You are here

Shoetopia: The Best Sneakers for Every Workout

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    Shoe-Lingo Decoder

    Check out our shoe-lingo decoder so you won't have to rely on the sales guy (or gal) to get a Cinderella fit from your new sneakers.

    Insole

    Also called a sock liner, the insole is a removable foam insert that sits under — and often conforms to the shape of — your foot to help the shoe fit better. Many manufacturers also sandwich extra devices (with proprietary technologies) between the insole and midsole in the heel and forefoot areas to add cushioning and shock absorption.

    Outsole

    Sneaker treads, or outsoles, typically come in two forms: carbon rubber (usually all black) or a combination of colorful blown rubber and black carbon rubber (like that of Mizuno's Wave Inspire 5 running shoe, shown here). "Carbon rubber is more durable and can provide more traction, while blown rubber is softer and lighter for more flexibility and less weight in your stride," says Garrett Sheehan, a customer experience coach at Road Runner Sports in San Diego. Trail-shoe outsoles are almost always carbon rubber, and the deeper their lugs, the better they are for rocky terrain.

    Midsole

    This layer is typically made of foam, which gives the shoe its cushioning and support system. (Manufacturers may also add other patented materials, such as plastic inserts, within.) "The more gray-colored material, or dual-density foam, you see by the arch, the more stability the shoe usually offers," Sheehan says. If there's no gray, it's probably a neutral/cushioning shoe (good for high arches); if the gray is mostly limited to under the arch, it's a stability shoe (good for runners with normal arches); if the gray wraps from the arch to around to the heel, it's a motion-control shoe (good for flat arches).

    Upper

    "The top part of your sneaker, aka the upper, is all about comfort and style," says Sheehan. "Look for one that allows your toes to move around freely and doesn't have seams that rub against your skin." While the upper can be made of any material, from leather to plastic, the more mesh there is, the more breathable your shoe will be.

     
  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Running Shoes with Cushioning

    Winner: New Balance 1063

    This shoe has extra padding throughout the midsole to provide a soft landing and smooth ride for your joints. Its Sure Lace system prevents shoestrings from coming untied, and a friction-free sock liner helps nix blisters. "These lightweight, cushiony sneakers were perfect for my eight-mile run," Yore says ($125, newbalance.com for info).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Running Shoes with Cushioning

    Runner-Up: Saucony ProGrid Triumph 6

    This features a flexible blown rubber outsole, a super-shock-absorbing midsole and a light, breathable mesh upper to make every run more comfy. Its antimicrobial sock liner wicks away sweat. "The extra cushioning and just-enough arch support made them great for long runs," Yore says ($125, saucony.com for info).

    Our Expert Tester: Becki Yore, 33, St. Petersburg, Florida

    A certified running pro with Every Runner private coaching service, Yore logs about 70 miles per week and has raced 5Ks, marathons, and everything in between over the past 15 years. Her best marathon time was 3:19 at the 2007 Sarasota Marathon.

     
  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Running Shoes for Stability

    Winner: Brooks Infiniti 2

    Brooks' biodegradable MoGo midsole helps stabilize your foot when it overpronates (turns inward) slightly as it strikes, and a special fluid in the heel and forefoot enhances cushioning, reducing impact. "The shoes felt stable, not clunky. I could tell that they're built to encourage correct form," Swanson says ($125, brooksrunning.com).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Running Shoes for Stability

    Runner-Up: Saucony ProGrid Guide 2

    This lightweight stability shoe has extra cushioning in the forefoot and a Dual Density Impulse EVA midsole, which helps guide your foot strike and adds support under your arch. "This shoe had tons of bounce and shock absorption — it felt like it was literally a part of my foot," Swanson says ($95, saucony.com for info).

    Our Expert Tester: Sarah Swanson, 27, Chicago

    Swanson discovered running after college and has since completed four marathons and three half-marathons. She also helped found the Chicago Luna Chix Running Club. Swanson opts for the treadmill in the winter, but her favorite route is along Chicago's Lakeshore Path.

