2015 Running Gear Guide: Road Shoes

$100

The Zante’s raison d’être can be found in a new, lower-to-the-ground iteration of the lightweight Fresh Foam midsole it debuted last year. New Balance used biomechanical data from runners to engineer the foam undercarriage with an optimal balance between cushioning and stability—testers fell in love with the result. The simple but smartly designed upper features two harmoniously integrated airy meshes, a seam-free interior, a lightly padded tongue and subtle heat-welded overlays that serve up a comfortable fit and just enough support and structure without inhibiting the ride. And, to be frank, the $100 price tag means it has everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Best for: All types of training from long progression runs to tempo efforts and short and fast interval workouts.
weights: 7.6 oz. (men’s), 6.3 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 6mm; 16mm (heel), 10mm (forefoot)

$120

Adidas has included its revolutionary Boost midsole foam into most of its performance training shoes in 2015, and our wear-testers found that the stability-oriented Tempo is one of the best applications yet. The spongy foam sits in the back half of the shoe and is married to a stabilizing full-length EVA layer. The updated Tempo retains the go-fast mentality and sleek, snug, race-ready fit of previous incarnations, but this version also offers enhanced responsiveness, a semi-firm ride and extremely smooth heel-to-toe-off gait cycle transitions. Most wear-testers raved about this shoe’s energetic and peppy feeling; a few thought the thicker cushioning detracts from its athletic agility.
Best for: Fast efforts, including shorter races, tempo runs, progression runs and fartlek workouts.
weights: 9.4 oz. (men’s), 7.7 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 10mm; 29mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

$130

A versatile shoe capable of long training runs, marathon racing and even shorter, faster workouts, the SpeedForm Gemini is more cushioned and responsive than UA’s SpeedForm Apollo. Like its predecessor, it has a foot-wrapping, open-mesh upper (made in a lingerie factory) and a sewn-in foot bed that creates go-fast agility and snug connectivity to the shoe’s undercarriage. The smooth, interior of the upper and seamless heel cup add to the connectivity of the precise, performance-oriented fit.  What makes this shoe special is its adaptive cushioning technology—it serves up a soft feeling when you step in and run at slower speeds but offers a slightly more firm and responsive sensation with higher forces and faster speeds. (It’s a great shoe for tempo runs and fartlek workouts.) It’s the first shoe UA has made that has potential to appeal to a wider audience of runners without deterring those who are looking for a performance-oriented shoe.
Best for: a daily training shoe with a little bit of pop for fast training and racing.
weights: 8.0 oz. (men’s), 7.0 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 8mm; 24mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)

$130

Surprisingly light and energetic for such a well-cushioned shoe, the Zealot earned rave reviews from our wear-test team for long training runs. Part of Saucony’s new ISOfit line, the Zealot’s integrated upper and lacing system lock down the mid-foot to create an adaptive, near-custom fit for any foot shape. A two-layer, near-maximal foam midsole and plush interior combine to serve up a sublime, buttery-soft ride and seamless heel-to-toe gait cycle. Several wear-testers wondered how a shoe with this much cushy foam could be so light. The lightweight sensation and lower profile of the heel (4mm heel-toe offset) facilitate a quick stride turnover.
Best for: longer training runs, including race-paced distance workouts and progression runs.
weights: 8.3 oz. (men’s), 7.4 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 4mm; 25mm (heel), 21mm (forefoot)

$150

From the brand that pioneered and continues to evolve the maximal cushioning category of shoes, the Bondi 4 is all about soft, cushy comfort and efficient running. With one of the thickest midsoles in the marketplace, the Bondi is in an extreme class of high-off-the-ground, oversized cushioning shoes. But it’s not just the amount of cushioning, it’s the balance of the shoe and its unique design features—specifically the rockered profile, beveled heel and significant toe spring—that make running in the Bondi 4 such an exalted experience. While it doesn’t inspire speed, but our wear-testers thought it most certainly promotes a healthy stride rhythm and offers protection against the stress and strain of long-distance running.
Best for: longer, moderate-paced training runs and slower recovery runs on hard surfaces.
weights: 10.6 oz. (men’s), 9.4 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 4mm; 33mm (heel), 29mm (forefoot) for men; 31mm (heel), 27mm (forefoot) for women

