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SHAPE’s Shoe Awards 2012

Best Trail Running Shoes: Salomon XR Mission W

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Ideal for: rugged trails

Rocky paths are no match for this shoe’s hard-rubber toe cap, generous cushioning, and durable upper. Tug on the quick-pull laces for a foot-hugging fit, then tackle any surface with confidence, courtesy of the “super-grippy outsole.” said one tester: “iIfelt more comfortable running downhill.” ($110; salomonrunning.com)

Best Trail Running Shoes: Brooks Puregrit

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Ideal for: mellow trails

The cushioning in this pavement-to-dirt sneaker is “spongy soft” and “springy” yet thinner than that of most trail shoes. This, combined with a low-profile outsole, allows you to “feel the ground.” The contoured upper and instep-cradling band make the puregrit “sock-like.” ($100; brooksrunning.com)

Best Trail Running Shoes: The North Face Hayasa Shoe

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Ideal for: long trails

The ultralight running shoe lets you really feel the trail while providing support and protection. The neutral, low-profile midsole allows a natural stride turnover keeping you comfortable on long trail runs. ($110; thenorthface.com)

Best Training Shoes: Ryka Transpire

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Ideal for: multitasking

This “go-to gym shoe” has ample cushioning that runs the length of the midsole to prevent foot fatigue on cardio machines, plus deep grooves in the outsole to improve flexibility. “i could shimmy like a pro in my dance class,” said one tester. Thanks to a breezy upper, your foot “stays cool no matter how much you sweat,” and the roomy toe box lets your little piggies spread out. ($70; ryka.com)

Best Training Shoes: Asics Gel-Blur 33TR

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Ideal for: high-impact activities

gel-filled cushions under the heel “soften the blow” of landings, while a foam insert at the arch keeps the foot “secure and supported.” On hardwood studio floors, the outsole’s herringbone pattern provides a reliable grip. Want to hit the court? This shoe has extra stability at the sides, which makes it ideal for the lateral movements of racquetball and basketball. ($85; asicsamerica.com)

Best Walking Shoes: Merrell Bare Access ARC

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Ideal for: walking workouts

Although this featherlight sneaker makes it feel “like you’re walking barefoot,” the secure upper “really supports your foot,” and “ultra-comfy” cushioning in the midsole promotes a smoother stride. ($90; merrell.com)

Best Walking Shoes: OESH

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Ideal for: everyday wear

Carbon-fiber beams in the midsole compress as your heel and forefoot hit the ground, decreasing shock on your body. “My back usually aches after an hour-long stroll,” said one walker, “but not in this sneaker.” ($195; oeshshoes.com)

Best Running Shoes: Saucony Triumph 9

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Ideal for: cushioning

Pavement pounders, this sneaker has your back. Thick cushioning in the midsole and a memory foam sock liner create the sensation of “running on a cloud.” The blown-rubber outsole is an additional buffer between your foot and the ground, providing “dependable traction, even on rain- slicked sidewalks.” ($130; saucony.com)

Best Running Shoes: Nike Lunar Eclipse+2

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Ideal for: distance

Fabric straps wrap around your midfoot, resulting in a “glove- like fit,” and the “springy” midsole has an insert at the heel to improve stability. Extra padding at the back of the heel and a “cushy” foot bed ensure comfort over the long haul. ($135; nike.com)

Best Running Shoes: Mizuno Wave Inspire 8

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Ideal for: stability

Control comes from a plastic plate in the midsole that runs from heel to forefoot. Testers whose feet pronate (roll in too much) raved that these kicks made them feel “supported” and “agile.” plus, the “sleek” upper is insanely breathable. ($115; mizunousa.com)

Best Running Shoes: Karhu Flow Fulcrum Ride

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Ideal for: speed

This sneaker weighs in at just 7.8 ounces— more than an ounce lighter than the other kicks in this category. A curved piece of plastic in the midsole helps rock your foot forward when you land, improving push- off and creating a “smoother stride.” ($115; karhu.com)

More of the Best Sneakers for Sports

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For one more SHAPE-approved sneaker in each category pick up a copy of our April issue on stands now!