Saucony Type A5, $100
Lace ’em up: For a pure racer with just enough cushion
Find another: If cycling leaves your calf muscles spent
Snug as a glove with its light, breathable upper, the Type A5 is half an ounce lighter than its predecessor, and still offers just enough cushioning. Testers perceived the midsole to be “flexible and bouncy” while providing a minimal but effective barrier between the foot and the ground. Fashioned for a mid- or forefoot strike, the low-profile heel helps encourage quick leg turnover but isn’t robust enough for pure heel strikers. Designed with drainage holes throughout the sole and a loop on the back of the shoe to help slide the foot in for a quick T2, the Grid Type A5 is great shoe for sprint or shorter triathlons.
New Balance RC 5000, $125
Lace ’em up: For all-out speed burns
Find another: If you need any support at all
If you run with little weight on your heels, this crazy light racing flat is a specialized weapon for your fastest workouts and races. Its paper-thin sole provides a surprising amount of cushioning, substantially more than many minimalist shoes of similar weight. The upper tightly cinches the forefoot to the sole. The narrow forefoot squeezes down firmly on the metatarsal arch but only softly on the mid-foot and heel. When running up on your forefoot, the RC 5000 is the perfect match. “It softens the feel of the ground just enough and snaps off the turf,” reported a tester. Running at slower speeds, however, is a bit awkward. The shoe “squirms and twists” around the foot when running with a heel-striking gait.
On Cloudracers, $129
Lace ’em up: For a uniquely suspended minimalist ride
Find another: For unadulterated road feel
The shtick behind On shoes are the circular pieces of rubber that line the sole. This system is intended to absorb both the horizontal and vertical shock from running, and to activate as opposed to stabilize a runner’s postural muscles—helping to prevent injuries, On says. And while the tester obviously couldn’t verify this claim scientifically, he did notice that his recurring calf injury wasn’t aggravated in these shoes. This unique sole transfers the “feel of the road, without the shock,” said a tester. Despite the light and flexible forefoot, testers said the impact felt cushioned yet responsive, and never like he was sinking into the shoe as he ran. Testers found that the upper conforms securely to narrow feet.