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Spring 2013 Running Shoe Review

Check out these new lightweight everyday trainers with the perfect blend of cushioning, flexibility and feel.

Check out these new lightweight everyday trainers with the perfect blend of cushioning, flexibility and feel.

RELATED: Tips For Buying New Shoes

The running shoe evolution continues this spring with lighter, more flexible and more agile everyday trainers. Whereas most shoes in this category tipped the scales between 11 and 13 ounces just a few years ago, all of these svelte modern marvels weigh less than 10 oz. and most are considerably lighter than that. But, just as important, each of these models offers a blend of cushioning, protection and flexibility while still allowing your feet to move freely.

RELATED: Spring 2013 Trail Running Shoe Review

Inov-8 Road-X 233, $120

8.2 oz. (men); 6.7 oz. (women)

6mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The updated version of the Road-X 233 has a similar fit to other Inov-8 shoes, with a snug and secure heel and midfoot, and just enough wiggle room in the toe box.

FEEL: Inov-8 has gone to great lengths to create a softer feeling underfoot in some of its shoes, including the Road-X 233. A slightly softer midsole foam and more forgiving outsole rubber have eliminated the “slappy” sensation of some previous models while still maintaining enough semi-firm footing for performance-oriented running.

RIDE: Fast, flexible and light, the ride is footloose and fancy-free. The additional softness was very noticeable and appreciated, and combined with the sleek profile and low-to-the-ground feel, cues up an agile, efficient vibe at any pace.

Nike Flyknit Lunar 1+, $160

7.6 oz. (men’s); 6.3 oz. (women’s)

10mm heel-toe offset

FIT: This shoe’s tightly knitted seamless upper serves up a comfortable, locked-down, foot-contouring fit in the midfoot and forefoot, but some testers felt the heel fit a bit loose.

FEEL: Despite the highly advanced manufacturing that goes into this shoe, it has a sublimely simple feeling to it. Its moderately soft, cushioned and flexible undercarriage is also supportive but not inhibiting in any way.

RIDE: This shoe rides as smooth as any in this review. The supple midsole and low-volume fit offer great heel-toe roll-through while also giving the runner good sensory connection with the ground.

Mizuno Wave Elixir 8, $120

8.8 oz. (men’s); 7.4 oz. (women’s)

12mm heel-toe offset

FIT: Snug in the heel, the new seamless upper of the Elixir 8 is very conforming to the foot while still allowing it to move without restriction. A wide toe box provides room where it’s needed without feeling too generous.

FEEL: Lightweight, low to the ground and flexible, the Elixir feels like a fast shoe from the second you step into it. But unlike some lithe racers and up-tempo trainers, this model offers moderate support and stability through the arch and is well cushioned in both the heel and forefoot.

Ride: The updated Elixir is firm and fast enough to be a solid option for tempo runs or longer races, but still substantial enough to use as an everyday stability trainer for runners with neutral mechanics or those who are mild overpronators.

Skechers GOrun 2, $80

6.4 oz. (men’s); 5.1 oz. (women’s)

4mm heel-toe offset

FIT: Although snug in the heel and midfoot if tied down securely, the GOrun 2 is rather roomy in the forefoot.

FEEL: Like the initial version of this shoe, the GOrun 2 feels low to the ground and very light. The upper is supple and infinitely flexible, allowing feet to move without restriction, but a few testers thought the heel collar sat too low.

RIDE: Soft and plush. The rockered profile of the original model has been greatly reduced, creating a smoother feeling through the gait cycle. The combination of the well cushioned midsole and only sparse amounts of outsole rubber, make for a cushy, flexible and completely uninhibited ride.

Merrell Mix Master Move, $95

8.0 oz. (men’s); 7.0 oz. (women’s)

4mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The moderate-volume fit is highlighted by a snug heel, a secure and supportive midfoot and slightly roomier toe box.

FEEL: This is a lightweight everyday trainer with ample semi-firm cushioning while still allowing a sensory connection to the ground. The lightweight upper mesh, easy-flexing chassis and 4mm heel-toe offset help give it an agile, yet comfortable sensation under foot.

