Best Running Shoes for Beginners 2021
Buyer's Guide | Fleet Feet
Finding the right running shoes means you'll be more comfortable as you start you training, which means you'll be more likely to stick with it. That's where the best running shoes for beginners come in.
There isn’t one shoe that’s right for every runner. What makes a shoe work for you is dependent on many factors, including your foot shape, weight and experience level (among many others). All of those variables mean the best shoes for you are different than the best shoes for someone else.
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 24
- HOKA Clifton 8
- Brooks Ghost 13
- New Balance Fresh Foam 880v11
- On Cloudswift
- Karhu Ikoni
- ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23
- Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
- Altra Torin 4.0
But you don't have to find shoes by trial and error. 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.
Still got questions? Check out these FAQs on running shoes for beginners.
[Updated June 15, 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.]
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 24
The Mizuno Wave Rider 24 got a key update but remains a classic and consistent running shoe that’s great for new runners.
Mizuno built the Wave Rider on top a firm but well-cushioned midsole that gives the shoe a soft landing and responsive takeoff. The newest version has Mizuno's new foam, called Mizuno Enerzy, that gives the shoe soft landings and a bouncy response.
Designers also sandwiched Mizuno’s signature Wave Plate into the midsole to help soak up more impact and smooth out the transition from heel to toe.
New runners will like the Wave Rider 24 because it has a generous fit that’s comfortable for a wide range of foot shapes, and the foam works with the Wave Plate to help stabilize every step.
Mizuno this year built the Wave Rider with two upper options—one mesh and one Waveknit—so you can find the right one for you. Plus, it’s one of the best-selling running shoes every year, so you can be confident in its performance and durability.
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 13
There are many good running shoes for beginners, but few shoes match the combination of comfort, performance and fit of the Brooks Ghost 13.
Brooks engineered the Ghost 13 as a well-rounded running shoe for beginners and experts alike. The newest version, though, has a softer feel than before thanks to more DNA Loft foam.
DNA Loft is one of the softest foams that Brooks makes, and this year designers extended it into the forefoot. The more generous coverage creates a softer underfoot feel and super smooth transitions.
The accommodating toe box fits most foot shapes, and it comes in a wide version for anyone who needs a roomier fit. Overall, comfort and versatility make the Brooks Ghost 13 one of the best running shoes for beginners.
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 designed the Ikoni 2020 for everyone.
Using data from 3D foot scans taken during Fleet Feet’s fit id® outfitting process, Karhu shaped the Ikoni to fit most foot sizes and shapes. The latest version sports a slightly narrower heel for a better fit, but it dons the same soft and life AeroFoam midsole to power the ride.
Karhu didn’t stop at the standard Ikoni, though: They designed the Karhu Ikoni HiVo for wide and high-volume feet. Everything about the HiVo is the same as the stock Ikoni, but it allows more runners to experience the Ikoni’s comfortable, stable ride.
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 4.0
The Altra Torin 4.0 is an easy riding neutral running shoe that beginners will love.
Altra’s FootShape toe box highlights the shoe’s fit. The unique shape is wider through the forefoot and more rectangular at the toe, which mimics the shape of your foot. FootShape allows your foot to land and splay naturally and then push off with power.
The Torin 4.0 is lighter than its predecessors without losing any of the cushioning that creates its comfortable ride. New runners will like the Altra Torin 4.0 for building up to bigger mileage.
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.