You don’t always get to choose where you run. If you live in an urban area, asphalt or concrete are pretty much your only options. If you live in a more rural area, add gravel or grass to the equation. And if you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, you’ve always got sand. But which running shoes are best suited to the surface where you do most of your running? We test-ran the latest gear available to make your choice easy. Now all you have to do is lace up and run.
The Best in Class - MF Picks the Ultimate Shoe for:
Grass running, contrary to popular belief, might actually be toughest on your body. Not only does irregular terrain increase injury risk, but grass in particular is proven to increase hemolysis—a breakdown of red blood cells. When you take to the soft surface, make sure you’re well supported. We love the Adidas Climacool Seduction. It’s light and breathable—as the name implies—but sturdy enough to provide the perfect match for a soft surface. $100, adidas.com.
The Wave Creation 13 is the ultimate road runner. The springlike effect of a high-tech heel takes the sting out of hard striking and redirects force to help push you forward. City runners should find asphalt as often as possible and get off of concrete sidewalks, which are less forgiving on your joints. The good news: A researcher quoted in the New York Times believes asphalt promotes better running mechanics than any other surface. $150, mizunousa.com.
A 2001 study showed that you’ll burn far more calories running on sand than on grass, and a separate study showed that you’ll build more leg muscle running on sand in the long term. Barefoot is a great choice for sand running, and the Vibram Spyridon LS gives you a barefoot feel while still protecting your feet. The new lacing system makes wearing Vibrams easier than ever. They’re also great for the gym. $120, vibramfive fingers.com.
Tearing down a dirt or gravel road requires more traction than the typical running shoe offers. Like grass, gravel can be soft and unpredictable, with the added adventure of an ever-shifting surface. Enter the Under Armour Charge RC Storm. Rubber spikes called Trail Tread line the outsole, giving you cleat-like traction throughout your run. The spikes are also soft enough to make for a smooth transition to other surfaces. $120, underarmour.com.