By Ruggero Loda
Spring time. The days grow longer and warmer; the rain, snow and naked trees give way to early sunrises, blue skies and green leaves. And after a long winter spent primarily indoors, runners are itching to head back outside. New runners join the ranks following New Year’s resolutions, and experienced runners refresh the worn out footwear that gloriously accompanied them through miles of training and racing in the previous year (or the winter).
2013 starts with many interesting new running shoes. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen new players in the shoe arena coming up with innovative concepts. And established brands apply technologies developed for the past Olympics to the everyday trainers of 2013. Overall, running shoes are getting better. We took the most anticipated models out for some thorough testing. Here are the shoes you don’t want to miss.
Wave Rider 16
Weight: Men’s 9.9 oz. | Women’s 8.2 oz.
The latest update to this perennial favorite features the same great cushioning you would expect from Mizuno, and a flexible Dynamotion upper that places stretchy material in all the right places. Nothing changes in the undercarriage from the last version — except that Mizuno found ways to effectively decrease the overall weight by improving the upper. As a neutral shoe, the Wave Rider 16 provides a bit more support than many of its counterparts. This is due to an Extended Wave Plate, which decreases twisting of the foot and provides some support for overpronators. Testers praised the durability of this shoe, and heavier runners appreciated that the Wave Plate technology maintains some resilience in the midsole.
Blade Light Run II
Weight: Men’s 10.0 oz. | Women’s 8.1 oz.
This updated version of the Blade Light Run has an overhauled upper that’s seam free and boasts welded overlays that make it a comfortable and lightweight neutral running shoe after a slight break-in period. The one-piece midsole/outsole (constructed from superfoam technology) and Aosta inserts (to improve durability) keep the shoe fairly flexible and responsive. Wear testers liked the forefoot flexibility, but found the midfoot area slightly stiffer.
Progrid Guide 6
Weight: Men’s 10.0 oz | Women’s 8.9 oz.
The Saucony Guide 6 continues to use the same resilient Progrid foam cushioning. This, teamed up with newly aligned deeper flex grooves and segmented crash pad in the heel, offers up excellent flexibility while maintaining a smooth, comfortable ride. A return of the 8mm drop helps promote a more natural and efficient stride, and a new midfoot saddle brings it all together in a snug package.
Weight: Men’s 9.7 oz. | Women’s 8.7oz.
For the runner looking for the best of both worlds in a minimum race/train shoe, check out Pearl Izumi’s Kissaki 2.0 (released in 2012). With a newly designed seamless upper that gives it a competitive look and feel, the Kissaki 2.0 is light, springy and sleek enough to race in, but it still has enough padding for daily training. The 1:1 energy return foam and crash pad keep the shoe resilient and fast, while encouraging a natural efficient stride.
Flow3 Trainer Fulcrum
Weight: Men’s 8.5 oz. | Women’s 8.0 oz.
Category: Neutral Performance
The Flow Trainer is an excellent shoe for those looking for a lightweight, responsive ride. Karhu’s trademark is the Fulcrum (a wedge of dense foam in the middle of the shoe), which acts like a lever designed to propel you forward. The Fulcrum may require an adjustment for heel-strikers, but mid- and fore-foot strikers will enjoy the fast, natural-feeling ride.
Adrenaline GTS 13
Weight: Men’s 11.3 oz. | Women’s 9.4 oz.
This award-winning stability shoe offers the same cushion and support that it’s known for, while adding Omega Grooves and Flextra technologies. These new technologies give extra flexibility in the underfoot, while still maintaining the shoe’s durability and breathability. Keeping other technologies of last year’s model like Brooks’ DNA and Full Length BioMoGo, the updates correct what small imperfections the Adrenalines GTS 12 had. Testers familiar with previous versions of the shoe agree this is the best update yet.
Weight: Men’s 11.4 oz. | Women’s 9.3 oz.
Category: Structured Cushioning
Asics debuts a completely revamped edition of its core GT line of shoes. As the replacement for the GT 2170, the GT 2000 comes in lighter on the foot but heavier on the wallet. The GT 2000 includes a 10 mm heel-to-toe offset and a less intrusive Dynamic Duomax support system. Preliminary testing revealed that the GT 2000 performs quite similarly to its predecessor, with the exception of a more responsive toe off. The upper fit remains very accommodating for the average-width foot that requires pronation control.
