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2013’s best everyday running shoes for triathlon training tested, rated and reviewed

Best-trainersThere are several factors you need to consider when buying a new pair of running shoes. We have listed the most important below.

  • Flexgrooves

With the current trend for more natural-feeling running, flexibility has been increased in many shoes, with some models having lengthways grooves designed to help guide your foot gently in a straight-forwards line

  • Arch support

Many manufacturers are paring down their support features but you’ll still see plastic arch bridges in some to help control excessive pronation (rolling in) and to aid a smooth ride

  • Outsole

Durability and traction are the two things you want from your outsole: sticky, black rubber compounds should help you claw over wet concrete while more aggressive tread patterns can help if you run off road

  • Upper

The fabric part of the shoe should be breathable and quick drying. Overlays on the upper can help add support, while special lacing designs locking into the upper can help cradle your foot for a more secure feeling

  • Midsole

In traditional everyday running shoes, the midsole contains most of the technology you’re paying for: light, bouncy foam or gel for shock protection and denser foam or plastic units to help control pronation

  • Inner

The inside of the shoe should be seam-free to keep you clear of cuts. Look for soft, brushed material, a thick, padded tongue for comfort and, in more expensive shoes, plush sockliners for extra cushioning

How we test:

Our team of four testers have been running since their teens and know their own shoe preferences well; we matched them to shoes they’d feel most comfortable in so every model got the fairest possible write up. Without being told about the shoes’ new features or their price initially, they ran on treadmills, on and off road in the shoes and reported back on step-in comfort, cushioning, support, grip, and the different parts of the shoes. Price and new tech information was then thrown in to the mix so we could rate each shoe for performance and value for money. For comparison, the weights given are ‘sample’ weights, for one men’s size eight (UK) shoe, unless otherwise stated.

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

Puma-Faas-5001. Puma faas 500

£70
Weight 275g  
www.puma.com

The Simplicity of the FAAS line’s look is down to the one-piece FAASfoam midsole running the length of the shoe. Stability features are limited to a split heel and supportive mesh round the midfoot in the upper, so it’s a light and bouncy shoe, which our tester liked better for faster runs. The plush step-in feeling, thick tongue and secure-feeling upper makes it a good racing choice, with the low weight and seam-free inner reinforcing that. It offers plenty of protection for heel-strikers but midfoot or forefoot strikers will find it slappy. Low breathability (compared with other shoes tested here) lets down its racing potential but grip was great even on slick roads

Verdict

Plush, light and neutral shoe that favours heel strikers.

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

New-Balance-870-v22. New Balance 870 v2

£84.99
Weight 278g
www.newbalance.co.uk

There was a time you wouldn’t get any change from 350g for a stability shoe, but ever lighter foams and less intrusive support features have changed that. The latest 870 is a good example, with new Revlite foam doing the cushioning honours and just a small, split section of higher density foam providing medial support; it’s designed for light overpronators. Nevertheless our tester found it rigid and very stable compared with others we tested, and good for heel-strikers rather than midfoot or forefoot runners. Despite a low 8mm heel-to-toe drop, road feel isn’t great, possibly because of the less flexible outsole than others we tried. The shoe’s inner caused us no problems though.

Verdict

Light shoe for overpronators but not the fastest feeling or most flexible.

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

K-Swiss-Blade-Max-Express3. K-Swiss blade Max express

£85
Weight 338g (size 11)
www.kswiss.co.uk

This looks like a ‘natural running’ shoe, with the midsole blades breaking up the line of the shoe all the way from heel to toe. However, on top of those sits a solid layer of EVA – the Glide Guide, designed to help your foot stay central through each step. The upper, with a web of plastic overlays, is more sturdy than it looks too. The result is that this neutral shoe is much more responsive and stiff than first impressions would suggest. Grip from the bladed Aosta rubber outsole is awesome and heel-to-toe transition is smooth, but the immediacy of the experience is lost in what felt, to us, like a flabby fit in the mid and forefoot of the upper.

Verdict

Could be a fast-feeling, responsive cushioned shoe but fit in the upper lets it down.

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

On-Cloudster4. On Cloudster

£99
Weight 320g  
www.on-running.com

The new addition to On’s range, the Cloudster is a lower priced shoe aimed at newbies. Tubular Cloudtec lugs on the outsole compress on impact to give cushioning, and little teeth inside the tubes lock together for a sure push-off. It makes for a natural feeling, flexible and light ride. Our tester loved it: snug, comfy and secure, it feels lighter than its 320g suggests and gives a nice bouncy feeling on the road. There are no stability features as such but the secure heel and sturdy upper help the foot feel supported. It’s a versatile shoe too, with great responsiveness at any speed and it’s protective for heel strikers without being prohibitive for forefoot strikers.

