Runner’s World Shoe Guide: Spring/Summer 2015

Adidas Adizero Tempo Boost 7 (£95)

Responsiveness was the standout feature here. The Tempo offers a satisfying mix of subtle heft, good fit, cushioning and a quick heel-to-toe transition, and if you like a soft lining inside, you’ll love the way your foot is cuddled by the sockliner. But the results were mixed when it came to running in bad weather: the Continental rubber on the outsoles gave outstanding traction, but while the new mesh upper was a success in terms of breathability, it allowed moisture in.

Bottom line: Great for half marathons or longer.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Extremely flexible

Weight: 276g (male), 232g (female)

Adidas Revenge Boost (£89.99)

Adidas’ revolutionary Boost technology uses thousands of tiny steam-compressed polyurethane balls in the midsole rather than traditional foam, giving runners a greater energy return. It’s been used here again to good effect. Testers who already use support shoes praised the lightness and comfort, as well as the foot-steadying external heel counter. The improved grip on the outsole also gave testers confidence at speed, even in the wet.

Bottom line: Good value option for pronators looking for a bouncy ride.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 306g (male), 267g (female)

Adidas Supernova Glide 7 (£105)

Few major changes have been made to the seventh edition of this ever-popular shoe. The Boost midsole ensures a bouncy ride (though one tester described it as ‘too Tiggerish’ for his liking). The traction, courtesy of rubber from tyre company Continental, was highlighted as ‘excellent’ and the effective ventilation was also a hit. However, wider-footed runners will probably find the narrow shape of the shoe a bit of a tight squeeze.

Bottom line: An everyday all-rounder which offers a moderate amount of cushioning.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 305g (male), 265g (female)

Adidas Ultra Boost (£130)

WINNER: EDITOR’S CHOICE

A shoe that oozes class in almost every area. As well as the signature Boost midsole material – it was the most cushioned the RW Shoe Lab has ever tested – which gives brilliant energy return, the knitted upper wraps around the foot snugly, and the eyelets work independently of each other to give a perfect fit when laced up. The extra heft Adidas has added to the shoe means this isn’t best suited for fast sessions but it’s a dream on longer runs.

Bottom line: This is an ideal choice for your next marathon.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 315g (male), 264g (female)

Asics Gel DS Trainer 20 (£107)

This is a low-slung, fast shoe that aims to provide mild pronation support. Taking note of the subtle stability, Asics has made the sockliner removable so runners can add their own orthotics. It was among the most flexible shoes in the lab test and runners found it extremely responsive. There’s little heel cushioning but the forefoot gave real bounce, and the new blown rubber outsole gripped brilliantly when cornering at speed. The shoe comes up a little small, so go up a half size.

Bottom line: A multitasking speedster for mid-forefoot strikers.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 262g (male), 220g (female)

Asics Gel Noosa Tri 10 (£114)

The famously jazzy Noosa aesthetics were not to everyone’s liking here, but the shoe’s technical qualities fared far better. Heavier runners loved the firm ride, while lighter testers felt the weight and moderate cushioning made it perfect for runs of five to 15 miles. The fit around the heel was variable, meaning some testers had to pull the elasticated laces quite tight but, as befits a well-regarded triathlon shoe, any moisture from puddles drained quickly.

Bottom line: High-arched runners will love this for mid-level mileage.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 274g (male), 226g (female)

Asics GT-1000 3 (£97)

We gave this moderate-support shoe to a range of testers, some of whom are underpronators and some who overpronate, and they were generally full of praise for the control it brought to their gait, and they were impressed with overall comfort, too. It was one of the least flexible shoes on test in the RW lab, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for some runners – and the double-density foam in the midsole, increased arch stability and generous cushioning combined nicely to provide a satisfying ride.

Bottom line: A solid option for steady runs.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 323g (male), 274g (female)

Asics Gel Hyperspeed 6 (£73)

WINNER: BEST BUY

The lightest model on test by a distance, this is a shoe that is built, or rather stripped-back, for speed. Asics has left nothing in but the essentials, producing a lean, mean shoe that our testers loved using on the track and for fast sessions on the road. The seamless upper won acclaim for its fit and lack of irritation, while the cushioning was enough to provide protection without compromising the ground feel and speed of heel-to-toe transition.

