Best Running Shoes for Men & Women Reviewed

We’re willing to  concede that Bryan Ferry was pretty spot on right when he sang “Love is the drug.”  That being said, for those of us who pound the pavement routinely and have become addicted to watching the miles move underneath our feet, we might say that given the day running might come in a close second. Or maybe even first, we don’t judge. Point is that for runners, there is simply nothing that hits the sweet spot of endorphins quite like running. Early morning, late night, hot, cold, the run is the thing that makes everything else allright. And even though it can give the old legs a pounding Running can be one of the healthiest activities you can perform as an athlete. The cardio, the muscle tone, the whole body movement, the fighting gravity to those of us who run, it’s the quickest path to Nirvana. But to get the best out of the run, there’s nothing more indispensable than the right pair of shoes. With them, your performance takes a whole new meaning. Shoes are to runners like tools are to builders; while running shoes don’t determine your capabilities as a runner, they can quite enhance them.

Getting to know your footwear can teach you a lot about running. This sport involves much more than just jumping into some shoes and starting to run. Running can be bad for your body if you’re not sure what you’re doing – choosing the right shoes is included in this.

Last Updated: September 6, 2018
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By Kevin Enochs:

This update allowed us to include some of the newest models of our favorites as well as add some new language and to double check that we got the best values and the best shoes all around. It's that time of year and the runner in your family needs some new shoes, so dig in, we've got some great stuff here.

Featured Recommendations

Saucony Kinvara 7
  • Saucony Kinvara 7
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Flexible IBR Outsole
  • Price: See Here
Under Armour Charged Bandit 3
  • Under Armour Charged Bandit 3
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • UA SpeedForm construction
  • Price: See Here
Altra Instinct 3.5
  • Altra Instinct 3.5
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Anatomically-shaped toe box
  • Price: See Here

Buying the right pair of running shoes can be quite hard if you don’t know what to look for. With this guide, we aim to assist you in making a better choice for yourself when making a purchase. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more annoying than returning shoes back and forth until you find the right one.

 

10 Best Running Shoes

 

1. Saucony Kinvara 7

1. Saucony Kinvara 7
Saucony is a brand that you can count on to deliver the best and most comfortable running shoe. The Kinvara 7 is the perfect running shoe for when you are running on a track or on the street. The rubber grip sole helps to make sure that you have the maximum amount of grip while you are running and the shoe has been designed to reduce running impact on your feet.
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Flexible IBR+ Outsole

Your shoes should work with your feet which is why the outsole of these shoes is made from a flexible yet durable XT-900 carbon outsole. This allows your feet to move and bend naturally while you are running which makes running more enjoyable.

Lace-Keeper

No one wants to have to stop running just to tie their shoes which is why these shoes have a lace keeper that keeps your shoelaces secured so that they do not come loose and unravel while you are running.

Cost and Value

The Kinvara 7 can be purchased at a price that is lower than the average price for running shoes which turns it into an excellent value since you can get a great pair of running shoes without having to spend much.
Pros
  • The multi-knit mesh on the outsoles allows the shoes to breathe well so that your feet do not get hot.
  • They have a 4 mm offset from the toe to the heel for a more ergonomic fit.
  • The midsoles have an Everun cushioning which will help reduce the impact to your feet while running.
  • The insoles are removable in case you wish to use your own arch supports or shoe inserts.
  • These shoes have a durable outsole that is flexible and moves with your feet while you run.
Cons
  • Reviewers have reported that the toe box on these shoes is small making it hard to fit in the shoes.
  • Other users have mentioned that the shoes feel tight and are uncomfortable for running.

2. Under Armour Charged Bandit

2. Under Armour Charged Bandit
Under Armour has a reputation that goes undoubtedly in the world of performance gear, and their Charged Bandit 3 is one of the best running shoes available. Implementing UA’s patent construction, this pair is guaranteed to keep a precise fit. Aside from being highly flexible and breathable, the Charged Bandit 3 is also lightweight. In general, it covers every aspect of performance you need for running.
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UA SpeedForm construction
The third edition of the Charged Bandit series is constructed to mold your foot in an extremely accurate manner. Resembling the very anatomy of human feet, it eliminates all possible distractions regarding the fit. With this construction, support is enhanced to a point where the shoe feels as part of your foot. Designed specially to optimize running performance, the Charged Bandit 3 offers an aerobic frame.

OrthoLite sockliner

OrthoLite is a very popular material used as sock liner in a wide variety of running shoes. The anti-microbial material is soft to the touch, and it also prevents the development of odors within the shoe. The sock liner molds to the foot and helps athletes in what they normally suffer the most; fungi, bad smells, athlete’s foot, and excessive sweating. OrthoLite also counts with moisture-wicking properties.

Dual-layer Charged Cushioning midsole
Using compression molded foam, the midsole of the Charged Bandit 3 offers even better responsiveness and durability than its predecessors. Applying two layers of Charged Cushioning midsole technology, this pair not only absorbs shock decently, but they also make your next gait easier. Complemented by a rubber outsole that protects high-impact zones, this shoe is made to run.

Cost
The Charged Bandit 3 slightly exceeds the average value of the listed products. Knowing Under Armour’s reputation in the design and construction of performance gear, the durability of this item goes undoubtedly. Now featuring a dual-layer midsole and UA’s SpeedForm construction, the Charged Bandit 3 becomes a pretty complete running shoe for those willing to afford it.

3. Altra Instinct 3.5

3. Altra Instinct 3.5
Altra goes back to where it all started, the Instinct. Back with a completely new look, a highly comfortable upper build, and a more responsive approach. While still remaining as lightweight and flexible as ever, Altra implements the new technologies that put them on the map. An intuitively-design toe box gives you the space you need to relax your foot for a natural ride. The comfort of the Instinct 3.5 makes it an ideal choice for distant runs and long walks.
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Anatomically-shaped toe box
Not having enough toe box space is one of the worst things you can experience regarding the fit of a running shoe. This is why the Altra Instinct 3.5 is designed in a way that allows for completely natural positioning of the forefoot and toes. No more compressed toes thanks to this new approach. Keeping your big toe straight, this design allows you to access even more power.

