You’ve decided to start running and the list of questions are mounting, but first among them what are the best running shoes for beginners. This is a broad question with some nuance needed to understand what will best fit your stride, your goals and your fitness. We’ll cover it all here to give you recommendations and guidance.
The significance of choosing appropriate footwear extends beyond mere comfort – it directly influences performance and guards against the risk of injuries.
As an experienced running coach and shoe tester for many, many years, I bring insights into the unique needs of novice runners and the features that can make their running experience not only enjoyable, but safe.
One thing you’ll notice in every review here is my honest feedback on what I like or dislike, but equally important is simply that the best shoe for you is the one that feels good! Don’t be pressured in to a specific brand or stability shoe from one quick analysis at a the running store.
What To Look For In Beginner Running Shoes?
Do beginners need something different than experienced runners? Not inherently, no. They don’t yet need to worry about race day shoes or carbon plates, but do need to understand that footwear is worth the cost.
If budgets are tight, don’t worry about the GPS watch or the dry fit shirts, start with what you’re putting on your feet. This is going to make the runs feel better and ensure you aren’t soon sidelined with an injury from a cheap shoe that wasn’t providing the support you need.
Here are the key things we evaluated in selecting these shoes:
- Cushion – let’s face it, a great cushion just makes the run feel better
- Stability – while I don’t often recommend stability shoes, they can be very helpful starting out when you may have weaker hips and glutes that aren’t keeping your knees aligned
- Support – quality running shoes are going to provide your foot and arch with more support to move through the miles than a cheaper pair of shoes
- Durability – you might pay more for what you find in a running store than a department store, but they should last you longer as well
Do Running Shoes Matter for Beginners?
Not buying good running shoes is a mistake many of us make (myself included!). But for all the reasons listed above you’re going to enjoy running more and feel better doing it in the right pair of road running shoes to help with shock absorption and breathability that doesn’t leave your feet overheated resulting in blisters.
How Should Running Shoes Fit?
Fit is a key aspect of finding the right running shoe!!
Assume that you are going to want up to a full size bigger than your normal shoes. I started out in a 9.5 in 2002 and quickly moved to wearing size 11 as I started marathon training.
My feet didn’t grow, but while you run they do swell AND we want more room for the toes to prevent things like black toenails.
I’ve got a complete article on how to tell if running shoes fit properly that you should absolutely read. This is also going to help take in to account if you have an issue like bunions or flat feet.
Best Running Shoes For Beginners
The great thing about buying running shoes online now is that most places have a pretty awesome return policy. So if you can’t make it to your local running store or you just feel like you “aren’t yet a runner” so you don’t want to go, have no fear.
Remember that many of us try a few different shoes before finding the ones that we truly love. And you’ll notice that many of these shoes are on versions well in to the double digits because people have loved them and simply keep buying them each year.
Onwards to discover the best beginner running shoes for your training!
Best Shoes for Run Walk Run – On Cloud Monster
I’ve long enjoyed this shoe, but gifted a pair to my husband last year who now uses them 3 times a week for his run/walk workouts! I’m thrilled he’s spending a little time off the bike and building back his running. He often used to have issues with knee pain, but says in these and using run/walk that’s not been an issue.
NOTE: They have launched an even more cushioned shoe that I reviewed call the Cloudeclispe. I still think the Cloudmonster is better for beginners because it gives you a little more energy return and with a too cushioned shoe it’s very easy to let your form go and sink in, which creates low back pain.
For On the cushion is more about the absorbing of impact, rather than what you might think of as traditional plush cushion. That’s not a bad thing, just different expectations. And for those wearing it all day that additional firmness is actually benefit as it can prevent low back pain.
This shoe is probably the closest from On Running to any of the HOKA walking shoes that I recommend. It feels just a bit wider, a bit taller midsole and stable.
See my full review of the On Cloudmonster for more details>>
- Heel drop: 6mm heel drop
- Weight: 8.11 oz women’s, 10.6 oz men’s
- See all available Cloudmonster >>
Runner Up Shoes For Run Walk – New Balance Fresh Foam X More v4
Because I think the run walk method is the IDEAL way for pretty much everyone to get in to running, I wanted to give you a couple of options.
New Balance’s Fresh Foam is every bit as lovely as it sounds. These shoes feel fabulous when you slip them on and yet maintain good responsiveness. In fact, I’ve been running A LOT of miles in the 1080 model and recommend it frequently as well.
