The Best Sneakers for Every Type of Runner, According to Experts

The Best Sneakers for Every Type of Runner, According to Experts

Sturdy trainers, rugged trail shoes, and more.

12 Best Running Shoes for Women According to Experts in 2023

Courtesy of the brands / Wesley Hall

Choosing a pair of running shoes is a lot like dating. There’s a number of options out there—all with their own unique characteristics and qualities—and sometimes you need to try out a few different types before you find the right fit. In the case of sneakers, however, let SELF be your matchmaker. Here’s what you need to know.

How to pick a pair of running shoes

Before you browse our choices, keep in mind that everyone’s footwear needs are different. One person might benefit from something with more cushion, while another may prefer a speedy, streamlined shoe. “Deciding on the best running shoe for you is a very individual decision,” Morgan Busko, MD, sports medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, tells SELF. That’s why she highly recommends doing a gait analysis at a running store, to help pinpoint your specific needs.

If you can’t get to one, there are still some other tips to keep in mind. Dr. Busko suggests seeking a shoe that’s specifically designed for running—rather than a standard sneaker or walking shoe. “It should feel more rigid and most comfortable while running,” she says, adding it’s also important to find a shoe with a comfortable heel to toe drop (the difference in height between your heel and the ball of your foot) and one that allows your toes to spread freely, without restriction.

What’s more, there’s no singular perfect shoe for all types of training: You may want to have different options for everyday jogs, long runs, or speed workouts, Dr. Busko says. For instance, a sneaker with a lighter weight may feel better when you’re pushing the pace, but you may prefer more cushion for longer routes—even if that makes your shoe a bit heavier. To help narrow down your search, we curated a list of the best running shoes, based on insight from running coaches, sports performance experts, and SELF Sneaker Award testers and staffers.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

  • 1

    Best for Beginners: Nike Pegasus

    The Nike Pegasus is a tried and true favorite in the running community for a reason: “This shoe is great for not just beginners, but also for anyone who wants a good neutral running shoe for everyday runs,” Ariela Pohl Bickell, DPT, physical therapist based in Washington DC, tells SELF. “It is a good balance between feeling lightweight but giving enough support for long runs.” Not only does this sneaker offer a lot of spring in each step (often referred to as responsiveness or energy return), but the latest version also features more cushioning in the toes and arches, for optimal comfort.

  • 2

    Best Springy Ride: New Balance SuperComp Trainer

    For a truly responsive ride, you may want to look into a shoe that has carbon plate technology, like this New Balance trainer. This design element provides a spring-like effect, which reduces the amount of energy a runner needs to put into every stride. “The lightness of the shoe helps you feel versatile, and it’s built to handle shorter and longer distances, which not many shoes can provide,” Ceren Keylon, a NASM-certified personal trainer and NSCA-certified run coach, tells SELF. “It’s got a bouncy ride, which improves efficiency.” She adds that the SuperComp Trainer has the perfect amount of foam.“I have a friend who ran a full marathon in these shoes and said she felt comfortable the whole way.”

  • 3

    Best Everyday Trainer: Adidas Adizero SL

    As a fitness writer and avid runner, I’ve personally tested hundreds (and hundreds) of running shoes. When I first tried the Adizeros earlier this year, I was immediately impressed by the lightweight cushion and ultra-comfortable, foot-hugging fit. I personally prefer when a shoe has enough padding to soften my landing, but not so much that it weighs me down—and the Adizero SLs have the perfect balance. They’re designed as an everyday trainer, but the brand’s signature foam gives them enough oomph for race day. I’ve worn these shoes during two different half marathons, and they helped me stay pain-free while supporting my speed.

  • 4

    Great for Speed Workouts: Hoka Mach X

    Another speedy trainer worth considering is the new Hoka Mach X, which SELF Fitness Director Christa Sgobba tested out. “There’s a good deal of bounce, making it easy to pick up the pace—and maintain it,” she wrote. “The responsive cushioning makes the shoe feel really forgiving, so it’s a great option for the sessions that are a little longer than your normal everyday run and include some speed work.” And while Hoka is known for its substantial cushioning, this pair isn’t quite as plush as the brand’s everyday trainers—it contains a flexible carbon plate, which gives the shoe a firmer, springier feel.

  • 5

    Most Comfortable: Under Armour HOVR Phantom 3

    This SELF Sneaker Award–winner received rave reviews from our testers. “I can’t say enough about how good these shoes feel. I have shin splints and I’ve been on the hunt for a pair of sneakers I can run in without pain. These are the ones!” said one reviewer. “They have plenty of cushion, the arch is supportive, the heel is locked in place, the shoe is really light and flexible. No pain at all.” I’ve personally tested these running shoes too, and can attest to their impressive comfort. The flexible, sock-like upper provides a custom-like fit, and the ultra-plush sole eases some of the strain on your joints.

