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The best walking and running shoes, according to the experts

TODAY logo TODAY 2/24/2021 Locke Hughes

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When it comes to easy-access workouts, walking and running definitely top the list. You’ll burn calories and improve your heart health — without the need for any fancy equipment, expensive gym memberships, or any sort of “30-day” plan. All you need is your own body and a pair of shoes.

But of course, there’s a catch. That pair of shoes is super important for making the most out of your walk, run or hike. Without a proper pair, you’ll risk injury, discomfort and pain; while the right ones can make you feel like you’re flying.

SKIP AHEAD: Best shoes for running, walking and hiking and trail running

Unfortunately, it can be a Goldilocks-esque challenge to find just the right pair. Take it from Katie Dunlop, certified trainer and creator of Love Sweat Fitness, who has tried hundreds of different shoes. “Some are super cute, but don’t offer any real support to your poor feet, while others are completely functional, but not exactly stylish,” she said.

To help you narrow down your decision, we asked avid runners and fitness professionals to tell us the shoes they swear by. Read on for 13 top picks.

Related: We asked the experts what to look for in a new pair of sneakers and how to break them in. Plus, got their top picks from New Balance, ASICS, Saucony and more.

Best running shoes

1. Nike Pegasus 36 Running Shoes

Cameron Yuen, certified strength and conditioning specialist and senior physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments, picked this pair as his go-to running shoe. “When you run, you want to minimize the amount of time your foot spends on the ground — otherwise, the contact time slows you down and puts more stress on the soft tissues,” he explained. “Since the Pegasus is a bit more responsive, you can help propel yourself a bit quicker off the ground.”

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36

a close up of a footwear: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021 ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021 ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 $84.97 at Zappos
  • Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 $90.00 at Amazon
  • Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 $93.97 at Nike

2. New Balance 1400v6

Have a need for speed? “This shoe makes me feel faster than fast,” said Emily Abbate, a running coach and writer who has run the New York Marathon. “Super light at only 6 ounces, the 1400v6 has the responsiveness I crave when I’m trying to pick up the pace. Plus, a locked-in feel courtesy of a structured upper with support cage for a secure mid foot.”

New Balance 1400v6

a pair of blue shoes: New Balance 1400v6. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021 New Balance 1400v6. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021

3. ASICS DynaFlyte 4 Running Shoes

If you’re racking up the miles for a half-marathon or other endurance event, check these out.

“I own about 80 pairs of sneakers, and choose this one almost every day for runs between three and 13 miles,” said Abbate. “At 7.1 ounces, it’s lightweight but still packs enough cushion — using Asics Flytefoam technology — for me to rack up the mileage without foot pain.” The women’s sneakers are no longer in stock, but the men’s shoes are still available.

ASICS Dynaflyte 4 Running Shoes

a close up of a footwear: Asics Dynaflyte 4 running shoes. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021 Asics Dynaflyte 4 running shoes. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021
  • ASICS Dynaflyte 4 Running Shoes $89.95 at ASICS
  • ASICS Dynaflyte 4 Running Shoes $119.95 at Amazon

Related: From fitness trackers and workout equipment for the home and office to exercise and health gadgets, this list has something for anyone looking to up their fitness game.

4. Saucony Zealot ISO 3

“This sneaker is not only extremely comfortable and affordable, but they also look great,” said Wes Meserve, the Run Coordinator at Life Time Athletic Burlington. “I need a shoe that is neutral with cushion, a small drop, looks great, and is affordable. This shoe has all of that.” He also points to Saucony’s ISOFIT technology, which conforms to your feet for a sock-like feel.

Saucony Ride ISO 3

a close up of a footwear: Saucony Ride ISO 3. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021 Saucony Ride ISO 3. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021
  • Saucony Ride ISO 3 $96.95 at Amazon
  • Saucony Ride ISO 3 $74.99 at ebay

5. Saucony Women's Ride ISO Running Shoe

Dunlop’s favorite sneaker is another Saucony style. With great ankle support and plenty of cushioning, this is a solid pair for long distance runs, she said, noting, “they feel like you’re running on a cloud, but they’re still very lightweight.” Plus, the ISOFIT and new FORMFIT technologies help the shoe adapt its shape based on your running style.”

Saucony Women's Ride ISO Running Shoe

a close up of a footwear: Saucony Runner ISO. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021 Saucony Runner ISO. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021
  • Saucony Women's Ride ISO Running Shoe $142.99 at Amazon
  • Saucony Women's Ride ISO Running Shoe $89.73 at REI
  • Saucony Women's Ride ISO Running Shoe $94.99 at DSW

6. Brooks Ghost 13

This shoe has been around forever — and for good reason, according to Meserve. “The Ghost is great for new runners as well as long runs,” he said. In this latest edition, Brooks has extended the foam midsole, which heel-strikers love since the transition from heel to toe is quicker with solid protection. “Another great feature of this shoe is the traction — I have never slipped once in the rain or snow,” Meserve added.

