First, we’d like to establish 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 a XC, track, or a trail runner, then we’ll publish a buyer’s guide for those categories shortly.
People begin road running for a variety of reasons. For example, we’ve dispensed footwear advice to readers who were focused exclusively on cross country or track runs, and wanted to get into road running.
At times, road running under certain external conditions such as unsuitable climate (extreme snow) or infrastructure (lack of roads) might not be feasible. So once a person relocates to an area with (more) conducive conditions, he or she might get into road running.
Some first-timers decide to go road running as a variation from 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 gets 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 into 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 performance. Instead, 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 a period, 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 good perspective of what more (or less) you require 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 reasonably 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 a 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 is why we have stuck to the popular brands and not esoteric ones.
It is also perfectly OK to get the older versions if you find a better deal. For example, a Saucony Ride 8 instead of 9 will do just fine. Or a Ghost 8 instead of the 9.
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 solereview top five list of running shoes for beginners:
1) Asics Gel Cumulus 18.
The Cumulus has been Asics’ go-to neutral cushioning shoe. This is one of the few remaining running shoes to feature a ‘traditional’ design, by which we mean the use of a plastic midfoot shank and regular EVA foam.
Don’t be fooled by the visible ‘Gel’ windows, though; most of the cushioning comes from the stack of foam. The upper is comfortable but shallow in the front.
Weight: 315 grams/ 11.1 ounces, 10 mm offset, available in multiple widths.
2) Brooks Ghost 9
The Brooks Ghost 9 offers a lot for its price. The midsole is multi-density and delivers a cushioned yet supportive ride. The blown rubber outsole grips great, and the upper uses plush materials.
Weight: 334 grams/ 12 ounces, 12 mm offset, available in multiple widths.
3) New Balance 880 V6
New Balance’s ‘Fresh Foam’ and Vazee lines might hog all the marketing limelight, but there are understated shoes such as the 880 which are excellent performers. It has a comfortable upper which fits right in all the places, and the dual-density midsole produces a cushioned yet stable ride.
Weight: 315 grams/ 11.1 ounces, 12 mm offset, available in multiple widths. (The 880 V7 has just been released – it is $5.00 more expensive than the V6)
4) Nike Zoom Pegasus 33
The Pegasus has been around for over three decades and is Nike’s best selling running shoe. The 33rd edition has a cushioned and springy ride, thanks to the dual Zoom Air bags inside the midsole. The sleeved upper fits snug and the rubber outsole is extremely durable.
Weight: 306 grams/ 10.8 ounces, 10 mm offset, available in multiple widths.
5) Saucony Ride 9
Featuring Saucony’s ‘Everun’ topsole, this is the lightest shoe of the bunch and the firmest. The Ride 9 has a do-it-all character, making it versatile enough for the long and easy runs or fast-paced training. The upper fits narrow, but then, you have the optional sizing width to your rescue.
Weight: 272 grams/ 9.6 ounces, 10 mm offset, available in multiple widths.