The best running shoes – or best running trainers, as some people like to call them – are an essential piece of running gear. A decent pair of trainers can not only help you run faster but also reduce injury risk and in some cases, improve running form. Besides, getting a new pair of running shoes can be a good motivator to start running for those who find it hard to muster up the energy to exercise.
Whether you're looking for your first pair of Adidas running trainers or a seasoned pro trying to find a replacement for your completely worn racing shoes with the best Nike running shoes, you'll find the best options here on what probably is the most comprehensive running shoes guide on the internet. At least according to us.
Did you know, T3 can help you dress up for your runs more appropriately too! Whether it's the best running headphones, best running watch, best heart rate monitor, best running shorts, best running tops or best running socks. We have a guide for them all.
How do we test the best running shoes?
By running in them, of course! Matt, T3's resident runner, and our other contributors meticulously analyse each shoe to ensure they are up to code. Some of the criteria that we check: step-in comfort, ergonomics, padding, cushioning, technology involved, design, aesthetics, and, of course, running dynamics.
We also try and verify manufacturer claims about performance details such as 'twice as fast as its predecessor' or 'improved grip', where applicable. If it's not possible, we'll refer to these features as 'manufacturer claims'.
It's worth mentioning that most people have different running styles, so running shoes that work for one runner might not work for another. Please keep this in mind when reading our reviews.
The best running shoes we've tried out
The Adidas 4DFWD is not the cheapest running trainer, and admittedly, the limited drop nature of the initial release won't help make these the go-to shoes for most runners. Nevertheless, we'd highly recommend getting a pair if you have the chance, as the 4DFWD represents the next step in running shoe evolution.
As well as that and in line with Adidas' efforts to reduce plastic waste, the 4DFWD is not a bad choice for environmentally conscious runners. Don't get me wrong, buying a pair of running shoes won't save the planet, but if you have to buy new running shoes, you might as well get a pair from a manufacturer that pays some attention to environmental-friendliness. Adidas at least tries to make a difference, which is admirable.
All things considered, the Adidas 4DFWD are great running shoes, probably the best running shoes from Adidas at the moment for runners who are looking for something a bit more serious than the Ultraboost 21 but less sporty than the Adizero Adios Pro. And taking into account the normal distribution curve, that's the majority of the runners.
The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit has many great features for runners, especially those who prefer a lot of cushioning and don't mind the extra bulk. The ZoomX foam delivers yet again and proves that it’s one of the best midsole foams being used in running shoes: it’s soft without being unstable and bounces well without losing (too much) energy in the process.
The ‘evolved’ Flyknit upper follows the foot's contour really well, and the padded collar and tongue cradle the ankles beautifully. However, I would suggest wearing at least mid-socks with these shoes as the collar is a bit tight, which might cause chafing on bare skin. Once you break them in, you might be able to get away wearing ankle socks only.
The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit might not be the cheapest running trainers, and I’m sure the chunkiness of the shoes will put some people off, but if you like Nikes and have some money to burn, I’d recommend giving the shoes a try. In usual Nike style, the Invincible Run doubles up as a sneaker, so you can rest assured that you're getting your money's worth here.
As Brooks' Blue Line senior manager Nikhil Jain examined to me, the main aim of the Hyperion line – the Tempo is part of this – is to reduce 'deviation from the ideal stride' which in turn results in and better energy return and less fatigue, even after long runs.
Running in the Brooks Hyperion Tempo indeed feels light and responsive. The midsole is springy but not to a degree where it would hinder performance: my best attempt to characterise it would be to call it 'supportive bounce'. The nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole reduces impact force and accommodates a smoother transition from heel to toe.
The upper has an excellent fit, not race tight but not loose either. The slits at the front of the woven upper allow air to enter, improving airflow in the shoes. This is to reduce swelling during long runs and improve comfort levels in general. A perfect everyday trainer overall.
How does the Hyperion Tempo stack up against the React Infinity Run 2? Find out in our versus article, aptly named Nike React Infinity Run 2 vs Brooks Hyperion Tempo.
