In the last few years we’ve seen a major trend – minimalism – alter the way shoes are made, and then a massive self-correction back in the other direction with maximalism.
In 2015, we’re finally getting to see the end product of these two dramatic shifts in the marketplace. The major theme for spring 2015 is more cushioning, less bulk. And that’s a very good thing for most runners.
Merrell All Out Charge
Men’s 283 g (10 oz.), Women’s 241 g (8.5 oz.)
Drop 6 mm, $150
Merrell has always done things a little bit differently with their running shoes. Their strongest offerings are in the trail category, and the All Out Charge is a great example of a shoe that could easily step off the road and onto the single track.
What our testers like best about the All Out Charge is that it isn’t quite a minimal shoe, although it has minimalist principles. For neutral runners, this shoe is great for mixed terrain running for pretty much as far as you can take it.
Brooks Ghost 8
Men’s 292 g (10.3 oz.), Women’s 249 g (8.8 oz.)
Drop 12 mm, $150
The Ghost is just one of those shoes that, when you put your foot in it, it just feels right. It’s become a big hit at running shops for neutral runners over the years because it sells itself. This update thankfully doesn’t wander too far afield from the design principals that have made the Ghost so well loved.
The big change is in the upper. Brooks go with a nearly stitch-free design and new, more breathable mesh. Underfoot, the Ghost 8 has a new crash pad for a better landing and toe- off, as well as a series of flex grooves in the sole so the shoe follows your foot’s lead and not the other way around.
Pearl Izumi N3
Men’s 332 g (11.7 oz.), Women’s 289 g (10.2 oz.)
Drop 8 mm, $160
The N3 is Pearl Izumi’s cushioned neutral shoe. This Colorado-based company makes excellent trail shoes, and their road models take many of the smart design concepts from their off-road models for a better fit while running on harder surfaces. Our testers loved the wide toe box and ample padding around the ankle and heel.
The N3 has a higher stack height than Pearl Izumi’s other neutral models for a softer, slightly marshmallowy feeling ride. The upper is highly breathable and the no-sew construction means zero hot spots. Pearl Izumi has a really specific concept going with their shoes, and there’s a lot to like about the N3.
Editor’s pick: Best New Shoe
Zoot Del Mar
Men’s 312 g (11 oz.), Women’s 272 g (9.6 oz.)
Drop 8 mm, $150
Zoot have built their reputation as a high performance triathlon apparel brand. The Del Mar shows Zoot’s commitment to making a more running-specific shoe.
The Del Mar is a big, cushy trainer that almost falls into the maximalist sub-category. It has two layers of midsole: the company’s softer Z-Bound material closer to the foot, and a firmer layer connected to the ample rubber outsole. It’s a substantial shoe, but our testers pointed out that it was exceptionally comfortable and durable.
Hoka One One Clifton 2
Men’s 235 g (8.3 oz.), Women’s 203 g (7.2 oz.)
Drop 5 mm, $170
Hoka One One, the catalysts behind the maximalist trend, update their road shoe by improving upon the upper. The first incarnation of the Clifton was a great ride – surprisingly light and nimble for such a seemingly large shoe. Version two includes a padded tongue and a well-positioned series of overlays that provide a better overall fit around the foot.
The Clifton 2 provides an extremely soft ride (perhaps the lightest touch of all shoes in this review), while sitting on the scale at roughly the same benchmark of many racing flats. Hoka continues to be the industry leader in the maximalist category, and the Clifton 2 is their finest shoe yet.
Editor’s Pick: Best Neutral Shoe
New Balance Vazee Pace
Men’s 214 g (7.5 oz.), Women’s 184 g (6.5 oz.)
Drop 6 mm, $140
Our testers got an early sneak peek of the Vazee Pace months ago and they put it through its paces. The reviews have been unanimously outstanding. This neutral shoe takes over for the well-loved 890. New Balance sticks with the tried-and-true RevLite eva foam for the midsole and a wide forefoot for nice toe splay.
