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The Saucony Ride ISO sits on a running shoe display at Fleet Feet

Running Shoes

Fleet Feet

Running shoes come in all shapes and sizes. That means from thick-soled maximalist trainers to light and fast racing flats, there are running shoes for every need—and every runner.

The best running shoe for you, though, might not be the same as the best shoe for your co-worker or that guy in your running club. In this guide, we'll give you tips on how to fit your running shoes, what to look for when you're buying a new pair and teach you about the different types of shoes.

The Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo running shoe

Running Shoe Categories

There are three main categories of running shoes: road running shoes, trail running shoes and race day shoes. Here's what that means.

  • Road running shoes. Road shoes are designed for the streets. Abrasion-resistant rubber outsoles hold up to rough concrete, and premium fabrics make for a comfortable fit. Shoes like the Brooks Ghost 11 and the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 21 are perfect for the road.
  • Trail running shoes. Unlike road models, trail running shoes are designed for dirt, gravel, mud and anything else you might find when the pavement ends. Trail shoes employ stickier rubber outsoles, aggressive lugs and increased durability so you can go off road. Good examples of trail running shoes are the Saucony Peregrine ISO and the Nike Terra Kiger 5.
  • Race shoes. The fastest shoes in your closet, race day shoes give you an extra boost when you need it most. They're made to be minimal and lightweight, so they aren't ideal for your daily training. But lace them up when you toe the starting line and they'll help deliver your fastest times yet. Race shoes include the On Cloudflash and the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit.

There are a couple smaller categories of shoes used for specific sports, too. Cross country shoes and track spikes are designed to meet the demands of competitive athletes.

Like road racing shoes, these models are the lightest and fastest of the bunch. But they're built for a singular purpose: to run on a track or cross country course.

Cross country shoes and spikes are engineered for the unpredictable conditions of an XC course. These shoes can come with a spike plate to give runners better traction on varied terrain, and they have some cushioning to stand up to the longer races.

Track spikes are only meant to be used on the track, and they come in models tuned for different distances. Sprint spikes use an aggressive shape that keeps runners on their toes, while distance spikes have a shallower heel-to-toe drop and can include some cushioning.

Shop Women's Running Shoes

Comfortable, functional and stylish. The best women's running shoes are all three.

Shop from our selection of best-selling running shoes, like the women's HOKA Clifton 6 or Nike Pegasus 36, to get a shoe that will take you through training and across the finish line in stride.

Shop Men's Running Shoes

No matter where you run, your shoes need to keep up. Our most popular men's running shoes blend performance, comfort and style to help you run your best. Check out the men's Brooks Glycerin 17 or On Cloudswift for a ride that won't let you down.

Running Shoe Support and Cushion

Runners not only have to think about what surface they're running on but also how they run. There are two things to think about: pronation and footstrike.

Pronation

Pronation is the natural inward roll of your foot as it transitions from heel to toe during your normal stride. Every runner pronates, but it can become a problem if you overpronate or underpronate.

There are the two main types of running shoes:

  • Neutral running shoes. Neutral shoes don't offer any targeted support for overpronation or underpronation. These shoes typically use the same foam density all the way from heel to toe, and they don't add any posts or supports. Neutral running shoes include the Saucony Kinvara 10 and the Brooks Levitate 2.
  • Stability running shoes. Runners who overpronate put extra force on the inside part of their shoes, which can cause shoes to wear out prematurely. So running shoe companies counter overpronation by using denser foam on the inside (called the medial side) of the shoe. The denser foam compresses less and lasts longer, so the shoe wears evenly from medial to lateral side. Look for shoes like the ASICS GEL-Kayano 26 or the Mizuno Wave Inspire 15.

Footstrike

When you run, do you tend to land on your heel, midfoot or forefoot? Your landing zone is called your footstrike, and finding shoes to match your footstrike can make running more comfortable.

If you're a heel-striker, a pair of running shoes with more cushion under the heel can reduce the amount of shock you body absorbs when you land. Forefoot and midfoot strikers might be able to wear a shoe with less heel cushion, since they don't put as much force on the back of their feet.

How Running Shoes Should Fit

A Fleet Feet outfitter checks the fit of a customers running shoes

Your running shoes should be comfortable. Period.

If they're too small, you risk mashing your toes into the front of the shoe or squeezing the ball of your foot until you're numb. Too big, and you can slide around, chafe and feel like you're wearing flippers.

But when you get the fit right, you're in for mile after mile of happy running. Here's what you should look for in a running shoe:

  • Comfort. If you try on a running shoe and it's not comfortable in the store, it won't be comfortable when you start running. Start by finding a shoe that's comfortable when you first step in and lace it up.
  • Size. Your feet can change sizes as you age, so you might find a shoe that fit you a couple years ago doesn't work now. Sizes also differ slightly between brands. Get your feet measured to find the right size for you.
  • Fit. There should be about a thumbnail worth of space between the end of your big toe and the front of the shoe. The extra length will give your toes some wiggle room. Also check the width; if your foot is bulging over the sides of the shoe, consider trying a wide-fit running shoe.
  • Price. Like scratchy bedsheets or flimsy furniture, you get what you pay for with running shoes. High-quality modern running shoes are designed for durability, comfort and protection, and their prices can reflect that. A cheap running shoe will be easy on your wallet at first, but it will wear out sooner—and possibly leave you worn out with an injury. Don't be afraid to invest in quality shoes if you can. They'll prove themselves worth it.


For the best fit, visit a local Fleet Feet store where running shoe experts will walk you through our outfitting process. They will talk with you about your current running and future goals, precisely measure your feet using 3D scanners, and then match you up with shoes that will give you the best experience.

Shop Running Shoes By Brand

Running Shoe Resources

From finding the perfect running shoe fit to learning how long your shoes will last, we've got it all covered. Our Fleet Feet experts know everything there is to know about running shoes so you can start training with confidence.

Each running shoe is designed for a specific purpose. A road shoe won't give you the traction you need when the going gets slippery, and a trail shoe might be unwieldy when you hit the pavement. Dig deep into the differences between trail running shoes and road running shoes.

Trail Running Shoes vs. Road Running Shoes
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