There is very little to criticise about the Saucony Kinvara 12. Some might say that the Bright Future Collection went a bit over the top with the colours: a T3 staff member described the shoes using the term "colourful number", and I couldn't agree more.
That aside, the Kinvara 12 delivers an almost flawless running experience: all the tech Saucony has to offer – including the PWRRUN midsole and the FORMFIT upper – work together seamlessly to provide a snappy running experience.
The Kinvara 12 is as comfortable as a tempo trainer needs to be. The toe box is roomy but not loose, and the heels are locked in properly without them feeling restricted. The shoes feel breathable and responsive, raring to go whenever you're ready. In your own time, people. Whether you are a beginner runner who wants to get faster or a pro who knows what they are doing, chances are you'll train faster in the Kinvara 12.
The Hoka One One Mach 4 running shoes have a luxurious feel with extra padding and ventilation holes. The Profly midsole feels both soft and springy, so you get a double whammy of cushioning and a firm toe-off, making the Mach 4 one of the most adaptable shoes around.
When your running shoes are as versatile as the Mach 4, you can run long in them and rely on them to look after your legs, as well as take on tempo or harder sessions without losing that fast feeling. The shoes remain springy despite all the cushioning that's under your feet, making the Mach 4 the perfect option for fast training days.
Some other running shoes with carbon plates might feel too firm for some, and if you're one of those people and want some softness without a squidgy feeling, you should definitely opt for the Mach 4. We strongly suggest that you put these very near the top of your next potential shoe purchase list.
On Running completely reconstructed the bottom unit of the Cloudstratus, which now exposes the Speedboard deck that runs along the centre of the midsole. The company added more Helion superfoam to the mix, too, and this combination is said to generate better energy returns and more support for pronating runners.
Most importantly – at least for me, who has the widest feet in the universe – On designed the forefoot section of the Cloudstratus a little wider to give the toes more room to move. The upper is held in place using a "star lacing system" that pulls the shoes close to the feet without restricting them.
The result of all this tinkering is one of 2021's best support running shoes. Generally, I wouldn't say I like support shoes (I'm a neutral runner), but I really didn't mind the extra reinforcement here. This feature is certainly not as pronounced as the grasp the Nike React Infinity Run has on your feet.
Given the wide fit, I'd recommend the On Cloudstratus for training, even for neutral runners.
When I first tried it, I couldn't believe just how soft the Fresh Foam 1080v11 was. The box the shoes came in stated that they were so great, New Balance had to update them for the eleventh time. And indeed, the Fresh Foam 1080v11 feels great to wear and looks good on your feet.
The updated Hypoknit upper is lighter and more breathable, but thankfully, it hasn't lost its supportive properties. However, I would have appreciated a bit more support on the lateral side. Not a deal-breaker, though.
The Fresh Foam midsole lives up to its reputation and provides premium, super-soft cushioning underfoot. At first glance, it might look like that the stack height is astronomical, but it's actually only 30mm under the heel, which is 25% less foam than what you find in top-tier running shoes. There is still a lot of bounce in the Fresh Foam 1080v11, regardless of the modest stack height.
What makes the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% so effective (and controversial)? Nike threw everything it knew about running shoes out of the window when designing the Vaporfly series. What they came up with might just be the most peculiar-looking road running shoes in existence, but one that gives runners near perfect running dynamics.
There are three critical elements to the design of the Vaporfly NEXT%: the updated ZoomX foam that provides a soft landing without wasting energy on the ground, the full-length carbon plate embedded in the midsole that enables you to turn that landing energy to forward momentum and the VaporWeave upper that helps the shoes fit near perfect on your feet.
One downside is, considering that the cushioning won't be able to perform at 100% efficiency forever, you are looking at spending a lot of money for road running shoes you will probably wear a few times a year. My opinion? It's still worth it.
Announced in early 2020, the SL20 heralded the coming of the now widely used Lightstrike foam: a light and responsive foam that powers shoes such as the Adidas Adizero Adios PRO, a record-breaking racing shoe.
