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Super Shoes of the Olympics

We reviewed the newest super shoes from each brand, testing 10 models to help you find the ride that works magic for you.

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The Tokyo Olympics will be the site for super performances by super athletes — and they’ll be wearing super shoes. Many Olympians also trained in super shoes. The nice thing is, you can wear super shoes too — in fact, it’s a rule, as every shoe worn in the Olympics has to be “available to all.”

Super shoes are a seemingly magic construction, combining a bountiful midsole of light, rebounding foam with a rigid structure of curved rocker plate running through the cushioning. No one yet knows exactly how each element contributes, but the result is more than the sum of the parts, such that 1 + 1 = 3. Somehow the combination of energy-return, thick cushioned midsole, rocker, and structured plate makes runners more efficient by losing less energy, improving performance and speed.

What is known for certain is that they improve performance. Among elite runners, studies revealed that VaporFly 4%, the original super shoe, did indeed save an average of 4% in energy, translating to 3.4% improvement in speed. 

And you don’t have to be elite: a recent study by Cornell University statisticians, who reviewed thousands of web photos, concluded that, among men, 74.5% of marathoners who switched to super shoes raced faster marathons while among women the amount was 71.4%. The improvements, on average, were 2:06 (men) and 1:48 (women). Averages aside, studies have also shown a wide variation in how runners respond, so your benefit might be substantially less — or more.

These shoes help lengthen your stride with little additional corresponding effort – and that means that if you are capable of holding your cadence you can really pick up the pace. That said, they don’t do much when your tempo or posture falters, and the instability from the high stack height can be downright dangerous if you need to corner tightly or hit some uneven footing. As such, we recommend them for going straight forward on pavement (gradual turns allowed). 

We wear-tested ten of these plate-enhanced super shoes so you too can find a pair to help you run your fastest, even if it isn’t in Tokyo. Our testers — who range in age from their 20s to 50s, and from 1500m runners to masters marathoners — have different running forms and different strengths, which explains why every tester had a different idea on what was outstanding, particularly in these shoes where the rebound and rockers are tightly tuned to respond to specific forces, angles and timing. In an ideal world, all runners could try out all the racing shoes and choose what best complements their stride. Yet, given the high barrier to entry cost of these shoes, you may have to rely on our review to help you pick out what seems best for you and your unique running needs.

Soft Score and Rocker Feel

For each model, we assigned a “Soft Score” which rates the amount we perceived the foam sinking in before rebounding, using 1 for the least deflection and 10 as the most. Plus, we present our best description of how the rocker feels underfoot.

Given the variety of definitions and methodologies in measuring stack heights, we do not report them here. Note: All are substantial. We do report heel-to-toe drop, as it is more consistently measured and has a large affect on the ride.

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adidas Adizero Adios Pro

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro super shoe Photo: adidas
Price $200
Weight 7.9 oz.
Drop 8.5 mm
Soft Score 4
Rocker Starts late, past ball of foot — quick rolls off toes

Who’s Wearing Them:

Kenyan team members Peres Jepchirchir and Amos Kipruto will be wearing the Adios Pro for the Olympic marathon.

How They Ride:

Even though adidas had to play catchup in the super shoe game, they did so with acumen. The Adizero Adios Pro is a well-cushioned, responsive, efficient ride that uses thick, bouncy Lightstrike midsole foam in a far-forward rocker that starts just past the ball and falls away quickly under the toes. As such, it creates an interesting interaction with the stride, seeming to maximize the rebound property of the foam under the ball before speeding the toe roll off the forefoot, which is stabilized with curved carbon fiber rods up front, rather than a full-length plate. 

“The midsole invited high turnover with the curved shape of the rocker and the carbon plate-rod combination — with the carbon rods pushing me almost immediately onto my big toe for push-off,” said one tester. Another described the overall feel as being “supportive cushion” and commented that the “thick, semi-firm foam produces a sensation of contoured support under the heel and arch and stays thick all the way under the ball of my foot, providing solid stance before the late rocker under the toes kicks in at the very end of my stride.”

