Best Running Shoes
Expensive does not necessarily mean better: Source
Best Budget (~$60 Both Short and Long Runs) –
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7 $90 [Amazon Search] Super comfortable to all and perfect for most. The absolute most luxurious cushion, however, not as quick as the firmer shoes.
Best Performance Trainer – Sprint to Mid-Length Runs (~$120) –
(heel striking mainly) Saucony Endorphin Speed $120-160 [Amazon Search] the absolute best trainer. Has the best most balanced cushioning – you feel the bounce instead of the road but not too much to feel completely disconnected. There is not much difference between the original and the Speed 2 so feel free to get the original at a discount.
(forefoot striking only) Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit $120-160 [Amazon Search] – If you can handle a stiffer ride than the Pegasus Turbo, this is bouncier (react foam and same carbon fiber plate as Vaporfly). A big step up from the original Zoom Fly (less durable and less cushiony) and Zoom Fly SP. Zoom series in general is better than lunar (lunaracers). ZF FK is good also for preparing for using the Vaporfly 4% for race day, because it has the same carbon fiber plate. Pegasus 35 is heavy dense, Pegasus 35 Turbo is soft and fun but not stable or responsive. Nike Epic React 2 is more stable but less performance and less fun.
Best Racer (~$160) –
Nike Vaporfly 4% $160 [Amazon Search] – ZoomX and carbon fiber plate. Same shape as the Zoom Fly but less stiff (insanely soft) and more bouncy.
Substitute to Vaporfly: Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro – More traditional feeling, slightly less cushioned and slightly more ground feel than the Vaporfly. Vaporfly is more versatile, can handle longer distances. Half the weight of the Vaporfly, however, expensive and hard to find a good deal on. May not last as long.
Don’t get: Adidas Ultra Boost (comfortable, heavy and durable but more of a lifestyle shoe than a regular running shoe), Nike Epic React, Asics Gel DS Trainer 24 (decent but nothing revolutionary)
Not Durable – Salomon (tread wears out quickly), Teva, Merrell Just Okay – Asics Gel Intensity 2
Best Trail Running Shoes
Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 – $180 [Salomon] Absolute best in cushioning for ultra long distances on all terrains. Expensive but worth it.
Best Barefoot Running Shoes (both trail or road)
Barefoot Options: (note: can’t fit orthotic insoles)
The “barefoot” shoes option is not an answer for everyone such as people with abnormalities of structure or people who impact the ground hard and require cushion, but they still may work great for active people who are light on their feet and only flat-footed (or only need orthotics for non-sport activities such as work, going out). While they reduce stress on the shins and knees, however, barefoot running (especially when your form is only being on the balls of your feet) shifts a lot of that stress to the ankles and calves. It is important to not land hard, especially solely on the balls of your feet. And work your way up, should only be doing barefoot at 10% of the distance you normally run at first; injuries can happen if pushing oneself too hard while wearing a new type of shoes.
Barefoot Shoes (Best ground-feel but low durability):
Xero HFS $120 [Xero]- We’d most recommend these, to get the full barefoot experience. The fully black ones are sold out, however.
Barefoot Shoes (More durability but very little ground-feel):
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail 2 $145 (can fit inserts in these, EVO better than Stealth and the One) [Amazon Search]. Note: Trail FG has the cushioning, while Trail SG only has a thin wall on the back. Merrell Flux Glove or Vapor Glove are great but not durable (Trail Glove and Flux Glove are too stiff). Xero Prio looks ugly and is also poor quality. Skora Fit has more padding to the upper and cushioning to the outsole, than the Vapor Glove, and doesn’t look great.
Toed Barefoot Shoes (midpoint between durability and ground-feel):
Vibram Fivefingers (all-terrain/weather) ~$100 V-Trek or V-Trail 2.0 or V-Alpha [Amazon Search], [Vibram Closeout]. One-color leather Vibrams (e.g black or brown) are more muted and subtle, instead of attracting lots of attention. However, they are still goofy-looking and attracting unwanted attention is not desired, so we would recommend against them.
If you’d like Toe Socks for the Vibrams (especially for Winter use), get Injinji
[Amazon], such as the 2.0 Outdoor Midweight Crew Nuwool [Amazon] – The 2.0 Outdoors Midweights are the heaviest option for extra warmth and will last the longest. We also prefer tall (crew), because during warm months, we either go without socks or for buggy trails, the tall socks protect from ticks and mosquitos. During the cold months, the tall socks provide extra warmth and one could tuck pants in them, if needed.
Substitute (beginner barefoot): LEMS Primal 2 $100 [LEMS]. LEMS trailhead is too stiff. Not durable, lasts less than a year but more comfortable and more cushion than most barefoot shoes. A good starter shoe, if you can find on clearance. A little too much cushion, however, for barefoot running. Another con is that it looks more dad-shoe-ish.
