Our Resident Distance Runner Reviews the Best Running Shoes of 2021

best running shoes for men
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Whether they’re trying to stay fit under quarantine or doing it because they love it, a lot more people are running right now. Thanks to COVID-19, gyms and workout studios across the country have been closed, which has forced many Americans to find new ways to exercise. And if you’re tired of working out inside (and we don’t blame you), running offers a solitary way to burn calories while also getting out into the world.

There are countless benefits to running. From the fabled “runner’s high” and staying fit, to exploring never-before-seen parts of your neighborhood and getting time away from the world of screens, there is so much that you can get out of running. In fact, this sport has inspired many a creative. But if you want to taste the sweet, sweet nectar of the running gods, you can’t do it without a proper pair of running shoes.

How To Pick The Best Running Shoes for Men

Before we nerd out too hard on the best running shoes, ask yourself this very serious question: What kind of runner are you? Think about how often you run and consider what goals you’re looking to achieve. It may sound obvious but the best running shoes for the casual runner will differ wildly from the best running shoes for someone looking to PR in the 10k. So really think about it.

Once you’re done pondering your running future, run through these terms and questions to ensure you’re getting the best possible shoe for you.

Pronation vs Supination

If you’ve ever been to a running store, you’ve likely heard these terms tossed around. But what are they and what do they mean? Pronation and supination (in feet, as opposed to other parts of the body) refer to the way you walk. Some people naturally pronate, which means their feet lean slightly inward when striking the floor. Supination, as you may have guessed, means the opposite. For supinators, your weight is shifted slightly outward, so you land on the outside of your foot when hitting the ground.

While it’s not amazing if you pronate or supinate heavily, most people do one or the other. This is good to keep in mind when buying running shoes because the right shoe can help correct your stride. As you can imagine, not landing perfectly in the center of your foot (thanks to high arches or bad walking habits among a myriad of other reasons) can create injuries down the line. (If you have high arches, we have a running shoe guide just for you.) While you may not have any issues walking, putting foot to concrete mile after mile can really wreck your knees if you’re favoring one side or the other.

Where Do You Plan on Running? And How Often Are You Going? 

Treadmill? Neighborhood streets? Track? Trails? Whatever running you’re planning on doing will dictate the best running shoe for you. If you’re only ever running on grass or the beach, you can certainly opt for a lightweight shoe with a less cushioned sole. Likewise, if you live in the city and can only run on concrete and asphalt, you’ll want some more cushion (especially if you’re regularly logging heavy milage).

Likewise, how often are you going to run? If you’re a casual day-tripper, topping out two miles in an afternoon and no more than eight or nine in a week, you can probably afford a running shoe with less cushion and support. However, if you’re working toward a marathon, for the love of your knee cartilage, please get something with good support and cushion. Yes, you won’t bounce with every step in a pair of Adrenalines like you would in the VaporFlys, but at least your knees won’t hate you.

best running shoes for men Courtesy of @hokaoneone

What To Know About Drop

“Drop” is an interesting term in the running world. Literally, it refers to the difference in height from the heel of your shoe to the toe. Plenty of running websites list it as an important factor to keep in mind, but according to our research (both online and in the field), drop has never been an issue. Ultimately for us, it comes down to comfort. What feels right when you put it on and go for a run? If you like the flat-style shoe (like a New Balance Minimus or On Running Cloud, for example) and you’re not going to be logging too many miles, a low drop is totally groovy.

The same can be said about the opposite. If you’re used to running shoes with chunky soles, go for those.

But if you’re not satisfied with our little blurb, we suggest you take a look at this well-written article from Runnerclick. They explain at length what we’ll say below: after heel-to-toe drop started coming up in running shoe conversations (thanks to the rise in popularity of barefoot running), a study was done to reveal that drop is largely irrelevant in improving running mechanics.

Now, like all things, there are exceptions. Perhaps you have a certain footfall and your doctor recommends a higher (or lower) drop. Good. Great. Listen to your doc. Always listen to your doc. But for the average runner just looking for a fresh pair of kicks, you can ignore it. If you’re happy with a previous style of shoe and are looking for more of the same, stick with it, pal.

Let’s Talk About Pace

Here’s one final question: How fast are you trying to go? Like anything else, the best running shoes for men fall into different categories. Some shoes are for logging miles; some shoes are for setting personal records. The question is what are you looking to do?

If you plan on racing a single 5k, four months from now, stick to a pair of trainers (see Brooks Adrenaline). You don’t need something insanely fast and lightweight that you’ll only use once. You can race well enough in a pair of Adrenalines as you can in a pair of VaporFly’s if you’re an average runner (no offense). There’s no reason to burn nearly $200 (with tax) on a pair of shoes that you’ll only use once.

That said, if you want to run fast and plan on not only racing but also doing regular speed workouts, you’ll want a lightweight shoe. Less weight in a shoe means less weight to carry with every stride. And in a 5k, that will add up. But beyond weight, a lot of lightweight shoes also boast stiffer cushioning. This makes the shoe more responsive (see Nike VaporFlys for more). But remember, that responsiveness comes with a cost. The force of your foot slamming against the pavement won’t dissipate in a rigid sole like it would in a cushioned sole, which means sorer bones and knees.

The Best Running Shoes for Men

All of the above questions and terms will help determine the best running shoes for your needs. And in an effort to help whittle things down even further, we compiled a list of the best running shoes for men available right now. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re going for your next personal record in the marathon, or you’re just trying to make it around the block.