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2016 Summer Running Shoe Guide For Triathletes

Running shoes have gone through a revolutionary storm in the past few years. Find your new favorite pair here.

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Running shoes have gone through a revolutionary storm in the past few years, as new materials, designs and construction techniques have changed everything for the better. Now that the tempest has passed, lighter, more flexible, stabler, faster and ultimately better-fitting and more comfortable models have emerged. Instead of prescriptive categories, new models are blurring the lines as runners can choose to feel the ground or float over it. Among the many highlights are new, more resilient midsole foams and flexible, dynamic uppers. Find your new favorite pair here.

*Maximally Cushioned*

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080

$150, Newbalance.com

Highlight: Soft, stable and supremely smooth

Fit-Feel-Ride: New Balance continues to evolve its Fresh Foam neutral shoes using data derived from a wide range of runners. (That data helps create a stride with more flow, smoothing the foot’s transition between touchdown and takeoff.) Our wear-testers loved the thick, soft cushioning of this edition and the extra-wide footprint. One of the biggest changes to this shoe is the addition of flex grooves in the midsole and outsole that help increase flexibility and lend a smoother heel-toe transition. This edition also has a new engineered mesh upper that offers both greater flexibility and comfort, while an interior bootie fit system helps keep the foot in place. Our wear-testers loved the comfortable interior and stable ride of this high-mileage workhorse, noting its slightly wider footprint and locked-down fit.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 8mm

RELATED: How New Balance Developed A Shoe For Sebastian Kienle

*Maximally Cushioned*

Hoka Clayton

$150, Hokaoneone.com

Highlight: Light, fast, cushioned and super stable racing flat

Fit-Feel-Ride: While Hoka has continued to refine its thickly cushioned shoes, it is also developed a series of speed shoes that are a bit lower to the ground and built for racing. One of the first to hit stores is the Clayton, a cushy category-breaking long-distance trainer/racer that’s both exceptionally wide and very stable but also impressively light and responsive. The Clayton retains Hoka’s “rockered” design, and the ride feels buttery smooth and plush, but also edgy and fast. Few shoes—and none with this much cushion—have combined all of those different elements so well. While the Clayton provides a snug fit from the heel to the midfoot and slightly wider in the toe box, the shoe’s exterior profile is extremely wide to provide optimal lateral stability, especially deep into a long run or race.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 4mm

RELATED: Hoka One One Named Running Shoe Sponsor Of U.S. Ironmans

*Minimally Cushioned*

Under Armour Speedform Slingshot

$140, Underarmour.com

Highlight: A low, lean and “barely there” machine

Fit-Feel-Ride: Lightweight and low to the ground, this shoe fits like a sock and serves up a “barefoot” type of feel and ride. The unique, integrated insole is both soft to the touch and provides a modicum of a pillow-top quality, while the cutting-edge multi-zone compression engineered knit upper offers comfort and support where it’s needed. Inside the midsole, a Y-shaped plate between two different types of foam recoils as the shoe flexes, releasing a burst of responsive energy as the foot lunges forward at toe-off. The combination of lightweight design, flexibility and the perfect amount of cushioning for the road really energizes your stride. It provides enough cushioning to protect from the urban environment yet not so much that you’ll feel like you’re leeching energy into the cushioning.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 7mm

RELATED – 2016 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Running Shoes

*Minimally Cushioned*

Brooks Neuro

$130, Brooksrunning.com

Highlight: Ridiculously flexible, amazingly agile

Fit-Feel-Ride: Cushioning, energy return and ground feel come together in the one crazy-flexible shoe. With a completely decoupled midsole/outsole undercarriage, the Neuro can respond to both strike force and external forces—think uneven ground—for smooth running. Its unique undercarriage design features a perimeter of pods with soft centers and firmer, more supportive frames, allowing this neutral shoe to offer shock-absorbing comfort with a touch of stability. A unique interior “hammock” supports the foot from below while a pliable upper wraps the foot from above. It feels like a modern version of a “barely there” minimalist shoe that offers a touch more cushioned, supportive and energetic responsiveness. It’s hard to categorize this shoe, but it’s more flexible than any shoe we’ve tested.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 8mm

RELATED – Shoe Talk: Brooks Neuro

*Minimally Cushioned*

Topo Tribute

$100, Topoathletic.com

Highlight: Everything you need, nothing you don’t

Fit-Feel-Ride: This small, upstart brand develops shoes based on three principles aimed at creating a more natural-feeling ride: a lightweight construction, a roomy toe box and a low heel-to-toe offset (or a flat profile). Specifically made for faster workouts and racing, the Tribute is one of its most minimally designed shoes yet; it feels super light, but it doesn’t feel like a fragile, “barely there” shoe. That is achieved through a sleek design that has just enough foam and rubber underfoot to offer protection from the ground without reducing the feel for it, plus an amazingly light and lithe upper. Needless to say, it’s amazingly flexible and quite energetic. The wide toebox is uncanny, but it definitely gives room for the toes to splay. “It’s not a shoe I’d run a lot of miles in, but I had fun doing a fartlek workout in it,” said one tester.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 0mm