RIDE: It’s responsive and nimble, but is it a road shoe or a trail shoe? Our testers branded it as a hybrid, an excellent example of a shoe that can be oblivious to terrain constraints. With a unique array of flat but grippy sticky rubber outsole lugs, this shoe runs as well on smooth to semi-technical trails as it does on roads.

Hoka One One Bondi Speed, $170

9.5 oz. (men’s); 8.3 oz. (women’s)

4.5 mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The Bondi Speed fit like most traditionally designed shoes — snug in the heel and midfoot and wider in the forefoot.

FEEL: There’s not getting around the fact that shoe feels high off the ground, but that’s the point with Hokas. The oversized midsole cushion (both wider and higher) absorbs the impact with the ground like no other shoe on the market. But the more our testers ran in these, the less the tended to feel that girth. Instead, many reported a plush, almost effortless interaction with the ground.

RIDE: With abundant moderately soft cushioning and a shape that promotes forward propulsion, the lightweight Bondi Speed offers up a sublime comb ination of comfort, efficiency and energy return. A revised upper with a 4.5mm heel-toe offset, slimmer tongue and one-pull quick laces add to the heavenly mix.

Karhu Flow3 Trainer Fulcrum, $115

8.5 oz. (men’s); 7.0 oz. (women’s)

8mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The updated Flow has a low-cut heel collar, all-mesh upper and a moderately snug feel from heel to toe, though slightly more relaxed compared to other shoes in this review.

FEEL: Light, flexible and low to the ground, this shoe finds a happy medium between low-profile minimalist and cushioned lightweight trainer. As such, it’s versatile for several types of running, from long slow distances (for lighter, biomechanically efficient runners) and tempo runs, to speed workouts and racing from distances 5K to the marathon.

RIDE: Given that it’s so low to the ground and flexes so easily, the ride is predictably natural, free and uninhibited, making it inclined to run at faster speeds with anything but a heavy heel-striking gait. A firm wedge of foam under the heel seems to aid propulsion and add some semblance of structure without negatively impacting stride.

adidas Energy Boost, $150

9.7 oz. (men’s); 8.1 oz. (women’s)

10mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The fit of this shoe is snug and athletic from heel to toe. A few testers thought it was a bit too tight in the forefoot, a sensation accentuated by the tight mesh that covers the forefoot.

FEEL: Adidas launched a new midsole foam made from tiny balls of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) fused together with steam instead of traditional layers of ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA), and there is no getting around the marshmallowy soft sensation it creates in this shoe. It doesn’t feel super-light, but it is very resilient and flexible.

RIDE: Once you get used to the springy sensation under foot, you realize there’s quite a bit of energy return coming from these shoes. While not all of our testers were as confident running fast in these shoes, there was unanimous appreciation for their peppy behavior.

Brooks Pure Flow 2, $100

8.8 oz. (men’s); 7.2 oz. (women’s)

4mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The new version of the Flow is comfortably snug with appropriate interior cushioning and forefoot wiggle room, but it is slightly narrower than the first version.

FEEL: Although the upper mesh, asymmetrical lacing system and wrap-around tongue are new, the shoe retains its flexible and responsive feel, as well as its softly cushioned-but-still-connected vibe. It’s not a minimalist shoe, but it feels light, cushy and minimally constructed.

RIDE: With ample cushioning and 4mm heel-toe drop, the Pure Flow 2 offers up the consistently soft and smooth ride of its predecessor. It’s somewhat of a modern ’tweener with enough cushioning for long, slow distance runs but light and agile enough for faster workouts and longer racing.

Newton Gravity Trainer, $175

9.1 oz. (men’s); 7.6 oz. (women’s)

4mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The Gravity Trainer is comfortably snug in the heel and midfoot but slightly roomier in the forefoot. The upper was redesigned with new meshes and overlay patterns, making it more conducive to the natural flex of a foot.

FEEL: As with previous models, this one has a comfortably appointed interior, an amply cushioned semi-firm midsole, a moderate stack height (off the ground) and a low-angle heel-toe differential.

