One thing is sure, if you’re going to take on a half marathon or the legendary 26.2, you’re going to need a decent pair of running shoes. But which ones, I hear you ask.
Well, there’s a huge selection of running shoes and which one you choose can be a very personal decision. It’s also based on factors such as your weight, your running style, and your pronation.
Not to mention the fact that you might be looking for a different feel from your shoes whether that’s fast and snappy or soft and squishy.
Without further ado, let’s give the floor to our 19 runners who have generously contributed their thoughts about their running shoes.
In fact, I have asked our expert runners 2 questions:
1. What are the best and the worst running shoes you’ve ever run in?
2. What are your most important criteria when it comes to choosing your running shoes?
But before we dive right in, here’s the previous roundup if you haven’t read it yet: 27 Expert Runners Share Their Go-To Race Day Breakfast
My favorite shoes recently are the Adidas Adizero. I just love them. I’m much too cheap to try the Nike Vaporfly.
I’m also a big fan of Altra shoes for their wide toe box but they wear out quickly.
I don’t really have a worst shoe experience although I do hate it when a company updates a shoe model and it’s not anywhere near the same shoe.
I look for a wide toe box. I am a big fan of simple running shoes without gimmicks. I want a shoe where I can feel the road or surface under my body.
I don’t care for extra stuff or special technology. I don’t want to “think” about special run form in a complicated shoe.
Selecting the right shoes for runners is crucial, especially when you get things started.
My best running shoes, which I highly recommend after over 8 years of trying out different shoe models, are GOrun 6 by Sketchers.
They are extremely comfortable, flexible, and breathable. No shoelaces, very lightweight, and the tongue – my favorite part of them – is integrated with the inner lining that gives them a slightly compressive fit!
It feels so sleek! Plus, they look very comfy and fashionable to me. I got them for my birthday from my best friends and it was one of the best birthday presents ever!
I didn’t have the best experience running with Nike Women’s Free Rn Flyknit. Unfortunately, my feet always hurt after a long run (10K+).
On top of that, the tongue kept moving to the side which was felt very uncomfortable. 🙁 Short walking in Nike Women’s Free Rn Flyknit is fine but long trekking, jogging or running is a big NO for me.
The best (and my current running shoes) are the Brooks Ghost 11.
These shoes fit my feet perfectly. They are soft and cushioned without being too heavy or stiff. They have a nice wide toe box. The upper is soft and feels great.
The Ghost 11s are Brooks’ mid-ranged priced neutral running shoes – but when you put your feet in them, they feel like a much more expensive shoe.
The worst shoes I had were the Skechers GoRun 4. They weren’t terrible shoes – but they had durability issues.
Like the Ghost, they were cushioned and lightweight and felt good on your foot. But after a few runs, the outersole began to peel. And the midsole lost some of its cushioning. I don’t think I got more than 50-75 miles out of them.
The most important thing runners should do is figure out what category of shoe works best for them. This means if you overpronate, you’ll probably (but not always) prefer a pair of stability shoes. While neutral and supinating runners are usually better off with a neutral shoe.
The old adage that if you are in the wrong type of shoe, you’ll get injured has been fairly well debunked; however, you’ll likely feel more comfortable in the shoe type that’s right for your foot and gait.
If you don’t know what category of shoe you need, you should go to a running store and they can help you figure it out. You’ll also be able to try on 3-4 different models and see which you prefer.
If you buy a major brand running shoe (i.e. Brooks, ASICS, Saucony, New Balance, etc.) you’ll see that the style of shoe and price are usually very similar. But the difference is in how each shoe feels on your feet.
While I’m a Brooks guy, many runners prefer the snug fit of an ASICS or the soft upper on a Saucony.
The key is to figure out which works for you. And don’t go in with any preconceived notions. Just because you have a friend who swears by one brand doesn’t mean it is right for you.
Everyone’s feet are different and what works for your friend may not work for you.
The best running shoes I’ve run my last few marathons or half marathons in or trained in, are the Nike Zoom Vomero 14, Nike Zoom Pegasus 35, and Brooks Launch 6.
I have several criteria when I’m considering marathon training shoes – adequate cushioning, neutral shoe with decent arch support, ideal heel rise of 8-10mm, and no forefoot webbing or stitching that will rub against toenails and cause them to turn black or for me to lose them.
I will say, however, that I once forgot my running shoes altogether for the Chicago Marathon and ended up having to run in a 5/6-year-old pair of Nike FREES.