The Adidas SL20 is not a racing shoe, mind: it might be super light and easy to run in, but it was designed for training instead of racing. It's not a problem, though, as the SL20 is indeed an excellent running trainer. You'll find all the trademark Adidas features in the SL20, including the lightweight mesh upper, the Continental grip outsole and the dependable running performance.
For the price, the Adidas SL20 is probably the best running trainer you can get at the moment. But how does the SL20 fare against the Nike Peg 37? We pitted the two most competent everyday running trainers against each other to find out. Please read it here: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 vs Adidas SL20.
I love these shoes as they are comfortable, fast and look wicked. New Balance is famous for its soft cushioned shoes, and the FuelCell RC Elite v2 really hits the nail on the head with that.
The integrated carbon plate does its job perfectly, and the combination of the soft foam and the carbon plate ensures a sublime racing experience. This plush running escapade is further enhanced by the breathable knit upper that not only does what it says on the box – let's air in and out of the shoes – but also looks sexy AF.
The refined upper feels even more supportive than the one found on the shoe's predecessor. The outsole has also been updated too, and instead of featuring those little rubber triangles that may or may not provide grip, the FuelCell RC Elite v2 now has a lovely, coloured outsole that still doesn't offer the best traction on the market, but at least it's somewhat better than how it used to be.
The Flow Velociti Wind will give you impressive traction without the added weight of a rubber outsole, which is pretty remarkable, to say the least. These fast running shoes are super responsive and will propel you forward on your daily runs in them.
This all-around trainer is hugely popular because it is lightweight and innovative, gives great rebound, and is easy to run in. They push you forwards, making them ideal for your tempo runs.
As fast as the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% and the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% running shoes are, they were admittedly designed for racing, not for everyday training. They are excellent but not suited for daily training, not to mention the ZoomX foam will wear off pretty quickly if you use the shoes often and just for racing.
There is a Nike running trainer that is supposed to compliment the Alphafly Next% – the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% – but those shoes are for a very niche category of runners: people who are training for long-distance races and would like to run the race in the Alphafly Next%.
For everyone else, we recommend Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 running trainers. These shoes use the React foam that's more durable than the ZoomX, yet they still provide good energy returns. Springiness is further helped by the enlarged Air Zoom unit at the front: it is twice as large as previous versions, "delivering more bounce with every step", as Nike puts it.
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 running shoes' upper is comfortable and breathable and helps the shoes remain light while not adding on extra bulk. It is also slightly translucent and, according to Nike, "has the look of speed". You can definitely see your socks better in the shoes.
The newer version is also available to buy; read our Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 review here.
Companies like to add more things to their products when they release a new version. In the case of running shoes, it's more foam, more responsiveness, more bounce, more control, more everything. Especially in the consumption-oriented West, subtraction is not considered a preferred way to move innovation forward.
Take, for example, the Asics Novablast 2. It's built on the foundation of the IG Novablast (see below) and features even more foam, more bounce, and increased mid-foot width, among other things.
It's not like the shoes' predecessor wasn't bouncy already. The Novablast was essentially a trampoline disguised as running shoes, but alas, Asics thought adding some more foam wouldn't hurt anyone.
As you can probably tell, I was a bit sceptical about the shoes before I had a chance to run in them. I liked the original Novablast and didn't see a point in making the shoes bouncier, for example. I thought adding more bounce would make the shoes unstable and therefore make running in the Novablast 2 a dangerous adventure.
I'm happy to report I was wrong. Although the Novablast 2 is more everything, the engineers at Asics found a way to add more substance to the shoes that actually made it easier to run in them. You have more foam but also more control. More bounce but also more stability.
This is no small feat: it would have been so easy to screws the Novablast 2 up. But thankfully, I was reassured once again that people working at the ASICS Institute of Sport Science are the master of their craft. If they add more foam, it will serve a purpose.
The Asics Novablast 2 is hands down a better version of its predecessor. It runs smoother, bounces better and offers more control over your stride. You should definitely consider them as your next running trainer.
