Kick Starters: Entry Level Sneakers

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Love em. Lace em. Introducing the coolest new sneakers for runners—plus bikers, hikers and gym devotees alike. We asked 152 women to sweat-test more than 100 of the latest styles. Here, the winners to help you crush your next workout.

How do you decide the amount of cushioning you need if two sneakers have the same drop? Well, many running shoes share the same drop, aka heel-to-toe height differential (the buzz is that the smaller the drop, the easier it is to make a joint-friendly midfoot strike) but styles can still vary widely in how much cushioning they place underfoot. The major benefit of a more cushioned shoe: the protection it affords your joints, which makes the recovery time better, says ultramarathoner Luke Rowe, a senior vice president for Fleet Feet Sports. Rowe suggests going for cushion if you run on pavernent or do lots of downhills. On the other hand, if your ultimate goal is performance, less is probably more.

Then, what is a good tactic for avoiding wipeouts when running in the muck and mud? Your instinct may be to take shorter strides-turns out that’s a smart bet. Fighting to maintain your normal stride or, worse, overstriding can actually boost your chances of slipping. Just don’t slow down too much; staying light on your feet makes it easier to recover your balance.

Running sneakers

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BEST LIGHTWEIGHT SNEAKER – The springy Brooks Launch 2 gives runners with a neutral foot strike the perfect balance of support and cushioning, and its snug no-sew construction makes it seem as if you could keep running for miles and miles and miles and… testers said. Drop: 10 millimeters. ($100, brooksrunning.com)

BEST CUSHIONED SNEAKER – A seamless, breathable knit upper on the very flexible Adidas Ultra Boost ensures a slipperlike fit, while its arch cradling fluffed-up foam midsole provides good energy return, so you feel light, secure and fast on your feet.($180, adidas.com)

BEST MAX CUSHIONED SNEAKER – For plump, pillowy cushioning that will still promote great, natural running form, put on the surprisingly light Asics 33-M. Its seamless upper and very responsive foam midsole are both great for really long runs. ($140, asicsamerica.com)

BEST LIGHT STABILITY SHOE – The bright, not bulky New Balance 1500 offers the overpronator (your feet turn inward as you strike) just the right amount of stability in its lightweight foam midsole for a well supported. properly landed stride ($110, newbalance.com)

BEST STABILITY SHOE – For more serious overpronators, such as those with flat feet, the super comfortable Saucony Iso-Series Hurricane gives you the support and alignment you need. good shock absorbtion and just enough cushioning without feeling heavy. ($150, saucony.com)

Trail and tri shoes

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BEST LIGHTWEIGHT TRAIL RUNNER – With just-right cushioning, a zero-drop design (no heel-to-toe height differential) that encourages a more natural foot strike, and a nice and wide foot-shaped toe box, the supercomfortable Altra Lone Peak 2.0 makes you feel light, mobile and protected on the trails. ($120, altrarunning.com)

BEST TRIATHLON SHOE – Ease your bike to run transition with the great cushioning and superb support of the Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 10 shoes: they fit pretty perfectly. thanks to seamless mesh uppers (for sockless wear) and heel and tongue grips, which help you slip them on and off quickly ($140, asicsamerica.com)

BEST STABILITY TRAIL RUNNER – You could wear these forever! The light as a feather New Balance Leadville 1210v2 has a mesh upper, a supportive but not ridged midsole, pillowlike cushioning and a rugged outsole that grips the trails well, so it seems as if you’re never going to lose your footing ($125, newbalance.com)

BEST SUPERCUSHIONED TRAIL RUNNER – Experience running on clouds in the Hoka One One Challenger ATR, which looks a little clunky but is actually lightweight and easy to run in. You get excellent traction while the plump midsole pleasantly prevents you from feeling rocks under your feet ($130, hokaoneone.com)

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