Whether you’re beginning a couch to 5km challenge or training for the London Marathon, the right running shoes are an essential part of your kit. But, with so many options out there, it can be difficult to know which ones are best for you. Dan Vessey of Runners Need advises runners to first establish which terrain you’ll be running on. “There are two main types of shoes: road for concrete and tarmac, and trail for grass and mud,” says Vessey. “There are styles designed for both road and trail surfaces, but since trail shoes are usually neutral, you’re better off buying a pair of road shoes for your pronation type, and buying trail shoes separately.”

Pronation – the natural side-to-side motion of the foot – is usually separated into three categories: over pronation, where the foot rolls in; neutral, where the foot stays in place; and supination, where the foot rolls out. Most big running shops offer gait analysis to ascertain your pronation but, if you can’t get to a shop, Vessey suggests the “wet foot test”: if your wet footprint shows your arch flat on the floor, you are likely to over pronate and therefore need more cushioning in your shoes (neutral shoes have all round support; there are very few shoes for supination - buy a neutral shoe instead). 

You should also consider how you run: “If you land mid foot or on your toes then a shoe with more cushioning at the front would help,” says Vessey. “If you land heavily on your heel you want more cushioning at the back.”

Sizing varies across brands, but Vessey recommends at least a thumbnail of space between the tips of your toes and the end of the shoe. Once you clock up 500 miles, you should retire your shoes.

All the shoes in our tests are for neutral pronation (but all these brands all have styles for supination and overpronation), and were put through at least a 5km flat road run, except for the trail shoes, which were tested on undulating grass and muddy forest trails. A note about price: it’s always worth shopping around to see if you can find running shoes cheaper on a discount website or on sale.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Triumph ISO 5: £140, Saucony

The Triumph ISO 5 won’t win a beauty contest but that’s not why you buy them: these are serious running shoes, designed to glide you through hundreds of miles as if striding out on pillows (it’s Saucony’s EverRun cushioning that does it). Triumph have a wide fit – with plenty of flexibility and breathability thanks to a mesh upper – and the padding around the ankle offers stability. A reliable, responsive shoe to see you through marathon training.

Buy now

Cloudsurfer: £135, On Running

Sleek design, fashionable colour palettes and a keen eye for technical detail – On Running make shoes for both scoring a personal best and wearing to the pub. The latest Cloudsurfer incarnation has extra lugs on the sole to improve grip and traction, plus another layer of heel foam for cushioning. The shoes are light and springy, but also responsive; they were perfect for an interval session. If you’re new to On Running footwear, it might take half a mile or so to get used to the bounce but once you do, anything else will feel sluggish.

Buy now

Hybrid Runner Luxe: £85, Puma

Despite its minimalist design, the Hybrid is a cushioned, flexible shoe for those seeking a speedy road run. The Hybrid part of the name references Ignite and NRGY, Puma’s responsive cushioning tech. That, plus the stretchy knitted upper and sock-like fit, make for a comfy road shoe. They’re also a doddle to get on thanks to a pull tab, and they dry quickly, too.

Buy now

Bondi 6: £125 (including free UK delivery), HOKA ONE ONE

Like cushioning? HOKA’s star ‘maximalist’ release, the Bondi 6 is the antithesis to the stripped-back running shoe trend. It features a chunky 31mm sole that felt stilt-like to begin with, but became one of the most comfortable long-haul shoes we tested. Ignore the heft - these are surprisingly light - and the low heel to toe drop make them a good choice for runners who land on their mid foot or toes.

Buy now

HOVR CGR Mid NC Running Shoes: £115, Under Armour

If you’re into your tech, then this shoe is for you. It comes with impressive shock-absorbing cushioning plus a ‘smart’ option embedded with MapMyRun technology (no link yet as it officially launches January). The strap takes some getting used to (make sure you wear high socks or it will rub), but it’s well worth persevering: ankles felt snug and supported on uneven road, feet were bone dry despite stormy weather and it allowed the shoes to be pulled on like a pair of socks. Another upside of the design is its warmth; the downside is they are only a shoe for winter.

Buy now

Caldorado III: £115, Columbia

Trail runners look no further: we put these through their paces on a 4-mile muddy, rainy XC run and they held their own at every turn (including ankle-deep in a bog). The plentiful cushioning is bouncy and soft, particularly around the collar. Thoughtful touches include long laces (helpful when removing muddy shoes with frozen fingers), a reinforced toe cap and sizes from 3-10. A drenching of Vanish and a spin in the washing machine returned them to pre-run condition.

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Sky Wave 2, Mizuno: £150, Runners Need 

Training over long distances? Meet your new pals. Mizuno’s Sky Wave 2, designed with high mileage running in mind, are soft, flexible and well-cushioned. You won’t need to run any junk miles breaking these in: we found them so comfortable we forgot about the 5K test run and clocked up 8 miles. They’re pricey but would transfer easily from training to racing, and go the full 500 miles before needing to be replaced.

Buy now

Odyssey React Shield: £119.95, Nike

A solid, water-repellent shoe that took us safely over slippery pavements and cobbles on a short, quick and rainy run. The rubber lugs on the front of the sole offer impressive grip, the reflective details are helpful on the darker colour ways and the toggle laces cleverly clip back on themselves so the excess doesn’t bounce about. And, as these were made by Nike, they’re also impossibly stylish and and will probably end up being worn on your rest days, too.

Buy now

Levitate 2: £140, Brooks

Brooks has always been a brand that puts quality and technicality far and above style, but with Levitate it prioritises all three. This is the second update and it’s a superior and secure ride thanks to the added achilles guard, soft and toasty knitted upper and plenty of bounce. The colour palettes are pleasing, too. A versatile and cushioned shoe for autumn and winter training and racing.

Buy now

Ultraboost 19: £159.95, Adidas 

There have been Ultraboost updates before, but the 19 is the most radical. With 20 per cent more cushioning in the midsole, an improved heel cradle, which came into its own on twisty routes, this revised shoe features a fancy new knitted upper and better traction thanks to updated Continental lugs. All this makes for a smooth, cushioned and supported ride. Is it worth the price tag? Yes, if you’re a committed, long term runner who values excellent design as much as function. Adidas broke the mould when it launched the original Ultraboost in 2013 and it remains the best lightweight, big bounce, knitted running shoe out there.

Buy now (on sale from 15 December)

The Verdict: Best women's running shoes

New to running? Invest in one, reliable pair of road shoes that will go the distance, such as Saucony’s Triumph ISO 5. Highly cushioned with plenty of bounce and traction, you'll be able to clock up the training miles in them and they will transfer to race conditions, too. As you progress, you can add in shoes for different seasons, surfaces and training sessions. 

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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