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Spring shoe review: new models and updates for 2023 (plus racing shoes)

New models and updates for 2023—plus racing shoes

Puma Foreverrun Photo by: Matt Stetson

Here are our testers’ favourite road and trail running shoes for 2023, with something for everyone: whether you’re a new or experienced runner on roads or trails, you’re bound to find the perfect shoe.

Puma Foreverrun

Category: Stability
Men’s: 272 g (9.6 oz.)
Women’s: 224 g (7.9 oz.)
Drop: 10 mm
Stack Height: 36 mm
$200

This new daily trainer from Puma manages to deliver supportive guidance for slight overpronators (or runners whose form starts to break down when they’re fatigued) without uncomfortable firmness—quite the opposite, in fact. Runners get the brand’s cushy nitrogen-infused foam and plenty of it, in two densities, on a wide, stable platform. They also get some gentle correction mid-stride, thanks to an asymmetrical external heel counter and overlays on both sides. (There is also a ring of harder rubber on the medial side of the outsole that’s intended to help correct overpronation late in the gait cycle, but the knit ankle collar, though it’s very comfortable, isn’t high enough to do much in this regard.)

We love the look of the shoe’s textured upper.

Under Armour Sonic 6

Under Armour Sonic 6

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 281 g (9.9 oz.)
Women’s: 252 g (8.9 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 25 mm
$140

The HOVR Sonic, first launched in 2018 as an all-purpose trainer, is largely unchanged in recent iterations: it’s still a firm, but decently cushioned, multi-purpose shoe that works just as well for occasional easy runs or short track intervals as it does for the gym, the treadmill, walking the dog or going to brunch. This latest version has a little more cushioning than the previous one.

The shoe still has the full plastic external heel counter to limit sideways motion of the heel (the shape has been changed, but its function and performance are not noticeably different); a light, breathable, seamless mesh upper; and good longevity, thanks to its durable, grippy outsole, with high-abrasion rubber in the heel area. (Again, the rubber outsole looks a bit different, but it’s not substantially different from the 5.) There’s some nice padding inside the collar, and limited flexibility in the forefoot, making it appeal most to the casual runner who likes a shoe that’s on the firmer side. Note that the connected chip is gone—UA is phasing out this technology, though runners can still take advantage of the challenges, workouts and training plans offered by UA MapMyRun.
Buy Men’s – 25% Off
Buy Women’s – 25% Off

EDITOR’S PICK
BEST LONG-RUN SHOE

Asics Gel-Nimbus 25

Asics Gel-Nimbus 25

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 292 g (10.3 oz.)
Women’s: 260 g (9.2 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 41.5 mm (men), 40.5 mm (women)
$210

The Gel-Nimbus has been one of Asics’s most successful cushioned trainers for more than two decades, and for good reason. Designed with maximum cushioning for long runs, the 25th version of the shoe is markedly different in appearance from the last couple of iterations, but it still has everything we’ve always loved—i.e., loads of cushioning; a light, breathable upper; and a little built-in stability in the medial (inside) part of the midsole, for later in your long run, when fatigue sets in.

The most notable differences are to the upper, the midsole and the outsole. The upper now has a shallow, one-piece knit collar and heel loop (which seems mostly cosmetic, since the shoe is not hard to get on) and a super-stretchy tongue that helps you get the lockdown just right. The brand has dispensed with the dual-density midsole, opting instead for full FF Blast+, with a disk of gel cushioning in the heel, between the upper and the midsole (the gel itself is no longer visible on the outside of the shoe). This gives it a more bouncy feel than in the past. The drop is a couple of millimetres lower than the previous model for men, something efficient runners probably won’t notice (though it’s 4 mm lower for women, so if you have Achilles issues, go easy on distance at first). The newly-patterned outsole has high-abrasion rubber in the rearfoot and forefoot, with some exposed midsole under the midfoot.

The shoe is supremely comfortable right out of the box, and will fit seamlessly into your rotation.
Buy Men’s
Buy Women’s

Salomon Aero Blaze

Salomon Aero Blaze

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 247 g (8.7 oz.)
Women’s: 213 g (7.5 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 31 mm
$170

Described as a younger sibling to the new Aero Glide (which has a higher stack), the Aero Blaze (new for 2023) is a versatile trainer capable of seeing you through all of your easy runs and recovery runs, and could even be used for long runs and workouts. The shoe’s Energy Foam midsole is light and responsive, and a moderate height, so you can feel the surface you’re running on without sacrificing the bounce factor.