The Vazee’s upper looks fantastic, with loud, appealing colourway options. Weighing in below 8 oz., this is an extremely light everyday neutral shoe. Over time, wear may be an issue, but that’s the sacrifice needed to make a trainer this light.
Editor’s Pick: Best Update
Asics Gel Cumulus 17
Men’s 323 g (11.4 oz.), Women’s 266 g (9.4 oz.)
Drop 10 mm, $160
One of Asics’s flagship shoes gets a makeover and wise structural improvements. This neutral cushioning shoe has been a huge hit for the company for nearly two decades because of its extremely soft ride. The comfort factor hasn’t been lost, although Asics is bringing its bigger, fully featured shoes into the modern era of design by going with more intriguing colourways and seamless, glued overlays.
Underfoot, Asics brings their new midsole technology, Fluidride, to the Cumulus. Fluidride is slightly softer and more springy than the eva Asics had previously used, without any increase in weight. A solid option for neutral or mild supinators.
Saucony Ride 8
Men’s 266 g (9.4 oz.), Women’s 241 g (8.5 oz.)
Drop 8 mm, $150
The Ride and the Guide (Saucony’s stability model) are the brand’s two flagship shoes. This update adds the Flexfilm technology in the upper, and our testers who were familiar with the previous version said that it had a snugger fit around the top of the foot.
What our testers liked best about the ride is that it just felt right on the foot. There’s ample padding around the heel and a cushioned landing with a firm toe-off through the running motion. One of our testers who had a wide foot did note that the toe box is on the narrower side. This well-constructed neutral trainer continues its legacy with a nice addition to the upper.
Adidas Supernova Sequence 8 Boost
Men’s 310 g (10.9 oz.), Women’s 260 g (9.2 oz.)
Drop 10 mm, $160
The newest version of the Supernova sees a subtle upgrade of the upper. This structured training shoe is a bit too heavy for tempo work, but is ideal for long, easy efforts. The combination of traditional EVA and Adidas’s fabulous Boost midsole produces what one of our testers called a “soft touchdown with a noticeable energy return when I pushed off.”
What’s nice about Adidas’s line of trainers and racing flats is that they feel like they all came from the same design source. Fans of the German brand can seamlessly transition from one shoe to another for different distances and efforts.
New Balance 1260v5
Men’s 349 g (12.3 oz.), Women’s 289 g (10.2 oz.)
Drop 8 mm, $190
The revamped 1260 strips away much of the bulky overlays of the previous version and puts this model in line with the design principals of the New Balance shoes, such as the Vazee, the 860 and 880. The result is a slicker, more stylish look, which is always a challenge in a fully structured stability shoe.
The V5 also offers a different conceptual construction to the midsole. New Balance goes with a dual layer system, employing their N2 material under the foot, and a second, firmer layer of EVA closer to the ground. The posting is also modified for excellent support for medium to severe pronators.
Men’s 303 g (10.7 oz.), Women’s 275 g (9.7 oz.)
Drop 12 mm, $140
As with Zoot’s neutral model, the Coronado is a step in the right direction for the triathlon-oriented apparel company. This run-specific trainer is designed for average to heavier runners who are looking for stability and support.
Although the Coronado is a run-focused shoe, the inner construction of this shoe is so smooth and seamless that one of our testers just opted to run sockless. The dual-density midsole EVA foam is on the cushiony side, which will appeal to most runners looking for a fully supportive shoe.
Men’s 320 g (11.3 oz.), Women’s 264 g (9.3 oz.)
Drop 10 mm, $140
The major update to this medium stability shoe is in the upper. Asics jettisons their more traditional approach to a sophisticated knit-mesh design in the toe box. This upgrade allows the shoe to fit more closely to the toes without causing abrasion.
The rest of the shoe is pretty much the same as the previous version, which fans of the GT-1000 will like, as it has a solid midsole system for mild over-pronators.
