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2012 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Running Shoes

Here's the first glance at the running shoe section from the Triathlete Buyer's Guide.

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Here’s the first glance at the running shoe section from the Triathlete Buyer’s Guide. The complete Guide is available on newsstands now!

Adidas Supernova Glide 4 $115

Just because you prefer or need a lot of cushioning in your running shoes doesn’t mean you don’t care about speed. The Supernova Glide 4 from Adidas offers a responsive ride for a shoe that softens impact as well as it does. This is a great choice for the triathlete who wants to feel fast even with a nice, thick layer of cushioning underfoot.

Asics GT-2170 $110

The GT-2000 series from Asics has been around for 17 years, and for good reason. Runners needing a reliable blend of cushioning and stability tend to stick with this shoe after discovering it. The new GT-2170 is the lightest model in the line’s history, at 11.4 ounces in men’s size 9. Coming at no cost to the support and impact dampening that have made it so popular, this weight reduction will please GT-2000 loyalists and create another generation of converts.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 $115

Try all you want—you just can’t over-pronate in the Mizuno Wave Inspire 8. From the moment you take your first step in it, you can feel the Double-Fan Wave sole design gently guiding your foot toward neutral alignment. Best of all, this support comes without over-construction and excess weight. At just 10.9 ounces in men’s size 9, the Wave Inspire 8 is lighter than most shoes that provide such stability.

Saucony ProGrid Guide 5 $100

The Guide 5 weighs a full 1.5 ounces less than its predecessor, the Guide 4.  It’s just 10.2 ounces in men’s size 9. This was partly achieved with a 4mm reduction in the heel lift, which also gives the Guide 5 a smoother transition from heel strike to toe-off than the 4 and promotes a mid-foot striking gait. These changes were made without any sacrifice to the robust stability features that have earned the Guide series so many fans.

ECCO Biom B Textile 1.2 $200

The Biom B’s road feel is similar to many slipper-like minimalist shoes yet it creates a uniquely firm connection with the runner. Its highly structured upper flawlessly bonds the foot to the lightly cushioned, flexible sole. It takes the sting off the road but doesn’t coddle a heel striker to inspire a mid-foot-striking gait. At 10 ounces and $200, the Biom B is a little heavier and costlier than other shoes for mid-foot strikers.

Altra Intuition $100

Altra firmly believes that mid- and forefoot striking is superior to heel striking, and every aspect of the Intuition is built around that concept. Like all shoes from Altra, the Intuition has a zero-drop sole, meaning the heel isn’t any taller than the forefoot, to promote forefoot contact. Also, its sole is extremely hard. It protects the foot and provides a little cushioning but doesn’t take all the sting off contact with the ground, further motivating a runner to avoid heel striking.

On Cloudsurfer $129

The small spring-like knobs on the bottom of the Cloudsurfer’s sole are a surprisingly effective addition to traditional shoe cushioning for runners with a neutral stride. They soften foot strike slightly more than typical trainers without creating any additional instability. The flexible sole gives the Cloudsurfer a lively feel, and its upper is a good fit for runners with mid-volume feet.

Pearl Izumi Kissaki $130

The Kissaki incorporates fundamental attributes of minimalist shoes into a structured and durable training/racing crossover shoe. It provides moderate cushioning with a flexible forefoot in a lightweight package. The sole is substantially more durable than many shoes of equal weight. It fits a little small and the low heel cup allows the foot to lift slightly, especially when running uphill. Testers found it to be an outstanding shoe for runners interested in minimalism’s core features without sacrificing practicality for everyday runs.

Brooks PureConnect $90

There’s nothing quite like the free feeling of running in a true minimalist running shoe. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like the comfortable feeling of running in a well-cushioned shoe. The PureConnect merges these seemingly mutually exclusive characteristics. Its split-toe forefoot construction and breathable mesh upper provide maximum freedom for the foot, and the sole’s gentle cushioning turns pavement into a golf course fairway.

Reebok RealFlex Run Mesh $80

The “RealFlex” name sets expectations for a running experience that is all about unencumbered freedom of foot movement, and that’s precisely what the shoe delivers. With its narrow last, raised heel and sock-like mesh upper, the RealFlex is not the best choice for heavy pronators. But if your perfect shoe is a lightweight trainer with a lot of flex and ample cushioning, here it is.