RIDE: The lightweight, athletic makeup of this shoe, along with the semi-firm feeling under foot, help give the Gravity Trainer an efficient and energetic ride. As with all Newton shoes, it’s all about the forefoot lugs, which compress and decompress to provide a noticeable responsiveness when running with a forefoot gait.

ASICS Gel-Lyte 33 2, $90

8.5 oz. (men’s); 7.0 oz. (women’s)

6mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The Gel-lyte 33 2 offers a snug fit front to back, but has a less-restrictive fit in the forefoot compared to the previous model.

FEEL: This vastly updated model feels very light, flexible and close to the ground without being too minimal or flimsy. It has a moderate 6mm heel-toe offset and an angled deep groove aimed at allowing the subtalar joint of the foot to move on its natural axis and reduce the rate of pronation.

RIDE: Our testers found this shoe to be responsive enough to be a good go-fast shoe for tempo runs and longer races, but forgiving enough to use frequently as a lightweight trainer. Our tester team deemed it was most suitable for lighter or faster runners with efficient mechanics.

Saucony Virrata, $90

6.6 oz. (men’s); 5.5 oz. (women’s)

0mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The Virrata is snug and secure in the heel and midfoot, and slightly wider in the toebox to promote toe splay and forefoot flexibility.

FEEL: Soft and comfortable, yet surprisingly adroit. Even though it is plushly cushioned with a traditional stack height under foot, it is very flexible and doesn’t inhibit the natural motion of the foot. With a zero-drop profile, this shoe offers the trappings of modern design while still offering plenty of under foot cushion.

RIDE: Sublime. For a shoe with a modern low-angle geometry, it has a smooth, soft and nimble interaction with the ground. Testers loved this shoe as both a long-distance jogger and an up-tempo cruiser.

Puma Mobium Elite, $110

9.0 oz. (men’s); 7.4 oz. (women’s)

6mm heel-toe offset=

FIT: Snug and secure from heel to toe, the Mobium Elite has a sporty and snug, low-volume fit.

FEEL: Agile and energetic. The athletic fit, narrow profile and light, flexible demeanor of this shoe promote an intimate connection to the ground and inspire efficient running at any pace, but especially at faster speeds.

RIDE: The ride is cushioned, but the sensation is more about agility and responsiveness than it is about softness. The sculpted midsole and segregated outsole are designed to allow the foot to flex and move naturally, and are connected by durable elastic bands that criss-cross underfoot and give a snappy sensation as the foot rolls to the toe-off phase at the end of a stride.

Altra Torin, $115

8.6 oz. (men’s); 7.8 oz. (women’s)

0mm heel-toe offset

FIT: Sporting Altra’s customary curvy, bulbous shape, the Torin is secure in the heel and midfoot while the toe box is adequate but not overly roomy.

FEEL: Altra continues to dial in its comfort and performance factors with the Torin, which is appreciably more forgiving, flexible and cushioned than any of its previous models while still offering a zero-drop profile. The outsole is stiff yet springy and there is quite a bit of midsole foam (and a 28mm total stack height off the ground), but some testers suggested the shoe lacks torsional flexibility and the heel counter to be fairly rigid.

RIDE: On the road, the Torin delivers a smooth, comfortable ride, more like a luxury SUV than a finely tuned sports car. The tucked-in heel helps eliminate inadvertent heavy heel-striking while the semi-firm undercarriage offers the right blend of cushioning and responsiveness.

New Balance 890v3, $110

9.1 oz. (men’s); 7.5 oz. (women’s)

7mm heel-toe offset

FIT: This shoe has a snug, low-volume (and plushly lined) fit throughout, but the flexible lightweight upper material still gives toes the ability to wiggle and splay a bit.

FEEL: Rarely has an everyday trainer felt so plush while still offering up a dynamic, athletic vibe. It combines the soft, comfy feeling of a high-mileage trainer with the energetic fit and feel of a half-marathon racer, making a very versatile shoe, especially for those seeking a do-everything trainer.

