We had over a year with the perfect excuse to be a couch potato, but we are deeply sad to report that despite the joys of loafing, running and other forms of cardio are actually very good for your physical and mental health. In addition to helping strengthen your heart, build muscle, burn calories, elicit feelings of superiority, regulate appetite, improve sleep, and manage high blood pressure, running can also help clear your head and boost your mood through the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals released by your brain that cause what’s colloquially known as a “runner’s high”—which, while nowhere near as awesome as an good ol’ fashioned drug-induced high, feels pretty nice, too.
But all of that huffing and puffing you’ll go through is for naught if you aren’t in the right running shoes, which are the first step in avoiding injury (to the best of your ability). Some soreness and muscle aches are to be expected, especially if you’re just starting out—and some serious injuries are unavoidable altogether—but there’s a lot you can do to mitigate your risk before and after going on a jog. We’re talking about stretching, hydrating, getting enough rest in between runs, cross training, and making sure you’re fueling your body with the proper nutrients. And, once you’re squared away on that front, you can get to the fun part of running-based self care: picking up some sweet, sweet running gear. You probably have some athletic shorts and an old T-shirt lying around already, so that leaves us with the most important piece of your kit: a good pair of running shoes.
How to Find the Right Running Shoes for Your Feet
An ill-fitting pair of running shoes can lead to long-term injury, explains Jessica Donohue, a CrossFit instructor and a USATF-certified running coach. “If you’re running funny because of the sneakers you’re in—especially if you just randomly bought a pair—that could be causing knee pain, ankle pain, you name it,” she says.
Dave Ringwood, head coach of Pratt Institute’s Track & Field and Cross Country Team, agrees. “Something that’s common in runners, walkers, and people in general is a level of overpronation, where your ankle and foot roll inwards slightly,” he says. “[This action] creates an imbalance that can go up your leg that creates an instability or imbalance through the rest of your body, and those slight variations can leave you more susceptible to injury over time." But there's good news: Athletic wear is getting smarter every year, and shoe companies have "developed various levels of stability underfoot to correct that type of movement,” Ringwood says. In other words, running shoes are better than ever before.
But with so many different running shoes on the market, it can be tough to narrow down your options and figure out which shoe is right for you. First things first: Make sure you're wearing the right size, which may mean going to your local running store and getting fitted.
“Getting out and supporting your local running store is huge,” Donohue explains. “Not only is it great to support local businesses, but when you go there, people are going to help you find the shoe that’s going to fit your foot best, since everyone’s feet are different.” Once you've locked down your size, you may need to identify the kind of support you need in a running shoe, Ringwood says. Employees at your local running or sporting goods store can help you find out if you have a high arch, a low arch, and whether your running looks good in a specific shoe. If you can't make it to a local store for a hands-on assessment, sites like ON Running, REI, and RunnersNeed offer online guides and even virtual fittings to help lead you in the right direction.
The Best Running Shoes for Men
In terms of brands to look for, Donohue and Ringwood recommend looking for consistency. “I like New Balance,” Donohue says, “because they’re consistent, and even when they update their sneaker models, they’re relatively similar to the original, but these days when I run, I like to run in the Nike Infinity Reacts.”
“Nike does a great job being consistent. They [also] have a good model called the Pegasus,” Ringwood says.
Ringwood also likes HOKA but notes that "they fit a little differently each year, since they’re still trying to pin down what their brand is going to feel like." Still, the running experience in HOKAs gets top marks.
Other brands that Ringwood likes include Brooks and ON Running, whose most popular pairs include the Ghost, Adrenaline, and Cloudstratus.
The Best Sustainable Running Shoes
Another factor to think about when choosing running shoes? Sustainability. “These days people are also looking for shoes that are good for the environment, that are made ethically,” Craig Doty, a NASM certified trainer, explains. “I really like Allbirds in this category; they’re known for being comfortable and durable.”
Another great brand when it comes to eco-friendly running shoes is Lane Eight, which makes high-quality shoes from recycled plastic, algae, and vegan suede (yep, these shoes are animal-product-free.) In fact, each pair is made with 11 bottles worth of recycled plastic, as well as an algae-based foam “that captures 64 cubic meters of carbon dioxide and returns 31.5 liters of fresh water back [to] local waterways, according to the brand. But perhaps most importantly, its shoes are super-comfortable, lightweight, and supportive. Plus, they come in a wide range of colors—and are currently on sale at 40% off.
Finally, don’t forget about Puma, which has been making some of the best athletic footwear out there since 1948, but clearly keeps up with the times with its Enzo 2 Eco running shoe. The Enzo 2 Eco is made of recycled material and has an integrated SoftFoam+ sockliner, plus is undoubtedly cool enough to be considered streetwear with its neon-on-black colorway.
The Best Running Shoes For Hypebeasts
And for when you’ve got a Turkey Trot at noon and a night of smoking cigarettes outside of seedy bars at 11… Salomon is the move.
Adidas’ X9000L4 running sneakers have a name like Grimes and Elon’s baby, and they also have the futuristic looks to match. The aesthetic is “gamer-inspired,” according to the brand, with “semi-translucent details [that] draw inspiration from the virtual world.” Still, the price is pretty damn reasonable, and they’re functional too—their signature Boost midsole gives you a healthy bounce back with every step.
Yes, you can technically run in these Y-3 Adidas x Yohji Yamamoto sneaks. But do you really want to scuff them, in all their weird, art objet glory (and with that luxe price tag)?
Next step? Not looking like a nerd when you hit the pavement.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.