Men’s 244 g (8.6 oz.), Women’s 201 g (7.1 oz.)
Drop 0 mm, $160
Runners that need stability but long for a break on the weight of the shoe they need will like the Impulse. This feathery yet structured everyday trainer has a slew of nifty design details, including an asymmetrical lacing system for a locked-in feel and an extremely thin upper membrane for great breathability.
Altra has become known for its commitment to zero drop and roomy toe box. The main detail that our testers liked most about the Impulse was the midsole and its clever drain holes. Great for really long hauls, wet conditions or hot summer runs.
Pearl Izumi M3 V2
Men’s 337 g (11.9 oz.), Women’s 292 g (10.3 oz.)
Drop 7.5 mm, $175
The M3 gets an outsole overhaul in its second version. Pearl Izumi’s engineers decided to flip the direction around of the lug’s flex grooves and they added more bendable points in the blown rubber, allowing for much more nuanced contact with the ground. That works especially well with the company’s trademark “dynamic offset” in the midsole, which basically means that there are different drop ratios all along the shoe.
The M3 is Pearl’s most structured shoe, but the denser midsole pronation support isn’t chunky or overwhelming underfoot. In fact, our testers pointed out that, for such a stable shoe, the ride was quite firm.
Saucony Omni 14
Men’s 318 g (11.2 oz.), Women’s 264 g (9.3 oz.)
Drop 8 mm, $160
Saucony’s stability shoe for medium to severe over-pronators gets a decent a decent upgrade. The most significant improvement is in the extended crash pad, which will get the foot to land and transition more smoothly. Saucony has also stripped away the plastic mid-foot shank, which sheds weight and lets the shoe be a little bit more loose and flexible.
In the upper, Saucony were able to use glued overlays in order to remove some stitching, which reduces irritation, especially during longer runs. Those that like the Saucony Guide but seek a bit more support should give the Omni a try.
Adidas Supernova Glide 7 Boost
Men’s 295 g (10.4 oz.), Women’s 250 g (8.8 oz.)
Drop, 10 mm, $160
Now in it’s seventh iteration, this popular, traditional neutral shoe has maintained much of what’s made it so popular and reliable. Minor changes to the upper see welding in place of some stitching in order to improve the fit and feel around the foot.
The Boost midsole is perfect for this weight of everyday neutral trainer. It produces a soft, super-plush ride. One of our testers remarked that running in the Glide 7 Boost is “downright bouncy and fun.”
Editor’s pick: Best Stability Shoe
Brooks Ravenna 6
Men’s 303 g (10.7 oz.), Women’s 249 g (8.8 oz.)
Drop 10 mm, $150
Ravenna 5 saw huge updates to the midsole and the upper. The sixth edition of this medium stability shoe improves upon those changes in the upper. Brooks have simplified and streamlined the design of the upper by removing most of the stitching in favour of glued overlays and a new mesh design.
The two big additions are in the mid-foot saddle and the heel cup area. The addition of a saddle attached to the lacing system means a much better custom fit. The heel is much more padded and comfortable than the Ravenna 5, which is another luxury addition to this premium guidance shoe.
New Balance 1600v2
Men’s 156 g (5.5 oz.), Women’s 132 g (4.6 oz.)
Drop 8 mm, $150
The 1600v2 is a very specific shoe, designed to fill the void between the track spike and the marathon racing flat. It’s exceptionally light and easily the most responsive shoe in this review. The upper is made from the sparest of materials and looks like an elegant racing
slipper. New Balance uses its RevLite EVA midsole (albeit not very much of it) and a rock- hard DynaLite outstole material that delivers that super detailed feel with the ground.
This shoe also looks wild. The design of the V2 is loud and aggressive. Fitting for a racing flat. The 1600v2 will not hold up as a trainer, but its not meant to be. Cherish it for race day or a hard workout.
Salming Distance Shoe
Men’s 290 g (10.2 oz.), Women’s 243 g (8.6 oz.)