Sandals (Huaraches for the hardcore barefoot runners):
Bedrock Classics $78 [Bedrock Sandals], better straps than other Huaraches. Often used for marathons. Bedrock Cairns are too thick – for hiking or trail runs and not for speed or distance (marathons). Better than Luna Mono Winged Edition (better straps).
Don’t Get: Nike Free Run (more for looks than the New Balance Minimus which are more comfortable runners). Inov-8 Bare-X 180 – not great, Too Cushioned – Saucony, Mizuno, Altra, Skechers, Brooks, Pearl Izumi. Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 (made by Asics) – Bruce Lee’s shoes (yellow with black version) in his last movie Game of Death, very comfortable and perfect for light sporting, however they’re fashion sneakers rather than for actually running/athletics. Xero Shoes Minimalist Huarache Sandals $25 InvisibileShoe – Pretty much flip flops except specialized for running, supposedly very comfortable (they are custom fit) – durable, however, not very stylish, and may slide around too much for running, not much support, aren’t great when wet. Xero Cloud are too minimalist. Skora Fit doesn’t look that great.
Discontinued: Adidas Adipure Gazelle – more durable than Nike Free, Merrell, and New Balance Minimus. New Balance Minimus also discontinued.
Best Casual Sandals
Get Leather Kiwis. See Bedrock Classics above for more intense activity sandals. Keens aren’t stylish.
It is best to get versatile socks (socks that could double for both activity and dress). Best material is wool (only the cheap ones are itchy), as it is wicking (not only removes moisture but allows it to evaporate) instead of absorbent cotton (which is why those get smelly). Wool is also insulating when wet, while cotton is not. However, high end wool socks may not be machine dryable. Match your pant color, or go one shade darker, and use minimal patterns, ie Dark gray/blue/brown socks with denim/navy/khaki pants. Thin (never thick gym socks) black socks only with black or dark-gray pants. Never white, unless you’re exercising (or going Californian)
Activity Socks Source
Intense Activity –
Balega Blister Resister Quarter $15 [Amazon]
Regular Activity –
Balega Hidden Comfort [Amazon] (better than Thorlo Unisex Walking Crew)
Gold Toe [Amazon]
Hiking – Kirkland Signature Merino Wool [Amazon] – Better value than the Darn Tough (1/4 price) and almost as good
Not great – Smartwool, Point6
Best Running Hat
Do not recommend:
- Many brands have large and ugly logos – Soar, Buff Pack Run cap, RNRR
- Nike and Underarmour (colors fade in the wash), Boco Gear (boring designs)
- Territory Run Co (boring designs and drab colors), Baro Drywear (Sold out), Path Projects (drab design/logo only black/white colors), Outdoor Research (Swift Cap is best but annoying logo and black on the sides), Kalenji (sold on Decathlon, poor quality, glued instead of stitched and breaks after a couple washes), Janji AFO Hyperlight (bungee not comfortable for wearing it backwards), Lululemon Race Kit Cap or Fast and Free Run Cap (nothing special, not a good fit)
- Sold out or discontinued – Patagonia Duckbill Cap (supremely breathable but discontinued), Satisfy Running (mostly sold out)
Recommended Brands with Designs
- Melin – Some really cool designs. While we really like the Kindhumans collab, it is not a sporty fit. We’d like to try the Pace Hydro model, as they seem best for workouts and activity $60-70
- Ciele – Very colorful, some stylish city options like NY, Berlin but sold out. FSTCap is better than GoCap
- Fractel – Similarly colorful to Ciele. Less options.
- Oiselle – We really like the foldable roga cap with the birds – one size, however. For women sizes.
- Skida – Great designs such as floral. Less for intense workouts.
- Ben Parkes – A few bright colorful styles
- Sprints – Amazing repeated designs $29. We really like the goat one!
Recommended Brands with Solid Colors Only
- Salomon XA – Difficult to find
- OMM – Their Trail Cap is high wicking, short brim. They have no other hats
- Arcteryx – Elaho (Hard to find, folds up, Calvus has the stiffer brim that is too long, great for larger heads, men only)
- On Running
- DungeonForward – Very interesting designs
Hiking / Water Sports / Sun Protection
We found Fractel Legionnaire $52 to be more fashionable and just as useful as the online-recommended Sunday Afternoons Ultra-Adventure Hat [Amazon] $42
Best Running Hydration Pack and Water Bladder
Best Hydration Backpack – Nathan Pinnacle 12L $200 [Amazon]. So much storage – no belt needed! Also because of the bright colors, no reflector vest needed.
Best Replacement Water Bladder – Gregory Mountain Products 3D Hydro Reservoir $35 [Amazon]. In case you need a water bladder, the 2L fits well into the Nathan. The 3L is a little too big for it. Super durable.