The shoe’s best feature may be its light, breathable knit upper; it has flat laces and a traditional, six-hole lacing system that helps ensure a secure lockdown. It’s snug through the midfoot and roomy in the toebox and heel, without a lot of extra support in the heel. (The shoe fits long, so you may need to go down a half-size, provided it’s not too tight through the midfoot.) The Geometric Decoupling outsole features plenty of durable, grippy rubber and a longitudinal split that both saves weight and lends stability through the gait cycle.
Buy Men’s
Buy Women’s

Hoka Clifton 9

Hoka Clifton 9

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 248 g (8.7 oz.)
Women’s: 205 g (7.3 oz.)
Drop: 5 mm
Stack Height: 31 mm (men’s), 29 mm (women’s)
$180

Time was, Hoka road shoes were distinguishable by their high midsole stack and relatively low drop; as other brands have emulated the high-stack style, Hoka no longer looks remotely extreme, even though the stack on the new Clifton is a couple of millimetres higher than it was before. (If you want more stack, go for the Bondi.)

The Clifton is still a decent road trainer, with a slightly softer feel underfoot than previous versions (even if some reviewers are disappointed that the brand is still using EVA cushioning in this shoe). It has a thickly padded heel collar, gussetted tongue and a light, breathable knit upper. The striated outsole has bits of exposed midsole and cutouts to save weight, with durable rubber in strategic areas to minimize wear and tear. It still has a nice, smooth rocker to facilitate heel-to-toe transitions. It fits slightly wider than before, which is a relief to those who have found it too narrow in the past. This is a versatile shoe that can be used for easy runs, long runs or workouts. It will appeal mainly to forefoot and midfoot strikers who like a relatively low-drop shoe.
Buy Men’s
Buy Women’s

Asics Superblast

Asics Superblast

Category: Neutral cushioning
Unisex: 239 g (8.4 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 45.5 mm
$280

The Superblast epitomizes the trend toward super high-stack distance shoes that resemble the Nike AlphaFly, habitually worn by Eliud Kipchoge, but without a carbon-fibre plate. All that super-light, bouncy foam makes the marathon and half-marathon more accessible to the casual/serious runner doing easy runs and tempo runs three or four times a week, with a weekly long run, and racing 10Ks and half-marathons as part of a marathon build. (This is not a shoe that’s intended to be saved for race day—though at $300 a pop, we sure hope the shoe’s durability lives up to the brand’s claims.)

The midsole is everything: a thick wedge of the brand’s lightest (Peba) foam FF Blast Turbo—the same foam used in the high-performance marathon shoes Metaspeed Sky and Edge—layered over a slice of FF Blast Plus (EVA/olefin) which provides a cushy ride for the long haul, and an easy recovery. There is durable Ahar rubber in strategic locations along the outsole.

EDITOR’S PICK
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY

Puma Liberate Nitro 2

Puma Liberate Nitro 2

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 195 g (6.9 oz.)
Women’s: 155 g (5.5 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 28 mm
$150

The Liberate is a super-light shoe that could be used as a daily trainer or a (plateless) racing flat. It has a minimalist profile, but more cushion than the minimalist training flats of the past. The new version is slightly firmer than the original Liberate, with a couple extra millimetres of foam in the forefoot, and the engineered mesh upper has been tweaked for a better fit.

The Liberate is very flexible, and really lets you feel the road underneath you for fartlek and tempo runs or track workouts, while still offering ample cushioning if you’re using it as a daily trainer. There isn’t a lot of support through the heel, but the shoe is designed to fit snugly enough through the midfoot that it shouldn’t be an issue; also there is some decent padding below the shoe’s very thin collar. The rubber outsole has fine lugs, almost like a road-to-trail shoe, that give it excellent traction for faster running in wet conditions, or on fine gravel.

For those who like a flat, minimalist shoe for fast workouts and short races, this shoe offers excellent value.

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Sonic

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Sonic

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 261 g (9.2 oz.)
Women’s: 218 g (7.7 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 32 mm
$160

The Sonic is one of a suite of three new trainers in the Rebellion series (see our review of the Wave Rebellion Pro, p.59). At the other end of the scale from the Pro, the Sonic is an excellent cushioned daily trainer for casual runners who haven’t yet tried a plated shoe. It’s light, has a medium drop of 8 mm (appropriate for heel or midfoot strikers), a generous amount of Enerzy foam and U4ic (pronounced “euphoric”—both are EVA) cushioning in the midsole, a Peba plate for gentle propulsion and a sturdy outsole that grips pavement well while protecting the shoe from premature wear and tear. The upper is light and breathable, with some rigidity at the back of the heel to keep your foot securely locked down.
Buy Men’s
Buy Women’s

EDITOR’S PICK
BEST UPDATE

Brooks Ghost 15

Brooks Ghost 15

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 278 g (9.8 oz.)
Women’s: 249 g (8.8 oz.)
Drop: 12 mm
Stack Height: 24 mm
$180

The Ghost as been a consistently well-loved cushioned road shoe for those who like a high heel-to-toe offset (hello, heel strikers) and a cushy but responsive ride. The brand’s updated DNA Loft v2 cushioning (which is nitrogen-infused polyurethane) is a little softer and lighter than the original compound, so for easy runs and long runs, it’s better than ever. (Purists might scoff at the idea of using the Ghost for faster efforts, but in a pinch, you could make it work.) The breathable upper has a generously padded heel collar and tongue, and the shoe manages to feel substantial while still very light.

