Whether you’re new to running or you’ve crossed several marathon finish lines, having the right running shoes can make or break your performance. The wrong running shoes can result in knee pain, injuries or even the dreaded plantar fasciitis. But the right shoe choice can make you feel fast, light on your feet and ready to take over the world — and that’s speaking from personal experience.
If you’re shopping for someone other than yourself, be aware that the best running shoes are different for each person. No matter how much your gift recipient loves you, they will not wear a pair of running shoes that gives them blisters, pinches their toes or feels lumpy or lopsided.
Don’t worry: CNET has you covered with this guide to the best running shoes for men. Selected from my own experience wearing men’s running shoes (I tend to like the styles and colors better), professional input from a running coach and thousands of online reviews, I present: the best running shoes for men in 2021.
And yes, we also have a list of the best women’s running shoes. We update these lists periodically.
Let me start by saying I’m a Brooks devotee. I’ve been wearing Brooks running shoes for years, and the only other running shoes I’ll wear are actually for cross-training (described below). I don’t think I’m alone in this, as reviews all over the web brim with adoration for Brooks running shoes.
The Ghost shoes in particular have garnered their own devoted fan base. The Ghost 13s are the newest version of these longtime favorites. They have a hefty 12mm heel-to-toe drop, which means the heel end is 12 millimeters taller than the toe end of the shoe. The Ghost 13s also feature significant arch support and full-foot support for optimal comfort.
Brooks says the Ghost shoes are a good running shoe for road running, but I’ve taken my Ghosts on plenty of trails and they’ve performed fantastically as a trail-running shoe — although they’re not waterproof, so I wouldn’t take them out on muddy trails.
Upper mesh keeps the shoes breathable for long runs on hot days, and at 10.1 ounces, they’re sturdy but won’t weigh the runner down.
Nobull is a newer shoe and apparel brand whose target market is CrossFit athletes and the larger functional fitness community. The brand started with Trainers and more recently released its Runners, which come in three styles for men’s shoes: mesh, ripstop and knit.
The Mesh Runners have the smallest heel-to-toe drop of all Nobull Runners (7mm versus the 10mm drop on the knit and ripstop styles). That’s still a pretty significant drop, so if you prefer a flatter men’s running shoe, these likely wouldn’t be your first choice.
However, the layered mesh upper and flexible midsole give this sneaker the perfect blend of mobility, traction and support, making them perfect for cross-training workouts that include running. I say this from the perspective of a CrossFit coach who knows that five rounds of a workout that starts with a 400-meter run can leave your feet and ankles achy if you wear a flat training shoe.
The Nobull Mesh Runners are durable with enough extra cushioning to get you through sprints, burpees, box jumps and other high-impact movements, but stable enough to support you during squats and other stationary movements — basically, everyone who cross-trains should take a look at these shoes.
“Minimalist shoes are a funny thing,” says Mollie Millington, personal trainer and running coach. “Some people swear by them. People with a forefoot strike are more likely to enjoy minimalist shoes, while heel strikers may experience pain due to the lack of cushioning.”
However, a minimal shoe has an adjustment period. “If you switch to minimal or barefoot shoes, you need to gradually increase miles to both build up muscles in the foot, which are used to being supported by shoes, and get the legs to be more responsive,” she says.
That said, the Topo Athletic ST-3 minimalist running shoes are a good place to start. Reviewers liken the feel of this athletic shoe to running barefoot, but with just enough cushion to avoid rocks and roots from poking at your feet. This minimalist shoe option has just 16mm of cushion with no heel-to-toe drop.
Because these shoes are so flat, they can double as a workout shoe and give you more bang for your buck.
Hoka One One
There’s definitely a difference between minimalist and lightweight running shoes. You can have a lightweight shoe that still offers support, stability and cushioning, unlike true minimalist shoes that are flat and, well, minimally cushioned.
The Hoka One One Rincon running shoes have a 5mm heel-to-toe drop and offer ample cushion — yet they come in at just 7.7 ounces. These running shoes strike the perfect balance between support and speed. Their lightweight feel combined with Hoka’s Meta-Rocker design encourages quick cadences.
A consideration: While these shoes are highly rated for comfort and shock absorption, a few reviewers were unhappy with their durability, noting that the shoes wore out after 150 miles or so. If you only run a few miles each week, that’s no big deal, but when you hit 150 miles in two months, it becomes a problem.
The most important thing to look for in all running shoes, but especially long-distance running shoes, is comfort, Millington says. “Everyone’s feet are different, so when the miles are adding up, you need to feel good the whole time,” she says. “Definitely test the shoes in the shop on a treadmill if you can.”
Millington recommends the On Cloudflyer, a uniquely designed racing shoe that uses the spaces between the outsole and midsole. The spaces make the shoes lighter and give them more bounce, which may make them more comfortable for longer runs.
Reviews on Amazon are mixed, and it seems like people either love or hate these shoes. The fans are die-hard but so are the naysayers, but no one can please everyone.
Salomon has a large number of great trail running shoe options. It’s one of the best-known brands in the trail running and hiking communities because of the quality and durability of its shoes. Millington says she’s had great success with the Salomon Sense Ride 3, although the most recent version is the Salomon Sense Ride 4.
These trail runner shoes are constructed of tightly knitted mesh and a grippy outer sole, outfitted with Salomon’s Quicklace shoelaces and built with an 8mm heel-to-toe drop for support on the trails or on the road.
As for what to look for in trail running shoes in general, Millington says she prefers her trail shoe choice to be waterproof. “You also need good stability due to varying terrain,” she says. “A reinforced toe will protect you from roots and rocks, and deep tread will help you grip the mud.”
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How I chose these running shoes
While I haven’t tried every item on this list (that would require a lot of running!), I know my way around running shoes pretty well. I’ve been running for about 10 years now and have worked my way through several pairs of running shoes, from cheap to luxurious.
Personal experience: I called out which shoes I’ve tried in the past, and while my experiences informed my research, keep in mind that you probably won’t have the same experience with any given shoe that did or didn’t work for me. I simply offer my experiences for perspective.
Professional input: I asked certified running coach Mollie Millington of PT Mollie for her input on specific types of running shoes to guide my final selections.
Highly rated: Each pair of running shoes on this list was top-rated for factors like comfort, support, quality and durability — everything you should look for in a good running shoe. I perused buyer reviews on Amazon, Google and brand websites to choose the running shoes on this list.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.