Footpod outsole
Altra keeps everything in mind when it comes to running shoes. Footpod outsole technology maps the tendons and bones of your feet to deliver an accurate flex and better bounce-back. Complemented by a superior layer of Altra’s a-bound energy returning substance, the Instinct 3.5 counts with the right technologies to maximize running performance. This outsole technology allows for a more natural positioning of feet during a run.

Cost
Altra’s Instinct 3.5 features a cost very similar to its predecessors and other shoes; not too expensive, but not really affordable. Surpassing the average value of this list by a few bucks, some would say this shoe is expensive. However, dedicated runners who know the technologies lying behind this shoe will know it’s far from being a bad investment.
Pros
  • Designed anatomically to resemble our feet
  • Improved bounce-back
  • Footpod outsole technology delivers a natural flex
  • Optimized toe box space allows for better spreading
Cons
  • The sole is light but not as durable as its predecessors
  • Narrow around the midfoot

4. Hoka One One Bondi 5

4. Hoka One One Bondi 5
The Bondi 5 is a running shoe that has been specifically designed for running on man-made surfaces. This makes it a great shoe for competitive runners or people who run on a track or gym. While the shoe has been designed for the track, you can feel free to wear it for running on the sidewalk or any other paved surface which makes it a great running shoe for many people.
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Engineered Mesh

This shoe uses an engineered mesh that has an open design which allows the shoe to breathe. Breathability is an important feature for any running shoe because it allows sweat and moisture to escape from the shoe so that your feet stay dry.

Molded Sockliner

No one likes running while their sock is falling down into their shoes which is why the Bondi 5 has a sock liner that is molded so that your socks do not fall or sag while you are running.

Cost and Value

This is a premium pair of running shoes that has a price that is higher than the average price for running shoes. The higher price is due to the high-quality engineering that has been put into this shoe so that you can feel great while you run.
Pros
  • The engineered mesh provides a maximum amount of breathability which allows your feet to stay dry.
  • The shoes have been designed to be lightweight which will make it easier for you to run.
  • They have a sock liner that is fully molded so that your socks do not rub your feet or fall down.
  • These shoes have midsoles that will provide you with cushioning to reduce impact from running on hard surfaces.
  • They have been designed for running on a track or other man-made surfaces making them great for competitions.
Cons
  • Some reviewers have reported that the shoes are great for running and walking but not for standing still.
  • Other reviewers have reported that the shoes do not last as long as what they should.

5. Nike Flyknit Racer

5. Nike Flyknit Racer
The Flyknit Racer features a retro design from the 1980s which makes it a stylish shoe as a well as a highly functional running shoe. Any runner will enjoy the way in which this shoe wraps your foot so that you have the ultimate support and stability while you are running in this shoe. Your comfort is further enhanced by the fact that they have air cushioning which makes them lightweight.
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Air Cushion

Air cushions can be a therapeutic way to reduce the impact that you feel while you are running. It also makes the shoe lightweight so that you can easily run without feeling as if the shoes are weighing you down.

Flyknit

The flyknit racer wraps your feet with a flyknit material. This wrap breathes well and is highly supportive so that you are less likely to experience an injury to your feet or ankles while you are running.

Cost and Value

You should plan on spending a price that is higher than the average price for the Flyknit Racer. The higher cost is due to the fact that it is a premium shoe that is made from high-quality materials and engineering.
Pros
  • These shoes have a snug fit which is supposed to feel like you are wearing a sock.
  • Nike has spent over four years designing this running shoe for maximum support, comfort, and durability.
  • These shoes are built to be lightweight so that you do not feel them while you are running.
  • The air cushion reduces the shoe's weight and also protects your feet from impact while running.
  • The shoes have an eco-friendly design and are made from an equivalent of up to six recycled bottles.
Cons
  • Some reviewers have reported that the shoes are not durable and will develop holes in the sides.
  • Other users have reported that the shoes fit too tightly while they are wearing them and are uncomfortable.

6. New Balance Zante v3

6. New Balance Zante v3
Inspired on the iconic ‘70s and ‘80s models, the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3 takes a sleek approach and a low profile. Designed for those with a desire to feel fast that never fades, this pair counts with an aggressive toe spring and a lightweight approach for effortless gaits. Using no-sew material to maximize comfort, the Fresh Foam Zante v3 is guaranteed to create a fresh environment for your feet.
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Bootie construction
The third edition of the Fresh Foam Zante is streamlined for fast runs with a bootie construction offering a snuggly fit. A lightweight frame, in general, allows for faster and smoother transition between gaits, as well as a much more natural range of motion. While being lightweight, the solid rubber outsole creates further cushioning meant for long miles and intense running.

Toe spring
The design of the Fresh Foam Zante v3 helps runners impulse each of their gaits forward; not only running faster, but also requiring less effort on each step. Resembling the natural running gait of humans, New Balance’s shoe creates an explosive take-off at the end of the gait. By allowing you to push yourself harder from the floor, you achieve greater speed with less effort at the same time.

Cost

New Balance is known for offering quite the deal in terms of performance for an accessible price. The Fresh Foam Zante v3 manages exactly that, offering high levels of performance for a cost below the average of the list. You’d be surprised by how much this shoe can make your running easier. Being also durable, there’s no reason to doubt this shoe.
Pros
  • Assists push-off at the end of the gait
  • Constructed specially for speed running
  • 6mm drop
  • No-sew approach
  • Fresh and breathable upper build
Cons
  • The upper build fabric offers little support

7. Asics Gel Nimbus 18

7. Asics Gel Nimbus 18
Gel is a material that is known for its ability to stay cool while providing cushion and support. It is no surprise that a high-quality shoe such as the Nimbus 18 would include gel to allow for a runner's maximum comfort. The Nimbus 18 has other great features that you would find in a running shoe such as removable insoles, stretch mesh, and other features that are important to runners.
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Gel Cushioning

Your heels and your toes will feel comfortable while you are running thanks to the gel cushioning that is located in both the front and the rear of the shoes. The gel helps to reduce pain from running impacts.

Stretch Mesh

These shoes have a trademarked FluidFit technology on the top of the running shoes that allow the shoes to stretch with your feet and breath. This allows you to run naturally while heat and sweat that your body creates are vented away.

