Running is an easy and fun way to get in shape, and it does not require a large investment in equipment at the outset. Just a good pair of shoes and some sweats, and you are ready to head out the door.
But what constitutes a “good pair of shoes”? To a new runner unfamiliar with shoe vocabulary, the myriad choices and strange terminology can be confusing. Can’t I just buy a pair of shoes?
Well…yes and no. Many shoes seem to be for long-time runners who don’t shy away from investing in their running, so it’s hard to find what you’ll benefit from. You don’t run marathons (yet!), you don’t do triathlons (yet!), and you want something simple that won’t break the bank.
While many novice runners don’t understand why a good pair of shoes is crucial to a great run, experienced athletes would be the first to tell you that proper footwear is the foundation for success.
A good pair of running shoes does more than keep your feet comfortable and help improve performance; it can also help prevent injury.
For a beginner pair of running shoes, the most important things are comfort and stability. It’s likely that, as a beginner, you may not run correctly for your knees and feet, so you’ll want a pair of shoes that can help counter that.
Every year there seems to be a whole new list of shoes to choose from. To make your decision easier, we’ve broken down the best running shoes for beginners. Welcome to running!
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Brooks Launch 8
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Saucony Echelon 8
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Hoka One One Cavu
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Best Overall Running Shoe for New Runners
1. Brooks Launch 8
Brooks is, for good reason, one of the most popular running brands, for new and experienced runners alike. The Launch 8 is a popular shoe for those who need to take a little bit of stress off of their knees and ankles.
First, comfort: the Launch 8’s ample cushioning is made up of a BioMogo DNA, which helps with extra support in the heel and forefoot of the shoe. This technology gives you nearly 30 percent extra cushioning, making it a must-have for beginners.
Although the shoe comes with extra cushioning, it isn’t too soft (shoes that are too soft can actually become tiresome on your feet). What the Launch 8 does do is return some of the energy from each stride to your leg, giving the shoe an energetic, springy feeling. As your legs acclimate to your new exercise routine and your fitness builds, this springiness will help reduce fatigue in your foot and leg muscles, and keep you running for increasingly longer distances.
The Launch 8 also comes with a one-piece mesh on the upper part of the shoe to keep your feet well-ventilated.
- Extra cushioning to avoid sore feet
- Padded midsole, great for longer runs
- Smaller tongue to avoid getting in the way
- The updated cushion is less springy than the previous model
- The extra support causes it to be wider than most shoes
Top Running Shoe for Heavier Runners
2. Saucony Echelon 8
The Saucony Echelon 8 is an excellent, basic, all-purpose running shoe, especially helpful for runners with under-pronation–when the arches on your feet don’t go flat enough when you run. It’s common in people with high arches.
Running with too much under-pronation can cause injuries over time, so the Echelon 8 is designed with cushioning that promotes your arches to flatten while you run.
The Saucony Echelon 8 is also great for runners of every body type. With a solid platform sockliner on the foundation of the shoe that cushions your feet when you land, it balances weight with sturdiness of construction…an ideal shoe for avoiding sore feet during longer runs.
- Great for people with under-pronation
- Perfect for running on the road
- Great for all body types
- Not made for trails and harsher terrain
- Not as lightweight as other beginner running shoes
Best Shoe for Runners with Flat Feet
3. ASICS GT- 2000 9
While the Echelon 8 is great for those with under-pronation, many others suffer from the exact opposite problem: over-pronation. If you suffer from flat feet or fallen arches, you may want to consider the ASICS GT-2000 9.
Over-pronation can cause sore feet and sometimes more serious injuries, so the GT-2000 comes with cushioning in the heel and forefoot to hold the arches of your feet in place.
ASICS also added their Flytefoam to the padding, promoting a springier bounce when you’re running. The foam will put less stress on your limbs and should lead to fewer injuries, which is key when starting up and maintaining a new running habit.