Not all that bad and felt like just running in a minimalist shoe until I went over the metal grating of the Chicago inner-city bridges, and then at mile 22-23, the toenail issue became a very real problem. Ended up losing a big toenail and took me almost 6 months to grow back. Not fun!
For me, switching brands periodically helps my feet and the muscles from getting too complacent. I usually rotate between 2-3 different running shoes throughout each week’s training cycle. Shoes for speed day workouts, shoes for long runs, and shoes for everything else in between.
Also, I highly recommend not switching to new shoes or trying anything different too close to race day. I always buy a fresh pair for the last phases of my training but usually swap them into the rotation around 3-4 weeks prior to the race itself.
When it comes to the worst shoes, I’d have to say that this is very individual. What works or doesn’t work for me may be perfect for someone else. I have never run in a Nike shoe that fit right. They rub me the wrong way, are uncomfortable, and tend to give me blisters.
As for the best, I’ve been running in the Mizuno Wave Rider for the last five or six years. After years of wearing very supportive shoes I switched to a more neutral shoe and I love it! No more foot problems, something I’ve fought with over the years.
As for what to look for in a running shoe, fit is probably the most important thing. I always suggest that new runners go to a “real” running store where the shoe guy or gal can fit them properly, let them try out the shoe, and will accept returns if the shoe doesn’t work out. Running shoes should feel good right from the start (they don’t need to be broken in).
Also, if you know if you overprontate (roll in too much) or supinate (roll out too much) that can make a difference in what kind of shoe to try. If you have used running shoes, take them in to show the shoe person. They can tell a lot by the wear on the soles.
For my own feet, I make sure the shoe has a wide toe box and a fairly narrow heel. Otherwise, my toes get cramped, leading to discomfort and potentially, lost toenails (and for me ingrown toenail).
I once won a pair of running shoes in a grueling 25km road race on Prince Edward Island. Shoes are my favorite thing to win in a race!
They were Saucony Grids. No second word or number. They came with instructions to return them to the store for my correct size. I took them to the store. It was not a running store. That should have been my first clue that these shoes were not destined to run fast.
As a shoe lover and long-time runner, I hopped online to look up info on my news kicks as I had never heard of this model. Saucony didn’t have them listed on their website.
Next, I checked my favorite running shoe review sites. No reviews of Saucony Grids. Are these even running shoes??
I took them for a few easy runs. They were indeed not running shoes. They were very generic base model, lowest rung training sneakers, intended for walking around town.
On my runs, I felt like I was running in my work shoes. They had very little support. They fit loose and felt like running in flat cardboard boxes.
Moral of the story: always run in real running shoes, even if you win them at a road race! I now use these for weight training because: free shoes.
My absolute favorite shoes are the Hoka One One Evo Carbon Rockets.
I train in the Hoka Cavu and Clifton 5s but for races and shorter interval work, I love a shoe with a flat, stiff-not-soft, low-to-the-ground feel where you can feel the ground.
I like for my shoe to feel responsive and snappy and fast. The Carbon Rocket does all of these things, plus has that signature rocker shape and motion that Hoka is known for.
I need that rocker effect that protects my big toe joints; vulnerable hot spots on my body which has been running on the roads for 22 years.
Plus they look fierce and fast!
My best advice is to go to a local running store and have a conversation with the staff. Let them know what kind of running you are doing and what your goals are. They will do an assessment of your foot and gait and help you find the best shoe to fit your current running and your body. My local store is Aerobics First in Halifax, Nova Scotia and they are awesome.
My own criteria depend on what I’m using the shoe for. I like a more cushioned ride for my easy and recovery runs, with Hoka One One’s rocker effect. I like a lightweight trainer for my workouts and long runs. I like a fast and responsive ride for my fastest workouts and races.
Colour never comes into the equation, I have worn some particularly heinous color combos!
BEST: Altra Torin Knit 3.5 (long run) and Escalante / Nike Vomero 14s/Nike Vaprofly 4% for racing.
Worst: Brooks Adrenaline.
Wider toe box!! Cramping your toes is detrimental to the integrity of your leg’s health, believe it or not.
Flexibility and good bounce unless I’m running technical trail, in which case I’d prefer a sturdier shoe (for example Altra Lone Peak 3.5)
The best shoes I’ve ever run in are the Vaporfly! I love them because they are so comfortable & the way they position my foot. My feet don’t hurt after a full marathon after racing in them.
