Best running shoes: Experts weigh in on what to look for

“You have to fit the shoe to the person and the foot," said one expert.

March 18, 2024, 9:27 AM

Buying a brand-new running shoe in the modern era of massive brands, high-tech sneakers, and high-volume warehouse stores can seem overwhelming.

Experts stress that the ideal running shoe for any individual person is unique to solely that person, their medical information and their feet.

In order to understand the best practices for tackling the tall task of purchasing a new pair of running shoes, ABC spoke to two experts on running shoes and podiatry, one in the medical field, and one in the commercial field.

Meet the experts

ABC talked to Brooklyn Running Co.’s Joe Tucker-Vikstr?m, a former high school and collegiate runner who is now the store manager for the Park Slope location and the apparel buyer for all four stores with a decade of industry experience.

ABC also spoke with Kevin Smith, dean of Des Moines University's College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, where he has been for 26 years.

The guidance offered by each expert is representative of their own views and not necessarily the views of their organizations.

Each runner is unique

Both experts were believers in the idea that there is no “perfect” running shoe for any occasion. Instead, runners should account for the dimensions of their feet, the activities they choose to partake in and any prior medical history relating to their feet.

“I never recommend a specific shoe,” said Smith. “You have to fit the shoe to the person and the foot.”

Smith said he likes to know about his patients running style, whether or not their feet tend to pronate (roll inward) or supinate (roll outward), and the runner’s weight to determine their need for stability or cushioning.

Tucker-Vikstr?m echoed the idea that the shoe preference will always be determined by the individual dimensions of a customer’s feet.

“A shoe that works really, really well for one person, may not work really well for another person. And so the first thing that we do is have them take their shoes off and look at their feet,” said Tucker-Vikstr?m, who noted the importance of recognizing wide feet versus narrow feet.

Replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles

Both experts agreed that time is less of a factor in determining the shelf life of a pair of running shoes than mileage.

Tucker-Vikstr?m posited that 350 to 500 miles run is a good barometer to take note of. Under this calculation, noted Tucker-Vikstr?m, it stands to reason that new shoes roughly every nine months is a good pace for someone who runs 10 miles every week.

Smith provided a similar mileage estimate.

Both experts also agreed on the idea that it is important to check in with the body around this mile range, to assess whether the shoes are still serving their purpose in a healthy manner.

Avoid brand loyalty

Both Tucker-Vikstr?m and Smith were adamant that there is no such thing as the “best” brand for running shoes. While massive brands like Nike and Adidas dominate the space, all big shoe brands make quality options for all types of running shoes.

“We sort of recommend that people try to be brand agnostic,” said Tucker-Vikstr?m, pointing out that, “Just because a shoe works for you once doesn't mean it's going to work again. And just because a shoe didn't work for you once doesn't mean the new model won't work.”

Smith said some brands may work for some customers and not work for others depending on factors like width of foot. He did add that when he sees patients who have logged hundreds of injury free miles in the same shoe, he recommends keeping consistent with the manufacturer.

What to look for in track, roads, trail, and machine

Smith and Tucker-Vikstr?m agreed that for those looking to run on solid grounds like tracks, cement and sidewalks, customers should look for something lightweight, and adjust the level of cushioning they look for based on the material they are running on. Customers may want more padding on cement and roads than on a clay track.

In trail running, where the surfaces can vary, Smith and Tucker-Vikstr?m added that customers can focus on purchasing soles that focus on grip, for uneven surfaces like sand and loose gravel.

Finally, both experts agreed that any shoe that can be used for another form of running can be used on elliptical.

Tucker-Vikstr?m said shoes with a lower drop or offset, meaning the difference between the heel and forefoot ranges four or five millimeters, work to protect the heel in a scenario where a runner may be over-striding on a treadmill because they are not controlling the pace.

Best running shoes for speed racing, track and roads

While the emphasis on comfort and stability will vary based on the type of running, these shoes emphasize lightweight mobility on solid surfaces.

Amazon

Nike Vaporfly 3 Women's Road Racing Shoes

According to Nike, this top-of-the-line racing shoe offers increased stability from previous models with a lightweight feel that all speed racers chase.

  • $311.06 to $374.13
  • Amazon
Amazon

ASICS Men's NOVABLAST 4 Running Shoe

Asics Novablast 4 offers energized cushioning to add comfortable bounce in stride and a mesh tongue to fit the foot. The Novablast 4 also boasts eco-friendly materials in its cushioning.

  • $139.94 to $150
  • Amazon
18% off
Amazon

Brooks Men's Adrenaline GTS 22 Supportive Running Shoe

For a more affordable running shoe designed for road running, this shoe features a padding on the midsole to make for a more comfortable landing and release in stride.

  • $89.95
  • $110
  • Amazon

Best running shoe for trails

These running shoes focus on soles with grip and traction for running on even surfaces outdoors.

Amazon

Hoka Speedgoat 5 Men's Trail Running Shoe

The Speedgoat 5 is focused on the lightweight experience while doubling down on traction with the Vibram Megagrip to increase grip on trails of all types with loose soil.

  • $181
  • Amazon
Amazon

Salomon Women's Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoes

  • $140
  • Amazon
Amazon

Inov-8 Men's Mudclaw 300 Trail Running Shoe

Inov-8 notes that the Mudclaw 300 model is particularly effective in running through muddy surfaces.

  • $92.80 to $160
  • Amazon
Amazon

Inov-8 Women's Mudclaw 300 Shoes

The outsole of the shoe is designed to release mud as it sticks to the shoe, according to Inov.

  • $64
  • Amazon
Amazon

VJ Spark Lightweight, Quick Attack OCR & Trail Running Shoes

The VJ details the Spark as a shoe that focuses on two main components of outdoor and trail running: weight and grip. The pursuit of both had the 2022 model named as one of the best trail running shoes of the year by Runner's World.

  • $150 to $160
  • Amazon
Amazon

HOKA ONE ONE Womens Torrent 3 Textile Synthetic Trainers

The Torrent 3 uses PROFLY midsole construction for more comfort in takeoffs and landings, and Hoka notes the increase in durability compared to previous models.

  • $104.74 to $167.99
  • Amazon

Best running shoes for treadmills and ellipticals

Experts note that running shoes for other events can all be used for ellipticals, but as Tucker-Vikstr?m identified, low drop shoes with a four or five millimeters offset, can help alleviate stress on the foot in circumstances with a pre-determined pace.

Amazon

Saucony Men's Kinvara 14 Sneaker

The Men's Kinarva 14 also features many attributes of the lightweight options designed for speed highlighted above. Additionally, the shoe has a 4-millimeter offset, qualifying it as a low drop.

  • $54.99 to $84
  • Amazon
Amazon

Saucony Women's Kinvara 14 Sneaker

According to Tucker-Vikstr?m, the low drop can protect the heel in situations where one may be overextending their stride. Because users do not set the pace on treadmills and ellipticals, runners may want to protect their heels in shoes with a low drop or offset.

  • $45 to $119.95
  • Amazon
30% off
Amazon

New Balance Men's Fresh Foam X More V4 Running Shoe

New Balance says the design behind the Fresh Foam X increases stability and comfort. With a large amount of foam used, the cushion is spread "across the length of the shoe, offering a plush, yet stable underfoot experience." With a 4-millimeter drop, these shoes are great fits for machine running.

  • $104.96
  • $149.99
  • Amazon
16% off
Amazon

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam X More V4 Running Shoe

  • $125.99
  • $149.99
  • Amazon
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