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Fall 2014 Running Shoe Buyer’s Guide

Need a shoe for the fall? Take a look at these 16 top models available in stores.

Need a shoe for the fall? Take a look at these 16 top models available in stores.

HOKA ONE ONE Huaka, $150

Weights: 8.9 oz. (men’s), 7.5 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 27mm (heel), 25mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: A maximalist racing flat? That might be the best way to sum up the Huaka, a lightweight speed merchant with a highly cushioned midsole and an energetic ride. Although it’s high off the ground like other Hoka shoes, it has the lowest heel-toe offset of any Hoka model and a rockered profile, allowing for a natural, efficient and very smooth ride. As a result, this is the most agile and quickest Hoka shoe to date, one that can be used for a variety of running efforts, from long training runs, to tempo and fartlek workouts, to racing from 10K to a marathon or even longer. With subtly aggressive outsole lugs, the Huaka offers a hint of versatility for mild trail surfaces.

RELATED: Why Cushion Is King

ZOOT Solana, $100

Weights: 8.5 oz. (men’s), 7.3 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 19mm (heel), 11mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: The Solana is a comfortable, high-mileage neutral trainer that offers both premium cushioning and great shock absorption from a proprietary injection-molded EVA. The blown rubber midsole serves up a ride that is creamy smooth—an ideal blend of softness, snappy responsiveness and inherent stability without being marshmallowy or overly firm—thanks also to continual ground contact and a sufficiently wide platform. The Solana has a low-volume interior (that’s seamless, aka barefoot-friendly) and serves up a locked-down fit enhanced by an internal support web, soft gusseted tongue and snug heel cup with a padded collar.

ADIDAS Supernova Sequence Boost 7, $130

Weights: 10.3 oz. (men’s), 9.1 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 26mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: A modern stability shoe with traditional dimensions and next-generation midsole foam, the Supernova Sequence offers a good mix of stability, cushioning and energy return in a fairly lightweight package. It’s a medium-volume shoe with moderate arch support and a super-resilient midsole foam that’s locked down with an internal support frame. It feels more like a springy neutral cushioned trainer than a traditional stability trainer, but it serves up an energy that’s very secure. Its sweet spot is long, slow distance runs, but it’s flexible and responsive enough to handle longer progression runs and fartleks on a whim.

NEW BALANCE 1260V4, $145

Weights: 11.0 oz. (men’s), 9.6 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 27mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: New Balance has continued to revise its top-tier stability trainer with features that enhance the comfort and smoothness of the stride cycle. The biggest change is that the medial post has been extended farther into the midsole to help offset pronation sooner. Throw in a targeted, multi-density midsole (including a super-cushy crash pad), a snug-fitting design and posh interior, and it’s a dreamy package laced to your foot. There’s no getting around that this is a lot of shoe—perhaps too much for many runners—but it’s a top-tier luxury ride for those who need protection and guidance. For such a structured and supportive shoe, it’s surprisingly flexible and nimble.

ASICS GEL-Pursue, $110

Weights: 10.7 oz. (men’s), 8.7 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 21mm (heel), 11mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: This brand new model is aimed at neutral runners seeking a more energetic ride than what a softly cushioned shoe typically provides. It’s a big step for ASICS, which has made a name for itself with super cushy neutral shoes and light stability models. With a combination of moderately soft and higher-density foams, this shoe produces a decidedly comfortable but snappy ride at all speeds, from slower recovery jogs all the way up to tempo runs. It maintains a thick gel-enhanced crash pad and a traditionally snug fit, but it has a noticeably firmer midsole and a more responsive ride.

TOPO ST, $90

Weights: 5.9 oz. (men’s), 5.0 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 13mm (heel), 13mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: Not every brand is offering maximally cushioned shoes. The ST (or Speed Trainer) is a super-light, cushioned minimalist shoe with infinite flexibility and a flat (or zero-drop) platform. The 13mm of cushioning and rubber underfoot offers sufficient protection on hard surfaces, but it doesn’t interfere with the proprioceptive foot-to-ground interface. The ST is a medium-volume shoe that fits snug in the heel and midfoot but is exceptionally roomy in the forefoot, allowing the forefoot to flex and the toes to splay during the push-off phase of a stride.

SAUCONY Omni 13, $130

Weights: 11.1 oz. (men’s), 9.3 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 28mm (heel), 20mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: This Omni 13 received an updated look and feel, making it a good example of a modern stability trainer that can still accommodate larger runners or runners who need support. A new upper with less stitching, improved breathability and enhanced connectivity to the arch combine to offer an enhanced fit and, in turn, greater agility. The revised heel crash pad does a better job of integrating the flow of movement through the stride cycle, reducing pronation and smoothing out the ride. It’s still a fairly beefy stability shoe, but deep flex groves and lighter materials allow it to run easier without lessening its support.

BROOKS  Glycerin 12, $150

Weights: 11.7 oz. (men’s), 9.1 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 29mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: In a word, this shoe is plush. With all of the interior creature comforts (including an exotically comfortable padded tongue and collar) and a super-cushy, two-layer, maximally cushioned midsole (which includes a new, pressure-adapting foam called Super DNA), this incarnation of the Glycerin is the most cozy and sublime yet. It is a medium volume shoe from heel to toe box, but it can accommodate a lot of foot shapes from narrow to moderately wide. If soft and comfortable are your biggest criteria for buying running shoes, the Glycerin should be on your shopping list.

