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Fit to Be Tied: The Best Sneakers for Your Favorite Workouts

  • Kenji Toma

    What Does "Drop" Mean?

    The newest buzzword for running sneakers is drop, or the height difference in millimeters between the shoe's heel and forefoot. Here's how to shop your drop.

    0 to 4 mm: A lower drop encourages a more natural midfoot strike. Some "zero drop" (aka no-rise) styles are supercushioned, while others leave you almost barefoot. Neutral runners, this range is for you.

    4 to 8 mm: This range still helps you adjust to a natural stride while providing plump cushioning for high-arched runners or a little stability for those who overpronate.

    8 to 12 mm: The bigger the drop, the more likely you are to strike the ground with your heel. This range is best for runners who instinctively tend to land heel to toe and moderate to severe overpronators who need extra stability.

    Source: Saucony

    Did you know? Juggling pairs = one-third fewer injuries. Runners who swapped out their shoes regularly, wearing an average of 3.6 different styles during one 22-week training period, reduced their risk of injury by 39 percent compared with those who stuck with the same pair.

    Source: Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports

     
  • Peter Ardito

    Best Stability Shoe

    With the "super comfortable" Brooks Ravenna 5, you "feel like everything — your arch, ankles, and so on — is supported as it should be," one tester said, yet the shoe is "still light." Drop: 10 mm ($110, brooksrunning.com)

    Runner-up: The Pearl Izumi Women's EM Road M2 "has good stability and shock absorption without sacrificing cushioning or comfort"; it's a "great fit" for overpronating runners. Drop: 4 mm ($110, pearlizumi.com)

  • Peter Ardito

    Best Cushioned Shoe

    Slip on a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam 980s and you'll notice the "pillowy," "bouncy," "marshmallow" cushioning immediately, our high-arched runners raved. Drop: 4 mm ($110, newbalance.com)

    Runner-up: The Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3 is "light and comfortable" with "terrific bounce" provided by its unique full-length wave-shaped thermoplastic inner shock absorber. Drop: 12 mm ($210, mizunousa.com)

     
  • Peter Ardito

    Best Minimalist

    The Saucony Mirage 4 is "the perfect fit" for runners aiming to keep their stride as natural as possible, testers said; a barely there midfoot stabilizer gives just the right nudge to "help prevent overpronation." Drop: 4 mm ($110, saucony.com)

    Runner-up: The "extremely comfortable" Skora Fit "feels like you're running in cushy, grippy socks" thanks to a 16-millimeter-thick foam midsole and a built-in band that hugs your arch. Drop: 0 mm ($95, skorarunning.com)

  • Peter Ardito

    Best Trail Runner

    The "lightweight, incredibly flexible" Mizuno Wave Evo Ferus has a "spacious toe box," but with "plenty of cushioning," it "feels snug and protective on the trails." Drop: 0 mm ($110, mizunorunning.com)

    Runner-up: Testers say the Patagonia Tsali 3.0 is "comfy and supportive without being clunky" and gives "great traction for gripping the trails"; a shock absorption plate in its forefoot ensures "solid landings." Drop: 10 mm ($110, Patagonia.com)

     
  • Peter Ardito

    Best Cross-Trainer

    A lightweight, seamless upper on the Asics Gel-Harmony TR 2 is "breathable and flexible" and "makes you feel confident during your workout," testers said. Extra cushioning under the heel supplies the support you need for "quick high-impact moves" and basic cardio routines. ($80, asicsamerica.com)

    Runner-up: "Light as a feather but with the support and functionality you need," the North Face Ultra Kilowatt "helps you with jumps, lunges, and overall flexibility and speed," making it a "perfect CrossFit shoe." ($120, thenorthface.com)

  • Peter Ardito

    Best Spinning Shoe

    The "very breathable" women-specific Shimano SH-WR42W ensures "a super-efficient pedal stroke" so "you can make the most out of every workout" — plus "you have enough room to wiggle your toes." ($120, shimano.com)

    Did you know? When you want cycling shoes for a studio class, either ones with smooth bottoms (road bike) or rubberized treads (mountain bike) will probably do. Check with your gym to find out if its pedals work with triangular SPD-SL cleats (for road bike shoes), recessed SPD cleats (for mountain bike shoes) or both. Then go to a pro to have them installed or DIY. (cleats, $21 to $35, rei.com)

     
  • Peter Ardito

    Best Road Cycling Shoe

    Customizing an "unparalleled" fit on the "really light" Louis Garneau Women's Carbon LS 100 is simple, testers said: Its cool cable closure system allows you to "tighten the 'laces' exactly right," its adjustable cleats can be moved 7 millimeters back or forward, and it comes with comfy interchangeable insoles. ($200, louisgarneau.com)

  • Peter Ardito

    Best Walking Shoe

    With a "very breathable" mesh upper and a low-to-the-ground foam midsole, the "really comfortable" Salomon Cove won over our testers — "feels like you're walking on air," one said. ($80, salomon.com)

     
  • Peter Ardito

    Best Boot Camp Shoe

    "Superlight" with "amazing flexibility," the Reebok CrossFit Sprint TR shoe is "great for jumps, squats, and lunges as well as short-distance runs and sprints" — or any other WOD you're trying to tackle. ($115, reebok.com)

  • Peter Ardito

    Best Tennis Sneaker

    You'll "move with more freedom and confidence" on the court in the "bold, competitive-looking" Babolat Propulse 4, testers said, thanks to its special built-in lateral stability in the forefoot, extra cushioning in the heel, and "good ankle and arch support." ($120, babolat.com)

    Runner-up: The "superb" and "stylish" Asics Gel Solution Speed 2 has a flared forefoot, "great arch support," extra stability in the midfoot, and a combination of "slightly springy" foam and gel cushioning that will help "you feel supported in all movements — forward, backward, and lateral." ($130, asicsamerica.com)

  • Peter Ardito

    Best Day Hiker

    The "feminine yet hard core" Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh manages to be "light and airy" while its waterproof leather overlay "keeps your foot warm and dry." "It's comfortable in a variety of environments, including sloshing through mud, going up and down hills, and walking on smooth, paved paths," one tester said. ($110; ahnu.com)

  • Peter Ardito

    Best Hiking Boot

    "I could keep them on for hours," one tester raved of the rugged, fully waterproof Ecco Biom Terrain Plus. With "lots of cushioning," "lots of toe protection" and plenty of support to "keep ankles safe and sound," "they could be wedged between rocks and you would come out unscathed." ($230, eccousa.com)

    Runner-up: The breathable mesh Vasque Grand Traverse "grips trails really well" with its Vibram outsole and packs "just-right cushioning" and "great arch support." ($130, vasque.com)

  • Peter Ardito

    Best Water Shoe

    "Water drains easily" through the "sneakerlike" Sperry Top-Sider H20 Escape so you "won't feel weighed down," and a wave-patterned outsole "grips wet surfaces well." ($90, sperrytopsider.com)

    Runner-up: The "very supportive," "lightweight" Helly Hansen W AquaPace "drains water quickly," is "easy to loosen or tighten," and "has very good traction on both dry and wet rocky surfaces." ($85, hellyhansen.com)

  • Kenji Toma

    Rehab for Dirty Sneaks

    1. Remove sock liner (if possible).

    2. Spot-clean shoes with a mixture of warm water and a little mild soap or laundry detergent.

    3. Use a damp sponge to remove any extra soap.

    4. Repeat the process with sock liner.

    5. Let both air-dry. To speed up the process, stuff shoes with newspaper.

    Source: Brooks Running

    Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2014.

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