Interested how the Asics Novablast 2 compares against its rivals? Here is a comparison for you: ASICS Novablast 2 vs Puma Magnify Nitro.
For those who prefer running shoes that can also be worn as sneakers, the Adidas Ultraboost 21 might just be the perfect trainer. The latest iteration of the Ultraboost franchise – which happens to be Adidas' most successful running shoe series – adds more BOOST, the new Adidas LEP torsion system, and the updated Primeknit+ upper.
Better still, they look rather sexy too, albeit especially during winter; it will be pretty hard to keep their box-fresh for too long, given the default bright colourway. I guess it doesn't matter, as people will either buy the Ultraboost 21 to add it to their sneaker collection or run in them, and both parties will use the shoes accordingly. As in, either keep them in the box and only get them out when the weather is dry or run in them, regardless of the weather.
The latter group (runners) will thoroughly enjoy cruising through their daily runs in the Adidas Ultraboost 21. They are comfortable, responsive and display all the features I expect to see in great training shoes. They might be a tad bit on the heavy side – the UB21 is almost twice as heavy as some of the lighter racing shoes on this list – but since these are not performance shoes, it doesn't really matter. The extra BOOST under the heel will help mitigate impact force, and the LEP torsion system will enable runners to keep their stride straight, all without making the shoes way stiffer in the process.
The ASICS Metaracer is a brilliant road running shoe that combines sublime ground contact feel, impact force reduction and dynamic propulsion to create the best ASICS running shoe I tested in 2020 (maybe even 2019).
The FlyteFoam midsole is soft under the heels and lets you steer your feet effectively, while the embedded carbon plate at the forefoot pushes you forward as you effortlessly cruise through your long-distance runs; let it be a race or a tempo run.
The engineered mesh upper is flexible, following the foot's contour closely, and despite the minimal amount of padding involved in these shoes, the Metaracer is comfortable to wear, and there is no sign of rubbing anywhere, even after long distances. For the record, I haven't done a marathon distance in the shoes (in one go anyway).
All this running goodness comes assembled in an attractive package, with bright colours and a chunky-looking midsole that's further emphasised due to the contrast between the off-white sole and the bright-red upper.
These shoes are made for running, and you will want to run in them as soon as you put them on. They might not be cheap, but the ASICS Metaracer is worth the price and will delight your feet as well as make you faster on the road.
Although they provide completely different running dynamics, the ASICS Metaracer is often compared against the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, one of today's most popular racing shoes. Which is faster, and which one is better for more experienced runners? We discuss it all here: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% vs ASICS Metaracer.
The latest update on the Cloudflow brings the Helion sole tech to this model: On's 'superfoam' delivers a soft yet responsive running experience, regardless of the temperature, giving you the same dynamics all year around.
The Helion works hard to reduce impact force as you land, while the Cloud elements at the front help you lift off the ground more easily and efficiently. Does this combination work? It does, and brilliantly so.
The upper is a low-profile mesh that holds your feet in the right places and feels top quality too. Not to mention, the design of the shoes is pretty amazing: not often do you see such an eye-popping design in full-fledged running shoes.
Probably the biggest issue with the On Cloudflow is its looks: you won't want to get it dirty and run around in puddles, fearing the shoe might lose its box-fresh look. Of course, you can go for the black colourway, but with such great colour gradients available, why would you?
The Nike React Infinity Run delivers on its promise, offering plenty of support to protect you from injury. The new Flyknit upper is comfortable yet firm, and there is no sign of chafing around the rear of the foot. The integrated knitted tongue and the lace closure helps the Nike React Infinity Run follow the foot's shape as closely as possible.
Despite all the injury-reducing protection, a fast tempo is guaranteed by the Vaporfly-like rocker sole geometry that merges landing and take-offs into one smooth transition. Very little energy is lost, and your legs will feel fresher for longer.
For beginners or people with 'interesting' running techniques, the Nike React Infinity Run will significantly reduce the risk of injury. This doesn't mean you can just completely forget about the correct running technique, of course, but it will definitely help you worry less as you run. More seasoned runners might find extra support a bit much, but even they will appreciate the supreme cushioning and energy return.
