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BROOKS LAUNCH, $90
men’s: 9.3 oz. \ women’s: 7.8 oz.
Best as a marathon-and-beyond shoe for neutral runners, the Launch isn’t a shaved down, low- to zero-drop racing flat. Instead, it provides the supportive comfort of everyday trainers with less weight. Featuring a slightly lower-profile midsole and moderate heel-toe drop (10mm), breathable upper and ample width in the toe box, the Launch offers a springy, responsive ride with plenty of energy return. The Launch doesn’t feel as quick and peppy for short races or faster workouts, but it can double as a high-mileage trainer for neutral runners who prefer a cushioned shoe. The ride is soft and consistent, but the relatively thick midsole foam won’t offer any stability for severe overpronators. www.brooksrunning.com
PUMA COMPLETE SLX FUUJIN J, $110
men’s: 7.8 oz. \ women’s: 6.7 oz.
The Complete SLX Fuujin J is a good introductory racing flat for those new to shoes built with less structure, as it provides just enough cushioning for an easy adjustment and has a moderate heel-toe drop (10mm). Runners who appreciate a cushioned ride will like the shoe’s multi-density shock-absorbing midsole. It’s not an ultralight minimalist model, but more of a smooth-riding cruiser with some substance under foot. However, runners with wide feet will need to size up, as the shoe runs a little small and has a narrow fit. www.puma.com