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We recruited a team of amateur athletes representing all ability levels to wear test some of 2013’s best new models to help you find your perfect fit.
Mizuno Wave Elixir 8
Built on Mizuno’s firm yet responsive Wave platform, the Wave Elixir 8 walks the line between structured and explosive. The sturdy sole offers a little more protection than many lightweight trainers, yet still creates a responsive feel that helps snap through a quick stride. The fit is tuned to be tight—it creates a solid bond with the foot when running at any speed. While some might find the semi-rigid sole and race-inspired fit to be a little aggressive for an everyday training shoe, it’s a perfect tool for up-tempo training or longer races. Runners who are accustomed to more minimal footwear could definitely use this shoe as a long-distance trainer.
9.0 oz (men), 7.3 oz (women) / 12mm heel-toe drop
“Provided a perfect amount of structure while still allowing me to feel like I was running barefoot.”
Karhu Flow 3 Trainer Fulcrum
Light, flexible and low to the ground, this shoe finds a happy medium between minimalist and cushioned lightweight trainer. As such, it’s versatile—a good choice for different types of running, from long, slow, distance (for lighter, biomechanically efficient runners) to uptempo workouts, and racing from 5K to the half-marathon. Given that it’s so low to the ground and flexes so easily, the ride is predictably natural, free and uninhibited, well-suited for those with any running style but a heavy heel-striking gait. A firm wedge of foam under the heel seems to aid propulsion and add structure without negatively impacting stride. The updated Flow has a slightly more relaxed fit compared to other shoes in this review.
8.5 oz, 7.0 oz / 8mm heel-toe drop
“I really liked how lightweight it felt without lacking sole cushioning.”
Asics GEL-Lyte33 2
While the second version of the GEL-Lyte 33 is light and cushioned like the first incarnation, this one offers a more consistent ride, thanks to a more secure upper and innovative flex grooves under the heel for a natural foot motion. (It’s also about a half-ounce heavier than the first version, but it’s barely noticeable.) Our testers found this shoe to be responsive enough to be a good go-fast shoe for tempo runs and longer races, but forgiving enough to use frequently as a lightweight trainer. The test team deemed it most suitable for lighter or faster runners with efficient biomechanics.
8.4 oz, 7.0 oz / 6mm heel-toe drop
“I would recommend it for tempo runs or road races half-marathon and longer. It is truly versatile for a variety of speeds and distances.”
Newton hasn’t messed with the good thing it has going with the Motion. This has a new, softer upper but otherwise kept the structured chassis and outsole. Performance feels identical to previous versions of this lightweight stability trainer. As with all Newton trainers, this one has a comfortable interior, an amply cushioned semi-firm midsole, a moderate stack height off the ground and a low-angle heel-toe differential (3mm). The forefoot lugs are the key to the shoe. They provide a noticeable responsiveness, and the best way to engage those lugs is with efficient running mechanics and quick cadence. Running with a heavy heel-striking gait tends to make the lugs feel a bit obtuse and cumbersome.
9.3 oz, 7.7 oz / 3mm heel-toe drop
“While it runs well at moderate speeds, it really excels and almost comes to life when pushing higher paces.”
Nike Lunar Eclipse+ 3
The Eclipse+ 3 offers the unique mix of being a highly cushioned, stable trainer that still feels nimble. It’s one of the chunkier shoes available this season, and the sensation is decidedly soft underfoot, but a firm heel counter and reinforcing medial foam wedge offer loads of support. The real surprise of this shoe is that it’s relatively light and responsive for having so much girth. The biggest change to this version of the Lunar Eclipse was the addition of Nike’s Flywire technology, which helped accentuate the support and secure fit while keeping it light.
11.0 oz, 9.2 oz / 12mm heel-toe drop
“The incredible cushioning does not seem to take anything away from the responsiveness of the shoe and inspired me to push faster on my training runs.”