The worst shoes I’ve ever run in were probably the times I’ve tried to run in high heels LOL. But in all seriousness, probably Nike frees – just because my running form wasn’t good enough when I tried to use them a long time ago.
I buy running shoes that support me having the right form and that fit my feet correctly.
My favorite two running shoes are what I wore for training leading up to the NYC Marathon when I ran it in 2015 – Mizuno Wave Riders and Saucony Rides.
Training for such a long distance I liked having two pairs of shoes to alternate with. I ended up running the race in a pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 19.
It probably sounds weird, but those shoes hold a special place in my heart since they are the ones I wore running my first (and maybe only) full marathon.
I personally am not a fan of any Nike sneaker for running, I’ve yet to find one that I personally love and think can withstand the impact of distance running.
For me when it comes to buying new running shoes I like to get fitted at a running store. Everyone’s foot is unique and different so what works for me might not be the best fit for you.
I personally have super high arches and don’t like having a ton of support. Someone with a flatter foot or who collapses in their ankle when they run might be more comfortable in a shoe with more support and stability.
I highly recommend checking out a running store where they’ll put you on a treadmill and watch your form. You’ll learn a ton about your gait and you’ll be able to make a more informed decision for your own foot!
The best running shoes I ever ran in are the ones I currently use, Nike Air Pegasus. When I first began running seriously, I bought any shoes that fit. If they were on sale, it was an even bigger plus.
I shopped in a bargain shoe warehouse. There were no knowledgeable salespeople to help me with my selection and I was a newbie runner, a recipe for disaster.
Once, after running for several weeks in a new pair of shoes, I developed a case of plantar fasciitis. As it turns out, the shoes I bought were stability shoes, which I didn’t need. When I recovered from the PF, I went to a running shoe store, where an experienced runner helped me find the right shoe for me – the Nike style I use today.
The Nikes took some getting used to. They were very light and responsive, unlike any shoe I had run in before. I was used to clunky, boxy shoes with a lot of support.
My hubby is a loyal Brooks runner, so one time I decided to try some Ghosts. They felt good in the store, but when I tried running in them after I was used to the Air Pegs, it felt like I was running with big wooden boxes strapped to my feet. I used them for less than 100 miles, donated them, and went back to the Nikes.
I have been a faithful Air Peg runner ever since. My old shoes become my trail shoes. I don’t have shoes specifically made for trails, even though I have run thousands of trail miles and done some pretty challenging trail races.
NOELLE DE GUZMAN
The best shoe I’ve ever run in was the Mizuno Wave Mercury Aura. It could do anything from running fast on a track to handling the fatigue of an Ironman marathon.
The worst shoe for me was the first version of the Brooks Levitate. I only ran in it once because it made my feet and legs feel dead and I had to make a conscious effort to keep my legs turning over.
A comfortable fit in the toe box is the first thing I notice when I slide my foot in. While running, I like for the shoe to have a smooth ride through different paces — it shouldn’t feel difficult to pick up speed.
Post-run, I’d like for the shoe to have had enough cushioning so my legs and back don’t feel sore.
For me it’s less about the shoes, and more about custom orthotics. After spraining my ankle a few times, I had them made and it’s made all of the difference. I still tend to need a heavy support shoe.
I try to run in them first! Go to a store that has a treadmill and try them out. Then make sure the store has a fairly flexible return policy. If you normally run outside, you should try that before committing to a pair.
Also, once you find a pair you like, STOCK UP. Companies cycle styles in and out and it’s great to have what you like ready to go.
The first pair that I love are the Hoka One One Clifton’s 6. The second pair of shoes that I love and that I consider to be the best running shoes that I have run in are the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080‘s.
During that time I tried what was a version of the Merrell Trail Glove. These shoes did NOT work for me at all.
When I am choosing running shoes I have several things that I look for:
Width. I have a narrow foot so need to make sure that the shoe hugs my foot.
Fit in midsole. I have a high midsole so need shoes to fit well across my midsole.
You can read Sandra’s full post here: Runner’s Round-Up: The Best and Worst Running Shoes.
My favourite marathon running shoes are the ASICS GT 2000 series – I’ve run almost every marathon in them even from when I started running – they seem to suit my feet and I find them comfortable and supportive. (Also I LOVE bright colours!)
The worst shoes have to be some very heavy shoes I tried as I was recommended them by a friend. They had massive soles and were incredibly bouncy … but I found them almost impossible to run in! I didn’t try to run any more races in THOSE!
