Are you ready to start your running journey? Welcome to the cult, we have cookies. No, but seriously, we’re glad you’re here. If you’re unsure where to begin, we don’t blame you. The world of running shoes and gear can be intimidating, and the last thing you want to do is kick off your running on the wrong foot. Luckily for you, we’ve actually run thousands of miles in hundreds of shoes, unlike most other websites where some low-level junior fashion editor has put together a random list of shoes they’ve never run in.
To help you out, we’ve gathered a few of the best options from some of the biggest brands to set you on your way. Simply put — these are the best beginner running shoes from experts who have actually run in the shoes.
Before we really get into this list, a recommendation: Go to a running store to get fit for shoes. We don’t know exactly what your foot looks like or how your stride lands, but running stores have experts who can help. Get a few ideas and maybe some comfortable inserts, and then come on back and listen to what we have to say. We should also say that if you’re just getting into running, you’re almost certainly wearing shoes that are too small for you. When you wear a running shoe, you should have a thumb’s width between the end of your toes and the front of the shoe. Unless you’re really into losing all your toenails. If your toes are up against the front, make sure you go a half-size up in running shoes. You can thank us later.
As always, our picks for the best beginner running shoes come from our own experiences. We haven’t been beginners in a while, but we know how to pick out reliable running shoes. After all, we put plenty of miles into every pair that comes through our door, and we’re all too happy to play favorites. And no, you won’t find any super shoes on this list. Don’t worry about plates and rockers and racing and the latest foams and technologies. This is all about getting you started.
Drop: 5mm | Price: $140
If you’re a true beginner runner, you’re probably going to want a shoe with a little more cushion. After all, your body has to get used to the motion and impact of pounding mile after mile of pavement. Luckily, Hoka has long been a king of comfort. The Clifton 8 makes our list of the best beginner running shoes for its simple yet reliable design and cushion. Meg has run in every version of the Clifton, and she just crushed the Boston Marathon, so it has to be doing something right.
In our review, we applauded Hoka for not messing with a good thing for another year. The Clifton 8 is remarkably similar to its predecessors, but it keeps getting lighter, and the EVA foam is slowly but surely getting better. With the latest iteration, Robbe became a Clifton believer, and he was happy to point out how smooth and comfortable the ride was. You won’t get the same pop as you would with some faster foams, but beginner runners are best served by building a solid base of miles rather than diving into speed.Shop Hoka Clifton 8
Drop: 8mm | Price: $140
Saucony’s Ride 15 is a relative newcomer on this list, but it’s already earning its way into our hearts. It feels like an example of Saucony learning from previous lessons, and it’s passing the results to beginner runners. If you’re just dipping your toe into the running scene, you might have heard of the Saucony Kinvara. Well, we’re here to tell you that the Ride 15 is a much better version. The two shoes follow similar designs, but the Ride packs a thicker bed of Pwrrun foam underfoot for some extra comfort.
Thomas has a few early miles in his pair, and he’s already declared it the best non-Endorphin Saucony shoe of the year. (By the way, you don’t need to start your journey with a Saucony Endorphin shoe) The Ride 15 feels softer and bouncier than its low-stack sibling, and it has the potential to make your early runs just a bit more fun. And come on, that mint colorway that Meg received (seen above) is just *chef’s kiss*.Shop Saucony Ride 15 – Men Shop Saucony Ride 15 – Women
Drop: 9mm | Price: $110
It might be third on our list, but there’s a good chance that the Reebok Floatride Energy 4 is the best beginner running shoe right now, especially for the value. You won’t find as much cush as some of the other options offer, but the styling is on point, and you can’t beat the price. Reebok asks just $110 for the shoe, and there are heaps of discount codes out there that can cut the price almost in half. If you want a shoe that you can wear to your running club and keep on for drinks afterward, it’s the Floatride Energy 4.
Another thing in Reebok’s favor is the weight of the Floatride Energy 4. This shoe is darn light. The last thing you want is a brick of a shoe while you’re trying to learn how to love running. We can even give Reebok a pass for faking its gum sole, because the rest of the Floatride package is just that good. Did we mention it’s only $110?Shop Floatride Energy 4 – Men Shop Floatride Energy 4 – Women
Drop: 10mm | Price: $135
I’m gonna pull a Kanye real quick. I’ll let this list finish, but New Balance makes some of the best running shoes of all time. There, I said it. Now, you might expect me to turn around and recommend the Fresh Foam 1080v12 as our beginner running shoe, but that’s not what I’m going to do. Instead, beginners might be better off with the 880v12, its more affordable sibling. The overall shoes are similar, with the same foam underfoot, but the 880 feels slightly more approachable.