  • 6

    Best for Overpronators: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23

    With overpronation, your foot rolls too much inward with each step, which places extra stress on the muscles, ligaments, and joints of the foot, ankle, shin, and even hip and knee, according to Dr. Busko. For this reason, she says runners who overpronate can benefit from a stability shoe, which often features firmer heel counters and arch support.

    One sneaker that fits the bill: the Brooks Adrenaline, which is a favorite of NASM-certified personal trainer and SLT Tread instructor Rani Vance. “They are the most supportive and lightweight shoes that I’ve run in,” she tells SELF. ”They put my ankle into the best position during my run.”

  • 7

    Best for Race Day: Nike Vaporfly

    Ready to lace up a pair of speedster sneakers for your next big 10K or half marathon? Look no further than the Nike Vaporfly. “There are many good options for race shoes, but this pair of Nikes has been my favorite—they really help you run faster, they’re comfortable, and help with recovery,” says Pohl Bickell. This shoe features a full-length carbon fiber plate, which supports a swift stride—plus it has enough cushion to keep your feet feeling comfortable for long distances. That said, Pohl points out they don’t last for many miles, so she recommends saving them for race day.

  • 8

    Best for Tempo Runs: Saucony Endorphin Speed

    “They are super light, yet durable enough for many miles. I literally feel faster in these shoes, and it shows in my pace,” Jules Simon, NASM-certified personal trainer and RRCA-certified run coach, tells SELF of the Saucony Endorphin Speed sneaker. It also features a winged nylon plate, which is meant to support your pace, but comes at a lower price point than its carbon plate counterpart.

  • 9

    Best Zero-Drop Shoe: Altra Rivera 3

    For those who prefer a minimal heel to toe drop, I can personally vouch for Altra Running, which makes everything from rugged trail shoes to daily trainers. My favorite neutral road shoe is the Rivera 3, which features a just-right amount of foam cushion for a soft yet springy feel. As with all Altra shoes, these are designed to fit the natural shape of the foot, which means there’s plenty of space for your toes to spread out. (I also recently tested the Outroad 2, which is a great zero-drop, road-to-trail option.)

  • 10

    Best Trail Running Shoe: Salomon Ultra Glide 2

    For runners who plan to take their miles off-road, the Salomon Ultra Glide 2 is a fantastic pick. It was named the “most comfortable trail” option in the SELF 2023 Sneaker Awards, due to its thick cushion that’s sturdy enough to withstand tough terrain. “The Ultra Glide 2 has become my go-to trail runner for all but the most technical mountain terrain where I need the extra grip and agility,” wrote one of our testers in her full review of the shoe. “So if you’re anything like me and need all the help you can get to increase comfort and enjoyment on a run, I would highly recommend this pair.”

  • 11

    Best Road-to-Trail: Lululemon Blissfeel Trail

    “To me, the shoe is for runners who want to give trails a try, but probably aren’t going to jump into really intense ones right off the bat,” wrote Sgobba in her review of the Lululemon Blissfeel Trail shoe for the SELF 2023 Sneaker Awards. Named the best road-to-trail option, “it’s rugged enough to protect your feet on uneven ground, but not so bulky that it can’t go on the pavement too.” Sgobba did note that the lugs of the shoe felt best on packed dirt versus rocky terrain—so that may be helpful to keep in mind while planning your off-road route.

  • 12

    Best Short-Distance Speed Shoe: ON Cloudflash

    Perhaps one of the most buzzed-about footwear brands lately, On really lives up to the hype. The Cloudflash, in particular, comes highly recommended by Chari Hawkins, a Team USA Track & Field heptathlete. “If I am pushing the pace to be really quick, I want a shoe that can keep up,” she says, adding that she loves the ON Cloudboom Echo 3 for this reason, as well. “Any time I can forget my feet and focus on the run, I’m happy, and these shoes do just that!” The Cloudflash is a more streamlined speed shoe—designed based on feedback from elite athletes—but still features sufficient cushion.

Kristine has nearly a decade of experience creating content for print and digital publications, specializing in health, fitness, food, and travel. Most recently, she was the Health & Fitness Director at mindbodygreen, where she oversaw the Health, Food, and Movement verticals. Before that, she was the Fitness and Wellness Editor… Read more

SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

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