Our wear test crew hit the pavement and the trails in 13 of the latest models to help guide you to your perfect match.


Our wear test crew hit the pavement and the trails in 13 of the latest models to help guide you to your perfect match.

Mizuno Wave Sayonara 2

$120, Mizunousa.com

Whittle away the excess sole from a high-mileage trainer and you’re left with the Sayonara 2. Mizuno preserved the fit (“soft and moderately roomy,” said a tester) and support (one tester described the sole as “semi-hard”) typical of bulkier high-mileage shoes but achieved a more fleet and light-footed feel by trimming the sole thickness. Expect the same forgiving fit of heavier trainers, and a little extra spring. “It flexes just enough to feel as if I’m controlling the shoe through a stride and not the other way around,” said a tester. Heel strikers looking for a faster feeling shoe without sacrificing protection or support are the best match for this pair.

“A sturdy neutral shoe with a fast-pace feel.”

Best for: Speed-focused heel strikers

RELATED – 2014 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Running Shoes

Pearl Izumi M2

$110, Pearlizumi.com

Targeted at the mild overpronator, the M2 is a responsive, cushioned shoe that gives mid-foot strikers a little extra medial support in the midsole. It accommodates average to wide feet-it’s snug while still allowing the toes to have room to splay-and the heel cup was very accommodating and stayed put even with a loose tie-up job. Although the upper is supposedly seamless, one tester found mild irritation while wearing thin socks, so they are not suggested for sock-free runs. Overall, however, it has a comfortable-out-of-the-box feel. “Its heel drop gives it the nice ‘rocking’ sensation, which helps pick up speed, especially on flats,” one tester said.

“A solid everyday trainer for mild to moderate overpronators who crave a responsive ride and plenty of protection underfoot.”

Best for: Easy runs of all distances, can also handle a progression or tempo run

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31

$100, Nike.com
The latest edition of one of Nike’s longest-running workhorses is snug, stable, stylish, and features some highly responsive cushioning. Testers were unanimous in complimenting its wrap-like fit via the spandex mid-foot sleeve, although “the substantial upper made this shoe appear to get a bit hotter than other shoes,” according to one tester. The shoe’s springy, responsive midsole was a hit. “Due to the shoe’s lightweight support and quick toe-off, this is a great shoe for picking up the pace-it responds well to quick changes in speed,” according to another tester. For mid-foot strikers and fans of low-profile shoes, however, the heel, along with the 10mm toe drop, seemed to feel a bit larger than its actual stats indicate.

“Lightweight, fast, supportive-the perfect training shoe.”

Best for: Both long-distance and tempo workouts

Saucony Kinvara 5

$100, Saucony.com

Think of the newest Kinvara as a beefed-up version of a race shoe. Like its lighter siblings, it has a soft and conforming sole, with a fairly narrow fit and firm connection to the foot. “I always felt securely cinched into the shoe, over any surface and even at faster speeds,” said a tester. And this shoe won’t meddle with your natural gait: “The flexible sole moved with me instead of forcing my stride to change,” one tester said. Extra cushioning sets the Kinvara 5 apart from traditional racers and differentiates it from earlier versions of this shoe. Its puffy sole is soft and absorptive. “The cushioning of the shoe compared to the weight is a great balance,” replied one tester. For a shoe with the feeling of a race flat but with ample cushioning, the Kinvara 5 is a great fit.

“Enough cushioning for longer runs with the pop for faster workouts.”

Best for: Going long while still feeling fast

Zoot Solana ACR

$110, Zootsports.com

The smooth yet responsive ride of the brand-new Solana ACR makes it a versatile training shoe, suited for a wide range of workouts, from long, slow runs to tempo runs and other fast-paced workouts. Testers loved the internal feel of this shoe-it has a “soft feeling at step-in, plush interior and great cushioning,” said one tester, while another loved running sockless in this shoe thanks to its seamless interior. Testers agreed that the snug fit made the shoe feel secure, offering “great proprioceptive interaction between my foot and the ground,” without feeling constrictive. The sole adequately absorbs impact on the heel then transitions well to the mid-foot and toe, and it feels energetic without being too firm. The ACR is built to take on all kinds of weather, so its weather-resistant fabric is not very breathable, making it better for cool fall and winter workouts.

“The midsole serves up a ride that is creamy smooth-an ideal blend of softness, snappy responsiveness and inherent stability.”

Best for: Runners looking for a do-it-all shoe

Adidas Adizero Adios Boost 2.0

$140, Adidas.com

Worn during the breaking of several marathon records, the Adios 2 is a stripped-down racing flat with ample amounts of style, a fairly snug fit and a scant but springy midsole. Crucially, as with most racing shoes, the Adios Boost 2.0 rewards speed and an efficient gait. “The shoe comes alive the faster you run in it,” one tester said. “Its sweet spot is in the mid-foot. Running with an efficient gait is best-quick-cadence running is like a dream, springy and light but not too soft.” That said, for heel strikers there’s just not a lot of foam for cushioning, and besides a firm heel counter, support is truly minimal. The shoe is comfortably glove-tight, and even so, runs a bit small. This is a go-fast shoe that inspires speed the moment you slip it on.”

