Adidas Adizero Adios 2.0, $115
Lace ’em up: If you’re a fast and efficient long-distance racer
Find another: If you want über flexibile shoes
The forefoot of the Adios 2.0 feels stiffer than a lot of racing flats, making it a safe choice for speedwork and tempo runs for slower athletes and a versatile half- or full marathon racing option for faster runners. This stiffness, plus the 11mm heel drop, may help with fatigue at the end of a longer race, but it likely won’t appeal to runners looking to make a move to pure minimalism. Testers noted the “just right” fit and springy feel as highlights, particularly during speed workouts. Also going for it is the fact that the Adios was worn during two marathon world records!
Asics Piranha SP 4, $110
Lace ’em up: For intense intervals and short races
Find another: If you want a tempo trainer or all-purpose shoe
The “barefoot” movement might seem new, but old-school runners have been using shoes just like this one to get the benefits of minimalism long before it became trendy. Testers said the shoe is meant for fast running and promotes mid-foot striking. “As you move farther up onto the toes, it becomes more responsive, more flexible and quicker off the ground,” raved one tester. Despite its shockingly low weight, the sole offers “a good blend of flexibility and stiffness,” and the upper provides a “snug, but not suffocating” fit throughout.
Brooks Launch, $90
Lace ’em up: If you’re a long-course racer with efficient mechanics
Find another: If you need pronation control
Now that the terms “stability” and “motion control” have become synonymous with “clunky” and “awkward,” shoe companies are quick to disassociate their cushioned shoes from those former buzzwords in favor of trendier terms such as “neutral.” The Launch, however, truly is an amply cushioned neutral shoe. Its soft and forgiving platform frees the foot more than most so-called neutral shoes of similar weight while preserving the snappy feel often reserved for firmer shoes. The toes have plenty of space to spread, and the rest of the foot is firmly secured in place.