As runners, there’s nothing more important than finding the best pair of running shoes for our feet. Shoes directly impact our experience on the roads and trails, our level of comfort, and, therefore, enjoyment. The good news is hundreds of running shoe models are available today, which means there’s something out there that can work for every type of runner and every runner’s goals. The challenge is navigating this vast landscape and finding the best pair of shoes for you. That’s where we can help. At iRunFar, our editors are constantly researching, evaluating, and comparing all of the running shoes on the market, and our team of shoe testers regularly test new and updated shoes for performance, durability, style, fit, and comfort.
For this guide, we took our combined knowledge and experience with running shoes, but together a list of dozens of shoes, and put them to the test, logging at least 100 miles on each shoe. Our testers regularly run roads, trails, and paths, and span in running ability from novice to elite. They are spread out across the country, running on varying terrains and climates. This guide is our one-stop shop for the best running shoes, whether you’re looking for a road shoe, a trail shoe, or something even more specific. From here, you can dive deeper into one of our category guides to see what else made our list of top picks.
Below, we’ve included buying advice to help you choose and answers to your frequently asked questions. Take a look at our breakdown of common running shoe terminology, and finally, learn how we chose our top picks by looking at our testing methodology.
Be sure to also check out our other running shoe guides like our Best Trail Running Shoes article, Best Road Running Shoes guide, our guide to the Best Stability Running Shoes, our Best Cushioned Running Shoes guide, as well as our Best Running Shoes for Mud article.
Best Running Shoes
- Best Overall Road Running Shoe: Hoka Clifton 9
- Best Road Shoe for Racing: Nike Alphafly 3
- Best Cushioned Road Shoe: New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4
- Best Stability Road Shoe: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
- Best Zero-Drop Shoe: Altra Lone Peak 8
- Best Trail Running Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 13
- Best Cushioned Trail Running Shoe: Hoka Speedgoat 5
- Best Trail Running Shoe for Racing: Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2
Best Overall Road Running Shoe: Hoka Clifton 9 ($145)
- The cushion is plush without feeling mushy
- ‘Goldilocks’ in stack height, offset, and fit
- A do-everything shoe
- The arch cuts in on some foot shapes and feels too intense, and the toebox isn’t wide enough for some
The Hoka Clifton 9 offers a plush ride that works well for every day running on pavement, gravel, or any hard-packed surface. This shoe has had longstanding popularity in the road running category for good reason — it’s a Swiss Army Knife of running shoes. The Clifton 9 balances a soft, comfortable cushion underfoot while still being firm enough to feel responsive when you pick up the pace for a round of intervals, a tempo workout, or even a marathon race. The fit of this shoe is very similar to the Hoka Speedgoat 5.
We found that the shoe hit the sweet spot with cushion and performance while still being comfortable and durable. While it’s not the lightest, it’s still reasonable, especially considering the amount of underfoot cushion. On that note, testers found that the shoe’s 32 millimeters of stack height was enough to keep their feet happy for a multi-hour long run without feeling too clunky. The upper on this shoe has been updated, and we found it to breathe well. This shoe is an excellent option for a wide variety of runners with different goals and running paces. If you’re looking for a one-quiver shoe that can handle multiple surfaces and types of runs, we strongly recommend the Clifton 9.
Claimed Weight (men’s): 8.9 ounces (253 grams) | Stack Height: 32/27 millimeters heel/toe (men’s), 29/24 millimeters heel/toe (women’s) | Drop: 5 millimeters
Best Road Shoe for Racing: Nike Alphafly 3 ($285)
- Top-of-the-line road racing shoe
- Excellent energy return for efficiency in longer distances
- Still good stability
Launched in 2020, the Alphafly quickly became one of the most popular super shoes available. And that’s for good reason — the shoe, like the Vaporfly, was a highly efficient, bouncy, and fast road racing shoe that had folks setting personal bests in road races up to the marathon. Two iterations later, and the shoe still slaps. (Editor’s note: The Alphafly 3 doesn’t officially release till April 4. There are still some sizes of the Alphafly 2 available.) We named the Alphafly 2 our favorite marathon running shoe, and the 3 is set to take its spot. Why? Mainly, the third version does everything the second did but weighs more than an ounce less.