Saucony has produced a peppier 14th iteration of its stability running shoes – easily glide through the miles, assured of the added support across more complex terrains.
With the Saucony Guide 14, stability doesn’t come at the expense of speed: the pair we tested had springy responsiveness but still sported a soft underfoot feel, making for several very comfortable runs. Those who overpronate will obviously be happy with the extra support inherent to this model. Still, the everyday runner will enjoy racking up the mileage, regardless of whether you roll your foot inwards.
The Saucony Guide 14 sliced through our various 10KM runs over several weeks’ road testing, without the usual complaints levied against other stability shoes. The Saucony Guide 14 is sleek, less block-like, and won’t trouble runners who need agility over comfort. It’s a great all-rounder for a variety of different athletes.
Runners who know the Saucony Guide range will be familiar with the TPU guidance frame to ease excessive pronation, which can wear away the inside of the shoes, forming an unsteady platform over time. The Saucony Guide 14 has a smaller heel collar than the Guide 13, using a new PWRRUN foam: sportier, with more refined looks than its predecessor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a stability shoe that looks as good as the Saucony Guide 14.
The underfoot feel felt really responsive; it balances bounce, which gives you the desired quality of moving more quickly while offsetting the firmer edge that gives the Saucony Guide 14 its support frame.
It’s easy to forget that Saucony was primarily engineered for added support; still, the Saucony Guide 14 is an excellent all-rounder for a range of runners to use as part of a combination training set-up for speed and off-road.
I remember when the OG On Cloudboom was announced: it promised to be a fast and firm running shoe, two things I like about racing shoes. Unfortunately, the shoes ended up being too tight and too firm to be actually useful, which is a massive shame.
Luckily, On learned from the mistakes of the Cloudboom, and I can see the evidence of this tweaking in the On Cloudboom Echo. It's still firm and tight but doesn't overdo either of these qualities. That said, it's still on the firm side, so if you're not a seasoned runner, running with the Helion 'super foam' might feel uncomfortable at first. Strike that; it will feel uncomfortable at first.
It's not like On wasn't famous for its firm running shoes even before the Cloudboom Echo was released. Back in the day, naive old me thought that just because a midsole was named 'CloudTec', it meant the shoes would be soft to run in. Boy, how wrong I was!
Firmness aside, the On Cloudboom Echo is an excellent racing shoe for those who prefer a stiffer ride. As much as I love soft, high-stack running shoes, running in the Cloudboom Echo felt a little less demanding on the shins as they worked a little on stabilising the legs on landing.
The slight downside of the firmness is that it's hard to utilise the energy return of the Carbon Speedplate, similar to how it's not easy to feel the rebound when running in the also firm Saucony Endorphin Pro.
At least the On Cloudboom Echo is a bit more environmentally friendly: the upper is made of 100% recycled material.
The Hoka One One Clifton Edge is the "first-ever style extension" of the top-rated Hoka One One Clifton series. Indeed, the Clifton Edge is edgy, figuratively and literally, as it introduces more style to the otherwise running trainer-looking Clifton series by adding a huge rim around the edge of the midsole.
Interestingly enough, despite the chunky midsole, the Clifton Edge manages to retain the lightness of the Clifton series: even the size 10 shoes I was testing only weigh just over 260 grams, which is crazy, considering how big these shoes are.
In theory, the extended heel is supposed to guide your feet as land, and admittedly, the Clifton Edge is best for runners who land on their heels instead of forefoot strikers. Not saying they shouldn't buy the shoes, as even people who tiptoe will appreciate the looks of the Clifton Edge. Well, if you are into the Hoka One One look.
Truth be told, the heel extension of the Clifton Edge is definitely less pronounced than the one found on the Hoka Tennine. Still, on those shoes, the mega heel serves a purpose, while in the case of the Clifton Edge, it is more of an aesthetics choice as opposed to the actual enhancement of running dynamics.
