There is something really special about being fit and cruising along at a decent pace on a late-summer run if you’re wearing a shoe that’s meant for you. It’s a warm day where your muscles feel fluid and the rhythm that develops feels almost like a floating sensation. It’s a pace you can maintain mile after mile because you aren’t thinking about your feet, feet that are neither hurting from overly barren shoes nor sinking into energy-sapping sloppiness.
Our late summer/early fall shoe review is all about cruising, in some cases with guidance and control and in others with flexibility and pep.
3 Key Tips To Finding Your Next Shoe
So which shoe is right for you? Don’t just buy any random shoe or a model that happens to come in your favorite color. Find a pair that’s specifically meant for you!
Visit a local running specialty shop. An experienced shoe-fitter can help find out what you need and give you options to try on based on your foot shape, running gait and the type of training you do.
Focus on fit. The primary criteria you should be concerned with are fit, comfort and cushioning (relative to the type of running you do and your personal preference). But fit is most important.
Don’t be swayed by color or appearance. As you try on three or four shoes, your foot and brain will likely tell you which one feels the best. Close your eyes and think about how the shoes feel on your feet. Does they feel natural and move with your foot? Or do they control your foot? Are they snug or are they loose to the point of slipping? Are they flexible or stiff, soft or firm?
(All photos by Scott Draper)
New Balance Vazee Pace, $110
Weights: 7.5 oz. (men’s 9.0); 6.5 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm; 17mm (heel); 11mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You’re looking for a lightweight, low-to-the-ground trainer that’s energetic and sleek enough to double as a racing flat.
Fit-Feel-Ride: The Vazee Pace is a lightweight, low-to-the-ground training shoe that will also work well for some runners as a racing flat for longer distances. Although it’s a close complement to the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante, a similarly positioned neutral trainer with almost identical weights and dimensions, the difference is in midsole materials. The speed-oriented Vazee offers considerably more spring than the shock-absorbent Zante, making it ideal for everything from tempo runs to track workouts. The upper conforms gently for a near-custom fit and flexes dynamically with the natural movements of the foot. A shining example of the post-minimalist revolution, the Pace offers just enough cushion and structure without inhibiting a runner’s stride.
Plus: This shoe has a slightly wider forefoot profile, allowing for natural toe splay.
Minus: This shoe rolls nicely, but it isn’t enough for those who need support or guidance.
Nike Lunarglide 7, $120
Weights: 9.1 oz. (men’s 9.0); 7.9 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm; 25mm (heel); 15mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You need an everyday trainer with an ideal balance between stability and responsiveness.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Lucky seven? You bet. The Lunarglide shines in its most recent iteration, which has been stripped of its overlays and redesigned with a seamless, open-mesh upper that comfortably and reliably secures the foot (with Nike’s patented Flywire cable system) to the resilient midsole chassis. Combined with an internal bootie and a luxurious interior, the Lungarglide 7 is as comfy and secure-fitting as any trainer on the market. A TPU heel counter provides support and stability to a flexible shoe that otherwise runs like the beautiful lightweight trainer that it is. It features Nike’s Dynamic Support platform, which provides just the right amount of stability for a wide range of gait types without the added weight or stiffness of a traditional medial post.
Plus: It’s capable of long runs at a variety of speeds as well as quicker-turnover types of workouts.
Minus: A few of our wear-testers thought the fit was a bit too snug and preferred a half-size larger than their typical size.
Hoka One One Clifton 2, $130
Editor’s Choice—Best Ride
Weights: 8.4 oz. (men’s 9.0), 7.4 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm; 29mm (heel), 24mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You want a lightweight, maximally cushioned shoe for high-mileage training or long-distance racing.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Believe it or not, Hoka discovered how to make its award-winning Clifton lightweight trainer even better. The second edition remains super light and amazingly cushioned, but—thanks to a slightly revised upper with a few more structural overlays and a padded tongue—it offers more of a locked-down feeling to the chassis under your foot. The only drawback of the first version was the slightly sloppy feel, especially at higher speeds and on downhills. Not this one. It’s very stable, offers quick heel-toe transitions and runs comfortably at any speed from a slow jog to tempo run efforts or half-marathon race pace. This version is actually a smidge heavier than the first version, but that’s OK given the positive improvements that have been made.
Plus: A great choice for racing from 10K to the marathon (and beyond).
Minus: It’s not our top choice for racing shorter distances or short speed workouts.
