The Best Running and Athletic Shoes for Every Workout, According to a Podiatrist
How to Find the Best Workout Shoes for Your Feet
Shoes have the ability to make or break your workout. Whether you’re going for a run, sweating it out in a HIIT class, or strength training, wearing the wrong type of sneaker can not only be uncomfortable but can be downright harmful. To make sure this doesn’t happen during your next workout, it’s important to do your research ahead of time and only wear high-quality shoes that are supportive, stable, and come from trusted brands. What's more, not all athletic shoes are made for the same type of workout. You'll want to distinguish between the best strength training shoes and the best long-distance running shoes, for example.
It's never a bad idea to choose brands that have been approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association, which include Hoka One One, Therafit, Altra Footwear, and Vionic. Also, when choosing the best workout shoe you should look for a rigid shank (between the insole and outsole) that offers ample support, says Alex Kor, D.P.M., spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) and former president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. Kor also emphasized that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to find the best running sneaker — in fact, you can find many affordable options that offer lots of support and stability for your feet.
Best Women's Running and Athletic Shoes
Here, Kors helped pick some of the 10 best women’s running sneakers and athletic shoes for all different types of workouts — so whether you’re a boxer, a runner, a studio class aficionado, or a weight training buff, you’ll find something on this list that works for you and your needs.
The majority of these athletic shoes carry the official APMA Seal of Approval, which is “granted to products found to promote good foot health.” Translation: You can trust that they’ll protect against injuries and offer all the support, comfort, and top-notch features you need for your next workout.
Best Stability Running Shoes for Women: Hoka One One Arahi 4
These Arahi 4 sneakers by Hoka One One are a direct recommendation from APMA’s list of sneakers for good foot health, and it’s easy to see why. Kor likes Hoka One One shoes for runners because they “typically have a rigid shank, a larger toe box, and a zero-drop heel (meaning the heel is the same height as the ball of the foot), which can help many runners in avoiding injuries.” The shoes offer lots of stability, making them ideal for running — especially if you’re recovering from an injury or just feel like your feet need some extra TLC. (Related: 5 Things Physical Therapists Want Runners to Start Doing Now)
Best Shoes for Outdoor Runs and Distance Running: Altra Footwear Escalante Racer Sneaker
These racing sneakers from Altra Running were specifically made for outdoor running and are perfect for distance runners who only need moderate arch support. These athletic shoes have a zero-drop heel — meaning the heel is the same height as the ball of the foot — which Kor considers to be one of the most important features to look for in running shoes. They also have a breathable lining, slight cushioning, and flexible response for a super lightweight feel on your feet. With an APMA seal of approval, Altra is a well-known brand in the running community, so you can trust that these shoes will be top-notch. (Related: The New Nike Free RN 5.0 Shoes Will Make You Feel Like You're Running Barefoot)
Best Shoes with Arch Support for Plantar Fasciitis: Therafit Carly Athletic Sneaker
Another APMA-recommended brand, Therafit shoes are ideal for injury recovery or problem feet that need extra support and stability. Specifically designed for plantar fasciitis, these sneakers have ample arch support and a rigid shank that’s meant to reduce stress on the lower half of your body — making them one of the best running shoes for women with high arches, as well. "Wearing a shoe that bends in the shank will ultimately cause or contribute to overuse conditions of the foot or lower extremity, such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, or stress fractures," says Kor. The upper is made with a soft mesh material for added comfort and breathability, and these athletic sneakers also include removable dual-density cushioned insoles in the arches. (Related: The 11 Best Support Sneakers for Your Arches)
Best Running Shoes for Speed: Brooks Levitate 4 Sneaker
Brooks Levitate sneakers are super popular amongst runners and gym goers alike for their responsive cushioning and ample shock absorption. The cushioning is meant to have the highest energy return possible from a shoe, making these the best choice for road runners who want to up their speed. With a neutral support level and lots of flexibility, they’re made with a soft knit material that comfortably molds to your foot for a sock-like fit. What’s more, they include a removable insole that’s made with polyurethane foam, which Kor calls one of the most durable materials available for a footbed. (Related: I Own 80+ Pairs of Sneakers but Wear These Almost Every Day)
Best Lightweight Running Shoes: On Running Cloud 2.0
If you’re in the market for a running shoe that's light as a feather, look no further than On Running's Cloud 2.0 sneaker. Designed for a barely-there feel on your foot, these are the best option for low-intensity workouts or experienced runners who prefer a light and flexible sneaker. The narrower fit features the brand's signature Zero-Gravity foam and CloudTec technology so that’ll feel super soft and comfortable on your feet. Plus, it has an antimicrobial mesh upper lining that’s both breathable and durable. While this may not be the right choice for plyometric workouts or long runs that require a more supportive shoe, they’re the perfect go-to shoe for everyday wear and weigh a mere 6 ounces, making them ideal for tossing in your carry-on for vacation workouts.
Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Comfort: Hoka One One Bondi 6
The Bondi 6 is another HOKA option recommended by Kor. They have maximum cushioning, breathable mesh fabric, and an Ortholite EVA footbed for complete comfort. Cushioning is typically not necessary for aiding injuries or taking care of problem feet — but it simply feels good in a shoe, says Kor. "Cushioning may assist in patient comfort, but cushioning is not a substitute for support," he adds. And the good news is, this shoe has both — along with the highly-cushioned footbed, it also boasts an internal heel counter for added support.
Best Training Shoes for HIIT or Fitness Classes: ASICS Gel-Quantum 180 4
If you’re a fan of HIIT, aerobics, or any other high-intensity fitness classes, you’ll want to choose a stable shoe with extra shock absorption to soften the impact of hard studio floors — and that’s just what you’ll find in the ASICS Gel-Quantum shoe. Designed with ASICS’ signature gel cushioning, the shoe is made to give you extra stability and bounciness — making it easy to swiftly move across the gym floor when an instructor calls for agility drills.
Kor notes the difference between running shoes and other athletic shoes is the heel height. “For athletic shoes, I would again emphasize shoes that have a rigid shank, but the zero drop shoes would not be ideal for aerobics,” he says. With a slight heel drop and a tough, stable shank, this shoe meets Kor’s guidelines for an exercise shoe — and will give you some extra spring in your step. (Related: What Exactly Are Zero-Drop Shoes and Should You Try Them?)
Best Sneakers for Walking or Low-Impact Exercise: Vionic Walker
From podiatrist-recommended brand Vionic, the Vionic Walker shoes were literally made for walking (as the name would suggest). They’re made with durable, water-resistant leather and a shock-absorbing EVA footbed that’s designed to reduce stress on the ankles, knees, and hips. These supportive sneaks are lined with breathable, moisture-wicking material and a heel counter for added stability. And while the construction is meant to be firm for complete support, the cushioned lining still feels soft when you’re on the move. These APMA-approved shoes are lightweight and comfortable enough for even the longest days spent on your feet.
Best Trail Running Shoes for Rugged Terrain: Altra Footwear Timp Trail Shoe
If you need highly-durable and supportive sneakers for outdoor trail running or rugged terrain, go with this Dr. Kor-recommended option from Altra Footwear. With maximum cushioning and a zero-drop heel (that’s ideal for runners), these trail sneakers have a lightweight footbed made with EVA foam, a spacious and shock-absorbing toebox that’s designed to let your toes spread naturally during movement, and super breathable lining.
What’s more, the shoes include reflective accents for better visibility in dark conditions and Altra’s signature TrailClaw outsoles that are designed for maximum grip on rugged and unpredictable terrain. (Related: The Best Trail Running Shoes to Help You Break Away from the Pavement)
Best Wide-Width Sneakers for Problem Feet: Dr. Comfort Katy Women’s Therapeutic Athletic Shoe
Dr. Comfort sneakers are an APMA-approved brand for therapeutic use — meaning you’ll want to consider this choice if you’re recovering from an injury, have a chronic overuse condition, or your lifestyle requires spending long hours on your feet (if you’re a nurse, for example). They have a removable padded gel insert that’s made for complete comfort and breathable mesh material that’s weaved throughout the shoe.
The sneakers are very roomy with extra depth in the toe box, meaning they’re also an ideal running shoe for women with wide feet. Amazon reviewers rave over how comfortable and well-fitting these Dr. Comfort shoes are — one reviewer said they’re “the best shoes I ever bought!” and another shopper, who is an ICU nurse, called them “the most comfortable shoe ever.” (Related: How to Find the Best Workout Shoes for Flat Feet)