The best running shoes for every skill level, according to four Toronto experts
Now that all the snow has (finally) has melted, the city’s runners can get into full training mode—whether that means a low-key weekly jog or ultra-long-distance trail runs. Since store shelves are lined with tons of insanely high-tech sneakers, we decided to ask some very qualified experts—including Canadian Olympic runner Eric Gillis and Running Room founder John Stanton—to tell us their favourite shoes for every skill level, from hitting the pavement for the first time to planning a first full marathon.
For beginners (a.k.a. anyone who’s thinking of maybe doing a five-kilometre charity run this summer)
Expert: Ben Kaplan, general manager of iRun magazine and author of Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now: The Rogue’s Guide to Running the Marathon.
Shoe: Saucony Lancer 2, $80, saucony.com.
“This shoe is great for beginners because it’s comfortable and nicely padded. Your first pair of running shoes doesn’t need to be anything too high-tech, because, let’s face it: you’re probably not going to be running vast distances. What you do need is something that fits well, isn’t crazy-expensive, and has lots of cushioning—particularly in the heel and the sole of the sneaker. One thing to bear in mind for new runners: while most of your running gear should fit tightly to avoid any flapping, shoes should actually have a little breathing room. Pounding the pavement can force feet to swell up a half-size. That said, many runners go down a shoe size as they continue. It’s true: runners lose weight in the foot!”
For intermediates (a.k.a. someone training for a 10-kilometre race)
Expert: John Stanton, founder of The Running Room.
Shoe: Asics Gel Kayano, $200. Runningroom.com.
“Getting fitted for shoes is like get fitted for eyeglasses: what works for someone else may not work for you. That said, Asics’s Gel Kayano is something that’s worked for me for the past 25 years. Most people are moderate pronators, which means their feet roll slightly inwards. This shoe has moderate pronation control but also a lot of cushioning and gel pads in the heel and forefront, which gives a nice rocking movement. Because it uses gel, the shoe is also very lightweight, so it’s great for races as well as every-day training—I’d recommend it for anyone training for anything from a 5k to a marathon. I’ve personally logged thousands of kilometres on this shoe.”
For experts (a.k.a. anyone training for a marathon)
Expert: Eric Gillis, Canadian Olympic marathoner (he competed in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012 and has qualified for this year’s summer games in Rio).
Shoe: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante V2, $129.99. Newbalance.ca.
“This is a really versatile, smooth-riding shoe. And while it’s a fit for any running level, the mesh-like upper makes it comfortable enough to run super-long distances right out of the box—and I’ve put it to the test often! It feels great while bobbing along to music on an easy run or picking up the tempo on a weekly threshold workout. I’ve also found the Zante to be very durable, especially for a shoe that feels like such a treat to run in.”
For recoverers (a.k.a. anyone getting over an injury)
Expert: Maya Anderson, founder of Toronto running store BlackToe Running Inc.
Shoe: Saucony Triumph ISO 2, $190. Blacktoerunning.com
“Any time a runner is recovering from an injury, finding a shoe that matches their gait and provides the right kind of protection is critical. The Saucony Triumph ISO 2 is one of my current favourites for typical runners, as it absorbs a ton of impact without being too soft. It also provides nice room in the toe area so your feet can splay out naturally. The heel drop is relatively conservative and the energy return is amazing. When bouncing back from injury, the focus should be on re-building strength and endurance, so it’s key to use a shoe that focuses on distance over speed and doesn’t interfere with your natural style of running. Of course, if you are an over-pronator, you will want to look at the Triumph’s sister, the Hurricane ISO 2, which has a bit more stability in the arch.”