It’s a true go-fast shoe that is impressive in its ability to help you turnover your gait, not just to the forefoot but specifically to the big toe for optimal efficiency and lift-off power. It feels best when staying forward-balanced over the foot and turning over quickly, but they are comfortable (just not as energetic) at slower paces. Upper is surprisingly generous for adidas, while holding the foot securely as befits a racer.

Note: Adidas has released an updated Pro 2 ($220) that we have yet to test and was not available in time to be worn in Tokyo.

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ASICS MetaSpeed Sky 

Asics Metaspeed Sky super shoe
Asics Metaspeed Sky super shoe Photo: Asics
Price $250
Weight 7.0 oz.
Drop 5 mm
Soft Score 8
Rocker Starts early, before ball of foot — long, gradual curve

Who’s Wearing Them:

There will be 21 athletes competing in the Sky in Tokyo across the marathon and triathlon, including triathletes from France, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Norway, and Australia and marathoners from Australia, Poland, Belgium, New Zealand, Netherlands and Spain.

How They Ride:

The new MetaSpeed Sky is presented as a shoe for runners with longer strides, in contrast to Asics’ Edge super shoe, supposedly geared towards high-cadence runners (which didn’t make it out in time for Tokyo, and we’ve yet to see test pairs). No loss, as the Sky was a hit, even for testers with a lot of turnover. Raved one who runs on her forefeet, “These were decisively my absolute favorite supershoes. I was on fire every time I did a speed session with them. Or at least it felt like that.” 

Another praised the Sky’s upper fit, “Oh man, these shoes are really comfortable. I like the soft stretchy foam reinforcement around the foot entry and didn’t find any noticeable tight or hot spots. The traditional lacing pattern and system worked really well and the actual lace material was some of best I’ve seen yet — simple and reliable.”

The Sky was designed to speed up by extending stride length while keeping cadence consistent. It does this through an energetic midsole foam, stabilized with a sharply-curved, rigid full-length carbon plate that reduces ankle flexion. The engineered mesh upper breaths effectively and is made from 100% recycled polyester. The rocker feels long, with an increased late-stage curve that kicks in under the toes, when the foot is pushing off behind. As such, it encourages long strides from hip extension, and the low 5mm drop limits overstriding by discouraging heel striking and rewarding forefoot landing with an energetic response.

Bonus reviewer story: One test team member recounted, “This isn’t necessary for the review, but I want to say that these shoes hold a special place in my heart because I was doing a run in them, not feeling super great because I was simply tired, when suddenly this small yet bloodthirsty dog was right on my heels! I was running as fast as I could possibly get my feet down to get away from the thing and it was centimeters from chomping on my Achilles/calves. I got away but barely and I guarantee that wouldn’t have been the case if I hadn’t been wearing these supershoes. So they saved me from a rabies shot!”

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Brooks Hyperion Elite 2

Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 super shoe Photo: Brooks
Price $250
Weight 7.6 oz.
Drop 8 mm
Soft Score 5
Rocker Supportive stance, then moderately-fast roll off ball to toes

Who’s Wearing Them:

Josh Kerr, a Brooks Beast representing UK in the Men’s 1500m, Marta Pen Freitas, a Brooks Beast representing Portugal in the Women’s 1500 and Aaron Scheidies, a Brooks-sponsored athlete in the Paratriathlon, all train in the Hyperion Elite 2. Olympic marathon alternate Des Linden wore a pair of Hyperion 3 prototypes to break 3 hours and set a women’s world best at the 50K earlier this year.

How They Ride:

Brooks updated its carbon-fiber-plated super shoe with a more resilient, durable foam and a slightly different shape, giving it a noticeably springier feel than the original. Brooks retained the semi-firm feel and smooth, decidedly not trampoline-bouncy ride. Our wear-testers found that the nitrogen-infused DNA Flash cushioning dampened impact forces and smoothed the landing and takeoff experience without excessive squishing. 

