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Top 10 Running Trainers For 2021

In Fitness / Health, Performance, Tech / Gear, Running, Outdoor
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Whether you are new to running or looking to replace your latest pair of well-worn trainers, finding the right pair can be a challenge. There is a wealth of different options available from competing brands, each marketing itself as the best choice. Unless you are Mo Farah or Kibiwatt Kandie you are unlikely to be looking for trainers at the cutting edge of technology to help you achieve world titles or break world records. For most runners, the primary goal is to find a pair of affordable, comfortable trainers that look good and perform well on your chosen terrain, whilst offering the correct support for your feet.

The checklist of things to consider in order to achieve this is fairly extensive, but the rewards are huge. Being paired up with your perfect trainers helps to keep you injury-free and maximises your enjoyment of the sport, which in turn can help you to get more out of life in general.  With this in mind, we have created the following list of things to consider, our top tips for trainer happiness and a breakdown of our top 10 trainers for men and women.

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  1. TERRAIN
  2. DISTANCE
  3. GAIT
  4. Top Tips for Buying New Trainers and Staying Injury Free
  5. Top 10 Running Shoes For Men
  6. Top 10 Running Shoes For Women

Woman running over a bridge

Things to Consider

TERRAIN

Are you planning to rack up the miles on a treadmill in the gym, tear up the trails of your local national park, pound the tarmac in road running sessions or work on your speed in track workouts?

Trainers for the Treadmill - Gym bunnies can afford to prioritise aesthetics a little more than other runners, as the evenness of the running belt on a treadmill makes you less prone to injuries caused by wearing not-quite-right trainers.

Road Running Trainers are usually made with highly cushioned soles that have a greater heel-to-toe drop to limit the jarring caused by repetitive impact with tarmac. Most also feature a medial post (an insert of higher density foam in the on the inside midsole intended to limit over-pronation) and an outsole made of blown rubber to provide grip in both wet and dry conditions.

Trail Running Shoes - In contrast, trail running shoes are more flexible than their road running counterparts, as they need to respond to changes in terrain. They offer less cushioning and do not have a medial post, but they do have deeper lugs (the indents in the sole that help you grip) and a sturdier upper to protect your feet from trail hazards such as tree roots and rocks.

Track Shoes – These lightweight, spiked trainers are specifically designed for track work. They are available in sprint, middle distance and long distance versions, with long distance ones being heavier and offering more cushioning. Track shoes should not be confused with cross-country spikes, which have longer spikes to provide traction on muddy grass and offer a more secure fit and greater support to cope with uneven terrain.

Man and woman trail running

DISTANCE

As a simplistic rule of thumb, the shorter the distance you want to run, the less help you will require from your shoes. If you are contemplating your first marathon, getting the right pair of trainers for your running style is essential, otherwise you are likely to end up injured in training and unable to compete on the day. If you are tackling your first 26.2 miler, don’t be tempted by the lure of a minimalist shoe at this stage, as your gait mechanics are probably not well-honed enough for you to dispense cushioning all together.

As a long distance runner, you will want a durable, well-cushioned shoe that will see you through all your training miles, to the starting corral of your event and ultimately over that finish line. You may pay for these features with a slightly heavier shoe, but it will be worth it.

GAIT

Go to a good running shop and get your gait analysed by the staff. This involves donning a pair of neutral trainers and having your feet filmed in slow motion as you do a steady jog on the treadmill. You will then be shown the footage and told which of the following types of runner you are:

  • Neutral – this is the ideal! Neutral runners’ feet do not roll too far inward or outward as they run, meaning that the ankle remains aligned throughout the gait cycle.
  • Over Pronator – runners who over-pronate have fallen arches that result in a flat-footed running gait, in which the outer edge of the heel hits the ground first, and then the foot rolls inward onto the arch.
  • Under Pronator – runners who under pronate have high arches, which means that their ankles don’t roll inward very far (less than 15 per cent) when landing or pushing off, causing the foot to roll outward and putting pressure on the ankle and toes.

Whichever one of these running styles you are diagnosed with, you will be pleased to know that there is trainer technology to suit your requirements and help to keep you running comfortably. Ask the team at your running shop to film you running in the trainers you intend to buy, so that you can see whether they help you run correctly.

Top Tips for Buying New Trainers and Staying Injury Free

    • Try them on at the end of the day, as feet swell in the course of an average day and shoes that fit you at 9am may not feel so comfortable at 5pm.
    • Don’t run for two consecutive days in the same pair, as the cushioning in the sole needs plenty of time to return to its original shape between uses.
    • Don’t assume that the current season’s incarnation of your old trainers will offer the same comfort and support as your old ones. Brands often change more than just the colour when they revamp a trainer design for the next season, so it is usually worth going back to a running shop and trying the new ones out on a treadmill to see if they are still the ones best suited to your gait and running style. 

Top 10 Running Shoes for Men and Women 

Trainers are generally marketed to either men or women to allow for gender differences such as weight and foot shape. Men are generally heavier and have a wider heel and mid-foot than women, so some brands provide more cushioning for their men’s trainers and give them a wider foot profile to allow for this. Here are our top picks for men and women as we head into 2021. As a bit of a disclaimer, there is no one-size-fits-all run down, but all of these shoes provide a good starting point in your quest for your perfect match.