     
  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Running Shoes for Motion Control

    Winner: Asics GEL-Foundation 8

    Ideal for runners — like those with flat feet — who really overpronate, this shoe has a wide base and a low heel to keep your foot steady as you stride. Plus, its memory-foam sock liner gives you a custom fit. "They felt great from the moment I slipped them on — roomy, lightweight, and really comfortable," Wesson says ($90, asics.com for info).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Running Shoes for Motion Control

    Runner-Up: Under Armour Revenant

    Ultra-plush cushioning and extra stability in the midsole help guide your foot into a soft landing and reduce shock to your knees and ankles. The shoe's ventilated sock liner prevents overheating. "I felt supported enough to push harder and faster during runs," Wesson says. "Plus, my 9-year-old son thinks his mom has 'cool' shoes." ($120, underarmour.com)

    Our Expert Tester: Michelle Wesson, 34, Flagstaff, Arizona

    Wesson averages 50 to 65 miles per week. Each year she competes in the Flagstaff Summer Running Series — four 10Ks, one 15K, and one half-marathon in 2009 — and she hopes to finish the Los Angeles Marathon in under three hours this month.

     
  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Trail Running Shoes

    Winner: Brooks Cascadia 4

    The asymmetrical lacing system helps to create a snug fit for any foot, improving stability on all terrains. And its outsole is coated with a grippy silica, so you won't slip on slick or loose surfaces. "These shoes fit beautifully and have great cushioning. They truly feel like road shoes with killer traction," Kass says ($100, brooksrunning.com).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Trail Running Shoes

    Runner-Up: Nike Air Pegasus+ 25 ESC

    The eco-friendly rubber outsole on this shoe grips every surface, while its gusseted tongue and breathable, water-repelling upper shield feet from rocks and rain. Extra cushioning guarantees comfy runs. "These are lightweight with terrific traction," Kass says. "Plus, the colors totally camouflaged all the dirt I picked up!" ($85, nike.com)

    Our Expert Tester: Maya Kass, 39, Irvine, California

    Kass tackles nearby trails to the tune of 45 to 60 miles a week and has done 21 half-marathons, 17 marathons, and three ultra-marathons. Her first marathon was the 2004 Nike Women's Marathon, with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training.

     
  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Walking Shoes

    Winner: Timberland Lionshead

    These sneaks are designed for even surfaces but supply enough traction to handle off-road detours as well. The rubber toe area protects against stubs on trails, while the flexible outsole and shock-absorbing midsole soften any stroll. "These fit me like a glove — they have the perfect combo of cushion and support," Sidlar says ($110, timberland.com).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Walking Shoes

    Runner Up: Asics GEL-Motion

    With a seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association, this shoe packs extra cushioning in the heel and forefoot for instant shock absorption. Bonus: The custom-fit sock liner wicks away moisture as you walk. "These shoes were sturdy and look great — I could walk in them for miles," Sidlar says ($100, asics.com for info).

    Our Expert Tester: Kristy Sidlar, 40, Troy, Michigan

    Sidlar, a triathlete-turned-walker, logs two or three miles several days a week. Since she got involved with the American Heart Association's Start! Heart Walk program in 2000, Sidlar has raised $25,000 for the cause through multiple charity walks.

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Cross-Training Shoes

    Winner: Avia A1433

    With extra cushioning in the heel and side-to-side stability, this shoe is built to handle any cardio class. Its flexible outsole is also comfy enough for treadmill warm-ups. "These provided great support — I taught a circuit class and ran two miles in them without pain or blisters," Harris says ($65, avia.com).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Cross-Training Shoes

    Runner Up: New Balance 1010

    Great for both a gym routine and a quick 5K, this sneaker has an upper with webbing for structured support and a wraparound lacing system that stabilizes feet when you zigzag or move back and forth. "These shoes held up beautifully during my drills — balancing, side lunges, and plyometrics," Harris says ($110, newbalance.com for info).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Tennis Shoes

    Winner: Adidas CC Ivy III

    The midfoot support allows you to make quick, lateral movements and a midsole insert cushions your forefoot, easing sprints to the net. This shoe's sweat-wicking sock liner is ventilated to keep your foot dry on hot days. "I played in them for five hours straight! They fit just right — stable, not too narrow or too wide," Parsons says ($75, shopadidas.com).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Tennis Shoes

    Runner-Up: Nike LunarLite Speed

    The upper on this ultralight shoe contains Nike Flywire, superstrong metallic thread that adds extra support around your midfoot, and its flexible outsole helps you move easily in every direction. "Stopping and starting was so smooth," Parsons says. "I felt like I was moving in supportive socks!" ($115, nike.com)

    Our Expert Tester: Brie Parsons, 29, Austin, Texas

    Parsons is codirector of the South Austin Tennis Center and has been playing tennis for more than 20 years. Named the USTA's Pro Circuit Player of the Year in 2000, she's competed in 14 grand slams, going head-to-head with Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters.

