Runner’s World Shoe Guide: Spring/Summer 2017

361° Sensation 2 (£100)

361° is a Chinese brand that is only outsold in its homeland by Nike. The Sensation 2 is light, slim and flexible, yet has broad appeal, suitable for interval sessions or long runs depending on your size and biomechanics. Cushioning and flexibility were rated as middling in the RW Shoe Lab, which explains their suitability for both racing and medium-distance runs. The fit was superb, but testers did have one quibble: the laces are so short you can only tie a single knot.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Neither very stiff nor very flexible

Weight: 322g (men’s), 262g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm (men’s), 8mm (women’s)

361° Chaser (£80)

A shoe so light and speedy there’s every chance you won’t be the one doing the chasing. It’s clearly a performance model, best used for speed sessions and short races up to 10 miles – pounding out the reps in them was a thrilling experience for efficient runners, who loved the quick transition, the flexibility of the midfoot and the secure heel lock. The mesh was very breathable but then grip was patchy in wet conditions, making it a bit of a prima donna, so keep this shoe for short, fast runs in good weather.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very firm

Flexibility: Very flexible

Weight: 227g (men’s), 185g (women’s)

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

361° Strata (£115)

A solid if unspectacular addition to the 361° collection, this mid-range high-mileage shoe has two layers of foam – one soft section on top to caress your foot, and a solid layer underneath to provide a more stable platform. It proved quite a divisive shoe in testing: some of our runners found it rather stiff and bulky, while others found it reassuringly supportive. Heavier runners who are looking for a firmer ride, wider fit and few bells and whistles should get on well with this shoe.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 331g (men’s), 272g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (men’s), 6mm (women’s)

Adidas Supernova (£99.95)

Fans of the Supernova Glide should know this is, in effect, version nine, Adidas has simply dropped the second part of the name. It’s a high-mileage neutral shoe that has been skilfully overhauled: less weight, a revamped upper, more traction on the Continental rubber outsole and more Boost midsole foam, especially in the heel. Our testers raved about the ‘bounce’, the ‘floaty feeling’, the ‘effortless pick-up’ and the ‘spring-heeled’ effect. The only thing to let it down (slightly) was a very narrow midfoot.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Very flexible

Weight: 307g (men’s), 262g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm

Altra Torin 2.5 (£120)

Altra has been making its mark in the US, specialising in zero-drop shoes with an extra-wide toebox. The Torin is its flagship neutral cushioning shoe, and while the Shoe Lab rated it as averagely cushioned in the heel, our testers found it soft and pillowy – but in the wrong places. The heel felt hard to land on, while the midfoot and forefoot were overly spongy. Add the inflexible outsole grooves and you have a shoe best kept for slower mid- to forefoot strikers looking for a hassle-free long run option.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 260g (men’s), 209g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 0mm

Asics Gel DS Trainer 22 (£115)

After a few years of allowing the weight to creep up on this popular shoe – traditionally a hybrid of a racing and training shoe – Asics has dropped nearly 30g from this model to make it suitable again for longer races. However, this meant that testers who only experienced the last couple of versions were put off by the sudden lower weight and loss of support. The addition of full-length Flytefoam is welcome.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Very flexible

Weight: 229g (men’s), 191g (women’s)

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

Asics Gel Nimbus 19 (£145)

When you a) charge an above-average price and b) make changes to a much-loved model, you need to be sure that what you produce hits the bullseye. That was not the case here. This iteration offers the familiar stable, pillowy, no-fuss ride for neutral runners, and the lighter Flytefoam cushioning material went down well with our testers. But an ‘improved fit’ was the opposite, with a new heel clutch failing to do its job, the toebox being a tight squeeze and the midfoot section not wrapping the foot adequately.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 317g (men’s), 256g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm (men’s), 12mm (women’s)

Asics GT-2000 5 (£115)

