2012 Spring-Summer Running Shoe Review

Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Use Competitor’s spring and summer running shoe review to find your warm-weather kicks! 

The minimalist movement continues to dictate the majority of design trends and upgrades in running shoes this spring. As more and more runners crave the barefoot experience, many shoe companies are responding by employing technology that encourages midfoot striking in cushioned, neutral and stability shoes.

Before using this shoe review, ask yourself a few key questions:

* Is my foot narrow or wide?

* Do I like a close fit in the toe box or would I prefer to 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 do I land more on my midfoot or forefoot when running?

* Do I want my foot to move freely or would I rather have a more controlled ride?

* What sort of training am I doing—do I need a lightweight running shoe or a more substantial shoe?

After answering these questions, use the Fit, Feel and Ride feedback provided by our experienced test team to help you home in on the right pair of shoes for your foot type. Then, head to your local running store to test them out.

Note: Weights provided for men’s size 9 and women’s size 7 shoes. 

RELATED: 2012 Racing Flat Review

This running shoe review first appeared in the April 2012 issue of Competitor magazine. 

2012 Spring-Summer Running Shoe Test Team: Courtney Baird, Cielestia Calbay, Mario Fraioli, Sabrina Grotewold, Aaron Hersh, Linzay Logan, T.J. Murphy, Jene Shaw

Mizuno Wave Rider 15, $115

men: 10.6 oz. | women: 8.7 oz.

The Wave Rider 15 features flex controllers on the forefoot outsole that improve efficiency just before toe-off, and midsole technology that helps provide a forgiving landing. These shoes provide the smooth ride and the cushioning runners have come to expect from the Rider series, but this upgrade isn’t as roomy in the toebox—wide-footed runners might experience rubbing with extended use.

Nike Lunar Eclipse +2, $135

men: 11.6 oz. | women: 9.5 oz.

With a roomy fit that expands slightly with repeated wear, these lightweight stability shoes allow the feet to respond naturally to the road. The shoes felt noticeably more plush when standing than running because testers weren’t expecting the large amount of flexibility in the midfoot from a cushioned stability shoe.

Altra Provision, $105

men: 9.5 oz. | women: 8.5 oz.

The slightly narrow fit prevents feet from sliding from side to side, but may be snug for wide-footed runners. The toe protection sheet that wraps around the toe created a hot spot on the tips of the toes for one tester. The zero-drop construction effectively promotes midfoot striking and the rigid sole relieves a lot of the stress that comes from feet supporting themselves in most barefoot-style shoes.

Karhu Stable, $120

men: 11.7 oz. | women: 10.3 oz.

The Stable is much less bulky and consequently much less cushioned with a lower profile than most everyday trainers. Best suited for mild overpronators, there’s just enough midfoot stability to protect against overpronation. With a roll-through that’s a little flat at the toe-off, these shoes are best for heel strikers who aren’t heavy pounders.

Under Armour Charge RC, $120

men: 9.25 oz. | women: 8.5 oz.

Best suited for neutral runners, these lightweight shoes don’t offer much stability for overpronators. The two-part construction—the back portion of the shoe overlays the front right over the arch—causes poking in the arch, making these shoes preferable for shorter runs. The highly responsive soles are ideal for faster-paced running.

Inov-8 Road-X Lite 155, $120

men: 5.47 oz. | women: 5 oz.

The Road-X Lite is a snug, extremely light and flexible minimalist shoe that almost molds to your foot, and makes you feel fast. There is limited arch support and minimal cushioning, giving you the feeling of running barefoot and allowing you to recoil off the ground almost instantly; its flexibility, especially through the midfoot, also lends to light, quick strides. The firm midsole makes it a good 5K to 10K racing flat, but it lacks the cushioning most runners prefer for longer road races.

Reebok Zignano Fly II, $100

men: 10.2 oz. | women: 8.5 oz.

Featuring Reebok’s signature zig-zag underfoot, the Zignano offers a springy ride that’s perfect for heel strikers, as the sole absorbs shock and encourages runners to propel off the midfoot. Featuring a generous midfoot that’s suitable for wide-footed runners, the shoe lacked medial and lateral stability, and didn’t offer enough support on uneven ground for mild to severe over or underpronators.

Saucony Hurricane 14, $140

men: 11.2 oz. | women: 9.7 oz.

Great for runners looking for supportive cushioning, the Hurricane 14 is like a plush cloud for your feet. All that softness doesn’t sacrifice stability; however, heavier-footed runners will appreciate the soft sole on their long training runs. But, take note, the dense cushion adds weight and can make for a clunky ride.

Skechers Go Run, $80

men: 6.9 oz. | women: 4.9 oz.

Targeted at heel strikers hoping to improve their strides, the high-impact rubber circular sensors and concave midsole encourage a natural midfoot strike and a springy, highly responsive transition. Like training wheels for less biomechanically efficient runners, these shoes provide a comfortable transition to a minimalist shoe. While the soft canvas material of the upper encases feet in retro comfort, the material lacks the durability found in most traditional shoes.