Cost and Value

You will see these shoes sold at a price that is around the average price for a pair of running shoes. They are an excellent value for the price thanks to the features that are normally found in high-cost shoes.
Pros
  • They have a sole that is made of rubber which reduces impact while providing you with traction.
  • The back and front of the shoes have gel cushions which reduce impact and make your feet feel better.
  • The top of the shoes has ventilation so that your feet do not get hot and sweaty.
  • Your heel will be locked into place thanks to how the heel system is shaped to support your heel.
  • The shoes have a seamless construction which helps keep them long lasting and durable.
Cons
  • Some reviewers have experienced issues with the shoes developing holes in the toe area after minor use.
  • Other users have reported that the toe box is small and constricting which makes the shoes uncomfortable.

8. Brooks Ghost 11

8. Brooks Ghost 11
The Brooks Ghost 10 follows the tradition amongst its predecessors, delivering a smooth, stable, and well-cushioned ride. An engineered mesh upper build offers the breathability required to perform for long under the sun. It provides the stretch that adjusts to the foot as it runs while providing the protection and integrity needed for a firm frame. Plush tongue and collar improve the support while enhancing the comfort of the shoe as a whole.
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High-energizing cushioning
A carefully designed cushioning system can absorb shock efficiently during the most intense of workouts. The high-energizing cushioning offers great responsiveness even during fast runs, thanks to its high compressibility and foam-like properties. The midsole is complemented by a durable and abrasion-resistant rubber sole ideal for running on the road and a variety of other surfaces. The foam insole provides further cushioning while being removable, washable, and easily replaceable.

Segmented Crash Pad
A full-length layer of the segmented crash pad technology accommodates the foot in the right position during any landing. Its intuitive designs set the foot up in a natural position for neutral, smooth gait transitions. Complemented by Omega Flex Grooves, which augment the forefoot mobility, the Brooks Ghost 10 will bring you as close to your natural performance as you can be.

Cost
The Ghost 10 by Brooks sits around the average value of the list. However, this shoe is far from being an average running shoe. Its high-energy design allows for the fiercest of runners to endure the most during each performance. Delivering targeted cushioning and smooth transitions, the Brooks Ghost 10 can get to be your best friend on the road.
Pros
  • Gender-friendly cushioning design
  • Plush tongue and collar for better support and comfort
  • Soft fabric lining
  • Removable cushioned foam insole
  • Breathable engineered mesh upper
Cons
  • Not suitable for plantar fasciitis
  • Less support than its predecessor

9. Adidas Supernova Glide 8

9. Adidas Supernova Glide 8
Coming 9th on our list is the Adidas Supernova Glide series in its 8th edition. A combination of the ideal amount of support, a breathable upper build, and smart energy return comprise the Supernova Glide 8. Now featuring Adidas signature BOOST midsole in its full-length form, this shoe is guaranteed to deliver the responsiveness and cushioning you need for running. Ideal for everyday training and long runs, this shoe will overcome any obstacle you set.
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Continental Rubber outsole
When traditional rubber outsoles aren’t enough, the Continental Rubber delivers an excellent grip on wet, humid, and dry surfaces. This rubber variation is slightly stickier and provides a much better grasp of the surface; it rolls over obstacles rather than holding onto them. An intuitive outsole pattern contributes to the slip-resistant aspect of the Supernova Glide 8.

OOST midsole technology
The midsole BOOST technology is one of Adidas most iconic features. The TPU midsoles feature Adidas patent response system that allows it to compress in a matter in which shock is significantly diminished. The stronger your compress it, the stronger it will bounce back at the end of the running gait. Running now requires less effort, making you able to run faster for a longer time.

Cost
Adidas running shoes are not typically accessible, but the Supernova Glide isn’t particularly expensive either. In fact, it’s located below the average value of the list. The durability of this product alone is enough reason to purchase it; years of BOOST midsole technology and Continental Rubber outsole won’t get much cheaper than this really.
Pros
  • Abrasion-resistant and grippy
  • Continental Rubber outsole
  • Responsive and highly-absorptive BOOST midsole
  • Enough support to run at top speed
  • Lightweight approach delivers smooth transition between gaits
Cons
  • The heel could use some more targeted cushioning

10. Brooks Ravenna 9

10. Brooks Ravenna 9
Designed to run one mile after the other, the Brooks Ravenna energizes your run with the right technologies. For distance runners and intense trainers, this shoe counts with a very lightweight and flexible frame. Built for the road runner, the upper build is made of air mesh fabric for optimal breathability and management of moisture. Adjustable to your preferences, the Ravenna 8 allows users to set the synthetic saddle to wrap the foot at will.
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BioMoGo DNA midsole
Running on the road can be quite troublesome if you lack enough cushioning. This is why the Brooks Ravenna 8 counts with a BioMoGo DNA midsole. Assuring you never lack absorption and responsiveness, Brooks’s exclusive midsole acts as a foam that deals with stress for you. Aside from being absorptive and generating bounce-back, the midsole compound is nearly weightless.

Diagonal Rollbar
The Diagonal Rollbar medial post technology increases overall support, creating the right fit to achieve the most optimal performance. Promoting smoother transitions, the rollbar is designed to mimic human’s instinctive way of running. Complemented by a full-length S257 Cushsole midsole compound, you’re guaranteed to perform as naturally as you can. Improve your range of motion and running form while in comfort.

Cost
Brooks’ second appearance on this list makes it below the average value of the list. Despite not being as preferred as the Ghost 10, the Ravenna 8 offers a pretty good deal for what it costs. Featuring a performance level similar to that of the Ghost 10 while being slightly cheaper, it already starts looking as a good shoe. Brooks is not the most known shoe manufacturer, but don’t underestimate the quality of their shoes.
Pros
  • Improved support in comparison to its predecessor
  • Thermoplastic shank for torsional rigidity
  • Segmented Crash Pad delivers better heel-to-toe transitions
  • Abrasion-resistant HPR Plus rubber on the outsole
Cons
  • The toe box has gotten smaller
  • Normal sizing is not suitable for wide feet users

In conclusion, running shoes can be powerful tools when you choose them correctly. If you’re an overpronator, a supinator, or you suffer from arch symptoms, you may still enjoy the benefits of running. It’s a matter of finding a shoe that works for your feet, but most importantly, a shoe that fits your personal preferences.

