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2016 Fall Road Running Shoe Buyer’s Guide

We offer wear-test insights from 15 of the latest and greatest cushioned training shoes.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in recent years, it’s that cushioning matters. While the minimalist shoe revolution served us well—with cues to better shoe design and lighter shoes and by reinstating the importance of good running form—it’s ample cushioning that matters most for the vast majority of runners. This fall’s crop of shoes takes cushioning to a new level, with new types of foam, new shoe construction techniques and, generally, smoother and more comfortable shoes for logging your miles than ever before. Browse through our reviews of these 15 great new models and then head to your local running shop and find the one that works best for you.

Shoe weights listed in this review are based on men’s size 9.0 and women’s size 7.0

RELATED: Fall 2016 Trail Running Shoe Buyer’s Guide

ASICS DynaFlyte $140

Fit/Feel/Ride: ASICS has released this new highly responsive neutral training shoe built on its innovative and very lightweight FlyteFoam midsole material—made from proprietary foam and organic fibers that help limit the amount of deformation in each footstrike. It serves up a superlative ride, which is a mix of cushy, stable and responsiveness. The shoe feels low to the ground, but not in a detrimental way that many minimalist shoes feel. It’s a true cushioned high-mileage trainer with a speedy demeanor that’s more akin to a racing flat. That’s partially due to the foam midsole being 55 percent lighter than similar EVA foam midsoles, as well as easy-flexing characteristics from strategically placed forefoot flex grooves.

Plus: The DynaFlyte has a section of high-abrasion carbon rubber in the heel for long-lasting durability.

Minus: The guidance provided by the DynaFlyte, while adequate for neutral runners, may not be enough for moderate overpronators.

Weights: 9.5 oz. (men’s), 7.8 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 8mm; 25mm (heel), 17mm (forefoot)

Under Armour Charged Bandit 2 $100

Fit/Feel/Ride: Our wear-testers were quick to remark that this is one of the most uniquely constructed shoes they’d ever seen. The upper is made from a combination of two different woven fabrics—one soft and stretchy, the other more firm and supportive—that are connected by an ultrasonic welded seam tape. Combined with a soft gusseted tongue and a footbed that molds to the shape of your foot, it creates an adaptive, wrap-like sensation that allows the shoe to really feel like an extension of your anatomy. The foam and rubber midsole/outsole chassis offer both impact dampening, mild support  and an incredible amount of energetic pop. It’s a good choice for slower long runs but has the speed for quick short runs too.

Plus: We liked the fit and feel of this shoe, with or without socks.

Minus: This is nothing like the Charged Bandit but, then again, that may be a plus, since our test team was so impressed with this version.

Weights: 9.8 oz. (men’s), 8.1 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 10mm; 29mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

Skechers Performance GOmeb Strada 2 $129

Fit/Feel/Ride: Nicely updated from the original Strada, the
second edition of this neutral trainer feels slightly more flexible and fluid while still retaining a soft and springy sensation in each stride. The biggest change from the original version—and the biggest improvement—is the new three-layer reinforced mesh upper that allows the shoe to be much more breathable than the first version yet just as secure. The Strada 2 continues its slight rocker profile that allows smooth heel-to-toe transitions. Our wear testers loved the energetic feeling this shoe provides, no matter when running fast during a tempo run or while taking it easy at the end of a long run or recovery session.

Plus: The lacing system and the internal webbing of the new upper provide a comfortable and very snug fit.

Minus: The heel cushioning was a bit too stout for some testers.

Weights: 9.7 oz. (men’s), 7.8 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 8mm; 28mm (heel), 20mm (forefoot)

Brooks Ghost 9 $120

Fit/Feel/Ride: The Ghost is one of the premier neutral shoes in the high-mileage everyday trainer category, but it doesn’t come with an inflated price tag. The first thing you notice about this shoe is its plush interior and cozy fit. Then it’s the cushioned yet responsive ride. The biggest upgrade to this year’s model is the slightly modified engineered mesh upper, which offers optimal support while also allowing it to fit a wider range of foot shapes. The ride is softly cushioned and well-balanced and rolls smoothly from heel to toe, making it versatile enough to use as a do-everything shoe, from long runs to modest speed workouts and races. Although it’s not one of the lightest shoes, it was still one of the most liked by our testers.