The Hoka One One Clifton Edge is well-padded, especially around the collar of the shoes and the top of the gusseted-tongue. The internal heel counter is super firm, yet wearing the Clifton Edge was a comfortable experience altogether. The pull tab at the heel was definitely a nice addition and made putting the shoes on much easier.
I personally found the new high-resilience foam a bit firmer, not in a bad way, though, and it might just be due to the contrast in firmness compared to the other shoe I tested at the same time as the Clifton Edge (Brooks Glycerin 18, a super-soft shoe, see below). The tight upper might also contribute to the feeling of firmness, although Hoka shoes tend to be on the firm side in general.
Hoka's signature Meta-Rocker does the job perfectly here: the Clifton Edge rolls smoothly and feels snappier than how it looks. It is a weird sensation, seeing the bulk on your feet but feeling light as springy. If you have ever run in a chunky Hoka before, you know what I'm talking about.
The Hoka One One Rocket X has its merits. It's light, the upper has a sublime fit, and the midsole is more manageable than other Hoka racing shoes. Yet, I'm not entirely sure what to do with the Rocket X. It's not quite as propulsive as other racing shoes with a carbon plate, even just looking at the Hoka lineup, let alone other brands.
The biggest issue here is that Hoka markets the Rocket X as a racing shoe: it works much better as a long-distance running trainer. It might work in other shoes, but here, the combination of the thick(ish) midsole and the carbon plate doesn't work together well enough to give you the competitive edge in races. However, the same combination is more than capable of supporting your feet during fast training sessions and can help to reduce the negative effects of running longer distances.
The budget-friendly price also helps in establishing the Rocket X as excellent long-distance training shoes. It might not be as cheap as other running trainers, such as the Adidas SL20, but it's not crazy expensive either. Your call.
Under Armour keeps on innovating. It did well with its Flow Velociti Wind shoes and kind-of-okay with the HOVR Mega 2 Clone. The latter features the UA Clone technology that's said to flex and adapt to your foot as you move through your stride.
And while the UA Clone works well in football shoes – where the technology originates from – it doesn't quite deliver the perfect experience in running shoes. The HOVR Mega 2 Clone fits rather tight which in itself wouldn't be the end of the world but the shoes are not very light either.
Don't get me wrong: the Under Armour HOVR Mega 2 Clone is not a terrible training shoe. It's just that in our highly competitive market, there are better shoes out there that fulfil the same purpose as these shoes better and for less money.
That said, the HOVR cushioning is still one of the best on the market and like the fan-favourite HOVR Machina, the HOVR Mega 2 Clone is Bluetooth-enabled so the shoes double up as running coach via the MapMyRun app.
I recommend waiting until the price drops a bit with the purchase. At £130/$140, it's way too expensive for what it has to offer.
The Brooks Glycerin series is not famous for its energy return stats or that it has speed all figured out. What it's famous for is comfort, and the latest iteration in the series, the Brooks Glycerin 18, is comfortable for sure.
The DNA loft midsole is as soft as a pillow, and your feet will be bouncing around happily in the Glycerin 18. The 10 mm drop makes these shoes accessible for even beginner runners
All this softness affects energy return. You can't will it all, really, and the Glycerin 18 loses out on some energy return due to its softness. These are not race day shoes; use the Saucony Type A9, Hoka Carbon X or a Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% for those occasions.
If you're after a soft ride on a sunny autumn afternoon, the Brooks Glycerin 18 will be your perfect companion.
How to buy the right running shoes
With so many different types of running shoes available to buy, it's no wonder one can feel completely overwhelmed just by thinking about getting a new running trainer. To make a decision at least a little bit easier, we collected a few pointers that might help you when buying a new pair of shoes.
Have your gait analysed: you can do this in a brick and mortar running shoe shop or work it out yourself by performing the classic 'stepping on a piece of paper with wet feet' test. There is also the NURVV running insole that can tell you exactly how much you pronate.
Be mindful of sizing: not all running shoe sizes are created equal. Some brands are infamous for their sizing methods; for example, New Balance shoes tend to be half a size under, so if you wear a size 10 normally, you might want to get a size 10.5 New Balance. Also, racing shoes are usually tighter than trainers. The best women's running shoes may also be narrower and lighter than unisex or men's options.