Bottom line: A racing thoroughbred that’s best suited for distances up to 10K.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Flexibility: Extremely flexible

Weight: 157g (male), 139g (female)

Brooks PureCadence 4 (£110)

Designed for overpronators who want to dip their toes into the world of minimalist shoes, this is lightweight and flexible. The fit around the midfoot has been made even snugger than in previous versions, although wider-footed runners may find the last rather slim. The outer’s ultra-soft mesh got the thumbs down when we sent our testers out in the rain, but the shoe’s breathable qualities should come to the fore during your summer runs.

Bottom line: For lighter overpronators looking for minimal stability.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 250g (male), 205g (female)

Brooks Pure Connect 4 (£100)

The most minimal of the models in the Pure Project range of stripped-down shoes is back. Version three was a popular shoe, so it’s good to see that Brooks hasn’t tinkered too much here. However, by doing away with a little weight, sculpting the inside of the shoe more closely to the foot and lifting the toe spring a little, the designers have made an already fast shoe even speedier, and all the while providing an impressive level of cushioning.

Bottom line: Low weight and race-day comfort for narrow-footed runners.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Flexibility: Neither very stiff nor very flexible

Weight: 226g (male), 192g (female)

Brooks Pure Flow 4 (£100)

After claiming the RW ‘best update’ gong last year, you would have forgiven the Brooks designers for leaving well alone. But they’ve given this update a stripped-back upper, a softer mesh, a thicker tongue and more padding around the ankle collar – all of which were well received. However, the band of elastic across the midfoot – which secures the shoe around your arch – met with mixed views: some loved the secure feeling, but others felt constricted.

Bottom line: A responsive minimalist shoe for biomechanically efficient runners.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 256g (male), 208g (female)

Brooks Ravenna 6 (£110)

Almost universally praised and a tad unlucky not to scoop an award, the latest Ravenna offers fantastic cushioning, treading the line between ‘neutral’ and ‘support’, and is versatile enough for high miles or short tempo sessions. The adjustable saddle, which fixes the midsole closer to your foot, has been improved, so you can customise it further with the laces. The heel collar has been rounded for a snugger fit and a thinner mesh material improves breathability and moisture wicking on the upper.

Bottom line: A solid, versatile daily workhorse.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 319g (male), 259g (female)

Brooks Transcend 2 (£150)

This shoe provides a highly cushioned and incredibly plush ride to help you pound out the long miles. Although it was the heaviest and one of the least flexible shoes tested in the lab, our wear testers found that this translated to ‘stable’ and ‘pleasingly firm’ on the road. The guide rails round the outside of the midsole were also well received, providing solid but subtle support for those who need it, but not getting in the way for those who don’t.

Bottom line: A long-distance workhorse with a touch of stability.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 331g (male), 268g (female)

Hoka One One Clifton (£100)

WINNER: BEST DEBUT

For a maximal shoe that looks so chunky it’s a testament to the job Hoka has done on the fit that two testers made the same remark – wearing the shoes ‘felt like I was running in comfy socks’, referring to the mix of cushioning and speed this shoe gives. The foot sits high off the ground (29mm at the heel and 24mm at the forefoot) but the overall drop of 5mm gives this a great blend of responsiveness and padding, and it proved adept across a variety of distances.

Bottom line: Eats up the miles on long races and training runs.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely inflexible

Weight: 215g (male), 197g (female)

Mizuno Wave Enigma 4 (£110)

There are no major changes from the previous iterations of this shoe, with the midsole and outsole remaining the same. However, the upper has been tweaked somewhat, with some overlays being removed to shed a little weight and give a more minimalist aesthetic. Aside from that, if you loved version three, you’ll be happy to know this offers more of the same: a dreamily soft landing on any surface including, impressively, cobbled streets.

Bottom line: This is a high-comfort and high-mileage option.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 265g (male), 215g (female)

Mizuno Wave Inspire 11 (£105)

A worthy update to this reliable stability shoe – this one received plaudits from our testers for its excellent pronation support, and was particularly appealing to those with medium to flat arches. Mizuno’s signature wave plate can sometimes be hit or miss with its ‘bounce’ but this time it did the job well, with the shoe providing a satisfying springiness while dispersing shock efficiently. A couple of testers with ankle-instability issues also commented that they’d never felt so secure.