Plus: Several testers said the Ghost 9 felt lighter than they expected when pulling them out of the box.

Minus: Although it’s a neutral shoe, a few wear-testers felt the foam under carriage felt a tad bit too big and controlling.

Weights: 10.6 oz. (men’s), 9.1 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 12mm; 30mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)

Newton Fate II $135

Fit/Feel/Ride: Light and responsive yet well-cushioned, the neutral-oriented Fate II provides a balanced fit from back to front with a snug heel cinch and secure midfoot wrap. It has a generous toe box, and soft overlays around the forefoot allow your feet to move without restriction and help accommodate many different foot types. Newton’s characteristic forefoot propulsion lugs while visibly prominent, maintain a subtle profile when they spring into action, encouraging forefoot running without feeling particularly invasive or awkward. (The five-lug “P.O.P. 2” array is beveled at the front, allowing smoother transitions as the foot leaves the ground to start a new stride.) The Fate II’s increased under-foot pop makes it ideal for faster tempo runs and longer races without sacrificing cushioning and protection.

Plus: A new breathable upper with stretchy panels accommodate toe splay and give the first and fifth metatarsals more wiggle room.

Minus: The unique ride of Newton shoes isn’t for everyone.

Weights: 9.4 oz. (men’s), 7.9 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 5mm; 27mm (heel), 22mm (forefoot)

Topo Ultrafly $120

Fit/Feel/Ride: This relatively new brand continues to offer innovative and unique running shoes built off of modern minimalist design constructs like a 5mm heel-toe stack height differential and roomy toe box. The Ultrafly is the brand’s most cushioned shoe yet also one of its lightest and most stable. In addition to more foam, it also offers more structure and support, thanks to a dual-density midsole that’s slightly firmer on the medial side. Yet with all of that built into the shoe, it serves up a fairly light, fast and unfettered ride. The upper is nicely reinforced with a series of soft and smooth plastic overlay bands that help subtly aid the shoe’s structure.

Plus: Our testers appreciated the additional width of the foot-shaped toe box and the mild stability this shoe serves up.

Minus: A few testers thought the shoe ran a tad short for their size and recommended trying on a half-size larger shoe.

Weights: 9.2 oz. (men’s), 7.9 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 5mm; 28mm (heel), 23mm (forefoot)

Hoka One One Clifton 3 $130

Fit/Feel/Ride: In 2014, the debut of this performance-oriented, high-mileage trainer changed how runners thought about lightweight cushioning for the road. It’s still unbelievably light and supremely cushioned, but the Clifton has evolved to be more stable and a more accommodating shape in the forefoot. Although it’s a small update, it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to fit. The subtle key to this shoe is the rockered shape from heel to toe, a curve that allows very efficient gait turnover. Our testers loved the cushioning and energy of this shoe on all sorts of moderate to longer runs, but most thought it had too much cushioning underfoot to be agile enough for shorter speed sessions. Several testers said they’d choose it for their next road marathon.

Plus: The flat laces worked great at providing a snug but comfortable fit.

Minus: Proprioceptive feel for the ground is understandably lacking.

Weights: 8.6 oz. (men’s), 7.7 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 5mm; 29mm (heel), 24mm (forefoot)

Nike Vomero 11 $140

Fit/Feel/Ride: If it’s possible for a brand as big as Nike to have an unsung shoe that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, the neutral-

oriented Vomero is probably it. A very responsive neutral cushioned trainer, the 11th incarnation of the Vomero is more energetic and comfortable than ever. It has a new engineered mesh upper reinforced with a dynamic Flywire security system that accommodates a variety of foot shapes with seamless support. The enhanced three-part midsole mixes soft cushion with a lively jolt of energy return. The Vomero is a cushy jack of all trades, able to tackle moderate to long runs with ease, as well as running short and fast fairly effectively too.