But let’s dig a bit more into the details. There are three things that make this the fastest marathon shoe we’ve come across. First is Nike’s Zoom Air cushioning. We won’t get into the weeds, but the cushioning system, which first launched in 1995, condenses under pressure from the foot and springs back, literally giving the shoe spring, or bounce. Nike combines the two forefoot Zoom Air units with its midsole ZoomX cushioning to create excellent energy return. And the third piece is the carbon plate running the length of the foot, which provides the propulsion.
Besides shaving more than an ounce off each shoe in the men’s version, Nike actually increased the width of the carbon plate in its newest version. This made an already stable shoe even more stable. Nike also connected the ZoomX midsole and updated the upper to increase breathability. So far, we love the improvements. Nike took a shoe that was already one of the most responsive, propulsive, and fun and improved it. We think it feels more propulsive and responsive than previous versions and can’t wait to take it out for a spring marathon.
Claimed Weight (men’s): 7.4 ounces (210 grams) | Drop: 8 millimeters
Best Cushioned Road Running Shoes: New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 ($140)
- Excellent weight-to-cushion ratio
- A ton of fun to run in
- Good for all sorts of runs and could be a racing shoe
- Excellent value
- Could be a bit more flexible, but we’re nitpicking
We put the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 as our best cushioned shoe. And with a stack height higher than 30 millimeters, it definitely fits into the maximum cushion category of running shoes. But we don’t want to limit New Balance’s newest version of the FuelCell Rebel to just a cushioned shoe. This is truly one of the best do-everything road running shoes we’ve tested. New Balance’s FuelCell foam is lightweight, propulsive, and a ton of fun. Weighing just 7.5 ounces in the men’s version, this shoe is excellent for daily runs, speed workouts, long runs, and even races.
We also appreciated the comfort of this shoe. The toebox is roomy, and the upper, which New Balance calls FantomFit, is soft and comfy. And with an approximately 6-millimeter drop, this shoe will work for most runners. Since this shoe is approachable in price, feel, and performance, we view it as an excellent choice for runners training for their first 5K to marathoners going for a Boston qualification. It’s truly the Swiss Army Knife of road running shoes.
Claimed Weight (men’s): 7.5 ounces (212 grams) | Drop: 6 millimeters
Best Stability Road Running Shoe: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 ($140)
- High level of support
- Comfortable and breathable upper
- Lack of pop
- It feels stiff out of the box
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 provides a balance of cushion and support with a traditional shape and fit that works well for a variety of feet. The line of shoes has been a favorite among overpronating runners for over twenty years, and this new model is ideal for daily running. Whether you’re training for a marathon or logging miles for pure enjoyment, there’s a good chance this shoe will work for you.
Brooks’ GuideRails technology provides the shoe’s stability with two firm pieces of foam inside the shoe on each side of the heel that keep the foot from rolling too far toward the inside. The added foam helps stabilize the ride without overcorrecting a runner’s natural gait. While the shoe feels good out of the box, it gets even more comfortable as it breaks in. We found the cushion soft and the ride smooth, but it also lacks the springiness we like during speed workouts. That said, we highly recommend this shoe for anyone seeking great support and moderate cushion for everyday road running.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.6 ounces (301 grams) | Drop: 12 millimeters
Best Zero-Drop Shoe: Altra Lone Peak 8 ($140)
- Good balance of support and cushion
- Comfortable out of the box
- Zero drop isn’t for everyone
- Less responsive and snappy
There’s probably not a more popular zero-drop shoe than the Altra Lone Peak 8. And that’s for at least two reasons. For one, people outside of running love it as it’s a solid hiker or everyday shoe for folks trying to build up lower-leg and foot strength. More pertinent to this site and trail runners, it continues to be our favorite zero-drop shoe for the trails. New to the eighth iteration of this shoe is the ripstop mesh upper, which Altra claims is more durable than previous models. We found it just as comfy as previous versions and perhaps slightly more breathable.