Drop 5 mm, $180
If you’re a NHL fan, you may recognize the brand name. After retiring from hockey, Borje Salming got into apparel and shoe design. The Distance Shoe is the brand’s marquee trainer. Our tester’s first impressions were that the Distance Shoe is quite light and flexible, with a low contact point to the ground.
The upper is attractive and breathable, with a cushioned heel collar. The torsion shank under the mid-foot reduces what could have been a sloppy, thin shoe. Instead, the Distance Shoe feels almost like a racing flat: responsive and light.
Asics DS Trainer 20 NC
Men’s 247 g (8.7 oz.), Women’s 201 g (7.1 oz.)
Drop 10 mm, $170
If you want to wade into the dark waters of the lightweight trainer, the DS Trainer is a safe bet. It offers enough support for almost any runner during a tempo workout, or lighter runners for pretty much any type of run.
The 20th edition of this great, straightforward trainer shaves an impressive ounce off of the last incarnation’s weight. But it does so by perhaps sacrificing durability in the upper, as testers did notice some wear-and-tear showing after a few weeks. That said, this is a great value and really fun shoe for workouts and up-tempo long runs.
Editor’s Pick: Best Racing Flat
Adidas Adizero Adios Boost 2
Men’s 230 g (8.1 oz.), Women’s 194 g (6.8 oz.)
Drop 10 mm, $170
We’ve swooned over this near-perfect marathon racing flat in the past. It’s pedigree is perhaps the greatest of all running shoes currently on the market: most of the world record marathons in the last seven years were set in a pair of Adios.
With the advent of Adidas’s Boost midsole technology, the Adios got an upper overhaul as well, which was the only minor misstep in the history of this firm, fast shoe. But the last two iterations, including this current version, have the German shoe giant moving back to the classic styling that made the Adios so timeless looking. If you’re looking for a marathon-specific racing flat, the Adios Boost is a reliable option.
Pearl Izumi N1 V2
Men’s 259 g (9.1 oz.), Women’s 210 g (7.4 oz.)
Drop 4.5 mm, $140
The N1 is a close-to-the-ground zippy neutral trainer. Version two sees Pearl Izumi’s change in outsole design for a faster heel-to-toe transition. The N1 could be used for everyday running, although it lacks the support of some of the other shoes in Pearl’s road line-up. It’s ideal for tempo runs and one of our testers also raved about the N1 as a great half-marathon and marathon racing flat.
Pearl Izumi were early adopters of the seamless upper with welded overlays for a snug fit. Version two continues that tradition. This versatile lightweight neutral trainer is a nice option for efficient runners.
Brooks Pure Connect 4
Men’s 227 g (8 oz.), Women’s 187 g (6.6 oz.)
Drop 4 mm, $130
The Pure Connect has developed a cult following that’s allowed it to survive the minimalist trend’s demise. That’s a good thing for those that have found this wonderful lightweight trainer. The Pure Connect has carefully evolved since debuting back in 2012.
The key components of the Pure Connect 4 are the natural toe splay division that’s built into the forefoot and the mid-foot straps that really pull the shoe into place around the foot. Brooks acknowledges that, because it’s so light, the Pure Connect won’t last more than about 400 kilometres. But fans of this shoe will enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Editor’s pick: Best Lightweight Shoe
Saucony Kinvara 6 Runshield
Men’s 221 g (7.8 oz.), Women’s 193 g (6.8 oz.)
Drop 4 mm, $130
It’s hard to believe that about six years ago a shoe like the Kinvara was seen as a risky proposition. Luckily, Saucony rolled the dice, and we all won for it. Today, the hybrid lightweight trainer-racer has become a category of its own that satisfies those that like the stripped-down feel of a more minimal shoe, but with enough cushioning for everyday running.
The Kinvara’s soft, smooth ride and subtle pronation support is retained in this subtle update. The main improvement in the Kinvara 6 is the refinement of its already excellent FlexFilm upper for an even comfier fit.