On your mark. Get set… Wait! Are you even wearing the right shoes for this? Before you start your first run, we need to make sure that you’re in the right running shoes, first. For a new runner, it’s important that you don’t just throw on any random pair of shoes and hope for the best. You need to find a shoe that fits your foot and provides you the support that you need for the long (and short) run—and prevents any injuries from happening.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the vast selection of running sneakers out there, we totally understand. Everyone starts somewhere, so for advice on what best running sneakers for beginners are, we’ve asked an Equinox trainer and orthopedic surgeon for their top tips.
What should beginner runners look for in a running shoe?
As with any shoe, it’s gotta fit your foot first. “When looking for an ideal pair of running shoes, be sure to find a pair that’s comfortable, lightweight, and provides sufficient cushioning. It should offer adequate arch support and ample heel-to-toe drop (not too much or too little),” orthopedic surgeon Kellie K. Middleton, MD, tells Well+Good.
Founder of Precision Rub by Equinox and certified personal trainer, David Siik, agrees and adds that the running shoe you try first might not be the running shoe you stick with once you find out your personal running style. “As you discover what kind of runner you are, you can play with more specific shoes,” Siik tells Well+Good. He continues, “You may decide you like long, slower runs and for that a good cushion shoe may be your choice. Or, you may decide you like interval running and then you’ll enjoy a light, springy fast shoe with maybe a little less cushion.” Overall, he recommends to start with a well cushioned, flexible shoe and go from there.
Another pro-tip? You’ll want to get your size, plus a half-size up—and then see which one feels the most comfortable. Depending on the brand and style, some shoes are a bit too tight, and you want them to be snug (so they don’t come flying off), yet you should still be able to have enough space to wiggle your toes in the toe box. The last thing you need is for a sneaker to be so tight on you, you feel like your feet are going numb as you run—nor do you want a loose sneaker, which could cause instability and toe bruising.
What type of running sneakers are best for beginners?
“I always recommend starting with something you’re familiar with. If there is a brand of athletic shoe you feel most comfortable in, there is a good chance they have a running shoe that you’ll also like,” Siik suggests. However, if you’re completely new to the world of running shoes, don’t fret. Siik’s advice is to go to a running shoe store (or visit a running store’s online shop) and “try on [or order] no less than three different brands.” In the end, you should opt for a shoe that feels the best on your foot unless otherwise recommended by a doctor.
As for Dr. Middleton, she agrees that trying on different brands and styles is key to finding your own “glass slipper.” Think Cinderella.
Tips for beginner runners, from the pros
Once you don your first pair of running shoes it’ll be time for you to take to the treadmill, track, or trail, so Siik and Dr. Middleton both have some advice to help you put your best running foot forward.
“Run less than you think you can! Ease yourself into running by starting small,” Siik exclaims. The personal trainer says that running twice weekly is a great place to start. Also, if it’s available to you, try to find an in-person running class so that you can spend time with a pro to show you the ropes… or runs.
Dr. Middleton notes that you should start with shorter runs to help your body get used to the motions. “Start with 15-20 minute runs. Eventually, build up to 30 minutes as you gain more experience and fitness,” she says. The orthopedic surgeon continues, “If it is safe, running outdoors is ideal as it provides the most natural and varied terrain. If you must run indoors, find a flat surface and use a treadmill or track.” A treadmill will be easier on your joints, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Above all else, both experts agree that pacing yourself—and stretching pre and post run—is key to fine tuning your trips on the treadmill to your body. And avoiding injuries like sprained ankles and shin splints—which are very common if you overextend yourself too fast! Listen to your body’s cues and don’t push yourself to the brink of exhaustion. You’ve got this.
9 best running sneakers for beginners
Brooks, Ghost 15 — $140.00
Sizes available: 5-12
Brooks is probably the most popular running shoe brand around, and that’s because its design is tried and true. The no-frills design prioritizes comfort, support, and maximizes performance for every type of runner, no matter how far along you are in your running journey. And don’t worry, the Ghost 15 won’t disappear on your feet while you run—you’ll feel the cushioned support from the get-go. Meant for everyday runs (according to the product page), this balanced sneaker with a segmented crash pad will keep your joints happy from the ankle up.
Recommended by Siik, we understand why the Ghost 15 made his cut. The combination of a breathable upper, ample cushion, and a smooth heel-to-toe drop make for a great sneaker for a running novice.