We continue to love Altra’s Original Footshape fit, which is its roomiest fit. This version continues to have the generous toebox, which we also like quite a bit. The Altra EGO midsole also remains comfortable and surprisingly nimble. And the MaxTrac outsole works well on all types of trail and gravel terrain. If you’re new to zero-drop running shoes, we recommend easing into them. Start with a few short runs and gradually build the mileage you run in zero-drop shoes to avoid overly tight calves and Achilles tendons, as the heel of your foot isn’t getting the lift it does in shoes with a heel-to-toe drop.
Claimed Weight (men’s): 10.7 ounces (303 grams) | Drop: 0 millimeters
Best Trail Running Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 13 ($140)
- Great all-around trail shoe
- Reasonable price
- Loses traction on wet surfaces
With over a decade of design behind it, the Saucony Peregrine 13 is a well-loved and great everyday trail shoe. Throughout the line’s history, it’s migrated from a trail racing shoe to something more in line with a classic, everyday trail shoe. Saucony continues to move back toward its racing roots by losing more than 1.5 ounces per shoe from the 11th to the 12th iteration. The 13 shaves off another 0.1 ounces. An upgrade to the sock liner adds a bit of bounce, while the relatively firm midsole keeps this shoe responsive. The outsole has decent lugs but lacks traction on wet rocks, roots, and bridges.
Overall, this shoe won’t wow you with bells and whistles. Still, it provides a great combination of traction, mild cushioning, sufficient underfoot protection, a breathable yet locked-down upper, and, now, even lighter weight. It is a great all-around trail shoe you can count on in any condition. It just performs, and we continue to love it.
Check out our Saucony Peregrine 13 review.
Note: The Saucony Peregrine 14 is currently out. We’re running miles in it now and will update this once we finish testing. It’s also an excellent time to purchase the 13 as it’s discounted, and plenty of sizes are still available.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 9.4 ounces (269 grams) | Drop: 4 millimeters
Best Cushioned Trail Running Shoe: Hoka Speedgoat 5 ($155)
- Exceptional traction
- Perfect cushion
- It may be too much shoe for some
- Less foot lockdown for narrower feet than in previous versions
Unsurprisingly, the Hoka Speedgoat 5 makes it to the top of our list of the best trail running shoes. The line of shoes was a hit when it launched, and it’s only gotten better through the years. With a breadth of well-cushioned trail shoes on the market, it continues to be the standout with its comfort and performance. The cushioning isn’t so over the top as to get in the way for many trail runners, and the outsole has generous lugs made from Vibram Megagrip, which yields strong traction in most conditions, including mud and snow.
The most significant upgrade to this shoe is losing a full half-ounce per shoe from the previous version. That might not sound like much, but it’ll make a difference regardless of the distance you’re running. The shoe feels relatively light and nimble for its size, which we felt added to its versatility. The most recent update includes a simple and smooth upper that’s more durable and reduces the chances of developing hotspots.
Read the full Hoka Speedgoat 5 review.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.0 ounces (284 grams) | Drop: 4 millimeters (but less relevant with so much midsole)
Best Trail Running Shoe for Racing: Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 ($180)
- Precise fit
- Incredibly lightweight
- Plush cushioning
- Traction is marginal on dusty surfaces
Weighing just over six ounces, the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 floats in your hand and, except for the snugness, is virtually unnoticeable on your feet. As professional hiker Andrew Skurka likes to say, “There’s light, and then there’s stupid light,” and this shoe is just a couple of grams away from stupid light. It is the ultimate shoe for the gram-counting runner.
The newly updated shoe maintains the same weight as its predecessor but is now buttery smooth and pliable when put on and is much more competent at speed. The upper uses the same breathable and light material and, unfortunately, risks the same medial and lateral wear as the previous version, especially on abrasive trails. The shoe has Salomon’s most lightweight midsole, and it provides a propulsive ride. Our testers found that the rocker style almost forced them onto their toes, even at a standstill. The Energy Foam midsole makes the shoe feel plush, unlike many other shoes from the brand, and the Quicklace lacing system makes it easy to tighten down the uppers.