The latest iteration of Asics’ mid-range stability shoe has barely changed from the previous version. It still has the same middle-of-the-road levels of cushioning, medial support, flexibility and fit. The unflashy solidity was reflected in our testers’ comments, with the most positive comment being, ‘I liked it because it didn’t get in the way.’ If you’re a mild-to-moderate overpronator you’ll enjoy the decent stability, and the soft inner lining has universal appeal, but other than that there’s not a lot to see here.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 318g (men’s), 279g (women’s)

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

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 (£115)

The Adrenaline has been around a long time and has barely – pardon the pun – put a foot wrong. Smooth, supportive and constant, it’s the Gregory Peck of stability shoes. As is wise when you’ve got a winning formula, not much has been messed with from last time – some tweaking with the lacing eyelets and a deeper V-groove in the outsole for a slightly smoother transition are about the extent of it. This remains a hugely impressive, versatile, high-mileage stability shoe.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 310g (men’s), 252g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 13mm (men’s), 11mm (women’s)

Brooks Neuro 2 (£121.45)

This is more restrained than the first version of what was almost a concept shoe: the outsole ‘propulsion pods’ that protruded from the side have been reduced in size, switched from round to square and kept within the curve of the last (the shoe’s outline), though they still give good energy return. The shoe is still decoupled under the midfoot, which is designed to provide a more powerful toe-off but our testers found it neither help nor hindrance. Fast, sleek, and good for races up to half marathon.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 281g (men’s), 232g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 3mm (men’s), 6mm (women’s)

Brooks Ravenna 8 (£115)

Impressive high build quality, dependability and all-round shoe craft from Brooks. While the Ravenna 8 never quite nosed into the running for an award it still tested very well. Our runners loved the mild support, plush cushioning and the continuity: Brooks has not made any radical changes, instead tweaking the mesh upper, slightly improving the lacing system and putting more blown rubber in the outsole for a springier toe-off – evolution rather than revolution. A perfect long-run option for mild overpronators.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 306g (men’s), 254g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 12mm (men’s), 10mm (women’s)

Brooks Transcend 4 (£140)

The Transcend is known for its chunky midsole cushioning, which divides runners. For some the traditional heel drop and distance between foot and floor area were a turn-off. For others, they were a licence to romp through the streets without worrying about careful foot placement. The other signature feature is a guiderail around the outside of the shoe at the top of the midsole, nudging your foot back to the middle if you over- or under-pronate. It’s higher on this version, for extra support.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 308g (men’s), 250g (women’s)

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

Hoka One One Arahi (£99.99)

The Arahi is Hoka’s first stability shoe and follows the brand’s tradition of providing a huge wodge of cushioning foam at a low weight. To this has been added a J-shaped section of tougher EVA foam along the medial (inside) side of the shoe and around the back of the heel to support your foot if it starts rolling inwards too far. Testers loved the support and responsiveness, but some work is needed on the fit, as reports noted a tight midfoot and a too-wide toebox. A good workhorse for heavier overpronators.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 272g (men’s), 224g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 6mm (men’s), 7mm (women’s)

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 (£120)

WINNER: EDITOR’S CHOICE

Entering its third decade on the market, we’re pretty sure there will be runners out there who have been wearing the Wave Rider for half their lives or more – a remarkable achievement that few shoes can manage. Over the years Mizuno has tweaked and tinkered with its flagship high-mileage neutral shoe, but never moved too far away from the essential DNA. The changes this time have hit the bullseye – it was one of the highest-rated shoes we’ve ever had on test. Testers loved the new softer midsole foam, which gave a slightly plusher ride without compromising on ground feel; and the flipping upside down of the long-standing Mizuno wave plate, which gave a more nuanced feel to impact protection.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 292g (men’s), 235g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 12mm

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v7 (£115)

The flagship cushioning shoe in the New Balance range is now even more pillowy. There’s slightly more midsole foam, but feedback suggests it’s been overdone: this was one of the most-cushioned shoes on test in the RW Shoe Lab but the result was a sludgy ride that, when coupled with a lack of flexibility, caused runners to have to work harder just to pick up their feet. It’s comfortable, reassuring and durable; just don’t expect to go anywhere too fast.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 299g (men’s), 246g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (men’s), 6mm (women’s)

