Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Longer days and milder temperatures make the start of spring a lovely occasion to invest in some kicks. What better time to try out a new pair as you hit the freshly thawed streets, sidewalks and trails? After rigorous testing, we rounded up a baker’s dozen of the season’s hottest shoes to support your training. From lushly cushioned trainers to snappy, minimalist styles, you will find the perfect fit for any foot.
But which pair should you purchase? With shoe walls often full of a dazzling array of options, figuring out where to start can be overwhelming. Just like a run, the best way to approach the process is one step at a time. Ponder these factors to find your sole mate…
What type of running do you want to do?
Are you training for your first marathon, looking for a shoe for a few casual miles or do you want to hit the track? Shoe designers put a lot of time into creating shoes for specific types of running. They don’t design their lifestyle shoes for logging long miles, and they don’t create racing flats to work for ultramarathons.
L: These shoes are for going long.
M: These are your everyday pair, best for average-distance runs.
S: These are for speedy workouts and races.
Cushioning—what’s your sweet spot?
Do you like to feel the ground beneath your feet or cruise over it in pillowy comfort? There’s no right answer here—only how you prefer your soles to feel.
HC: High cushioning
MC: Medium cushioning
LC: Very little cushioning
What’s your ideal heel-to-toe drop?
Measured in millimeters, the heel-to-toe drop (how much higher your heel is than your toe) generally ranges from 0 to 12mm. There is no “best” drop, save for the one that works for you.
HD: High drop (9 to 12+mm) is best for runners who like a traditional feel.
MD: Medium drop (4 to 8mm) will give you more Achilles support without a high heel.
LD: Low drop (0 to 3mm) creates a natural, nearly barefoot running experience.
Where will you be running?
When your goal is to have the best running experience, tread does make a difference. Crossover shoes are designed to work for just about every surface, while road and trail shoes are intended for specific terrain.
R: Shoes for roads, sidewalks and tracks
CO: Crossovers work on roads or not-too-technical trails.
T: Trail shoes made for kicking dirt