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We’ve all seen “shrinkflation,” where the price doesn’t increase much while the product’s size suffers a reduction—look, for instance at your grocery store shelves.
What were once clunky training shoes have seen a similar shrinkage, albeit a positive one: Running footwear weights have been reduced as the result of new, improved materials that are lighter while performing better.
Daily trainers, made to log many training miles—keeping you moving forward smoothly and injury free as the kilometers accrete—are workhorses and crucial equipment. This season’s lightweight trainers almost uniformly have three things in common: super foam midsoles, exaggerated heel counters, and recycled upper materials
The following seven picks offer a variety of flavors and styles, so you can choose what best fits your needs.Section divider
Allbirds Tree Flyer
Weight: 9.5oz (M) 8.8oz (W)
TL;DR: These eco-friendly trainers are the brand’s first solid foray into performance running with a new resilient midsole material and a stretchy knit upper.
While trampling on the planet, you can lighten your impact in mechanical ways and, simultaneously, reduce your carbon footprint. Allbirds is all about the latter but, with the advent of the Tree Flyer, is also about the former. The Tree Flyer’s bio-based SwiftFoam midsole is what was missing in previous Allbirds “running” shoes: some liveliness, bounce or even real life, instead of what had been a deadening absorption that came from Earth-friendly-but-muting, wholly-absorbing natural materials. The stretchy, breathable eucalyptus fiber upper runs big and is stretchy enough that you may want to size up, especially if you prefer a snug fit or like to corner tightly. The hard heel counter provides a firm foothold for the aft of the shoe. The geometric flair really stands out, making these trainers sure winners when it comes to appearances. Kermit was wrong: being green is cool.*
For more on this green pair (and how it runs), check out our extended review of the Allbirds Tree Flyer.Section divider
Asics GEL-Nimbus 24
Weight: 10.2oz (M) 8.9oz (W)
TL;DR: Old-school trainer with low-profile positioning for ground feel yet ample, rebounding cushioning to put some spring in your step for an athletic performance.
Asics knew enough not to screw up a good thing with its go-to neutral cushioned trainer, the GEL-Nimbus, and so the 24 remains a classic. This version has only minor tweaks of a more resilient midsole foam, upper mesh revisions, and improved impact protection in this premium offering. The addition of Asics’ Flytfoam Blast+ in the midsole provides a spongy, flexible, responsive ride with a connected, grounded feel. The shoe retains its stabilizing system for torsional control with the Nimbus’ heel Gel-Technology for added impact absorption. The new, more breathable engineered mesh upper is comfortable and accommodating, even for wider feet. The lighter rubber in the forefoot with more durable outsole material added to the heel helps them hold up to more, longer runs.Section divider
On Running Cloudmonster
Weight: 9.7oz (M) 8.11oz (W)
TL;DR: On’s biggest shoe is also its most runnable, with max comfort and energy return that was sorely absent in other models.
On upped its CloudTec game here, expanding the size of the hole-y midsole cells for greater cushioning and energy return. The result was rather fortunate, with a smooth-riding road trainer that retains its performance qualities over a long run. While the look is maximal, the action is pleasantly livelier than it would appear. The Swiss brand’s modern, clean design and perforated, breathable upper had a strong, stable foot hold. The Cloudmonster’s rockered Helion midsole transitions fluidly from cushy heel landing to snappy toe off, partly attributed to the enhanced strength of the rigid polypropylene Speedboard that provides a stable column for the neutral trainer’s bottom unit. Well-suited for long runs and recovery days (despite tipping the scales at under 10 ounces), the Cloudmonster uses recycled materials to up the environmental qualities of the shoe.Section divider
Reebok Floatride Energy X
Weight: 9.1oz (M) 8.2oz. (W)
TL;DR: Bringing super shoes to the masses, the Floatride Energy X incorporates a carbon plate and its proprietary rebounding foam for a luxury experience that is best suited for longer runs or tempo efforts.