Brooks Ghost 13

a close up of a footwear: Brooks Ghost 13. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021 Brooks Ghost 13. The 13 best sports shoes for running, walking and hiking in 2021
  • Brooks Ghost 13 $130.00 at Brooks Running
  • Brooks Ghost 13 $130.00 at REI
  • Brooks Ghost 13 $129.99 at DSW

Related: The Nike Vaporfly Flyknit running shoes are great for distance running. A podiatrist weighs in with pros and cons consider while shopping for them.

Best walking shoes

7. Nike Classic Cortez Leather Trainers

“Nike Cortez have always been my favorite walking around shoe — it’s casual, but still stylish,” Meserve said. “They have been around forever, and I have been wearing them ever since I was about 15 years old.” They’re not only durable, affordable and last forever, but they come in many different color combos, like Black, Metallic Silver and White and Varsity Red and White, so you can choose whatever suits your style.

Nike Classic Cortez Leather

a pair of sneakers
  • Nike Classic Cortez Leather $70.00 at Nike
  • Nike Classic Cortez Leather $55.97 at Zappos

8. Allbirds Men’s Wool Runners

For a versatile shoe that looks good and feels good on your foot, check out AllBirds Wool Runners. But don’t let the name fool you. These kicks are best suited for walking — or really anything, from running errands to an outdoor date. “They’re made from merino sheep wool which makes them very comfortable — you don’t even need socks!” Meserve said. “Another great thing is that they do not get too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter, they are just right in all conditions.” These AllBirds sneaks are also available for women, including limited edition colors like Orchard, Storm and Jackalberry.

Allbirds Men's Wool Runners

a close up of a footwear

Allbirds Men's Wool Runners $95.00 at allbirds

Related:

Best shoes for hiking and trail running

9. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5

“Trail running requires shoes with more support, stability, traction and protection, as most injuries are the result of missing a step due to varied terrain,” Yuen said. These shoes provide all of the above, and are still relatively lightweight. It also has enough cushioning to transition to a longer hike or walk combined with trail running, he added.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5

a close up of a footwear
  • Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 $117.99 at Zappos
  • Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 $64.83 at REI

10. Altra Superior 4.5

As an avid runner living in Utah, I know firsthand that trail running — especially at altitude — isn’t easy. Luckily, these shoes make it feel way easier than it should. These are super lightweight and flexible kicks with a zero drop, designed to help improve natural running and walking form and toe splay. Note: If you’re new to zero-drop footwear, start by wearing these on shorter runs and hikes, then gradually build up to regular mileage.

Altra Footwear Superior 4.5

a pair of shoes
  • Altra Footwear Superior 4.5 $110.00 at Altra
  • Altra Footwear Superior 4.5 $110.00 at REI
  • Altra Footwear Superior 4.5 $109.95 at Zappos

Related: The Nike Vaporfly Flyknit running shoes are great for distance running. A podiatrist weighs in with pros and cons to consider while shopping for them.

11. Keen Targhee III Mid Waterproof

“This is a great pair of hiking boots for everyday hikers since they are lightweight, waterproof and extremely breathable,” Meserve said. The toe protection in the front of the shoe helps keep your toes happy even on the longest hikes. “These boots also have a new internal support mechanism that provides great arch support, as well as excellent traction,” he added. The final selling point? With built-in odor control, they’re less likely to get smelly after a long hike.

KEEN Men's Targhee III Hiking Boot

a pair of shoes: KEEN Men's Targhee III MID WP Hiking Boot, Big Ben/Golden Brown, 9 D US (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon KEEN Men's Targhee III MID WP Hiking Boot, Big Ben/Golden Brown, 9 D US (Amazon / Amazon)
  • KEEN Men's Targhee III Hiking Boot $149.99 at Amazon
  • KEEN Men's Targhee III Hiking Boot $149.95 at Zappos
  • KEEN Men's Targhee III Hiking Boot $150.00 at KEEN

12. Vasque Breeze III GTX

Vasque has built upon their years of footwear experience to bring this boot to the next level in terms of comfort and performance. I hiked 20 miles over two days in these boots, and I didn’t need to break them in at all — they were insanely comfortable and supportive over the two-day trek. The boots’ Gore-Tex waterproof membrane guarantees protection against wet or muddy trails, while also letting your feet breathe.

Vasque Breeze III GTX

a close up of some shoes
  • Vasque Breeze III GTX $141.93 at REI
  • Vasque Breeze III GTX $158.99 at Tactical Gear

13. Merrell Moab Mid Waterproof

Sure, Moab is a town in southern Utah. But according to Merrell, Moab also means “mother of all boots.” And this boot definitely lives up to its name. It provides an insole that’s contoured to your foot, as well as heel cushioning to absorb shock and provide stability. “This cushioning helps to limit the pressure and any pain after hiking in the heel area,” Meserve noted. “I am also a huge fan of the Vibram soles, which this boot has.”

Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof

a close up of a footwear
  • Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof $134.95 at Zappos
  • Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof $134.95 at Amazon
  • Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof $135.00 at Merrell

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