There is no shoe that suits all runners. Always keep in mind that a shoe can work wonders for some people, but discomfort you in particular. With the insight we’ll provide you in the further sections of this guide, you’ll be informed enough to know what to look for and what to avoid in running shoes.

Once you make the right selection, you won’t want to take your running shoes off. Running is a great feeling, but running with the right pair of shoes is a much more fulfilling experience. When you enjoy it, you’re just motivated to keep doing it.

 

Criteria Used in Choosing the Best Running Shoes

Shock Absorption

Running is a high-impact sport, which means our body is constantly exposed to shock while running. Normally, the energy from each impact would have a negative effect on our joints, and, although not major, it would add up with every single gait. Running shoe manufacturers know this, which is why any decent shoe will count with an effective shock absorption system.

It’s for this reason that we consider shock absorption to be an important criterion for determining the quality and efficiency of a running shoe. The better the shock absorption in a shoe, the less impact that will affect your body.

Do note that no shoe (so far) is able to completely disperse the shock caused by the impact of a running gait on the floor. There’s always a certain amount of residual energy that makes its way up to our body even after going through the shoe. However, the amount of energy that actually reaches our body is much lesser than it would be if we were barefoot.

The objective of a shock-absorption system in a shoe would ideally be to neutralize all shock, but given that it’s impossible up to this date, it aims at hindering the impact as much as possible.

When our feet hit the ground during a running gait, the impact shock works its way up from the ground upon impact. The first element it encounters is the sole of the shoe, which in most cases is the most important part of the shoe regarding shock absorption. After going through the shoe, it continues up to our heel, foot, ankle, shinbone, knee, and so on all the way up to the spine.

If a shoe lacks an effective shock absorption system, the shock from each running gait will have an impact on your joints. While the effect of one gait may be insignificant, running consistently with shoes that feature poor absorption expose the user to long-term consequences. These may vary from joint pain, heel bruising, and even an unnatural posture.

During our evaluation of the best running shoes, we gave preference to those shoes that count with an efficient shock absorption method. At the same time, we used sub-criteria to determine the level of absorption in the shoe:

Midsole

The midsole is the main element of the shoe regarding shock absorption. In some cases, it’s also the only part of the shoe that plays a real role in the process. Other elements of the shoe may be involved, such as a cushioned insole, but their contribution is nearly insignificant in comparison to the midsole.

Don’t get it wrong, though. Each element that provides further cushioning is making a contribution to the shock absorption process. For as little as it may be, the contributions of secondary elements will add up to remove some stress from your body at the end of the running session.

The most important aspect of the midsole is the material of which it’s made. A decent midsole is one that counts with highly absorptive materials. Rubber has been a preferred option through the years, but this era of synthetic materials brings more and better options. Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), for example, counts with better absorptive properties than rubber. Additionally, the material is much lighter in weight.

Thus, we looked for midsoles that preferably contained materials with great shock-absorption qualities. Meaning that shoes with a midsole made from ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), TPU, or other similar compounds had an advantage during the ranking process.

Technologies

For obvious reasons, we looked for running shoes that featured some sort of technology that supported the shock-absorption process. It’s important that users keep in mind that technology is not necessarily limited to computers or advanced circuits – it’s anything that reduces human effort or enhances their performance.

A good reference would be ASICS’ GEL Cushioning System. It consists of a layer of a specific gel, which is a patented compound by ASICS, which has unique qualities in shock absorption. This layer is applied to the shoe around the rearfoot, the front foot, or both. The rearfoot gel absorbs the shock upon impact, while the front foot gel relieves stress off the toes during the take-off in the line of progression of a running gait.

Such technologies are usually located within or around the midsole of shoes. Another good example would be Nike’s Air Cushioning System. Instead of using gel, Nike inserts a small capsule of air within the midsole. The purpose of this capsule is to smoothen the compression of the midsole upon impact, ultimately reducing the shock energy.

We kept our eyes on shoes that feature technologies assisting the shock absorption process. Shoes that don’t count with such technologies weren’t necessarily disqualified, as a good midsole material alone can be more than enough in terms of shock absorption.

Responsiveness

This is a term that many running users are still unfamiliar with. It’s very similar to shock absorption, except it takes a different perspective. The responsiveness, also known as bounce-back, is a system that uses shock to compress the midsole in a way that it will impulse the user forward when decompressed. This system makes use of the shock energy to assist the range of motion of a running gait, rather than trying to disperse shock away.

Adidas’ Ultra Boost technology focuses on this point. Instead of mitigating the impact energy, this technology somewhat accumulates it within the midsole, ultimately releasing it during the final phase of the running gait. The shoe hits the ground, the midsole compresses, and as the foot starts flexing forward, the outsole decompresses once again releasing part of the energy.

We believe this system is highly intuitive. Aside from reducing the amount of shock that actually reaches our body, the responsiveness of a shoe propels you forward. While it may not act as a car’s turbo, it certainly reduces the effort you need to make to execute the next gait. At the end of a long run that comprised over a thousand gaits, your body will really appreciate to effort you saved on each gait.

Grip & Traction

Grip and traction are often thought the same thing, and users are not to blame because they’re actually very similar. However, when talking about performance footwear, we refer to them as different things.

They’re both critical aspects of any decent performance shoe. You just can’t run with a shoe that lacks a strong grip nor one that features poor traction. We believe that a shoe with poor properties on these two aspects can’t even be considered as an option. These are arguably two of the most important aspects of any performance shoe, not just running ones.

We refer to the grip as the ability of the shoe to hold steadily onto a surface. Think of it as the adhering properties of the outsole. The best running shoes are those that count with a reliable grip that is able to grasp the surface properly. But it’s not just that – a truly good grip is one that is able to grip a variety of different surfaces.

A shoe can count with the best grip in the world for pavement, but it’s of very little use if the grip is neutralized by a bit of water. Realistically speaking, you as a user have to avoid walking on slippery surfaces, even more, if running. But it really is impossible to avoid stepping on some water or other substance that may affect the grip.

If it happens, and chances are it eventually will at some point in your life, you want your shoe to be able to at least remain stable under those circumstances. The ideal grip is one that prevents slippage on moisturized surfaces while still delivering smooth traction.

Traction, on the other hand, refers to the quality of the contact between the outsole and the surface. While it certainly is related to the grip, it’s not necessarily the same. Think of the traction as the ability of the shoe to grip during movement. The more traction there is, the better your contact with the surface will be.

