The 15 running shoes reviewed in the 2016 Triathlete Buyer's Guide.
The draw: Responsive long-run companion
Adidas’ super-resilient Boost midsole foam continues to draw rave reviews, even in a maximally cushioned stability shoe. Although not a lightweight shoe, the Ultra Boost ST serves up an incredibly energetic ride—it’s very responsive, but not uncontrollably bouncy—and ideal for long training runs. The stability comes from a thermoplastic medial side support and an external heel counter that help secure the rearfoot upon impact. The multi-density knit upper is soft and flexible against the foot, offering a blend of dynamic support, comfort and breathability.
The draw: Lightweight yet responsive
Much like the first version, this flyweight trainer offers an amazing mix of lightweight performance and resilient cushioning. The full-length Lunarlon foam midsole/outsole chassis offers enough softness and protection for marathon-length runs in a svelte package that’s sufficiently agile and responsive for interval workouts and short races. The engineered mesh upper has been tweaked slightly, offering more structure/support (in conjunction with the arch-wrapping internal bootie), while still offering optimal forefoot flex and comfort.
The draw: Sturdy and smooth support
*Best New Model*
Although Skechers entered into the performance running category with lightweight, low-to-the-ground models, it’s now venturing into shoes with more structure. The Forza is a well-balanced high-mileage stability trainer with a modern rendition of a medial post (that spans the heel to the forefoot), a responsive two-layer foam package, a sleek, seamless upper and a slightly wider footprint. It’s a super sturdy shoe, but all of that stability and support is hidden in a comfortable, smooth-riding cruiser.
The draw: Impressive update
*Best In Class*
Not only is the Vanquish 2 considerably lighter than the previous edition (almost 2 full ounces lighter per shoe), it also rides more smoothly and is more responsive than the original. It still features a cradle design, in which the foot and interior structure of the shoe is encased on the sides and bottom by a durable two-layer foam shell. Impossibly light for a shoe with as thick of a midsole as it has, the Vanquish 2 is remarkably flexible and offers a nice mix of soft landings and energetic toe-offs, especially at moderate to fast paces.
The draw: Added cushion, same flexibility
Saucony has only subtly tweaked this lightweight neutral trainer, but the changes are significant. Most notably, the new Kinvara has an additional layer of Everrun foam in the heel that helps absorb impact and adds a touch of rearfoot stability. There’s a new outsole pattern aimed at a smoother forward-focused flex and a few more patches of rubber for added durability. Despite the changes, this shoe retains the consistently soft, smooth and very flexible ride it’s always had.
The draw: Encourages a quick cadence
Swiss brand ON Running has been evolving its innovative and meticulously designed “cloud” cushioning system for several years to great acclaim. On the Cloudflyer, the underfoot nodules are tuned for lightweight stability and performance. It gives this shoe a semi-firm feeling and a penchant for quicker leg turnover and faster running. The upper is made from an intricate combination of materials engineered to provide comfort, support and fluid flexibility from touch-down to toe-off.
The draw: Agile yet resilient
Altra has stuck to its zero-drop geometry (essentially a flat profile from heel to toe) and its slightly roomier forefoot and continued to refine the performance characteristics of this lightweight neutral trainer. The new version of this shoe has a more durable upper material, slightly more volume in the forefoot and an enhanced dual-density foam package. The result is a lightweight, smooth-riding shoe that is versatile enough to be durable and protective for logging long training miles but responsive and agile enough for shorter interval workouts and tempo runs.
The draw: Versatile dependence
This high-mileage light stability trainer has been updated with a few minor tweaks that put a bit more energy into every stride. With a livelier sensation at toe-off (thanks to more toe spring and a reconfiguration of the forefoot foam and rubber), it offers greater versatility for faster types of running—while still working for longer, slower runs, too. It has a soft, plush interior and a reliably snug fit, making it an ideal choice for a go-to workhorse training model.
(Light stability trainer/racer)
The draw: Sockless speed
ASICS’ wildly colored light stability triathlon shoe has been updated with a new seamless mesh upper that allows for sockless running and updated heel/tongue grips for quick-on functionality while changing in T2 or during a brick workout. The gel-enhanced midsole cushioning platform (updated in the previous version) remains, but this shoe is about a half-ounce lighter, has more of a wrap-like fit and feels more energetic at higher speeds. It also has a specially formulated rubber outsole that has been designed to enhance traction on wet surfaces.
The draw: Anatomical, breathable fit
Although there were some minor changes to this featherweight neutral trainer, the reliable Newtonian ride is similar to the previous version. The fifth edition of the Gravity has a revamped upper made from an improved engineered mesh. The seamless design reduces the risk of hot spots while allowing for maximum breathability and durability. A new pre-molded heel counter, anatomically formed midsole and a stay-in-place tongue design are other key updates.
The draw: Comfy, energetic design
Although it remains a lightweight, nimble trainer, the second iteration of the SpeedForm Apollo is slightly more cushioned than the first. That adds to this shoe’s functional versatility and mileage range. The key piece of this shoe (as with the first) is the layer of Charged foam that sits right under the foot. The Apollo 2 has a comfortable fit like the first version and an incredible cushioning-to-weight ratio for such an energetic shoe.
The draw: Improved fit
In the second edition of this neutral, light and fast fiend, New Balance mostly focused on improving the fit and upper with a new multi-density mesh and extended saddle support. The one-piece rubber outsole remains, but it’s a tad thicker with more flex grooves. The changes have resulted in a better fit that gives this edition a speed-inspired, sock-like fit and feel. The midsole foam, based on impact data of performance runners, continues to straddle the line between softly cushioned and semi-firm and responsive, giving it the same great versatility as its predecessor.
The draw: Reactive comfort
The second edition of the Solana neutral trainer is even better than the award-winning original. The biggest changes are its updated heel construction that secures the foot better and a new, more breathable and flexible upper. It retains the luxurious blend of softness, snappy responsiveness and just enough inherent stability, making it a versatile, smooth-running everyday trainer with a little bit of kick to it.
The draw: Fluid, firm and fast
Salomon, one of the biggest names on the trail running shoe scene for years, is making a foray into road running with the Sonic Pro. True to the brand’s recent heritage in trail racing shoes, it’s a light and fast, neutral-oriented shoe with a semi-firm and very responsive feeling to it. It also features the brand’s one-pull speed laces, which tuck into a “lace garage” at the top of the tongue. With only a little cushioning and a moderate heel-toe offset, it’s definitely built for efficient runners and faster running.
The draw: Part stability, part lightweight speed
Mizuno serves up a nice mix of stability and lightweight performance in this adaptable, new everyday trainer. It’s lighter and faster than most high-mileage trainers, but it’s also more durable and stable than most performance trainers. (It’s somewhat of a blend of Mizuno’s Sayonara and Elixir shoes.) The key element of this shoe is the plastic Wave plate in the midsole that is tuned to offer a little bit of structure. It has a fairly low-to-the-ground design, but it’s still a well-balanced trainer with just enough cushioning and protection for long road runs.