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Being a beginner at anything can be intimidating, but so rewarding. Just ask anyone when the endorphins hit from those first few miles running. To hit your stride as a beginner runner, you don't have to follow a specific training plan or get fancy new running gear. You absolutely must grab beginner-friendly running shoes that match your feet, though.
“Proper running shoes are the single most important investment any new runner can make,” says Kelli Sullivan, a RRCA-certified run coach and STRIDE Fitness instructor. “More than just sneakers, they are tools specifically designed to propel you forward in comfort and safety mile after mile."
So, how do you find the right beginner running shoe? “Do not choose shoes based on their appearance,” notes Sullivan. “Instead, prioritize cushioning, shock absorption, and above all, maximum comfort.” (These beginner running shoes are seriously cute, though.) On top of that, you want to find a shoe with the ideal arch support for your foot, breathability, stability, and flexibility to accommodate swelling feet, she adds.
A sneak peek at the best running shoes for beginners:
It’s also important to remember that different sneaker styles are designed for various foot strikes and running gaits, says Sullivan. If you’re a cardio newbie and unsure how your shoes should feel, it’s best to get professionally fitted and get expert feedback in person, she explains. “Building up your running essentials will make every run that much more pleasant," says Sullivan.
Ready to lace up and pound the pavement? Read on for the 10 best beginner running shoes you can buy right now, according to a running coach and online rave reviews.
There’s a reason Hoka running shoes continue to fly off the shelves, and the newest Mach X model delivers on all fronts, especially for beginners. The cushioned bed offers just the right amount of softness without losing responsiveness, and the upper mesh construction mitigates tongue migration while you run. You can also expect major breathability and durability mile after mile.
Rave review: “The Mach X are an awesome shoe for outdoor road and trail running! I can run comfortably in these compared to the Mach 5, my legs felt weird after running in these, but they are wonderful to wear at work! (I am a hospital pharmacy technician and average 10k steps during my shift).” —Jess
Endorphin Pro 2
How does running fast with a spring in your step sound to you? Sullivan recommends the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 for exactly that. This model has speed, heel support, and ultra-light cushioning built in. The shoe has energetic bounce-back cushioning perfect for new runners. The revamped lacing system promotes the perfect fit mile after mile, she adds. That means you won't have to stop mid-run to adjust your laces or suffer through tingling toes.
Rave review: “These shoes are comfortable, bouncy, lightweight, and great for long runs.” – Elizabeth
The updated flytefoam technology provides exceptional bounce without compromising on support and a plush feel. You can also get ready for some extra pep in your step because the eco plus cushion creates a softer landing and more responsive toe-off.
Expert review: The ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23 have maximum cushioning and plush comfort which is ideal for new runners, says Sullivan.
Rave review: “The single most comfortable sneakers or shoes in general, that I have ever worn. There is nothing bouncier on the market. It’s comfy without making you lose your balance. They’re sturdy on your feet and bouncy and cushioned on every step. I’m a plus size woman and I’m not putting dents in the foam, either. They are truly incredible.” – Amazon
Fresh Foam X 880v13
It can be hard to find a cushioned running shoe with longevity, but these sneaks nailed it. The blown rubber outsole offers superior durability and extended wear, so it’s a worthy investment, Sullivan says. Plus, the upper mesh provides a sleek and modern feel while elevating the breathability to keep your feet comfortable and cool.
Expert review: “This is a durable, well-cushioned daily trainer, and the Fresh Foam X midsole delivers the most cushioned experience,” says Sullivan.
Rave review: “I have worn the 880 style for some time and find them very comfortable right out of the box. Each year New Balance comes out with a new, slightly different version and these do not disappoint. The fit and comfort are still there but they seem a little more fitted in the toe box which is appreciated. Overall, a good shoe for work or play.” – Amazon
There’s something extra dreamy about a smooth and ultra-cushioned runner. The soft BioMoGo DNA midsole absorbs shock mile after mile, and the neutral support scores high in comfort while maintaining a smooth heel-to-toe transition. With 36 color options, you’re sure to find a pair you love to look at, too.
Pro review: Sullivan says the Brooks Ghost 14 are the perfect starter sneaks.
Rave review: “These shoes are like walking on air. My feet hurt constantly when I walk with most shoes on, and they don’t hurt at all when I walk or stand in these for long periods of time.” –Kyra
Ready to log miles and explore new areas? Go for the Altra Torin 7. The lightweight upper mesh offers comfort and breathability so you can feel ~easy breezy~ and the EGO MAX foam enhances performance and durability with two millimeters of cushion. You can also expect major support since the molded heel collar keeps your foot locked in and secure with every step. Worth noting: This updated design has a tongue that won't dig in.
Rave review: “I have never written an online review until these shoes… I LOVE them. I run ~30 miles a week and these serve as my easy running / everyday training shoes. I was nervous about going into a zero drop but have had no issues. I primarily run pavement but have also used these on trail. Will be repeat buying these.” – Erin
Protection and adaptability is key for trail running, and the Brooks Cascadia trail running shoe is all about both. It also scores high on performance and comfort. The grooved midsole is perfect for navigating rough terrain and the TrailTrack rubber outsole provides wet-dry traction on any course. The shoe is designed to keep sand and small debris out, which is a must for comfy feet.
Rave review: “This shoe is just as great as all my Brooks. First time getting a trail shoe but this does not disappoint. Tread is great, but the shoe feels solid and very comfortable. Would highly recommend for trail walking or hiking.” – Amazon
The Gel-Kayano 28’s are a fan favorite for a reason: increased heel support, cushioned midsole, and enhanced stability. Not to mention, the shoe’s arch support is perfect for low arches or flat feet to keep your feet comfortable at any distance.
Editor review: "When I first started running, the Gel-Kayano was my go-to shoe. It felt supportive and comfortable even when the miles didn't. It got me across my first half-marathon finish line and set me up for multiple marathons after."—Jennifer Nied, WH fitness editor
Rave review: “The GEL-KAYANO® 28 running shoes are the best I have ever owned. I have been running for over 20 years, typically running about 3 miles, 3-5 times per week, and LOVE THESE SHOES. I started running postpartum to lose the extra baby weight and these shoes felt like pillows on my feet.” – Coco
Fresh Foam X 1080v12
The Fresh Foam 1080 is a classic running model with an extra soft midsole, added cushion, natural flex zones, and supportive upper to hug your foot in all the right places. The sustainable shoe is also made from renewable resources to help reduce the carbon footprint.
Rave review: “These are well-made, high-quality shoes. They are very light weight and well cushioned. There is a generous toe box, the width is perfect. (I have very narrow feet and the normal width is generous and comfortable for me.) In fact, they're extremely comfortable when I'm standing still.” – Lisa
The Nike Pegasus is a longtime popular sneaker option that combines Zoom Air units with react foam for a smooth, stable ride, says Sullivan. The shoe also offers neutral support for heel and forefoot strikers, and the medium cushioning is perfect for long or short runs whether you’re on the road or treadmill.
Rave review: “Awesome!! These shoes have a great fit and feel with a good rebound bounce and excellent traction while running through the neighborhood streets. The yellow is a burst of sunshine motivating me during my morning runs.” – Judith
How Our Team Chose The Best Running Shoes For Beginners
For the past two months, Women’s Health editors, including our fitness editor Jennifer Nied reviewed the bestselling, most popular, and top-rated running shoes for beginners. Our team consulted a running coach, and then evaluated thousands of customer reviews and ratings to narrow down the best 10 pairs for a wide range of preferences and budgets.
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