The 2021 Shape Sneaker Awards Will Help You Pick the Best Pair for Any Workout

The Shape Squad put 59 of the latest sneaker styles to the test to find you the best pair for every move you make. Here, the top contenders.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Photo: DANILO HESS

Spot-On Stability: Asics Gel-Kayano Lite

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DANILO HESS

This lighter-weight version of the brand's fan-favorite stability shoe had us at go. With strategic overlays for support and a gender-specific midsole construction that provides just-right resistance if feet start to roll inward, these runners gently nudge your foot strike into the neutral sweet spot and keep feet agile. "My feet felt supported and springy," raved one tester who took them out for an eight-miler.

Buy It: Asics Gel-Kayano Lite, $160, amazon.com

Support Star: Altra Provision 5

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To runners seeking stability, the balanced cushion throughout the shoe (rather than a rise from forefoot to heel) was an OMG revelation. The style hugs arches and has a roomy toe box, so there's no squashed feeling upon foot strike. "That definitely helped relieve stress after a long run," says one happy tester, who loved the cushiony ride.

Buy It: Altra Provision 5, $130, roadrunnerssports.com

Big Boing, PR Pace: New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2

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The foam in this built-for-speed running sneaker supplies maximal rebound and wowed testers, whether they dabble in running or do double-digit weekly mileage. "They're beyond lightweight," one convert says. That's thanks to the stylish performance-mesh upper, which is super breathable to further instill the sensation of being fast and free.

Buy It: New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2, available April 15th on newbalance.com

Übercushioned and Agile: Hoka One One Carbon X 2

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"Super lightweight," was the verdict on this stellar and supremely comfy maximalist runner. The rocker design of the midsole, coupled with a carbon fiber plate within, help give feet a push. "They make you feel like you're flying rather than running," a tester says.

Buy It: Hoka One One Carbon X 2, $180, hokaoneone.com

Key for Crushing Miles: Brooks Ghost 13

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DANILO HESS

This style is the "Goldilocks of cushion" for our discerning runners. It supplies extra cushioning from heel to forefoot, so you feel the plushness — not the pounding — from foot strike to push-off. And that stretchy mesh upper means you can go with the airflow. "Very comfortable, stable, and cushiony," one tester says. Pretty much says it all.

Buy It: Brooks Ghost 13, $130, amazon.com

Techie Protection: Nike ZoomX Invincible Run

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This shoe was built for babying you through long runs to help reduce injury. The magic is in the midsole: The rocker design helps transition you through a stride, while a special foam fans out at heel and forefoot to safely stick landings. "This may be my new go-to," one marathoner says.

Buy It: Nike ZoomX Invincible Run, $180, nike.com

Hot on the Trails: Brooks Catamount

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When you want to keep it fleet, this lightweight trail runner rules. The sticky rubber tread gives you the traction you need as the rock shield within the midsole provides protection from jagged stuff. "Cushiony without feeling too heavy," says one tester. "Plus super cute!"

Buy It: Brooks Catamount, $160, dickssportinggoods.com

Go-to Outdoor Shoe: Merrell Moab Flight

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DANILO HESS

When you just want to head out in nature and choose your own adventure for the afternoon, this nimble, cushioned trail runner has you covered. "I love this shoe," says one tester, who put its durable Vibram tread through the paces on gravel. "It has great arch support and cushion." Another who took it for a hike added "great coverage and traction" to the list.

Buy It: Merrell Moab Flight, $110, merrell.com

For Trail and Town: Eddie Bauer K-6 Boot

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This sturdy, ankle-high reissue of a brand classic is waterproof leather paired with a serious Vibram outsole that will stand up to your day trek in the woods and emerge ready to go with your sporty street style when April showers hit. "Great support while hiking and walking," says one tester, who loved them for lockdown escapes. (

Buy It: Eddie Bauer K-6 Boot, $150, amazon.com; eddiebauer.com

Day Hiker: Salomon Outline Mid GTX

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"This shoe handled everything I threw at it: wet leaves, dirt, mud, rocks — I even danced in some puddles," one tester marvels of this midtop hiker, which feels sturdy yet lightweight. With a lug pattern that works for hard or loose surfaces and a Gore-Tex membrane that makes the shoe waterproof, it's a winner for day hikes and other rugged fun.

Buy It: Salomon Outline Mid GTX, $150, amazon.com; salomon.com

Best In Bootcamp: Reebok Nano X1

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DANILO HESS

HIITers and CrossFitters alike will love this cushiony yet low-profile cross-trainer, which provides side-to-side control without the stiffness. The stretchier upper and lighter update to the shoe is behind that agility. "It would be tough to accidentally roll an ankle in these," one tester says of her fave new workout shoe.

Buy It: Reebok Nano X1, $130, amazon.com; reebok.com

Class Master: Under Armour Project Rock 3

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Cinch up the laces on this cross-trainer's knit sock-like upper, and you're ready for action. With an outsole that provides extra hug-the-floor grip on the forefoot and outer and inner heel, you'll stick those side-to-side moves. "Perfect during cross-training workouts," says one tester, who streams a mix of routines. (

Buy It: Under Armour Project Rock 3, $140, underarmour.com

Gym Gem: Skechers GOrun Pulse-Ultimate Best

Courtesy of manufacturer

This sneaker is a neutral runner that also scored with testers who took it for a spin for their low-impact classes. "Perfect for my virtual workouts," one says. With its high-rebound insole and lightweight springy cushioning, you can get in your cardio machine routine and conditioning and still feel bouncy.

Buy It: Skechers GOrun Pulse-Ultimate Best, $80, amazon.com

Recovery Shoe Bliss: Oofos Oomg EeZee Low Shoe

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This is what to wear when you want to take a load off. Its signature footbed and curved midsole guides your stride to reduce effort on the lower legs. And the pillowy foam makes for a maximally soft landing, absorbing 37 percent more impact. "They felt like clouds on my feet," one tester says.

Buy It: Oofos Oomg EeZee Low Shoe, $120, zappos.com

Superb Slip-On: Sorel Kinetic Impact Strap

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DANILO HESS

Easy does it! That's how we roll for our WFH hustle, and this stylish pair supplies just the right mix of edge, comfort, and versatility to get you through your to-dos in any outfit. The upper is a breathable mesh with a statement stretchy band across the midfoot to provide a fit that hugs your foot.

Buy It: Sorel Kinetic Impact Strap, $140, amazon.com; sorel.com

Sustainable Gold Standard: Salomon Index.01

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This running sneaker is pushing the envelope as our favorite Earth Day gift to getting fit. Not only is the upper made of recycled polyester, but the shoe is built to be disassembled and recycled after it's worn out. For example, ship the well-loved sneaks to Salomon, and the foam gets ground down to bits for playgrounds and tracks. (

Buy It: Salomon Index.01, $200, salomon.com

Slay All Day: Rothy's The Lace Up

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When you take a cue from our new madam vice president and pair your power blazer with sneaks, these knit kicks have polish and punch that feel very spring. And if they scuff, just toss them in the wash.

Buy It: Rothy's The Lace Up, $165, rothys.com

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