Imagine you slide into a bowling court. You’d normally just slide until the very end of it if you stood still after taking impulse. This is because the oil would prevent any sort of traction between the outsole and the surface. You would lose traction, and most likely wouldn’t be able to stop sliding by using just your feet.

We looked for shoes the deliver smooth traction on a variety of different surfaces. We also kept in mind that the best running shoes are those with a healthy balance between a strong grip and a decent traction. These are the factors we used to determine the quality of the grip and traction:

Outsole material

The material which comprises the outsole has a clear impact on the grip and traction. In fact, it’s the most important element in the whole process. The outsole is the only part of the shoe that actually touches the surface you’re walking on. If you get that bit wrong, the rest of the shoe doesn’t matter at all, as it just wouldn’t work.

Outsoles must feature a material with strong adhering properties. You obviously don’t want an outsole made from bubble gum either. The best materials for outsoles are those that provide decent grip and traction while still being highly durable. Keep in mind that the outsole is the element that suffers the most friction and abrasion, as it’s constantly dragged against the surface.

Because of this, we looked for outsole materials that, aside from featuring acceptable levels of grip and traction, counted with abrasion-resistant properties. Normally, rubber is a valid candidate for this task. But, once again, synthetic materials take the lead – not just in weight, but also in enhancing the adhesion.

Foams, plastics, sheets, leathers, and many other materials can be used for the task. In most cases, it’s not a single material, but rather a combination of multiple. Thermoplastic rubber (TPR), for example, is a combination of thermoplastic and elastomeric properties into one compound. They’re usually comprised of a plastic and a rubber polymer.

These compounds count with the benefits of both rubber and plastic, and they’re relatively easy to use in the manufacturing of shoes by injection molding. This gives the ability to stretch and moderate the material, later returning to its near original shape. It makes it much more durable and gives it better physical properties.

Directional traction

We move in more than just one direction. Thus, it’s important that the outsole of a running shoe allows for multidirectional movements while still gripping to the surface properly. In a sport like running, stopping suddenly or making a spontaneous change of direction can generate a lot of force in the direction you’re changing. If the outsole is not properly designed, the sudden change of direction can create a failure on the grip.

This has a lot to do with the design of the outsole. Some shoes are specifically designed to enhance traction and grip in a vertical plane, which represents the line of progression of a running gait. But, realistically speaking, there’s much more going on while running that just vertical motions.

The best running shoes are those which deliver multidirectional traction, allowing for smooth contact with the surface regardless of the direction and orientation of the foot. When running, we not always land our foot in a perfectly vertical position, nor do we always follow the proper range of motion during each gait.

Additionally, if for whatever reason our foot hits the ground from a diagonal direction, during cone drills, for example, a shoe that lacks multidirectional traction may fail to grip the surface.

Flexibility

Let’s start by saying that a running shoe can’t be a running shoe if it lacks flexibility. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Flexibility is of paramount importance for any shoe meant for an activity in which our feet require to bend or flex. Seeing as our feet flex during almost every single motion, we believe flexibility is quite important.

Do note that there are specific cases in which shoes call for a stiff, non-bending sole, such as rock-climbing shoes. But this is definitely not the case of running shoes. Running just isn’t possible without the flexibility of our foot. It actually may be physically possible, but with a catastrophic running form and a ridiculous aspect.

The most important area for flexibility is the sole. Think of shoes as a protective case for our feet; a case that resembles the same anatomy of the human foot. The sole would represent the underfoot, and the middle of the sole would represent the arch. Thus, this should be the most flexible area in the shoe – but not the only one.

Our foot changes its original shape considerably as we run, while at the same time it moves around the shoe. The part of a shoe that represents our upper foot is the upper build. In order to deliver the right fight, the upper build should always imitate the upper foot as accurately as possible. Flexibility is required for this.

When our foot starts bending forward in the running range of motion, the upper foot starts pushing against the upper build. If it’s flexible, the upper build should easily imitate the foot, allowing it to move freely and covering it as it does so. If it’s stiff, on the other hand, it will restrict our ability to move our foot at will. This would create an unnatural tension on the upper foot.

But, just like every other criterion for running shoes, flexibility is not something you should overdo. The more flexible a shoe is, the less stability and support it will have. A completely flexible upper build will offer very little resistance to the foot, which will ultimately lead to lateral swinging while running. Flexibility should only be present to an extent in which the shoe can accurately mimic the movements of the different parts of our feet.

Support

This is the feature that brings stability to the shoe and to the foot inside the shoe. Think of it as the pressure with which the shoe wraps around our foot. Good support is critical to allow the shoe to mimic the motions of the foot as accurately as possible. When a shoe is properly supported, it somewhat becomes one with our feet, imitating it in an optimal manner.

Support is important for a variety of reasons really. To begin with, it has an impact on the fit. A shoe that is poorly supported will cause a loose fit, which is no good for running. Even if a shoe is your exact size, the lack of support will provoke a non-corresponding fit. The best combination for a good running shoe is to get the right size accompanied the right amount of support.

It also plays a role in the pronation process. Unlike many runners believe, pronation is not unnatural and is, in fact, a highly important part of the running process. Pronation is the natural way in which the body distributes the impact upon landing. It’s the process of rolling the foot inwards when running.

When running, the foot should land on the outside of the heel, posteriorly rolling inward (pronating) in order to properly disperse shock and support the weight of your body in a natural way. This creates an even distribution from the front of the foot, and it helps relieve a great deal of stress off the ankle.

A shoe that properly supports the foot will prevent it from overpronating. Overpronation happens when the foot rolls inwards much more than it should, in which many little bones and joints suffer. By compressing your foot into the right direction, the support of a shoe can help you avoid a terrible running form.

During our research and evaluation of the best running shoes, we omitted shoes that lack enough support for running performance. Within the shoes selected, we gave extra points to those shoes that deliver a neutral level of support, and we used the same criterion to evaluate shoes meant for users with overpronation issues.

We also kept in mind that running shoes should not only offer general support but also support target to the specific areas that need it the most. These are the sub-factors we kept in consideration:

Arch support

This is a term most runners should be familiar with. As you may probably know, the arch is arguably the most delicate part of the foot. Because of its elevation, the tendons and muscles involved with the arch are engaged most of the time. This means that they’re activated without being really used.

