Runner’s World Shoe Guide: Autumn/Winter 2017

Brooks Ghost 10 (£120)

The updates to this shoe have all been about taking already impressive technologies and making them more luxurious: the segmented crash pad in the heel is a little bit thicker (which helps cushion the landing force), the mesh upper is more adaptive and moves with your foot better, the lining is plusher and the toe-spring is a little higher to promote a faster push-off. Our testers loved it all, and the lab rated the Ghost the second-most cushioned shoe on test. A good marathon training option for mild overpronators.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 284g (men’s), 240g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Asics Gel Kayano 24 (£150)

The Gel Kayano has long been the go-to shoe for high-mileage runners who need mild-to-moderate overpronation support and the good news for fans is that this updated version gets the thumbs up. The durability issues that have plagued the upper on the last few versions seem to have been fixed, the fit around the heel has been made snugger and the toebox has been widened for better toe splay. The heel drop (see figures below) sits in a nice middle ground, offering support without being too stacked. A high-class workhorse

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 317g (men’s), 261g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 8.5mm (men’s), 12mm (women’s) 

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Asics Roadhawk (£100)

Not quite a neutral shoe, not quite a racing shoe. This new in-between option from Asics looks like it might have the chops to warrant many future iterations. The mid-level heel drop makes it a great option for those wanting to try out a more stripped-down shoe, while the fast heel-to-toe transition and narrow t around the toebox make it suitable for lighter and smaller runners looking for something for speed training, race day or (if you’re an experienced, efficient runner) everyday training.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 233g (men’s), 188g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 7.5mm (men’s), 6.5mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 (£100)

The old man of the running-shoe circuit keeps on rolling. Nike knows how to play this one: keep it simple, provide a shoe that’s adequately cushioned with a middling-to-firm ride and is unobtrusive but effective, and you’ll have many thousands of happy owners. Such was the case once again with number 34. There have been the usual tweaks, this time in the form of extra mesh holes in the toebox, a more shaped heel counter and a tighter midfoot wrap, but this remains a mass-market crowd-pleaser.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 295g (men’s), 255g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 1m (men’s), 8mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Brooks Revel (£90)

Best Buy

It’s always satisfying for a brand when it releases a new model that immediately gets a resounding thumbs-up from runners. This is Brooks’ attempt to produce its version of the iconic Nike Pegasus – a mass-appeal, versatile, neutral trainer at a lower price point. The traditional heel drop on this appealed to runners with lower arches and those looking for reassurance over speed, while the knitted upper, plush lining and full-length, premium biodegradable cushioning material (‘BioMoGo’) are all features you wouldn’t normally expect to find on a model that costs under £100. To add to the value, several testers thought the knitted upper made the shoes good enough to wear with jeans. A very good addition to the Brooks stable.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 306g (men’s), 244g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 12mm (men’s), 11mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

New Balance FuelCore Rush 3 (£85)

Tester Gavin O’Reilly is a big fan of these shoes: ‘The Rush had everything I look for
 in a running shoe – and more,’ he says. ‘They are light, strong, and responsive – but stable enough for those who need just a little support on the run. Each time I went out I was knocking more and more seconds off, running faster for longer and achieving times I haven’t run for years.’ We don’t
think there’s anything we need to add to that review. Thanks, Gavin.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Very firm

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 274g (men’s), 206g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 7.5mm (men’s), 5.5mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Hoka One One Clifton 4 (£120)

In updating this popular neutral shoe, Hoka decided to go big on what made it a hit in the first place – dropping some weight, widening the forefoot and increasing the cushioning. However, testers found the resulting ride quite variable. The cushioning was fine on slower runs but felt mushy at speed. And while the extra room was welcomed by those with wide feet, others complained of excessive movement inside the shoe. But for lightweight bounce and lateral stability, this remains a good option.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 275g (men’s), 224g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (men’s), 7mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Adidas Ultra Boost X (£149.95)

This women-only shoe is a hybrid of the Pureboost and the Ultra Boost, and is almost a very good shoe. The narrower heel fit for the female foot was appreciated, as was the ‘floating arch’, designed to better allow for women’s more fiexible underfoot ligaments, and the Boost cushioning material did its usual sterling job. On the aesthetics side we had reports of teenagers nicking these from parents, but the durability of the outsole and the knitted upper could be improved; some testers reported wear after only 50 miles.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Extremely flexible

Weight: 232g

Heel/toe drop: 13.11mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Puma Speed Ignite Netfit (£120)

This unusual-looking Puma shoe resembles a bootie with netting attached to it. In terms of performance it divided our testers. While the netting did its job of allowing the wearer to customise the lacing for a perfect fit, the firm cushioning was a problem for all but the heaviest runners who liked the stiff ride and lack of flexibility, but disliked the lowish heel drop. A shoe with potential but it needs to work out who it’s aimed at. Best kept for short-to-medium runs.