Top 10 Running Shoes for Men

Brooks Cascadia 15 Side Profile

Brooks Cascadia 15

Best for – Trail runners with a neutral gait who go out in all weathers

Why we love them – The Pivot Post System provides great stability in rugged terrain and the built in rock shield in the midsole protects your feet from rocks and exposed tree roots. The uppers are really quick drying too, so you can take on puddles with confidence!

Price – £120

Saucony Triumph 18

Best for – Runners who want to join the marathon club in 2021  

Why we love them – Lightweight and breathable but with protective cushioning and support where you need it, this shoe is a great start on your mission to conquer a marathon in 2021.

Price – £144.99

Hoka One One Bondi 7

Best for – Road runners who are clocking up serious miles

Why we love them – Well known for trainers that offer cloud-like cushioning, Hoka One One brings us the cream of their crop with the Bondi 7. They are lighter-weight than they look and the rocker shape makes transition from heel to toe nice and smooth.

Price – £130

New Balance FuelCell TC EnergyStreak

Best for – Serious runners looking to up their speed and chase down a new PB

Why we love them – Sleek and breathable, these innovative running trainers feature a carbon fibre plate to help propel you forward.

Price – £180

On Running Men's Cloudstratus Trainers

On Running Cloudstratus

Best for – Middle to long distance road runners

Why we love them – The asymmetric lacing pattern, which recruits more mesh from the shoe’s flank, creating a secure fit and supporting natural running motion. Where the foot flexes, the shoe flexes too. If you find that the width of standard trainers often comes up a little snug, give a pair of Cloudstratus a go.

Price – £150 

Asics GEL-Cumulus 22

Best for – Novices with a neutral gait looking for a running shoe that does everything well

Why we love them – A great everyday trainer, the Cumulus 22 is dynamic and flexible, offering a decent amount of cushioning and support where you need it.

Price – £120

New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11

Best for – Over pronators running on road and track.

Why we love them – The ultra heel that minimises foot slippage and offers added support.

Price – £120

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

Best for – Daily runners looking for a high performing all-rounder

Why we love them – Nike call these a ‘caffeine boost for your legs’. They are lightweight, breathable and feature a forefoot air unit to give you an extra boost with each stride.  An excellent all-round running shoe with a sleek aesthetic.

Price – £104.95

Altra Paradigm 5

Best for – Ultra runners looking for trainers with maximum cushioning to give their feet the best possible chance of conquering all those miles!

Why we love them – Altra Paradigm trainers were created with 100-mile races in mind. An upgrade from traditional stability shoes, they mimic the natural shape of the foot and are equally well suited to trail and road running.

Price – £140

Mizuno Wave Sky WAVEKNIT 4 Side Profile

Mizuno Wave Sky WAVEKNIT 4

Best for – High mileage runners looking for a comfortable, highly cushioned trainer.

Why we love them – The knitted upper offers a sock-like fit and the Mizuno Enerzy and XPOP technology make it feel like you are running on clouds, even at the end of a long run.

Price – £170

Top 10 Running Shoes for Women

HOKA Carbon X

Best for – Neutral runners

Why we love them – They are super comfortable and give you an added spring in your step.

Price – £163

New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11

Best for – Over pronators

Why we love them – The ultra heel that minimises foot slippage and offers added support.

Price – £120

On Running Women's Cloudflow Trainers

On Running Cloudflow

Best for – 10K racing queens and speed demons

Why we love them – Created in collaboration with elite runners, these lightweight, middle distance racing trainers allow you to switch up to your highest gear, even in wet conditions.

Price – £130

Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit Premium

Best for – Injury prone runners

Why we love them – The fun, funky design, which belies the serious work these trainers put into reducing your risk of injury

Price – £119.97

Asics DYNABLAST

Best for – Road runners with neutral gait

Why we love them – They are light and breathable but give you a Tigger-like bounce to your step.

Price – £110

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v5

Best for – Country girls with a passion for hitting the trails, whatever the weather

Why we love them – It features a sole made by Vibram, the same manufacturers that make the sole for Le Chameau wellies, so these trainers are geared up for serious mud! The sole also offers good cushioning, so you can take rocky ground in your stride too.

Price – £125

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 Product Image

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21

Best for – Runners with knee niggles

Why we love them – More than just a pretty pair of feet, Brooks have used all their running know-how to bring you a pair of trainers that help to combat running knee pain, using guiderail support to keep excess movement to a minimum.

Price – £120

Saucony Peregrine 10

Best for – Runners who regularly mix road and trail in a single outing or who “enjoy” hilly runs

Why we love them – If you are a one-pair-of-trainers-at-a-time kind of gal, these ones are great all-rounders, offering good grip and protection for road, trail as well as up and down hill.

Price – £115

Adidas by Stella McCartney Ultraboost

Best for – Stylish runners with sustainability aforethought

Why we love them – Not only easy on the eye, these trainers offer cushioning and support where you need it and are made with Primeblue a high performance recycled material that uses 50% ocean plastics.

Price – £199.95

Allbirds Tree Dashers Geyser - Side Profile

Allbirds Women’s Tree Dashers

Best for – Neutral runners with an eco-conscience

Why we love them – They are a high performing technical running shoe that has a carbon footprint smaller than your size 5s! Made from renewable materials this eco brand treats its environmental credentials in the same way you treat running PBs; each one worthy of celebration but always worth working to improve upon.

Price – £120

*All images used are the property of the brands they depict and permission to include them has been obtained by the author prior to publication. 

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