$100

A moderately cushioned shoe built with minimalist design traits—uninhibited foot flex, a more spacious toe box and a lower heel-toe offset—the Fli-Lyte provides a ride that straddles the line between soft and firm. Although it has a good amount of cushioning, foot-to-ground proprioception is excellent thanks to its easy-flexing characteristics and a less-is-more design ethos. Our testers liked it for its unique fit, no-frills construction and its lightweight, natural-movement pliability.
Best for:Shorter to longer training runs at a variety of paces.
weights: 8.2 oz. (men’s), 6.8 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 3mm; 22mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

$130

A second-generation minimalist shoe, the Tempo is a softly cushioned model with a very spacious toe box and a zero-drop platform. The unique aspect of this shoe is the foot-wrapping fit that’s made possible from featherweight upper materials and a unique asymmetrical lacing system. With 24mm of foam and rubber under the foot, it’s not a “barely there” model; instead our wear-testers felt like it was more of a “just enough” shoe that allows the foot to move freely without obstruction. A few wear-testers were concerned with how the upper fabric bunched in the toe box, but it didn’t seem to affect the performance of the shoe.
Best for: Shorter to longer training runs at a variety of paces.
weights: 7.7 oz. (men’s), 6.3 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 0mm; 24mm (heel), 24mm (forefoot)

$120

Incorporating less-is-more design principles while still offering enough cushioning, protection and energetic pop for a wide range of training runs and races, the updated N2 is the epitome of modern shoe design. The new seamless, one-piece stretchy mesh upper, enhanced by supportive but minimalistic heat-welded overlays, provides a supremely connective fit for all foot shapes. The updated, softer two-layer foam midsole improves great heel impact cushioning and bolsters the heel-toe flow of the shoe. Our wear-testers loved this shoe for its amazing agility, inherent stability and proprioceptive feeling for both slower and faster running. Although it has a good amount of cushioning, it doesn’t give off a mushy or even springy sensation—more of a moderate softness that serves up a responsive ride and allows for great feel for the ground. We tested both the neutral-oriented N2 and the light stability M2 model and preferred the N2 for the uninhibited smoothness it provides.
Best for: A variety of training runs and races from short to long and slower to faster.
weights: 9.6 oz. (men’s), 8.4 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 4mm; 23mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

$110

This reliable stability trainer has been updated with a new upper to improve the fit, breathability and comfort. In addition to some dramatic aesthetic updates, the biggest changes are the lighter, sleeker forefoot support overlays and the arch-locking saddle support bands. The reinforced chassis remains largely the same, with a three-layer premium foam midsole package, a segmented heel crash pad and deep flex groves that create a very stable ride with a bit of charismatic flow of its neutral shoe brethren. As such, several of our wear-testers enjoyed this shoe’s soft, bouncy, responsive and smooth ride.
Best for: A wide range of training runs and workouts for runners needing a more stable shoe.
weights: 10.7 oz. (men’s), 8.8 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 10mm; 26mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)

$150

This popular stability trainer has gone through a serious (and glorious) metamorphosis. One of the marquee shoes in Saucony’s new ISOfit series, it features an innovative saddle-and-lacing interface. It combines an inner mesh layer and an exoskeleton frame to cinch the foot to the chassis of the shoe, and testers loved the secure, near-custom fit. This version is also slightly more cushioned, making it even softer than before. It has a notably stiffer demeanor, but the minimal flexibility doesn’t inhibit a smooth-rolling ride for a stability shoe of this magnitude. This shoe is one of the most plush tested—with interior creature comforts to match the midsole cushiness—and our wear-testers appreciated that for longer road runs.
Best for: Long-distance running for runners needing stability and support.
weights: 10.9 oz. (men’s), 9.4 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 8mm; 29mm (heel), 21mm (forefoot)

$100

After a three-year hiatus, Brooks is unveiling a completely revamped second edition of this energetic, high-mileage trainer. The updated model features a more responsive midsole/outsole undercarriage; a snugger, more athletic fit with a slightly wider forefoot profile; an updated no-stitch mesh upper; enhanced flexibility; and some eye-popping color motifs. It’s not necessarily made for running fast (and it’s actually slightly heavier than the previous version), but our wear-test team loved it for everything from faster long runs to slower recovery runs, and a few said they’d consider running a marathon in it. It offers a soft (but definitely not mushy) neutral ride and a plush interior for long-wearing comfort.
Best for: high-mileage training and long runs.
weights: 9.7 oz. (men’s), 7.8 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 10mm; 20mm (heel), 10mm (forefoot)