The Hyperion Elite 2’s moderate, unobtrusive rocker accelerates your cadence without rearranging it making it one of the few super shoes that feels somewhat “normal” while allowing you to run 10–15 seconds per mile faster with what seems like a similar effort. One tester reported that they felt the most stable of the super shoes tested (one of Brooks’ aims for the shoe): “The heel didn’t squish and roll around on impact and during transition, and the rocker provided a stable, supported stance before rolling the stride forward.” 

The upper is smooth, simple and effective, ensuring a snug, comfortable, true-to-size fit. Unlike many of the super shoes, it is somewhat easy to get your foot into the Hyperion Elite 2. The model received kudos for balanced performance and comfort; while not the snappiest of the super shoes, they may be a better choice for many non-elite runners.

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HOKA Rocket X 

HOKA Rocket X super shoe
HOKA Rocket X super shoe Photo: HOKA One One
Price $180
Weight 7.4 oz.
Drop 5 mm
Soft Score 4
Rocker Starts gradually past ball of foot, accelerates toward toe

Who’s Wearing Them:

Canadian Olympic marathoner Cam Levins will be wearing the Rocket X in the Olympic marthon. 

How They Ride:

Levins says, “The technology in the Rocket X has helped me feel better in the late stages of both workouts and races. It’s always nice to switch into a pair of flats from regular training shoes, and the carbon fiber plate as well as the extra cushion in the Rocket X provides the best feeling I’ve experienced in a flat so far.” He also finds the Rocket X, “feels especially light while still having a lot of cushion and a carbon fiber plate. Yet all of that extra structure still comes in a remarkably lightweight package. The Rocket X manages to combine both of the things I find most important for racing the marathon.”

As HOKA’s third carbon-fiber plated shoe, the Rocket X falls between the burly Carbon X2 and the low-to-the-ground Carbon Rocket. Compared to the Carbon X2 (and other marathon shoes included in this review), the Rocket X’s plate is far straighter until the curve accelerates off the end of the toes. As such, it feels like it lifts you onto your toes more than it rolls off. That produces a powerful lever to propel you forward but requires a strong stride: up on your toes and forward-balanced, driving with calves and posterior chain. Settling into a less aggressive stride the shoe feels like it makes you work against it by rolling up and over the rigid plate. The Rocket X is more streamlined and breathable than the Carbon X2 and makes an outstanding tempo shoe. 

Some of our wear-testers thought the Rocket X felt like HOKA’s Rincon, only with much more energetic pop. Whereas the Carbon X2 is more accommodating to the normal runner, the Rocket X is tuned for light-on-their-feet types. It is a staccato, high-strung, explosive, rigid racing flat well suited for forefoot runners or, better yet, toe strikers.

Playing off HOKA’s firmer, lower Evo Carbon Rocket and wider, softer Carbon X2, the Rocket X is the brand’s sleekest lightweight carbon fiber racing shoe, using a new lightweight compression-molded EVA midsole and a 1mm curved carbon-fiber plate for a responsive, firm, relatively low-profile performance shoe and, at $180, it is also relatively affordable as a carbon-plated shoe that runs fast, even if it didn’t feel as spring-like as many of the other super shoes. 

It had our testers doing interval training when they hadn’t planned on doing pick-ups. The shoe just made them feel energetic, speedy and light on their toes. But it isn’t for everyone. The Rocket X’s sharp meta rocker puts the transition zone under the metatarsals, feeling like it doesn’t kick into gear until well forward in the gait, near toe-off. As such, the rigidity and low drop requires the leverage of a high-turnover, powerful forefoot runner to reap the benefits. 

