My love of running is sort of like a big black bear: It hibernates in winter and comes roaring back as soon as the air warms. If spring has you raring to hit the road, do yourself a favor and take a good hard look at your sneakers first. Working out in worn shoes can cause problems that are more likely to land you on the couch with frozen peas on your knee than at the track.
A few signs that it’s time to spring for new sneakers: There’s creasing or wrinkles in the midsole, especially under high-load areas, like the heel or the ball of the foot; you can twist the shoe with your hands more easily; the once-bouncy cushion you enjoyed when you first bought the pair is practically non-existent. Here are 3 Rules of Thumb That It’s Time for New Shoes.
Need to replace ’em? Check out the list below, along with our longer list of the Best Workout Shoes of 2012. Prevention’s editors pounded the pavement so you don’t have to, and we found the absolute best shoes for women. For guys, we spoke to none other than the pros at Runner’s World. Here are our 12 best picks:
Asics Gel-Kayano 18, $150
This shoe is ideal for logging mega miles. The shock-absorbing gel platform, covered with a soft-top foam designed for a woman's foot, provides the perfect amount of padding. Plus, An external heel grip holds your foot in place, reducing friction. One last bonus: The bouncy give inspires longer workouts!
Nike LunarGlide+ 3, $110
These sneaks give overworked feet and joints the TLC they're after: ultrasoft Lunarlon foam cushions soles heel to toe, supports arches, and reduces impact to knees. The extra foam layer under the heel softens even the hardest landing, and the midfoot strap boosts the tightening power of traditional laces by pulling the upper around your foot from the shoe's bottom, not just the sides. Now that you’ve got the right gear, try one of these 14 Walks That Blast Fat and Boost Energy.
Adidas Adizero Adios 2, $115
The padded forefoot on this lightweight shoe cushions the ball of your foot during sprints, making it easier to pick up the pace during run-walk intervals. And the flexible midsole gives added bounce on the road, putting a motivating spring in your step. Plus, the outsole offers tire-like traction on wet roads.
New Balance 813, $80
These trainers minimize irritation—goodbye, blisters!—and prevent discomfort during a hard-core sweat session, thanks to a pressure-relieving foam insert and strategically placed pads on the outsole that reduce impact. Result: You can last longer on cardio equipment like the elliptical trainer. Are you making one of these 10 Common Elliptical Trainer Mistakes?
Brooks PureConnect, $90
These nearly weightless runners get you close to the road without entirely sacrificing cushion and support. The flexible sole allows your foot to bend naturally while protecting it on rough terrain, and the mesh upper increases airflow, keeping sweaty feet cool. One caveat: They run small. Don't be surprised if you need a half size bigger than usual.
The wide base on these colorful trainers keeps your foot stable, especially during side-to-side exercises like speed-skater hops or lateral lunges. The EverTrack sole enhances grip for quick stop-and-go movements, such as during cone drills, and the spacious toe box gives tootsies ample room.
Reebok RealFlex Transition, $100
These fun-to-wear sneaks are our top pick for low-impact cardio sessions, such as Zumba, dance DVDs, even an easy walk to and from yoga class. Instead of a solid sole, 76 individual foam nodes support you, allowing your feet to move naturally and making arches feel massaged with each step.
Ahnu Sequoia, $110
These lightweight, water-resistant hikers work as well on city streets because they look great with jeans—but work on wooded paths perfectly. The grip on the Vibram sole keeps you stable on tricky terrain, and a forefoot protection plate prevents stubbing toes on rocks. If a day on the trail leaves you sore, check out the 10 Biggest Walking Pains—Solved.
Saucony Progrid Guide 5, $100
Talk about a weight-loss program: The Guide 5 shed almost two ounces from its previous version, but our lab tests show it's just as supportive as earlier models. Saucony got more with less by lowering the heel-to-toe drop (which testers say helped them run on their forefeet); and using lighter rubber on the outsole. Wear-testers say: "Lightest weight Saucony I have ever tested, yet the most comfortable."
Brooks Pure Flow, $90
You know when something just feels right? That's how a number of testers described their first run in the Flow. Runners with normal arches seemed especially fond of the fit—six normal-arched runners gave the Flow their highest-possible performance rating. Our lab tests attribute the love to high-quality foam in the midsole, which provides a comfortable, cushioned ride despite the shoe's low profile.
Altra The Instinct, $100
Let's be honest. At first glance, the Altra is the polar opposite of "cool." But look again, and you'll see that the Altra is intelligently ugly. The sole is level because the shoe is "zero-drop," meaning it's almost a flat surface beneath your feet. And the forefoot is so wide so that your toes can splay out the way they would if you were barefoot. The design resonated with testers, who loved the extra breathing room up front. All of these elements combine to give you a barefoot-like feel but without those barefoot-like slaps of your sole against the road. One tip: Traction is minimal, so don't wear these on a rainy day.
Asics Gel-Fuji Racer, $110
The Fuji Racer, with its thin, flexible plate under the forefoot, provides
considerable protection from sharp, off-road obstacles. That said, the forefoot
is exceedingly firm, and the heel offers sufficient cushioning and more than
enough comfort. Some testers pointed out that the drainage holes, a smart way
to move loads of water out of the shoe, let in water. "On wet days, it
didn't take long for the bottom of your feet to get wet," says Pierre
Sirois of East Lansing.
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