Variety is endorsed as the spice of life when it comes to things like food and sexual positions, but it’s mostly been ignored in the world of running shoes. In our view, there is no single pair of shoes that’s ideal for running or working out; there are shoes for different kinds of terrain and different workouts. Sure, this requires a bigger up-front investment, but the shoes will last longer with a third of the wear, and your feet and body will benefit from the appropriate vehicles and the variation they impose. The three pairs of athletic shoes we liked most this year excel in their respective disciplines: road running, trail running and working out.
Sketchers GOrun Ride 4
Road: No one would blame you for assuming that the same company that makes the Shape-Ups couldn’t also make a good running shoe. It’s a bit like McDonald’s selling a grass-fed steak. Nevertheless, the GoRun Ride is a very well-priced, excellent running shoe. The fourth edition has a breathable jersey fabric upper, a roomy toe box and a sole that provides a surprising amount of cushion and support for a shoe that weighs less than eight ounces.
Weight in Size 9: 7.7 ounces
La Sportiva Bushido
Trail: Trail running shoes have improved tremendously across the board, with superb options from Patagonia, Salomon and Topo, among others. But on technical trails we’ve been most impressed by a company that knows rugged terrain very well: La Sportiva. The Bushido feels like it’s equipped with a lot of the traction and protection of a hiking shoe, but in the package of a relatively minimalist (6mm drop, 10.5 ounces) product. From the toe cap-equipped upper to the rock guard- and shank-equipped midsole to the intelligently-lugged sole, this is the shoe for running aggressively on trails and in the mountains.
Weight in Size 9: 10.5 ounces
Inov-8 F-Lite 235
Gym: Given the cult-like devotion of CrossFitters and the rise of all manner of functional fitness workouts, from parkour gyms to Fitwall, it makes sense that a suitable category of shoes emerged. Inov-8 is one of the key players, and their F-Lite line is built for lifting weights, jumping on boxes and climbing up ropes. The F-Lite 234 is new for 2014, a super light (8.5 ounces), zero-drop, sticky-as-hell, flexible shoe that’s ideal in the box or as an everyday gym shoe.
Weight in Size 9: 8.5 ounces