As one of the firmest of the super shoes, the Rocket X leverages its rigidity, low stack height and minimal heel drop for what our testers described as a “snappy” feel that got them right up on their toes. “Close your eyes and pump your arms. This shoe wants to rip when you really get the turnover going. Super playful, responsive and I instantly wanted to clip off 6:30’s,” raved one tester. “The shoe made me feel energized, light on my toes, and, most importantly, exceptionally speedy. I am in love with this shoe and intend to run in it until it’s in tatters,” glowed another. A third loved the Rocket X because “it made for a super light and swift ride on the roads. I did some unplanned pick-ups in the shoes simply because they felt so fast and it was easy to start flying down the streets.”

The Rocket X is a super shoe for super runners, which explains its appeal to those of our test team who run with a cadence higher than 180 steps-per-minute and who tend to stay up on their toes. For them, the Rocket felt flexible and springy and encouraged an upright posture. Those testers also appreciated the lack of weight of these race-ready shoes.

Female testers observed that the fit of the Rocket X, which is billed as “all gender,” is higher in volume, especially in the “generous” toe box, so it is advised to try them on if you are on the edge of a size. The upper wrapped the foot smoothly and comfortably “with a surprisingly supportive heel counter and collar.” The test team rated the open mesh upper as comfortable, breathable and having a secure lockdown.

Concluded one tester, “for a super shoe, maybe the Rocket X is just for the 1% of runners, or reserved for those top 10% effort runs?”

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New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2

New Balance Fuel Cell Elite 2 super shoe
New Balance Fuel Cell Elite 2 super shoe Photo: New Balance
Price $225
Weight 7.8 oz.
Drop 8 mm
Soft Score 8
Rocker Starts early, before ball of foot — long and gentle roll, slightly flexible

Who’s Wearing Them:

While the New Balance athletes who had success in the distance events at the Olympic track and field trials at Hayward Field wore spikes, many of the them trained in the updated RC Elite v2, including Emma Coburn and Elle Purrier St. Pierre. Great Britain triathlete Alex Yee will wear them in Tokyo.

How They Ride:

Coburn said, “As I continued pushing higher mileage with big volume workouts in my prep for Tokyo, I relied heavily on the FuelCell RC Elite v2. I love them for longer tempos and longer workouts because the cushion really helps my legs recover and I can run faster. These shoes are amazing!”

Purrier St. Pierre, who also trains in the RC Elite v2, reports that “Of all my training/racing shoes, I am loving the FuelCell RC Elite v2 lately. The foam is soft and comfortable yet totally responsive. It has amazing energy return which has allowed me to push the pace, and is exactly what I need in a shoe that’s going to help me go push the pace in Tokyo.”

Yee weighed in: “I’m so excited to be competing in the triathlon! It’s been a truly crazy year, but I’ve put in the work with my training and am eager for the races to begin. For the triathlon I’ll be running in the FuelCell RC Elite v2, an extremely fast shoe that helps me push off stronger and gives back just as much energy as I put in. I’ve loved training in the shoe and can’t wait to compete!”

Like the seeming magic of a mix of cornstarch and water, the FuelCell RC Elite v2 shape shifts from an almost oozy softness when at rest or in slow motion, then, transmorphically, hardens at running speed to a firm platform for an efficient launchpad. And, in its second version, there is more FuelCell foam for a softer ride as well as a more expansive toe box. New Balance also updated the outsole rubber compound for better durability and traction. The Elite v2 combines the brand’s highest rebound midsole compound (ACL) with a more dramatically-scooped, full-length carbon fiber plate for optimal energy return.

Even though New Balance was an early adopter of carbon-fiber plates, its first integration of the technology was in shoes designed for shorter distance racing and the brand was a latecomer in the marathon shoe scene. The original FuelCell Elite, like the v2, is built around New Balance’s low-density, high-rebound FuelCell midsole compound that consists of a blend of TPU and EVA that provides a welcome forward propulsive feel. The foam and plate combine for a nuanced sensation of firmness under the front of the arch, allowing the met heads to sink into and rebound with a propulsive foot action and solid toe push off. With a lower stack height, the first RC Elite catered mostly to higher turnover runners. It was also quite snug fitting. The second version is more approachable because of its added midsole foam and generous fit. 

