(This guide has been updated for 2019)
First, we’d like to clarify what ‘running’ means in the context of this article.
This curated list is relevant for road running only; if you’re running on treadmills, then please refer to the list of recommended shoes here. If you’re an XC, track, or a trail runner, then this guide does not apply to you.
People begin road running for a variety of reasons. For example, we’ve dispensed footwear advice to readers who ran only cross-country or track and wanted to begin road running.
At times, road running under certain external conditions such as unsuitable climate (extreme snow) or infrastructure (lack of roads) might not be workable. So once a person relocates to an area with (more) conducive conditions, he or she might begin road running.
Some first-timers decide to go road running as a variation of their favorite athletic activity like biking or swimming.
And in a large majority of cases, keeping fit is a powerful motivation for taking up running.
So far, so good. Road running is a gift; it doesn’t take an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment. All you need is some apparel and a good pair of running shoes.
This is where it can get a bit tricky. With no footwear history to guide you, buying your first pair of running shoes can be a daunting task.
Some people get a super-expensive running shoe, with the misplaced notion that a higher price equates to a better product.
Don’t do that.
Once you breach the $100 retail price barrier, running shoes are more or less the same in the matters of everyday performance. Instead of getting yourself the most expensive product, you should find a shoe which serves as a good starting point.
Your first road running shoe should be all about finding the middle ground first and then building on that foundational experience.
Your footwear taste will evolve once you’re past a few hundred miles. Your capacity and distance will improve with time, and so will your shoe rotation.
Over time, you’ll come to know whether you need a softer or firmer shoe, lighter or heavier, snugger or looser, and other things like your preference of heel drops.
This curated list helps you find that middle ground of shoes. You might not like 100% of the shoe, but it’ll give a better idea of what more (or less) you prefer in your future shoe, including the quality of upper fit.
So what is solereview’s criteria for selection here?
Price: We only chose models which had an MSRP (Full retail price) of $120 or less. The final price will depend on where you live, though.
Category: This list only contains neutral shoes which feel supportive. This will also help you decide if you need a medial-posted shoe later.
Heel offset: The heel drop is the difference in height between the thickest part of the heel and the forefoot. The suggested shoes have an 8–12 mm offset; we have not included lower drops because they might cause initial soreness.
Cushioning: None of these models are overly soft or hard. This will allow you to assess the comfort level you want, and apply that to your next purchase.
Accessibility and distribution: Most international (non-US) locations will have at least one of the five models listed below. That’s why we have stuck with popular brands and not the esoteric ones. That’s the reason why you won’t see a Hoka or Salming on this list.
And as with all running shoes, buy a size which leaves a thumb’s width of margin in the front. And gradually build up your road running mileage; don’t go from 0 – 30 miles in a single week!
Without further ado, here’s our list of top six running shoes for beginners:
1) Asics Gel-Cumulus 20
As far as running shoes go, the Asics Cumulus 20 is a very safe choice. And therein lies its appeal.
The dual-density midsole with its visi-Gel pad has a non-intimidating road character. The cushioning softness is just right, being neither too soft nor too firm. As long as you don’t rush it, the Cumulus works for a variety of runs, be it daily training or the occasional long-distance workout.
2) Brooks Ghost 11
If we had to distil this entire guide to just one shoe, then we’d choose the Ghost 11.
The multi-density midsole does an excellent job of melding cushioning and stability. The interior is smooth, breathable, and spacious. Brooks’s premium material package offers plenty of comfort.
The Ghost is an excellent starter shoe. You can use its well-rounded personality as a base to fine-tune your running shoe preferences.
3) New Balance 880V9
The 880V9 has all that one needs to begin logging road miles. The cushioned and stable midsole doesn’t rush things as you slowly begin to build your pace. The outsole has a dependable carbon rubber and blown rubber combination for grip and longevity.
This is New Balance we’re talking about, so the 880V9 sells in many widths for a customized fit experience.
4) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35
Need one running shoe to do it all? Look no further than the Pegasus 35. Whether you’re just getting started or a seasoned pro, the Pegasus gets most things right. The ride is cushioned yet not overly soft, making it versatile enough for various pace and distance ranges.
The upper has lots of room inside and Nike offers multiple widths. And do you want to find out what a Zoom Air bag inside the Pegasus 35 looks like? Read our detailed review to find out.
5) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy
Reebok had dropped off the running shoe industry’s radar for many years, but they’ve recently made a strong comeback with a line-up of shoes based on the Floatride platform.
The Forever Floatride Energy is a very recent add – and an excellent one at that. The midsole cushioning is superlative, offering a rare combination of low weight, responsiveness, soft cushioning, and decent levels of stability.
If you can get past the minor bugs on the upper design, then the Floatride Energy is a great pick as a comfortable daily trainer.
6) Saucony Ride ISO
The Saucony Ride ISO appeals to runners of all classes and it’s easy to see why. By using an Everun topsole over a firm foam midsole, the Ride ISO delivers a perfect middle-ground between cushioning and stability.
The ISOFIT upper uses plush materials to create a soft interior but the fit can be a hit or a miss. The only way to make sure that ISOFIT works for your feet is to have an in-store fit trial before ringing up the cash register.
|Do you own any of these shoes? Improve this guide by sharing your insights – submit a review here.|