7 Best Running Shoes For Beginners in 2024

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
7 Best Running Shoes For Beginners in 2024
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They say great things come from small beginnings. That said, don't confuse "small beginnings" for a rough start. No, you can be in your best form as a freshman if you sport the finest running shoes for beginners.

We've tested over a dozen remarkable entry-level running shoes for your perusal. We identified all they key features of a great running shoe and we determined the pros and the cons of the shoes we examined. We logged everything in a concise yet complete review. So, whether you fancy a budget-friendly pair or you're looking for something mighty formidable on the trail, we brewed this beginner-friendly selection for you.

How we test running shoes

Assembling such an impressive selection as this is not actually a walk in the park. We do follow a set of principles, after all. To give you a clearer idea, take a look at our approach:

  • We purchase beginner-friendly running shoes with our own money. We avoid any form of financial assistance and we do not accept free shoes from brands so we do not feel inclined to bluff about our judgments.
  • We run in these kicks for several miles to check their comfort level, general performance (including grip), and durability.
  • We run them through a series of tests to gauge their rebound rate and breathability, among others. Moreover, we slice the shoes into pieces and review all the parts present.

Best running shoes for beginners overall

What makes it the best?

The Novablast 4 has the three key components a new runner needs — comfort, steady support, and enough energy return to enjoy the sport. Look no further because we’ve tested in the lab and discovered in our runs that these are the best running shoes for beginners.

This daily trainer is such a delight to run in. It's made with above-average stacks and a heavenly foam that provides all-around comfort and bounce to an athlete building mileage. We tested its foam and our durometer shows it’s 28.7% softer than average.

Even with its maximum cushion, the shoes don’t feel wobbly. It keeps our feet in place even on fast turns. Our torsional rigidity test confirms this support with an above-average 4/5 rating. Our feet are firmly planted to the ground with its midsole that’s 9.6/4.7 mm wider in the forefoot and heel, respectively. All these contribute to a more stable and supported ride.

Based on our 90° bend test, Novablast 4 is 13.5% more flexible than average. This is a crucial element for comfort to make the ride more enjoyable for beginners.

In terms of breathability, this pair scored 3/5 falling below the 3.9 average. We found that it lacks ventilation for the summer season. 

Pros

  • Enhanced outsole offering better grip and durability
  • Improved upper comfort with premium materials
  • Upgraded tongue padding
  • Exceptional value at just $140
  • More cushion than ever before
  • Accommodates a wide range of foot sizes
  • The most stable Novablast yet
  • Retains most of its fun and energetic ride

Cons

  • Not the best for hot summer runs
  • Outsole still lacks grip in wet conditions
  • Minor weight increase compared to v3
Full review of ASICS Novablast 4

Best daily training running shoes for beginners

Brooks Ghost 15
88
Great!

What makes it the best?

Ghost 15 is our top daily trainer recommendation for beginners because of its cushy platform, uncomplicated midsole, and resilient outsole. We genuinely enjoyed our test runs as this fuss-free pair is ideal for soaking up daily mileage at varying speeds.

Built for comfort, it boasts a mega 36.3 mm heel stack and a luscious foam. Our durometer confirms its velvet cushion is 33.5% softer than average. With its modest forefoot, the heel-to-toe drop is a double-digit 13.2 mm. This is 4.4 mm steeper than average, making it more suitable for heel-strikers or runners with Achilles or calf troubles.

Its midsole glides with our every stride, moving with minimal to no restrictions. Our flex test in the lab validates this, standing 40.3% more adaptive than average. This produces a more natural running feel, which beginners will appreciate.

The outsole is made to last many miles. Its 84.4 HC rubber is harder than the 80.0 HC average, meaning it endures more wear and tear. This also serves as a protective shield underfoot.

We warn caution that its lack of cushion in the forefoot and high drop may feel too harsh for mid-to-forefoot runners and beginners who don’t suffer from lower-leg problems.

Pros

  • Supreme comfort
  • Plush, stable ride that's a delight
  • Optimized for heel strikers
  • No heel slippage
  • Great grip in wet conditions
  • Built to endure countless miles
  • Impressive value for $140
  • Great for both running and walking
  • Available in up to four different widths

Cons

  • Slightly heavier than its predecessor
  • Could use some improvements in breathability
  • Not a good one for forefoot strikers
Full review of Brooks Ghost 15

Best speed training shoes for beginners

Hoka Mach 5
89
Great!

