The dawn of race season is a busy time at shoe stores. "Everybody comes out of hibernation," says Bryan Smith, Toronto manager for the Running Room. But that doesn't mean they know what to look for in a shoe. A lot of people just go by looks. Don't. Instead, start with a gait analysis, which determines how your foot hits the ground.
Depending on your pronation, which refers to the turning-inward motion of your foot when it hits the ground, you'll need one of three broad types of shoe: neutral shoes, for under-pronators; stability shoes, for normal pronators; and motion control shoes, for flat-footed over-pronators.
But there's more to getting the proper shoe than just these categories. Mr. Smith suggests going through this checklist: the laces should feel snug and supportive but not pinching; you don't want the heel to slip; you don't want any rubbing under your ankle; and you should be able to wiggle your foot just slightly in the toe box.
"That's how a shoe should fit on your foot," Mr. Smith says. But there's one factor that trumps all others.
"Go with the one that feels comfortable," he says.
Brooks Beast and Ariel
If it's a supportive, cushioned ride you're looking for, then look no further. The newest version of the Brooks Beast, often called a motion control superhero, features Brooks DNA, which helps distribute the pressure from each strike, giving the shoe a custom feel for every runner. The woman's version is called the Ariel. If you're looking for a ride that feels like being on clouds but you don't over-pronate as much, try out the Brooks Trance 11.
Asics Gel-Kayano 18
Many people consider the Gel-Kayano the gold standard of stability shoes (it's the shoe of choice for Running Room founder John Stanton). Its 18th iteration has a range of fantastic features, including its greatly respected cushioning system that minimizes impact shock and a new heel clutch system for an incredibly comfortable fit.
Adidas adiZero Boston3
Racers, start your engines. Built for speed, the AdiZero Boston 3 has a lower overall height than its predecessors, bringing you closer to the ground in what feels like a racing flat but still with cushioning. It's got a softer collar to reduce irritation on the ankle and a new 3D heel mould for improved fit. If you're looking for a little more cushioning but still want a fast ride, try Adidas' Supernova Glide 4.
Salomon XR Mission
Anyone looking to transition from road to trail running should grab a pair of Salomon's XR Mission. Designed to make that transition easier, it's lightweight, well-cushioned and has great grip on every surface – meaning you can go from road to trail in just one shoe. It feels like a running shoe but does everything you want from a trail shoe, including a synthetic toe cap to help protect you if you hit rocks or roots. Find out where you can test a pair for free at www.salomonflightcrew.com.
Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa
No shoe is going to get you as close to the road without actually going barefoot than the SeeYa. At just 4.8 oz. each (in men's sizes) it's lighter than the Bikila and features a more breathable mesh on top. If the articulated toes freak you out, there's now a wide range of minimal shoes without them (the New Balance Minimus Zero is a great alternative), but if you want to mimic the feeling of going au natural, these are the shoes for you.
Adidas adiViz Jacket
If you run at night or in low visibility, you need to make yourself noticeable to drivers. Nothing's going to do that better than the adiViz jacket, which will make you feel like a bolt of lightning. Its colour means everyone will see you coming, plus it has luminescent piping. The ClimaProof technology will keep you dry when it rains and the fit is fantastic–it never feels too snug and nor is it billowy. Only drawback? No hood.
Running Skirts Cerise Mandarin Running Skirt
Tired of shorts bunching up? Or maybe you're just looking for something a little more stylish to run in. This Cerise Mandarin running skirt by Running Skirts features two hip pockets to store your essentials and attached mesh briefs that the company promises won't ride up. Part of Running Skirts' new spring line, it's got a popping colour to get you in motion for the season.
Garmin Forerunner 910XT
$400 without heart rate monitor; $450 with heart rate monitor
Garmin will be familiar to most runners as the company making some of the best GPS watches on the market. Here, they've upped the ante with what might just be the best multi-sport watch on the market, the Forerunner 901XT. It will not only record where you ran, how fast you went and your heart rate (metrics that cyclists will appreciate as well), but also can delve into specifics such as lap distance and lap pace. And if you're cross-training in the pool, it records distance, efficiency, stroke type, stroke count and pool lengths.