New Balance 860v2, $110

men: 9 oz. | women: 7.2 oz.

Moderate overpronators will like the solid cushioning in the forefoot, heel and medial arch area. Runners who need support to prevent their feet from rolling inward will like the shoe’s controlled, but smooth ride. With just enough cushioning for a comfortable heel-to-toe transition, this shoe balances cushioning with stability without too much bulk.

Pearl Izumi Syncrofuel Road II, $125

men: 10.2 oz. | women: 9.2 oz.

The Syncrofuel’s defining characteristics: extremely fast and almost harsh transition from heel strike to midfoot. A serious heel striker might benefit from the robust heel and its ability to hustle the runner through the contact phase, but others might find these awkward. The sturdy, cushy sole provides some stability without overwhelming and preventing feet from rolling inward.

Puma Faas 800, $100

men: 10.5 oz. | women: 8.7 oz.

Surprisingly light and flexible for a stability shoe, the memory foam layers in the heels absorb shock and keep heels secure. A good transitional shoe for neutral runners interested in trying a stability shoe, these aren’t recommended for runners who seek the cushioning and construction of a classic stability shoe.

Ecco Biom B, $200 textile; $220 leather

men: 12 oz. | women: 9.7 oz.

Designed to mimic a barefoot feel, the incredibly flexible upper and anatomical footbeds encourage runners to move naturally. Best suited for neutral runners, heel strikers may find the ride a bit awkward. Runners should take their time adjusting to these barefoot-inspired shoes.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12, $110

men: 11.3 oz. | women: 9.4 oz.

Updated with synthetic leather overlays and reflective elements—good for running in the dark—the GTS 12 features a lot of the same stability and cushioning elements as previous models, with a firmer heel pad. Severe overpronators will like the support and control the shoe provides, while runners with flat feet or low arches will appreciate the adequate arch support. Runners will enjoy the fast heel-to-toe transition and smooth ride.

K-Swiss Blade-Max Stable, $125

men: 10.5 oz. | women: 9.5 oz.

Heavier runners with neutral mechanics will love the Blade-Max Stable for its well-cushioned ride, while smaller-framed runners will appreciate the ample protection underneath their feet. A soft but substantial midsole provides plenty of cushioning and feels forgiving underfoot. Despite the bulky appearance of the shoe, it feels very light on the feet. It’s a great everyday trainer that can handle a beating.

Hoka OneOne Bondi B Low, $170

men: 9.7 oz. | women: 8.8 oz.

Wide-footed runners will have a hard time cramming their feet into this snug package—the shoe runs a half-size small. Efficient, high-mileage road runners seeking a lightweight, but maximally cushioned ride, will fall in love with the Bondi B. Bucking the minimalist trend of “feeling the ground,” the Bondi B is an excellent option for runners craving cushioning. Far from fast and responsive, the Bondi B is ideal for longer road runs, recovery miles or even an occasional off-road run.

Newton Distance Neutral, $155

men: 7.8 oz. | women: 6.7 oz.

“Balanced” best describes the fit of this stalwart in Newton’s collection—the secure heel and midfoot opens in the forefoot to accommodate wide and narrow feet. Heel strikers will need to take their time transitioning into the Distance, as the raised lugs in the forefoot discourage rearfoot ground contact and initially put a lot of stress on the lower legs. The Distance promotes an efficient forefoot striking and a fast transition. There’s plenty of forefoot cushioning to absorb shock upon impact.

adidas adizero Boston, $110

men: 9.5 oz. | women: 8.2 oz.

As you would expect in a lightweight, low-to-the-ground shoe, the Boston features a sleek fit that best accommodates narrow to average foot types. For a lightweight trainer, the Boston feels very stable under the heel and through the arch area. A good go-fast shoe, the Boston offers the firm, responsive ride efficient runners look for in a lightweight trainer. A flexible forefoot promotes a fast transition, making this a great option for faster workouts and racing.

Brooks Ravenna 3, $100

men: 10.9 oz. | women: 9.1 oz.

The most noticeable feature of the Ravenna 3 is the plush feeling of the biodegradable midsole, ample from the rearfoot to the forefoot. The meticulous attention to detail in this shoe make it a standout. For example, the sliplast and sockliner help provide a silky smooth experience. This is not a shoe for those wanting a minimal amount of material between the foot and the ground, but is for distance runners who like to crank through a 20-mile run with their feet feeling fresh and unbeaten.

ASICS Gel Kayano 18, $150

men: 11.5 oz. | women: 9.7 oz.

Now in its 18th year, the Kayano continues to be Asics’ flagship shoe. A three-layered midsole offers the runner a firm ride—not especially soft, but certainly a buffer against the impact of concrete. The upper is equally robust, particularly in the rearfoot, where the interior heel counter components are made with an exoskeleton cage-like technology that grips the heel through the upper. The idea is to minimize any possible friction against the Achilles in longer runs. Given the tight weave of materials, fabrics, midsole and outsole, the Kayano remains one of the most durable on the market.

 

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