Best for: Speed workouts, 5K/10K races

Altra 3-Sum

$130, Altrarunning.com

This playfully named triathlon shoe incorporates race-friendly features like Yankz quick laces, a seamless upper (for going sockless) and drainage holes, and is designed for fast running. The zero-drop design is said to promote good body posture and strengthen lower-leg muscles, and testers acknowledged a greater load on the lower legs, especially the calves, and felt more of the road beneath them. “The big toe box really encourages you to splay your toes, which could easily translate to running faster,” said one tester. Another runner also noticed the sensation of a stronger toe-off and forward propulsion, but also said the road noise transference (“I could feel sidewalk cracks and rocks underfoot”) on concrete or asphalt surfaces makes this a suitable shoe for Olympic-distance races or shorter.

“This shoe mimics the feel of running barefoot, with minimal interference in natural gait tendencies, for better or worse.”

Best for: Triathletes who prefer a zero-drop race shoe

Asics Gel-Pursue

$110, Asicsamerica.com
Designed for neutral runners (or mild pronators), the Gel-Pursue swallows road shock without adding heft to your step. Testers reported that the shoe “offers an exceptional hold but not to the point of pinching,” thanks in part to the exterior, plastic-like piece providing a supportive form to the heel. The gel cushioning in the heel does a capable job of absorbing the pounding, especially for heel strikers, and the shoe’s mid-foot truss construction provides a “supportive, wrapping feel” for mid-volume feet. “I didn’t feel like this shoe interfered with my natural gait whatsoever-it just doesn’t get in the way,” said one tester. At 8.7 ounces, the shoe was described as “lightweight” and “sleek,” with testers recommending wear for distances up to a half-marathon.

“The shoe hits that sweet spot between dampening and springy.”

Best for: A runner looking for an everyday neutral trainer that has a little extra support and responsiveness

Brooks Ghost 7

$120, Brooksrunning.com

Testers universally agreed: The Ghost 7 is a seriously comfortable shoe. The heel cup softly anchors the foot; gentle pressure over the arch creates a strong connection; the roomy toe box allows for the foot to splay out naturally. Matted to the comfy-yet-secure upper is a robust sole. Buy this shoe for support and protection, not free-moving responsiveness. Unlike the new wave of trainers with super-soft cushioning, Brooks built this pair with a supportive sole that is protective and firm. The Ghost 7 shaves a few ounces of weight compared to many other popular high-mileage shoes. “It is best for a road runner who enjoys lots of cushioning and puts in a lot of weekly miles,” said a tester. “This shoe can handle the distance.”

“Well-cushioned yet light; perfect for stability and balance on the roads.”

Best for: Easy-paced runs of any distance

New Balance 890v4

$110, Newbalance.com

Striking a balance between lightweight and cushioned, this 890 update is a perfect go-to trainer for building speed on longer runs. Its built-up crash pad was “soft and stable,” said one tester, making it ideal for heel strikers. The tongue and ankle collar were especially cushy, which one tester found to almost be too puffy-with the heel cup feeling slippery and the tongue getting in the way-while another loved the interior padding. Testers agreed, though, that it was one of the most comfortable shoes they’ve run in: “It feels great at all points of a stride, from impact to toe-off.” The soft, nimble shoe seems built for longer mileage-both speed sessions and easy miles. Consider going up a half size, unless you have narrow feet, as the toe box can get a little snug (though testers found the mid-foot very secure).

“A plushly appointed, super-light, very cushy lightweight everyday trainer.”

Best for: Long progression runs or tempo runs; an agile, nimble runner racing a half-marathon or marathon

Skechers Go Run

Ultra – Extreme
$85, Skechers.com

This weather-sealed, maximally cushioned addition to Skechers’ popular Go Run line of serious running shoes appealed to our testers’ off-road instincts. The shoe isn’t particularly fast, but its thick tread, soft midsole and weather-resistant upper make it a good option for long-distance trail runs. “I didn’t really like it on the roads,” one tester said, “but on trail or sand, it was a dream.” Speed-wise, its cushy foam means it doesn’t offer a terribly responsive ride, but all the same, testers found the shoe nimble and grippy for maneuvering around off-road debris and objects.

“This shoe is a great option for off-road runners who crave tons of cushioning and protection from inclement weather.”

Best for: Trail running of any distance

Hoka Clifton

$130, Hokaoneone.com
The runner who appreciates a very lightweight (the shoe weighs less than 8 ounces) neutral cushioned shoe with a good amount of agility will enjoy the soft cushioning of the Hoka Clifton. Testers found the toe box to be wide and a bit too long, and got a better fit going a half-size smaller. The sole is soft and spongy, and one tester said, “The softness of the cushioning and the thin rubber outsole patches on the bottom of the shoe seem to take in all of the impact quite well.” The Clifton, with its unique rocker design, boasts a cushy ride without the added bulk of similarly cushioned models.

The cushioning package allows it to be an agile shoe that can run well at race pace but also at slower training speeds and recovery pace.”

Best for: Longer runs, but it’s also nimble enough for a 5K

Newton Kismet

$129, Newtonrunning.com

For those who need a little more convincing before they go full-on Newton, the Kismet is a good welcome into the brand. It still reinforces efficient mid-foot striking, but adds both stability-from the five-lug platform under the forefoot and the medial bridge-and more cushioning than other models. The cushioning on the 4.5mm-drop shoe is forgiving but not soft, making for a bouncy and springy push-off. Testers found the toe box to be on the wider side, with a lot of room to move. “This shoe is the opposite of constrictive-many times I was wishing it had a tighter hold,” one tester said. But the lining and upper hold the foot with comfort without creating any hotspots.

“The Kismet is a great introduction to the Newton brand for someone who needs a little bit of stability but who wants a light, versatile option to try mid-foot striking.”

Best for: Everyday easy runs; 5K to half-marathon for the average runner