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Sneaker Stars: The Best Sneakers for Every Workout

  • Bryan McCay

    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.

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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.

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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.

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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.

  • Bryan McCay

    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.

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

    Price: $39.99, Walmart
  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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." 

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

  • Bryan McCay

    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."

    Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2013.