This new model’s enhancements include a slightly restructured upper to ensure a good fit (which in the past has tended toward long and narrow), though beside this and the updated midsole material, it’s pretty much unchanged. The excellent outsole still grips well in wet or dry conditions and will last a long time without showing significant wear.
Buy Men’s
Buy Women’s

Altra Via Olympus

Altra Via Olympus

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 312 g (11.0 oz.)
Women’s: 255 g (8.9 oz.)
Drop: 0 mm
Stack Height: 33 mm
$210

The Via Olympus is Altra’s new maximalist shoe for those who love both the max-cushioning trend and a zero-drop shoe (where your heel is at the same level as your toes, rather than being slightly higher). It’s designed for your long weekly marathon or half-marathon training run and easy runs; it will ensure not only that you get through the run comfortably, but that you recover quickly, ready for the coming week’s workouts.

This is still a reasonably light shoe, considering the thick upper and midsole (it’s 33 mm, but looks higher); the slight toe rocker provides some added forward momentum through the gait cycle, while the generous slab of EGO MAX foam in the midsole provides more than decent energy return. (The brand is not saying what it’s made of, but all indications are that it’s a softer but slightly less bouncy version of the brand’s EGO and EGO PRO, which are TPU.) Also, this model offers Altra’s Original Footshape Fit, which has a slightly wider toebox than the Standard Fit or Slim Fit models—another reason the discerning, midfoot-striking endurance runner will love this shoe.
Buy Men’s
Buy Women’s

Tracksmith Eliot Runner

Tracksmith Eliot Runner

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 261 g (9.2 oz.)
Women’s: 227 g (8.0 oz.)
Drop: 9 mm
Stack Height: 33.5 mm
$295

The new Tracksmith Eliot Runner is pretty much exactly what you would expect from the brand: good-looking, preppy and comfortable for short runs. The single colour option is ivory with a navy stripe down each side; with a gum sole and suede accents around the heel collar and eyestays, it’s almost too nice to run in (i.e., you’ll need a second pair to show off at brunch).

Besides the shoe’s streamlined design (it looks like a racing flat), it achieves a comfort factor, first by means of a thicker-than-usual insole made of supercritical Peba, and enhanced by the smooth Peba midsole, which rides well through easy runs and short intervals. It has a well-padded collar and tongue, and a fairly high drop, appealing to a broad range of runners. The shoe comes with a 30-day/100-mile guarantee.

RACING SHOES

New Balance Fuel Cell SuperComp Elite v3

New Balance Fuel Cell SuperComp Elite v3

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 218 g (7.7 oz.)
Women’s: 188 g (6.6 oz.)
Drop: 4 mm
Stack Height: 40 mm
$300

This is the first shoe to be called “SuperComp,” and it succeeds 2021’s Fuel Cell RC Elite v2. It’s an impressive offering in the high-performance marathon racing genre for those who like a high-stack, low-drop shoe with a full-length carbon-fibre plate. The midsole (which is the maximum allowable height under World Athletics rules for elite competition) is a blended Peba that feels plush without being too “squishy” (it’s slightly firmer than the RC v2) and the Energy Arc plate/foam combo works well for all distances, including the marathon.

The toe-rocker is quite modest, leading to less propulsiveness than some other models provide. This shoe is also lighter than the v2, with a long, deep cutout in the midsole, right through to the plate.

This is the only shoe in our lineup with a booty construction/fully integrated tongue similar to the Nike AlphaFly; this one is made of a stretchy knit material, and slightly easier to get on and off than the AlphaFly, thanks also to the pull tab on the heel. The shoe fits slightly small, so you may need to go up a half-size. The lacing system uses cords stitched to the upper rather than traditional reinforced eyelets. The Cosmic Pineapple colour shown launches on April 1.

Under Armour Flow Velociti Elite

Under Armour Flow Velociti Elite

Category: Neutral cushioning
Unisex: 213 g (7.5 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 39 mm
$315

This is the production model of the prototype shoe that Sharon Lokedi was wearing when she won the New York City Marathon in November. A natural progression of UA’s Flow series, the shoes’ distinct lightness (thanks to the lack of any rubber on the bottom) and their strong, stable, breathable WARP 2.0 upper design with stitched overlays are what set them apart from other shoes in both esthetics and performance, both of which we have been very keen on in the past.