Heel cushioning: Very firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 298g

Heel/toe drop: 6mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

On Cloudrush (£120)

Best Debut

There’s only so long we can feasibly continue to call On Running a ‘new’ company. The Swiss brand that makes shoes with funny-looking pods is now eight years old but its innovative approach to shoe design is gaining, er, traction. After a couple of average early models, its output in the past three years has been received with widespread enthusiasm, and this new streamlined model, aimed
at fast, efficient runners, is no different. There are 18 pods – or ‘Clouds’ – on the outsole, which compress on ground contact to disperse impact forces, and then spring apart again to help push your foot off the floor a bit quicker. Testers loved the snug fit, quick heel-to-toe transition and the superb bounce and energy return.

Heel cushioning: Very firm

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely firm

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 230g (men’s), 194g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 11.5mm (men’s), 10.5mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

361 KgM2 v2 (£99.99)

Expect to see a lot more of Chinese brand 361° in the next 12 months. Having become the second-largest running shoe brand in China (behind Nike) the company has parked its tanks on Europe’s lawn and intends to roll out its mid-range, mid-priced shoes for serious runners. The KgM2 is a light racing shoe for anything up to half marathon. Our testers were dubious when faced with the unfamiliar branding but were soon won over by the fuss-free ride, efficient heel-to-toe transition and above-average cushioning.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very flexible

Weight: 237g (men’s), 194g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (men’s), 8mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Saucony Freedom ISO (£145)

If bounce is what you’re after, this is 
just the running shoe for you. You will notice the plush Everrun midsole foam (Saucony’s premium foam) as soon as you start to move. Add to this the great fit, superb flexibility (verified by our lab) and reports of excellent responsiveness and you get a ride that more than lives up to the Freedom moniker. Be aware, though, that these come up just a touch small so don’t wear thick socks with them – or consider going up one half size.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Very flexible

Weight: 263g (men’s), 214g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 5mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Nike Zoom Fly (£129.95)

This was extremely unlucky not to win an award, with RW gear editor Kerry McCarthy and deputy editor Joe Mackie declaring it the best shoe they’ve worn so far this year. The Zoom Fly is a more consumer-friendly version of the shoe worn by Eliud Kipchoge in his attempt to break two hours for the marathon. It feels even lighter than its official weight suggests, the wrap around the midfoot is perfect, and the carbon/nylon plate running throughout the shoe above the midsole helps propel you off the floor like Tigger. For race day only.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 248g (men’s), 184g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

361 Stratomic (£130)

It’s unusual to find a shoe that comes in over 310g in this age of lightweight materials. The Stratomic was the heaviest shoe on test in our lab but 361 ̊ has justified the extra heft by providing a ride that testers described variously as, ‘safe’, ‘high’, and ‘super-protecting’. Fans of old-school shoes and heavier runners will love the reassurance that comes from solid midfoot overlays on the upper, the high heel collar and the wodge of midsole cushioning. It’s unashamedly a high-mileage workhorse, low on frills but high on reliability.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 318g (men’s), 262g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (men’s), 8mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Brooks Glycerin 15 (£135)

Editor's Choice

Pillows, clouds, marshmallows... none of these words come close to describing the blissful sensation of going for a run in one of the softest, bounciest shoes in this or any previous RW guide. The shoe has merely been tickled since the last edition: a new mesh on the upper, a couple of film overlays repositioned (on what was already a very impressive 3D print overlay system, designed for maximum lockdown with minimum weight) and a slightly higher toe spring to help with toe-off from the ground. This was far and away the standout choice for the top award this time round, averaging a score of 6.8 out of 7. Cushioned, responsive and sure to be a reliable friend for many, many miles, for everything except speed training. Well done, Brooks.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 302g (men’s), 249g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Adidas Adizero Adios Boost 3 (£119.95)

It’s no surprise the Adizero Adios 3 was the lightest shoe on test because it’s a pure, unbridled speedster. The mix of firm cushioning and incredible flexibility make it perfect for getting up on your toes and really going for it, especially at distances up to 10 miles. And if you get tired and feel the need to rock back on your feet a little, the moderate 10mm heel drop means there’s a little heft there to support you through the latter stages of a longer race. Lace up and let fly.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Very firm

