Runner’s World Shoe Guide: Spring/Summer 2014

Skechers GOrun Ultra

A new entrant into the market from Skechers, which is slowly expanding its range as it grows as a credible running brand. No prizes for guessing what type of runner this model is aimed at – but in truth it’s not sophisticated enough to appeal to experienced long-distance runners. It’s a built-up version of the GOrun, with more cushioning, greater traction and a dual density midsole for longevity – but the toebox is too wide, the ‘seamless’ upper rubs on longer runs and, unless conditions are bone-dry, the upper has a tendency to let moisture in.

Bottom line: Heavy runners who are experimenting with lighter shoes will like this new model.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 258g (men's), 202g (women's)

Adidas Supernova Glide Boost 6

Make no mistake: this is a good shoe. But it's not quite the next superstar we were hoping for after the brand’s superb Energy Boost last year. ‘Boost’ refers to the groundbreaking midsole material, which provides incredible cushioning, discernible energy return and a fast, bouncy ride. For some reason, attaching that technology to this popular shoe hasn’t made the perfect match, with testers scoring the shoe only average for flexibility and responsiveness. On the upside, breathability and durability both scored top marks.

Bottom line: A solid option for flatter-arched runners who are looking for an everyday trainer. 

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Medium flexibility

Weight: 301g (men's), 250g(women's) 

 

Mizuno Wave Inspire 10

This is very light for a shoe that would previously have sat in the ‘stability’ category – and yet it somehow manages to provide excellent support for overpronators. Indeed, the solid support is one of the aspects Mizuno has not changed here, instead setting about making the rest of the ride a lighter, plusher, more carefree experience. A new, lighter midsole foam has contributed to this, as has a more flexible forefoot section and softer rubber on the outsole for more spring in your running step.

Bottom line: In one neat, lightweight package, you get speed, cushioning and support. 

Heel cushioning: Medium

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Very flexibility

Weight: 265g (men's), 209g (women's) 

 

Brooks Ravenna 5

Rather than wholesale tinkering, Brooks has simply made a couple of clever adjustments to this already impressive ‘natural running’ model, which is designed to give both speed and stability to those who need just a little support on the run. The weight has been dropped by 10g, facilitated by the removal of the DNA cushioning inserts, which have been replaced by gel injected directly into the midsole to create one springy unit. Brooks has also filled in the arch section to give improved ground contact and a smoother ride. The RW Lab rated this among the most cushioned shoes on test.

Bottom line: A good tempo run/intervals choice for mild overpronators. 

Heel cushioning: Fairly

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Medium flexibility

Weight: 302g (men's), 236g (women's) 

 

Nike LunarEclipse 4

A shoe that performs very well in most areas without ever really distinguishing itself. Its subtle support got good feedback from those runners moving to a midfoot strike, and who still need a little heft in the rear once they start to tire; the heel is extremely cushioned and forefoot is impressively flexible, but the 1mm heel-to-toe differential feels a little bit outdated in these days of low-to-the-ground shoes. However, for those looking for an old fashioned ride with a modern look, these should do very nicely. 

Bottom line: A good choice for runners who have previously fallen somewhere between neutral and stability.

Heel cushioning: Medium                                                                         

Forefoot cushioning: Medium

Flexibility: Mid/High

Weight:  306g (men's), 248g (women's) 

Asics Gel-Kayano 20

For the price of this new design, you’d expect a perfectly fitting shoe that makes you float through your runs and lasts for at least the industry standard 500 miles. Unfortunately, the forefoot mesh was a problem here with higher mileage testers (clocking 100 miles or more) reporting fraying and ripping around the toes. But there are plenty of pluses too; the improved fit around the heel is welcome, the dual layer of midsole foam makes for a super plush ride and the midfoot locks firmly in place over the arch. 

Bottom line: This 20th incarnation is a very stable, solid shoe with a lot of cushioning for a comfy ride.

Heel cushioning: Low firmness                                                                  

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Mid/High

Weight:  318g (men's), 270g (women's) 

Puma Faas 600 S

Fans of the Faas 600 will know that it is a mid-range, mid-weight shoe that makes an excellent everyday workhorse. The S in the name here stands for stability, so it’s a more supportive update of the original, with grooves in the outsole helping to slow the rate of pronation and keep the foot transitioning smoothly through to toe off. It does the job very well – suprisingly so, given the low weight of the shoe, which goes to show you don’t need a big medial post to provide pronation control. This lacks the refinement of top-of-the-range shoes but it’s reliable, smooth and comforting.