The best running shoes should offer good arch support. Before proceeding, it’s important to note that it’s impossible for manufacturers to create an arch support that fits all feet equally. Because human anatomy is so diverse, it’s always recommended that you opt for a custom insole that covers your specific needs regarding the arch.

If you don’t suffer from any arch condition, then the neutral support offered by shoes should be sufficient. The arch support is the little bulk that you’ll find on the inner build, normally located on the inner side of the arch region. For the right foot, the bulk is on the center left, and for the left foot, on the center-right.

This small bulk acts as a resting place for the arch. By supporting it from below, somewhat compensating for its elevation, the arch support prevents the arch from being engaged unnecessarily. This helps remove a lot of tension from the muscles and tendons related to the arch.

Furthermore, it acts as a stabilizer for the arch as we run. Like we previously mentioned, our feet move a lot internally during this sport. The arch support will help the arch flex much more naturally, also creating a body that cushions the internal side of the arch upon impact.

Other elements

General support is what keeps our foot together to the shoe, but what most people don’t know is where does support come from. What creates comfort are the different elements of the shoe that help bring the materials around our feet. It’s also comprised of the specific areas of the shoe meant to support parts of our feet.

For instance, the closure plays a big role in the general support of the shoe. The closure is responsible for bringing the upper build around the upper foot. When you pull the laces of a shoe, what happens is the lacing system brings the two lateral ends of the shoe together around the foot.

This is to create tension on each side of the foot to keep it supported, and you tie the laces to keep that tension steady. It’s because of this that shoes feel loose when they’re untied. The closure is also responsible for compressing the tongue against the upper foot. Believe it or not, elements such as the laces and the tongue are highly ignored, yet very important for support purposes.

There are also elements that exist for the sole purpose of holding a certain area of the foot. The heel counter, for instance, helps stabilize the heel against the back of the shoe. It’s also meant to create comfort around the Achilles tendon located just above the heel, on the back of our foot.

Comfortability

Put in simple words, an athlete can’t achieve their most optimal performance if they’re in discomfort. The best running shoe in the world is meaningless if it creates any sort of discomfort to the user. There’s an alarming amount of running shoe users who opt for a better performance over a comfortable shoe.

The best running shoes are those that don’t need to sacrifice any performance feature in order to obtain comfort. But, the thing about comfort is that it’s not something you can obtain from a particular element of the shoe. Comfort is created by the combination of all parts of the shoe working together.

Think of it as a pyramid of poker cards; if all elements of the shoe but one are comfortable, that one uncomfortable part is enough to make the shoe uncomfortable as a whole. In order to create a comfortable environment for our feet, running shoes must count with comfortability overall.

A lot of runners have the bad habit of forcing themselves into uncomfortable shoes because they’re good, and these runners believe they’re worth the sacrifice of comfort. In reality, a good running shoe is one that is functionally optimal and comfortable at the same time. You should never have to sacrifice either to obtain the other one.

What most people don’t know is that, when shoes are uncomfortable, it’s likely because there’s something wrong with them. For example, they may be uncomfortable because the fit is too tight. Wearing those shoes would create a lot of friction between the material and the skin, potentially peeling the surface of your foot and creating blisters later on.

If clothing or footwear discomforts us, chances are that it’s because it’s not adequate for our body. Discomfort is the way in which our body tells us something is not alright. A shoe that generates itching or irritation on the skin is no good, and should not be used regardless of its performance level.

We believe that comfort is key to achieve the maximum running performance, as it has both a physical and a psychological impact. On the physical side, comfort plays an important role in relieving the stress on the foot, or rather in preventing more stress. Comfort also contributes to our psychological state; believe it or not, it’s much harder to focus and perform optimally when we’re distracted by something uncomfortable in the shoe.

During our evaluation, we kept in mind multiple sub-factors that compose the general comfortability of shoe. These are the ones we deemed the most important:

General comfort

As we mentioned previously, comfort is something that comes from the shoe as a whole rather than just one element. Thus, we evaluated the combination of all materials and components as one single element to determine the level of comfort it offers. This involves everything from the materials of the shoe to the functionality of the performance features.

For instance, if the shock absorption system is not effective, your feet would suffer a greater amount of stress. This, at the same time, would create discomfort over time while you’re running.

Likewise, the lack of support would lead to a loose fit. The shoe bouncing all around your foot would also become something that contributes to discomfort. Thus, the proper functioning of all other aspects and elements of the shoe are paramount to create a comfortable environment.

Breathability

No performance shoe should lack ventilation unless they’re specifically designed to retain heat for activities in cold environments. Our body generates a considerable amount of corporal heat on its own; the more we move, the more heat it generates. The far extremities of our body, our head, hands, and legs, are the areas that generate (and release) the most heat.

This means that in an activity like running, our feet generate much more heat than normal. If you’ve ever practiced running, you’ll know that heated feet lead to many other consequences. It normally starts with excessive sweating, which at the same time leads to odors and the loss of internal traction.

But, it can also lead to other symptoms, such as the development of bacteria and fungi, as well as Athlete’s foot. If on top of the heat we already emanate, we expose our feet to the concentrated heat within a non-breathable shoe, irritation of the skin is very likely to happen.

The best running shoes count with a breathable upper build material. We looked for running shoes with an open (or partially-open) upper builds. Normally, breathable materials are incorporated as a secondary fabric. The most common ones are mesh panels around a more resistant material.

You should seek running shoes that allow for the air to flow freely through the shoe. This way, heat accumulation is prevented and your feet are refreshed.

Materials

A running shoe can only be as good as its materials. The best running shoes are made from materials that can endure intense aerobic activity, while still delivering many other qualities. The shoe has many elements that play specific roles, and thus each part calls for a specific material that counts with the properties for the task.

The upper build, as explained before, calls for a flexible yet resistant material. It must not obstruct your feet but it must endure abrasion to a certain degree. An upper build made entirely from mesh would be nearly weightless and totally breathable. However, it would lack structure and it’d be very easy to tear.

A good upper build consists of a base material, commonly synthetic leathers and/or other synthetics that offer protection. It should also incorporate breathability; a breathing channel or mesh panels are good choices.