ASICS GT-1000 4, $100
Weights: 11.1 oz. (men’s 9.0), 9.3 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm; 22mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You want a stable, everyday trainer that doesn’t sacrifice agility or comfort.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Most support and guidance shoes come at the cost of: (a) a high price; (b) being stiff and unwieldy; and (c) being heavy and bulky. Fortunately, the fourth edition of the GT-1000 is (d) none of the above. Although it provides pronation control with its engineered midsole support and guidance systems, it still maintains a supple, cushioned, relative lightness with a new supportive, reinforced mesh upper. ASICS put a lot of tech into this shoe, but it doesn’t run like it‘s laden with a bunch of componentry; rather, you only notice benefits like the rearfoot and forefoot GEL cushioning pads by their lack of interruption. Ultimately, this is a very stable trainer that runs and feels more like a mid-weight neutral shoe.
Plus: Loads of reassuring structure that you won’t feel during a run.
Minus: It’s not the lightest stability shoe on the market.
Brooks Glycerin 13, $150
Weights: 11.3 oz. (men’s 9.0), 9.3 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm; 22mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if… You’re looking for a soft, plush trainer that’s agile enough for long-distance racing.
Fit-Feel-Ride: There is nothing unlucky about Brooks’ 13th incarnation of the Glycerin, a posh trainer that gracefully encapsulates layers of comfort technology to offer up one of the most cushioned rides on the market. It’s a neutral trainer with a luxuriously floaty ride, and it tested like a performance pillow. That comes, in part, from pressure-dispersion through zoned construction, including a new beveled heel for a smooth roll-through sensation after footstrike, a midsole updated with a resilient, adaptive cushioning layer, a plastic saddle insert that adjusts to the foot arch, and a seamless upper fit system that cradles the foot and provides a reliably secure fit. It’s ideally suited for long training runs to marathons, in which underfoot comfort is a premium quality.
Plus: A very supple, buttery-soft ride.
Minus: Not ideal for quick-cadence running, only because it’s hard to run fast with pillows under your feet.
361° USA Volitation, $110
Editor’s Choice—Best Debut
Weights: 10.4 oz. (men’s 9.0), 8.8 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 9mm; 21mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if… You’re in search of a well-cushioned shoe with a resilient, energetic ride.
Fit-Feel-Ride: While new to selling shoes in the U.S. market, 361° is hardly new to the world of manufacturing running shoes. (In fact, it’s one of the world’s largest brands.) The magic of the Volitation comes from a dual-density midsole made from traditional EVA foam and a second layer of foam and rubber sealed with thermoplastic polyurethane. The result is a very softly cushioned ride with amazing resiliency. The air mesh upper combined with the guidance and shock absorption of the midsole and strategically placed wear-resistant rubber outsole blend nicely for a controlled and firm trainer that kept testers moving over many a shock-dispersed mile.
Plus: The Volitation has a plush heel collar and padded tongue to provide a snug, comfortable fi t.
Minus: A few wear-testers thought the toe box was a bit too narrow on the lateral side.
Altra Paradigm 1.5, $130
Weights: 9.7 oz. (men’s 9.0), 8.0 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 0mm; 34mm (heel), 34mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if… You want a lightweight, maximally cushioned trainer with a zero-drop profile.
Fit-Feel-Ride: With high-off-the-ground cushioning and a roomy toe box that would keep Frankenstein happy, the Paradigm 1.5 is one of the leaders in the maximalism category. But what really separates this shoe from other softly cushioned maximalist trainers is that it offers some guidance through an EVA medial flare that our wear-test team found nonintrusive and assisted the foot late in their runs when fatigue affected their form. Altra also improved the upper durability and added reflectivity for an ultimate puffy, padded cruise of a ride that makes the shoe well-suited for ultra-distance road runs and slower or recovery-oriented training runs. Like all Altra shoes, it has a zero-drop (or level) profile, which may take some getting used to.
Plus: The midsole in this updated edition is slightly softer than the original Paradigm model.
Minus: The only drawback (for some runners) might be having to adjust to the zero-drop profile.
adidas Adizero Boston Boost 6, $120
Weights: 8.8 oz. (men’s 9.0), 7.3 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm; 29mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if… You need a versatile trainer equally capable of putting in long miles and running fast tempo runs and races.
Fit-Feel-Ride: The updated Boston with Boost midsole foam makes running fast something that just happens. This lightweight trainer-racer provides just enough cushioning for a marathon yet the lightness of a racing flat. But with a 10mm heel-toe differential and a near-maximal amount of heel cushioning, the Boston Boost isn’t flat at all—something most of our wear-testers found quite satisfying when running downhill or late in a run. The durable Continental rubber outsole and plastic transition bridge under the midfoot provide a steadiness lacking in more bare-bones racing or performance training shoes. The upper mesh is breathable and comfortably adheres the foot to the Boost midsole.
Plus: The Boost midsole foam has improved every adidas shoe, and this one is no exception.