New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay 3 (£100)

The low-slung design of this shoe and the minimal heel drop hint at the speedy intent of this performance model. It’s stripped-down, light and the cushioning is only average. The ride was reported as quite rigid, which makes sense since a less-elastic racing shoe is often better for fast running. The last version had some problem with grip in the wet, a problem New Balance has fixed this time. In all, this is ideal for efficient, seasoned runners looking for a quick shoe for high-volume reps and intervals.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 273g (men’s), 227g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 6mm (men’s), 5mm (women’s)

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante 3 (£95)

The first two versions of this jack-of-all-trades shoe won acclaim for their ability to provide flexibility and response while still offering excellent cushioning. The third iteration is still a very good shoe, but the tweaks to the midsole and outsole, while improving forefoot flexibility and shock attenuation, have put it firmly in the light-and- fast camp. Keep this one for what it does best: helping you pick your feet up on short, fast training sessions and races.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Quite flexible

Weight: 243g (men’s), 215g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (men’s), 7mm (women’s)

New Balance Vazee Prism 2 (£95)

Tester Andy Dykins will be bagging a job at RW Towers if he keeps on delivering reviews as spot on as this: ‘My previous shoes were the New Balance 860 and this shoe is like a racing version of that – lighter and lower.’ It’s a perfect summation. This is a stability shoe for races and fast runs: the midsole is bouncy and durable, even under a pounding from heavy runners; flexibility is excellent; and the medial post is strong enough to cope with moderate overpronators. Be warned – the toebox is a tad narrow.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Very stiff

Weight: 255g (men’s), 234g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 9mm

Newton Gravity 6 (£127.95)

A perfect shoe for fast neutral runners who like to get up on their toes; the signature forefoot lugs are softer and springier and the heel cushioning improved. The former was noticed by testers, but not the latter. Unless you’re an experienced Newton wearer or have good core strength this is best kept for short-to-medium runs, owing to the strong posture required. And if you’re planning to buy Newtons for the first time, build up your distance slowly to allow your calves to adapt.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 266g (men’s), 224g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 6mm

Nike Air Zoom Vomero 12 (£115)

This would have been an award contender if Nike had sweated the details a little more. On the (very) positive side the plush ride, slipper-like comfort, secure midfoot fit and lateral stability when cornering all came in for praise, while the RW Shoe Lab reported a nice ratio of cushioning to flexibility. However, the dense upper, thick tongue, slightly pinched toebox and lack of ground feel held back the Vomero’s performance slightly. As RW editor Andy Dixon summed it up: ‘Best kept for recovery or easy runs.’

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Very soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 296g (men’s), 246g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

ON Cloudflow (£120)

WINNER: BEST DEBUT

The cushioning pods (‘clouds’) on the bottom of the shoe is the hallmark of all the models from this Swiss brand. They might look odd but they do the trick. The idea is that they compress on impact to dissipate shock, briefly lock together to provide a stable platform and then spring apart to help push your foot off the floor quicker. Our testers loved the controlled bounce and perceived energy return they provided – something ON has improved from previous versions by making the clouds from foam rather than rubber. Elsewhere, the light, snug upper was a delight for slim-footed runners and has also been given an antimicrobial treatment to stop nasty niffs over time. A brilliant neutral option for short-to-medium distances.

Heel cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Extremely flexible

Weight: 233g (men’s), 190g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (men’s), 12mm (women’s)

Puma Ignite 3 (£85)

WINNER: BEST BUY

A prime example of Puma doing what it does well – offering perfectly good shoes that are reliable, comfortable and reasonably priced. The Ignite 3 is an excellent shoe for heavier runners looking for a mix of support and speed. The essential DNA has not changed from version 2 but the tweaks made have all been positive: reshaped outsole lugs for greater traction and flexibility, a more breathable mesh, a comfier sockliner that provides gentle arch support, more durable outsole rubber and a snugger heel counter to keep your foot locked in place better. Lighter, more efficient runners might find it on the clunky side, but for plenty of others there is much about this great value shoe to commend here.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Neither very flexible nor very stiff