The shoe keeps its original 6-millimeter drop. It feels stable and less dynamic than the previous version, which we appreciated on technical and fast descents. With shallow lugs, there is enough traction to keep the rubber side down in tacky conditions, but the shoe struggles in mud and slides out on dry and dusty trails. But with incredible forward propulsion and a truly illogical-feeling weight, this shoe is truly a lightweight marvel.
Read our full Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2 review.
Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 6.17 ounces (175 grams) | Stack Height: 24.5 millimeters | Drop: 6 millimetersShop the Salomon SLab Pulsar 2
Comparing the Best Running Shoes
|Hoka Clifton 9
|Nike Alphafly 3
|New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4
|Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
|Altra Lone Peak 8
|Saucony Peregrine 13
|Hoka Speedgoat 5
|Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 2
Running Shoe Terminology
- Heel-to-Toe Drop – Also called offset or drop, it is the height difference, measured in millimeters, between a shoe’s heel and forefoot. Example: A shoe with 35 millimeters of stack height under the heel and 25 millimeters under the forefoot has a 10-millimeter drop.
- Midsole – A layer of foam that connects a shoe’s upper to the shoe’s outsole.
- Upper – The top of the shoe, including the entirety of the shoe above the sole.
- Outsole – This is the bottom-most layer of a shoe that contacts the ground. It’s generally a rubber or rubber-like compound.
- Rock Plate – The rock plate is a layer of deformation-resistant material, whether a plastic sheet, carbon plate, or other, that sits between the outsole and the sock liner. The rock plate aims to protect the bottom of the foot from rocks, roots, and other trail debris. Rock plates vary in length and may cover the entire foot or just the forefoot.
- Lugs – Lugs refer to material protrusions on the bottom of an outsole. While road running shoes often have minimal lugs, trail shoes generally have three- to six-millimeter-deep lugs. Some trail shoes designed specifically for muddy conditions can have lugs as deep as eight to 12 millimeters! Take a look our best trail running shoes for mud guide for the luggiest of trail shoes.
- Toebox – The toebox is the forward area of a shoe around your forefoot. Toeboxes tend to be narrower in shoes aimed at faster or more technical running, while many runners prefer roomier toeboxes as the length of their runs increases to multiple hours. For wider-than-usual toeboxes, check out shoe brands Altra and Topo Athletic.
- Stack Height – Refers to the maximum amount of shoe material between the foot and the ground.
- Arch Profile – Arch profile, or arch height, describes how much of your foot touches the ground when you stand. Knowing your arch profile can help you understand how your foot absorbs impact when you run, including pronation and supination, and what injuries are common to each arch type. You can determine your arch profile — and whether it’s low, medium, or high — by dipping your feet in water and standing on a piece of cardboard. Note that your arches may not be the same profile and can change over time.
- Pronation – The natural inward collapse of the foot’s arch as it absorbs and distributes impact during running or walking.
- Overpronation – When the arch’s inward collapse exceeds the normal range. This can lead to pain in the arches, ankles, Achilles tendons, shins, outer knee, and/or outer hip.
- Supination – Also called underpronation, it is when the arch barely collapses, and the outside of the foot absorbs the impact during running or walking. Supination is often correlated with high arches and can be associated with plantar fasciitis and/or pain in the pelvis and lumbar spine.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Running Shoes
Choosing Between Road Running Shoes and Trail Running Shoes
While in the end, shoes are shoes, and you can run on roads in trail shoes and trails on road shoes; several distinct differences between the styles of shoes make them uniquely good for what they’re designed for. Choosing the best running shoes for your unique and individual needs is important.
Road shoes, like the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4, have smooth outsoles and are meant for pavement. They’re also generally lightweight and breathable. Trail shoes will have beefy lugs on the outsoles for gripping natural surfaces like rocks, mud, and dirt. Trail running shoes sometimes also have additional protective features like rock plates and extra protection at the toe box.