Bottom line: A no-nonsense option that offers stability without the heft. 

Heel cushioning: Very soft                                                                         

Forefoot cushioning: Medium cushioning

Flexibility: Mid/High

Weight:  248g (men's), 198g (women's) 

On Cloudracer 2

A shoe that appears heavy and bulky but is actually anything but. The outsole ‘cloud’ lugs are designed to give you good energy return and a springy ride - but be warned: in order to benefit from this you need to be a speedy runner. The brand, On, makes no bones about the fact that slow runners will probably find the ride a little stiff and flat. Testers found the upper extremely breathable, and the fit across the top of the foot is close but not too tight. Durability proved to be a bit of an issue, so these are best kept for sessions when you really need to pull out all the stops. 

Bottom line: Race day heaven for speed demons.

Heel cushioning: Very firm                                                                        

Forefoot cushioning: Very firm

Flexibility: Low

Weight:  219g (men's), 184g (women's) 

Asics GT-2000 2 

This is a mid-range shoe with solid stability features and hefty, if a little firm, cushioning. The lab rated it fairly low for flexibility, and there was a clear divide in testing between those who found it too stiff (lighter runners) and those who found it just right (heavier runners). Asics has not changed too much from the original version – simply beefing up the pronation support a little and reducing stitching in the upper for less irritation. But to all intents and purposes this is the GT-2000 v1 in updated colours, so fans of the original: fill your boots.
 

Bottom line: This is a sensible everyday option suitable for
most types of overpronator.

Heel cushioning: Very soft                                                                         

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Medium

Weight:  311g (men's), 261g (women's) 

Under Armour Speedform Apollo 

This brand is less of a name in the UK than it is in the States, where 
it boasts a proud heritage in sports apparel. Recently, Under Armour has transferred its attention to the running market and this super light racer puts to use its wealth of experience – Under Armour is keen to point out that the gossamer-like, foot-hugging upper is made in a bra factory. A stitch-free inner means you can wear this without socks if you want to, and the ride is very responsive but also very soft, meaning this is suitable for lighter runners only.

Bottom line: A good-value race option for those runners to whom every gram matters.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft                                                                       

Forefoot cushioning: Very firm

Flexibility: Very soft

Weight: 192g (men's), 155g (women's) 

Nike Flyknit Lunar 2

Eye-wateringly expensive they may be, but these shoes are technically fantastic and everyone who tried them loved them. It was the only shoe to score top marks across the board, with lighter runners findingly it pleasingly flexible, less efficient runners loving the subtle support and bounce, and everyone appreciating the glove-like fit the knitted upper provides. Nike has tweaked three areas, making the weave over the midfoot denser to lock the foot in place, as well as altering both the tongue and the laces so that
they no longer slip to one side or come undone on the run.


Bottom line: A pillowy but fast ride for all but the heaviest runners.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft                                                                       

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Quite soft

Weight:  237g (men's), 193g (women's) 

New Balance 980 FreshFoam 

This came agonisingly close to snatching the Best Debut honours. It’s an extremely impressive shoe from New Balance, whose success in the UK in the past has been with solid reliable workhorses. But this is an altogether different breed. The ‘FreshFoam’ in the name refers to the bubbly midsole foam – an innovation from the makers – which is designed to be extremely bouncy while cutting down on weight. The lab reported average firmness, although our wear testers disagreed, with both smaller and larger runners lauding the responsiveness.

Bottom line: A fantastic performance shoe for runners who
are looking for some extra cushioning.

Heel cushioning: Medium softness                                                             

Forefoot cushioning: Low softness

Flexibility: Medium

Weight:  251g (men's), 211g (women's) 

Saucony Guide 7 

One of our testers summed up the feelings of everyone else who wore this shoe by saying: ‘It has a Goldilocks fit: not too tight and not too loose. Just right.’ Whether it’s used for short, sharp sessions or long, slow ones, this lightweight shoe with a medial post for mild to moderate overpronators copes admirably with everything you could throw at
 it, and it’s unlucky not to have made the final shake-up for an award. Sensible updates include a wider forefoot for more stability upon toe-off, and a higher toe-spring (the gap between the upward curvature at the toe and the floor) for greater speed pushing off the ground.