Minus: Believe it or not, a few of our testers thought this shoe had too much bounce.
Under Armour Charged Bandit, $100
Editor’s Choice—Best Value
Weights: 10.3 oz. (men’s 9.0), 8.6 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm, 22mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You’re looking for a mild stability shoe with exceptional cushioning and fit.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Developing a training shoe with a more traditional design is a vast departure for Under Armour, but the innovative Charged Bandit doesn’t veer entirely from its cutting-edge ways. As with its previous neutral models, this stability trainer has a stretchy, seamless mesh upper that conforms to the foot and creates a wrap-like fi t. What’s unique about this model is the dual-density midsole that blends a firmer foam material under the medial side to enhance stability. It’s a modern take on a medial post, but the genius is that, even though it provides a good amount of support, our wear-testers reported that they barely noticed it amid the smooth turnover. Our test crew loved the energy-returning responsiveness of this shoe (especially at toe-off) and considered this one of the best new shoes of this season.
Plus: The seamless upper creates a comfortable, secure, near-custom fi t.
Minus: A few of our wear-testers found this shoe’s undercarriage to be a little too firm for their liking.
Topo Athletic Magnifly, $110
Weights: 8.8 oz. (men’s 9.0), 7.7 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm; 25mm (heel), 20mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You desire a lightweight cushioned trainer with a minimalist sensation and expanded toe box.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Although it started as a pure minimalist brand, Topo went bigger with its new neutral-inclined Magnifly but not at the expense of sacrifi cing a lightweight, flexible design. This shoe’s dual-density foam midsole delivers zoned response and cushioning with a very flexible ride. Wear testers welcomed the added cushioning and underfoot protection the Magnifly delivers but also appreciated the natural feel and responsive ride. The fit stands out because of its slightly expanded forefoot that accommodates toe splay without compromising the midfoot hold. It has a firm feel for the road with an energetic and responsive demeanor.
Plus: Even with the higher level of foam, this shoe evokes a minimalist feel.
Minus: A few wear-testers with narrow feet thought the wider toe box was too roomy.
Newton Gravity IV $175
Weights: 8.1 oz. (men’s 9.0); 6.7 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 3mm; 28mm (heel), 25mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You’re looking for an energetic daily trainer that can double as a speed flat for speed work and racing.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Newton has fine-tuned its shoe technology in recent years and made it more accessible to more foot types and a wider range of runners. With the Gravity, one of its original lightweight neutral trainers, you can immediately feel the improvements: most notably an enhanced upper—more snug and mostly seamless, plus with soft, stretchy fabric at the outside edges of the big toe and pinky toe—and the wider five-lug propulsion piece under the forefoot. Like previous versions of this shoe, it is light, energetic and very responsive, but the recent changes have made for a better fit and a much smoother ride. The architecture encourages a forefoot-striking gait, which is why most of our wear-testers appreciated this shoe while running fast.
Plus: The wider profile accommodates a lot more foot types.
Minus: A few testers suggested that a more padded tongue would be a benefit.
Mizuno Wave Enigma 5, $150
Editor’s Choice- Best Update
Weights: 10.9 oz. (men’s 9.0), 8.8 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 12mm; 24mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You’re seeking a lavishly cushioned everyday trainer that doesn’t sacrifice agility or flexibility.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Mizuno overhauled its premium-level, robustly cushioned neutral high-mileage trainer and made it slightly lighter, better cushioned and more shock absorbent. What’s not to like, right? Combined with Mizuno’s uniquely sculpted plastic Wave insert between two layers of foam, the new midsole is softer, more responsive and serves up a smoother ride than previous editions that were firmer and seemed to have a bit of an awkward transition. Our wear-testers raved about the secure, snugged-down fit (aided by the ridiculously soft, plush interior), the softer, airy mesh upper (strap-free in the forefoot) and the consistent heel-toe transition of this shoe. We found it to be a durable high-mileage fiend, one that’s great for larger runners who need more support, cushioning and structure under their feet.
Plus: It’s quite light for the amount of material under your feet.
Minus: The traditional high heel-toe offset felt awkwardly old-school to a few of our testers.
ON Cloudcruiser, $150
Weights: 11.1oz. (men’s 9.0), 9.0 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 7mm; 25mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You’re looking for a firm and responsive neutral cushioned trainer.
Fit-Fee-Ride: ON has continued to expand its line of shoes with innovative “Cloud” cushioning technology. The Cloudcruiser is a new high-mileage model aimed at dampening impact with the ground. Does it feel like running on clouds as the name depicts? Well, it’s not that fluffy, but the four robust Cloud bumpers under the heel certainly soften heel strikes while the array of 11 slightly more springy bumpers of various sizes under the forefoot provide a sense of flowing momentum and lift-off. The placement and size of the Cloud pods also give this shoe the ability to adjust to individual gait styles and provide a bit of stability. The Cloudcruiser has a stiff-flexing demeanor, but a flexible internal plastic skeleton known as a Speedboard gives the shoe precise handling and positive energy return.