With a roomy area for your mid-foot, it still has a good heel cupping to help prevent your foot from sliding out. This is a maximal road shoe, meaning it has a higher stack height from toe to heel. If you’ve never run in a shoe like that, trust me within a few minutes you don’t notice anything different (except the great cushion here!).
That taller stack height provides a slightly wider base and more stability without in anyway being a stability shoe.
- Heel drop: 3 mm
- Available in regular and wide, but not extra wide
- Weight: 10.4 oz men’s, 8.4 oz for women’s
- Price: $149
- Available on the New Balance website, Zappos
Best Shoes for Stability – Saucony Guide
In this model, Saucony not only paid attention to the support below, but uses the upper for additional stability. It wraps around your foot, helping you feel more secure in the shoe.
The Guide 16 is the most recent model, but still feels like a very classic running shoe. The Saucony Ride is it’s neutral counter part, but I actually like the cushion of the Guide a bit better.
It’s not overly built up, no massive stack height, no crazy cushioning. Just a solid daily trainer that is going to provide you with some nice cushion and decent support.
And as noted the stability is there, but without being aggressive so you aren’t feeling it…it’s just doing the job. Plus, the ride still feels cushioned which was something that many traditional stability shoes lacked. That’s my kind of shoe.
In fact, I have run in the Guide quite a bit and found it to be a great overall trainer. I wasn’t put off by any hard pieces underfoot or overcorrection.
- Heel drop: 8mm
- Weight: 8.4 oz women’s (really light for stability), 9.5 oz men’s
- Available on Saucony.com for $140
Best Shoes for Knee Pain – Asics Novablast 4
As always I have to first start by reminding you that we need to discover the cause of your knee pain. For new runners it usually takes some time to adapt AND we need to work our our total core strength.
The Novablast has been a winning max cushion shoe from Asics since it first launched and they have continued to increase the amount of cushion in the shoe, while working to drop the weight.
While this is a neutral shoe, with no guiderails or anything for stability, it absolutely has some of that built in to the design. The width of the platform from toe to heel reduces pronation and provides a really good ride.
The midsole is Flytefoam Blast+ Eco, made from 20% bio-based materials to keep moving toward a goal of sustainability. For our purposes, what that means is it lives up to the name of MAX cushion! Again, I like that this shoe is a more responsive cushion and you don’t sink in to it so much.
- Heel Drop: 8mm
- Weight: 7.9 oz women’s, 9.1 oz men’s
- Read my full review of the Asics Novablast 4 >>
- Available at Zappos $140 (my favorite for easy returns)
Absolutely feel free to buy older models for less! It’s one that I think has stayed similar and you’ll enjoy.
Best Shoes for Mostly Treadmill Running – Brooks Ghost
Another go to shoe for so many whether you’re doing roads or treadmill or both. I prefer shoes that don’t have as high of a stack height for treadmill runners to help avoid issues with overstriding and hitting the heel.
This shoe’s cushioned feel has made it a runner’s favorite for years, and the revised midsole features 100% DNA loft cushioning to enhance the shoe’s smoothness.
DNA loft foam provides plush support that now extends throughout the midsole, elevating the foot with a 12mm offset to prevent Achilles irritation, while the BioMoGo DNA cushion lines the arch profile for a soft and springy feel.
You can take advantage of the Ghost’s responsiveness when running long distances every day, doing tempo training, or running faster. It has just the right amount of bounce to make your hips, knees, and arches feel good.
The Segmented Crash Pad and the cushier midsole work together to make it easier to move from landing to toe-off. Add in the P100% DNA loft foam and it does a great job of absorbing shock at the heel and forefoot.
- Heel Drop: 12mm
- Weight: 9.1 oz women’s, 10.1 oz men’s
- Price: $140
- Find the shoe here
Ready my complete Brooks Ghost 15 review >>
Best Budget Shoes for Beginning Runners – Nike Pegasus
While the new model of this shoe is technically $135, select colors can be found for well under $100 and that’s why I’m including it on this list. It’s a LONG time favorite of so many runners that it’s a good addition even if you don’t buy the older model.
If looking for trail shoes, the Pegasus also comes in a trail version, which can also be found at discounted prices too.
The Nike Pegasus has all the bells and whistles that a runner could ask for: just the right amount of cushion in midsole for maximum comfort, durable rubber outsole to withstand, and a breathable mesh upper to keep your feet feeling fresh and dry.
