We often see glamorous looking images of beautiful people running, smiling and laughing on the beach, but if you’ve ever tried it yourself, you know that the reality looks a little different. At least, in the beginning, it does.
Running on soft sand differs from running on the road, track, grass or even trails most of us are used to. Having the right shoe can be the difference between you finding joy in your run or saying ‘this is not for me’.
With such an enormous selection of running shoes on the market, we’ve narrowed it down to 6 that can do the job exceptionally well. Out of the 6 we of course had a favorite that just stood out above the rest and that would be the Saucony Kinvara. The reason we picked it, is for its light weight, medium but responsive cushioning and the relatively low drop that provides excellent stability over mildly uneven terrain.
As for the rest of the list, they each have a specific quality or qualities that earned them their spot, because every runner is different. Keep reading to find the one that will work for you.
Is Running On The Beach Better Than Running On Other Surfaces?
It is softer than concrete and pavement, which means less impact on joints. Running on the beach is not only relaxing, but the added effort from running on sand also equals increased fitness benefits.
Studies have shown that running and training on sand versus grass produces superior aerobic conditioning and improvement in VO2max. They’ve also reported less fatigue and soreness in the sand group compared to the grass group for the same amount of exercise.
Sounds like fantastic reasons to me, to add some beach runs into your workout routine.
The shoes on our list are all very different from one another, so let’s have a closer look at why each of them is deserving of a top 6 spot.
Top Picks for Best Shoes for Running on the Beach.
Saucony Kinvara 13 – Best overall
Altra Escalante 2.5 – Best zero drop cushioned shoe
Adidas Adizero Adios 6 – Best traditional stack height
Merrell Trail Glove 6 – Best barefoot running shoe
Xero HFS – Best for road to beach
Topo Athletic ST4 – Best for HiiT workouts
Saucony Kinvara 13 – Best Overall
What makes the Saucony Kinvara stand out above the rest, is its versatility and the fact that most runners will transition easily from their normal running shoe to the Kinvara.
The upper is seamless and fits snug without being tight and it has a nice sized toe box that leaves your toes with some room to move. The single-layer mesh is flexible, breathable and doesn’t hold moisture.
There are some added overlays to add stability to the stretchy upper and you get a good lockdown with no slippage. A well designed but lightweight heel counter further enhances the secure fit.
As a bonus, they made the upper from 100 percent recycled material.
It is ultra-lightweight. The men’s version comes in at 7.2 oz (213g) with the women’s version at a mere 6.2 oz (184g). The only shoes on this list lighter than this have no cushioning.
The Kinvara has a 4mm drop which works for heel, mid-foot and forefoot strikers alike. This lower drop helps to keep you stable on the soft sand and the firmer, wet sand alike.
It has 28mm of stack height in the heel and 24mm in the forefoot for the second most cushioned shoe on this list. The PWRRUN midsole cushioning is firm and responsive, allowing you to easily pick up the pace, or in this case, as easy as sand allows it.
These shoes are willing and that’s the main thing.
Available in different widths
Lacks cushioning for runs longer than half-marathon
No reflective material
Grip not great on smooth surfaces
Altra Escalante 2.5 – Best Zero Drop Cushioned Shoe
Altra is known for zero-drop shoes with foot-shaped toe boxes. If this sounds odd, I can assure you, it’s the ultimate solution for those of us with wide feet. It also offers the closest possible feeling to barefoot running while still providing a good amount of cushioning.
It’s hard to describe the comfort of the Escalante adequately. The fully knit upper gives you a sock like feel that hugs your foot without being restrictive. They are comfortable straight out of the box and need no breaking in whatsoever.
They fit true to size with ample room for toe splay.
Altra’s FootPod Technology forms the foundation of the outsole, which mimics the bone structure of the human foot allowing the shoe to flex with your foot as you run.
The midsole consists of Altra EGO (a proprietary foam blend) that provides a smooth and responsive ride.
It weighs in at around 249g for a (M) US8.5 and 209g a (W) US7 with a stack height of 19mm in the heel and the forefoot.
The durability of this shoe is amazing and the entire shoe from the upper through to the outsole will give you joy for many miles, losing none of its responsiveness.
No breaking in required
Very good lacing system
Adidas Adizero Adios 6 – Best Traditional Stack Height
The Adidas Adizero Adios is a racing flat but it also works well for everyday runs up to half-marathon distance.
Adidas uses Primegreen for the upper, which is a high performance recycled material. The upper fits superbly and is extremely breathable. The see-through mesh has suede overlays for added support. It can let in some extra sand so these are better for the wet firmer sand or wear good quality socks.
The midsole comprises Lightstrike and Lightstrike Pro foam. Adidas designed Lightstrike for explosive movements while Lightstrike Pro provides more responsiveness than Boost foam.