The lightweight, stretchy, breathable knit upper — what one tester called a “custom perforated glove” — maximizes comfort over the long run, cradling the foot securely yet with a “don’t feel a thing ethos,” with a minimal tongue and soft padding around the traditional collar construction. The simple, flexible wrap held gently and while our wider-footed testers commended the expanded toe box they found the lacing was short, compared to original RC Elite, featuring far fewer eyelets and less of an ability to customize the fit since the lacing is higher on the foot.

Testers were impressed with the immediate step-in softness of the RC Elite v2, which didn’t translate to a sloppy ride. “Their standout characteristic is their softness,” said one tester, “So much so that standing in them you wonder if you’ll topple, and not sure you can push off. But as soon as you start running, under pressure the softness firms into a bouncy platform — particularly under the big toe — and you can propel forward.” Some said the simplicity of the underfoot performance made them favorites for uptempo training: “They quickly became my go-to speed shoe of the summer.” Testers called out the gentle and smooth rebound of each stride and how the new midsole compressed at ground contact then seemed to hold its energy as it transitioned along the gentle rocker until toe-off at hip extension. The updated Elite was hailed as one of the most stable and smooth of the super shoes. 

The higher stack height of the added midsole results in a lot of deflection and, as such, they don’t encourage a fast turnover, but they certainly serve well as marathon racers because at that pace, as one tester described, “they float along effortlessly and painlessly with a soft, bouncy, Cadillac ride that swallows miles with little effort.” One tester commented, “Any faster and you’d have trouble getting your feet off the ground fast enough.” Another remarked, “This shoe actually made me feel like a strong elite runner vs. an imposter.” Nota bene: put some glue to the insoles to keep them from slipping backward, as they tend to do.

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Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% super shoe Photo: Nike
Price $275
Weight 7.4 oz.
Drop 4 mm
Soft Score 9
Rocker Starts early but gradually at first, accelerates under toes after zoom-air rebound platform

Who’s Wearing Them:

Eliud Kipchoge ran his 2019 1:59:40 marathon in Vienna in a prototype of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% and they will certainly be on his feet, as well many, if not most, of the other Olympians running the marathon in Sapporo on August 7 and 8.

How They Ride:

Rachel Bull, Nike Running’s Senior Footwear Product Director explains that the Alphafly NEXT% was designed to provide runners with improved cushioning and running economy and features three critical components that work together to do just that: a full-length carbon fiber plate (for stability and a smooth transition), Nike ZoomX Cushioning (lightweight and provides optimal energy return) and side-by-side forefoot Nike Zoom Air Pods (for added cushioning and increased energy return).

If there was one shoe that served as the lightning rod for tester attention and remarks, the Alphafly was it. As a test team member phrased it, “DANG! These things blew my mind on my first outing. I feared I was going to get skyrocketed into outer space, such was the power and snap of the carbon plate. I clocked a sub-7-minute mile straight out of the door with a heart-rate between 120-130bpm, which in ‘normal’ shoes would usually yield me 7:30-7:45 min/mile pace.”

Another said, “I can’t believe a piece of human engineering exists like this…that can do remarkable things for unremarkable runners. This is next gen and I’m not convinced it’s fair…but I loved it.”  And a third exclaimed, “I think these were the most ‘holy shit there is no way these can possibly be legal shoes’ feeling shoes. I felt like I was running on mini pogo sticks. Like these absolutely launch you up and forward so much so that I had to wonder if they would help or hurt me if I were to use them in a race. I naturally have a very lofty stride and I felt like these magnified that stride quirk too much and I wasn’t able to get my feet down fast enough.”

Clearly the Alphafly Next% provides a very dramatic experience — the question is whether the drama works for or against your running form. That drew a mixed answer for our testers, with some loving them and others finding them too aggressive, as though the shoes rendered an exaggerated caricature image of their stride. The initial sort seemed to indicate that they work best for forefoot runners and against heel strikers.

