Going on a run for the first time is a hellish experience. But if you’re reading this, you probably enjoyed that run so much you want to do it again, and enough times after that to warrant buying a new pair of running shoes. Welcome! The worst is over! The best part is buying the gear. First up: the best running shoes for beginners.
Things to consider when buying a pair of running shoes
Before buying a pair of shoes, consider where you plan to do most of your running. The three major surfaces are pavement, trail, and treadmill. Most new recreational runners do the majority of their running on the pavement, whether that’s a concrete sidewalk or asphalt road, so we limited our running shoe picks to those that are best suited for road running.
Comfort and stability
Aside from getting more confident in your running, preventing injury should be a priority for beginner runners. Too much mileage too soon and improper running form can take a toll. A good pair of shoes can’t control your mileage but it can do its part in correcting any imbalances. Look for shoes that are well-cushioned and stable; simply put, a shoe that provides a high level of support.
As a beginner, it’s in your best interest to find an affordable pair of shoes. It’s possible you’ll wake up a month from now and decide you never want to run again. We sincerely hope not because we’re big believers in running over here, but you really don’t want to go all out on gear as a newbie. As such, we limited our selection to shoes $160 or below.
Durability and versatility
Advanced runners tend to have a few shoes that they rotate through depending on their workout and thanks to Nike, will spend up to $250 on carbon-plated sneakers that are great for road racing but wear out after a low volume of miles (that said, we love Nike shoes—read our roundup of the best Nike running shoes here). Beginners should look for shoes that last a long time and can handle a variety of paces—you don’t want a pair that max out after 100 miles and are best for speed, nor do you want a pair of shoes that make it difficult to pick up the pace.
Below, you’ll find our picks for the best road running shoes for beginners.
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The best running shoes for beginners (2022)
Asics Gel Cumulus 23
The Asics Gel Cumulus is a great pair of neutral running shoes for first-time runners. It’s great for everyday running as well as long distances, so if you have aspirations of running a half or full marathon, it’s a good pair to grow into. It offers plenty of cushioning and is designed for runners with high or normal-size arches and a neutral gait cycle.
Asics Gel Kayano 28
If you’re an overpronator, we recommend you go with the Kayano instead of the Cumulus. The Kayano does run a little heavy but it offers max support, specifically in the arches. (Read our guide to the best shoes for overpronation.)
Hoka Clifton 8
When new runners ask us to recommend a pair of running shoes, our personal favorite to suggest is the Hoka Clifton. The Clifton is a great introduction to Hoka’s super-cushioned feel. Central to the shoe is a low heel-toe drop (5mm) and a rocker midsole that creates a rocking chair-like motion to ease you through transitions. (Read our review of the Hoka Clifton.)
Hoka Mach 4
If you’re a beginner runner and looking for a shoe specifically for speed workouts, we recommend the Hoka Mach 4. Both the Clifton and the Mach have all the hallmarks of a great running shoe for beginners: they’re well-cushioned, offer ample support, can handle a high volume of mileage, and are less than $160, but the Mach is a noticeably more lightweight shoe than the Clifton and more versatile in terms of speed.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus
Like the Asics Cumulus, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus has been around for a while and gone through many versions (it’s currently on its 38th!). The latest Pegasus has a snappy and responsive feel thanks to React foam in the midsole and a wider toe box than its predecessor. It’s one of the most versatile running shoes out there, ready to take on long runs, speed intervals, and tempo runs, no matter if you’re training for a 5k, half-marathon, or full marathon. (Also worth noting: Though these Pegasus are road shoes, Nike also makes a great pair of Pegasus trail shoes.)
Nike React Infinity Run
The Nike React Infinity is the best beginner running shoe for those who are at high risk of injury. It has a rocker-like bottom and like the Pegasus 38, a wide midsole made with React foam. It’s one of our picks for the best shoes for shin splints, a common injury for beginner runners.
Brooks Ghost 14
The Brooks Ghost is one of the most reliable trainers out there. It’s not a particularly exciting product, but that’s why it’s so great for beginners who are looking for the platonic ideal of a running shoe. The Ghost features Brook’s DNA Loft cushioning—its softest midsole cushioning that yields a soft but durable ride and absorbs shock to prevent injury. If you’re looking for a nothing-fancy neutral shoe that’ll last 500 miles and can handle a mix of terrain, this is the one. (Read our review of the Brooks Ghost.)
Saucony Ride 14
The Ride is Saucony’s version of a neutral daily trainer, and like the rest of the shoes on this list, is a great option for a beginner runner looking for one shoe to get them through a couple hundred miles. In terms of mechanics, it has a durable carbon and rubber outsole, a comfortable engineered mesh upper, and Saucony’s PWWRRUN cushioning to create a soft and responsive ride.