- Great for people with over-pronation
- Breathable mesh to keep your feet cool
- Nice cushioning on the forefoot
- Lightweight for this category of shoe
- Snug in midfoot and heel; may be too tight for some runners
- Not as roomy in toebox as other shoes
Top Minimalist Shoe for New Runners
4. Altra Escalante 2.5
A minimalist shoe aims to get your feet back to their natural placement. Many people find that over-cushioning of shoes can cause more harm than good over time; the Altra Escalante 2.5 is a counter to that.
Altra is known for shoes with a level heel-to-toe drop, a design known as “zero-drop.” While a traditional running shoe elevates the heel about half and inch above the level of the toe, zero-drop shoes keep your heels and toes even. Whether this is beneficial or not is the subject of much debate, but as beginning runner, you should at least know that the option is there.
The Escalante 2.5, like any zero-drop shoe, can help promote a running form in which your forefoot lands first, rather than your heel. With such a stride, your entire foot is engaged in softening the impact of running, as opposed to hitting heel-first, which transfers stress up your leg. Most people, however, are used to wearing everyday shoes that elevate the heel, so using a zero-drop model might take some getting used to.
One customer said, “This shoe has great padding in the ball of your foot for all your zero drop running needs and plenty of padding in the heel.” The Escalante 2.5 shines by giving you a natural running feel without sacrificing comfort.
The shoe also comes with FootPod technology, which lets the bones and tendons in your feet move more naturally. If you’re a beginner runner and want a more organic run, the Altra Escalante 2.5 is the best choice on the market.
- Extremely lightweight
- Minimalist, but doesn’t sacrifice cushioning
- Zero drop from heel to toe
- Not a good choice for people with severe overpronation
- Minimalist shoes can be uncomfortable for beginners
Most Cushioned Shoe for Beginners
5. Hoka One One Cavu
While these other shoes have a range of benefits, Hoka One One focuses all their effort towards cushioning and support. They are easy to spot: look for the shoes with the extremely thick soles.
The Hoka One One Cavu comes with a comfort-fit bootie under the mesh that offers extra cushion around your feet. It also comes with their PROFLY midsole, which will give your feet extra support.
The cushioned heel also lets you be on your feet for longer periods without getting sore.
Don’t let the thick soles fool you. The Cavu, despite its tall profile, remains both lightweight and very flexible. If you’re a beginner and cushioning is your priority, the Hoka One One Cavu is the right choice.
- Best cushioning on the market for beginners
- Extremely comfortable
- Mesh on the upper soles for better breathability
- Too much cushion can cause instability
- Not particularly durable
Best Nike Running Shoe for Beginners
6. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 is a model that for good reason has been around for many, many years and enjoys great popularity among casual and serious runners alike. Simply put, they are the best pair of Nikes we found for beginners.
The shoes come with a midfoot strap inside the shoe that ensure a firm fit. The Pegasus 38’s heel cushioning slips down the lower side of the ankle, giving extra support for your Achilles tendon, a common source of tightness and other aches for new runners.
The Pegasus 38 also comes with a full-length Zoom Air unit that many people found to be the best cushioning for beginners.
When you run with the Pegasus 38s, the toebox of the shoe opens up to leave room for your feet while retaining flexibility. This will keep your toes from aching after a long run.
One customer said, “The sock-like fit and exceptional shock absorption really save my knees and back when I jog. Really like them.” With a Nike shoe, you’ll get a great aesthetic while keeping your body healthy.
The shoe isn’t revolutionary, but if you’re looking for Nikes to start running in, this is your best option.
- Holds feet tight without being uncomfortable
- Strong durability
- Slanted heel for a smoother transition
- Some people find the extra cushioning uncomfortable
- Not great for people with wide forefeet
Best Beginner Running Shoe for Men
7. Brooks Ghost 14
If you’re a beginner runner and want a shoe specifically designed for men, the best option is the Brooks Ghost 14. This shoe has consistently been the winner of the Runner’s World Editor’s Choice Award.
Like the Brooks Launch, the Ghost 14 also comes with a BioMogo DNA, which helps with extra support in the heel and forefoot. This technology gives you nearly 30 percent extra cushioning. DNA Loft foam in the midsole also adds cushioning without extra weight.
