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The Types of Running Shoes You Should Know

Learn more about the different running shoe styles to get the most out of every stride.

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Running is a very inclusive activity. Whether you're well-seasoned in physical fitness or just starting your personal journey, running can be a great introduction to exercising. Another beautiful benefit to running? There's not a lot of gear required to partake. With that said, though, your running experience can be thoroughly enhanced if that gear is tuned to your specific step.

There are so many runners out there, and thus, an equal amount of running shoes. With designs ranging from the minimalistic to the over-exaggerated, the slow-and-steady to record-breaking-speedsters, finding the right running shoe can be a bit of challenge for inexperienced athletes. To avoid that overwhelming dilemma, though, we've compiled a simple guide that outlines the major running shoe categories on the market today. Before quickening the pace and diving into each subsection, though, it helps to understand what actually determines which running shoe is right for your footbed.

How Do You Know What Kind of Running Shoes You Need?


Your gait is way your feet strikes and leaves the ground in a common step. This determines which portion of your foot makes contact with the ground on impact, which can affect ankle support and other running shoe qualities.

There are three gait types that most fall into.

Neutral runners are the easiest to diagnose, as these athletes strike the ground with the outside of their heel first, followed by a slight inward roll for toe-off.

Overpronation runners have a gait where their foot rolls excessively inward, which can compromise your ankle's ability to stabilize and absorb impact.

Supination runners experience an outward roll when pushing off post-heel strike, the opposite of overpronators.

Your local sporting goods store can help you find out which you are, with some even taking analysis into the digital realm with 3D foot scanners. If you're happy enough with something less scientific, look at the tread of your daily sneakers. If you see wear on the outer area of your kicks, you're most likely a supinator. If the inside of the tread is worn more, this could indicate a more pronated stride.

Cushioning Levels

While your gait can determine how much support you need underfoot, you should also consider how you want your ride to feel. If you want to be fully connected to the road, you may want to look at running shoes that offer less cushioning. If you're an athlete that desires that plush, pillow-like feel when out on a jog, consider max-cushioned silhouettes.

It can be easy to tell how much cushioning a running shoe contains just by looking at the midsole. Those sneakers with the high stack height and raised platforms are the ones desired by max-cushion runners. Be mindful, though, that this extra material can mean extra weight, and while many brands have optimized their cushioning to be light underfoot, if you're chasing down a new PR time, they may not be ideal for your situation.

Intended Use

The last factor to consider when choosing a proper pair of running shoes is where you intend to wear your sneakers.

Road running shoes feature a streamlined midsole that's built for traction on concrete or paved surfaces. If you're , think about investing in

Trail running shoes feature a grippier outsole and more durable uppers aimed at taking on varying terrain and conditions.

Treadmill runners, meanwhile, can usually get by with whatever kicks they find most comfortable.

Regardless of your metrics, it can always be helpful to have a rotation of running shoes at the ready. Rotating your running shoes between different environments and training goals can better preserve the shoe's outsole and cushioning.

Now, let's lace up and get to the bottom of all these running shoe categories.

Neutral Running Shoes

    Neutral running shoes are a good way to start off this roundup, since they cater to most individuals. These sneakers feature a more balanced footstrike, which can be beneficial for neutral gaits, as well as those those don't excessively pronate. Neutral shoes can vary in terms of cushioning, but don't typically feature add-ons like guide rails and other stabilizing features (more on that later).


    Brooks Ghost 14

    $99.95 (29% off)

    If you're brand-new to running, neutral running shoes can be a fantastic starting point as you slowly begin to understand your personal step. Many of the top running brands have a plethora of neutral running shoes available across multiple disciplines. If you have a more natural step already, this is the silhouette for you.

    Cushioned Running Shoes

    Cushioned running shoes offer that luxe feeling underfoot due to their overemphasis on comfort. These silhouettes can feature mounds of plush foam in the midsole to promote that cozy ride. Max-cushioned running shoes can be fantastic options for a number of disciplines; everything from walking to long-distance running.