Bottom line: A supportive shoe suitable for everything from 5K upwards.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft                                                                       

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Medium

Weight:  251g (men's), 211g (women's) 

Saucony Triumph 11 

This is Saucony’s flagship cushioning shoe. As hinted at by the fact that this is the Triumph’s 11th incarnation, this is a popular model, and so Saucony hasn’t changed much to its essential DNA. Tweaks such as a more flared toebox next to the big toe, a more breathable mesh and a subtly snugger wrap over the midfoot are all good moves, and a higher toe-spring makes for a quicker and easier transition. And for those who do most of their running in low-light conditions, there are added reflective flashes on the back of the heel for higher visibility.


Bottom line: A fast, cushioned jack of all trades. 

Heel cushioning: Quite soft                                                                       

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Low soft

Weight: 316g (men's), 261g (women's) 

Brooks PureCadence 3

Normally we do our best to remove as much marketing speak from the magazine as possible but in this case we’ll happily reproduce Brooks’ description of the Cadence as a ‘lightweight, stable turn-hugger’ – as that’s exactly what it is. The fit is snug but the upper stretches with the foot so it’s not too constrictive, and the grip even in the wet is surprisingly good despite the smoothish outsole appearance. But the update Brooks will be most pleased with is the more rounded cut-in heel to encourage runners up on to their midfoot quicker – our testers really noticed the difference from the last version with this.

Bottom line: Solid arch support that benefits even low-arched runners. 

Heel cushioning: Very soft                                                                         

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Medium 

Weight:  246g (men's), 200g (women's) 

Brooks PureConnect 3

Wear tester Louise Hutchinson, it’s over to you: ‘It fits like a glove, you get great ground contact but it’s also cushioned. Responsive but with a feeling of protection combining the best elements of a minimalist shoe.’ This was a fairly typical response to a shoe that has impressed since 
it first appeared. To this end Brooks has merely tweaked the design – shifting the toe-flex (the front of the shoe has a hoof-like cleft) so that the first two toes can act together as a unit for a more stable toe-off. The outsole grooves have been deepened for better flexibility through the midfoot as well, which definitely contributed to a speedier transition.

Bottom line: A tough, low-slung speedster for all but the widest feet. 

Heel cushioning: Quite soft                                                                       

Forefoot cushioning: Medium soft

Flexibility: Medium 

Weight:  239g (men's), 191g (women's) 

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14

On the face of it, laces don’t appear to be among the more crucial elements of a shoe – but get them wrong and you’ll have some angry runners on your hands. In this case our testers couldn’t stop raving about the perfect length of the new GTS laces and the perfect fit they gave over the top of the shoe and around the arch. And while this has never been the plushest shoe, the caterpillar crash pad in the heel
 has been extended to give a softer landing – something that was appreciated by heel-striking runners.


Bottom line: A reliable high-mileage performer, which heavier runners in particular will like.

Heel cushioning: Medium low softness                                                      

Forefoot cushioning: Medium low

Flexibility: Medium 

Weight:  317g (men's), 266g (women's) 

New Balance 1080v4 

You make the shoe lighter and the forefoot more cushioned, and 
bingo: almost all of the testers notice. A job well done by New Balance, although this was still the heaviest shoe on test by 16g. However, v4 is a lot more responsive than its predecessor, while the fit is better thanks to the introduction of a very thin skeleton through the upper, which moulds it round the foot and provides just a little stability without the need for
 a medial post. It’s worth noting these will need to be broken in – we had several reports of the shoes feeling tight until a few runs in.


Bottom line: Perfect for neutral runners who land heavily and so
 want a little bit of extra heft.