The most important thing for me when choosing running shoes is comfort. When I’m racing the last thing I want to have to think about is my kit – I want to be able to focus on ME and my race. If I can’t feel the kit, it’s working perfectly!
My favorite running shoes are the Altra Escalantes. I love how light they are, and especially how they form fit to my foot, with extra wiggle room in the toe box.
I wasn’t a fan of Asics. I ran in them in the beginning of my running career and I had off and on heel pain.
When choosing running shoes, comfort, endurance and foot shape are most important to me. If I’m running 13.1 or 26.2 miles, I need something comfortable that won’t be bothering me throughout various terrains.
In terms of endurance, I want a good pair of those that can handle streets and trails, and one that I can get my money’s worth in.
Finally, I want a pair of shoes that doesn’t close off my toes. I have long toes, so a foot-shaped shoe and toebox is extremely important to me, and also plays into comfort!
The best running shoes I’ve ever run in are the Brooks Adrenaline GTS. They have been my go-to shoe for 6 years now.
Worst? Well, for me I tried Nike and they just didn’t give me the support I needed. I am pretty flat-footed, so support is crucial.
Most important is how they feel and support my feet. This is especially important when you are marathon training.
Feet swell as you run, and I learned that the right shoe and size (for me is a full size bigger in running shoes) is vital.
I think the right shoe can really make or break your training. It’s important to get properly fitted.
I’m not really a brand loyalists when it comes to running shoes. I’ve worn and loved a number of brands. My favorite pair to date was probably my Mizuno Wave Rider 17’s, which I wore during my second marathon in 2014.
My least favorite pair of running shoes was also my first pair, which were Asics. But it was really just a matter of poor fit, not anything particular about the shoes.
Since my back surgery in 2016, I only run casually. Right now, my only criteria is a shoe that is comfortable and fits well. I highly recommend going to a running specialty store and being professionally fitted. I do this every time I purchase a new pair of shoes, for which I’m actually overdue!
As a Spartan Race runner, I need grip, or at least is what I am looking for in a shoe. That’s why today I wear the Salomon Speedcross 4.
But when I started, years ago, I just went to a race with my simple sneakers (Nike), and the day after I had to throw them in the bin.
All the best trail running shoe brands are good, it’s just a matter of what you like most in a shoe. For me it’s grip, for others it can be comfort and so on.
My tip is to try different shoes until you find yours.
I always liked the very first version of the Nike Free 3.0, although some later versions have been good (and others no so good).
The worst pair of shoes I’ve ever worn were probably Reeboks back in the late 80s. They were likely fine for many people – just not me. I never get blisters from running shoes, but those Reeboks rubbed the skin off my feet regularly.
I look for lightness and flexibility. As a forefoot runner, I don’t require any real support, so the flexibility is what I’d rate as most important.
The best running shoes I’ve ever run in have changed over the years as I’ve aged. I started out running in Nike Air Pegasus and ran in those shoes for years.
After Nike changed the shoes and they didn’t work for me any more, I tried several different brands until I settled on Asics Gel Nimbus. I think those were my all time favorite running shoes. I wore them for over 10 years.
I started having issues with my feet and tried several different brands. Right now, I am loving Mizuno Wave Inspires and Wave Horizons.
I can’t say that any running shoes are the worst but shoes that didn’t work for me included Saucony. I won a pair and since runners just rave about them, I was excited to try them but they caused all kinds of pain in my feet and shins. I think it is because they are zero drop and all the other shoes I’ve worn are more traditional.
When I’m shopping for running shoes, I avoid zero drop shoes for the reasons I’ve cited above. I’m wearing support and stability shoes now, so that is important.
I look for the previous year’s models because they are usually on sale. I’m not as concerned about color but if the shoes are really ugly, I won’t buy them.
The running shoes that work for a runner might not necessarily work for you.
Comfort and proper fit should be your priority when buying new shoes.
When you’re going to a running shop, it’s quite a good idea to take your old pair of running shoes and your favorite socks with you.
Go with plenty of time and don’t rush the trying-on process. Also, don’t be pressured to buy at the store.
Try on at least another couple of pairs because you really do need that comparison.
Do your research, speak to your coach or physio, speak to specialists and try and work out what brand is best suited to your foot.
Good running shoes aren’t cheap. So, don’t scrimp because your feet and your body do need looking after.
Once you’ve bought your running shoes, label when you bought them and record how many miles you’re running in them so you know when they need replacing.
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get out there running.