Nike Free 3.0 v3 $90

The Nike Free is the only minimalist trainer from a major brand to hit the market before minimalism became trendy. But just because it’s been around longer doesn’t mean the Free has been surpassed. No shoe offers more multidirectional flexibility than the Free 3.0 v3, thanks to its distinctive flex grooves. Also unique to this shoe is its stocking-like heel, part of the most minimal upper in the entire kingdom of running footwear.

Skechers Gorun $80

The Gorun enters the ever-growing category of “natural motion” running shoes, plus it boasts an affordable price. Its sole flexes with little to no resistance in all directions. The heel has a subtle rocker bottom that forces heel strikers to rapidly roll onto their mid-foot after contact. The upper is soft and non-restrictive. It creates an effective bond between the mid-foot and the sole but allows freedom for the forefoot and heel. It fits approximately a half-size small.

Newton MV2 $125

The Newton MV2 brings new meaning to the term “racing flats.” The shoe is, in fact, flat, with zero drop from heel to toe. This feature, along with the unique Action/Reaction Technology found in every Newton shoe encourages the wearer to adopt a “natural” mid- or forefoot ground-contacting style. The sole is exceptionally flexible in all directions and provides almost no support, forcing the foot to grow stronger by supporting itself.

Adidas adiZero adios 2 $115

Lightness alone does not make a great racing flat—especially if it’s designed to be used in race distances up to the marathon. Comfort and stability are also important. The AdiZero Adios 2 combines all of these virtues plus a trampoline-like responsiveness in a flat that can legitimately claim to be the world’s fastest—having carried Geoffrey Mutai to a 2:03:02 marathon in Boston last year. Its sturdy sole also outlasts nearly every other racing flat.

Avia Avi-Bolt III $100

There’s no such thing as an all-purpose running shoe, but the Avia Avi-Bolt III is about as versatile as they come. Its microfiber air mesh upper and low heel rise make it light enough for the shortest triathlons, yet its heel provides enough comfort for the longest. And although a removable Ortholite sockliner, quick laces and other features make it a true triathlon racing shoe, its Cantilever system and DuraStryk heel give the shoe the stability and durability required for everyday training.

New Balance 1400 $100

An ideal racing flat and lightweight trainer for a heel striker, the 1400 is exceptionally light and flexible yet still provides surprisingly supportive cushioning. Unlike many racing-style shoes, the 1400’s heel is substantial and softens the impact of a heel-striking gait. It firmly binds to the foot with a moderately snug fit. Testers found it to be an outstanding multipurpose lightweight shoe, especially for runners who don’t recoil at the thought of heel striking.

K-Swiss K-Ruuz 1.5 $100

The K-Ruuz is one of those racing flats that somehow makes your feet feel lighter when you put them on than they feel naked. That’s probably because the K-Ruuz weighs a feathery 7.1 ounces in men’s size 9 and wraps the foot in a supple mesh upper. Proprietary cushioning used to construct the sole and a TPU midsole insert create a responsive ride and snappy transition to the lighter-than-bare feeling of this serious racing shoe.

Saucony ProGrid Mirage $100

The Mirage might be the perfect training shoe for mid-foot strikers. Its durable sole provides ample cushioning and a subtle degree of pronation control—both features ideal for long runs—while preserving the two core features of minimalist running shoes. Despite the sole’s sturdy construction, it flexes easily and allows the foot to move naturally. The difference in height between the heel and toe is small, only 5mm, which helps promote mid- and forefoot striking.

Zoot Ultra Kalani 2.0 $140

There aren’t many training shoes that most runners can lace up and love, but the Zoot Ultra Kalani 2.0 may be one of them. Its UltraFit upper provides a glove-like fit for both wide and narrow feet. It has the cushioning some runners need without the mushy feeling others can’t stand, while the CarbonSpan+ midsole offers unobtrusive stability. The Ultra Kalani 2.0 is also relatively light, which all triathletes can appreciate.

Puma Faas 800 $100

Despite the thick cushioning, a characteristic often associated with clunky shoes, the Faas 800’s soft sole meshes well with many running styles. It smoothly rolls a heel striker from contact to toe-off without a herky-jerky transition and is nimble enough to serve as a training shoe for mid-foot strikers. Its upper is cut for a mid-volume foot and effectively secures the shoe to the runner.

Salomon XR Mission $110

Light, grippy and with an effective fast-closure system that snugged the shoe against the foot perfectly, the XR Crossmax is an ideal off-road triathlon shoe capable of doubling as a sturdy pavement trainer as well. The mid-foot is very narrow, which firmly secures a narrow foot but can be too tight for some runners. The heel and forefoot both lock the foot in place without creating hot spots.

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