As running shoes get thicker and softer, those who prefer a more solid connection to the ground or a traditional ride and support struggle to find models that feel right underfoot. But a few classic models continue to be updated, improving fit and ride without changing the essential feel. These models will appeal to loyalists or new runners who prefer to feel protected and connected.
Asics DS-Trainer 24
Weight: 9 oz (M); oz (W)
Twenty-four years ago, when the first DS-Trainer debuted—Asics was a leader in creating a category of shoe that became known as lightweight trainers, used for up-tempo workouts and many, many marathons. Today’s lightweight trainers have, by and large, morphed into thickly cushioned models that produce responsive rides by bouncing back, hopefully at the right time. Thankfully a few models remain for those who prefer a closer connection with the road. The venerable DS Trainer is one such shoe, and this version retains what loyalists love while improving the ride and fit. The ride is firm and stable, but not harsh, and rolls smoother than previous models with the removal of the plastic “trustic” shank under the midfoot. Instead, there’s a wishbone-shaped guidance insert made from the firmer foam that sits under the arch, providing subtle rotational stability and enhancing heel-toe transition. The biggest change, however, is the all-knit upper, which creates a far more relaxed and comfortable fit than previous versions that bordered on being overbuilt and were often too tight and narrow in the forefoot. If you liked those versions, you might find this one a tad sloppy. But many will agree with one tester who said it had a “fantastic upper fit—quality knit fabric that breathes and supports in the right places.”
Bottom Line: A new upper modernizes the fit of a classic shoe that retains its stable, responsive, close-to-the-ground—and fast—ride.
Mizuno Wave Rider 23
Weight: 10.2 oz (M); 7.7 oz (W)
Midsole plates are all the rage these days, but Mizuno has been using them since the 1990s. The Wave Rider’s curvy plate runs from heel to midfoot, providing cushioning, rebound, stability, and a smooth, quick, heel-to-toe transition. The soft foam under the wave in the heel smooths touchdown, then you feel the firm, springy plate support and roll you forward, down the 12mm heel-toe drop and off the flexible forefoot. It’s a traditional ride, updated with new materials but providing the same comfort and performance that has created passionate loyalists to the Rider for over two decades. New on this model is a cleaner, lighter upper that, like the rest of the shoe, is strongly supportive around the heel and midfoot, then opens to a flexible forefoot. While Mizuno calls this a neutral shoe, due to no pronation-control devices, testers were impressed with how stable it rode, as well as with the shoe’s cushioning and durability. “The shoe provided a solid, confident running experience,” summed up on tester.
Bottom Line: A sleeker-looking version that will please loyalists and those looking for a traditional ride enhanced by modern materials.
Weight: 9.9 oz (M) 8.2 oz (W)
361’s neutral, moderately-cushioned Fantom had testers feeling simultaneously “well-protected” and “lithe.” In sum, as one tester put it, “They’re well-balanced. They feel like they hit a perfect middle ground.” 361’s shoes tend to feel a bit retro, with a ride and fit that long-term runners recognize from previous shoe generations. The Fantom has hints of that with its well-padded ankle collar, traditional geometry and grooved, flexible forefoot. But the drop is moderate, the top layer of QU!KFOAM provides a modern, exciting bounce-back underfoot, and the performance-knit, engineered upper is state-of-the-art, drawing rave reviews for its fit, hold and durability. The sole inspired similar confidence that it could handle multiple miles and even grip on gravel—while not adding a lot of weight. “Quite the sporty ride with no gimmicks to get in the way of an easy-to-use shoe,” summarized one pleased tester.
Bottom Line: A versatile, balanced, smooth-riding, dependable daily trainer that you’ll reach for often.