Flexibility: Extremely flexible

Weight: 226g (men’s), 186g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

New Balance Freshfoam Vongo 2 (£110)

The 4mm drop on the Freshfoam Vongo 2 gives a low-slung, fast feeling that is kept in check by responsive cushioning. If you’re familiar with Hoka shoes, the feeling you get is not dissimilar: speed with heft and bounce. The upper has been changed from the first version: it’s now knitted and has a bootie construction for a snugger, more adaptive fit. Fast runners disliked the added weight from the midsole cushioning but slower runners felt this was a shoe that could help them pick up pace.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 309g (men’s), 255g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 4mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Saucony Ride 10 (£120)

It’s difficult to know whether Saucony should be pleased with the results of this test. The Ride – a firm favourite for fans
of highly cushioned shoes with a wide last (outline) – tested well, with runners (especially heavier ones) loving the middling levels of both cushioning and flexibility. On the other hand, Saucony had gone to the not inconsiderable trouble of providing a new mesh upper, more flexible outsole grooves and a more adaptive heel counter
– but nobody noticed the difference.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 282g (men’s), 237g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (men’s), 9mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Saucony Omni 16 (£120)

In terms of the basic requirements of a decent running shoe the Saucony Omni 16 does the job with admirable proficiency:
it fits well, feels comfortable and protects your feet. The shoe was tested by runners of different sizes, weights and abilities,
and they all expressed surprise that a
shoe designed for moderate-to-severe overpronators should feel so light. However, what let the Omni down was an excessively stiff midfoot, poor traction in the wet and laces that were too short.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 285g (men’s), 238g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (men’s), 9mm (women’s)

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Asics Gel Cumulus 19 (£120)

Best Update

Asics took a risk here by substantially updating what is an enormously popular shoe – but it has paid off handsomely. The running-shoe giant went to town on the Gel Cumulus 19, improving the forefoot overlays for a firmer wrap, changing the heel geometry for a more secure fit, reducing seams throughout to reduce the risk of chafing, inserting a new sockliner and dropping about 10g in weight. Most of these changes were noted by testers familiar with the shoe, and the overall effect was lauded by all. According to the Runner’s World shoe lab scores, it was one of the most cushioned shoes on test. A wonderfully comfortable, plush, high-mileage everyday shoe. Note: the snugger midfoot fit may take some by surprise, so try before you buy.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 307g (men’s), 252g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

New Balance FuelCell (£130)

The FuelCell reminded one tester of the Saucony Kinvara, and that’s high praise indeed. There’s something for most people here: speed but without compromising comforting heft; just the right amount
of responsiveness, durability, an excellent t through the midfoot and the adaptability to cope with different types of session.
 The only downsides were a slightly narrow toebox and midsole cushioning that erred on the side of rigid. Great for everything except your long, slow runs.

Heel cushioning: Extremely firm

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely firm

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 294g (men’s), 233g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

Adidas Pureboost DPR (£109.95)

A male-specific performance shoe with just a touch of extra heft to allow you to do more than speed sessions in it. It retains the Boost cushioning material and this, coupled with the flexibility and responsiveness reported both on the roads and in the lab, makes it an excellent half-marathon shoe in our book. However, Adidas needs to retune the circular knit upper – designed to stretch with your foot, the conclusion was that it didn’t do this enough, leading to rubbing. The laces could do with being longer, too.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very firm

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 244g

Heel/toe drop: 9mm

Photo by Pavel Dornak and Beth Crutchfield @ Studio 33

How do you find the perfect pair of running shoes? It can take a bit of research, but our shoe guide is designed to help you get to know the latest running shoe models on the market so you can find your ideal sole-mate.


Glossary

The key running shoe terms you’ll come across in this guide.

Heel counter: A plastic insert used to reinforce the heel cup of 
a shoe and increase support.

Heel drop: Difference between the height of the heel and 
the forefoot of the shoe from the floor.

Last: The general outline of the shoe.

Lateral: The outer side of the shoe.

Medial: The inner (arch) side of the shoe.

Midsole: The section between the upper and the outsole. It contains a lot of a shoe’s technology – such as cushioning material and any stability devices.

Outsole: The bottom (tread) of the shoe.

Pronation: Inward rolling of your foot when it strikes the floor. Some pronation is natural, but too much (overpronation) can lead to injury.

Toebox: The part of the shoe that houses your forefoot.