What makes it the best?

What can’t we say about the Hoka Mach 5? It’s a lightweight, breathable, plush, responsive, amply-padded, and comfy fighter jet of a shoe that had us challenging our PBS with virtually every run. As such, it is the perfect cure for beginners with a need for speed that flies to the top of the rankings for this category.   

The ProFly+ midsole foam is undoubtedly the star of the show. With a durometer reading of 15 HA, the Mach 5’s midsole is 56% softer than average. In spite of this decidedly plush result, the shoe still feels incredibly energetic with a bouncy rebound that really encourages pushing the pace. The result is a well-cushioned and reactive ride that encourages us to empty the gas tank and go as fast as we can. 

Further encouraging us to push the pace during our test runs is how light the shoe is on the foot. Tipping our scale at a mere 7.94 oz (225g), the Mach 5 is a lean, mean acceleration machine that’s 1.51 oz (43g) lighter than the average road shoe. This puts the Mach 5 on par with most high-end performance shoes, and it can certainly serve as a beginner's first pair of racing shoes. 

It’s not unusual for speedy shoes to be snug, and the Mach 5 is no exception. We measured its toebox with our caliper to be 95.4 mm at its widest point, which is 2.7 mm shy of our current lab average. While it may not sound like much on paper, runners with wide feet will definitely have to contend with hotspots and even blisters after continued use of this rather restrictive shoe. 

Pros

  • Super fun and energetic ride
  • Velvety smooth strides
  • Runs and feels light
  • Comfy for easy days
  • Cushioned for long runs
  • Absorbs impact
  • Awesome fit
  • Welcomes wide feet
  • Reflective
  • Worth the money

Cons

  • Really lacks outsole durability
  • Slips on wet pavement
Full review of Hoka Mach 5

Best budget running shoes for beginners

Saucony Axon 3
86
Good!

What makes it the best?

Among all the beginner running shoes we tested on foot and in the lab, we chose Saucony Axon 3 as our best budget pick. For only $100 vs. the $130 average of daily trainers, we believe this can serve as a constant running pair for new runners. It’s lightweight, pleasantly comfortable, and has an outsole that’s built to last.

Axon 3 is the ultimate lightweight, wallet-friendly shoe — weighing in at just 8.6 oz (244g) vs. the 9.4 oz (266g) average. Adding to the airy feeling is its breezy mesh upper that scored a high 4/5 on our lab breathability test.

Surprisingly, Axon 3 offers generous cushioning for such a light and affordable shoe. Its tall 33.6/27.9 mm stack is composed of foam that’s 22.5% softer than average (as per our durometer) — a major plus for beginners who are still getting used to the feeling of repetitive landing impact. 

After double-digit miles of running, we can confirm that the outsole balances grip and durability well. There was barely any wear and tear, which we give credit to the Carbon Rubber that’s both thicker and tougher than average based on our lab tests.

However, the low 5.7 mm drop may feel uncomfortable for some runners. We recommend excessive heel-strikers to look elsewhere.

Pros

  • Incredible value at only $100
  • Significant weight reduction from version 2
  • Impressively cushioned with PWRRUN foam
  • Fantastic durability
  • Suitable for quicker paces
  • Excellent as a daily workhorse
  • Lovely upper
  • Works for short and long runs

Cons

  • Probably too stiff for very relaxed runs
  • Slightly narrower forefoot than before
Full review of Saucony Axon 3

Best stability running shoes for beginners

What makes it the best?

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 3 excels as a running shoe that gives more support than the average daily trainer. We found that it offered comfort and low-key stability without altering our natural foot movements. Backed up by our lab, it has a good mix of rigid and flexible elements that make it the best stability shoe for beginners.

Starting with the rigid side, this model features Brooks’ GuideRails technology to enhance stability. This includes plastic pieces that are integrated into the sides of the heel to support excess movements. Balancing the stiffness is an adaptive midsole that promotes natural strides. Putting it against our flex test, it emerged 41.2% more flexible than the average.

Adrenaline GTS 23 provides a vast landing platform that inspires safe and sound landings. Our caliper shows it’s 4.2/6.9 mm wider than average in the forefoot and heel. To accommodate narrow and extra wide feet, four width options are available.