If you primarily run on the roads, trail shoes are probably overkill — they’ll feel too clunky or sticky. And if you take road shoes onto the trails, you’ll sacrifice grip and likely compromise the shoe’s durability. If you run on both roads and trails throughout the year, we recommend having at least one pair of road running shoes and a dedicated pair of trail shoes. There are several options of shoes, including the Saucony Peregrine 13, that will run comfortably on pavement while still being able to grip on trails.
Running volume can play directly into how many running shoes you purchase each year and how many different running shoes you rotate through at a given time. If your primary activity is running and you do it consistently, you may cover anywhere from 1,200 to 2,500 or more miles per year. That mileage alone will easily take you through five to eight pairs of running shoes yearly. If that sounds like you, you’re probably committed enough to running that it’s worth keeping a few different styles of shoes on hand at a given time — perhaps a pair for the trails and one for the roads, and maybe some dedicated shoes for workouts and races or highly cushioned recovery run shoes.
On the other hand, if you’re running a couple of times per week or running to supplement another primary sport, like ski touring, cycling, or rock climbing, you don’t necessarily need a quiver of running shoes. Instead, choose a high-quality pair or two that fits well and will best suit your needs, whether you’re running on roads, trails, or both. Then, keep track of the miles you put on your shoes or monitor their wear so that you’re ready to replace them when they’ve become too packed or broken down.
Running speed is relative, but how you like to feel when you run can influence the style of shoes that will provide the experience you’re seeking. The best running shoes will be the ones you love to put on. If you love to feel fast and light, regardless of your actual pace, opt for a shoe with a firmer cushion that will feel bouncy and responsive. If you prefer to run at a relaxed, easy pace and prioritize comfort above all else, choose shoes with more cushion and a softer, more plush midsole, even though you’ll lose responsiveness and ground feel. If you like to run fast and easy, as many of us do, go with a shoe like the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 for roads or the Saucony Peregrine 13 for trails that balance comfort and rebound. Alternatively, keep a few different shoes in your rotation to pick the best shoe for the experience you want on a particular day.
Stability Versus Neutral Running Shoes
Neutral shoes allow the feet to move and flex naturally, while stability shoes guide the foot and help prevent overpronation. If possible, have an expert at a local running specialty store examine your gait before purchasing running shoes. Most people pronate some, but if you overpronate where your feet roll significantly inward after impact with the ground, you might consider a stability shoe. Stability shoes might also help if you’re prone to Achilles tendinitis, runner’s knee, or shin splints.
Another way to determine if you need stability shoes is to look at the wear pattern on the bottom of your current running shoes. If your shoes’ inward — or medial — side has more wear than the rest of your outsoles, you probably need stability shoes. Lastly, consider the height of your arches. It’s not always the case, but a general rule is those with low or flat arches will benefit more from stability shoes than those with medium or high arches.
Some of our favorite neutral road running shoes include the On Cloudsurfer, Craft Pro Endur Distance, and Hoka Clifton 9. Our favorite stability shoes include the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23, Hoka Arahi 6, and Altra Paradigm 6. Learn more in our guide to the best stability road running shoes.
Running shoes should fit comfortably, not create hot spots, and keep your toes comfortable. For any running shoe, you want to measure the length of your foot in inches and then size up a half to full size. When you try a shoe on, you’ll want to have about a thumb’s width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. While there can be slight differences between brands, most are fairly standardized. A good fit will allow your toes to splay and wiggle some but keep your feet from sliding around inside the shoe.
You’ll also want to know the width of your foot. You don’t want any part of your foot hanging off the midsole. Many shoe brands — like Hoka, Brooks, and New Balance — offer standard and wide-width models of certain shoes to fit more foot sizes and styles. Getting the correct width is crucial to comfort and shoe longevity.
