Road-running shoes are designed for pavement and occasional forays onto packed surfaces with slight irregularities. Light and flexible, they’re made to cushion or stabilize feet during repetitive strides on hard, even surfaces.

Trail-running shoes are designed for off-road routes with rocks, mud, roots or other obstacles. They are enhanced with aggressive tread for solid traction and fortified to offer stability, support and underfoot protection.

Cross-training shoes are designed for gym or Crossfit workouts or any balance activity where having more contact with the ground is preferred over a thick platform sole.

Shop REI’s selection of running shoes.

How Do You Run?

If you own a well-used pair of running shoes, check the wear pattern on the soles to help determine your running mechanics.

Pronation shows a wear pattern centralized to the ball of the foot and a small portion of the heel. It is the foot’s natural inward roll following the heel striking the ground.

Basic (neutral) pronation helps absorb impact, relieving pressure on knees and joints. It is a normal trait of neutral, biomechanically efficient runners.

Overpronation is identified by wear patterns along the inside edge of your shoe, and is an exaggerated form of the foot’s natural inward roll.

Overpronation is a common trait that affects the majority of runners, leaving them at risk of knee pain and injury. Overpronators need stability or motion control shoes.

Supination (also called under-pronation) is marked by wear along the outer edge of your shoe. It is an outward rolling of the foot resulting in insufficient impact reduction at landing.

Relatively few runners supinate, but those who do need shoes with plenty of cushioning and flexibility.

Barefoot/minimalist running: In traditional running shoes, feet tend to hit the ground heel first. This is because a shoe heel has an elevated cushion. With barefoot runners, it is the mid-foot or forefoot that strikes the ground first.

Read Barefoot/Minimalist Running Basics.

Types of Running Shoes

Neutral shoes: They can work for mild pronators, but are best for neutral runners or people who supinate (tent to roll outward). These shoes provide some shock absorption and some medial (arch-side) support.

Some super-cushioned shoes provide as much as 50% more cushioning than traditional shoes for even greater shock absorption.

Stability shoes: Good for runners who exhibit mild to moderate overpronation. They often include a firm “post” to reinforce the arch side of each midsole, an area highly impacted by overpronation.

Motion control shoes: Best for runners who exhibit moderate to severe overpronation, they offer features such as stiffer heels or a design built on straighter lasts to counter overpronation.

Barefoot shoes: Soles provide the bare minimum in protection from potential hazards on the ground. Many have no cushion in the heel pad and a very thin layer—as little as 3–4mm—of shoe between your skin and the ground.

All barefoot shoes feature a “zero drop” from heel to toe. (“Drop” is the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe.) This encourages a mid-foot or forefoot strike. Traditional running shoes, by contrast, feature a 10–12mm drop from the heel to the toe and offer more heel cushioning.

Minimalist shoes: These feature extremely lightweight construction, little to no arch support and a heel drop of about 4–8mm to encourage a natural running motion and a midfoot strike, yet still offer cushioning and flex.

Some minimalist styles may offer stability posting to help the overpronating runner transition to a barefoot running motion.

Minimalist shoes should last you roughly 300 to 400 miles.