Simple may well be as simple does but there are many positives to be gained by avoiding complexity. These spring shoes stand out for the clean, efficient way they encourage running flow. Be like water.
Weight: M8.2oz, W6.9oz
Just as modern homes are supposed to be clean, with a lack of clutter, a successful “simple” shoe starts by removing all that isn’t necessary. Altra did that with this new shoe, the Rivera, while managing to retain comfort and responsiveness in the neutral lightweight trainer. The ride blends resilient cushioning from AltraEGO midsole foam with responsive performance and a real feel for the ground. While the Rivera is a “natural running” experience, it has enough underfoot to still protect, making it work as a versatile trainer for efficient runners, ranging from long training runs to a speedy flat for racing. While still foot-shaped, the Rivera is a departure from Altra’s normal wide fit. In this new shape, Altra also moved the ball of the foot back toward the heel so the shoe widens earlier along its length for better stability and sooner flex.
Weight: M7.9oz, W6.4oz
Topo keeps its formula of naturally-fitting, anatomically-wide toe box and low heel-toe offset but applies it in a somewhat novel context, one that will appeal to many due to its clean design appeal and the vim it adds to one’s step. Using an EVA midsole and ZipFoam core, the midsole is smooth riding, stable, and quick off the ground — plus less prone to compacting than traditional midsoles. With a moderate 28/23mm stack height the neutral Cyclone remains light and nimble with just enough cushioning. The engineered seamless mesh upper is crisp and airy and Topo helped save weight by strategically placing rubber on the outsole for durability and traction. This makes a superb lightweight trainer or half to full marathon racer.
Saucony Freedom 4
Weight: M8.6oz, W6.5oz
Price: $150 (Available in April, 2021.)
With new midsole foam, PWRRUN PB, a firmer, more stable, energy-returning substance that puts notable zest into the neutral trainer, Saucony’s Freedom 4 is a vast improvement over the similarly-simple 3. The responsiveness stands out, making them well suited for anything from tempo sessions to long base runs. They are lightweight and not overbuilt, yet with thoughtful touches like the luxurious, plush tongue and subtle reflectivity of the clean upper that seems simultaneously retro and futuristic. The ride comes in on the firm yet efficient side, one that testers classified as “high performance.” They are also quite comfortable, enough that they can be worn all day. Note: the sizing felt small, so try them on before purchasing.
Weight: M7.2oz, W6.7oz
Offset: 8 mm
For a smooth, responsive, and comfortable trainer/racer, the Tempo is a favorite high-mileage, high-speed option because of its sheer efficiency and durability. With a single-density DNA Flash midsole — a nitrogen-infused foam that maximizes energy return with minimal weight — the Hyperion Tempo shines with acceleration and endures many a long run. The shoe is versatile, even well suited for speedwork and road races. The upper is breathable, pliable, and featherlight and weds nicely with the flexible, bouncy midsole and outsole made of minimal carbon rubber, strategically cut out and placed on the heel, forefoot, and in front of the toes to reduce weight and enhance flexibility while improving durability in high-wear areas.
Weight: M6.4oz, W4.9oz
The GOrun Razor+ has a close-to-the-ground feel, one that is responsive, enduring and energetic enough that it makes you want to drive hard and push yourself. This is a shoe that urges you to toss some surges into your run. It helps that the Hyperburst midsole material is indestructible and that Skechers engineered the shoe with just the right stack height so the energy-returning material smooshes low before bouncing back, producing a connected, minimalist feel that makes for great push-off and cornering. The pliable ripstop mesh upper is highly breathable without being flimsy and the flexible material comfortably fits wider feet. The lack of hold, however, may provide inadequate support or stability for those who need such qualities.
Weight: M 9.1oz, W 7.8oz
Offset: W 13mm; M 10mm
A long-distance neutral lightweight trainer for modern times, the Nimbus Lite 2 brings welcome changes to the still-new model. This version retains its FLYTEFOAM midsole and clean, eco-friendly upper, but re-engineers the design by sculpting the midsole — based on Asics biometric testing — to make it leaner and meaner. The result is a more flexible and performance-oriented shoe that brings it all together, balancing lightness in weight and comfort in fit that invites many an effortless kilometer — while looking great. Testers especially appreciated Asics’ attention to gender differences, with more stability and durability for men and a lighter weight and higher heel-toe drop for women.
Weight: M8.5oz, W8.02oz
A flexible shoe that uses a single foam compound and no outsole and, yet, provides a responsive ride with noteworthy traction. The energy return and impact absorption of this novel midsole material makes the Velociti Wind a great, natural-feeling, yet protective training shoe for almost any distance. It also serves well as a cross trainer, handling lateral motion with aplomb, possibly because the rubberless midsole technology came to the Velociti Wind by way of Under Armour’s basketball category learnings from the Curry Flow 8. The eye-catching, moccasin-like upper provides a locked-in foot hold with supportive tapes that are strategically placed to eliminate pressure points — providing a tailored fit as one might expect from what began as an apparel company.