The best beginner-friendly running shoes.
Our pick of the best trainers to help you on your way. They’re comfortable, cushioned and won’t break the bank.
If you’ve just started running and are looking to upgrade your running kit, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Unlike your converse or Stan Smiths, these shoes are designed to reduce the impact of running on your joints and protect your feet.
1. Brooks Launch 6
When you put this shoe on you can feel the fact that it normally costs $179.99. And yet it’s a sign of the crazy times we live in that it’s still intended by Brooks to be one of their more entry level models. So what do you get for your money? Well, you get a standard-fitting shoe that somehow combines low weight, flexibility and decent bounce with a feeling of control, support and heft. It feels exactly the same step after step, and if you’re running a few times a week or more then you’ll want that reliability so you can concentrate on things other than what your shoes are doing. If you’re training for your first race of half marathon distance or above and are looking for one shoe to get you there, this would be an excellent place to start.
2. Asics Gel Contend
This shoe won our Best Buy award in our 2020 running shoe guide. The Contend is a perfect all-rounder for new or lower mileage runners. ‘Probably the best value shoe I have ever worn,’ said one tester, while another was ‘shocked (in a good way) at the price’ and another reckoned they had ‘run in worse shoes that cost double the price’. Our testers found the combination of rearfoot GEL and AmpliFoam midsole offered a very decent level of cushioning and support, combined with perfectly acceptable responsiveness for an all-round pleasant ride. ‘Comfortable enough for long runs but not too stiff or heavy for the shorter stuff’ said one, highlighting the versatility of the Contend.
3. Reebok Harmony Road
This is an excellent all-rounder that will serve beginners well for both short, fast runs and slower, longer ones alike. If your heels tend to slip around in trainers no matter how you tie them, these offer an excellent heel counter (essentially a plastic clip inside the fabric of the shoe) which hugs the back of your heel without constricting any natural motion. The outsole rubber is made from carbon – one of the firmer, more durable forms of shoe rubber – which means it’s not going to scuff, peel or degrade easily as time goes by; while the flex groves cut into the bottom of the shoe allow them to bend nicely and flex through with your foot on every stride, so you don’t have that dragging-your-shoes-with-you sensation. In short this is a beginner-friendly shoe that runners of all levels would benefit from wearing.
4. Adidas Solardrive
A great option if you’re looking for a lightweight shoe that will perform just as well during a couple of weekly trots as it will on a spin bike and in a HIIT class. That strange polystyrene-y effect you can see on the white part of those shoes signifies that the shoe contains Boost, Adidas’s industry-leading cushioning foam. It’s light, extremely bouncy and you can really feel it helping to push your foot back off the floor with each step. The inside of the shoe feels soft, plush and pillowy which is perfect for comfort but not so good if you’re after a nimble, fast feeling. And finally the outsole, with its semi-waffle groove design is extremely bendy and flexible so you’ll waste minimal energy getting the shoe to work in tandem with your foot.
5. Nike Air Zoom Structure 22
If you’re new to running you may or may not know the term ‘overpronation.’ It refers to the way your feet roll slightly inwards when you walk or run. Some is normal; excessive amounts are not and can cause injury over time. These shoes contain technology (essentially a sturdier supportive section running along the inner side of the heel) that block your foot from overpronating. It’s not as heavy duty as it sounds and you won’t really notice it’s there but if you overpronate when you run, this shoe will help keep you on the roads and off the physio’s table. Elsewhere, it offers lightweight cables that wrap around the middle of the shoe to keep your foot locked in place, and the fabled ‘air cushioning pods’ in the heel. You may have seen them in Nike ads dating all the way back to the early 90s.