RIDE: With superior flexibility and ample cushioning, the 890v3 overcomes what some testers found to be a more traditionally built-up and semi-firm heel. (It has a 7mm heel-toe drop.) If a shoe can have the demeanor of a workout, this one would be a fartlek for its ability to run every pace and change gears mid-stride.

Scott T2 Evolution, $115

8.2 oz. (men’s); 7.0 oz. (women’s)

8mm heel-toe offset

FIT: This model has a more traditional low-volume fit than most shoes in this review, with uniform snugness in the heel and midfoot and just a smidge of wiggle room in the toe box.

FEEL: The lightweight upper material and midsole foam, combined with an athletic fit, give this shoe an agile and sprightly, race-ready feeling.

RIDE: The ride is cushioned, smooth and very responsive. Although the slightly rockered profile takes some getting used to initially, especially at slower paces, our testers loved the rhythm of this shoe at faster speeds.

Brooks Pure Connect 2, $90

7.2 oz. (men); 6.4 oz. (women)

4mm heel-toe offset

FIT: Like the original Pure Connect, this version fits snug from heel to toe. A unique, split-toe groove enables more natural big toe movement while the new one-piece upper configuration creates a wrap-like fit.

FEEL: As the consummate modern lightweight trainer, the snug-fitting Pure Connect 2 has a lightweight, low-to-the-ground feel and crazy-agile demeanor that make it ideal for tempo runs, fartleks and other fast workouts. The features that make this shoe most compelling are its anatomical shape, reduced heel, energetic semi-firm midsole foam and glove-like fit that is enhanced by a midfoot elastic support band.

RIDE: Although there isn’t much cushioning underfoot, our testers raved about the relatively soft ride for such a minimally designed shoe. Most testers suggested this shoe was one of the snuggest-fitting models they tested and appreciated how that translated to an efficient energy return. Still, it’s a performance-oriented shoe without much cushioning, so it’s best for faster workouts and more efficient runners.

K-Swiss Blade-Lite Run II, $95

9.2 oz. (men); 8.2 oz. (women)

8mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The second version of this shoe is comfortably snug in the heel and midfoot with a generous toe box.

FEEL: The Blade-Lite Run feels light and airy and very cushy upon initial step-in. The comfortable seam-free upper has been updated slightly to enhance the connectivity between the shoe and the foot.

RIDE: Still a lightweight, easy-flexing every day shoe with a smooth heel-toe ride, the revamped version includes repositioned forefoot “blades” and a slightly lower 8mm heel-toe offset aimed at accommodating and promoting a midfoot gait pattern. Our testers thought it had a surprising amount of soft (but not squishy) cushioning for how light the shoe is.

Mizuno Wave Rider 16, $115

10.1 oz. (men); 8.4 oz. (women)

12mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The biggest change in the Wave Rider 16 have come in the upper, which was stripped of overlays and been refined with a tighter outer mesh and a looser inner mesh. The result is a lighter shoe with the same snug fit in the heel and midfoot and a slightly roomier toe box.

FEEL: The shoe feels lighter and more breathable than previous editions and has an improved step-in feel. The higher-volume, less-complicated forefoot feels great, but what makes this shoe feel special is the synergy of the snugged down heel and midfoot and the improved flex pattern.

RIDE: The shoe retains a more traditional 12mm heel-toe offset, its firm-riding sensation and structured undercarriage, but the Wave spring in the midsole and an enhanced flex pattern make the Wave Rider 16 anything but a slow slogger. The heel cushioning has been improved with a lower-density foam wedge that gives a softer heel strike and offers smoother engagement of the rigid Wave Spring.

Merrell Road Glove 2, $90

7.2 oz. (men); 6.1 oz. (women)

0mm heel-toe offset

FIT: Like its predecessor, the Road Glove 2 is snug in the heel and midfoot but roomier in the toe box.

FEEL: This less-is-more zero-drop trainer offers only a slight amount of cushioning and protection for runners seeking an intimate connection with the ground. Although most of our testers were concerned about the lack of material underfoot, regardless if this shoe was used as an everyday trainer, several said they appreciated lightweight barely-there feel of this shoe.

