There's a solid chance that if you're looking for the best running shoes right now, it's because you—like so many—have taken up running as a newfound addition to your indoor workout exercise regimen. In the wake of coronavirus shuttering gyms and keeping us cooped up, pounding some pavement has emerged as one of the rare, semi-sanctioned outdoor activities available. (If you can stay six feet from anyone you don’t live with, it’s generally considered safe.) As so many new runners are learning, counteracting social distancing by tackling a few miles feels like one of the few genuine releases we've got right now.
While a new running hobby is great (endorphins! cardio!) and fairly cheap, it does require one very key piece of equipment: running shoes. But there's no such thing as the best running shoe—only the best running shoes for you and your particular style. As Dan Giordano, CSCS and co-founder of physical therapy practice Bespoke Treatments explains: "Wearing the right shoe for your workout is a game-changer, not just because you’ll be able to perform better, but you’ll also reduce your risk of injury.” But navigating the mountain of available brands, styles, and models is damn near impossible without help.
In normal times, we would suggest that new runners visit a specialty shop to get a running analysis—the kind where they put you on a treadmill and geek out on how your foot hits the ground, how your knees respond to impact, and what type of running you plan to do. (Wind sprints? Trail runs? 5Ks on a high-school track?) You'd get some dialed-in advice about what sort of shoe might work for you, then try on a bunch of pairs to see what feels right. Needless to say that that’s not really an option now.
Option B is what you're doing: some proper research on the best running shoes for your style before buying on the Internet. It’s not ideal, but it's still better than jogging in the sneakers you bought for CrossFit.
Six Tips to Get the Right Shoe in the Right Size
Find your exact shoe size.
Sure, you've been a size 11 since ninth grade. But we'd still recommend tracing your foot onto a sheet of paper and measuring it to the sixteenth of an inch and using a conversion chart to double-check.
When in doubt, go up a half-size.
When you’re pounding the pavement repeatedly, your foot tends to swell. A slightly roomier fit reduces the potential for busted toenails and other too-snug issues, like irritation of the tendons on top of your foot.
Figure out what kind of feet you have.
Everyone has a unique gait, and manufacturers offer shoes that conform to—or help address—specific gaits. Particularly over-pronation, where the feet roll inward (pronate) excessively, transferring weight to the inner edge instead of the ball of your foot. There's an easy at-home test for this: Get your feet damp and step onto a piece of cardboard or a paper grocery bag. If there's more than a thin sliver of arch showing in your footprint, you've got flat feet and should look for shoes that say they're designed to help with stability. People with normal arches can opt for a neutral shoe. And if there's a gap between your heel and the ball of your foot, you've got high arches, and should opt for a neutral shoe, too—a stability design will be counterproductive—and consider a thicker-midsoled shoe, because high arches don't absorb pounding as well.
Think about what the type of running you’ll be doing most.
Are you feeling really fiery and want to sprint a quick mile or two every single day? Try a lightweight shoe with a thinner sole. Hoping to tune out the world while logging double-digit miles? Consider something with more substance that stays cozy for the long haul.
Note the return policy.
A lot of running specialty stores offer some sort of 60-day satisfaction guaranteed situation—if you head out and don’t love the fit, you can still ship them back for a refund. While this is easier said than done depending on your access to a shipping location, consider buying a couple pairs and sizes and keeping the best.
Don’t overthink it.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by running shoe fads and debates. (Remember the barefoot craze?) But for all the back and forth, it appears that the best shoe for you is probably the one that simply feels best to run in right away.
Ready to get out there? Check out these sneaker picks for every type of runner—which basically all of us until we can go back to the gym.
If you're someone who likes plush
If you need some extra stability
For both fashion and function
If you want to feel fast
$120.00, New Balance
If you're lucky enough to live near trails
$145.00, The North Face
If you like to be a little flashy
If you're on a budget
For the aspiring marathoner
$150.00, New Balance
For the daily runner
$130.00, Hoka One One
If you're a geek for new tech
When a bunch of dads, ex-skaters, and former nightlife aficionados decided to take up running, they realized they needed something cool to wear. Welcome to the age of the indie running brand.
Originally Appeared on GQ