I’m no professional runner, but by my quick math, I’ve run well over 6,000 miles in the past ten years (an average three-mile run about four times a week, give or take). During those thousands of miles over the years, I have stomped my way through multiple pairs of running shoes. Some brands I keep coming back to; others I wear for a little while then demote to lawn-mowing footwear.
While I can’t claim that the running shoes on this will be the absolute best fit for your feet, I can tell you based on personal experience that they’re great shoes. And I can certainly say that if you’re serious about getting into regular running, you need to have at least a couple pairs of shoes because as conditions change so, too, must your footwear. These are my five favorites.
Every year, my in-laws get me a pair of Asics running shoes for my birthday, and they are one of the gifts I look forward to most. I tend to wear these more than any other running shoe — and I tend to wear them out by the time the new pair shows up. While a bit heavier than many other options for road-running shoes, I’ve never been bothered by the weight of these shoes, thanks to the superlative cushioning and support of the soles. My usual route is mostly concrete, so the fact that gel cushioning under heel and toe absorbs impact, while a proprietary “FlyteFoam” midsole adds some reactive pop back, is well worth the extra ounces. The upper wraps securely around my foot without any hot spots, and my foot never feels hot or sweaty, even on high-temperature, humid days. I would probably wear lighter shoes for a 400-meter race, but for my everyday jogs, these are the go-to shoes.
Technically, these shoes were designed for trail running, and I’ve worn mine on a trail or two, but I actually get the best use out of my Adidas Terrex Two Boa Mountaineering Shoes right here in my own neighborhood when the weather has turned foul. Their grippy Continental rubber soles have widely spaced, deep lugs that grab on to wet asphalt, slick grass, and muddy patches far better than a lower treaded running-shoe sole, so I can keep upright even when the ground is slick. And as the Boa lacing system uses a rotating disc to tighten or loosen the laces, I love using these shoes on frigid days when I’m wearing gloves, as I can put on, tighten, and loosen the shoes without exposing my fingers to the cold air. The soles are too stiff and the tread pattern too aggressive for everyday street runs, but they are ideal for poor weather conditions (and trails).
New Balances are famously, fabulously comfortable, and in the case of the Fresh Foam Zante V4s, they are also super light. Each of these running shoes weighs a scant 8.6 ounces, which is a good 20 percent to 40 percent less than the other shoes on the list. The tread pattern is mild and the soles aren’t nearly as thick or cushioned as those on my trusty Asics, but for occasional use on shorter, higher-speed runs on good terrain, I love these shoes. Their light weight and ability to pack pretty flat also make them great for travel.
The Under Armour Toccoa Running Shoe comes in about ten different colors, and eight of them are bright and garish, though you might like them. A few combos, though, such as my favorite, the Moss Green, look more like a casual shoe than a runner. A blend of leather, textile, and mesh on the upper keeps them casual, while a supportive EVA midsole gives decent support. And on the bottom of the shoe, a relatively aggressive tread pattern is good and grippy in varied conditions. Because these shoes were designed for performance, they’re a great choice for wearing around all day when you’re a tourist or simply spending many hours out and about closer to home.
The Variant X.S.R. is part of Columbia Sportswear’s Montrail collection, which means it’s made for trails, but these shoes work superbly under road conditions, too. Truly hybrid in nature, the tread pattern is more akin to a standard road shoe, but the thick, impact-ready soles are ideal for stomping up and down the mixed-terrain conditions of the trail. The sole is supportive without being as rigid as that of many trail runners, and the upper is rather thick, offering plenty of support and protection. And on trails, they definitely minimize heel strikes and keep my foot centered and balanced.
For our story on the best gym shoes for men, we talked to ten guys about what they wear to run, cross-train, and more. This pair came recommended by avid runner Tim Evans, who said, “I have always been a runner, but about a year ago, I got heel spurs and plantar fasciitis — basically my left heel always kinda hurts. So I bought these fucking huge and ugly shoes by Brooks called Beasts. They are super sturdy with stiff soles to support my feet, and treads like a car tire. They ain’t pretty, but they’ve helped me run again.”
In our story on the best sports shoes for men, runner Jeff Church recommended the Hoka Ones: “They have a wide toe box and huge rocker soles that are really good for your feet when running a lot of miles. I sometimes go back to running in other shoes, and it feels like I’m pounding asphalt in moccasins. They’re a game changer.”