- Some runners found these two springy and unstable for their liking
The fresh foam range from New Balance is ideal for new runners as it provides extra comfort as your body adapts to running. The Fresh Foam midsole is created from a single piece of foam to provide comfort and shock-absorbance.
Thanks to the durable, no-sew mesh outer, these also feel flexible and malleable on the foot, so you can explore your full range of movement. A stretchy, mesh outer allows your foot to breathe while also providing structured support. Thanks to the slightly curved, cushioned midsole, these are ideal for those with a low/flat arch, and the NB Response 1.0 performance insert allows extra comfort for long-distance runs.
- Fresh foam midsole
- No-sew outer for flexibility and durability
- Breathable mesh
- Ideal for flat feet
- NB Response 1.0 performance insert for long distances
- Some people complained of the quality
Best Running Shoes For Beginners Buyer's Guide
Men’s and women’s running shoes fit differently. Women’s are wider at the toe and narrow at the heel, whereas men’s shoes are built to accommodate their generally larger weight and width of foot. It’s important that you buy the right type of running shoe, as otherwise, you might find the fit to be either too tight or too loose, and an ill-fitting shoe will impact your ability to run safely, comfortably, and efficiently.
Cushioning is essential for running shoes due to the strain you’re putting on your joints, particularly your knees. However, the level of cushioning you require largely depends on your instep. If you have a high arch you’ll want extra cushioning, whereas a low arch needs a stability shoe that keeps the foot from rolling (known as overpronation), and a normal arch can get away with a neutral level of cushioning.
The two main types of cushioning; plush and responsive:
Plush cushioning is softer to land on, but because the force you push off the ground with is dissipated and absorbed, you don’t go very fast.
On the other hand, responsive cushioning is harder, but is also lighter and therefore allows you to run faster.
This is why it’s important to bear in mind the speed and duration you plan on running. For example, if you’ll be running long distances, then you’ll want something that’s cushioned for maximum comfort, while if you are prioritizing speed, the lighter the better because the less cushioning, the faster you can go.
The amount of stability you require in a running shoe largely depends on how well you can balance. You can test this out by observing how well you can balance on one leg. If you have stability issues, or for example, a weak ankle, then it’s a good idea to look for a shoe with added stability.
Those with flat feet or low arches need extra stability because they tend to overpronate. Even if a shoe isn’t marketed as having stability, you can usually tell by how structured or unstructured the upper is. For example, if it’s unstructured, it’ll be more flexible, and less stable, whereas if it’s stiffer and more rigid, it’ll provide extra stability and support.
You may have heard about the “drop” of the running shoe. This is simply the difference in height in millimeters between the heel of the shoe and the toe, and it’s entirely to do with personal preference and how your gait falls when you run. Traditional running shoes have a drop of 10-12 millimeters, whereas a low-drop is around 4-6 millimeters.
A higher drop means you land with your heel, whereas a lower drop shifts the gait to a midfoot or forefoot landing. While it’s entirely up to you which drop you prefer, it’s usually recommended that beginners start with a traditional drop, so they can find their natural gait and avoid excessive strain on the calves.
Outsole and tread
The bottom of the shoe, known as the outsole, is the part that makes contact with the ground, and therefore it needs to be the right material to endure whichever surface you plan on running on. Rubber soles are usually the most durable and hard-wearing, plus they provide more traction, while EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) is similar to rubber in appearance but boast qualities such as flexibility and softness.
EVA can be good for faster and more efficient runs, as it’s lighter yet still has good shock absorption, however, it does wear down more in time. If you’re going to be running a lot on uneven surfaces then you may want to think about a trail shoe, as these have a rubber sole and provide better traction.
It can be difficult to know how much to spend when you’re just starting out running. On the one hand, if you spend too little, you may not achieve a good fit and end up quitting early on, but at the same time, you don’t want to spend too much while you’re putting the feelers out there and learning which type of shoe will best suit your gait.
That’s why a midpoint shoe is the best option. The most popular models of most brands are between $100-$120, and the good news is that as the price increases from here, the quality doesn’t change too much, so if you spend around this amount, you’re likely to get more bang for your buck. As you start approaching the $150 mark, you’ll be paying for fancier technologies and higher quality materials, but this doesn’t exactly mean the shoe is better. There are plenty of good quality, yet affordable running shoes on the market today, meaning there’s no reason why you should have to break the bank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a running shoe?
The short answer to this is, well yes. A running shoe is essential for minimizing your risk of injury when running. A regular tennis shoe won’t cut it because a running shoe needs adequate cushioning to support your joints, provide shock absorption, and give you enough comfort to endure long runs.
If you’re serious about getting into running, a decent shoe is essential and will ensure you get off to a good start. Once you’ve learned more about the type of running you want to do, the speed you’re aiming to run at and the duration, you can find a shoe that better suits your needs.
Which brand is best?
There’s no go-to brand; the quality of a running shoe depends not only on the materials and design but largely on the foot it goes onto. Somebody with a high arch won’t be comfortable without plenty of cushioning, and likewise, somebody with low stability won’t run very well in a shoe with lots of flexibility.
It’ll take some time to find the best shoe for your needs, but a good place to start is our top 5 list above, as this includes all of the most trusted running brands, such as Asics and Brooks, and if you check the specification to ensure the shoe suits your needs and buy from one of these classic brands, you won’t go too far wrong.
Do I need two pairs of running shoes?
Some experts suggest that two pairs of running shoes have benefits. For example, your shoes will last longer, as you can alternate between the two and spread your mileage across these, plus they won’t be continually exposed to the elements. It’s also thought that alternating between two pairs of running shoes allows the foam in your shoe time to decompress and return to their natural state, so again, they’ll last longer.
That said, as a beginner, there’s no need to rush into buying two pairs of running shoes, as you’re still probably unsure of how often you’ll be running, and how far. If you do get into a good running routine where you’re running most days, then perhaps it’s worth investing in a second pair, especially if you’ve found a brand of shoe that works for you.
How long should my running shoes last?
Running shoes should last you somewhere between 600-800 km, but as mentioned above, if you leave longer between your runs - or rotate between two pairs of shoes, you may find that they last you longer, as the foam has more time to decompress.