Take the running surface into account: obviously, you need different shoes for the tarmac and the trail. That said, some shoes will perform well on all sorts of terrain, such as the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail, while others will excel on one more than on the other.
Go the distance (or not): if you prefer shorter distances (5K-10K), you won't need industrial amounts of cushioning under your feet. For mid-distances (10K-half marathon), you might want to think about having some more support and a stronger upper to keep your feet in line when your form falls apart at mile 19. As for long distances (anything over a half-marathon distance), you want running shoes with great energy returns yet lightweight and responsive. Like the ASICS Metaracer.
Have a purpose in mind: there is no point getting a Nike Vaporfly if you don't race, and it is equally as silly to get a Brooks Glycerin for high-performance runs. If you're planning on having only one pair of running shoes, make sure you keep in mind the main principle you will use them for and make a purchase accordingly.
Use running shoes for running: it is tempting to have just one pair of shoes for road running, trail running and workouts. We recommend using the appropriate shoes for all occasions. The best trail running shoes will protect your feet when running on uneven terrain, while the best workout shoes will provide grip and stability in the gym.
Running shoes vs trail running shoes: what's the difference?
For the unacquainted, running shoes and trail running shoes can look pretty similar: similar enough to think they are interchangeable and work well on both the road and the trail. In reality, both types have specific characteristics that make them perfect for the running surface they were designed for and not-so-great for others.
Take running trainers, for example. These shoes work best when used on hard, smooth surfaces, such as the road: the cushioning is fine-tuned to reduce the impact force when landing on the tarmac, and the upper is tight to keep the foot 'locked in' as you run. The 'stack height of most running shoes is also higher, especially nowadays, to improve energy returns. The outsole also tends to be smoother to increase the surface area of the shoes for better grip.
On the other hand, trail running shoes thrive on uneven surfaces. Off-road shoes have massive lugs on the outsole to claw into soft surfaces (e.g. mud, grass) and usually have an insert in the midsole to protect the feet from rocks and other unexpected obstructions (this insert is aptly named 'rock-shield'). And since the trail is more often slippery and wet than the road, trail shoes have better weather protection and are also heavier in general than road shoes.
To provide an analogue, road shoes are racing cars with their light chassis and fast ergonomics, while trail shoes are 4x4s: robust and heavy but will keep you safe in the forest. Before you buy new running shoes, consider where you will use them the most to avoid disappointment (and injuries) later on.
Is it worth buying expensive running shoes?
Just because a pair of running shoes is expensive, that doesn't mean they are good. That said, cheap running shoes seldom deliver a running experience you might expect from decent running footwear.
What's cheap? If you're taking running training seriously, we would recommend spending around $/£100 on a new pair of running shoes. This might sound quite a lot at first, but running shoes in this category won't fall apart after a few runs and will support your feet for a few years at least.
Is it bad to run without running shoes?
Barefoot running is gaining momentum, especially among athletes who think modern running shoes are detrimental to foot health. Truth to be told, high stack, carbon plate-enhanced running shoes indeed force runners to run in a particular way which might not be the most ideal for at least some percentage of runners out there.
That said, running barefoot takes some getting used to, especially if you usually wear cushioned shoes. Even big-name barefoot brands such as Vivobarefoot recommend easing yourself into barefoot running as it requires you to move very differently compared to when you run in cushioned shoes.
It's recommended to start running shorter distances – as in a couple of hundred meters – at first, then gradually increasing the distance as you get more comfortable. It's also beneficial to run on softer surfaces such as grass or sandy beach at first, as these might mitigate impact force better than landing hard on tarmac.
As for running in sneakers, these shoes lack support and cushioning, and by running in them, you can end up hurting your feet more than running barefoot.
In sneakers, just like in running shoes, your sole is far away from the ground. However, the thick foam doesn't provide anatomical support (as in the case of running shoes). If anything, it prevents you from being able to stabilise your body yourself, which will confuse and tire out muscles.