$130

This consummate high-mileage trainer has continued to evolve with adidas’ Boost midsole foam. Paired with a thinner layer of resilient traditional foam, the updated Glide is a mix of softness, responsiveness and underfoot structure. Our wear-testers liked the controlled rebound energy of this shoe, especially in the latter miles of longer runs. A new flexible mesh upper, gusseted tongue and arch-locking saddle design provide optimal interaction between the foot, the shoe and the road below. It’s not the lightest high-mileage training shoe in this review—and that tends to mute agility and fast-running impulses—but most of our wear-testers like the tradeoff for added support and protection.
Best for: high-mileage training and long runs.
weights: 10.5 oz. (men’s), 8.8 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 10mm; 32mm (heel), 22mm (forefoot)

$155

The fourth version of this lightweight trainer/racer created for high-performance running has been upgraded with a new stretch-mesh upper that allows for more forefoot flexibility. This model also features the new five-lug Action/Reaction Technology, which, aside from creating a slightly wider, more balanced platform, also returns more energy. Newton says this shoe is best for a more agile and efficient runner who tends to run with a mid-foot/forefoot gait, and our testers tended to agree. We gave the shoe high marks for its fit and ability to go fast, while several liked its energy return and peppy feeling.
Best for: high-intensity, fast-paced training and racing.
weights: 7.9 oz. (men’s), 7.0 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 2mm; 19mm (heel), 17mm (forefoot)

$110

Built on Nike’s lightweight Lunarlon foam midsole, this lightweight neutral trainer offers enough cushioning and protection for marathon-length runs in a svelte package that’s sufficiently agile for interval workouts and short races. While most of our wear-testers used it for a wide range of runs from 5K to 20 miles, they also raved about its versatility as a do-everything shoe. What makes this shoe so magically versatile is the featherweight, nimble feeling combined with that copious amounts of energetic cushioning. The stretchy mesh upper and the Flywire cords work in concert to adapt to a wide range of foot shapes, providing a near-custom fit. Several testers called it an ideal do-everything shoe, able to run long and slower, and shorter and faster. This shoe was the favorite model of several of our wear-testers. “It has a nice, responsive feel. I feel quick in this shoe,” reported wear-tester Mark Bockmann. “Super smooth ride that felt very natural as well. It feels like this shoe lets your foot do its thing, without getting in the way.” The only minor drawback was a feeling that the toe box could be a tad more spacious—especially near the big toe, where the mesh connects to the front of the shoe.
Best for: a go-to shoe for all types of runs and workouts.
weights: 6.8 oz. (men’s), 5.9 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 8mm; 26mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)

$110

ASICS has revamped its natural-motion training shoes with a more soft and flexible platform and a more snug-fitting upper. Two layers of smooth-flexing midsole foam and deep, strategically placed flex grooves create a pliable but supportive platform that doesn’t get in the way of a foot’s natural motion. But what makes this shoe buzzworthy is the stretchy engineered mesh upper. It accommodates various foot shapes and allows uninhibited forefoot and toe splay at the forward part of a stride. There’s purposely no inherent support in this shoe at all, so this shoe is best for strong-legged, efficient runners yet versatile enough for long runs or as a speed and drill shoe.
Best for: A variety of types of runs and drills for efficient runners.
weights: 9.2 oz. (men’s), 7.5 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 4mm; 20mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot) for men; 19mm (heel), 15mm (forefoot) for women

$145

Karhu, a 99-year-old Finnish brand with a long history in running shoes, recently rejuvenated itself around its Fulcrum propulsion technology that guides a runner’s foot through a gait cycle. It has retooled its marquee neutral trainer with a more balanced, full-length Fulcrum unit aimed at channeling energy and guiding the foot from impact to toe-off. Our wear-testers reported that this shoe was a good all-around training model with a blend of cushioning and underfoot structure, and gave it high marks for fit and fluidity.
Best for: Moderate-length and longer runs.
weights: 10.4 oz. (men’s), 8.6 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 10mm; 22mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot)