The Adizero Adios is more geared towards mid and forefoot strikers with heel strikers finding the ride a bit lackluster. This shoe shines at faster paces.
The outsole is Continental rubber like all Adidas outsoles and strategically placed on higher impact areas to reduce weight while providing great traction on any surface.
The Adios weighs in at 244g for the men’s version and 221g for the women’s version with a more traditional 8mm drop and a stack height of 32mm in the heel and 26mm in the forefoot, making it the shoe with the most cushion on our list. Keep in mind that even though it has more cushion than the Kinvara, it is firmer underfoot because it was designed for racing.
Fairly low to the ground
Lightweight and breathable mesh upper
Narrow toe box
Some heel slippage
Merrell Trail Glove 6 – Best Barefoot Running Shoe
Merrell’s Trail Glove is a minimalist shoe that allows you to feel the running surface with a barefoot-like sensation. It offers the most natural ride possible without actually being barefoot.
All materials are recycled and/or environmentally friendly. The thin midsole comprises 10% algae biomass and offers lightweight cushioning that is surprisingly responsive.
The shoe is extremely comfortable, and many athletes reported using them in the gym as well.
It weighs in at 212g for the men’s version and 170g for the women’s version and this zero drop shoe has a stack height of 12mm in the heel and forefoot.
Don’t need breaking in
Stable & natural ride
Less ground feel than previous models
Xero HFS – Best For Road To Beach
With the Xero HFS you get a natural fit but beware, they run small, so go one size up from your regular size and these are best avoided if you have very wide feet.
The shoe encourages natural motion, allowing “your feet to bend, move and flex” the way they should according to Xero.
The Xero also refers to the zero drop that enhances running posture and balance.
Xero HFS has a 5mm FeelTrue® rubber outsole with a 3.5mm removable insole. For a barefoot experience that “lets you Feel The World®”. It is lightweight with the men’s size 9 weighing only 6.8 ounces or 192g.
Adjustable instep and midfoot straps give you a secure and comfortable fit while enhancing the look of the shoe.
It is vegan-friendly and has an insane 5000 mile sole warranty and the entire shoe comes with a 24 month manufacturer’s warranty. With a warranty like that, this shoe makes a lot of sense if your run includes pavement to and from the beach.
Secure heel lockdown
Vegan-friendly materials Lightweight
Need to go one size up
Topo Athletic ST4 – Best For HiiT Workouts
The ST-4 is designed as a lightweight cross trainer, working equally hard whether you’re in the gym or out running. It is also a zero drop shoe and has a 16mm stack height weighing in at 7.3 oz. (206g) for a men’s size 9 and 6.1 oz. (172g) for a women’s size 7.
It has a comfortable and breathable mesh upper with printed overlays and an internal skeleton for a secure foot-lock that makes it great for high-intensity interval training as part of your beach run.
The soft heel provides a natural fit and also makes it easy to store flat in your workout bag and the removable Ortholite insole is odor resistant and provides added comfort.
Spacious toe box
16mm stack height provides excellent protection
Heel fits tight
Not breathable enough
What To Look For When Buying Shoes For Running On The Beach?
When buying a running shoe for running on the beach, your primary aim is to protect your feet and prevent injuries. Here’s what to pay attention to.
You want to look for a shoe that has a breathable but tightly woven mesh to keep the sand out of your shoes. It also has to dry quickly if it gets wet.
The sand is already softer than any other surface you’re going to run on, so you don’t want shoes with a lot of soft cushioning. Firm and responsive cushioning is adequate for on the beach.
Shoes need to fit snug and give you a secure lockdown.
You’ll realize quickly that running on soft sand is really hard work and the last thing you want is a pair of clunky shoes weighing you down. The lighter, the better.
FAQs About The Best Shoes For Running On The Beach
Do I need shoes or can I run barefoot?
In theory, you can definitely run barefoot. The problem is that the risk of getting cut on anything from broken shells, rocks or even broken glass simply isn’t worth it.
Unless you are 100 percent certain that there is no debris of any kind on or in the sand, I would keep those shoes on.
Can I wear my shoes without socks?
Socks is a very effective way to keep sand away from your skin. Even with the best designed shoe, you are going to get a certain amount of sand in your shoe and few things can chafe and give blisters like sand on bare skin in a running shoe. Best to wear socks.
Final Thoughts On The Best Shoes For Running On The Beach
Just like with any major changes in your workout routine, it’s important to start your beach running adventure slowly and note how your body responds to prevent injury, but having the right shoes will go a long way to make the transition easier.
For the majority of us, who are not currently running in zero drop shoes, the Saucony Kinvara with its low drop is the best choice to start with. If you are already running in a zero drop shoe, but still need some cushioning, the Altra Escalante is an excellent choice. If you are a minimalist at heart and have been running in minimalist shoes you can’t go wrong with the Merrell Trail Glove.