Runner’s World Shoe Guide: Autumn/Winter 2016

Puma test test Ignite Dual £70

This shoe does the basics well – testers who graded themselves as ‘beginners’ enjoyed the comfort and the excellent breathability of the mesh; overall, they found little to quibble with. However, experienced runners picked up on a few elements that shoes at this price point are often lacking: a heel fit that was less than ideal, inadequate midfoot stability when moving laterally and a general lack of build quality. 

Bottom line: This is a no-nonsense neutral shoe that will suit those new to running. 

Heel cushioning: neither very soft or very firm

Forefoot cushioning: firm

Flexibility: very flexible

Weight: 278g (Male), 241g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm (Male), 10mm (Women)

Saucony Zealot ISO 2 £120

Runner’s World editor Andy Dixon tested this shoe and pronounced it ‘a supreme high-mileage/long-run option’. Praise indeed, but he was by no means the only one to comment on the blend of cushioning and all-round comfort. The forefoot is particularly bouncy, which is great for forefoot strikers, but the best feature was the new upper, designed to move better with your foot as it flexes. 

Bottom line: Perk up your marathon training with these – a great option for going long. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 276g (Male), 238g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 7mm (Male), 5mm (Female)

Saucony Ride 9 £115

The new version of this neutral shoe has been tweaked a fair bit: lightweight film midfoot overlays have been heat-moulded into the upper to keep the foot locked down; a new layer of super-cushioned and very durable foam has been inserted on top of the midsole, and the mesh has been made more breathable – all changes our testers noted. However, they also found a lack of responsiveness, a too-slim fit in the toebox and a slippy tread in the wet.

Bottom line: High-mileage shoe for smaller neutral runners, but stay out of the rain. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 270g (Male), 223g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (Male), 8mm (Female)

Brooks Ghost 9 £115

This is a mid-to-top-of-the-range neutral shoe that has garnered a loyal fan base, so Brooks has merely tinkered with this version, introducing a new double-layer upper – with wider ventilation holes – and a softer interior. Previous versions were already plush so it was difficult to feel this latter change, but the improved ventilation was noticeable. Other than that it remains a premium running shoe with outstanding cushioning and superb fit.

Bottom line: A comfort and joy to wear for all neutral-footed runners. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: quite soft

Flexibility: inflexible 

Weight: 299g (Male), 254g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm (Male),  10mm (Female)

Puma Speed 500 Ignite £80

A good shoe for under a hundred quid is a rarity these days, so we were pleased to see that this model from Puma fared well in testing. It felt inflexible in the hand, but the lab machines found it the opposite, as did our testers, who loved the rounded heel, which didn’t impede their running, and the way the stiff midfoot helped slingshot your foot forward onto the bouncy forefoot. Wider- footed runners take note, though – it’s slim. 

Bottom line: Great-value (and surprisingly flexible) shoe for narrow-footed runners. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: quite firm

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 275g (Male), 235g (Female)

Toe/heel drop: 7mm (Male), 6mm (Female)

Brooks Hyperion £90

A triumphant debut for this speedster – and a worthy award winner. It was the lightest model on test and the RW lab noted that while the heel was very cushioned, there was nothing but flex and a very thin layer of midsole foam in the forefoot – a construction element that encouraged testers to get up on their toes and go for it. The fit is superb and the responsiveness is excellent; all in all, there was nothing to find fault with. 

Bottom line: A thrillingly traditional, light and admirably fast performance shoe. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very firm

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 184g (Male), 153g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (Male), 8mm (Female)

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 33 £100 

Nike says it has made substantial changes to this shoe. It’s changed the position and depth of outsole grooves, switched the split in the heel from the outside to the inside and made the fit a tad looser in the rear half. None of this was noticeable to our testers, but they loved the ride. The Pegasus remains a shoe suitable for most types of runs – cushioned enough for long distance, yet firm enough to respond to changes in speed.

Bottom line: Despite the design overhaul, this shoe retains the same broad appeal. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 285g (Male), 234g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 911mm (Male), 10mm (Female)

Brooks Glycerin 14 £130

A superb shoe that was unlucky not to pick up an award. It’s a luxurious, soft, bouncy ride that was among the most cushioned shoes tested in the lab. The weight was such that lighter runners did not find it too heavy, while even very large runners were able to pound away on the roads while still reporting that the shoe felt firm, supportive and sturdy – though it was a lightweight compared with chunkier shoes they’d previously worn. 

Bottom line: Brilliant shock attenuation and a smooth ride; will suit a variety of runners. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible 

Weight: 304g (Male), 252g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm (Male), 10mm (Female)

Hoke One One Clifton 3 £100 

The previous versions of this neutral shoe were a runaway success, with Hoka struggling to keep up with demand. Sadly, we don’t think this’ll be the case with version three. The cushioning is still excellent, the upper durable but breathable, and the weight astonishingly low for its dimensions – but responsiveness, lateral stability and good cornering ability have gone AWOL. It’s a decent option for recovery runs or long runs for heavier runners. 