$120

Although Zoot has a triathlon heritage and is mostly known for its slip-on racing shoes, it’s making a push to reach everyday runners. The Carlsbad—a strong follow-up to its award-winning Solana shoe from last year—is an impressive premium neutral cushioning shoe that serves up a luxuriously soft ride while also offering considerable responsiveness and a bit of support. The snappy feeling of this shoe, as well as its smooth-rolling flow, can be attributed to the thin carbon-fiber plate sandwiched between two layers of midsole foam. Testers loved this shoe for all of those reasons, but they also raved about the no-frills upper and well-connected fit.
Best for: high-mileage training, tempo runs and progression runs.
weights: 9.8 oz. (men’s), 8.9 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 10mm; 25mm (heel), 15mm (forefoot)

$130

Although this Swiss brand of shoes has only been in the U.S. for a few years, it’s made a big impression with its unique CloudTec cushioning system that extends from the outsole of the shoe. Four firmer-density rubber bumpers (called “clouds”) in the rearfoot absorb impact in conjunction with the softer middle layer midsole foam. As the foot rolls forward, nine softer and more resilient clouds energize the shoe for the toe-off phase with help of the slightly firmer and more responsive midsole foam in the the forefoot. Our testers were pleasantly surprised with the performance of the updated Cloudster and unanimously remarked about the semi-firm but very “springy” and “energetic” ride. It’s not as light as some other neutral cushioned trainers and it’s a tad less flexible than most, although that’s barely noticed with the unique rolling and spongy ride served up by this shoe. Our wear-test team loved this shoe for long runs and tempo runs, but weren’t as excited about it for shorter, faster workouts like fartleks or mile repeats. Several testers remarked about the unique upper design and materials, most notably the breathable perforated tongue and a stretchy mesh in the forefoot that—along with a slightly more volume in the forefoot—accommodates foot flex and toe splay. It’s definitely a unique sensation, but one that was generally liked by all of our testers.
Best for: all types of training, including long runs and up-tempo workouts.
weights: 10.7 oz. (men’s), 9.5 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 7mm; 27mm (heel), 20mm (forefoot)

$115

While Reebok has recently become more engaged in CrossFit and obstacle racing, this shoe is proof that it still has a vested interest in pure running. The second version of this soft-riding, neutral, cushioned shoe has a new upper offering an improved fit and more support, resulting in a more secure arch fit, improved forefoot flexibility and better heel-to-toe flow. Although several testers thought the toe box was a little constrained, our test team loved the unencumbered smoothness and agility of the ride. Reviewers commented that it feels much lighter than its actual weight and appreciated its versatility for both off runs and some faster workouts.
Best for: a wide range of training runs for neutral runners.
weights: 10.2 oz. (men’s), 8.2 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 10mm; 23mm (heel), 13mm (forefoot)

$120

This classic mild-stability shoe offers a touch of guidance for runners who need a just bit of control. The latest incarnation has been updated with a dynamic stretch mesh upper that not only enhances the fit, but increases the shoe’s moisture-wicking and breathability. The shoe’s stable ride derives from a lightweight, plastic Wave insert sandwiched between layers of foam in the rear. Our testers raved about this shoe, partially because the structure is effective but subtle—so much so that the Inspire mimics more of an energetic neutral training shoe.
Best for: Shorter to longer training runs at a variety of paces for runners who need a slightly more stable shoe.
weights: 9.7 oz. (men’s), 8.6 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 12mm; 24mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot)

$100

Skechers’ flagship GoRun shoe underwent a complete overhaul for its fourth edition, and the result is a more versatile training shoe capable of slightly longer runs. Changes included a thicker foam undercarriage, a broader waist and a new form-fitting upper. Even though it’s vastly different from previous models, the new GoRun maintains the snug fit, supreme flexibility and soft, natural-feeling ride that defined earlier models. It has less of a rockered profile, and the dual-density midsole foam configuration makes it slightly more supportive and better for longer runs—fast and slow. This shoe still has a predominantly soft and insubstantial feeling and lacks the structure and protection of other shoes intended for long-distance training.
Best for: Short to medium-length runs and faster-paced workouts like tempo runs and fartlek workouts.
weights: 7.8 oz (men’s size 9), 6.0 oz (women’s size 7)
heel-toe offset: 4mm; 18mm (forefoot), 14mm (heel)

