Use this guide to hone in on the right pair of shoes for you!
Written by: Mario Fraioli
This review first appeared in the September issue of Competitor Magazine.
This month we tested 25 of the hottest running shoes you’ll find on the walls of your favorite running specialty retail stores this season. Included in the lineup are some tried-and-true models from some of the bigger brands you’re already familiar with, along with some not-so-well known-yet companies hoping to make a splash on the scene this fall.
Before using this review to hone in on the right pair of shoes for you, it’s important to ask yourself a few key questions: Is my foot narrow or wide? Do I prefer a close fit in the toe box or would I rather have some wiggle room? Do I like a soft feeling underneath my foot or do I prefer the responsiveness of the road? Am I a heel striker or am I landing more on my midfoot/forefoot? Do I want my foot to be able to move freely or would I rather have a more controlled ride?
After answering these questions, use the Fit, Feel and Ride feedback provided by our test team as a virtual try-on to help you hone in right pair for your foot type, while also keeping your own individual needs and preferences in mind. Once you’ve got a good idea which of these models might work best for you, head to your local running store and try ’em on!
ASICS Gel-Nimbus 13--$130
asicsamerica.com FIT Wide-footed runners will appreciate the generous toe box and soft overlays that allow the foot to expand where necessary. “I liked the off-center lacing system, which helped the shoe fit my foot like a glove,” said one tester. FEEL “It felt like a lot of shoe on my foot but it was surprisingly light,” remarked one tester. Packing a ton of cushioning into the midsole of the shoe, the Nimbus 13 lives up to its name with a very soft feel underfoot. A plush liner adds to the overall step-in feel of the shoe. RIDE HEEL STRIKERS AND HEAVIER RUNNERS WILL ENJOY THE STABLE BACK-TO-FRONT RIDE THE NIMBUS HAS TO OFFER, WHILE MORE EFFICIENT RUNNERS WILL APPRECIATE THE FLEXIBLE, YET FORGIVING, FOREFOOT.
(EDITOR'S PICK: Best Design) ASICS Gel-Kinsei 4--$185
asicsamerica.com FIT The asymmetrical lacing system in the Kinsei 4 provides a snug fit over the top of the foot that helps hold heels in place. Soft, flexible overlays allow this shoe to accommodate a variety of foot types. FEEL “Soft” sums up the overall feel of this shoe. An exposed gel cushioning unit in the heel received praise from testers and a plush interior won high marks for its comfortable step-in feel. “My feet felt like they were getting the royal treatment,” commented one tester. A common complaint, however, was weight, with many testers referring to the shoe as “bulky.” RIDE A HARD PLASTIC CRADLE HINDERS MIDSOLE FLEXIBILITY BUT HEEL STRIKERS WHO PRONATE MODERATELY WILL APPRECIATE THE WELL-CUSHIONED, STABLE RIDE.
Somnio Exact Change 2.0--$135
soniorunning.com FIT “The heel feels a bit loose when standing still, but it holds the foot in place surprisingly well when running,” said one tester. Well-placed overlays in the upper contribute to a secure midfoot fit while a generous toe box allows for ample wiggle room up front. FEEL The Exact Change comes with a variety of interchangeable wedges, which affect how the shoe feels underneath the foot. “The shoes felt bouncy and I liked being able to adjust the level of cushioning in the heel,” one tester wrote. RIDE The Exact Change will work well as a reliable everyday trainer for mild to moderate overpronators who enjoy a responsive ride.
Saucony Pro Grid Hurricane 13--$135
saucony.com FIT Testers noted an interesting back-to-front fit in the Hurricane 13: secure heel, generous through the midfoot and snug in the toe box. FEEL A plush footbed, soft heel and rigid midfoot shank help give the shoe the optimal blend of cushioning and stability, but these features also add weight. “There is great support in this shoe, and it is also very forgiving on my knees,” said one tester. RIDE “I’M A HEEL STRIKER AND THESE SHOES HELPED ME LAND MORE EVENLY ON MY MIDFOOT,” SAID ONE TESTER. BIGGER RUNNERS AND THOSE REQUIRING LOTS OF CUSHION AND SUPPORT WILL LOVE THE FORGIVING FEEL AND STABLE TRANSITION OF THE HURRICANE 13.