Plus: An external arch saddle and padded tongue provide a snug fit without pressure-point issues.
Minus: It won’t be the lightest shoe in your quiver, even if it is one of the most energetic.
Skechers GoRun Ultra Road, $110
Weights: 10.4oz. (men’s 9.0), 8.3 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm; 30mm (heel), 26mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You’re looking for a high-cushioned, smooth-riding shoe for long-distance running.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Although Skechers Performance was founded around lightweight, low-to-the-ground neutral training and racing flats with a decidedly natural feel, the brand has evolved to include a few shoes with additional cushioning and support. The best one so far is the maximally cushioned GoRun Ultra Road, a neutral model with a knit upper that moves and flexes with the foot while also providing a bit of dynamic support over the top of the foot. Like some of its svelte GoRun cousins,it has a soft, flexible feeling underfoot, but it also has enough structure for long-distance running. It’s not nearly as marshmallowy soft as the original GoRun Ultra and GoRun Ultra 2 maximalist trainers, something most of our testers appreciated. Plus, this shoe has better long-wearing durability than those two, thanks to sturdy rubber pods interspersed throughout the outsole.
Plus: It comes with a secondary pair of laces in a different color.
Minus: This shoe doesn’t offer much anti-pronation stability, which limits it to runners with strong, neutral gaits.
Saucony Omni 14, $130
Weights: 11.2 oz. (men’s 9.0), 9.0 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm; 26mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if… You want a very cushy yet stable support shoe that helps offset severe overpronation.
Fit-Feel-Ride: A modern mix of stability and cushy comfort, the Omni offers a lot of support for those who need pronation control in a luxurious package of creature comforts. The Omni’s dual-density medial posting, framed support and dynamic midsole all combine for a structured yet surprisingly smooth ride. Our smaller and lighter wear-testers found this to be a bit bulky and inflexible, but our larger wear-testers raved about the Omni and its improved arch support, shock-attenuating cushioning and the locked-down fit of the stitch-free upper. Best of all, it has a wide platform that ensures stability from the ground up in every stride. Runners who have been used to running in heavy, rigid and overly controlling shoes will be pleasantly surprised by this stable cruiser.
Plus: For a sturdy stability shoe, this one is very comfortable and fairly light.
Minus: Not a speed demon, running faster isn’t its forte.
Zoot Del Mar, $140
Weights: 11.0 oz. (men’s 9.0); 9.6 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm; 28mm (heel), 20mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … You’re looking for a well-cushioned shoe that offers a consistently comfortable feeling for the training paces you typically run.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Zoot, a brand long known for its responsive race-day shoes for triathlon, has made a significant push into the world of cushy training shoes in the past year, and the Del Mar is about as smooth of a ride as any neutral trainer on the market. The midsole is made from a shock-absorbing layer of material directly under the foot (Zoot calls it Z-Bound) and a more responsive foam between that layer and the durable rubber outsole that hits the ground. It’s a combination that works great together, serving up a soft but not mushy sensation during long runs, recovery runs and modest up-tempo workouts. Our wear-testers love what Zoot calls the “inside-out” fit of this shoe—a seamless interior that’s smooth and sleek enough to wear barefoot.
Plus: A cushy tongue and a fold-wrapping upper round out this premium cruiser with luxe flair.
Minus: It’s definitely not a speed demon.
Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road M3 v2, $135
Weights: 11.9 oz. (men’s 9.0), 9.8 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm; 27mm (heel); 23mm (forefoot)
This is the shoe for you if … you want a well-cushioned moderate stability shoe that’s is a comfortable high-mileage workhorse.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Get a little farther from and, hopefully, on the road with Pearl Izumi’s new elevated (almost 30mm) M3, a big-midsoled, medially-posted shoe that managed to be more flexible than our somewhat skeptical testers had imagined it would. With greater cushioning from the thicker, high-profile midsole that is shaped with a dynamic offset for smoother heel-to-toe transition and biomechanically tuned to offset prontation, the M3 represents a new direction for Pearl Izumi. What isn’t a departure from the company’s M.O. is the seamless upper comfort. All things considered, this shoe pulls off the rare mix of being very smooth, soft and stable.
Plus: Our wear-testers raved about the comfort of this shoe, as well as the energy return they seemed to derive out of every stride.
Minus: It’s not the lightest shoe available, although our wear-testers didn’t think it was egregiously heavy for what it offers.