What’s also balanced is its cushion, which feels both comfy and steady. Our durometer confirms it’s 18.4% softer than the average running shoe. With a 34.1 mm heel stack, this shoe provides enough protection for heel-strikers.

On the other hand, the forefoot stack falls 3.0 mm below the average. This isn’t enough cushion for forefoot strikers.

Pros

  • Excellent stability without being intrusive
  • Ideal for easy miles
  • Specifically designed for heel strikers
  • Outstanding breathability
  • Comfortable and cushioned
  • Availability in narrow and wide sizes
  • Capable of handling tempo paces
  • Not expensive at all

Cons

  • The engineered mesh upper lacks durability
  • Lacks cushion for forefoot strikers
Full review of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23

Running shoes for beginners with the best cushioning

Hoka Clifton 9
86
Good!

What makes it the best?

In true Hoka tradition, the Clifton 9 has a notable hunk of soft midsole foam that provides incomparable comfort. Additionally, it is also a reliable daily trainer that is quite stable underfoot. A versatile shoe that can do easy days, recovery runs, and some speedwork, it is our number one for best cushioning among running shoes for beginners.

The Hoka Clifton 9’s remarkable midsole delivers pillow-like cushioning for a magnificent running experience. We measured the heel stack to be 32.7 mm, which is almost on par with the average (33.2 mm). However, lab data affirms that the midsole is actually 18% softer than the average of road running shoes, explaining the plush feel. 

A  combination of a wide platform, good upper lockdown, and extended sidewalls give this shoe enough stability to inspire confidence in its user. The midsole is 2.8 mm wider at the forefoot and 6.4 mm wider at the heel, which makes each landing stable even when turning sharp corners. A plus point for beginners who are still getting used to the running motion.

Easy runs, recovery runs, long runs, and speed sessions—the Clifton 9 can do it all and can do it well. It is amply cushioned, fairly responsive, and stable enough to be an all-around, do-it-all shoe.

Sadly, the Clifton 9 is not a very well-ventilated shoe–scoring a mere 3/5 score on our breathability test. Beginners looking for shoes to run in hot weather may look for more breathable shoes.

Pros

  • Thicker and more energetic midsole cushioning
  • Lighter than the v8
  • Easy on the knees
  • Durable upper
  • Available in wide
  • Good traction on roads and mild trails
  • Mild, unobtrusive stability elements
  • Can handle faster paces better than previous editions
  • Best for easy days and long runs

Cons

  • Narrow fit
  • Upper needs some time to break in
  • Average breathability
Full review of Hoka Clifton 9

Best trail running shoes for beginners

What makes it the best?

Exploring the trail is difficult enough so it's best to have a shoe that keeps a new runner secured and in control. Thanks to our lab tests and actual runs, we found Saucony’s Peregrine 13 as the best trail shoe for beginners.

This model is light and nimble enough for daily runs and hikes. At 9.6 oz (271g), it’s at par with road-running shoes which are much lighter than trail shoes. It’s also one of the most resilient trail shoes we’ve tested measuring 33% more flexible than average. This makes it easier to control each stride as the shoe moves naturally with the feet and quickly adapts on uneven terrains.

Adding to the runner’s domination over the shoe is its heel-to-toe drop that’s 49% lower than average. We relied more on our leg power than the shoe’s technology which is great for strengthening leg muscles. The leveled platform gave us a sense of finesse as we ran through technical terrains.

We also felt secure as we tested the outsole’s traction on various surfaces and it performed excellently. Its lugs are 4.8 mm deep with a pattern that bites through mud and dirt and then sheds them off afterward.

Its 29.1 HA cushion is 6% firmer than average. Runners who prefer a softer foam can explore other options.

Pros

  • Cushioned midsole
  • Protective rock plate
  • Better for longer efforts than the v12
  • A good trail racing option
  • Great traction whether on ice, snow, gravel, and dirt
  • Mud just falls off the outsole
  • Comfy and airy upper
  • Performance-oriented fit
  • No heel slippage
  • Smooth and natural-feeling ride

Cons

  • Debris tends to get in
  • Not as fast as other speedwork trail shoes
  • Too-firm midsole
Full review of Saucony Peregrine 13
Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.