The midsole calls for a material with highly absorptive qualities, as well as compressibility and responsiveness. The best running shoes incorporate different synthetics for this; foams like thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), Solyte™, and Phylon are adequate.

Another thing we kept in mind is that these foams are very lightweight. Normally, the midsole is the heaviest element of the shoe. To be able to make this part of the shoe from such a lightweight material allows for much lighter designs in general.

Weight

There’s constant competition amongst shoe manufacturers as to who makes the lightest running shoe. Reducing the total weight of the shoe has a notable impact on the endurance of the runner. All triathlon athletes and competitive runners know this, which is why they opt for the lightest gear.

It’s pretty simple; lighter shoes require less effort to move. This does have an impact on your muscular endurance. It also relieves the foot and ankle as it’s much easier to rotate and twist the foot. Lighter shoes also allow you to run faster as you lift the shoe sooner, and for as insignificant as the advantage might look, every second is gold in competitive events.

Of course, the weight of a shoe should only be reduced to a point in which it can still meet highly functional levels of performance. But this is now possible thanks to materials like the foams we mentioned earlier. Shoes are much lighter now than they were ever before.

The difference in weight helps runners save a bit of effort on each gait, which may seem insignificant at first sight. But, when you run for over a thousand gaits, each bit of effort accumulates into a considerable boost of endurance.

We kept in mind the total weight of the shoes during research and evaluation of the ranked shoes. Shoes that offered optimal levels of performance at low weights were preferential.

Cushioning

The cushioning of a running shoe is the middle point between our feet and the materials of the shoe’s structure. Upper build materials are meant to be a bit tougher on the exterior to provide protection. But this is not the same material as the inside of the shoe.

Cushioning is any feature that is meant to comfort the foot and providing better shock absorption. It comes mostly from the lining materials, which are the only materials of the shoe that actually touch our skin. The lining is the layer of material that covers the interior build of a running shoe. It also covers the inside seams of the shoe and extends their durability.

The best running shoes feature a soft lining that, aside from providing comfort to the touch, contribute to the shock absorption process. Some running shoes count with heel cushioning pads specifically to relieve some stress off the heel. Other shoes make use of tongue padding, for example, to provide both comfort and support.

Another important element to cushioning in the midsole. Its objective is absorbing shock rather than creating comfort, but it does help prevent discomfort. A partially soft and compressible midsole material acts as a great cushioning agent. Furthermore, insoles can count with cushioned regions for ultimate comfort.

We looked for shoes that featured enough padding and cushioning all around. Those running shoes that counted with padding on the tongue, collar, backheel counter, and quality lining material were ranked higher in terms of comfort.

Protection

As a runner, you’ll never know what the next obstacle you’ll encounter while running is. This is why running shoes should always count with a minimum grade of protection. A running shoe is meant to protect two things; the integrity of the shoe itself, and the user’s feet. Running shoes that fail to protect feet or that fail to endure a couple of accidents are no good.

There are multiple aspects in which protection has a role. For example, we have elements like toe protectors made from tough materials to prevent rock damage. This is a feature that protects the foot directly. But, there are also other minor features that prevent indirect damage. A collar padding that prevents debris from going into the shoe falls into this last category, for example.

Any element of the shoe that helps prevent injury has a role in protection. Functional aspects of the shoe such as shock absorption and support prevent our feet from suffering. Despite performing their own function, they also contribute to the protection that the shoe offers in general.

Whether it’s something that you kick on the road or a rock that you tripped with while running, your running shoes should be able to endure a minor accident. It should not display significant damage, and most importantly, it shouldn’t allow for damage to your feet.

Protection can be acquired and enhanced in a variety of ways. These are some of the aspects we kept in mind while evaluating the protection level of the best running shoes:

Slippage prevention

Slippage is the worst enemy of many runners. We’re constantly exposed to tripping hazards through our daily activities, they’re just all around us. Something as silly as stepping on an oily substance on the street can be enough to slip because of the same oil later on. You may also spread the oil and potentially make others trip, too.

The thing is that you can’t afford to have an accident while running, especially as you run faster. You’re bound to get hurt if you slip during such an activity. Because of this, the best running shoes apply not just one, but multiple measures to prevent slippage. The most important factor is the outsole material and its surface.

Obviously, the better the grip the fewer chances there are to slip. But there should always exist measures specifically to prevent slippage. For example, an intuitive outsole pattern can actually help prevent forceful motions the slide forward, as if you were slipping. This can be done by creating shapes that contradict the direction of the movement (sliding forward).

Spotted outsole patterns have also proven to be efficient in slippage prevention. Non-skidding and non-marking outsoles are also great choices, especially if they’ve been treated with processes like vulcanization. Rubber outsoles, for example, improve their grip by far when vulcanized, becoming more durable and slightly stickier.

Another efficient measure used by manufacturers is coating the outsole material with a compound that prevents the adhesion of water and oils. This can also be done by the qualities of the material itself. This not only prevents slippage when you step on the liquid but also later on because the substance doesn’t adhere to the shoe.

Upper build

This is the part of the shoe meant to offer the most protection. Running shoes are not particularly tough or overprotective, but they must always count with enough resistance to protect feet. A running shoe calls for upper build materials that can endure abrasion and direct damage.

When looking for the best running shoes, we looked for upper build materials that, aside from offering the required performance feats, protect the foot. This is normally achieved by using a combination of materials rather than just one single material. Most running shoe upper builds are made from multiple synthetics at a time.

The best running shoes count with a base compound that is the one to deliver protection. Plastics, synthetic leathers, and similar materials are great choices; they’re often used together as well. Then, the upper build most incorporate the necessary elements to allow for things like breathability and flexibility.

Ideally, a running shoe should count with a Gore-Tex upper build. It’s a membrane that allows for air to flow freely in and out the shoe while preventing water from leaking in. This is possible because the molecules of water in form of vapor are smaller than liquid water molecules. The GTX membranes are made from Teflon with micro-pores that allow for vapor to pass but not water.

Shoes that count with a GTX upper build guarantee a dry environment for your foot. We looked for shoes that, aside from meeting all other protection standards, counted with a GTX membrane. Those shoes that did had preference during evaluation.