Bottom line: A stable, multi-purpose ride

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 270g (male), 212g (female)

Mizuno Wave Rider 18 (£110)

Going all the way back to 1997, Mizuno have released a Wave Rider update every year, to the delight of loyal fans and new converts alike. This latest version moves the shoe on again. Increased comfort comes in the form of an improved sockliner; greater durability from an extra millimetre of blown rubber on the forefoot; and lightness from remodelling the upper. Overall, an impressive package; the shoe certainly hit the cushioning vs weight sweet spot with testers.

Bottom line: A light and responsive neutral shoe.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff 

Weight: 265g (male), 215g (female)

New Balance 1080v5 (£110)

With a low-to-the-ground feel for the amount of cushioning, these will appeal to neutral runners looking for a really soft, pillowy ride. Interestingly, a couple of testers took them off-road and found the grip to be more than adequate. Shock absorption is fantastic and an asymmetrical heel counter ensures your foot is locked firmly in place without pinching. The no-sew upper and breathable mesh further help to make this a comfy all-purpose shoe.

Bottom line: A shoe that offers deluxe cushioning for your long runs.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 307g (male), 246g (female)

New Balance Fresh Foam Borocay (£95)

This update to the 980 is all about the details. A plusher insole, a bit more of the excellent Fresh Foam cushioning material and a lower profile for a faster feel are all good additions, while testers loved the softer feel of the blown rubber outsole. It was given an average rating for responsiveness and flexibility on foot and in the lab, making it appealing to runners looking for a more solid platform to toe-off from.

Bottom line: A versatile and reliable shoe that gives great bounce

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 269g (male), 213g (female)

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante (£95)

The Zante is a brilliant option for those looking for a plush feel with a bit of kick. Its weight is so low it’s bordering on a racing shoe but it packs a more cushioned punch. The experienced runners among our testers used it for every run, while intermediates found it a good introduction to a more minimal style shoe and used it for shorter sessions. Forefoot cushioning could be better but the transition from heel to toe is quick and you barely feel the shoe on your foot.

Bottom line: Fast, lean and light.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 219g (male), 176g (female)

Newton Aha (£100)

This is Newton’s high-mileage option from its range, each of which features distinctive lugs on the outsole. The lugs push back off the ground to give more energy return and Newton now has three strengths of ‘pop’. The Aha is ‘Pop 3’, the least bouncy, giving it more appeal to those new to the brand. The lugs encourage a forefoot strike, but even heel-striking overpronators said the shoe was stable, comfortable and fast, although durability could be better.

Bottom line: A blend of speed and comfort, so this is a good half-marathon option.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Neither very soft nor very firm

Flexibility: Quite firm

Weight: 233g (male), 187g (female)

Newton Kismet (£120)

Newton has always divided opinion with its unique raised ‘lug’ technology under the forefoot, and testers’ reaction was mixed again here. But what this latest addition to the range does offer is the most gentle introduction yet to the Newton ‘way’, with five elongated ‘lugs’ rather than the standard four, giving runners who need a more stable ride a relatively relaxed ‘pop’ into transition. Overall fit was secure and comfortable.

Bottom line: A fast and slim running shoe for forefoot strikers.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very firm

Weight: 260g (male), 209g (female)

Nike Flyknit Lunar 3 (£140)

Fans of the previous version of this shoe will be pleased to hear the new iteration feels very much the same. The responsiveness, the low weight, the one-piece upper, the snug fit and the outstanding breathability all remain. Nike has tweaked a couple of things – there’s a lighter midsole cushioning and a denser weave at the rear to hold the heel in place – but these changes are not massively noticeable, which is not a bad thing: the Flyknit Lunar was already a great shoe.

Bottom line: A super-light training option for neutral runners.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 218g (men’s), 181g (women’s)

Nike Free 5.0 (£90)

The most traditional of the Free range of shoes, the 5.0 has a thicker heel than its stablemates, allowing runners to make a more gradual transition to minimalist footwear. The latest version has a few updates, such as carbon rubber sections on the heel and toes for durability, and more flexible hexagonal outsole grooves. But what most testers noted was the flywire overlays are also the eyelets, so when you lace up you’re pulling the whole midfoot section around your foot. A natural evolution of a great shoe.

Bottom line: One of the best minimalist options.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very flexible

Weight: 234g (male), 188g (female)

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit (£130)

Slipping into these is like pulling on a pair of reinforced socks – which is exactly what the Nike designers were aiming for. The one-piece knitted upper is compressive, while the sockliner inside follows the shape of your foot – the result of this is an exceptional fit. Unsurprisingly, its super-minimalist design made it among the lightest shoes in the review and our testers loved the high toe spring and 4mm heel drop, which encouraged them to get up on their toes and quicken their foot speed during interval training.