HOKA ONE ONE Clifton, $130

Weights: 7.9 oz. (men’s), 6.9 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 28mm (heel), 23mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: The first remark about this shoe is that there’s no way it can be as light as it is. The second one is how fast and efficient it feels on the run. Although it’s not quite as high off the ground as some of Hoka’s other maximalist models, the Clifton has copious amounts of soft cushioning in an amazingly lightweight and nimble package. Similar to other Hoka shoes, the Clifton features a rockered profile—a convex curvature that helps create a smooth transition through the gait cycle no matter how or where the foot strikes the ground. As a result, the ride is squishy soft and forgiving, but energetic, too. Although it provides less proprioceptive feel because of the cushion height, the wide base and full ground contact of the outsole make it very stable.

PEARL IZUMI M2 Road, $110

Weights: 9.8 oz. (men’s), 8.4 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 24mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: The M2 is the ideal tool for tempo runs, progression runs and other sustained speed-oriented workouts. With a semi-firm midsole and a snug, form-fitting upper, this uber-responsive stability shoe is all about agile, quick-cadence running. A firmer medial post in the midfoot is designed to reduce mid-stage overpronation, but that only seems to add to the performance-oriented pop this shoe oozes. It’s not as light as some of the other everyday trainers out there, but the energetic feel definitely allows it to feel and run light. It has a slight rocker profile that creates what the brand calls a “dynamic heel-toe offset” that ranges from 4mm to 7.5mm through various parts of the gait cycle.

NEWTON Fate, $129

Weights: 9.4 oz. (men’s), 7.9 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 24.5mm (heel), 20mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: With a slightly more spacious interior and wider outsole footprint than most Newton shoes, it offers a smoother, more comfortable and more stable ride to a wider range of runners. The most enticing feature is Newton’s new, slightly wider five-lug forefoot propulsion unit. It works similarly to Newton’s original Action/Reaction Technology units—the lugs channel forefoot impact energy through a responsive elastic layer and into a hollow chamber in the forefoot. But the lugs in the Fate are beveled and not quite as high off the ground as previous versions, both of which lead to a smoother transition into the toe-off phase of the gait cycle. You barely notice the lugs, but you definitely feel the pop they provide.

MIZUNO Sayonara 2, $119

Weights: 8.0 oz. (men’s), 6.6 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 24mm (heel), 14mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: This shoe is all about running fast with the confidence of quality cushioning and protection under your feet. It’s hard to make a good shoe better a year after it was released, but Mizuno has refined the updated Sayonara to make it slightly lighter and more comfortable. Designed as a lightweight speed-oriented trainer, it features a more breathable and flexible upper and midfoot wrapping interface that provides a more secure, locked-down fit. It’s a medium-volume shoe with a somewhat traditional heel-toe offset (10mm), but the improved fit results in greater agility, quickness, versatility and control—no matter if you’re running an easy 10-miler, doing a speed workout or racing a half marathon.

ALTRA Paradigm, $130

Weights: 9.9 oz. (men’s), 8.5 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 25mm (heel), 25mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: At first glance, this shoe looks like it has an absolutely enormous midsole. OK, it does, but any perceived burden of that girth immediately disappears at step-in, when you realize this shoe is amazingly light and pretty darn stable, too. (The foot actually sits down inside a two-layer foam midsole cradle, which is part of the reason it has the feeling of a mild stability shoe.) It rides light, comfortable and moderately cushy, but not squishy. Its most unique aspect is its zero-drop profile, which runners who want a natural foot strike will love but runners who have a tight Achilles might not enjoy.

MERRELL All-Out Flash, $110

Weights: 6.5 oz. (men’s), 5.6 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 17mm (heel), 9mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: A modern minimalist shoe, the All-Out Flash combines soft cushioning with some “barely there” design elements for a cushioned, lightweight and efficient ride. This flyweight slipper-like shoe fits snug in the heel and midfoot but decidedly wide in the forefoot. The cushy, built-up heel is a bit of a departure for Merrell running shoes; the All-Out Flash is ideally suited for a runner who appreciates rear-foot cushioning and impact protection but still wants the low-to-the-ground agile feeling in the forefoot. Despite the beefed-up cushion in the heel, the ride is light, nimble and very natural.

PUMA Faas 600v2, $120

Weights: 9.5 oz. (men’s), 7.7 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 20mm (heel), 12mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: An evolution of the lightweight Faas training shoes Puma has developed in recent years, this one has a new construction with a lower heel-toe offset, a unique new upper and a more comfortable interior. The new upper, made from a foam and mesh configuration that is both very pliable and breathable, has helped create a more engaging fit than the original Faas 600. The ride is soft, flexible and resilient, one that offers great feel for the ground without inhibiting the natural movements of the foot. It’s plushy comfortable at step-in and on the run, yet it’s one of the rare shoes that’s ideal for both quick-cadence running and slower-paced long runs.

NIKE Pegasus 31, $100

Weights: 9.7 oz. (men’s), 8.1 oz. (women’s)
Heights: 29mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

Fit-Feel-Ride: The Pegasus has been entirely retooled with a new outsole, midsole and upper. The result is a lightweight, energetic, all-around training shoe for everyday use, one suitable for both long distance runs and faster workouts. The biggest highlights are the livelier, slightly lower-to-the-ground feeling it has, thanks in part to a 10mm heel-toe offset (previous versions of the Pegasus had a 12mm heel-toe drop), and the responsive Air Zoom midsole component in the heel. The upper is minimally designed and aimed at being flexible and somewhat form-fitting. The shoe provides a locked-down fit in the heel, but is slightly wider than most shoes in the midfoot and forefoot.