For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
The 2014 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide magazine is out on newsstands now (and check out the digital version), and we’re giving you a sneak peek right here. Check out the running shoes from the guide below and check back to Triathlete.com for more Buyer’s Guide content.
Pearl Izumi EM Tri 2
The draw: Tri-friendly fit and feel
Designed for triathlon with input from multiple world champ Tim DeBoom, the EM Tri 2 has an upper that feels genuinely like a sock. The inner liner is smooth and seamless, and it cinches down evenly across the foot with a subtle elastic feel. Some testers were able to run sockless without problems while others had blister issues. While these shoes are designed for racing, they still carry significant cushioning. The sole feels firm but not rigid and provides plenty of protection for a 13.1-mile run leg as well as the kick needed for a sprint-distance tri.
Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 9
The draw: Ample protection and support
Are you looking for stout support, forgiving cushioning and a gentle fit? This tri-oriented version of the classic high-mileage shoe from Asics fits the description. A low-profile race shoe this is not. Robust heel cushioning actively guides the foot through heel strike to toe-off, aligning the runner’s stride to match the shoe’s form. A generous drop from heel to forefoot relieves calf tension.
Zoot Ultra TT 7.0
The draw: Race-day speed
Of all the tri-specific shoes tested, the Ultra TT is best suited for short-course burners. The sole snaps forward off the road, propelling the runner with a little extra juice. It feels laterally stable—no side-to-side sway—and provides a small degree of cushioning with plenty of protection from the pavement. The elastic upper yanks open and closed quickly, securing the foot with a constant dose of pressure. With a bit of sockless training, testers were able to run barefoot without much problem, although the top of the foot tended to rub slightly.
The draw: Built for speed plus comfort
The shoe’s namesake CloudTec cushions on the sole garner a lot of attention, but it’s the upper that amplifies the shoe’s defining characteristic. It doesn’t budge at all, firmly locking the foot in place. This extra security feels great when running fast, creating a responsive sensation. Breathability is excellent, and a moderately smooth inner feels fine when running barefoot for short distances. Fast workouts and races are the ideal applications for this shoe, as the reactive sole still softens the blow against pavement.
Scott T2 Palani
The draw: Pure run performance
As an all-around shoe for uptempo workouts, this one is hard to beat. The sole strikes a perfect balance between responsiveness and support. It feels light and fast but doesn’t exhaust the feet or subject the runner to extra injury risk. An ideal tool for Olympic or half-Ironman races, it has a sturdy and snug upper that makes the shoe feel natural at high speeds. Despite the tri-specific name, transition is a bit tricky with this shoe. Its tongue tends to fold, and the rough interior can rub against bare feet.
Nike Flyknit Lunar 2
The draw: Conforming fit
Nike’s new woven shoe construction technology is more than a cosmetic update—it genuinely changes how a shoe fits. This pair seems to wrap around every edge and groove of the foot with semi-snug pressure. The cushioned sole is soft and forgiving upon impact yet demands a little extra input from the runner to stay stable. It rolls a bit from side to side when on the ground. Despite its ability to take the sting off the pavement, it’s surprisingly light, making the Lunar 2 a great all-purpose shoe.
Newton Distance Elite
The draw: Explosiveness
Newton’s spring-loaded lug system creates an unmistakable sensation of “pop” in every shoe the company produces, regardless of weight. This shoe, however, has a little extra energy. Newton stripped away much of the overlays on the upper to shave several ounces without compromising cushioning, and the difference is perceivable. Fit does suffer a bit—the minimalist upper doesn’t secure the foot as soundly as some.
Karhu Fluid 3 Fulcrum
The draw: Cushioned but not clumsy
At 10 ounces for a size 9 men’s shoe, the Fluid 3 is substantial. Its robustly cushioned sole absorbs impact with the ground, but unlike many trainers of similar weight it allows the runner to completely control his or her stride. The heel is low compared to the forefoot, and as a result the shoe skips from contact to launch without the feeling of interruption. Fit is moderately snug, and the upper softly cradles the foot—this is a seriously comfortable shoe.
Skechers GoMeb Speed 2
The draw: Eager to go fast
Don’t confuse this pair with a novelty minimalist shoe suited for gym workouts and drills—this is a serious running shoe. The relatively rigid sole helps promote turnover, and the lightweight upper make these a good choice for speed work, tempos and shorter races. Athletes who prefer a very minimal feel might make these a daily trainer, but testers felt they worked best for runs and races 10 miles or less. Beyond that distance, the lack of support irritated the bottom of one tester’s foot. The forefoot fits slightly narrow, although the lacing system is adjustable enough that the shoe can adapt to fit most feet.
Hoka One One Kailua Tarmac
The draw: Ultimately soft impact
The sole of this shoe is roughly twice the thickness of a typical high-mileage running shoe. Hoka One One’s philosophy on shoe design not only minimizes road impact, these unique shoes seemingly add extra absorptiveness to the knee and ankle joints. The real miracle of these shoes is their lively feel—the giant hunk of foam doesn’t deaden the shoes. They seem to rock from heel to toe without interruption. Expect as much pop from this pair as you would from a shoe like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 but with a more delicate feel.
Adidas Supernova Glide 6 Boost
The draw: Peppy and comfortable
Cushioned trainers don’t have to feel flat and unresponsive—these shoes pop off the ground. Adidas’ own Boost material in the sole injects an explosive feel into these substantially absorbent shoes. Reviewers kept opting for this shoe during their most demanding runs of the testing process. A neutral runner looking for cushioning will be the best match for this shoe. The semi-slim, slipper-like upper is constructed from soft and breathable fabrics that stay comfortable well into a long run.
Mizuno Wave Rider 17
The draw: Responsive cushioning
Mizuno stripped some of the bulk from the newest iteration of this substantially cushioned trainer. Trimming that mass gives a more fluid, natural feel compared to other equally robust shoes. The new Wave Rider 17 retains its classic 12mm heel drop, although the sole feels firmer than prior versions. Because of the responsive sole, the Wave Rider can serve as a race day shoe for athletes looking for some support.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14
The draw: Reliable support
Longtime Adrenaline devotees will love the newest version. It stays true to its heritage and provides a super-stable foundation and ample protection from the road. The sole is just soft enough to feel fluid compared to other trainers of similar weight. Fit through the arch is average in width, and the sturdy upper gives just the right amount of grip without creating any irritating hot spots.
New Balance 890 V4
The draw: Cloudlike cushioning
“Smooth” is the best word to describe the sensation of running in this shoe. Abundant cushioning absorbs the punch of impact with the road but it doesn’t feel overbuilt. The shoe rolls naturally through a stride. Expect a slightly tighter-than-typical fit—the upper feels a bit narrow in the forefoot. A soft heel cup helps comfortably secure the foot in place. For longer or more relaxed runs, the newest 890 hits the mark.
Saucony Cortana 3
The draw: Protective yet fairly nimble
Do you hate the notion of a clunky pair of shoes getting in the way of your silky gait? The Cortana 3’s low heel glides smoothly through a fore- or mid-foot stride and has more than enough cushioning to offer more support than most similarly fluid options. The 9-plus-ounce shoe has sufficient heft to provide relief without disrupting an efficient stride. Its firm sole feels rigid and responsive—it never feels mushy underfoot.