Plus: It offers an amazing blend of energy return and comfort.

Minus: This shoe has a low-volume fit throughout, which could present challenges for runners with wider feet.

Weights: 10.7 oz. (men’s), 9.2 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 12mm; 31mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

Mizuno Wave Sayonara 4 $110

Fit/Feel/Ride: The latest edition of Mizuno’s lightweight neutral performance trainer/racer, the Sayonara 4 is a versatile, low-to-the-ground speed merchant that has been enhanced by some small tweaks. The key upgrades to this shoe are a new two-layer upper—which has improved the forefoot fit, flex and breathability—and a slice of blown rubber in the forefoot that improves both the cushioning and responsiveness. It’s ideal for faster-paced running, including tempo runs, fartleks and even track sessions. It could also be used for longer races (10K to half marathon) and long progression runs.

Plus: The thermoplastic “Wave” imbedded in the midsole gives this shoe a distinct energetic pop.

Minus: For most of our testers, it didn’t have quite enough cushioning for runs longer than 2 hours.

Weights: 9.0 oz. (men’s), 7.6 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 10mm; 28mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)

New Balance Vazee Pace 2 $110

Fit/Feel/Ride: Too many companies launch a great shoe only to mess up a good thing by making too many changes on round two. Fortunately, New Balance didn’t do more than tweak the already-
excellent Vazee Pace, only changing the bootie-constructed upper’s woven mesh with no-sew overlays, partly cosmetic and partly to increase the support. Version 2 also boasts enhanced durability with added blown rubber to the REVlite midsole. Otherwise, it is still the utilitarian, uptempo trainer that offers a responsive enough performance, which makes it a good half marathon/marathon racer too.

Plus: Our test team liked the Vazee Pace 2 for its fit and performance in a variety of workouts.

Minus: The bootie construction may be too snug for higher-volume feet—so definitely try these on in the shop.

Weights: 9.6 oz. (men’s), 7.9 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 6mm; 24mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)

Hoka One One Clayton $150

Fit/Feel/Ride: This category-breaking long-distance trainer/racer is very wide and stable but also light, responsive and fast. This shoe’s two-part midsole features a slightly softer foam in the rear for impact protection at footstrike and a firmer, responsive foam material in the forefoot that results in more energy return than Hoka’s other shoes—as the foot rolls forward to the toe-off phase of a stride. The low foot placement and high medial sidewall help reduce overpronation late in a run without being disruptive like a traditional medial post. The ride feels remarkably firm, edgy and fast for a Hoka. Few shoes—and none with this much cushion—have combined all of those elements so well.

Plus: The rockered design and its energetic foam material on the bottom of the outsole help smooth the heel-to-toe motion.

Minus: A few testers said the wide footprint limited the shoe’s agility or rubbed their arch. For lighter testers, the midsole felt overly rigid.
Weights: 7.3 oz. (men’s), 6.0 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 4mm; 28mm (heel), 24mm (forefoot)

Brooks Glycerin 14 $150

Fit/Feel/Ride: The Glycerin was developed to be the ultimate neutral-riding cushioned cruiser and our wear-testers generally liked the updated edition. It’s definitely not just a marshmallowy plodder though. The step-in feeling is incredibly soft and plush from all sides, and the ride is smooth but also very dynamic—thanks to pressure zones and outsole flex grooves—as it adapts to the precise movements of every footstrike. The Glycerin’s revised 3D stretch print overlay upper does a great job at providing an adaptable but secure fit for the various shapes and movement patterns of your feet. If you want a cushy, articulated ride for short or long mellow to moderately paced runs, this is the shoe for you.

Plus: The cushy tongue and ankle collar are supremely comfortable.

Minus: It’s definitely not the lightest shoe in its class.