- Weight: 10.9 oz men’s, 8.5 oz women’s
- Heel drop: 10mm
- Available in wide
- Price: $130
- Read my full Pegasus 40 review
More tips on how to find cheap running shoes (totally know this is often a concern when we start!) >>
Best Lightweight Running Shoe for Beginners – Saucony Kinvara 14
I’ve truly run in so many of models of this and often recommend it for the low heel to toe drop if anyone has dealt with IT band issues. For me it feels like a shoe you can’t go wrong with if you don’t want something overly built up, need a little cushion, but want to feel fast.
The first thing I noticed when I put them on was that it’s taller than the previous versions. I’ve loved Kinvara for its low profile while providing enough cushion for my long runs. But, this new model seemed to be taking on the current trend of the more cushion the better and it does feel pretty great without losing the snap.
They’re especially great for mid-distance runs where comfort and adaptability are crucial.
- Weight: Men’s 6.8 oz, Women’s 6.2 oz
- Heel Drop: 4 mm
- Price: $120
- Read my full Saucony Kinvara 14 review
Best Wide Toe box Shoe for Beginners – Altra Provision
If you deal with anything like bunions or simply know that you prefer more space for your toes (i.e you HATE the feeling of boots or heels) then Altra is going to be a winner. It’s primary focus is around creating that space which means being able to put more power in to your big toe.
I am NOT someone who runs in stability shoes and yet I have really enjoyed these. They absolutely do not over correct your gait and they are much softer than many of the stability shoes I’ve tested in the past.
I’m guessing part of the reason I liked them was a nice amount of cushion (not overly plush) and they don’t have that tale tell hardness found in a lot of stability shoes.
Women’s shoe is 8.2 oz, so also lighter than some stability shoes and as with all of their shoes a zero drop. Plus, they’ve got enough traction to feel good in the rain, or going off road a bit.
I also like the design of the bottom of the shoe. It provides some good drip so I could take it out on some low tech trails or days where I’m hitting both pavement and trail.
- 0mm drop
- Weight: 8.2 oz women’s, 9. 6 oz men’s
- Price: $140
Best Trail Running Shoes for Beginners – HOKA Challenger
Once again, I’m going to mention HOKA because of that wide base it makes for a more stable shoe. This isn’t correcting your foot so much as just providing more support in each step to prevent your foot from rolling too far inward and placing strain on the ankles and knees
The HOKA Speedgoat was my go to shoe for so many years, but once I started using the Challenger I decided that I really liked how it feels just a tad more cushioned.
This shoe is ideal for runners who like to switch between road and trail running and need a versatile shoe that can handle both types of terrain.
- Heel Drop: 5 mm
- Weight: 7.7 oz women’s, 8.9 oz men’s
- Available in Wide in some colors
- Price: $145
- See all HOKA Challenger models(including waterproof GTX)
Obviously I’ve tested a ton of shoes over the years and recommended a LOT in various articles. Many of the ones you see here are recommended from my long runs to most cushioned and beyond. They are tried and tested shoes that are loved by many runners, which makes them a great place to start in finding the best beginner runner shoes for you.
A few more common questions I’ve gotten around shoes!
Are HOKA Shoes Good for Beginners?
Yes, they are. While the stack height was initially a concern, what we’ve seen is that the overall wider base and platform actually creates a more stable ride. This is going to benefit you when first starting and needing to work on building up all your stabilizing muscles.
Additionally, while we can’t 100% prove that cushion reduces injuries we know that it feels good. And the shoe that feels best to you is one that seems to prevent injury!
Should Beginner Runners Wear Stability Shoes?
It’s not the worst idea. As noted above, I really love to get most people in to a neutral running shoe if possible because that won’t mask any underlying weakness in the hips, glutes or ankles.
However, on day one you’re trying to get the body used to the impact of this new activity while building strength so it’s not bad to have some extra support.
The key is to ensure you are doing the strength work and try rotating in a neutral shoe to your routine as soon as you can.
How Much Should I Spend on My First Pair of Running Shoes?
At this point, a good pair of running shoes is going to be between $130-$150 when buying this years model.
Those shoes should last you roughly 500 miles. That means if you’re running 3 days per week at 3 miles, that single pair would last you the entire year. Of course, we recommend that you rotate running shoes which will make them last longer, especially as you increase your runs.
AND make sure that you are NOT wearing your running shoes for other workouts.
Find out why you shouldn’t wear your running shoes casually >>
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