Saucony Hurricane 15
True to its heritage, the latest incarnation of the Hurricane remains a durable, ultra-stable, well-cushioned trainer. It retains the 8mm heel-toe offset (added in version 14), cushy interior and multi-density midsole geared at reducing overpronation. The biggest change to this version was a cosmetic switch to an open-mesh upper, one that didn’t change the fit or performance. Our testers approved of the firm yet smooth shock-absorbing ride, but noted the shoe was anything but light or nimble.
10.4 oz, 8.3 oz / 8mm heel-toe drop
“It fits my low-volume foot perfectly. The upper has a great structure to it and holds my foot to the shoe solidly.”
Adidas Energy Boost
Built around an innovative new midsole foam, the Energy Boost is a cushy everyday trainer that really lives up to its name. Instead of traditional layers of EVA foam in the midsole, this material comprises balls of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) fused together using steam. The difference is a much bouncier sensation than any other shoe in our test. Our testers found the snug-fitting shoe extremely energetic, but only moderately light compared to other models. The Energy Boost fits decidedly tight in the forefoot, thanks to a neoprene mesh that covers the toe box. Overall, our test group raved about the cushioning and silky smooth ride, with several testers mentioning they were excited to test the new foam in other Adidas shoes due out later this summer.
9.7 oz, 8.1 oz / 10mm heel-toe drop
“Very smooth ride and nice shock absorption when running on the road.”
Brooks Ravenna 4
An everyday workhorse, the Ravenna is geared toward high-mileage runners who need a bit of stability and support. Although it’s not light compared to other shoes in this test, the enhanced flexibility and agility help it run more nimbly than some of its contemporaries in the stability category. A new upper has given this version of the Ravenna a more secure fit, while tweaks to the outsole and chassis make it more flexible in the forefoot. Testers appreciated the Ravenna’s step-in comfort as well as its soft but not mushy feel and consistent heel-toe ride.
11.1 oz, 9.2 oz / 10mm heel-toe drop
“Bouncy and light, yet still plenty cushioned.”
Mizuno Wave Inspire 9
As with many Mizuno models, the Inspire 9 keeps improving on a successful theme. In this case, it’s an energetic and lightly supportive stability trainer. The latest version has a new, tighter mesh upper that aids in both support and breathability and enhances a snug fit. Otherwise, the Inspire 9 performs pretty much like the 8, a smooth ride with a semi-firm feeling and just enough stability for those who need it. It’s not the lightest or most agile stability shoe in this review, but it’s far from feeling heavy or clunky. The enhanced fit, aided by the new upper, fewer overlays and lower lacing, makes the newest version feel peppier than previous models.
10.0 oz, 8.3 oz / 12mm heel-toe drop
“Good for an easy day or a long run. … I’d even recommend this shoe for pronators who need a good go-fast shoe.”
Minimal Trail Shoes
New Balance 10v2
Is it possible to make a minimally designed shoe lighter and better? Still über-flexible and low to the ground with a 4mm heel-toe offset, this version sports a revamped upper and ditches the heel counter of its predecessor. With just enough semi-soft foam cushioning and pods of Vibram outsole rubber, the 10v2 is a huge improvement. Testers loved the enhancements, especially in the upper, but most said the curved last and minimalist design make it suitable only for very efficient runners who are light on their feet.
6.1 oz, 5.2 oz / 4mm heel-toe drop
“The sole is lightweight, flexible and durable, and provides great traction, but offers little protection from small rocks or gravel.”
Saucony Peregrine 3
A lightweight, low-to-the-ground trail runner, the Peregrine 3 excels at fast and agile running on all types of terrain—from dirt roads to rocky single-track trails. It offers just enough protection from sharp rocks and knobby roots but doesn’t inhibit the foot’s natural movement. A new, seamless upper, one originally designed for track spikes, provides a reliably snug and very comfortable fit, while a reinforced heel counter adds support. Best of all, a molded plastic toe tip adds protection against
10.1 oz, 8.6 oz / 4mm heel-toe drop
“It provided perfect support for my wide feet without squeezing my arch.”