For starters, the lower price is a big plus. If you’re just getting into running, you don’t want to blow your whole budget on a pair of shoes. You might be eyeing some new running clothes (a good idea) and maybe a GPS watch. Once you lace up your pair of 880v12s, you’ll see why I’m convinced that Fresh Foam X is the truth. It’s soft and pillowy, but New Balance has nailed the shape to keep you rolling through your stride. There’s also enough outsole rubber to stop a freight train, so you should be able to get upwards of 500 miles on a pair.Shop NB 880v12 – Men Shop NB 880v12 – Women
Drop: 12mm | Price: $140
If you’ve been into a running store already, you might have been pushed towards the Brooks Ghost. It just seems like the running store thing to do — and for a good reason. Brooks makes some solid, reliable beginner running shoes. Adrienne kicked off our review by calling the Ghost 14 the unofficial gateway drug to the sport of running. We won’t bear any responsibility for your addiction, but we can’t argue with her logic.
The Ghost 14 isn’t necessarily a fancy running shoe, but it’s as steady as she goes. Its engineered mesh upper is extremely breathable, making it a good fit for just about any weather, and Brooks has moved to a DNA Loft midsole for its daily trainer. That means it’s an EVA foam similar to what Hoka uses. It should remain soft and plush through anything you throw at it, and the 12mm drop is back yet again. You’ll probably graduate to a shoe with a little more pep than the Ghost before long, but we’ve all gotta start somewhere.Shop Brooks Ghost – Men Shop Brooks Ghost – Women
Drop: 10mm | Price: $120
Here it is, the workhorse with wings. The Nike Pegasus is coming up on its 40th birthday, so it has to be doing something right. It’s a solid beginner running shoe and not a surprise to make our list. For starters, the Pegasus comes in a billion and one colorways. Red, green, pink, whatever you’re after. Want a running shoe to match your favorite football team? You want the Pegasus. Oh, and it’s at the affordable end of the spectrum — just $120 or $130, depending on your version.
As for the shoe itself, Nike has been rolling with the Zoom Air and React foam combination for years. It offers enough cushion for comfort but a little more pop than you might get with some other basic foams. Another great reason to pick the Nike Pegasus as a beginner running shoe is that it doesn’t change much from year to year. The 38 is nearly the same as the 37 was, so feel free to save some money and grab an older version. If you decide it’s not the running shoe for you, you can always adapt it to casual use.Shop Nike Pegasus – Men Shop Nike Pegasus – Men
Drop: 8mm | Price: $130
Nike’s Pegasus has been around for an eternity, and the ASICS Gel-Cumulus isn’t far on its tails. This daily trainer just hit its 24th birthday, and it’s finally becoming the shoe it was always meant to be. Call it a late bloomer, but it’s an excellent pick among our beginner running shoes. ASICS finally incorporated the full slab of Flytefoam Blast that we saw with the much-loved Nimbus Lite 3 and kept the cost reasonably low.
Robbe equated past versions of the Cumulus to working in a cubicle for the federal government, but the 24th time seems to be the charm. It feels like a dream job — more than enough comfort to get you by, without any pitfalls that make you look for other opportunities. You can still see the classic ASICS Gel in the heel, but the Gel-Cumulus is finally starting to embrace recent running style, too.Shop ASICS Gel-Cumulus – Men Shop ASICS Gel-Cumulus – Men
Drop: 6mm | Price: $85
Let’s bring this list of beginner running shoes home with an incredible value. You might not know the name Atreyu yet, but you should. The small Austin-based brand has released three different shoes so far, and the Base Model is as good a place to start as any. After all, where else are you going to find an $85 running shoe? You’re not. Well, maybe if you have a Reebok coupon, but that’s cheating. Atreyu’s Base Model is a perfect place to start just because it boils down to the idea of what a running shoe needs to be.
The Base Model isn’t fancy. It’s not supposed to be. It’s a simple supercritical midsole with a simple upper that can put you through tons of miles. The team has made a few changes from the first version to the second, such as flipping the welded panels from one side to the other for added comfort, but the idea remains the same. There are plenty of colors to check out, and it’s a great gateway to Atreyu’s other shoes like the race-ready Artist.Shop Atreyu Base Model
Drop: 6mm | Price: $125
As it turns out, Ride is a pretty popular name for a running shoe. It’s so popular, in fact, that it’s back on our list — this time from Skechers instead of Saucony. Either way, the GOrun Ride 9 is a worthy beginner running shoe, even if you haven’t considered Skechers since your shoes used to light up. You can still light up the streets with the supercritical Hyperburst midsole ’cause Skechers has been doing supercritical better than almost anyone.
Honestly, with the simple mesh upper and streamlined midsole, most people you run past might not even realize what you’re wearing, and then you can flex your Skechers might. This latest version packs a few extra millimeters of foam, so it’s even softer than before. It also packs a rockered geometry (a rounded midsole, for all of you rookies) that helps you roll through your stride naturally. All told, you can’t rule Skechers out of your quest for a beginner running shoe, just don’t be intimidated by the 9,000 different Razor options it offers.Shop Skechers GOrun Ride – Men Shop Skechers GOrun Ride – Women
Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.