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A personal trainer's favorite running shoes for fitness

You don’t have to compromise comfort for performance or style, says personal trainer Stephanie Mansour. Shop her picks for the best fitness shoes of 2020.
Fitness expert Stephanie Mansour has come to rely on two pairs of shoes during the coronavirus pandemic: Mizuno Wave Inspire (right) and Brooks PureFlow.
Fitness expert Stephanie Mansour has come to rely on two pairs of shoes during the coronavirus pandemic: Mizuno Wave Inspire (right) and Brooks PureFlow.Stephanie Mansour; Brooks; Mizuno

As a personal trainer, clients often ask me for my opinion on the best workout shoes. It’s a reasonable question: I spend much of my day in sports shoes, I’ve tested my fair share of poorly designed workout shoes and I've certainly worn shoes that look pretty but feel crummy. My clients are usually looking for both comfort and style, and while each person’s feet and workouts are different, there are some basic guidelines you can follow when you’re looking for the perfect workout shoe for your needs.

Don’t wait for shoes to get comfortable

One rule of thumb is that — unlike stiletto heels — a workout shoe should be comfortable the moment you put it on: There is no need to break in a workout shoe. If it feels uncomfortable from the get go, it is not the shoe for you. Don’t count on the shoe stretching or molding to your feet over time. This was a problem I encountered often with tennis shoes once I got myself into competitive tennis. Every single tennis shoe I tried on was stiff and uncomfortable, but I tried to play in them anyways — it didn’t turn out well.

Be realistic about your shoe needs

Knowing what type of workout you’ll be using your shoe for is important. There are a wide range of fitness shoes styles, from running shoes to tennis shoes to boxing shoes. So deciding which shoe is best for your specific workout will help steer you in the right direction. However, what if you’re looking for an all-around shoe that’s versatile? As someone who squeezes workouts in when I can, I like being able to use the same shoe whether I’m running outside, walking on the treadmill, taking a HIIT class or playing — you guessed it — tennis.

Mizuno’s Wave Inspire 16 WAVEKNIT

These have become my new favorite shoes during quarantine. I had worn them previously, but didn’t live in them like I have been for the past few months now. I’ve been walking outside nearly an hour each day — sometimes I’ll add in a burst of running. I also exercise through my at-home workouts — which entail side-to-side movements and plyometrics — while wearing the shoes. Overall, this is a great shoe that helps me feel supported, stable and secure throughout my daily movements and activities.

  • Part of the reason it’s so comfortable is its impact-absorbing midsole. Whether I’m walking or running, I feel like I’m stepping onto a cushion — that’s further aided by the brand’s SmoothRide Support Wave technology.
  • The shoe’s fit is soft and doesn’t jab into my ankles or the top of my feet like stiffer shoes have in the past.
  • It boasts a breathable structure and an internal toe cap for a sleeker feel and look.
  • Mizuno’s redesigned lacing system ensures a secure and supportive fit.
  • And the WAVEKNIT’s flexible enough that I can stretch my ankles and feet even while I’m laced up.

Brooks PureFlow 7

This shoe has been a staple in my closet for years. After I started playing competitive tennis and consequently suffered from plantar fasciitis, I tried multiple pairs of tennis shoes that ultimately just made the pain worse. Once I got the pain under control after a bit of time off (rest is key to recovery), I went back to my tried and true Brooks shoes in which I used to play recreational tennis. They’re so comfortable, allow me to move laterally and feel very supportive on the court. Most importantly, my foot pain hasn’t come back since. While I don’t recommend everyone wear non-tennis shoes to play tennis, the fact that these shoes have worked for me on the court is a testament to how versatile and light they are.

  • In fact, the PureFlows are super light — a woman’s shoe weighs 7.5 ounces.
  • The arch in this shoe is medium-to-high, which supports my fallen arches well.
  • They fit my feet snugly, and the rounded heel provides better alignment, which minimizes stress on joints.
  • A stretch-woven upper and soft internal bootie give my foot comfort without restriction.
  • The flexible sole is designed to disperse impact away from the footbed for a plush feel in the underfoot.

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