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Sneaker Stars: The Best Sneakers for Every Workout

Add more spring to your step this season with a new set of shoes. Our 140 sweat-testers ran, walked, biked, and hiked their little hearts out­ -- sampling 84 different styles! -- ­to bring you these must-buys for your favorite activity.

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Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
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Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Ahnu Sequoia II hiking shoe
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
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Your Guide to Going Minimal

For many runners today, less is definitely more -- at least when it comes to the cushioning in their shoes. Millions have embraced the idea of minimal shoes, which weigh less and encourage a midfoot or forefoot strike rather than a heel-heavy landing. Shoe designers have taken note, engineering a new generation of footwear that lowers the height, or drop, between the heel and forefoot to naturally encourage this running style.

But beware: The closer your foot is to the ground, the more careful you need to be about form. Land primarily on your mid- or forefoot, with feet under hips and body leaning forward slightly. Increase your mileage slowly to avoid injury, and don't be surprised if your feet ache a bit at first; it takes a while to build up strength in their muscles.

For a Barefoot Feeling

The lace-free "slipperlike" design of the 4-ounce Adidas AdiPure Adapt is "extremely comfortable," even without socks, and the shoe "fits like a glove." The firm rubber outsole "won't slip" as you stride, so you get a barefoot feel with protection from the road. ($90, adidas.com)

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Minimalist Sneakers for Midfoot Strikers

The "slim, lightweight" (6.7 ounces) Saucony Kinvara 4 provides "great cushioning" under your entire foot. The beveled heel design encourages you to land in a more forward position, and the triangular pattern on the outsole won't wear down too fast on midfoot strikes. The mesh upper "makes it seem as if you're floating across the ground." Available May 1. ($100, saucony.com)

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Minimalist Sneakers for Forefoot Strikers

The zero-drop profile of the Merrell Road Glove 2.0 "encourages a natural forefoot landing." "Plenty of cushioning" through the foam midsole helps you feel "as if you're running in a more supportive shoe, without the bulk," and at 6 ounces, it's "ultralight." There are also "stink-free" moisture-wicking liners if you want to run sans socks. ($100, merrell.com)

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For Doing Speedwork

At 7 ounces, the Asics Gel Lyte33 2 is "perfect -- not too heavy, not too light." Gel cushioning in the heel offers shock absorption, and flex grooves on the outsole and a low heel-to-toe drop cater to a midfoot strike, so it's "ideal" for runners who want to make the transition to minimal shoes. The flexible yet firm midsole gives you "the feeling of running on clouds." ($90, asicsamerica.com)

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For High Arches

The Mizuno Wave Rider 16 gives you a "surprisingly well-cushioned ride" that's perfect for people with high arches. The wave-inspired midsole design provides "great shock absorption" that helps "keep feet from tiring out on long-mileage days." Flexible outsole grooves put "a bounce in your stride," and a breathable upper "hugs your foot without feeling overly tight." ($115, mizunousa.com)

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For Normal Arches

The "awesomely light" Asics Gel Kayano 19 feel "like slipper-sneakers" and are fashioned to keep your gait in check: A groove runs down the outsole to guide your foot and help prevent overpronating (rolling inward as you strike). A four-way-stretch mesh upper and two layers of memory foam around the heel make for a "snug but flexible fit." ($150, asicsamerica.com)

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For Wide Feet

The Saucony Triumph 10 offers "the perfect amount of support, comfort, and style," especially for those who supinate (turn their feet outward as they strike) or have a normal gait. With a "marshmallowy soft" shock-absorbing insole plus three separate cushioned pods under the heel, this "light and springy" sneak "makes you feel that you could run forever." ($130, saucony.com)

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For Flat Feet

The "surprisingly light" (9.4 ounces), "supersupportive" Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 features a biodegradable midsole that "cradles arches with every step." Extra cushioning in the heel helps lessen shock instantly on landing while guiding your foot strike to minimize overpronation. ($110, brooksrunning.com)

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For Hard-Core Trail Running

The rugged Brooks Cascadia 8 offers a "good grip on wet leaves, rocks, and sticks," and its water-resistant upper "keeps feet dry despite puddles" and "airs out quickly." A thermoplastic shield between the outsole and the midsole protects your feet from rocks and other annoyances, while "just-right cushioning" gives you "an extra bounce in your step." ($120, brooksrunning.com)

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For Running on Road or Trail

The tread on The North Face Ultra Guide's outsole is "large enough to help you navigate tricky terrain without being clunky," and it "grips the trail perfectly, even in wet, slippery conditions," making this a "perfect shoe for going from road to trail." Testers loved how it "supports your arch and foot" and that the "brilliant" neoprene lace liner "keeps debris from slipping inside." ($110, thenorthface.com)

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For Low-Impact Trail Running

The "functional," "fast" New Balance Minimus 10v2 trail shoe "encourages a midfoot strike" as you stride. The flexible upper "conforms to your foot like a slipper," while the cushy carbon rubber outsole is "very responsive" on rocky surfaces. The toe guard helps protect your feet from pebbles and debris. ($110, newbalance.com)

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For Hiking

The "light on your feet" Ahnu Sequoia II hiking shoe provides "ideal cushioning and stability" when you're spending a day on the trails. The "breathable" mesh upper "forms to your foot," and an "extremely durable" Vibram outsole "grips rocks and boulders." A thin rock plate in the forefoot offers extra protection against sticks and stones. ($110, ahnu.com)

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The Best Walking Shoes for Road or Path

"You could wear these all day," testers raved about the New Balance 1765 walking shoes, thanks to the "perfect amount of cushioning," "good arch support," and "roomy toe area." With a stiff midsole that helps stabilize your foot as you walk and a durable crash pad in the heel, they provide "far more structure than other walking shoes." ($110, newbalance.com)

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The Best Cycling Shoes

With a sleek "superlight" carbon outsole, the Bontrager RL Road WSD is "comfortable, yet it still lets you put some power into your pedal stroke." A buckle-and-Velcro closure system ensures a "no-slip, not-too-tight" fit, and breathable mesh panels make this shoe "cool enough for summer rides." ($180, bontrager.com)

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The Best Spinning Shoes

The women's-specific Sidi Sun MTB shoe is built wider in the forefoot and tapered at the heel, so your "foot stays in place, and your toes don't feel squished." A "phenomenal" reinforced heel cup improves alignment and "gives you more control" as you ride. Testers say they are "easy to clip out of," are "comfortable to walk around in" and "fit like a dream." ($180, teamestrogen.com)

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For Hitting the Machines at the Gym

Whether you're pumping iron or using the elliptical, the "lightweight yet supportive" Rykä Dynamic features distinct heel and forefoot grooves to ensure that you won't slip. The breathable mesh upper is structured to "hug your foot in all the right places," and the shock-absorbing midsole and arch-cradling sock liner provide "ample cushioning" and "support and flexibility." ($80, ryka.com)

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For High-Impact Exercises

At just 7 ounces, the "extremely comfortable" Reebok Sublite TR is a versatile shoe that's "perfect for boot camp, interval training, plyo workouts, kickboxing -- you name it." The supportive foam midsole "absorbs impact when running or jumping," the roomy toe box is "ideal for someone with wide feet," and the flexible outsole "adds traction when doing burpees and lunges." ($75, reebok.com)

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For Taking Classes

The "light on your feet" Nike Free TR Fit 3 features an almost seamless upper; straps crossing the forefoot and arch provide extra lateral support for 360-degree moves. Thanks to a cushy foam midsole, these sneaks are also "great for jumping," "good for Zumba," and "perfect for switching quickly from exercise to exercise." ($95 to $100, nike.com)

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2013.

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