Our Top 6 Running Shoes for Beginners This Summer

A runner laces up his New Balance 880 shoes.

You’ve made the decision to start running. Whether you’re starting from scratch, increasing your commitment or returning after a hiatus, congratulations! Taking the first step (literally and figuratively) can be the toughest part.

After you mapped out a few running routes and curated the perfect playlist filled with pump-up jams, your next step should be finding the right pair of running shoes. The perfect pair of shoes can make the difference between an uncomfortable run filled with blisters and sore feet and a great one where your feet are blissfully cradled with each step. Finding the right pair of shoes will help you build a running habit that sticks.

How should running shoes fit?

With so many options on the market, it can feel overwhelming trying to find the right shoes. Lucky for you, we put together an alphabetized list of the six best running shoes for beginners. This list is based on thorough testing from our shoe review team, vigorous conversation, and input from our stores across the country.

While you browse this list, keep in mind that it’s always recommended to head into your local Fleet Feet for an expert one-on-one outfitting. Fleet Feet outfitters use 3D fit id® foot scanning technology to gather information about your feet and the support they need by taking precise measurements of your foot length, width and arch height. Not only does the outfitting experience provide you with the right shoes and insoles, outfitters can also make recommendations on apparel, accessories and nutrition to help you reach your goals.

What Makes a Good Beginner Running Shoe?

Runners run down a sidewalk wearing the ASICS GEL-Cumulus 25.

It’s important to find a shoe that fits comfortably–think snug in the midfoot and heel, but roomy in the toe box.

When thinking about beginner running shoes, we like to focus on a versatile shoe that can do a little bit of everything, from long runs to speedwork. Even if you may not be thinking about building mileage or adding intervals just yet, it’s nice to be able to wear one shoe for all your miles.

More experienced runners may have a variety of shoes, called a shoe rotation. Rotating your shoes helps each pair bounce back after every run—similar to how your muscles need time to bounce back. Having multiple shoes in your rotation also allows you to choose different shoes, similar to how a golfer has a club for driving, one for putting, and another for getting out of those pesky sand traps. But alas, all shoe rotations start with that first shoe that’s both comfortable and versatile.

The last thing we consider for beginner running shoes is the price point. It’s important to invest in a quality pair of shoes...but because running hasn’t consumed your soul just yet, why break the bank? When you’re just starting out, you don’t need to focus on carbon plates, weight savings or fancy foams that typically come at a higher price point.

Now that you know what makes a good beginner running shoe, let’s dive in!

1. ASICS GEL-Cumulus 25

The ASICS GEL-Cumulus 25.

The ASICS Cumulus 25 stays true to its namesake, the cumulus cloud. It’s soft and lightweight, mimicking the sensation of running on a cloud (or, what we think a cloud feels like). But the best part about the Cumulus is that it has a little bit of bounce in the midsole to put some pep in your step.

“I love the cushion and comfort that the new Cumulus brings with the soft and bouncy cushioning,” Mandy says. “I’ve used this shoe for everything from walking the dog and running errands to easy runs and speedwork and am always excited to put this shoe on my foot. ASICS really knocked it out of the park with this one.”

Fleet Feet reviewers also appreciated the sustainability of this shoe—the upper is made with more than 90-percent recycled materials, making it an environmentally friendly choice. Plus, it’s available in Fleet Feet exclusive colorways, helping you stand out from the crowd.

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2. Brooks Ghost 15

The women's Brooks Ghost 15.

The Brooks Ghost 15 has been a fan-favorite for both beginner and experienced runners for over a decade, mostly because it’s so aptly named. It’s so comfortable, you won’t even notice you’re wearing it. It’s running shoe sorcery!

Fleet Feet reviewers love the Brooks Ghost 15 because it has an accommodating foot shape that fits a wide variety of runners. It also features innovative materials underfoot, like a nitrogen-infused midsole (read more about their DNA Loft v2 cushioning) and a grippy outsole that will hold up to slick pavement.

“Brooks has been fine-tuning their cushioning, and you can really feel it come into play in the Ghost 15,” Nate says. “The shoe feels wonderfully responsive in the forefoot while retaining an extra softness in the heel, making it very adaptable to different running styles and different types of workouts.”