Bottom line: One to consider if cushioning is more important to you than speed. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 261g (Male), 220g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 7mm (Male), 9mm (Female)

Saucony Omni 15 £115

This was among the heavier shoes on test, but it was precisely this added heft that many of our testers founded reassuring, with those who rated themselves as beginner or intermediate raving about the secure fit, soft inner and, in particular, the fact that they were able to just switch off and let the shoe do its work mile after mile. It lacks flexibility and responsiveness but the medial support is no-nonsense and pronounced.

Bottom line: Mass appeal – a superb blend of comfort, ground feel and stability. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 300g (Male), 254g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (Male), 9mm (Female)

Hoka One One Clayton £120

Maximal-shoe specialist Hoka is best known for producing super-cushioned shoes for long runs and high-volume training loads. This relatively stripped-down version is a departure, but a successful one. As the low weight and minimalist heel drop suggest, this is Hoka’s version of a low-slung racing shoe, albeit with more midsole foam than purists will be used to. The result? Our testers felt they were bouncing along at high speed.

Bottom line: A shoe that allows you to go hard without giving your knees a pounding. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 229g (Male), 197g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 6mm (Male), 5mm (Female)

Inov-8 Roadclaw 275 £120

Cumbrian trail brand Inov-8 has made a very decent fist (foot?) of this road-running shoe. Traction was superb, as you would expect, but the standout feature was the close fit: as well as wrapping the midfoot with tight overlays, the upper has tighter mesh further forward behind the metatarsal heads, thus holding the foot in place in two locations. And yet there was still plenty of room for toe-splay, which our runners appreciated. 

Bottom line: Durable, secure, comfortable and a great wet-weather option. 

Heel cushioning: very firm

Forefoot cushioning: very firm

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 282g (Male), 248g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (Male), 6mm (Female)

Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N2 v3 £90

Pearl Izumi is predominantly a cycling-focused brand and sometimes, with its running shoes, it shows. This is a serviceable neutral shoe for beginners, causing no major issues, but both the lab and testers were underwhelmed, reporting low flexibility, average cushioning, moderate responsiveness and a variable fit around the heel. The main plus point was the snug-but-strong midfoot wrap.

Bottom line: A shoe that will best suit high-arched, efficient runners. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: very firm

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 287g (Male), 239g (Female)

Heel/toe drop:7mm (Male), 10mm (Female)

New Balance Vazee Pace 2 £100

The only thing wrong with the first iteration of this minimalist shoe was the bafflingly long laces, which required triple knotting. With that fixed, NB has changed very little else with this update. It’s still fast and responsive but with enough of a heel drop that newcomers to speed training or short race shoes won’t feel intimidated. The semi-bootie construction ensures a snug fit and the forefoot has been enhanced with softer rubber for added bounce. 

Bottom line: A slim, secure speedster that will even suit those new to picking up the pace. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: quitefirm

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 257g (Male), 215g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 7mm (Male), 6mm (Female)

New Balance 1260 v6 £125

It’s a tricky business, trying to move a shoe on in design terms while retaining fans of earlier versions, but New Balance has achieved that here. This is still a solid (albeit heavy-ish) stability shoe that you can rely on completely, but the new blown-rubber forefoot (bouncier), and revamped midfoot wrap, as well as the more breathable upper and midsole foam – which returns to its original shape more quickly – have only improved things, said our testers. 

Bottom line: Heavy overpronaters, rejoice; this shoe will take all you have to give. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: quitesoft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 338g (Male), 281g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (Male), 8mm (Female)

New Balance Vazee Rush 2 £85 

‘It’s such a light shoe it made me feel as though I was running with barely anything on my feet,’ said tester Joanne Foley, and she wasn’t the only one. The low weight and high energy return (thanks to a new midsole foam) were among the first things to be noticed, and our lab reported the cushioning was relatively evenly spread throughout the whole shoe, which means wherever you land on your foot you should benefit.

Bottom line: A light and comfortable shoe, ideal for half marathons. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: very firm

Flexibility: quite flexible

Weight: 283g (Male), 222g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 7mm (Male), 5mm (Female)

Newton Fate 2 £120

The distinctive forefoot lugs depress into hollow chambers in the midsole on footstrike, then spring out again – Newton’s version of energy return. The lugs on the Fate 2 have been bevelled to be less obtrusive, while the upper has a new mesh and stretchy panels under the metatarsal to speed the toe-off. The result is an extremely comfortable shoe, but durability lets it down, with wear showing on several test shoes after only a few runs.