Shape of Toebox
Similar to shoe cushioning, the toebox shape and size is a matter of personal preference. Running shoe toeboxes are generally classified as narrow, medium, and wide. If you prefer a snug fit around your toes, you’ll want to opt for a narrow or medium-sized toebox. But if you like some wiggle or splay room for your toes, pick a shoe with a wide toebox. Wider toeboxes can help prevent blisters between your toes and help keep your toes happy as the miles ramp up.
In this guide, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 for the road and Saucony Peregrine 13 for the trail are examples of shoes with a fairly traditional toebox that’s not especially narrow or wide. Topo Athletic and Altra offer an array of road and trail running shoes, and these brands are known for making shoes with a particularly wide toebox that allows feet to relax and for toes to spread out comfortably.
Choosing Heel-to-Toe Drop
The heel-to-toe drop is the difference in stack height of a shoe from the heel to the toe. Stack height is the distance between your foot and the ground, including the midsole and outsole. A typical heel-to-toe drop falls in the 6- to 10-millimeter range.
Choosing drop is a personal preference, though there are some things to consider. For example, if you’re a hard heel striker, a higher heel stack height and drop might feel better and help with a smoother transition from the heel to the front of your foot. On the other hand, a lower drop can help lengthen posterior muscles and tendons like the glutes and hamstrings and alleviate lower back tightness. That said, if you have had Achilles tendon issues or chronically tight calf muscles, a zero-drop shoe like the Altra Lone Peak 8 probably isn’t the best.
If you’re transitioning to a shoe with a different amount of drop than you’re used to, it’s important to change gradually by slowly cycling the shoe into rotation.
Running Shoes and Arch Support
Every person’s feet and ankles move a little differently throughout the various parts of their gait. A foot’s arch will naturally collapse slightly throughout a stride for shock absorption. The entire foot and ankle roll inwards if an arch collapses too much and overpronates. People who overpronate often have issues with their ankles, Achilles tendons, shins, knees, and/or hips. If you overpronate, you’ll probably want to consider getting a stability shoe, such as the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23.
Some people have high arches that don’t collapse enough during their stride, and this is called underpronation or supination. Underpronation puts all of the impact on the outer part of the foot and can cause plantar fasciitis, pain in the pelvis, and issues with the lumbar spine.
The shape of your arch and how it moves throughout your stride determines the level of arch support you need in a shoe. Visiting a running store to have your gait analyzed is the best way to determine if you need extra arch support to stay injury-free and running comfortably.
Waterproof Versus Breathable
Some trail shoes, such as the Saucony Peregrine 13, are available in waterproof versions. In most cases, runners don’t need waterproof trail running shoes, and they cause more issues than they solve.
Waterproof shoes may keep your feet dry if moisture is on the ground, such as dew or shallow puddles. Likewise, a waterproof shoe can keep your feet dry if an inch or two of snow is on the ground. However, if it’s actually raining, water will run down your leg, into the shoe through the ankle collar, and stay in your shoe with nowhere to drain. In most situations, it’s better to have a breathable trail shoe, like the Hoka Speedgoat 5, which has a nice light upper that will drain and dry quickly.
That said, if you feel the need for waterproof trail shoes, many popular trail shoe models come in a waterproof version, including the Brooks Cascadia 16 GTX, Salomon Speedcross 6 Gore-Tex, and Nike Pegasus Trail 4 Gore-Tex.
Why You Should Trust Us
The iRunFar team includes road, trail, and ultrarunners with 150-plus years of running experience. This guide is the culmination of extensive, ongoing research by iRunFar’s gear editors, year-round testing that involves putting a combined thousands of miles on dozens of running shoes, and input from iRunFar readers. We’ve tested endless shoes to provide options that allow you to choose the best running shoes for you.
The specific shoe category guides on iRunFar were created after testing about a dozen shoes. Whether we’re testing cushioned trail shoes, road shoes, or mud shoes, our testing team carefully researches the top options currently on the market before narrowing down a list of shoes for testing. We take shoes out in all conditions and run in them for enough miles to get a good idea of their durability — usually at least 100 miles and oftentimes up to 300 or so. We assess shoes for their overall fit and performance, as well as their outsole, midsole, and upper. Shoes are worn by multiple testers on as many surfaces as possible to test traction and stability.
