Runner’s World Shoe Guide: Spring/Summer 2016

Nike Free RN Distance

The Distance is the first in the Free line intended as a daily trainer that’s suitable for longer runs. The sole has a soft outer layer with large flex grooves in a hexagonal pattern, arranged to provide more lateral stability. Inside is a core of bouncier midsole foam. It’s mostly a success but several testers reported that the heel fit felt extremely narrow. 

Bottom line: Slim, light, fun to run in.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm 

Forefoot cushioning: Moderate

Flexibility: Quite inflexible

Weight: 235g (male), 187g (female) 

Heel/toe drop: 6mm

Brooks Launch 3

A highly cushioned shoe that’s lighter than it looks. A curvy toe spring and more rubber in the forefoot give a quicker toe-off, while DNA – Brooks’s top-end cushioning material – in the midsole adapts to the way you land, softening for lighter runners and hardening for heavier ones. The responsiveness means it’s suitable for tempo sessions and longer races.

Bottom line: New speed, old-school shoes. 

Heel cushioning: neither very firm or very soft

Forefoot cushioning: quite soft

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 281g (Male) 228g (Female) 

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (M) 9mm (W)

Asics Gel DS Racer 11 £95

This superb shoe has one goal: to provide speed, flexibility and grip on race day. It doesn’t pretend to be a minimalist shoe straddling a couple of categories and if you need lots of cushioning this won’t be for you. But testers were barely aware of their presence, as befits the lightest shoe reviewed. They come up small, so go up a half-size from your usual shoe.

Bottom line: Perfect for 10Ks and under. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: very firm

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 192g (Male) 158g (Female) 

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (M) 8mm (W)

Brooks Purecadence 5 £105 

Brooks has redesigned this minimalist shoe, with mixed success. It’s still light and responsive, while pronation control is provided by the new guide rail around the midsole, rather than a medial post device. The heel is more rounded for a better fit, but this drew complaints of pinching from testers, as did the narrow toe-box.

Bottom line: Gentle support for mild overpronators. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: quite soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 270g (Male) 224g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 7mm (M) 8mm (W) 

Brooks Adrenaline GTS16 £115

This is one of Brooks’s biggest sellers and so the company has limited the changes in this version to tweaking the overlays in the upper to wrap better around the foot, removing seams for less irritation and creating a slightly deeper V-groove around the outside of the midsole for improved shock absorption.

Bottom line: Bounce, comfort and reassurance for high-mileage runs. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: neither very firm or very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 316g (Male) 270g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 13mm (M) 12mm (W)

Asics GT2000 v4 £114.99

GT loyalists, rejoice! Testers found that the fourth iteration of the moderate-stability shoe feels like the popular GT-2100 series of the past decade. The upper has been improved for a better mid-foot wrap, the cushioning has been evened out and a little weight has been dropped. It has an old-fashioned medial post under the arch and it does a solid job for overpronators. 

Bottom line: Solid stability and support. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: very firm

Weight: 319g (Male) 261g (Female) 

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (M) 8mm (W)

Adidas Ultra Boost 2 £130

There’s nothing to find fault with here. Adidas has kept the DNA of the excellent debut version, while making a few tweaks: a higher toe spring for a quicker toe-off, a grippier outsole tread and a snugger, more compressive fit over the top of the foot with the knitted upper. A little weight has been lost, too. It’s responsive enough for short races, stable and cushioned enough for marathons: a class apart, in every way. 

Bottom line: Running shoe perfection. 

Heel cushioning: extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 308g (Male) 263g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (M) 11mm (W)

Nike LunarTempo 2 £100

The Tempo starts from the same mould as Nike’s Lunar Racer and adds midsole foam for more cushioning, plus extra rubber pads under the forefoot for durability. This updated version has laser-cut holes throughout the inner for more breathability, and the outsole pods are bigger, for better impact absorption. 

Bottom line: Light, with a slipper-like fit for running fast. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: neither very firm or very soft.

Flexibility: flexible

Weight: 210g (Male) 193g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (M) 8mm (W)

Brooks Ravenna 7 £115

The lab rated this as among the least flexible shoes on test, but our testers didn’t notice that, thanks to a high toe spring and a bouncy forefoot. The upper has been improved for a snugger midfoot fit, though wide-footed runners said this caused discomfort; they suggested a more flexible mesh in the upper might help. 