Nor is the Alphafly for the runner who likes to feel the road. Proprioceptive signals from the ground are radioed to your feet through the limit-pushing midsole height and the stabilizing plate. That said, the plate sits close to the foot in the area in front of the arch and provides its own “ground” to your stride above the highly-compressible foam layer. 

The main sensation is compression of that foam and the rebounding explosion that follows. It can start to feel like running on a trampoline — which is nice if you’re compressing the foam underneath you or behind you so that it explodes forward on rebound. Fall back into a back-weighted stride and it feels like the shoe is working against you. Get up on your toes, however, and the rebound works with the rocker to combine propulsion and forward roll in what feels more like cheating than any other shoe. 

Nike accomplishes this dramatic effect with the help of two Zoom Air pods in the forefoot that respond with more energy return than just the ZoomX foam that is in the Vaporfly NEXT%. ZoomX foam is ultra-responsive and lightweight, and the Alphafly Next% incorporates more foam than the Vaporfly NEXT%, for additional impact protection and cushion. The curved full-length carbon plate features scaled thickness and size to dial in the flex for runners of the relative shoe size. And, to save the weight added by the Zoom Air pods, Nike developed a new Flyknit upper called AtomKnit. Even the shoelaces are light and cutting edge.

Concluded one happy tester, “I used them on some interval workouts and fartleks and those sessions felt effortless, like I was on the E-bike of shoes.” 

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On Cloudboom Echo

On Cloudboom Echo super shoe
On Cloudboom Echo super shoe Photo: On
Price $270
Weight 7.76 oz.
Drop 9 mm
Soft Score 3
Rocker Gradual flexible roll

Who’s Wearing Them:

U.S. marathoner Jake Riley, British marathoner, Chris Thompson, Czech Republic triathlete Petra Kurikova and Spanish triathlete Javier Gomez will all be wearing the Cloudboom Echo in Japan.

How They Ride:

Riley says, “I’ve been testing prototypes for over a year now and the shoe has come leaps and bounds since the first version I tried. I’m really excited to put it through its paces at the full marathon distance. There are still a couple areas where it could use some improvement, but I’m confident going to the starting line that my shoes match up with anyone else’s.”

Thompson remarked that the Echo is “far away, the most cushioned shoe On has made” and that it has the “cushioning level you need for marathon distance.” 

Kurikova said, “Tested it in the forest, on the street and track too. No stones in the sole. I have fast feeling. Very good.” 

Gomez compared them to On’s low-to-the-ground racing flat: “Even though the Cloudflash feels the more ‘racing light’ on the feet, there’s a huge difference in how the Cloudboom Echo pushes you forward and reacts against the ground, in comparison. About 4 sec in 1 km reps at 2.50min/km pace, trying to keep the same heart rate.”

On timed the release of the Cloudboom Echo for Tokyo and, as its elite marathon shoe, it is the most athlete-involved shoe developed by the brand. The Echo uses On’s signature “CloudTec” — open pods in the sole that compress, then bottom-out —  with the goal of fusing impact protection and responsiveness. Toward that end, the Swiss brand weds a dual layer of strategically placed “cloud” cushioning pods that adapt to an individual’s stride, with a new rocker-shaped carbon “Speedboard” plate for forward propulsion. The plate, which anchors the clouds and provides underfoot proprioception, is full length to give it more propulsion and improve running economy.

The upper is one of On’s most meticulous designs, providing lightweight security with engineered mesh and targeted reinforcement for ventilation and hold. Approximately 70% of the polyester content, and 20% of the entire shoe, is from recycled materials. The laces are thin, providing adjustability — but testers said they can lead to some bite on the instep. 

The Cloudboom Echo ran like the fine, cushioned racing flats they are, but, in contrast to the super shoes of this review, they felt “flat,” with little of the bouncy rebound that defines the genre. Their lightweight energy and responsive cushioning does coax rapid turnover. One tester commented “At a fast pace and up on your toes they seem to reduce ground contact time.”  At any pace, they provide a secure fit, all-foot comfort, and a balanced, stable ground feel.