Weights: 10.6 oz. (men’s), 9.2 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 10mm; 29mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

Saucony Zealot ISO 2 $130

Plush without slop, the Zealot ISO was updated with a new top-sole layer of cushioning that added to the luxurious ride of this lightweight, neutral cruising machine. The upper fit impressed our testers with its cradling hold that accommodated a variety of foot types and did so without being restrictive. The cushioning, lightweight feel and flexibility make the Zealot an easy option for long training sessions, while the resiliency and energetic feel made them great for racing for those who don’t want to forgo creature comforts. For runners with only one go-to shoe in their quiver, this one is plenty versatile.

Plus: The comfort made this shoe a favorite for recovery runs plus speed sessions, long runs and even racing.

Minus: For those who haven’t adjusted to minimalist shoes, the 4mm heel-toe drop may take some gradual adaptation.

Weights: 9.5 oz. (men’s), 8.0 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 4mm; 27mm (heel), 23mm (forefoot)

Skechers Performance GOrun 4 $105

Fit/Feel/Ride: The original GOrun 4 was overhauled with a new soft, seamless, one-piece GOknit mesh upper and we beleive it puts this shoe in the upper echelon of performance trainers. It’s helped the GOrun become a more breathable, flexible and supportive shoe, with a sock-like feeling through the middle and back of the foot and a more spacious fit up front. The GOrun 4 remains an agile, low-riding neutral trainer geared for quick-cadence running. The ride is soft, smooth and a bit springy, with noticeable twinge of stability from the multi-density support pillars at the center of the midsole as the foot reloads for an energetic toe-off. It has a slight rockered profile, which adds to the poppy and efficient demeanor of this shoe.

Plus: The Quick Fit Portal finger loop on the back of the heel allows for quick entry into the shoe.

Minus: Like all minimally constructed shoes, this one might be too little for multi-hour runs for some runners.

Weights: 7.8 oz. (men’s), 5.5 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 4mm; 23mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

adidas Supernova Sequence 9 $130

Fit/Feel/Ride: Built on a new two-layer midsole made from traditional foam and adidas’ amazing Boost foam, this shoe is chock full of cushioning, comfort, support and responsiveness. The latest version of this stability trainer also has a new soft and flexible engineered mesh upper that’s wrapped with a thin webbing of soft plastic overlays to enhance comfort, fit  and support. The ankle collar and tongue are padded with plenty of plushness and the ride feels soft and noticeably springy on footstrike and toe-off. While our testers weren’t keen about running fast in this shoe, they liked it for slow to moderate paced long runs and suggested it would be ideal for larger runners.

Plus: The new Continental rubber outsole is supremely tacky on all surfaces, wet or dry.

Minus: This is one of the heavier shoes in our review.

Weights: 11.1 oz. (men’s), 9.0 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 10mm; 32mm (heel), 22mm (forefoot)

Altra Torin 2.5 $125

While there are plenty of neutral shoes that offer thick cushioning, only a few can come close to the supremely smooth, soft and resilient ride of the Torin 2.5. Although it has plenty of cushioning underfoot, it’s a well-balanced combination of lightweight impact dampening and energetic responsiveness that defines this shoe. On one hand, it’s all about pillowy comfort, but the high cushioning doesn’t entirely mute the foot-to-ground proprioceptive feel like it does in some maximalist models. The layer of A-bound foam acts like a spring board, helping a runner’s foot carry energy into the start of the next stride. The most unique factors of this shoe are the two traits all Altra shoes are built on—a wider, foot-shaped toe box and zero-drop (or level) platform from heel to toe. Our wear-testers thought this shoe was sublime for moderate to long runs, noting the step-in feel and the energetic midsole. All testers commented on the unique shape of the shoe (and a few balked at it for aesthetic reasons), but most didn’t realize this shoe had a zero-drop platform until they were told—and knowing that information didn’t change their positive opinions of it.

Plus: The latest version of the shoe has a new engineered upper that both improves the fit of the shoe but also looks sharper and more colorful than previous editions.

Minus: Not everyone appreciates (or can tolerate running long miles with) a zero-drop platform.

Weights 9.1 oz. (men’s), 7.5 oz. (women’s)

Heel-to-toe Offset: 0mm; 24mm (heel), 24mm (forefoot)