RIDE: No question, the ride is firm. You feel the ground and everything on it (pebbles, twigs, etc.) so it’s a shoe that’s best for nimble and efficient runners. Most testers considered this shoe a training tool or short-distance shoe and not one they’d use for longer distance runs.

Newton Motion, $175

9.3 oz. (men), 7.7 oz. (women)

4mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The updated Motion has a new, softer upper and softly appointed interior, but it fits similarly to the previous model with secure heel hold, snugness at the midfoot and enough room in the toe box for your piggies to wiggle.

FEEL: As with all Newton trainers, this one has a comfortably appointed interior, an amply cushioned semi-firm midsole, a moderate stack height (off the ground) and a low-angle heel-toe differential (4mm). The Motion is a very similar shoe to the neutral Gravity trainers, except with a bit of medial posting to offset overpronation.

RIDE: The Motion rides surprisingly light and smooth for a stability shoe. With all Newton shoes, you have to mind the forefoot lugs, which compress and decompress to provide a noticeable responsiveness. The best way to engage those lugs is with efficient running mechanics and quick stride cadence. Running with a heavy heel-striking gait tends to make the lugs feel a bit obtuse and cumbersome.

Nike Lunar Eclipse+ 3, $135

11.0 oz. (men); 9.2 oz. (women)

12mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The Eclipse+ 3 is snug throughout: super-secure in the heel (thanks to an updated heel clip) and midfoot (thanks to a new midfoot strap and a Flywire saddle support system) and low-volume in the toe box.

FEEL: The Eclipse+ 3 offers the unique mix of being a highly cushioned, stable trainer and one that still feels surprisingly nimble. It’s one of the chunkier and heavier shoes available this spring (with a large heel crash pad and 12mm heel-toe drop) and the sensation is decidedly soft underfoot, but a firm heel counter and reinforcing medial foam wedge (Nike’s Dynamic Support system) offer loads of support and stability.

RIDE: The real surprise of this shoe is that it’s relatively light and responsive for having so much girth. The updated flex groves throughout the outsole have added to the shoe’s flexibility. It operates best as a high-mileage trainer, medium to long runs at slower to moderate paces, but it is agile and versatile enough for up-tempo bursts.

Saucony ProGrid Hurricane 15, $140

10.4 oz. (men); 8.3 oz. (women)

8mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The fit of the Hurricane is similar to previous models with a secure heel (thanks to a more rigid external heel counter) and very connected midfoot and a slightly wider toe box.

FEEL: True to its heritage, the latest incarnation of the Hurricane remains a durable, ultra-stable, well-cushioned trainer. It retains the 8mm heel-toe offset, cushy interior and multi-density midsole geared at reducing overpronation.

RIDE: Our testers approved of the firm but smooth, shock-absorbing ride but noted the shoe was anything but light or nimble. The wide platform offers plenty of support, while the medial post offers a moderate amount of stability. The heel-toe roll-through is smoother than in previous versions, thanks to a more decoupled heel and deeper forefoot flex grooves.

Saucony Mirage 3, $110

8.9 oz. (men); 7.6 oz. (women)

4mm heel-toe offset

FIT: The Mirage 3 fits snug in the heel and midfoot, but runs a bit long (according to our testers) in the forefoot. It doesn’t detract from the performance, but it is noticeable.

FEEL: Our testers were very impressed with this super-light, easy-flexing trainer, which has the demeanor of a lightweight neutral trainer but enough support (via a TPU medial insert) for runners who tend to overpronate. This third incarnation of the Mirage has a more flexible chassis, a slightly softer midsole cushion, a beveled heel and a lighter open-mesh upper with welded overlays, all of which contribute to the shoe’s extraordinary feel and game-changing performance.

RIDE: Our testers were amazed at how smooth, light and easy this shoe runs, especially considering it is a stability shoe. It can be a do-everything workhorse for runners who run in primarily one shoe, durable and cushioned enough for long runs but light, agile and sprightly enough for tempos, fartleks or even long intervals.