Read our full review of the Brooks Ghost 15 here.
Hoka Clifton 8 — $112.00
Sizes available: 5-12
The Hoka Clifton 8 sneaker is a fan-favorite (and a W+G editor-favorite) for a reason. It’s great for all runners—especially those new to the treadmill, road, or wherever you choose to run. It features a mesh upper, extended pull tab, and rubber that can withstand friction. It’s especially a great shoe to use if the pavement is your only option for running and you want to protect your joints (that’s thanks to Hoka’s marshmallow-like cushioning that make it stand out from the sneaker crowd). The American Podiatric Medical Association has also backed this particular style.
The Hoka Clifton 8 is a Siik recommendation, too. He considers this sneaker one of his favorite “neutral” shoes—perfect for those new to running.
Read our full review of the Hoka Clifton 8 here.
Merrell, Embark — $110.00
Sizes available: 5-11
Crave a sneaker that adapts to your environment? Then Embark (ha!) on a running journey with this style made with partially-recycled materials. These second-skin sneakers won’t weigh you down as your start to navigate your next running path.
Embark has a foam midsole, close-to-the-foot knit upper, and textured outsole that will keep your foot supported with each stride. According to Dr. Middleton, this sneaker follows her recommendation of trying a sneaker that has cushioning and a good heel-to-toe drop.
Saucony, Omni 20 — $91.00
Sizes available: 5-12
Three words to describe Saucony’s Omni 20? Stable. Fitted. Cushioned. The American Podiatric Medical Association (per the product page) has given this design its seal of approval, meaning this sneaker supports your foot’s overall health—according to the association’s standards.
When you’re starting to run, you need to ensure that your foot won’t feel tired after 15 minutes because it’s been fighting for its life within the shoe. The Omni 20 features an extended medial post that will support your foot’s natural alignment. Reach for this design if you’re someone looking for the “full-support” package.
On, Cloudgo — $150.00
Sizes available: 5-11
Cloudgo is the beginner-friendly sneaker from trendy sneaker brand On. This style boasts its iconic vents along with a sleek upper and mid-level cushioning to provide a steady running experience for a new runner.
Labeled a “neutral” shoe on the style’s product page, Cloudgo falls in line with what Siik recommends as a great place to start with a running shoe. “I would recommend leaning toward a well cushioned, flexible shoe to start with. These are often labeled as a ‘neutral’ running shoe,” the Equinox trainer says.
New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v12 — $105.00
Sizes available: 5-13
Just from the shape of the outsole alone, it’s a no brainer why this New Balance sneaker made the list. The contoured outer portion of this sneaker is made to guide your foot on the ground to ensure your first run is off to a well-supported start.
Another Siik recommendation, the Fresh Foam 880 sneakers definitely pass his cushion and stability standard. With a double-layer of top-bed and midsole foam, these sneakers will put a stable spring in your step.
Read our full review on the best New Balance sneakers here.
Asics, Gel-Kayano 29 — $160.00
Sizes available: 5-13
Asics’s Gel-Kayano 29 is great for the beginner who wants cushion to be their middle name. Meant for road running, this style provides maximum cushioning and neutral stability.
In the same way that Siik recommends starting your journey with a running sneaker that has neutral stability with ample cushioning, so does Dr. Middleton. “A neutral cushioning or stability shoe is best for most beginning runners,” the orthopedic surgeon says. And, this shoe delivers on both of those recs.
Altra, Torin 6 — $150.00
Sizes available: 5.5-12
Backed by the American Podiatric Medical Association (according to the product page) Altra’s Torin is built to run with you. Containing a layer of cushioning specifically designed to offer a proper heel-to-toe drop, Altra designed these shoes for the long-haul.
Torin 6 is a cushioned, ergonomically designed sneaker meant to support its runner to the best of its ability. So, if you’re new to running but are hesitant to start because of flimsy sneakers, try this style out before your next run.
Mizuno, Wave Rider 26 — $140.00
Sizes available: 6-12
Mizuno’s Wave Rider 26 packs a cushioned midsole, breathable upper, and extra cushion around the ankle into a beginner friendly running shoe that’s under 10-oz. Its contoured outsole is designed to propel you forward, so it will help you crush all your first runs while preventing you reaching a premature level of fatigue.
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