Best Running Shoes for Beginners 2021
Buyer's Guide | Fleet Feet
Put your best foot forward in the best running shoes for beginners.
Finding the right running shoes can give you the confidence you need to try something new and stick with it.
If you're new to running, it can be hard to know what you need to look for in a pair of running shoes. To give you a place to start, here are the best running shoes for beginners:
- Saucony Ride 14
- Mizuno Wave Rider 25
- HOKA Clifton 8
- Brooks Ghost 14
- New Balance Fresh Foam 880v11
- On Cloudswift
- Karhu Ikoni 2021
- ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23
- Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
- Altra Torin 5
Still got questions? Check out these FAQs on running shoes for beginners.
[Updated August 12, 2021. This is part of the Fleet Feet Buyer's Guide for The Best Running Shoes 2021. Find all the best running shoes from the top brands for all situations.]
Take the guesswork out of finding running shoes. No matter what shoes you decide on, new runners should check their running shoes for three things:
- Comfort. Try the shoes on and take a walk or quick jog. Are the shoes comfortable? If they’re not comfortable now, they won’t get more comfortable as you start running.
- Ride. When you’re walking or jogging around, do you feel wobbly or unsteady? Different midsole foams and shapes can create more (or less) stable rides.
- Fit. You should have a thumb’s width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Your heel shouldn’t slip when you walk or jog, and your foot shouldn’t be spilling over the edges of the shoe.
Saucony Ride 14
The Saucony Ride 14 is one of the best running shoes for beginners because it does everything well.
Saucony built the Ride 14 for an easy fit. The Ride accommodates a wide range of foot shapes and sizes, making it comfortable for long days on your feet, and it maintains a light weight that's easy on your legs. A full-length PWRRUN foam midsole provides consistent cushioning and a soft, bouncy feel.
Fleet Feet runners said the newest version finds the right balance of comfort and performance, making it great for easy cruising and uptempo long runs alike.
Read more in the Saucony Ride 14 review.
Mizuno Wave Rider 25
New runners will love the balance of cushion and support in the Wave Rider 25.
A reshaped Wave plate is embedded in a stack of Mizuno's responsive Enerzy midsole foam that promises a smooth ride and unbeatable comfort on long walks and runs.
The heel and upper of the Wave Rider are well-padded (no blisters!) and covered in silky knit mesh to create an instantly comfortable feel as soon as you put them on. Our reviewers loved the reliable, cushioned feel of the Wave Rider 25 and we think you will too.
HOKA Clifton 8
The HOKA Clifton 8 is one of the best shoes for beginners because it provides versatile performance that grows with you and your training.
HOKA achieved the versatility by packing the Clifton with a lightweight foam midsole. The cushioning compound is new to this version of the Clifton, and it's one of HOKA's lightest and most energetic midsole's to date.
But, despite the light weight, the midsole still feels incredibly soft and smooth beneath your feet. The soft step is perfect for new runners hitting the road for the first time, and it's great for anyone who's getting back into running after some time off.
The engineered mesh upper is soft around your foot, and it breathes well on warm days to keep you comfortable.
Best of all, the Clifton 8 can handle just about any type of run you can throw at it. From your first miles to your first race, the Clifton 8 is a reliable performer that will keep pace with your training.
Brooks Ghost 14
Brooks' award-winning Ghost 14 is a great shoe for new runners. Between the immediately comfortable fit as soon as you put them on and the plush cushioning underfoot, the Ghost 14 will have you sailing through your next run.
DNA Loft foam is bouncy and plush enough to handle impact while still energizing your run. This excellent shock absorption takes the strain off your legs as you run, making it easier for your body to adjust to your new activity.
Comfort is key for beginning runners. The Ghost 14 sports a padded heel collar to prevent uncomfortable chafing and rubbing on the run. The lightweight mesh knit upper is breathable so you can feel (and look) cool as you take on mileage.
New Balance Fresh Foam 880v11
The New Balance Fresh Foam 880v11 is one of the best running shoes for beginners because it delivers a reliable ride that grows with you.