    Hoka Bondi 8


    It's important to note, though, that cushioned running shoes might not be the most corrective option out there. After all, with the added foam underfoot, there's not a lot of room for stabilizing features in the profile. Still, these options can be a nice reprieve from more serious silhouettes.

    Trail Running Shoes

    These kicks are built with the wild in mind. Trail running shoes often showcase more aggressive tread patterns and durable, outdoor-ready uppers to fend against the varying terrain and changing conditions associated with logging your miles through the wilderness. Trail running shoes can also feature a stiffer sole than road running shoes to help traverse rugged trails and surfaces, although there are some well-cushioned options out there bringing the plush to the dirt.


    Hoka Speedgoat 5


    Trail running shoes can be looked at as a lightweight alternative to hiking boots thanks to the increased attention to the traction underfoot. After all, the last thing you want is to lose your footing when scaling over an errant root or boulder. Trail runners can also work well on the road or paved pathway, especially in areas where the roads are less than level. All that added traction, though, can lead to a heavier pickup, so if speed is your main priority, consider jogging in something more suited for the on-road environment.

    Racing/Marathon Running Shoes

    These are the supercars of the running world. With nothing but high-octane intensity in mind, racing shoes utilize the latest tech and featherweight textiles to create a speed-driven silhouette whose "sole" purpose is to achieve the fastest time possible. For example, many race-ready running shoes will feature a carbon fiber footplate for enhanced energy return. This newer tech breakthrough has allowed brands to cut weight yet still maintain that springy, forward-driven propulsion in your stride.


    Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2


    Racing shoes, much like race cars, come in a variety of models. There are some destined for the start of a marathon, where others might be suited for the short track, i.e., the mile-long race. Just note, however, that speed isn't always the answer. Many racing shoes substitute comfort for more performance-driven features, making them less appropriate for daily training needs. But, if you are toeing the line anytime soon, these may be the perfect fit for that first place finish.

    Winter Running Shoes

    Outdoor running has a season, and it's safe to say that you're more likely to enjoy an outdoor jog when there's not a threat of incoming snowfall. Despite this inclement change of weather, some athletes still favor the thrill of taking on the elements, which can be troublesome in normal running shoes. Thankfully, though, winter running shoes beef up the durability and traction to keep your cardio-based training on-track all throughout the year. Resembling a trail running sneaker, these kicks add notes of water resistance and heat-retaining interiors to better accommodate the changing seasons.


    Inov-8 Roclite G 315 GTX

    $116.00 (30% off)

    Winter running shoes are also characterized by the added traction underfoot, with many featuring grippy lugs to trudge through the slush and snow. There are even some winter running shoes designed for ice traversing, with crampon-like fixtures in the sole for added grip. Naturally, these might not be the best option for summertime running, but if you're planning out your year-long training schedule — and you live in a snowy environment — it helps to keep these on your radar.

    Barefoot Running Shoes

    Barefoot running shoes are on the opposite end of the midsole spectrum. These close-to-the-ground runners often feature zero drop — the difference between heel height and forefoot height — and offer a more traditional running aesthetic than other options. You feel every step in barefoot running shoes, rather than the cloud-like experience you'd see in cushioned sneakers.


    Merrell Vapor Glove 5

    $74.99 (17% off)

    Barefoot running shoes can be viable picks for those with neutral gaits that don't require ample correction, as well as those looking for a lightweight profile. With an emphasis on a more "traditional" running plane, though, these might not be suitable for those desiring some extra underfoot comfort. Plus, barefoot running shoes can take some getting used to, since they don't feature as much cushioning as more traditional silhouette.

    Stability Running Shoes

    Where neutral running shoes showcase that natural, balanced footstrike, the goal of a stability running shoe is to correct your step so you can achieve that proper landing. Stability running shoes can be great for overpronators who experience excessive inward roll. There are also stability running shoes designed for supinators, although they're less common and typically feature more cushioning along the outer edge of the outsole to guide that step more inward.


    Asics Gel-Kayano 29


    Most stability running shoes employ what's known as guide rails on the inner half of the foot. These design elements create a more rigid profile and don't flex as easily in comparison to the rest of the upper material. The result? A more stabilized step that's better aligned to a more natural footpath.

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