The relatively low price of $170 for a carbon-plated super shoe looks almost too good to be true, but not when you temper it with the fact that Floatride Energy X is only “semi-super”; it’s more like diluted super, what with the plate only in the forefoot and the relatively low-profile flexible midsole and a roller more than rocker shape. Yet Reebok made superlative use of its Floatride Energy, PEBA super foam for a luxuriously-cushioned and almost bouncy ride. The upper, like almost all uppers in this review, is made of recycled and repurposed woven textile materials, and the asymmetric lacing held the foot firmly in place—but has a bit of a bite to it across the instep so take care when tying them. While the weight is tad heavy for racing, the Floatride Energy X is well suited for speedwork and longer training days when a little pop helps with turnover and cushioning eases the time on feet.Section divider
Weight: 8.9oz (M) 7.9oz (W)
TL;DR: Categorized as “structured cushioning,” the Tempus could also be called “guided comfort” because of the shoe’s firmer EVA encapsulates the softer PWRRUN PB for a controlled roll-through for stable training.
Saucony addressed the inherent instability of the soft, resilient and light superfoam that is polyether block amide (PEBA), the foam the band anoints “PWRRUN PB,” by framing it in more structured and supportive EVA foam (“PWRRUN”) to eliminate the need for a plate or other rigid stabilization device. The combination of foam densities and the midsole geometry makes for non-intrusive, adaptive guidance that serves to even out the gait cycle for spring, energy, and generous cushioning. The shoe coddles the foot. The Tempus’ fit is broad, especially in the forefoot and the airy yet foot-hugging engineered, recycled mesh upper and adaptive lacing are paired with a midfoot saddle to keep the shoe attached securely to your foot in a non-binding hold.Section divider
Topo Athletic Specter
Weight: 8.1oz (M) 6.9oz (W)
TL;DR: Topo plays fast and hard with the Specter—a true performance vehicle that is light enough for tempo work and cushioned and stable enough that you’ll want to use it every day in order to feel fast on your long runs and pampered on your recovery days.
Meld Topo’s signature anatomical toe box for natural splay and low heel-toe differential with the qualities of a plateless super shoe and you get the Specter. The high stack combination of EVA-framed Pebax midsole is not unlike that of Saucony’s Tempus but this rockered super lightweight trainer/racer gets you on your toes faster and feels tuned more for higher cadence and energy return relative to the Tempus’ cush. The single-layer engineered mesh is made from recycled materials and the secure lacing and heel cup have a comfortable, stable lockdown. The Specter’s midsole emphasizes resilience and efficiency over absorption and softness, the result being light and fast enough that it is well suited for racing, lacking only several millimeters of stack height and the concomitant necessity for a stability plate (and price increase) to qualify it for race day selection.Section divider
Under Armor Flow Velociti Wind 2
Weight: 8.35oz (M) Y 7.91oz (W)
TL;DR: UA didn’t change much in this update, and that’s probably because the Flow Velociti Wind got it right from the start with this spunky, fun, and speedy featherweight ingenious trainer.
Under Armour uses a single foam sole and no outsole for a resulting crisp, clean performance with quick-turnover, response, and surprising traction. The energy return and impact absorption of the peppy Dow Chemical midsole material allows the Flow Velociti Wind 2 to feel natural yet protective. The shoe handles corners well and serves as a cross trainer because the rubberless midsole technology came by way of UA’s basketball category lessons from the Curry Flow 8. The modifications to the moccasin-like Velociti were to snug up the upper for greater foot hold. The Velociti Wind 2 continues with the original’s supportive, strategic taping to eliminate pressure points. These efficient, firm-yet-flexible trainers are well suited for long runs, uptempo workouts, and even fare well off road. Light, firm, and responsive, the Flow Velocity Wind 2 approaches minimalism with pithy ground contact time. And, speaking of ground contact time, because they connect through Bluetooth with MapMyRun for real-time, personalized coaching, you can tap into feedback on form and access tips to help you get faster.