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Puma Deviate Nitro Elite

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite super shoe Photo: Puma
Price $200
Weight 6.7 oz.
Drop 8 mm
Soft Score 5
Rocker Starts just before ball of foot — moderately-fast roll, slightly flexible

 Who’s Wearing Them:

Molly Seidel, of the US, and Hendrick Pfeiffer, of Germany, will be racing in the Deviate Nitro Elite at the Olympic marathon.

How They Ride: 

One of our test team members credited the shoes with making her feel “phenomenal” so her tempo workouts felt “effortless — and I never say that about tempos.” 

The nitro-infused PEBA-based midsole foam is the star here. One tester described it as “nicely tuned to be soft but not at all squishy, with a bouncy, responsive feel from touchdown to push-off.”

Like Saucony’s Endorphin Pro 2 and NB’s FuelCell RC Elite v2, Puma’s Deviate Elite is what our testers classified as “mild super shoes” or “semi-super shoe” because they work well for most mortal runners and have some bounce but aren’t all that rigid or unstable. The rocker is present, but with a more moderate, rounded curve than the sharp drop-off found on other super shoes, and a bit less rigid — making it more accessible but slightly reducing the propulsive roll and pop. 

The upper, with its Missoni-styled, translucent mono-mesh and full-lace closure, also garnered a lot of tester commentary, especially for something that is barely there. It connects the brand to its racing pedigree: “Like on a high-end distance spike, the upper is light, thin and highly flexible but not at all stretchy,” said a tester. “As such, it holds securely and comfortably, although a bit narrow (for me) toward the front of the midfoot — mostly cured by adjusting the lacing, which has a multitude of eyelets to allow for fine tuning.” 

Another described the upper as “minimal,” and not necessarily in a good way. “Puma’s translucent mono-mesh upper is barely there,” they said. “And while the weight-savings are ultimately worth it (this is a top-end racer, after all), I was a little put off by the plastic, synthetic feel at first. A knit upper would have been more comfortable, but undoubtedly cost some ounces.” Another tester agreed, preferring mesh over the see-through, “plasticy feeling.” 

The running experience in Puma’s super shoe was summed up nicely: “I felt light and fast and comfortable in the Deviate Elite from the first step — requiring no recalibrating of my stride to benefit from its lively ride. The stack height is moderate enough that I didn’t feel divorced from the ground, although plenty protected and cushioned for even long races.” Another said, “Overall, I’ll reach for these often in training, particularly on uptempo days, and races from 5K to the half marathon – a younger me might have run a marathon in them.” 

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Saucony Endorphin Pro 2

Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 super shoe Photo: Saucony
Price $200
Weight 7.5 oz.
Drop 8 mm
Soft Score 8
Rocker Starts under ball of foot — rolls quickly as weight moves forward to toes

Who’s Wearing Them:

Canadian marathoners Malindi Elmore and Trevor Hofbauer will be running in the Endorphin Pro 2 in Tokyo. 

How They Ride:

Elmore attributes the shoe’s technology 100% to helping her run faster. “As soon as I put them on I can immediately feel the difference. They are fast for 5km right up to marathon — a very responsive and light shoe. I have so much confidence in the Endorphin Pros that they will help me run fast.” 

Although there wasn’t a significant change in the bottom units from the Pro to the Pro 2, the upper was revisited, and that altered where and how the foot moves in the shoe. “A slightly changed lacing system, a longer tongue and wider foot box were all subtle changes,” Elmore explained. “The feeling of the shoes itself is not dramatically different in my mind.” But the changes created a difference in ride that was a big hit among our test team as well as with Elmore’s teammate, Hofbauer, who says the “lightweight, snug fit cradles my foot well and the current technology in the shoe compliments my stride.”