The shoe is designed primarily for road running, but the quality can hold up on other terrains. The Ghost 14 comes with Brooks’ segmented Crash Pad shock absorbers, which help cushion the heel-to-toe transition. This is especially useful to keep your feet protected when running longer distances.
The midsole cushioning keeps your feet from getting sore, which is a great way to keep you running as a beginner.
If you’re a male who wants comfort without sacrificing durability, the Ghost 14 is the best on the market. One reviewer wrote it’s like “wrapping the foot in a cloud.”
- Great heel-to-toe transition
- Great arch support
- Good for both walking and running
- Much bulkier than other shoes for men
- Shoelaces are a little short
Best Beginner Running Shoe for Women
8. ASICS Gel-Cumulus 23
The ASICS Gel-Cumulus 23 is the best running shoe for women when it comes to performance and comfort (although it’s great for men as well).
As a beginner, you can’t go wrong with the Gel-Cumulus 23. As you grow in experience and endurance, the Gel-Cumulus will provide a solid platform to take your training and fitness as far as you want to go.
The shoe comes with ASICS’ own Flytefoam technology. This cushioning gives the sole a bounce-back that runners say makes them feel much lighter.
Like the ASICS GT-2000, the Gel-Cumulus has gel padding that also contributes to the springy, energy-returning bounce characteristic of well-made running shoes. This will put less stress on your feet and should help keep you injury-free.
ASICS also added reflective materials for beginner runners who like to exercise at night. The technology brightens the shoe during low-light hours.
For women who are just getting started, the ASICS Gel-Cumulus 23 provides the comfort that will have you looking forward to your next run, and the durability to last as running becomes a regular part of your life. It’s the best shoe for women today.
- Great balance of cushion and responsiveness
- Durable midsole
- Extremely light
- Little tight in the heel
- Can feel too narrow for some runners
Top Beginner Running Shoe for Bad Knees
9. New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon
There is a myth that running is bad for the knees. There is also the reality that some runners do, in fact, have bad knees, and the idea of running when you know you have bad knees is a nightmare. Don’t let the fear of knee pain stop you from being a runner; take a look at the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon.
These shoes are tailored to go easy on your knees. The Beacon’s best qualities are cushioning and low weight. In fact, the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacons are one of the lightest shoes we found.
Of the Fresh Foam cushioning, one reviewer said, “I find these so comfortable that other shoes feel clunky. I am hoping that New Balance does not make significant changes to this shoe.”
The cushioning provides a soft landing for your feet, so that your knees aren’t hurting while you’re running.
The other shining quality is how light they are. The midsole in the Fresh Foam Beacons is made from ultra-plush foam that gives it a featherweight feel.
Heavier shoes can put unwanted stress on your knees, so the Beacons give you cushion and support without adding bulk to your run.
- Great for high arches
- Extremely flexible
- Best shoe support for your knees
- The foam is exposed on the outsole
- Not very good traction on crushed stone
Best Beginner Running Shoe for Wide Feet
10. New Balance 890v6
Finding shoes that actually fit when you have wide feet can be difficult. But fit is incredibly important, especially for wide feet; if your feet don’t have the space inside the shoe to move and flex with the natural motions of running, you’ll find yourself injured quickly.
The New Balance 890v6 is designed with a wider structure to make sure they fit wider feet. The shoes also have New Balance’s REVlite midsole foam, which gives you responsive cushioning.
One customer said, “Wonderful shoe that hugs the foot without crowding it.” Many people have to buy larger shoes to fit their wide feet, and they can end up being too large. These shoes fit snugly without being too tight.
The shoes make a lot of improvements from the previous 890, including a snugger fit. The 890v6 also comes with TPU strips in the forefoot, making them a much more responsive shoe. The strips will help with bending correctly when you maneuver your feet.
- Perfect for wider feet
- Much lighter than the previous model
- Not very flexible
- Still heavier than other beginner running shoes