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Lace Up: The Best Running Sneakers for Your Foot Type

We sweat-tested our way through more than 70 sneakers. Find out which neutral, stability, lightweight, and trail running shoes were our top-rated picks.

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Saucony ProGrid Echelon 2
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
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Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
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The Best Neutral Running Shoe

Winner: Saucony ProGrid Echelon 2

Word on the Street: These shoes "support high arches perfectly" without "compromising comfort or stability." The sneaker's signature foot-hugging lacing and its breathable mesh upper mean "no blisters, no rubbing, and nothing uncomfortable at all." The "cushioning is just right," keeping this 10.9-ounce shoe light enough for your speed needs. Best of all, "they make you feel fast!" ($110, saucony.com)

The shoe fits if:

  • you have high arches

  • you supinate (foot turns outward as you strike) or have a neutral gait (foot turns neither out nor in)
  • you need extra cushioning and/or want a lighter style

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The Best Neutral Running Shoe

Runner-up: Asics Gel Nimbus 12

Word on the Street: The "supercomfortable" sneaker has extra "pillowy" cushions under the forefoot, which give it "great shock absorption." A new vertical groove down the center of the outsole helps your foot flex "smoothly and more naturally" as you run. ($125, asicsamerica.com)

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The Best Moderate Stability Running Shoe

Winner: New Balance 1226

Word on the Street: "The fit was perfect from heel to toe," both "light" and "flexible," "like slippers." The shored-up midsole helps keep your foot from overpronating, providing "excellent stability on the road." Strategically placed gel pockets diffuse impact all along the bottom of your foot, creating "nice shock absorption," which "leaves your legs and joints feeling great." ($145, newbalance.com)

The shoe fits if:

  • you have normal arches (neither high nor flat)

  • you overpronate slightly (arch flattens out a little and foot turns inward as you land)
  • you like cushioning and a not-so-heavy style

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The Best Moderate Stability Running Shoe

Runner-up: Under Armour Women's UA Illusion II

Word on the Street: These "lightweight," "comfy" kicks have an improved EVA foam midsole that cushions throughout for "good shock absorption" that still allows you to feel "speedy." A small plastic bridge sits under your arch and helps prevent your foot from turning inward on landing, providing "just-right support for someone who overpronates slightly." ($85, underarmour.com)

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The Best Extra-Stability Running Shoe

Winner: Mizuno Wave Alchemy 10

Word on the Street: Running in this "light," "not clunky" shoe is like "walking on clouds." Two pieces of wave-shaped plastic in its midsole provide "exceptional stability" for moderate to severe overpronators, while added cushioning in the heel and forefoot creates "excellent shock absorption." ($110, mizunousa.com)

The shoe fits if:

  • you have very flexible and/or flat arches

  • you really overpronate (turn foot inward considerably as you land)
  • you feel better in a built-up shoe with a lot of added stability

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The Best Extra Stability Running Shoe

Runner-up: Saucony ProGrid Hurricane 12

Word on the Street: "Feel supported without feeling weighed down" in this "amazingly comfortable" shoe. Denser foam in the midsole and special lacing help keep feet steady. Its wicking sock liner and shock-absorbing features mean "no blisters, no discomfort, nothing but ease." ($140, saucony.com)

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The Best Trail Running Shoe

Winner: Brooks Adrenaline ASR 7

Word on the Street: These all-terrain kicks "feel amazing regardless of the surface you're running on." They feature a full-length biodegradable midsole to help bolster arches on uneven ground and special cushioning under the heel and forefoot to reduce impact. "They're cushiony soft; you could wear them all day," but the lug-filled outsole with "incredible traction" means that they were meant for outdoor miles. ($105, brooksrunning.com)

The shoe fits if:

  • you run primarily on dirt paths or trails

  • you run rather than hike
  • you frequently go from road to path while running

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The Best Trail Running Shoe

Runner-up: The North Face Sentinel

Word on the Street: Designed for both road and trail runs, this "perfect-fitting" crossover shoe features a dense, extra-supportive midsole plus a sturdy carbon-rubber outsole good for any surface and for "great stability." With its "just right" cushioning, this sneaker "isn't necessarily a head turner, but once you get to know its personality, it's a hottie." ($105, thenorthface.com)

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The Best Lightweight Running Shoe

On the heels of new research indicating that landing on your forefeet -- as you do when you run shoeless -- rather than your heels may reduce injury and improve efficiency, a trend toward barely-there sneakers is afoot. Here's a mini guide to the main low-foam varieties.

Nike Free Run+

The featherweight (6.4-ounces) and hyperflexible Nike Free was designed with less foam than a typical neutral running shoe. The latest Nike Free Run+ edition features more cushioning and support than previous models but keeps the same go-with-the-flow grooves in the outsole and the nearly seamless, bootielike construction of its predecessors. ($85, nike.com)

Newton Terra Momentus

Unlike most sneaks, which feature a slightly raised heel, Newtons pack the extra cushioning and thicker treads in the forefoot to encourage and absorb forefoot strike. The Newton Terra Momentus is a new off-road version with the same technology plus trail-specific updates, like a mesh upper designed to keep debris out and a durable rubber outsole for added traction. ($140, newtonrunning.com)

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila

About as minimal as it gets, the Vibram FiveFingers is built to give your feet minimal support while you run, forcing your muscles to do more work. These slip-ons provide padding under your forefoot and an individual slot for each toe so that your entire foot is free to flex and expand as you go. The Bikila is the first Vibram FiveFingers model built specifically for runners. It features a soft, moisture-wicking insole and a new outsole designed to help distribute impact as you strike. ($100, vibramfivefingers.com)

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What You Need to Know About Running Shoes

Q. If I buy lighter sneakers, does that mean I will have to replace them more often?

A. Probably, says Dave Harkin, co-owner of Portland Running Company in Oregon. The rule of thumb is that an extra-stability running shoe can take about 400 miles of use, while low-foam racing shoes usually lose their cushioning at 150 to 200 miles. "Expect the typical lighter-stability or lighter-cushioning [aka neutral] shoe to last somewhere between the two -- about 300 miles," Harkin says. Still, he advises Holly Golightlys to pick feel over frugality: "The latest light foams are getting more durable; plus, you shouldn't settle for so-so miles if you can experience awesome ones."

Q. Do I need different shoes for racing and my training miles?

A. If you're looking for a little edge, yes. "To have the most efficient shoe for a race­ -- one that is lighter and lower to the ground -- many of its characteristics would be in direct competition with training-sneaker elements, such as durability and stability," Harkin explains. In other words, the fewer training wheels on the sneaker, the faster your foot turnover. If you normally need an extra-stability shoe, choose from the Moderate Stability category for a shoe that's right for racing. But if you can invest in only one sneaker, stick with a style that supports you best through all those runs you need to get yourself in race shape.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2010.

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twin_leo wrote:

My feet hurt in the heel. What type of shoe can help to prevent heel pain?

10/25/2010 10:38:10 AM Report Abuse

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