New Balance updated the classic 880 with a new mesh upper and refined shape, but they maintained the performance runners of all levels love. The Fresh Foam midsole provides a cushioned landing and bouncy response, and the accommodating fit works for a variety of foot shapes.
The 880v11 is approachable for new runners thanks to its no-fuss fit and feel, but it delivers dependable performance as you scale up your running, too. From your first few miles to long runs and fast workouts, the 880's comfortable platform and light weight work with you as you advance.
Engineered with a durable rubber outsole, the New Balance Fresh Foam 880v11 is will stand up to hundreds of miles of training.
On running shoes don’t look like your typical running shoes, but their unique aesthetic and standout performance deliver a premium experience. The On Cloudswift doesn’t stray from the formula.
Designers used On’s signature CloudTec technology to cushion the Cloudswift, but they enhanced the feeling with Helion foam. On’s premier foam composition is both more cushioned and more responsive than other versions, so you get a ride that’s confident on long runs and powerful at top-speed.
With a minimalist look and easy fit, the On Cloudswift is a great choice for new runners.
Karhu Ikoni 2021
The Karhu Ikoni 2021 is one of the first shoes we reach for when finding the perfect running shoe for beginners.
Designed based on millions of 3D foot scans captured during Fleet Feet’s fit id® outfitting process, the Karhu Ikoni 2021 is one of the most comfortable running shoes you’ll put on.
A bed of lightweight Aerofoam feels super plush and responsive and is supported by a half-length Fulcrum rocker in the midfoot. This combination can benefit new runners working on form and efficiency as it helps to roll the foot through its heel-to-toe transition and makes runs and walks feel effortless with each step.
While you work to build up your foot strength, a unique Ortix footbed gives the sensation of arch support underfoot and Karhu’s M-Lock lacing system in the upper feels like the palm of a hand gently holding the top of your foot down.
In our review, testers loved how lightweight and cushioned the Ikoni 2021 is, and we think you will too.
ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23
More than two decades after it first debuted, the ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23 is still one of the most consistent running shoes around. That consistency is what makes it a great running shoe for new runners.
The latest Cumulus has ASICS GEL cushioning units in the heel and forefoot, which absorb shock and create a smooth transition from landing to toe-off. A soft mesh upper and padded heel collar give the shoe a plush step-in feel, and additional flex grooves carved into the outsole allow your foot to bend naturally.
The ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23 has been around for more than 20 years, but it hasn’t lost a step.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
What makes the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 one of the best running shoe for beginners is its comfort and straightforward fit. The Peg maintains a low-profile silhouette and neutral ride, which is great for new runners who want a no-nonsense experience.
The updated Peg keeps it's React foam midsole, which is a proven performer. Nike uses React in some of its other popular running shoes, like the Nike React Infinity Run, because it delivers a smooth, bouncy ride and lasting durability.
The Air unit in the forefoot is twice as thick as before to give you greater rebound right where your foot takes off.
Altra Torin 5
The Altra Torin 5 is an easy riding neutral running shoe that beginners will love.
Between the easy comfort and plush cushioning, the Torin 5 offers something for every runner. The lightweight knit mesh upper and smooth heel material eliminates chafing while supporting your foot where you need it most.
Thanks to Altra's unique FootShape design, the toe box of the shoe mimics the natural shape of your foot to prevent pinching and squeezing of your toes on the run.
The Torin 5 uses Altra EgoMax midsole foam to create a smooth and responsive feel underfoot, and is durable enough to take on long walks or tough miles. The EgoMax foam keeps you feeling fresh and energized as you build up to longer mileage, making it a great shoe for new runners.
How We Picked the Best Running Shoes for Beginners
We chose the best running shoes for beginners by poring over the details of each model. Through wear testing, interviews with shoe designers and professional athletes, and our own fit id® data, we chose the shoes we think will work best for most runners in most situations.
You can shop with confidence at Fleet Feet: We offer free shipping on all orders over $99, and you have 60 days to return any gear if you don’t like the way it looks, fits or feels. Plus, with our price-match guarantee, you can make sure you never pay too much for a new pair of running shoes.