This guide pulls from testing shoes in various categories to name the best of the best on the market today and is updated regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions about Running Shoes
What is a road running shoe?
A road running shoe is designed to excel on smooth surfaces. They have smooth outsoles that generally lack the lugs and rock protection that trail running shoes provide. Road running shoes can come with a variety of cushion levels to accommodate different running needs. Some are designed to be lively and snappy for speed workouts, while others are comfortable enough to run endless miles on hard surfaces. Our favorite road shoes on the market include the Hoka Clifton 9, New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4, and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23.
What are the main differences between road running and trail shoes?
The most significant difference between road running and trail shoes is the outsoles. While the lugs and sticky rubber of trail shoe outsoles are designed to provide purchase on a wide variety of surfaces, including hardpack, loose rocks, mud, and more, road shoes tend to have very smooth outsoles. This allows them to be lighter than trail shoes and more comfortable to run on flat and smooth surfaces, namely pavement and dirt roads. The uppers of road shoes may also be less durable than trail shoes since they have to withstand much less abuse from rocks and other trailside debris.
Can I run on trails in road running shoes?
With their relatively smooth outsoles, road shoes don’t provide much grip on anything other than pavement, making them dangerous to take on trails. Slipping off of a trail can lead to injury, and while road shoes are lighter and you may be tempted to race in them, it’s generally not worth the risk. That being said, road shoes may be perfectly adequate and a good choice on gravel or hard-packed trails that aren’t too steep. This is especially true if you run on pavement to get to dirt trails.
What are the best road running shoes for beginners?
If you’re new to running, you’ll want to visit your local specialty running shop to find the best running shoes for your needs. There, they’ll be able to measure your feet, discuss the different types of surfaces you want to run on, and analyze your gait. A running expert can assess your arch height and help you choose a shoe that suits your feet, running style, and goals.
If you don’t have a running shop in your area, several shoes will fit a wide range of runners. Starting with a fairly average shoe will let you learn about what you like and don’t like in shoes so that you can purchase your next pair with more information. If you’re looking for a shoe with fairly average measurements throughout and that will fit a variety of feet and running styles, consider the Saucony Peregrine 13.
What are the best road running shoes for speed?
Lighter and bouncier cushion is generally better for speed, especially over longer distances. If you’re looking for a road shoe for speedwork, something with a springy and lively feel like the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 is a good place to start. Highly cushioned shoes like the Hoka Clifton 9 for roads or the Hoka Speedgoat 5 for trails aren’t great for speedwork as they tend to be less responsive.
How do I want running shoes to fit?
You want your running shoes to be snug yet comfortable, with enough space to wiggle your toes but not so much room that your feet move around. The most accurate way to get a well-fitting shoe is to go to a local running shop where they can not only measure the length of your feet but also consider their shape and width when selling you a shoe. Expert advice can make choosing the best running shoes for your needs much easier.
When you put the shoe on, you should be able to place the width of your thumb between the end of your toes and the end of the shoe. This will keep your toes from slamming into the front of your shoe when you run downhill. You should also be able to wiggle and fully extend your toes. Since many people have feet that are different sizes, you’ll want to try on both shoes in a pair to make sure that one isn’t too small.
You’ll also want to ensure that the edges of your feet don’t hang over the shoe’s midsole, as this can cause blisters and lead to the shoe uppers wearing out much more quickly. If you need wider shoes, choosing ones with a large toebox, like that of the Altra Lone Peak 8, can help provide the front of your foot with extra space.
How long do running shoes last?
Most running shoes claim to have a range of 300 to 500 miles, whether designed for the road or the trail. Depending on your mileage and whether you use one pair of shoes at a time or rotate a few pairs, this could be anywhere from three to six months.