Performance Technologies

Everything around us has quickly adapted to the technologic evolution, and running shoes haven’t been left out. Nowadays, a running shoe that lacks any performance-enhancing technologies is considered obsolete. Technologies can vary from simple things like a better lacing system to advanced technologies with highly complex functions.

Unlike the other criterion, performance technology is not something you should be worried about overdoing; normally, you want to get as much of it as you can. We’re talking about quality technology with important impacts on the running performance, of course.

Each brand has its own technologies; most of them sharing similar functions in a different way and with different names. No technology from a particular brand is necessarily the best. Adidas Ultra Boost technology, for example, allows for great compressibility of the midsole, ultimately resulting in great bounce-back. Many other manufacturers count with this feature, except in a different approach.

There are also technologies that are unique, like ASICS GEL-Cushioning System. This technology makes use of a patented gel-like compound with great shock absorption qualities. It’s applied on the rearfoot to relieve stress off the heel upon impact, and the forefoot to smoothen the flex before the foot takes off.

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How should running shoes fit?
A: 
Running shoes, like any other pair of performance footwear, should fit in a compressed manner. You should still be able to rotate and move your foot freely inside the shoes, toes included. The most optimal fit of a shoe is comprised of the right fit and an adequate amount of support.

The closure system also plays an important role in the fit of the shoe. Tying your laces properly, for example, will help compress the tongue of the shoe against your upper foot, generating better support. Lastly, the shoe must not move involuntarily around your foot as if it as loose.

Q: What brand makes the best running shoe?
A:
It really depends on personal preferences and what you’re looking for. There are multiple brands that make some of the best running shoes in the world, the most notorious ones being ASICS, Nike, Adidas, Puma, Reebok, Under Armour, and many others.

There are also other important brands that specialize in specific running shoes, such as trail running footwear. Big brands are more likely to deliver a better shoe, but don’t let branding be the first thing you look for in a running shoe. Keep in mind that brand shoes are probably more functional, and thus result in costlier footwear.

Q: How much do running shoes cost?
A:
That depends on many things. For instance, the type of running you want to do. Trail running shoes are normally costlier than regular running footwear. Additionally, the brand of the shoes you choose has a direct impact on its cost. Its release date also has an influence; the newer a shoe is, the more expensive it will be.

It also depends on your commitment to the sport. A beginner runner could opt for a basic pair of shoes – nothing too advanced if they don’t really want to. An elite athlete, on the other hand, would prefer to acquire the best shoes featuring high-end technology. Because of this, the price of a quality running shoe can range anywhere between $40 and $250.

Q: How to wash running shoes?
A:
Any footwear must be washed according to the materials they’re made of. We recommend to always follow the manufacturers’ instructions on the topic before proceeding. They know their shoe better than anyone, and thus they’ll know what the best way to wash it is. Normally, such instructions are on the label of the shoe or somewhere in the box.

If you don’t find the instructions, they’re likely to be on the internet as well. Unless the manufacturer says so, we never recommend placing your shoes on the washing machine or the dryer. These machines generate heat that may melt certain glues in the shoe. Additionally, the shoes will constantly hit the drum, damaging both the shoes and the machines.

Q: How many running shoes should I have?
A:
As a beginner runner, you won’t need more than one pair of shoes. We only recommend buying multiple pairs of shoes when you practice a variety of running disciplines. For instance, if you like to go trail running frequently, then the most optimal thing to do is acquire a separate pair of shoes for trail running.

Many users like to acquire multiple pairs of shoes for aesthetic and various purposes. Feel free to acquire a secondary pair of running shoes if yours are near their limit or if you practice another discipline. A second pair is not really necessary for the same purpose, but it’s a matter of personal preference.

Q: How long do running shoes last?
A: 
A quality running shoe should be able to endure over a year and a half without showing major signs of degrading. In reality, it’s impossible to know how long a running shoe will last, as there are a variety of unpredictable factors related. The treatment is given by the user, for example, has a direct impact on the durability of the shoe.

It’s important to know when your shoe has reached its limit, as running is not an activity you want to perform in degraded shoes. Once your shoe starts lacking a grip, provoking heel pain, or having a squeaky midsole, it’s time to replace them.

Q: How much arch support should I get?
A: 
Running shoes are, in occasions, classified by the amount of arch support they offer. Neutral running shoes, for example, are meant for users who have a natural foot anatomy that doesn’t call for a specific level of arch support. Overpronators or users with other symptoms that may affect their running performance, however, should opt for a running shoe that covers their specific needs.

If you suffer from any sort of arch disorder, the best way to follow is to acquire custom insoles. Insoles that are molded to the exact shape of your foot will offer the precise amount of arch support you need.

Q: What insoles should I use with these shoes?
A: 
The best running shoes normally include a high-quality insole that is suitable for the sport the shoe is meant for. Most running shoes come with a removable insole approach, so you’re able to remove it for washing or to replace it. If the insole is not removable, you may still take it off by slowly ungluing it from the heel end of the inner build.

Once again, if there is any sort of inconvenient with your feet, the best choice is to opt for custom insoles.

Q: Is running bad for your knees?
A: 
Running will never be the initial cause of any joint symptoms when performed correctly. In cases where injuries, osteoporosis, or other previously-existing symptoms are present, running may have a bad impact on your health. But this is by no means applicable to all users.

In fact, running has been proven to feature a wide variety of health-enhancing effects. From improving the elasticity of veins and arteries to reducing the risks of health-related diseases and preventing certain types of diabetes. Furthermore, being an aerobic activity, running has a lot of positive impacts on our body and lifestyle in general.

Q: What else can I use running shoes for?
A: 
Running shoes aren’t too specific really. The good thing about running shoes is that they can be used for a huge variety of aerobic purposes. In many cases they can even be used for aesthetic purposes; sports footwear are highly popular amongst casual users and used just for aesthetics.

Running shoes can be used for nearly any aerobic purpose. What is not recommended, though, is to use your running shoes for heavy weightlifting. The components of the shoe, the midsole especially, are not designed to endure the compression caused by exercises like barbell squats and other heavy compound movements. They may reduce the lifetime of the shoe significantly.

Sources

  1. Runner Click, 10 Best Running Shoes for Beginners
  2. REI, How to Choose the Best Running Shoes
  3. Wikipedia, Athletic Shoes

 

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