Weight: 380g (men’s), 315g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 15mm

Puma Speed 600 Ignite 2 (£90)

Puma has done half a good job with this neutral shoe for runners who want a fast ride but with a bit of heft underfoot. The cushioning, grip, responsiveness and weather protection from the upper came in for praise, but the fit was found to be variable: loose in the heel and toebox and too much of a pinch in the midfoot. Slimfooted runners found that with innovative lacing the problem could be solved, allowing them to enjoy the noticeable energy return from the cushioning foam.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Neither very firm nor very soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 308g (men’s), 256g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 11mm (men’s), 9mm (women’s)

Saucony Guide 10 (£115)

One shoe in every Shoe Guide provokes the phrase, ‘If it ain’t broke…’ and this time the Guide 10 is it. It’s barely changed from version 9 – which will have fans rejoicing. The gorgeously bouncy Everrun midsole foam has been retained and testers loved the chevron-shaped design of the outsole, which provided excellent traction in the wet and very good flexibility through transition from heel to toe. This is a good, high-mileage shoe for mild overpronators.

Heel cushioning: Very soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 285g (men’s), 238g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Saucony Triumph ISO 3 (£135)

WINNER: BEST UPDATE

This should be the benchmark for how to make significant updates to an already popular shoe, if the clamour of delight from testers is anything to go by. Saucony has changed the midsole (more cushioning), the heel (softer landing), the mesh (more breathable), the midfoot (better wrap around the foot) and the tongue (thicker and stays put better). While all of those changes were notable, the most impressive was the addition of Saucony’s premium cushioning material in the heel, which kept its bounce even after sustained pounding from heavier runners. The Triumph ISO 3 was even quick to drain water and dry out after splashing through puddles. A soft, responsive, grippy ride that will give long-run comfort to the masses.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Extremely soft

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 305g (men’s), 248g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 12mm (men’s), 10mm (women’s)

Skechers GORun Forza (£109)

Although known for its lightweight shoes, Skechers had one of the heaviest men’s shoes on test. It’s the brand’s first attempt at a serious stability shoe – there’s a layer of firm foam under the arch and a supportive upper hugging from heel to midfoot. Lighter runners found it a bit bothersome but heavier testers loved the support and the fact that they didn’t have to compromise on ground feel – an achievement for a shoe that boasts a hefty heel-to-toe drop.

Heel cushioning: Quite soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite soft

Flexibility: Extremely stiff

Weight: 319g (men’s), 237g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 14mm (men’s), 12mm (women’s)

Skechers GOMeb Razor (£107)

Named after US marathoner Meb Keflezighi, this new model aims to emulate the man himself: it’s lean, light and fast. In fact, it was one of the lightest shoes on test, thanks in part to the virtually seamless knitted upper. Despite this, it stood up to a pounding by small and big runners alike, who all lauded the responsiveness, the traction and the fit around the heel. The toebox is wide enough for proper toe splay, and if Skechers can address the tongue slippage and poor weatherproofing this will be a contender.

Heel cushioning: Quite firm

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Quite stiff

Weight: 218g (men’s), 187g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm (men’s), 6mm (women’s)

Skechers Performance GoRun 5 (£97)

Tester Neil’s Gunn’s comments were typical of responses to this shoe: ‘I had low expectations, as they seemed flimsy and flat, but I was surprised at how well they fitted and the level of cushioning. They felt like slippers.’ The fit is due to an improved circular knit upper, as well as a slightly wider toebox, which made the shoe perfect for accommodating the slight foot swelling that occurs on long runs. If you’re after a durable, reliable everyday model without a lot of weight, this is well worth a look.

Heel cushioning: Extremely soft

Forefoot cushioning: Quite firm

Flexibility: Extremely flexible

Weight: 207g (men’s), 176g (women’s)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm (men’s), 7mm (women’s)