(EDITOR'S PICK: Best New Shoe) Saucony Power Grid Cortana--$145
saucony.com FIT Testers loved the soft, secure heel fit of the all new Cortana. The shoe also scored high on the scale for its breathable, flexible and lightweight upper. “My foot settled nicely and felt very secure in the heel and through the midfoot,” said one tester. FEEL Featuring only a 4mm drop from heel to toe, as well as new lighter weight midsole materials, testers said the Cortana felt light on their feet but provided plenty of midfoot support. RIDE MILD TO MODERATE OVER-PRONATORS WILL ENJOY THE INHERENTLY STABLE RIDE OF THE CORTANA, WHILE NEUTRAL RUNNERS WON’T BE INHIBITED BY THE FIRMER FOAM BUILT INTO THE MEDIAL SIDE OF THE SHOE.
Reebok Zig Dynamic--$100
reebokrunning.com FIT “Snug through the forefoot and midfoot, but felt looser in the heel,” remarked one tester. The Dynamic’s protective, yet flexible upper and reverse-engineered lacing system holds the foot securely. FEEL The Zig Dynamic scored high on step-in comfort thanks to a plush interior and form-fitting profile. The use of heavier materials in the shoe’s upper, combined with an overbuilt midsole, scored a rating of “heavy” on the perceived weight scale, but the shoe won praise for cushioning. RIDE REEBOK’S ZIG TECH TECHNOLOGY ENCOURAGES FLEXIBILITY THROUGHOUT THE MIDSOLE, BUT TESTERS FOUND IT HARD NOT TO STRIKE ON THEIR HEELS. “THESE FELT REALLY SOFT AND SUPPORTIVE BUT I FELT LIKE THEY FORCED MY FOOT TO SPEND MORE TIME ON THE GROUND THAN THEY WANTED TO,” SAID ONE TESTER.
Puma Complete Velosis3--$125
pumarunning.com FIT Testers weren’t a fan of the roomy fit of the Velosis and felt there was too much volume through the midfoot. “I noticed the lack of contact under my arch right away,” said one tester. FEEL “The cushioning felt good but it just felt like a lot of shoe,” one tester said. The Complete Velosis 3 scored high for its plush interior and ample heel cushioning, but was rated “heavy” for perceived weight. RIDE HEEL STRIKERS WILL LIKE THE FORGIVING CUSHIONING IN THE REAR OF THE SHOE, WHILE AN EXAGGERATED RAMP IN THE FOREFOOT ENCOURAGES FORWARD PROPULSION AT TOE-OFF. “THE RAMP FELT A LITTLE DRAMATIC AND PUSHED ME FORWARD,” SAID ONE TESTER.
Puma Bolt Faas 400--$90
pumarunning.com FIT The Faas 400 is devoid of overlays in the upper and testers appreciated the free-flowing fit over the top of the foot. Testers rated the toe box roomy and unrestrictive but loose in the heel. FEEL “These felt light and low to the ground but didn’t have a lot of cushioning,” one tester said. Testers appreciated the lightness and freedom of the shoe, but felt that it lacked medial and rear-foot support. RIDE FAST, FLEXIBLE AND RESPONSIVE, THIS SHOE IS AN EFFICIENT FOREFOOT STRIKER’S DREAM. HEAVY HEEL STRIKERS AND RUNNERS WHO NEED MORE SUPPORT FROM A SHOE MAY FIND IT TOO UNSTABLE. “THESE WERE TOO LIGHT AND FLIMSY TO USE AS AN EVERYDAY TRAINER BUT FELT GREAT WHEN I WANTED TO GO FAST,” SAID ONE TESTER.
Pearl Izumi Snchro Fuel II--$120
pearlizumi.com FIT A seam-free, upper scored well with testers who appreciated the snug fit of the Syncro Fuel II. Many testers noted the shoe ran half a size small. FEEL The Syncro Fuel II’s soft interior scored high for step-in comfort, while a sturdy midsole provides the feeling of stability underneath the feet. RIDE THE SYNCRO FUEL II WILL WORK WELL FOR RUNNERS WITH A SMALLER TO AVERAGE BUILD WHO NEED SUPPORT AND PROTECTION IN A LIGHTWEIGHT PACKAGE. THE SHOE SCORED HIGH FOR SMOOTH TRANSITIONS FROM GROUND CONTACT TO TOE-OFF.