RELATED: How To Buy Your Next Pair Of Running Shoes

*Mid-Range Neutral*

On Running Cloudsurfer

$150, On-running.com

Highlight: Exquisite engineering, design and performance

Fit-Feel-Ride: Upstart Swiss brand On Running has been evolving its innovative and meticulously designed “cloud” cushioning system for several years to great acclaim. The underfoot nodules of the Cloudsurfer are tuned for neutral performance and the semi-firm feeling gives it a penchant for quick-cadence running. The upper is made from an intricate combination of materials engineered to provide comfort, support and fluid flexibility from touchdown to toe-off. The shock absorption of the Cloudsurfer is outstanding so you won’t hesitate to use the shoe on long outings or on days when your legs feel trashed but you still want to eke out another training run. Our wear-testers loved the ride of this shoe, especially those who had never worn On Running shoes before.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 7mm

RELATED: How To Find The Perfect Running Shoes

*Mid-Range Neutral*

Brooks Pure Flow 5

$110, Brooksrunning.com

Highlight: A lightweight, energetic, natural-riding cruiser

Fit-Feel-Ride: Brooks updated the midsole and upper of this lightweight neutral cruiser but it retained the uninhibited, natural ride of previous editions. The new midsole compound is lighter, very energetic and engineered to adapt to your specific gait pattern, while the new seamless 3D-printed upper and wrap-around collar envelopes the foot for a near-custom fit. (It has a narrow fit and that makes it feel even more snug, but it’s worth noting that some of our wear-testers preferred running in it sockless.) It’s more flexible than the previous version (a feature that only adds to the unencumbered sensation and proprioceptive “feel” for the ground), but it does have a more substantial feel in the forefoot too. It’s not the shoe for everybody—partially because it has a decidedly narrow fit and feel.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 4mm

*Mid-Range Neutral*

Zoot Makai

$135, Zootsports.com

Highlight: Lightweight racer with responsive feel

Fit-Feel-Ride: As a brand, Zoot has consistently delivered shoes that meet the rigorous demands of the serious runner without neglecting the needs of the triathlon racer. The Makai is no exception. Zoot’s patented dual-density EVA foam creates a springy effect underfoot, especially for mid-foot strikers. The upper is made of an airy mesh material that promotes breathability and moisture transfer, and the seamless inner liner enables comfort sans socks. Inserts at the heel effectively absorb shock, and the substantial heel cup keeps the back of the foot firmly in place. The outsole provides stability and just the right amount of guidance for neutral runners. The Race-Lock lace system and integrated heel pull tab give these racers an added edge.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 8mm

*Mid-Range Stability*

ASICS GEL-Kayano 22

$160, Asics.com

Highlight: 22 years in the making and better than ever

Fit-Feel-Ride: As cliché as it sounds, like a good bottle of wine, this shoe keeps getting better with age. As with previous versions, the Kayano is a plushly appointed and robustly structured stability shoe. Known for its comfortable fit and amazing step-in feel, this version continues that trend—enhanced this year by a multi-layer engineered mesh upper and a cushier footbed—while also offering relentless medial-side support from an updated external heel counter and the three-layer foam and GEL midsole package. The Kayano isn’t going to be the lightest or fastest shoe in your quiver, but it does offer a bit of responsive bounce-back in every stride. The bottom line is that it’s a comfortable and reliably stable workhorse that can help you through the long miles of training with comfort and ease.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 10mm

*Mid-Range Stability*

Altra Provision 2.5

$125, Altrarunning.com

Highlight: Stability via innovative pronation control with more cushioning than before

Fit-Feel-Ride: Altra continues to make waves with its zero-drop (level platform) shoes that feature a more roomy toe box with the reasoning that they let the foot move and flex naturally and uninhibited inside the shoe. Other innovative features of this moderate stability shoe are the canted geometry of the midsole—a built-in wedge makes it slightly higher on the medial side of the foot—and three-pod balancing system aimed at offsetting overpronation and providing the most stable ride possible. Our testers appreciated that the latest version is a bit more supportive and has a tad more cushioning than the previous one. This shoe has a stiffer flex pattern and feels a bit firm in the heel, but it is luxuriously soft in the forefoot. “It’s a very stable shoe but doesn’t get in the way of my feet,” said one wear-tester.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 0mm

*Mid-Range Stability*

Saucony Hurricane ISO 2

$160, Saucony.com

Highlight: Luxuriously appointed, reliably stable and very resilient

Fit-Feel-Ride: A year after unveiling a dynamic new upper and fit system, Saucony has revolutionized the Hurricane stability shoe again with an innovative new foam called Everun—a patent-pending material that distributes impact energy over a larger area than EVA-based foams and, as a result, offers both reliable cushioning and amazing resiliency. The foam has been inserted into the lateral part of the heel and the topsole (essentially the top of the strobel board under the sockliner), and the combination makes for an opulent step-in feel and crazy good ride that’s part impact-dampening smoothness and part energetic awesome sauce. It’s a reliable stability shoe, but it feels like a foot massage when you lace it up. “I did a long run in these and I didn’t want to take them off when I was done,” said one wear-tester.

Heel-to-Toe Offset: 8mm