Our test panelists have logged thousands of miles evaluating running, walking, and cross-training shoes. We’ve tested them on the pavement, in gyms, and in our labs, too. We’ve checked whether the front of the shoe flexed enough to let you push off easily with the ball of your foot. And we’ve measured stability (control of ankle motion), shock absorption at the forefoot and heel (where the impact is greatest), and breathability (the ability to dissipate moisture). Weight also matters. The lighter the shoe, the better–as long as cushioning and stability don’t suffer.
Top 10 Athletic Shoes
- Rearfoot GEL Cushioning System: Attenuates shock during impact phase and allows for a smooth transition to...
- Removable Sockliner: A sockliner which can be removed to accommodate a medical orthotic.
- MEN'S RUNNING SHOES: Molded pods offer multi-surface traction. Pods flatten on impact then spring back at...
- ATHLETIC SHOES: Soft foam midsole delivers lightweight, responsive cushioning. Underlays in the vamp and toe...
- Give yourself an edge when you lace up the GEL-Venture® 6 running shoe!
- Predecessor: GEL-Venture 5.
- Outdoor-ready runner with mesh and brushstroke-patterned underlays
- Rearfoot GEL cushioning
- Stretchable mesh upper for breathability
- Combined Cloudfoam midsole and outsole for step-in comfort and superior cushioning
- SIZE ATTENTION: True to size ! Recommend ordering usual shoe size, Half size up for Customer's with very wide...
- Look lively and full of personality with the exceptional style of the graffiti fashion sneaker.
- AMPLIFOAM MIDSOLE: Engineered to maintain durability at softer densities, providing better flexibility,...
- REARFOOT GEL BRAND TECHNOLOGY CUSHIONING SYSTEM: Attenuates shock during impact phase and allows for a smooth...
- 1.5 inches heel
- Soft fabric shoe lining
- Women's Asics, Gel Excite 4 Running Sneaker
- This energetic ride is a great choice for low mileage runners!
- MEN'S LEATHER SNEAKERS: Leather upper features overlays for support and perforations for airflow.
- COMFORTABLE TRAINING: Foam Phylon midsole and full-length encapsulated Air-Sole unit cushions for comfort and...
What We Found
Most people buy running and walking shoes at department, discount, specialty-athletic, sporting-goods, and family-footwear stores. You’ll probably pay more at a footwear store that caters to serious runners, but you’re also more likely to find a seasoned sales clerk who can answer your questions and help you find the right model for your gait and type of workout.
Analyze Your Gait
Manufacturers offer running and walking shoes for every type of gait. If your feet roll inward a lot or overpronate, a stabilizing or motion-control shoe might ease the problem. And if your feet land mostly on the outside edge, or oversupinate, a cushioning shoe that emphasizes shock absorption might be best. Overpronators typically have a low arch while underpronators a high one.
Get a Good Fit
The first rule of shopping for athletic shoes is that fit counts more than anything. A bad fit can cause discomfort and fatigue, or even painful foot and joint problems. And it can make features like motion-control or cushion less effective. Your feet tend to swell toward the end of the day, so shop late in the afternoon, and wear the kind of socks you would wear while using those shoes.
Take a Test Run
Buying shoes without trying them out are like buying a car without test-driving it. Jog or walk a little in the store, and ask if you can take the shoes once around the block. Better yet, ask whether you can buy the shoes, walk or run briefly on a treadmill at home or at a gym, and return them if they don’t feel right.
Think Twice About Orthotics
If your feet become sore from running or walking, you might be tempted to try orthotics—custom-made shoe inserts that take the place of insoles. But orthotics can be expensive and might reduce a shoe’s cushioning. Consider whether your problem could be solved with new shoes or a different category of the shoe (cushioning, neutral, or stability).
You can move comfortably in just about any shoe that fits correctly, including walking, running or cross-training shoes, all of which provide cushioning and stability. But different sports make different demands on shoes. The type of athletic shoe for you depends on what you plan to do when you lace up. Below we walk you through your choices.
Running and walking shoes might look similar, but there are important differences. Traditional running shoes provide extra cushioning because landing can generate a force of 1½ to 3 times your body weight. They should also provide easy flexing at the ball of the foot and enough stability. And the outsoles should be durable and provide good traction on pavement or dirt
These are best for people who walk for fitness or who want a casual shoe for everyday walking. They should provide enough cushioning to be comfortable. And their flexible soles, designed for the relatively low impact of walking, allow the foot to roll easily from heel to toe.
Cross-trainers are all-purpose shoes that bridge walking shoes and sport-specific shoes like tennis or basketball shoes. They can be a money-saving alternative to several pairs of specialized shoes for people who pursue a variety of activities, but they don’t provide the same flexibility or cushioning for running or other high-impact sports.
Some athletic shoes are highly specialized. For example, the higher tops of basketball shoes are designed to provide ankle support to ease the effects of abrupt starts and stops, jumps, and lateral moves while playing. Golf shoes and baseball shoes have cleats for traction on turf. Choosing the right shoes for the job will help you go the distance.
The cushioning in an athletic shoe comes from the squishy material in the midsole. Your foot’s natural ability to roll inward also provides cushioning and helps to reduce the impact on bones and joints. A shoe that combines cushioning and flexibility, while also providing adequate stability, is a step ahead of shoes that don’t.
Three layers comprise the sole. The bottom layer, or outsole, is generally made of carbon rubber for durability. It’s segmented for flexibility and grooved or patterned for traction. The squishy middle layer, or midsole, provides most of the cushioning. It’s usually made of shock-absorbing foam and might incorporate gel or air sacs and plastic torsion supports.
This is the body of the shoe, the part above the sole. The toe box—the forward part of the upper—should be roomy enough to let your toes spread and leave a half-inch space ahead of your longest toe. The heel counter at the rear should keep your heel from slipping excessively. These days, the uppers on most running shoes are made of synthetics, though some walking shoes still use leather.
Fabric, plastic, or metal speed-lacing loops make tightening easier. Extra top eyelets provide a snug fit at the ankle. Flat laces are less likely to loosen or come untied than round ones.
If you’re on your feet a lot all day long, you might want shoes that combine the comfort and support of a walking shoe with something dressy enough for the office. Unfortunately, the dressier walking shoes we tested in the past did not perform as well, overall, like the ones that look like sneakers.
If you jog or walk at dawn or dusk, reflective tabs on the uppers can provide extra safety by reflecting cars’ headlights. Most of the reflectors on the shoes we tested were skimpy, but sporting goods stores offer supplementary reflectors and reflective clothing.