Bottom line: Surprisingly strong stability in a sleek package. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: quite soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 311g (Male) 243g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (M) 9mm (F) 

Hoka One One Vanquish 2 £120 

The Vanquish 2 is one of the lightest shoes Hoka has made and it’s extremely responsive. It’s designed as an ultra-sized version of a light road shoe for everyday training and the odd mid-distance race; our testers loved the blend of cushioning – it was the most cushioned shoe on test in the lab – and speedy toe-off.

Bottom line: A speed shoe for heavier runners; a good long-run choice for others. 

Heel cushioning: extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 298g (Male) 202g (Female) 

Toe/heel drop: 9mm (M) 6mm (W)

Brooks Pureflow 5 £90

This is a great shoe that, despite its minimalist design, offers different qualities to a range of runners. Version 5 is the same hyper-responsive speedster with the touch of heft that fans of the model love. It has a plusher collar; printed (not stitched) overlays on the upper for less weight, less irritation and a better fit; and midsole cushioning that responds to your pace. 

Bottom line: Speedy, free-flowing joy. 

Heel cushioning: neither very firm or very soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 260g (Male) 213g (Female) 

Heel/toe drop: 6mm (M) 6mm (W)

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v6 £115

This is the most cushioned model in the Fresh Foam line, delivering a plush, neutral ride. Despite the lack of pronation-control inserts, the shoe feels stable, thanks to the wide base and high moulded perimeter of the midsole. Testers with wider feet said the shoe was roomy but held the foot well. 

Bottom line: A multi-purpose option for all but the speediest. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 299g (Male) 244g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (M) 6mm (W)

Zoot Laguna £100

This shoe from the triathlon-focused brand impressed our testers, who said it was a great all-rounder. A striking feature was a raised outsole section covering much of the forefoot, encouraging you to land further forward. It’s subtle enough to have an effect but didn’t get in the way when fatigue caused more heel striking. 

Bottom line: Excellent value for money, with multi-tasking appeal. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: quite firm

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 316g (Male) 261g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 12mm (M) 11mm (W)

Brooks Vapor 3 £100

A less expensive version of Brooks’ Adrenaline, this stability model for mild overpronators has plenty of cushioning and zip. Brooks’s bouncy BioMoGoDNA material has been added to the midsole for impact protection and cushioning, which our testers loved. Small stones tended to get stuck in the flex grooves, but, overall, this is a fine, versatile shoe. 

Bottom line: Firm cushioning and wide fit. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: neither very firm nor very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 290g (Male) 265g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 12mm (M) 10mm (W)

Brooks Neuro £110

This unusual-looking shoe is designed to give better cushioning and stability without compromising speed. However, it was not a hit with our testers. The upper caused irritation across the metatarsal heads and there was little lateral stability. Flexibility was very good, but the heel felt so stripped down that it would only really suit forefoot strikers carrying little weight. 

Bottom line: Best used for short, fast runs. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: quite soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 266g (Male) 224g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 6mm (M) 6mm (W)

Puma Speed 300 Ignite £75

This is a go-faster shoe with a wedge of Puma’s Ignite foam under the heel and a ‘propulsion zone’ mechanism up front that stretches outsole rubber over flex grooves so that it will rebound with force as you toe- off. A few testers found the wide fit irksome on longer runs when they tended to slap their feet down more heavily, but we’d say that’s down to the distance and not the shoe. A bargain for less than £80.

Bottom line: From track sessions through to 10Ks, this won’t disappoint. 

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: quite firm

Flexibility: quite soft

Weight: 232g (Male) 189g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (M) 7mm (W)

Asics Gel DS Trainer 21 £115

Happy 21st to the DS Trainer, but in fact this is a shoe that came of age a long time ago. It’s become the shoe of choice for those who want a fast, multipurpose model with a touch of stability. This iteration continues in that trend, but Asics has also made the outsole rubber more durable and bouncy, dropped the weight and reduced the upper to a single seamless layer. All in all, a very smart update.

Bottom line: A fast, firm, thrilling ride.

Heel cushioning: quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: quite firm

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 260g (Male) 219g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm (M) 11mm (W)

Brooks Transcend 3 £140

For this version 15g of weight has been shed and the guide rails around the outside of the midsole - designed to keep your foot in place – have been softened. The toe-spring has been increased for a quicker roll-through and the upper is stretchier. All of which mean it’s suitable for more than just slower, heavier runners.