Unlike its sibling models, the Elite has a dual-density midsole with beaded (Peba) foam above the firmer Flow layer, plus a full-length, fairly stiff carbon-fibre plate; the shape of the midsole is more conventional than the other Flow models, in keeping with its stated purpose as a marathon shoe. (It will certainly appeal most to those who like a firm ride.) The Elite fits quite narrow, particularly in the heel.

The lack of an outsole in these models has received mixed reviews; will this new model, which is ostensibly designed for much longer distances yet is identical underneath, last sufficiently long to justify the price? The jury’s still out.

EDITOR’S PICK
BEST MARATHON SHOE

Saucony Endorphin Elite

Saucony Endorphin Elite

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 205 g (7.2 oz.)
Women’s: 185 g (6.5 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 40 mm
$349

Building on the success of the Endorphin line launched in late 2019, this new racing shoe from Saucony has an unconventional look, with a chunky midsole and a sandal-like upper. It also has some innovative new features designed to propel runners who are serious about performance to their fastest times.

This “barely legal” shoe (referring to the 40-mm heel stack height) incorporates a new midsole cushioning material, the PWRRUN HG superfoam, which is even bouncier than the PWRRUN PB used in previous Endorphin models; it’s also slightly firmer and more stable. The foam is designed to work in conjunction with a new, full-length, articulated and forked carbon-fibre plate; the aggressive toe rocker gives it a noticeable pop at toe-off. The shoe feels very stable at cruising speed and promotes a faster cadence, a more efficient stride and quick recovery.

The upper appears designed to eliminate as much material (and therefore weight) from the shoe as possible. It’s extremely thin and has a die-cut, gussetted, soft-textured tongue, large cutouts on the sides and a wide mesh strip that wraps around the upper (between the carbon-fibre plate and the foam midsole) to provide a smidgen of structure and a secure fit. The knitted collar extends to form the heel (with a rear strap for support). The very thin carbon rubber outsole is somewhat minimalist (like many carbon racers), and despite the brand’s claims, provides good traction only on dry pavement.

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 211 g (7.4 oz.)
Women’s: 180 g (6.3 oz.)
Drop: 8 mm
Stack Height: 36 mm
$260

Everything about the Deviate Nitro Elite 2 is thinner and lighter—it has a thinner and more breathable, single-layer mesh upper, thinner rubber on the outsole and a trimmed-down carbon-fibre plate that’s been redesigned to work in concert with the two layers of highly responsive Nitro Elite foam (a Peba/EVA blend) in the midsole. It’s extremely light and propulsive, thanks also to the slight toe rocker, and both very responsive and very comfortable—at least for distances up to the half-marathon; beyond that, you may begin to feel that rigid plate through the foam, which is not quite as thick as in some of the other models reviewed here.

There’s some welcome new padding in the heel collar, and not much of a heel counter (which runners with Achilles issues will appreciate). The shoe feels stable at all points in the gait cycle and is just flexible enough to be forgiving without sacrificing energy return. The outsole is impressively grippy, even in wet conditions.

It’s a little more accessible than the more radical FastR Nitro Elite introduced last year (and a lot less pricy), and will appeal to any serious 5K or 10K runner or half-marathoner looking to improve their performance on the roads this spring.

EDITOR’S PICK
BEST 5K/10K/HALF-MARATHON SHOE

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro

Category: Neutral cushioning
Men’s: 210 g (7.4 oz.)
Women’s: 196 g (6.9 oz.)
Drop: 4.5 mm
Stack Height: 39 mm
$290

Speaking of radical-looking shoes: with its cutaway heel, the Wave Rebellion Pro is the most unusual design we’ve seen among the new racers on the market. Just a hair under the legal limit for performance stack height under World Athletics rules, the midsole has two thick layers of superlight Mizuno foam—Enerzy Lite (Peba) and, right under the foot, the lighter and softer Enerzy Lite+, sandwiching a full-length carbon-fibre plate.

The upper is extremely light and breathable and has just enough padding for comfort and provides a good lockdown, which is what you want in a racing shoe. The fit is slightly narrow in the toe box. The lack of a heel prevents any “rollback,” and means that all your energy is focused forward.

The shoe is very bouncy, and our tester (a 5,000m runner and Olympian) described it as “amazing” for fast workouts and racing, but noted it is not particularly comfortable for easy running or warming up (or for a slower marathon).

The shoe’s other unique feature is the full outsole, featuring a lattice of super-grippy, fine mini-lugs, that’s unlike any other racer we’ve seen—there is no exposed foam on the bottom of the shoe, giving it excellent traction and durability.
Buy Men’s

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Canadian Running

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