$120

One of the most popular shoes of the past decade, the 2000 has been reborn in a lighter, more agile version without losing the stable ride for which it has always been known. The reduced weight comes from a reconfigured midsole that incorporates one of ASICS’ lightest and most dynamic foam materials. A new heel-clutching system provides a better rear-foot fit while also helping save weight. Our testers loved this shoe’s responsiveness, reliable support and proprioception as a workhorse trainer. As with previous models, it lacks the agility to run fast for extended periods of time, but wear testers appreciated the reduced weight.
Best for: A wide range of training for runners who need a stable ride.
weights: 10.7 oz. (men’s), 8.4 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 10mm; 22mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot) for men; 21mm (heel), 11mm (forefoot) for women

$100

Light, agile and low-to-the-ground, the Hitogami 2 is a mix between a race-ready speed demon and a lightweight everyday trainer for strong, nimble runners. It’s been updated with a new engineered mesh upper that helps secure the foot to the base of the shoe while offering a near-custom fit and pliable com for a wide range of foot shapes. The thin plastic Wave Plate insert that runs from the heel to the mid foot creates a springy sensation that helps disperse rear-foot impact and channel energy into forward momentum. It has a slightly narrower profile than the original Hitogami and it comes in a fraction of an ounce heavier, but it retains the same go-fast mentality with just enough cushioning.
Best for: 5K to half marathon racing and fast training workouts like tempo runs, fartlek sessions and long intervals.
weights: 7.6 oz. (men’s), 6.3 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 9mm; 19mm (heel), 10mm (forefoot)

$120

The updated version of the lightweight but well-cushioned shoe Meb Keflezighi wore while winning the 2014 Boston Marathon, the Speed 3 retains the TPU shank in the mid foot to add to the responsive feeling of the shoe while the outsole has been opened up a bit to provide more compression on impact. A new seamless mesh upper with minimal support has the foot-enveloping fit of a sock and helps cinch down the foot to chassis of the shoe. It’s a light and agile shoe, but it has enough cushion and structure for a variety of training efforts and not too minimally designed to beat up a runner’s feet.
Best for: 5K to marathon racing and fast training workouts like tempo runs, fartlek sessions and progression runs.
weights: 7.1 oz. (men’s), 5.2 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 4mm; 18mm (heel), 14mm (forefoot)

$120

The fifth version of this stability trainer is the best one yet, offering more engineered structure with enhanced softness for long-wearing comfort. And it’s more than a half-ounce lighter than the previous version. The stable ride is served up by several systems, the most notable of which is an asymmetrical heel counter that is canted toward the lateral side of the foot. A modern, dual-density version of a traditional medial post and deep, strategically positioned flex grooves also contribute to this shoe’s stability. It’s definitely a shoe for a runner who needs a lot of support, but it runs fairly nimbly for such a firm and robust shoe.
Best for: A wide range of training for runners who need a stable ride.
weights: 10.2 oz. (men’s), 9.4 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 12mm; 22mm (heel), 10mm (forefoot)

$160

Not everyone can run in an über-cushy, maximally cushioned neutral shoe. For that reason, Hoka developed the Constant to be a shoe with oversized cushioning that serves up reassuring stability. Although a few wear-testers found the shoe to be a tad heavy, most noted the ride as being soft, stable and controlled but not in an overbearing way. While there is plenty of premium softness in every stride, the firmer bottom-layer foam appropriately dampens the overall ride while also wrapping and embracing the medial arch for specific anti-pronation protection. The other key element that helps stabilize the ride is the slight toe spring profile.
Best for: short- to long-distance training runs at slower to moderate paces for runners who need more support.
weights: 10.7 oz. (men’s), 9.3 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 4mm; 30mm (heel), 26mm (forefoot) for men; 29mm (heel), 25mm (forefoot) for women

$120

This stability shoe is engineered to create a balanced mid-stride platform around three firm lugs located on the lateral heel and under the first and fifth metarsal heads. Those lugs, which are slightly wider on this updated model, work together with a 2mm varus wedge tipped toward the lateral side of the shoe to help offset overpronation. The firm and responsive primary midsole foam adds to the steadiness, while a second layer of cushioning and the plush interior of the shoe enable a comfortably stable ride.
Best for: A variety of training and racing applications for runners seeking a stable ride.
weights: 10.5 oz. (men’s), 9.4 oz. (women’s)
heel-toe offset: 0mm; 26mm (heel), 26mm (forefoot)

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