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Cycling Shoes

    Winner: Shimano SH-WR40

    This light, breathable shoe has asymmetrical straps to alleviate pressure on top of your foot and a snug, women-specific design for efficient pedaling. "This has everything you could want in an affordable shoe — a buckle and Velcro-strap closure, the stiffness you need, and extra padding for bony heels like mine," Jarrell says ($110, shimano.com for info).

  • Brian Maranan Pineda

    The Best Cycling Shoes

    Runner-Up: Specialized BG Torch Road Shoe

    Insert one of three removable foot beds (sold separately; each gives you a different amount of support) into this shoe for a custom fit. The buckle-lock closure secures your foot as you stroke. "These helped my knees stay aligned with my hips, which is key for efficient pedaling," Jarrell says ($140, specialized.com).

    Our Expert Tester: Sara Jarrell, 27, Asheville, North Carolina

    Jarrell, a bike rider and racer, works as a wrench (aka bike mechanic) in the mountains of North Carolina and is a ride society leader with Giant for Women. Her favorite pastime is to cycle along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • Shutterstock

    Sneaker-Shopping FAQs

    Q. "What's the easiest way to test running shoes in the store?"
    A. First, make sure your timing is right. "Your feet swell as you run, so it's best to shop for sneakers at the end of the day, when feet have naturally swollen to about a half shoe size larger than normal," says Darius Billings, director of retail brand marketing and merchandising for the Athlete's Foot. A good fit means that your longest toe is about a thumb's-width away from the tip of the shoe and you can wiggle your toes without feeling cramped. Jog slowly in the store to make sure your heel doesn't move around or slip out of the shoe. Then balance on one foot: If the shoe is too narrow, the ball of your foot will jut out over the sides of the sole.

    Q. "I know I should replace my sneaks every 300 to 400 miles, but I lose track. Is there any other way to tell it's time for a new pair?"
    A. "No need to wait for the soreness that accompanies your worn-down shoes," says running coach Jessica Anderson, owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Madison, Wisconsin. "Write the date in permanent marker inside the arch of your shoes when you buy them. If you run about 15 miles a week, plan on picking out a new pair in five months." Also, give your sneakers a once-over every now and then, says Pete Beauregard, product-training manager at City Sports in Boston. "Check for excessive wear on the outsole, wrinkly foam in the midsole, or collapsing or tearing in the upper," he says. "If any exist, it's time to swap 'em out."

    Q. "How do I know if my cross-trainers fit me correctly?"
    A. Start with a pair that feels snugger than your running shoes, Beauregard says. When you're running, your feet swell, so you need some wiggle room in your sneakers. Cross-trainers, on the other hand, are designed to accommodate side-to-side movement and quick starts and stops, as well as lower-impact light treadmill running or cardio-machine use. That means they should be very true to size — without as much toe space as your other sneaks, but not overly tight or uncomfortable. To test: Jab your forefoot into the floor a few times and do some side lunges. "Your toes shouldn't mash up against the front of the shoe on the jabs, and your heel should stay planted, not slide, on the lunges," Beauregard says.

    Q. "What kind of cleats should I have for Spinning?"
    A. "Most clubs fit their Spinning bikes with mountain or touring clipless pedals," says Mark Ontiveros, co-owner of River City Bicycles in Portland, Oregon. So any "recessed sole" cleats — ones that won't poke out of the bottom, usually found on mountain biking shoes — like the Shimano SH-51 Lateral Release Cleat ($22, rei.com) should match. Got road shoes? Take them to class to see if the cleats are compatible.

  • FIT_570x450_10574BMICalculator14.jpg

     
     
     

Love it? Share now!

Comments

Loading comments...