Verdict

Comfortable, bouncy, responsive and snug, great for all but severe overpronators.

Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 52.

Mizuno-Wave-Inspire-95. Mizuno Wave Inspire 9

£100
Weight 295g
www.mizuno.co.uk

 

The Inspire 8 won our Gold Award this time last year, and this update was an improvement for our mild to moderate overpronating testers. The biggest changes are lighter cushioning foam in the midsole and a new construction designed to give a smoother ride. The upper has been opened up for better breathability. Mizuno’s DynaFit concept gives a secure feel round the heel and bottom of the Achilles. Arch support is un-intrusive and the smooth, rolling ride makes them a pleasure to run in. They’re well cushioned without sacrificing road feel and very, very breathable.

Verdict

A supportive, smooth-rolling shoe with a snug feel. Perfect for mild overpronators

Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 52

Brooks-Adrenaline-GTS136. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13

£100
Weight 320g
www.brooksrunning.co.uk

A stability stalwart, the Adrenaline GTS has long been keeping feet in line and the latest version has been tweaked for comfort and flexibility. It’s a pretty sturdy offering, with the triple-density foam bar in the midfoot controlling pronation. New features include Omega Flex Grooves to make the midsole more flexible and stretch eyelets on the inside of the foot for a more snug-feeling upper. Our tester appreciated the changes: the GTS feels as stable as ever but isn’t clunky with it. It doesn’t give the most pillow-soft landing, but its firmness means you don’t lose energy into the ground.

Verdict

Firm and supportive shoe with traditional stability, tweaked for comfort and fit.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Saucony-Hurricane-157. Saucony Hurricane 15

£120
Weight 317g 
www.saucony.co.uk

Just sneaking below the Brooks GTS in the weigh-in, the Hurricane is still a lot of shoe and, like the GTS, hasn’t been radically redesigned since its last edition. The biggest change is the addition of a Support Frame wrapping around the heel to help with rearfoot stability. Its effect was noticeable to our tester, who felt it catered for his tendency to heel strike off-centre. Though it’s still a very stable shoe, it’s a more bouncy ride than the GTS, which is great if you like a plush running surface, but our tester felt a bit disconnected from the ground. Traction and breathability are excellent, though.

Verdict

A well-cushioned and supportive shoe offering plenty of protection from the road.

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Nike-Flyknit-Lunar8. Nike Flyknit Lunar1+

£130
Weight 283g  
www.nike.com

A brand new shoe in the Lunar line, the USP of this shoe is its single-yarn ‘knitted’ upper. It’s designed to give a perfect, snug fit and maximum breathability. It’s not a neutral shoe as such; it follows other shoes in the line in providing support through shaping in the midsole and the Flywire in the upper. That means it’s not overly stable, but it does balance cushioning, flexibility and a quick feel pretty well for such a simple-looking shoe. Step in comfort is good, and combined with its low weight and useful heel tabs, it’s a contender for racing duties too. Traction isn’t great, and we felt slippage in the heel.

Verdict

Light, good looking and natural feeling shoe, but could be more stable and secure.

Performance 3/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5

Asics-Gel-Kayano9. Asics Gel Kayano 19

£140
Weight 310g
www.asics.co.uk

We were fans of several previous incarnations of the Kayano. Number 19 is better than ever: as with most traditional support shoes, weight has come right down and support comes less from denser medial foam and more from subtler features such as the new heel counter and Guidance Trusstic unit in the midfoot. Our tester noticed a better step-in feel straight away from improvements to the upper, which feels soft, plush and snug. Where previous editions could feel a bit deadening, this version gives great bounceback and a fast feeling on the road. Grip and breathability are great, too. The price is too high for any run shoe, though.

Verdict

Superb blend of step-in comfort, subtle stability and a fun feel, but very expensive.

Performance 5/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award, issue 52

 

OVERALL VERDICT

The range of running shoes on offer is bigger than ever, so for this test we’ve tried to stick with more traditional everyday runners over newer ‘minimal’ shoes. There’s still a broad array here and two generalisations can be made: shoe weights are going down, while prices are going up. It’s pleasing to see that manufacturers are responding to athletes’ concerns about being able to run with a lighter, more efficient gait, rather than building in tonnes of support features. Road feel across the range was better than ever, but three shoes stood out for their broad appeal, subtle security and responsiveness.

Our money-no-object performance choice is the Asics Kayano, an old-school stability model that has really evolved to be lighter and easier to wear – but at a huge price.

And it says something that our top value shoe goes to the £99 On Cloudster – their first shoe under £100, and a brilliant, fast-feeling performer.

Our overall award goes to the Mizuno Wave Inspire 9, an update of last year’s winner, with wide appeal: it fits beautifully and balances speed and stability perfectly.

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