Pearl Izumi Peak II--$115
pearlizumi.com FIT Sleek and low to the ground, the Peak II features a reinforced mesh upper free of overlays, which caters to average to wider foot types. Its integrated lacing system helps dial in the fit, holding the foot securely. FEEL The Peak II’s low profile gives it a minimal, lightweight feel. Testers were impressed with the soft forefoot cushioning, but reported feeling a lack of arch support. “Felt surprisingly nimble and lighter than I thought they would for a trail shoe,” remarked one tester. RIDE BEST SUITED FOR OFF-ROAD TERRAIN, THE PEAK II PERFORMED WELL FOR SHORT STRETCHES ON THE PAVEMENT, TOO. WITH A FLEXIBLE MIDSOLE AND FAST TRANSITION, IT SERVES AS A LIGHTWEIGHT TRAINER FOR TRAIL RUNNERS WHO ARE LIGHT ON THEIR FEET.
on-running.com FIT In a word: comfortable. The Cloudsurfer offers a balanced fit that accommodates a variety of foot types. A snug heel cinch helps hold the foot while a lightweight upper allows for plenty of freedom. FEEL Thirteen raised lugs on the shoe bottom give the Cloudsurfer an interesting feel underfoot. “I felt higher off the ground, which took some getting used to,” said one tester. RIDE FASTER RUNNERS WHO STRIKE THE GROUND WITH THEIR FOREFOOT WILL ENJOY THIS SHOE. HEEL STRIKERS ON OUR TEST TEAM FOUND THE TRANSITION FROM GROUND CONTACT TO TOE-OFF A BIT AWKWARD. “PLENTY OF CUSHIONING BUT DIDN’T FEEL VERY STABLE ON LONGER RUNS,” SAID ONE TESTER.
(EDITOR'S PICK: Most Versatile) Nike LunarGlide+ 3--$100
nikerunning.com FIT A lightweight upper gives the foot a lot of freedom, while strategically placed eyelets help create a secure fit. “These shoes fit like a sock, and the materials were flexible and worked with my foot, rather than against it,” said one tester. FEEL Nike’s midsole provides a soft feeling underfoot while reducing the weight of the shoe. A built-in, non-intrusive support system helps the foot feel secure. RIDE FOREFOOT STRIKERS WILL LOVE THE GO-FAST, FLEXIBLE FEEL OF THE NEW GLIDE+ 3, WHILE HEEL STRIKERS WILL APPRECIATE THE AMPLE CUSHIONING AND SMOOTH TRANSITION FROM GROUND CONTACT TO TOE-OFF. NEUTRAL RUNNERS AND MILD OVERPRONATORS CAN GET AWAY WITH WEARING THIS SHOE AS A RELIABLE EVERYDAY TRAINER.
Nike LunarFly+ 2--$80
nikerunning.com FIT There aren’t a lot of extraneous overlays in the upper of the Lunar Fly+ 2 and that’s a good thing. This shoe fits narrow through the midfoot and features a low-volume toe box, which won’t feel good to runners with wide feet. Testers liked the thin, non-invasive tongue and close fit of the shoe. “They fit my foot like a racing flat,” said one tester. FEEL Lightweight and low to the ground was the consensus among our testers. “These were really low profile but still felt like they had a good amount of cushioning,” said one tester. RIDE SMALLER RUNNERS WITH EFFICIENT MECHANICS WILL ENJOY THE LUNAR FLY+ 2 AS A GOOD GO-FAST TRAINER. THE SHOE SCORED MARKS FOR GOOD FRONT-TO-BACK FLEXIBILITY AND A SMOOTH TRANSITION.
newtonrunning.com FIT The MV2 has a glove-like fit. Its minimal upper encases the entire foot and double eyelets help secure the heel, suiting runners with narrow to average feet. FEEL The lightest shoe we tested, the MV2 packs a surprising amount of cushioning and provides good forefoot protection. “It felt flexible and well-cushioned, but lacked support under my arch and heel,” said a tester. RIDE WITH A COMPLETELY LEVEL MIDSOLE AND RAISED FOREFOOT LUGS, THE MV2 ENCOURAGES FOREFOOT STRIKING. TESTERS SAID THE SHOE MADE THEM MORE AWARE OF THEIR FOOT PLACEMENT WHILE RUNNING. “I FELT LIGHT ON MY FEET WHEN RUNNING, BUT MY FEET DEFINITELY FATIGUED FASTER THAN NORMAL,” ONE TESTER SAID.