Weight: Men’s 9.8 oz. | Womens 8.2 oz.
The adidas Energy Boost is a great choice for neutral runners looking for a fast, light and soft shoe that fits snugly. The overall feel is extremely soft and cushioned, with a snug, almost sock-like upper. The sole unit of the Energy Boost is designed to provide exceptional energy return, which makes for a fast feel. Rounding it out is a sock-like upper that hugs the foot comfortably, providing a touch of extra support. During testing, the Energy Boost performed best during faster workouts on the track or tempo runs.
Weight: 5.6 oz. (unisex)
Category: Neutral Racing
As seen on some of the fastest feet in the 2012 Olympics, the Flyknit Racer is Nike’s latest offering in the ultra-performance neutral racer category. Sporting an intricately woven one-piece upper, the Flyknit Racer promises a supportive yet adaptable fit by integrating Dynamic Flywire into the lacing tabs for a customized fit. Underfoot tech includes a Phylon midsole and forefoot Zoom Air unit for responsive cushioning and quick transition. Nike’s classic waffle-patterned outsole provides the grip on the road. The Flyknit Racer is only available in men’s sizing, so women should subtract 1.5 sizes to find a comfortable fit.
Weight: Men’s 6.6 oz. | Women’s 5.2 oz.
The second iteration of Skechers GOrun 2 provides a comfortable, well-fitting minimalist experience that builds upon the strengths of the first version. Designed for lightweight adaptability, the GOrun 2 is a great go-to shoe for minimalist veterans and a great “first shoe” for newcomers to the category. With a lightweight, comfortable and flexible upper, as well as a contoured and adaptive outsole, the GOrun 2 provides tactile feedback that doesn’t get in the way for a comfortable and performance-minded run. Weighing a scant 6.6 ounces, the GOrun 2 provides a responsive ride that feels like it’s barely there. And at a tempting price point, this shoe is well-positioned to fit into any minimalist runner’s rotation.
Weight: Men’s 9.55 oz. | Women’s 7.65 oz.
With the 890 V3, New Balance has made some small tweaks in all the right places — improving upon the V2 without changing what so many runners have come to love. Fit is improved by deepening the toe box, troublesome overlays were moved, and the same Revlite midsole and 8mm heel drop was maintained. Many runners will find the 890 V3 to be somewhere between a racing flat and a traditional trainer, and capable of handling tempo work as well as long runs. Our testers loved the fact that the Revlite cushioning holds up far beyond other lightweight trainers they’d worn, and that the shoe maintains a perfect blend of soft but responsive protection.
Weight: Men’s 9.3 oz. | Women’s 7.7 oz.
Category: Performance Stability
The Motion is Newton’s stability performance trainer designed for everyday use and faster-paced training. Characterized by four actuator lugs placed in the forefoot and a 3mm heel drop, the Motion encourages mid-foot and forefoot striking. Testers found these lugs noticeable at first, but quickly realized that they no longer felt them within half a mile of running. However, sore calves often resulted with an overly quick transition into these shoes. Testers appreciated the wide toe box and good fit, and a short break-in period was only required due to some stiffness around the heel collar that went quickly away.
Weight: Men’s 8.5 oz. | Women’s 7.8 oz.
Category: Neutral Performance
The Scott T2C Evo is a lightweight, well-balanced everyday training shoe for the performance-minded runner. The new colorway is a striking blue and yellow, and looks very fast on one’s feet. The shoe’s outsole is made of the brand’s AeroFoam technology, which provides good cushioning in a lightweight package. Wear testers found the ride to be responsive yet forgiving, with more than enough cushioning for heavier runners to use as a marathon racing flat if so desired. All around, an excellent package for a variety of runners looking for a versatile daily training shoe or long-distance road racer.
Ruggero Loda is a passionate runner and triathlete with many years of experience in the running footwear industry. As founder of runningshoesguru.com (a leading running shoe review website), he coordinated the testing and reviewing of hundreds of running shoes in the past several years.