Bottom line: Stability and speed – great for half marathons. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 322g (Male) 262g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (M) 9mm (W)

Newton Gravity V £140

Runners who land further forward will love the responsiveness and low weight of this shoe. Newton’s change from four to five outsole lugs provides more lateral stability and less of a ‘football studs’ feel, while the stretch panels around the metatarsal heads won praise for releasing any pressure normally generated by toe splay. 

Bottom line: Definitely one for the fleet-footed and forefoot-focused. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: neither very firm or very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 274g (Male) 235g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (M) 6mm (W) 

Mizuno Wave Inspire 12 £110

Runners have found previous iterations of this stability shoe to be on the firm side. So Mizuno added some more cushioning and redesigned the outsole flex grooves. But even heavier testers who need a solid impact surface complained of pain in the heels, knees and even the hips. However the fit and breathability won praise. 

Bottom line: Solid cushioning on a stable platform. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 306g (Male) 29g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 13mm (M) 11mm (W)

Saucony Guide 9 £115

The Guide gets its name from the firmer material under the arch, intended to guide the foot from impact to toe-off. This will support mild overpronators, but those with a more severe inward roll will need more robust stability. It was among the bounciest shoes on test in the lab, something our wear testers also noticed. 

Bottom line: A suitable everyday-training option for half marathon and upwards. 

Heel cushioning: extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 284g (Male) 232g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (M) 8mm (W)

Under Armour Speedform Slingshot £110

This was among the lightest shoes on test and it also performed well – it was close to winning an award. The wide, flexible forefoot encouraged our testers to pick up the pace while still providing enough heel cushioning to protect them when they started to tire and land further back. 

Bottom line: Perfect for making the transition to a lighter shoe. 

Heel cushioning: extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 284g (Male) 232g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (M) 8mm (W) 

Skechers GOrun Forza £84.99

The Forza is Skechers’ first serious stability shoe, with a layer of firm foam under the arch that extends from heel to ball, and a supportive upper hugging and locking the foot in place from heel to midfoot. Testers needing mild to moderate support loved the smooth ride and the fact that responsiveness was not compromised in the name of stability.

Bottom line: Ideal for mild overpronators. 

Heel cushioning: very soft

Forefoot cushioning: quite soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 319g (Male) 237g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 14mm (M) 10mm (W)

Saucony Triumph ISO 2 £135

This was unlucky not to bag an award. Saucony’s ISOfit technology (an internal sleeve that moulds to the shape of the foot) had universal appeal and a slice of Everun – cushioning material that acts independently of the midsole – delighted Martyn Shorten, head of our Shoe Lab: ‘A blend of softer cushioning and high energy return is not easy to accomplish,’ he said. 

Bottom line: Pillowy, snug and dependable. 

Heel cushioning: extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 295g (Male) 243g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (M) 9mm (W)

Mizuno Wave Rider 19 £115

Mizuno has been producing lighter, better- fitting shoes, but has stuck with its shock absorption Wave Plate in the heel, which split results in lab and wear tests. While the lab recorded high cushioning, testers noted the ‘hard feel’ in the heel and rear- foot cushioning that was ‘too firm’. But they praised the shoe’s responsiveness. 

Bottom line: Responsive but the shoe offers a firm-feeling ride. 

Heel cushioning: extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: very soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 269g (Male) 225g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 12mm (M) 11mm (W)

Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 £94.99

This looks chunky, due to the introduction of more midsole foam than Pearl Izumi has put in a shoe before, but it’s relatively light for the protection you get. The ride is comforting but not squishy – the firm cushioning helped keep heel-to-toe transition speedy and the feet turning over quickly. The wide toebox was popular, as was the very breathable one-piece upper. 

Bottom line: Plush, wide and reliable.

Heel cushioning: neither very firm or very soft

Forefoot cushioning: quite soft

Flexibility: inflexible

Weight: 312g (Male) 268g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 14mm (M) 11mm (W)

Saucony Hurricane ISO 2 £135

There are many things to admire about this shoe but our testers’ highest praise was reserved for the fit and comfort of the well-padded, two-layer upper that hugs the heel and midfoot while providing plenty of room up front for your toes. The new midsole material provides better energy return and a triangle-lugged outsole design improves the shoe’s flexibility.

Bottom line: Comfy, responsive and stable. 

Heel cushioning: quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: extremely soft

Flexibility: extremely firm

Weight: 309g (Male) 256g (Female)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (M) 10mm (W)