(EDITOR'S PICK: Most Cushioned) New Balance 1260--$145
newbalance.com FIT Generous, balanced and consistent describes the fit of the 1260. Despite a generous fit through the midfoot and in the toe box, testers noted that the shoes held their heels securely. FEEL With tons of cushioning from the heel to the forefoot, the 1260 impressed testers with its soft step-in feel and plush ride. “All that cushion comes at a price, and that price is weight,” said one tester. RIDE “WHILE THESE SHOES FEEL LIKE THEY MIGHT LAST LONGER THAN LIGHTER SHOES, THERE’S ALSO MUCH MORE HEEL AND MIDSOLE TO LIFT,” SAID ONE TESTER. THE 1260 RIDES MORE LIKE AN SUV THAN A SEDAN, AND IS A GOOD FIT FOR BIGGER RUNNERS WITH NEUTRAL MECHANICS OR RUNNERS WHO LAND HEAVY.
New Balance 880--$100
newbalance.com FIT A close midfoot wrap and spacious toe box highlight the fit of the new 880, which updates the now defunct 759. A few testers reported having to lace to the last eyelet to prevent heel slippage. FEEL One tester said: “My foot felt like it was being spoiled in this shoe.” Testers liked the plush interior, firm heel counter, ample arch support and light on-foot feel. A flexible upper with strategically placed overlays won high marks for in-shoe security among our test team members. RIDE A blend of protective cushioning, good forefoot flexibility and a smooth transition from ground contact to toe-off make the 880 a solid choice as an everyday trainer for neutral runners.
(EDITOR'S PICK: Most Responsive) Mizuno Wave Precision--$105
mizunorunning.com FIT “These fit like slippers—I didn’t want to take them off!” wrote one tester. Featuring Mizuno’s signature snug heel fit and a seam-free, flexible upper, the Precision was one of the best-fitting shoes we tested, accommodating a variety of foot types. FEEL This shoe is known for feeling lightweight and fast. “My feet felt free in these shoes and I wanted to run fast from the second I put them on,” one tester said. “For a light shoe, they had a lot of cushion and support,” remarked another. RIDE RESPONSIVE CUSHIONING SUMS UP THIS SHOE’S RIDE. EFFICIENT RUNNERS WILL LOVE THIS SHOE AS A LIGHTWEIGHT TRAINER OR LONG-DISTANCE RACER.
Mizuno Wave Enigma--$130
mizunorunning.com FIT Featuring a snug fit through the heel, midfoot and toe box, the new Enigma was a favorite of narrow-footed testers. However, the long tongue bothered some testers. FEEL Testers said the Enigma felt supportive in the arch, but it didn’t score well on flexibility or perceived weight. “It had a lot of cushioning, but seemed bulky. I wish it were more flexible,” said one tester. RIDE “IT RODE STIFF AND I FOUND IT HARD TO GO FAST,” SAID ONE TESTER, “BUT IT WAS A GREAT SHOE FOR RECOVERY RUNS.” NEUTRAL HEEL AND MID-FOOT STRIKERS WILL APPRECIATE THE BOUNTIFUL CUSHIONING AND FORGIVING RIDE THE ENIGMA OFFERS, BUT IT MIGHT BE TOO MUCH SHOE FOR A FOREFOOT STRIKER’S LIKING.
Karhu Strong 2 Fulcrum Ride--$98
karhu.com FIT An unrestrictive mesh upper provides a surprisingly snug fit while still allowing the foot to move freely. Consensus among our testers was that while the Strong 2 had a balanced midfoot fit, it ran narrow in the forefoot. FEEL “The shoes felt rigid and bulky,” said one tester. A firm wedge in the heel and high ramp angle in the rear of the shoe felt awkward to some. But it received praise for its lightweight feel on the foot and breathable mesh upper. RIDE RUNNERS WHO LAND HARD ON THEIR HEELS WILL APPRECIATE THE REAR-FOOT SUPPORT AND SMOOTH BACK-TO-FRONT TRANSITION THE STRONG 2 OFFERS. FOREFOOT STRIKERS MAY FIND THIS TO BE TOO MUCH SHOE.