Reebok RealFlex Flight ATC
A hybrid shoe of sorts, the RealFlex Flight ATC is a durable yet lightweight all-terrain shoe that can be used on both mild trails and paved roads. It feels like a traditional neutral cushioned road shoe with the added touch of a grippy trail-oriented outsole for traction on all types of terrain. Our testers found the shoe to have a snug fit in the heel and mid-foot with slightly more room in the forefoot. The independent action of the outsole lugs gives this shoe a great range of flexibility, but our testers thought it made for a sloppy ride during longer runs on pavement. Although it lacks any kind of built-in stability mechanism, there is some structure and support gained from the extra cushioning
in the built-up heel.
10.8 oz, 9.4 oz / 10mm heel-toe drop
“Lots of room in the toe box, with a nice snug feel.”
Minimal Racing Flats
Brooks Pure Connect 2
As the consummate modern lightweight trainer, the snug-fitting Pure Connect 2 has a lightweight, low-to-the-ground feel and crazy-agile demeanor that make it ideal for tempo runs, fartleks and other fast workouts. The features that make this shoe most compelling are its anatomical shape, reduced heel, energetic semi-firm midsole foam and glove-like fit that is enhanced by a mid-foot elastic support band. A unique, split-toe groove enables more natural big-toe movement, while the new one-piece upper creates a wrap-like fit. Although there isn’t much cushioning underfoot, testers raved about the relatively soft ride for such a minimal ride feel. Most suggested this shoe was one of the snuggest-fitting models they tested and appreciated how that translated to efficient energy return.
7.2 oz, 6.4 oz / 4mm heel-toe drop
“This is the best shoe I’ve ever owned. It feels like a natural part of my foot.”
Inov-8 Road-X 233
Fast, flexible and light, the Road-X 233 feels footloose and fancy-free. Ideal as a long-distance racer or a speed workout fiend, it’s extremely flexible and lacks any type of supportive device to get in the way of natural foot movement. Inov-8 has gone to great lengths to create a softer feeling underfoot in some of its shoes, including this model. A slightly softer midsole foam and more forgiving outsole rubber create a more intimate connection to the ground while maintaining enough semi-firm footing for performance-oriented running. The additional softness was very noticeable (and appreciated) and, combined with the sleek profile and low-to-the-ground feel, cues up an agile, efficient vibe at any pace.
8.2 oz, 6.7 oz / 6mm heel-toe drop
“I was pleasantly surprised by how responsive and grippy the Road X-233 was. It transitions smoothly and sticks to any surface like glue.”
Merrell Barefoot Run Road Glove 2
This less-is-more minimalist trainer offers only a slight amount of cushioning and protection for runners seeking an intimate connection with the ground. The new version has been updated slightly with a more supportive upper and Vibram rubber outsole, but the decidedly firm ride and natural-flexing performance are very similar. It also carries over the same zero-drop profile. Although most of our testers were concerned about the lack of material underfoot if using this shoe regularly, several said they appreciated the roomy toe box, high arch and lightweight, barely-there feel.
7.2 oz.; 6.1 oz. / 0mm heel-toe drop
“Despite feeling soft and cushy, it was very bouncy. I felt quick and nimble in it.”
Mizuno EVO Levitas
Mizuno went way outside the box in its first modern approach to minimalism. Named after the Latin word for “light,” the Levitas serves up a low-to-the-ground sensation that is much softer and more forgiving than many other zero-drop options. The ride, which is enhanced by a Wave plate in the forefoot, feels more like that of a responsive lightweight trainer than a barely there minimalist shoe, with slightly more cushioning and protection than other shoes this close to the ground. A few testers thought this shoe fit narrow in the mid-foot but also runs about a half-size large, given the ample width and length of the toe box.
6.1 oz, 5.1 oz / 0mm heel-toe drop
“The sole isn’t spongy but still softens concrete for a barefoot-on-grass feel.”
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