Our test team remarked that, with the altered fit, the shoe felt much more “tuned” and the ride smoother, flowing more gently from landing to toe-off, much like the flexible-plated Endorphin Speed (1 and 2). The snugger fit is more secure, as the result of an updated mesh pattern and anti-slip lacing, and the shape positions the foot better over the rocker.. Just as the love for the Speed 2 continues, our testers now feel that way about the Pro 2.  

Under the hood, the Pro 2 continues to use lightweight, highly cushioned and responsive PWRRUN PB midsole foam. The combo of the foam and carbon-fiber plate felt more fluid than the first Pro, now appealing to a wider variety of paces and tempos, fortunately. The Pro 2 continues to use the same accentuated, stride-altering rocker plate, which is somewhat more moderate than that of other brands’ super shoes.

One tester summed up, “The Endorphin Pro 2 does one of the best jobs of tuning the ride to balance the rebound of its super foam with the lever action of the curved plate — at least for an aging amateur’s stride. What you feel is a smooth, modulated-while-still-rather-stable touchdown that quickly rolls you forward and engages your toes as you push off.” 

It was also appreciated that the Pro 2 accommodates a wide range of runners, which may be because Saucony tuned the rocker to not roll quite as soon under the ball of the foot, but once rolling it falls off quickly under the toes and creates easy forward motion. As one tester put it, “This shoe seems to have two modes: running easy, it’s a well-cushioned, rockered, high-cadence, long-distance shoe. Pick up the pace and get on your toes — and it levitates like a hydrofoil rising out of the water. You find yourself bounding along speedily with long, powerful, ground-swallowing strides. Both modes have the side-effect of a broad smile.” 

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Skechers GOrun Speed Elite Hyper

Skechers Speed Elite super shoe Photo: Skechers
Price $190
Weight 5.7 oz.
Drop 4 mm
Soft Score 2
Rocker Starts just before ball of foot — rolls sharply with upturned toe spring

Who’s Wearing Them:

Diego Garcia Carrera, a race walker on the Spanish Olympic team has chosen to race in the GOrun Speed Elite Hyper. 

How They Ride:

Garcia Carrera likes the Speed Elite Hyper because it “entirely adapts to my foot with the seamless outsole and offers the unique combination of a lightweight responsive feel from the Hyper Burst midsole plus an extra burst of energy in every stride thanks to the carbon-infused winglet plate.”

Skechers Performance has paid a lot of time and attention to the evolution of its line of racing shoes and the GOrun Speed Elite Hyper certainly has the feel of a marquee model, albeit one tuned for speed, not for efficiency over longer distances. The featherweight Hyperburst foam provides a unique cushioning that molds and cradles without deflecting much — thus it feels soft on the foot bones while still being stable and firm enough for the push-off phase. The combination of that midsole foam, a moderate rocker shape and a firm, polymer plate (it’s technically a plastic plate infused with carbon-fiber as opposed to a plate made entirely of carbon-fiber) allow it to serve up an efficient ride that still gives the shoe noticeably “pop” in the forefoot. 

The moderate thickness of the midsole and the low heel-toe offset give it a sense of inherent stability and enhanced agility for turning and cornering. We really liked it as a workout and short-distance road racing shoe (1 mile to 5K for most, maybe a half when fit and flying) because it’s a fun, energetic shoe that favors high-cadence running and provides a pronounced connection with the ground.

For a more cushioned version, the Skechers GOrun Speed Freek (8.4oz, 34-30mm stack height, 4mm offset) just launched. With its more substantial stack height and bolstered Hyper Burst midsole, it is more comfortable and better suited for a full marathon. It too features the carbon-infused forefoot plate for stability and energy return. Said one tester after his first run in the Speed Freek, “This is the Skechers marathon shoe I’ve been waiting for, with enough Hyperburst cushioning to ease the miles combined with the stability, roll and pop of a rigid, curved plate. I felt coddled, supported, and fast at every pace.”