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3. HOKA Clifton 9

The men's HOKA Clifton 9.

The HOKA Clifton 9 is like an elusive bird – it’s always flying off the shelves at Fleet Feet. It’s soft, cushioned, lightweight and always available in fun colorways, making it a bestseller amongst both new and experienced runners alike.

The Clifton 9 is classically HOKA, meaning it comes with a super cushioned midsole and HOKA’s signature meta-rocker shape, which makes heel-to-toe transitions quicker and more efficient. If you haven’t picked up on this yet, efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to distance running. If you can find a shoe that makes running feel a touch smoother—hold on to it!

“The cushioning in the HOKA Clifton offers such a distinct sensation,” Kate says. “It’s lightweight with a soft step-in feel, but the cushion doesn’t stay compressed. It’s firm enough to provide a stable platform to push off from, yet still provide ample protection from the pounding of the road. I’ve been running in the Clifton since I discovered it in 2016, and I think it’s added a lot of value to my training, especially when I’m running higher mileage.”

Even if you’re not running high mileage just yet, you can still benefit from the cushion and support the Clifton 9 provides.

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4. New Balance 880v13

The women's New Balance 880 v13.

Fleet Feet reviewers often compare the New Balance 880v13 to a trusty Honda Civic. While it may not have all the bells and whistles of a fancy sports car, it offers everything you need to get where you’re going safely, on time and within budget. It’s a great choice for new runners (or new drivers) who are still testing out their skills.

“This shoe reminds me of vanilla ice cream. While it doesn’t have any extra sprinkles or cookie chunks, it’s still delicious,” Nate says.

The 880v13 is built on a bed of New Balance’s signature Fresh Foam X, their softest and lightest foam compound. It also features a firmer, denser foam beneath the forefoot. What does this mean for you? You’ll enjoy a soft, cushioned sensation on landings with a firm, energetic ride during takeoffs.

The 880v13 also works well for a variety of different foot shapes, thanks to a snug midfoot and a roomy toe-box. Plus, it’s available in narrow, standard, wide and extra-wide sizing (remember to head into your local Fleet Feet to learn which width you need). So, if you like the overall feel of the shoe, chances are good that you can find the right width for your feet.

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5. On Cloudgo

The men's On Cloudgo.

Even if you’re new to running, you’ve likely seen On running shoes gracing the feet of your neighborhood runners, walkers and fellow caffeine addicts at your local coffee shop. Not only are On shoes lightweight and comfortable, they offer clean, distinct Swiss aesthetics to help you stand out from the crowd.

The On Cloudgo offers just the right amount of cushioning to spring you forward while still staying light on your feet. On’s revolutionary cushioning system, called CloudTec, offers a series of funky-looking pods underfoot that you may be wondering about. The pods compress upon landings and flex during takeoffs, supporting you through each phase of your gait cycle.

“The On Cloudgo is definitely a Goldilocks shoe,” says Fleet Feet reviewer Alex. “The cushioning is soft without being squishy and protective while still being reasonably responsive. The shoes are light enough to not weigh down my feet at all, but feel substantial in the sense of stability and durability.”

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6. Saucony Ride 16

A man stands on the pavement in the Saucony Ride 16.

The Saucony Ride 16 is similar to the Brooks Ghost 15 in that it offers a subtle, distraction-free fit that you won’t even notice is there. When we interviewed runners from Fleet Feet Orlando on what makes a comfortable running shoe, the main factor they mentioned was not having to think about the shoes on their feet. The Ride 16 offers just enough cushion and support to keep you moving through the miles with ease without thinking about what’s on your feet.

“These shoes offer such a comfy, balanced feel that I actually forgot I was wearing them,” Caroline says. “I was supposed to be in wear-tester mode during a 6-mile treadmill run, but I quickly forgot about my feet altogether.”

Not only does the Ride 16 offer plush cushioning underfoot, it has a soft, padded upper that hugs your feet as you move. Reviewers especially appreciated the gilley lacing system – extra loops the laces feed through outside of the regular lace cage. Both our wide-footed reviewer and our narrow-footed reviewer found their perfect fit in the Saucony Ride 16.

Again, if you’re not sure about the width of your feet, you want more precise sizing information or you just want some friendly running advice, head into your local Fleet Feet and come run with us!

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