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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.