In-person races may not be possible this spring, but that doesn’t mean runners across the country aren’t going to try and throw down some fast times as the weather warms up. Whether you’re training for a virtual race or simply looking to shake up your usual running routine with a time trial, here are our best shoe picks for running some fast times this season. For more shoe reviews, be sure to check out the March and April 2021 issue of Canadian Running to help you decide on your next pair of kicks.
Men’s: 213 g (7.5 oz.)
Women’s: 184 g (6.5 oz.)
Drop: 4 mm
The Kinvara has been around for a long time, and at this point in a shoe franchise’s lifespan the tweaks with each successive version are going to be subtle. For the experienced, efficient runner who trains hard and likes a firm, light trainer with a low drop, the new Kinvara just keeps getting better.
The Kinvara is the lightest shoe in our roundup, by a significant margin, and the 12 is 20 g lighter than the 11. It retains the super-light PWRRUN midsole used in the previous update introduced early last year, but the upper has been stripped down to the bare essentials (though you’d never know from a photograph – this shoe makes a statement), with just a little padding around the tongue and collar to keep chafing and blisters away. It also doesn’t make any bold claims about support/stability or injury prevention; it just lets you run naturally and fast. But it does hug the ground, even on wet days, with better traction than a shoe this light has a right to. It’s perfect for track workouts, fast tempos and fartleks, or even for your next PB over 5K or 10K.
Under Armour Flow Velocity Wind
Men’s: 241 g (8.5 oz.)
Women’s: 227 g (8.02 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Under Armour’s new racing flat, launching March 5, represents a breakthrough for the brand, and an overhaul of the HOVR Velociti 3 racing flat launched in 2020.
Specifically, the new FLOW combination midsole-outsole, while providing comparable energy return to the brand’s HOVR material, is lighter, firmer, more durable, and naturally grippy, eliminating the need for a separate rubber outsole. (Ditching the outsole, according to the brand, saves around 70 g of unnecessary weight.) It still has the more forgiving 8 mm drop, which is slightly higher than other racing flats, making it more versatile and more appealing to a wider variety of runners. (It’s also gone up in price by almost a third.)
The FLOW Velociti Wind also has the super-comfortable molded sock liner and exceptional aesthetics we’ve come to expect from UA. Designed to work for all of your daily training runs and workouts, it will also serve you well as a racing flat for anything from the 5K to the half-marathon. It also has the embedded chip that allows users to get on-the-run coaching via the UA MapMyRun app. If your sights for 2021 are set on some new PBs, this shoe is well worth a try.
Puma Deviate Nitro
Men’s: 268 g (9.5 oz.)
Women’s: 218 g (7.7 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Puma is a well-established brand in the sports world, but the new, maximalist Deviate Nitro (one of a suite of shoes using the brand’s innovative midsole cushioning material) proves it’s serious about running. With a thin mesh upper, an embedded carbon composite plate and a 32 mm nitrogen-infused midsole, the Deviate is a very springy, propulsive shoe designed to take you through long training runs efficiently and with significantly less wear and tear on your legs. For runners accustomed to the feel of better-known plated shoes, the Deviate has a similar pop at toe-off, but without the noticeable rocker, making for more natural-feeling (but just as smooth) transitions. It’s also a tiny bit closer to the ground than its competitors, which means less instability when turning corners. The outsole is a grippy, high-traction rubber that both hugs the road on rainy days and prolongs the shoe’s life.
The Nitro line recognizes that women’s feet aren’t just smaller versions of men’s feet – they’re proportioned altogether differently, and the narrower heel in the women’s shoe reflects that. In short: the Deviate Nitro is fairly light, comfortable and fast and makes a great long run shoe, or even a race shoe for longer distances.
Asics Glideride 2
Men’s: 323 g (11.4 oz.)
Women’s: 252 g (8.9 oz.)
Drop: 5 mm
The Glideride was built to help you achieve an optimally efficient gait (i.e., one that requires as little energy output as possible). It accomplishes this via a marked rocker in the sole (the brand’s GuideSole Technology), combined with stiffness in the forefoot and a reinforced plastic plate. The theory is that all those things, along with a reinforced heel cup, help propel the foot through the gait cycle and minimize excessive side-to-side movement in the ankle (which compromises efficiency).
This new update succeeds well. For those who like a nice, firm, responsive ride, the shoe delivers. And those who are accustomed to a squishier ride but are still looking for great energy return should consider giving this model a whirl, since the shoe’s stiffness is offset by the rocker in the sole. The update also has a super-tough Ahar rubber outsole, which means you can put a ton of miles on it without wearing it down. The tradeoff is that, despite the deep cutaway in the sole, it’s a little heavier than comparable fast trainers, so you may decide to opt for something lighter for your faster workouts. Just don’t be surprised when your coach asks why your long runs have suddenly gotten faster.