Bottom line: Bags of energy return and a treat for the feet, but not a long-lasting shoe. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: quite firm

Flexibility: inflexible 

Weight: 249g (Male), 204g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 8.5mm (Male), 9.5mm (Female)

Nike Lunarepic Low Flyknit £130 

Earlier this year Nike launched the Lunarepic to much fanfare. This is the same shoe but without the striking ankle-high collar, which was one of the key technologies on the original. It boasts a comfortable fit, thanks to the knitted upper and, in an industry first, no outsole. The midsole makes direct contact with the ground on footstrike and the laser-cut cushioning pods on the underside provide excellent bounce. 

Bottom line: Comfort and bounce combine to encourage high-mileage running. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 222g (Male), 181g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (Male), 6mm (Female)

Saucony Swerve £90

Twenty-five years ago the Swerve was a hefty stability shoe, before being retired. Now it’s back and it’s been on a sensible but effective diet, morphing into a stripped-back model with an impressive combination of Tigger-like bounce and an ultra-light upper that holds your foot lovingly and soundly in place. It held wide appeal for different types, shapes and sizes of runner, and was the most cushioned heel on test in the RW lab.

Bottom line: A nippy and durable chameleon, suitable for short races and long training runs. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 263g (Male), 231g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm (Male), 10mm (Female)

ON Cloudsurfer 2 £125

The unusual, hard-to-miss design on this shoe comes from the outsole ‘clouds’, which depress on footstrike to absorb impact before springing apart as your foot leaves the floor. They work a treat, said our testers, who were impressed with the bounce, control and traction. Only the long, flimsy laces, which constantly come undone, and the squeaking from the pods in wet conditions – stopped this from being an award contender.

Bottom line: A curious-looking but effective shoe with plenty of control and bounce. 

Heel cushioning: very firm

Forefoot cushioning: very firm

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 297g (Male), 250g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (Male), 10mm (Female)

New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo £110

This is the first stability shoe NB has released under the Fresh Foam banner – a range
of light shoes with extra-bouncy midsole cushioning. In an era when many shoes try to be many things to many runners, this is openly one for moderate-to-severe overpronators: the medial support is chunky. Elsewhere, the heel is low cut to reduce Achilles chafing and the forefoot is surprisingly flexible. 

Bottom line: Low in weight but hefty stability, and plenty of cushioning to boot. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 290g (Male), 237g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 6mm (Male), 4mm (Female)

Adidas Adizero Adios 3 £110 

This is an excellent choice of shoe if you’re in the market for something fast but don’t really fancy the idea of an out-and-out racing flat. It has a 10mm heel-to-toe drop on both the men’s and women’s versions, and the weight is low without being ridiculous, offering enough cushioning for more-efficient runners to use this as an everyday training option, while others can keep it as a good option for race day. 

Bottom Line: Reliability, low weight and impressive speed in one neat package. 

Heel cushioning: neither very firm or very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very firm

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 232g (Male), 192g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (Male), 10mm (Female)

Asics Dynaflyte £130

Asics has taken one of the key technologies from its concept Metarun shoe (released earlier this year) and made it the focal point of this high-mileage shoe. The ‘Flytefoam’ in the midsole is a cushioning compound that Asics says is 55 per cent lighter than any other midsole foam on the market. The result? A shoe designed to be as reliable for neutral runners as the Cumulus and Nimbus, but at a substantially lower weight. 

Bottom line: A lightweight neutral shoe that offers first-class cushioning. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: quite soft 

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 266g (Male), 215g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (Male), 7mm (Female)

Brooks Asteria £85

As you would expect for a racing shoe, the cushioning is minimal on this stripped-down speedster; it’s super-light and perfect for race day if you’re a small, efficient runner. However, if you don’t fall into that category you may find, like many of our testers, that flexibility is lacking, the toebox is too narrow in relation to the rest of the fit, there’s little support or effective lockdown in the midfoot and responsiveness is disappointingly low. 

Bottom Line: A light shoe that’s worth a look for smaller, efficient runners. 

Heel cushioning: very firm

Forefoot cushioning: very firm

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 244g (Male), 202g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (Male), 8mm (Female)

Asics GT2000 v4 Liteshow £115

Fans of this shoe may think it’s been out for a while. It has...and it hasn’t. This is mostly the same GT2000 that’s been on the shelves for most of 2016 but it’s been beefed up to be a sturdier winter version, specifically with the inclusion of Asics’s Liteshow technology, a reflective coating that becomes extremely visible when a light is shone upon it. It also features Plasmasguard, the brand’s new water- and dirt-repellent coating.

Bottom line: Mild stability, high cushioning and first-class protection from the elements. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 319g (Male), 261g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (Male), 8mm (Female)