Bottom line: Ideal for the fast and furious.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very flexible

Weight: 171g

On Running Cloudster (£115)

The shoes from this Swiss brand feature an unusual technology: a series of hollow pods or ‘clouds’ on the outsoles that are designed to cushion your landing and offer ‘spring-back’ on push-off. They take some getting used to, especially on uneven surfaces, but our testers found – once they adapted – that the shoes generated impressive energy and bounce. The stretch fabric in the upper and a generous toebox were also well received by all.

Bottom line: A shoe that will put a spring in the step of neutral runners.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 316g (male), 260g (female)

Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N2 (£89.99)

Cycling specialist Pearl Izumi occasionally branches out into running shoes and this is a fine effort. Its low weight, minimalist design and slim dimensions (which make it best suited to narrow-footed runners) mean it’s ideal for fast sessions and races up to 10 miles, and the grip is so good that a couple of testers felt emboldened to try it out on the trail. But if lots of cushioning and flexibility are important to you, look elsewhere.

Bottom line: For when you want to prioritise speed over comfort.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 284g (male), 229g (female)

Puma FAAS 600v2 (£80)

Solid but lightweight, this is designed for minimally minded neutral runners. However, according to our testers, it’s a shoe that heavier-built heel strikers and overpronators ought to steer clear of. ‘Sore heels – too firm for me,’ commented one about the relative lack of cushioning and the 4mm heel drop. Testers felt the wide mesh upper provided excellent breathability and that, overall, this is a perfectly comfortable shoe, although it may need a bit of breaking in.

Bottom line: A speedy ride for forefoot strikers.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 273g (male), 270g (female)

Saucony Guide 8 (£110)

The medial post in this shoe is designed to give mild pronation support, but when coupled with the wide sole and slight flaring on the inside of the forefoot it provided plenty of stability for moderate overpronators. If you like a really plush, spongy-feeling ride, this is one for you. The cushioning is excellent, but the shoe is not very responsive and our lab scored it low for flexibility. The laces also need to be pulled tight to secure a decent fit, unless you have big ankles.

Bottom line: A decent everyday option for larger overpronators.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 287g (male), 239g (female)

Saucony Triumph ISO (£125)

WINNER: BEST UPDATE

The 12th edition of the Triumph has had a substantial makeover. The always-plush cushioning has been bumped up even further, giving a super-soft, pillowy ride, while the plastic midfoot insert has been removed and replaced with more foam, which makes the shoe bulkier but more stable. The main story, though, is the inner mesh wrap, an additional layer inside the shoe that curls around the foot for an extremely close fit without pinching. Our testers loved it.

Bottom line: Cradles your foot without bulk.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 285g (male), 237g (female)

Skechers GoRun 4 (£89)

A lot lighter than they look, these proved popular with nippier runners for everyday wear, and with heavier ones for speed work. What they lack in plushness, they make up for in responsiveness, while a midfoot rocker works to pivot your foot more quickly through to toe-off. The upper is made from a softer, more breathable fabric than that used in the GoRun3 and the stripped-down package hit the right note: ‘They reminded me of wearing pumps for gym way back in my school days,’ said one nostalgic tester.

Bottom line: A blend of cushioning and speed.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Very flexible

Weight: 224g (male), 174g (female)

Skechers Go Run Strada (£89)

Tester Adrian Monti summed up the mood of our testers on this one by saying: ‘These were a bit of a slow burner. They were so-so at first, but the more I wore them the more I admired them.’ The Strada isn’t outstanding in any one area, but it’s more than competent in several, including forefoot fit, heel cushioning and subtle pronation support. It’s designed as a support shoe for racing and fulfils that role well. Just don’t go out in the wet, as the upper provides little water-resistance.

Bottom line: A nice blend of speed and stability.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 288g (male), 228g (female)

Under Armour Speedform Gemini (£110)

This shoe offered a snug fit, with generous cushioning – especially in the heel – that gave a high level of comfort. It also performed well when it was put through its paces, with the midsole foam providing a satisfying energy return. The Speedform Gemini is pleasingly light, despite the padding, and our testers enthused about the satisfyingly locked-in feel of support it gave, thanks to the moulded, seamless heel cup.

Bottom line: A comfy ride over any distance up to half marathon.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 288g (male), 233g (female)