The beauty of running is that it requires so little equipment, however, the value of a good pair of running shoes cannot be underestimated, especially if you plan on doing some serious training or logging a number of miles.
Generally speaking, running shoes fall into two main categories; road running and trail running. Other than the obvious terrain differences, the two disciplines require certain features to maximise speed, comfort, and grip.
We’ve taken the legwork out of running shoe research to find the best options whatever your requirements.
Best Overall Road Shoe
Brooks Ghost 12
Meep meep! We’ve found the perfect roadrunner! The Brooks Ghost 12 manages to elegantly blend comfort, speed, and support to make it the best overall road running shoe. The cushioning gives phenomenal comfort without losing any responsiveness or durability.
Best Overall Trail Shoe
Perfect for the adventurous trail runner, the Peregrine 10 trail shoe can handle a variety of terrains. You can plant your foot with confidence and run assured that the textured sole will provide solid grip.
Brooks Caldera 4
The Brooks Caldera 4 offers all the lightweight comfort of a road shoe and all the grip of a trail shoe, making these the ideal shoe for runners covering changing terrain. You’ll also get a mudguard and toe cap to make it a multi-seasonal as well as multi-purpose shoe.
Most Comfortable Road Shoe
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36
The Nike Pegasus series has a long-standing reputation for performance and comfort. For a shoe that will keep you comfortable on the road then you needn’t look further than the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36. With the option to select regular, wide, or extra wide fit, the Pegasus caters for all runners.
Most Comfortable Trail Shoe
ASICS Men’s Gel-Venture 7 Trail Running Shoes
You can always rely on ASCIS Gel technology for superb comfort. The Venture 7 trail running shoe provides unrivalled shock absorption by moulding to the shape of your foot. You won’t need to worry about your trail adventures being cut short with these shoes which offer comfort and performance in equal measure.
Best All-Weather Shoe
Adidas Terrex Fast GTX Surround Shoes
These shoes are built for fast hikes and short trails in all weather conditions. The Gore Tex technology keeps out wet weather so you stay dry and comfortable. These aren’t the fastest shoes on the market but in terms of performing in all weather conditions these shoes are unrivalled.
Inevitably it’s important to determine the terrain you’ll be using your running shoes on. Road running shoes and trail running shoes have distinct features that make them fit for purpose.
Road running shoes tend to be lighter to promote speed, whereas trail shoes are more rugged with a large amount of foot support to help you conquer all ground conditions. Some shoes do offer hybrid features to allow for both trail running and road running such as the Brooks Caldera reviewed above.
It’s important to establish your intended use before you make your purchase to make sure the shoe you buy is tailor made for your goals.
Comfort and Fit
Some shoes and brands fit differently. Start by getting an accurate measurement of your foot size and width. If you can try the shoes on in a local store then go for it, if that’s not possible then look out for free returns online, some companies will let you try the shoes and send them back if you aren’t satisfied.
Some of the best free advice you’ll find about the fit of a running shoe is from online reviews. Take time to read what previous customers had to say about the fit, for example, whether they came up small or were particularly narrow or wide.
For those intending to go on long runs, be aware that your feet can swell slightly after a while. Be careful to leave a little room for this to happen as although a little swelling is nothing to worry about if your shoes are too tight, you’ll experience aches and pains.
Simply put, your running gait describes the way your foot interacts with the ground as you run. Everyone has a different running gait which is dependent on a number of factors, some people’s feet tend to roll inwards more as they strike the ground, this is known as pronation.
Netural pronation – Upon striking the ground your foot rolls inward around 15%
Underpronation – Foot rolls inward less than 15%
Overpronation – Foot rolls inward more than 15%
So why is this important? Well, different shoes provide different support depending on a runner’s pronation. Some shoes have extra support on the inside to support over pronation which is important for preventing injury.
Many running shops will allow you to get gait analysis free of charge using a treadmill and video camera. If this isn’t available, then aches and injuries can tell you a lot about your gait. If you tend to get aches and pains on the inside of your knees and shins this could well be a sign you are overpronating. Equally, if you tend to get aches in your ankles this could be a sign you are underpronating.
Natural pronation isn’t something you necessarily need to work to change, everyone’s technique is different. However, it’s important to buy a shoe that caters for this technique and supports your foot to protect you from potential injury.
The intended use for your shoe will also dictate the weight of shoe you select. Lighter shoes will be suitable for competitive runners who are looking to achieve new PBs. A heavier shoe will tend to give more support and will be more appropriate for a beginner runner or those who are more susceptible to injury.
Another thing to be aware of is heel-toe drop. This term represents the amount of material under the heel compared to under the toe, for example, if a shoe has 30mm under the heel and 24mm under the toe that would be a heel-toe drop of 6mm.
But what does this mean for you? Depending on the heel-toe drop of the shoe the impact of your stride will be distributed differently. If you tend to strike the ground with your heel, then a higher heel-toe drop will be beneficial in cushioning the impact of your stride.
Generally speaking, the greater the heel-toe drop, the more cushioning provided. Most runners tend to go for a drop of between 7-10mm as this offers a good balance between cushioning and a natural feel.
Finally, don’t forget to consider the weather. If you are likely to be going on long runs, sometimes in the pouring rain, then it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of shoes that will keep the moisture out.
Certain materials can soak up water and with the wrong shoe, before you know it, you’ll be carrying extra unwanted weight.
You’ve now got all the information you need to make an important investment much more straightforward. Take your time to research, try on when you can, and seek professional advice where it is available so you can take your running to the next level.