The exact number of miles you get out of your shoes depends on multiple factors, including the shoe’s fit, your body size, how you run, and if you wear your shoes for activities other than running. If your shoes are too snug, you’ll likely punch holes in the upper sooner than if you have a well-fitting shoe that gives your foot room to relax.
How do you know when your shoes are done? If you’re not into tracking your miles, the shoe will let you know when it’s time for a fresh pair. Even if the upper is still in good shape, the outsole may start to look smooth and worn down. Aside from visual clues, including holes in the upper, the midsole foam will begin to feel flat, firmer, and packed out. The shoe will feel less comfortable, and your feet might feel tired, achy, or sore after your run. You also may be able to feel the ground more than you did when the shoes were brand new.
What are the benefits of trail running shoes?
Trail running shoes provide several benefits — primarily traction, protection, and durability. Trail shoes have deeper, more widely spaced outsole lugs that penetrate mud, snow, dirt, and gravel to grip the ground. In addition, a trail shoe’s lugs are often made of a slightly softer and stickier rubber that is less durable on pavement but grippier on rocks.
The extra protection of trail shoes applies to both the top and bottom of the foot. Often a trail shoe’s upper will have a thicker cap around the toes to offer protection when you inevitably kick a rock or root. Burlier trail shoes can have more extensive reinforcements and overlays for additional protection of the top of your foot. Our team ranked the Hoka Speedgoat 5 and Saucony Peregrine 13 as our favorites for trail running.
Is it okay to use trail running shoes on the road?
Yes, running with trail shoes on roads and sidewalks is fine. Some models are described as road-to-trail shoes designed to run well on both roads and trails.
On the other hand, trail shoes designed for softer terrain often have taller, more pronounced lugs and less midsole since there’s a presumption that the ground will provide some cushioning. On pavement, this combination can lead to discomfort during prolonged stretches.
One word of caution is the outsoles of trail shoes are often made of a softer rubber than road shoes and can wear down more quickly on unforgiving pavement — especially if you have an uneven stride or drags on the ground.
What trail running shoes should I use to run in mud?
If you’ll hit an occasional short patch of mud on your run, wear whatever trail shoes you want. A shoe like the Hoka Speedgoat 5 can handle the occasional patch of mud just fine. If mud is a regular feature on a particular run, try to pick a pair of trail shoes with at least moderate lugs that are four to six millimeters deep.
Trail shoes with seven- to eight-millimeter-deep lugs work well in extremely muddy conditions but may not be ideal on hard-packed dirt. For a deeper look, see our best trail running shoes for mud guide.
Should I wear gaiters with trail running shoes?
Gaiters are fabric collars, often detachable, that cover the top of a shoe and the lower part of the leg to prevent debris from entering a shoe from around its tongue or ankle collar and through more porous areas of the shoe’s upper. Whether or not you wear gaiters when trail running depends on trail conditions and personal preference.
Many gaiters can be attached to nearly any pair of shoes, while some brands make gaiters that easily integrate with their own trail shoes. If you’re curious to learn more about running shoe gaiters, look at our best running gaiters guide.
What socks should I wear for running?
Having the right socks is nearly as important as having the right shoes. Socks come in various materials ranging from your standard cotton socks to wool ones to those made of highly technical fabric. You want socks that wick moisture away from your feet to keep them dry and blister-free. Thin socks can help improve ground feel, while thicker socks with a bit of cushion can add comfort during long runs. Be sure to consider the thickness of socks you prefer when choosing the size of your shoes. Check out our guide to the best running socks to learn more.
Can I wear trail running shoes for hiking and walking?
Tons of people use trail running shoes for hiking, whether for an hour around the local park or a three-month thru-hike. Two great options include the Altra Lone Peak 8, which you can read about in our best trail running shoes guide, or the Saucony Peregrine 13, described among our best trail running shoes above. The Hoka Clifton 9 are also excellent shoes for all paces.
Call for Comments
- Do you have dedicated shoes for running on the trails and the roads, or do you prefer one shoe for every type of run?
- Do you rotate through specific shoes for easy days, workouts, and recovery runs? Tell us about your favorite running shoes.