Heel cushioning:  Low softness                                                                  

Forefoot cushioning: Medium low softness

Flexibility: Low  

Weight:  338g (men's), 277g (women's) 

New Balance 890v4

A shoe that won Best Update in RW US and was close to repeating the
 trick here. Previous versions of the 890 had established it as a reliable
 workhorse for everyday training and this iteration is no different – 
except that in the meantime New Balance has changed the shape of
 the shoe (from less conical to a snugger fit), reduced the weight of the
 foam by 25 per cent, and introduced a stitchless upper, which cuts down on both weight and irritation. The RW Lab reported the heel as one of the most cushioned on test and the forefoot one of the springiest – which is good news for both heel- and forefoot-strikers.

Bottom line: Super cushioning for light, high-mileage runners.

Heel cushioning:  Very soft                                                                        

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: High 

Weight: 229g (men's), 194g (women's) 

Nike Free Flyknit+ 4.0

This is a little shoe with a lot of technology. Having introduced its Flyknit technology in late 2012, Nike has already moved this shoe on quite substantially to provide an even better fit. The upper here is now a two-piece design with a discreet heel section that has a bulkier weave to offer greater stability. The Flywire overlays have been stitched into the shoe, and the lacing is asymmetrical to reduce pressure on the foot. The outsole pods have changed a lot too - from square to hexagonal, with each one itself split into six flex grooves, giving you a more unhindered, natural stride.

Bottom line: A shoe for footloose and fancy-free speedsters

Heel cushioning: Medium softness                                                           

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very soft 

Weight:  195g (men's), 162g (women's) 

Nike Free 5.0+

The numbers that append each Nike Free shoe do not signal an
 updated version, but rather the heel drop of the shoe in millimetres.
 So the 5.0 is more cushioned and has a higher heel-to-toe differential than the 3.0 and 4.0. Fans of the Free’s iconic super-flexible sole will be relieved to hear that’s present and correct, as is the slipper-like ride and an excellent fit on the rest of the foot, especially over the arch where Flywire overlays keep the foot locked down. The cushioning on these was so good that even heavier testers found them suitable for short- to mid-length training runs

Bottom line: A light, flexible shoe that offers something for everyone.

Heel cushioning: Very firm                                                                       

Forefoot cushioning: Very firm

Flexibility: Very soft 

Weight:  235g (men's), 193g (women's) 

Mizuno Wave Paradox

There are plenty of runners out there who dare not try a lighter shoe for fear of compromising on support. If this is you then try out this new shoe from Mizuno, which aims to combine maximum support without too much extra weight. It was still one of the heavier models on test, but for a supportive shoe it feels like a feather compared with similar shoes on the market - a fact commented upon by both testers and the RW Lab. Theres also an upper designed to both lock the foot in place yet move with it, and the Mizuno Wave plate goes full length, making for a really smooth ride. 

Bottom line: Stable, all round comfort.

Heel cushioning: Very soft                                                                        

Forefoot cushioning: Pretty firm

Flexibility: Very flexible 

Weight: 322g (men's), 150g (women's) 

Mizuno Wave Hitogami

Another new shoe in what seems to be a period of successful innovation from the Japanese brand. Hitogami (Japanese for ‘human god’) is an out-and-out racing shoe – for the benefit of Mizuno fans 
it replaces the Wave Musha and Wave Ronin – although the flat-bottomed last and lowish toe spring are departures from the racing shoe norm. The effect of this was to give our testers a little more stability and reassurance, making this a suitable race-day option
for a wider range of people. Mizuno’s new premium cushioning material gives lightweight bounce here too.


Bottom line: Crack these out when you mean business.

Heel cushioning: Very firm                                                                       

Forefoot cushioning: Pretty firm

Flexibility: Very flexible 

Weight:  322g (men's), 150g (women's) 

Vivobarefoot Stealth

This brand is a survivor from the declining barefoot shoe trend – due in no small part to its sensible approach that injury incidence is influenced as much by the way you run as the shoes you run in. The Stealth has a ground-hugging 3mm heel-to-toe drop, but wary testers were impressed to discover the tough rubber gave good traction and no bruises from stray stones. The toebox is wide to allow for natural foot splay but the fit elsewhere is standard. Forefoot strikers loved
 the responsive ride but for those transitioning from traditional shoes, Vivobarefoot advises building up slowly in increments of 10 minutes.

Bottom line: Good for encouraging a strong core and an efficient gait

Heel cushioning:  Extremely firm                                                               

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely firm

Flexibility: Extremely soft

Weight:  322g (men's), 150g (women's)