As a result of our need for alternative ways to stay in shape, running seems to be enjoying a new surge of popularity. The great thing about running is that not only can you start right outside your front door, it’s easy to time your runs to fit with your schedule or desired workout routine. Best of all, the only equipment you really need is a decent pair of running shoes.
When looking for those perfect shoes, you’ll want to consider whether or not you’re an over or under pronator, which is the way your foot naturally lands when you walk and run. If you over pronate, your foot rolls in more when it hits the ground, and if you under pronate, it rolls in less. If you aren’t sure (or don’t want to go to a podiatrist to find out) just stick to a shoe that provides a basic level of neutral support and cushioning that works for either type of pronation. Most specialty running stores also offer gait analysis, where they evaluate how you run and determine your type of pronation, often for free, but sometimes for a small fee.
As a runner myself, I have my own opinions on the best shoes, but I also checked in with one of my favorite running stores to see what they recommend. Skinny Raven has been a mainstay in Anchorage, Alaska since 1994. They not only sell every possible shoe for every level of runner, they also support the local running community by sponsoring races, fundraisers and other activities. The majority of their employees also happen to be runners, which can really help when you’re just starting out and aren’t sure what kind of shoe you need.
According to the staff at Skinny Raven, if you’re a beginner, the best shoe is simply the one that feels best. Operations manager Tanner Johnson says that shoes for new runners can be very subjective. “The shoe that one person swears by might not work as well for someone else,” he says “so you really want a good, neutral shoe.” Some of their most popular neutral shoes include the Brooks Glycerin, New Balance 880, or Hoka One One Clifton.
I’m an under pronator with a high arch, so a good shoe can mean the difference between a good run and a painful run for me. I’ve always been an Asics fan, and their Gel Kayano 26 brand is the one I personally go back to again and again. I find it flexible, which the Skinny Raven crew says is key, while also having decent support. Says Johnson, “For under pronators, you can get a good neutral beginner’s shoe, but you’ll want to make sure it is flexible enough to accommodate the way the foot moves.”
If you’ve been diagnosed as an over pronator, Johnson suggests the Brooks Adrenaline as a classic shoe that is consistently one of their top sellers. “This has been our number one shoe for years, and it’s a very easy, comfortable shoe,” he says. Other top sellers include the New Balance 860, Mizuno Inspire and the Hoka One One Gaviota.
Taking it up a Notch
Already a runner but looking to up your game? Graduating to a higher level of shoe depends on what kind of running you want to do, as well as terrain and distance. If you want to train to increase speed, you might want a lighter shoe, such as the Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2, which has a lightweight upper and can easily transition for longer runs. For marathon training, I always go back to my Asics, but any extra-cushioned shoe, like the ever-popular Hoka One One Bondi or Brooks Glycerin are good choices.
No matter what kind of shoe you choose, the most important part of running is just getting out there. “Beginning running can feel burly, as you’re using muscles you’ve probably never used before, but it starts to get fun if you stick with it,” says Johnson. “Running communities are also very welcoming. You don’t have to be elite or knowledgeable to join in and share some miles.”
Jody Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, health, travel, fashion and style. Her work has appeared in publications such as LennyLetter, Huffington Post, BBC Future Planet, Civil Eats and Eater.