Karhu Flow Fulcrum Ride--$110
karhu.com FIT Featuring a snug mid-foot wrap with a racing-flat feel, the fit of the Ride won over many testers. “My foot felt at home—the fit was very natural,” said one tester. FEEL “I was surprised how light and squishy they felt,” said a tester. This shoe will serve many runners well as a racing flat or lightweight trainer. A well-cushioned midsole offers some additional underfoot protection during the later miles of a long run or race. RIDE “FELT MINIMALISTIC AND PROPELLED ME FORWARD WITHOUT SOAKING ANY OF MY ENERGY UP,” SAID ONE TESTER. WITH A LOW PROFILE AND FLEXIBLE MIDSOLE, THE RIDE ENCOURAGES FASTER FOOT STRIKES AND A SMOOTH TRANSITION.
K-Swiss Konejo II--$110
k-swiss.com FIT “These shoes had the perfect secure heel fit/roomy toe box combo,” said one tester. The shoe’s upper wraps the foot nicely to provide a snug fit, even for narrow feet. FEEL In a word, “supportive” sums up the feel of the Konenjo 2. This surprisingly soft shoe impressed testers with its comfortable slip-in feel and its stable, but still flexible, midsole. “These shoes had a lot of arch support, which felt really good,” said one tester. RIDE Despite being a stability shoe with built-in medial support, the Konejo II won a lot of praise for offering a smooth, well-cushioned ride.
brooksrunning.com FIT The Glycerin 9 does an excellent job of mimicking the shape of the foot: narrow through the heel and midfoot, wider in the forefoot. Testers across the board enjoyed the balanced fit. FEEL Despite a beefy midsole packed with cushioning, testers were pleasantly surprised with how light the shoes felt on their feet. The shoes also won praise for their soft-step in feel. “Like slippers,” said one tester. RIDE BROOKS’ CUSHIONING TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS THE GLYCERIN TO BE RESPONSIVE WHEN RUNNING FAST AND SOFT WHEN SLOWING DOWN. REGARDLESS OF THE SURFACE, SPEED OR SIZE OF THE RUNNER, THE SHOE DELIVERED A SMOOTH, STABLE RIDE. “I RAN ON BOTH SAND AND PAVEMENT AND THESE SHOES PROVIDED GREAT STABILITY ON BOTH TERRAINS,” SAID ONE TESTER.
Brooks Ghost 4--$100
brooksrunning.com FIT Snug heel, secure midfoot and generous toe box describes the Ghost 4. “The toe box was a little wide but my foot didn’t slide around, nor did I have problems with blisters,” said one tester. FEEL Many of our testers agree that the Ghost 4 provides the best of both worlds: low weight and cushion. “I was surprised how light these shoes felt on my feet for the amount of cushioning they provided,” said one tester. RIDE NEUTRAL RUNNERS AND MILD OVERPRONATORS WILL ENJOY THE SOFT, YET STABLE RIDE OF THE GHOST 4. A FLEXIBLE MIDSOLE LENDS TO A SMOOTH TRANSITION FROM HEEL TO TOE.
(EDITOR'S PICK: Most Innovative) Altra Instinct--$100
www.altrazerodrop.com FIT A wide toe box without restriction best sums up the fit of the Instinct. “The toe box is wide and allows the foot to drift back and forth, but the midfoot and heel fit nicely,” said one tester. FEEL “They felt funny at first, like my feet were flat against the ground,” said one tester. Featuring no difference in the height of the midsole from heel to toe, the feel of the Instinct is unique and unlike that of even the most minimal shoes. RIDE FIRM YET FLEXIBLE, THE INSTINCT ENCOURAGES A MID TO FOREFOOT LANDING AND FORCES THE FOOT AND LOWER LEG MUSCLES TO DO MOST OF THE WORK WHEN RUNNING.
adidas Supernova Sequence 4--$110
adidasrunning.com FIT “Balanced” best describes the fit of the Sequence 4, the stalwart stability shoe in adidas’ fall lineup. Highlighted by a secure heel fit and comfortable upper, the shoe received rave reviews from testers for an overall excellent fit. FEEL The Sequence got high marks across the board for its lightweight feel, compared to other stability shoes we tested. Testers also noted that their feet felt supported in the arches. RIDE MILD TO MODERATE HEEL STRIKERS WILL LOVE THE SMOOTH FRONT-TO-BACK TRANSITION, WHILE PURE MIDFOOT STRIKERS WILL APPRECIATE THE ADDED MEDIAL SUPPORT ON LONGER RUNS. IF YOU LAND UP ON YOUR FOREFOOT, HOWEVER, BE WARNED: THE SEQUENCE 4 IS TOO MUCH SHOE FOR YOU.