We review 12 of the best triathlon running shoes to get you out of T2 faster than ever.

Brooks T7 Racer
£65
www.brooksrunning.co.uk

The T7 hasn’t changed since we last tested except in the price, which has gone up slightly, but it’s still at the lowest end of the cost spectrum. The price reflects the fact that there’s not a lot of shoe here, but for some athletes – Chrissie Wellington among them – that’s exactly what’s required. It’s the lightest road shoe in Brooks’ range and the third lightest in our test at 184g and, if you’ve got good biomechanics, that makes it a pleasure to run fast in. Superb flexibility from the Hyper Pod sole, combined with a low-profile, no-drop midsole, gives excellent feel for the ground. There’s some gel padding in the heel but this isn’t a stable or particularly well cushioned shoe; it’s for short races up to Olympic distance unless you share Wellington’s slim frame and easy gait. Assymetric lacing went down well with our testers, helping reduce soreness across the top of the foot, but we found the fit long and narrow.

Verdict
A no-nonsense, solid value shoe that will suit light and efficient runners best.

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

Puma Faas 350
£65
www.pumarunning.com

We didn’t have high hopes for this very simple looking shoe, but it gave our tester a pleasant surprise and its versatility and technology makes it a great value option. It’s designed as a speedwork trainer as well as race shoe, so there’s a lot of cushioning in the wide, fairly flat sole which has a low heel-to-toe drop for better responsiveness. It also gives some stability with a big dual-density section of foam in the midsole. Puma’s EverTrack outsole rubber (the black sections) is there to give extra durability but we also found it had brilliant traction in the forefoot, which helps you paw along the ground. Bulky cushioning in the upper and what looks like a boxy shape gave the impression this might not feel like a fast shoe, but that great road feel and a surprisingly firm ride means it treads the line between supportive, cushy ride and fast-feeling performance really well. Faster runners will still find this a bit too pillowy but for overpronators it’s a great racing shoe.

Verdict
Bulky but light and surprisingly responsive shoe for overpronators.

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

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 45

Mizuno Wave Musha 4
£80
www.mizuno.co.uk

The Musha is one of the heaviest shoes here and that’s thanks in part to generous cushioning along the sole and big areas of high-durability X10 rubber on the outsole. That means this is a good shoe for anyone racing longer distances or wanting a shoe that can double up for most of their fast training runs. However, the sacrifice you make for that extra padding is that you lose some of the ground feel; there’s good grip from the X10 rubber but the flatter profile of the sole seemed to give a more detached feeling. It’s designed for heel strikers and cleverly shaped to help keep forward momentum, so there’s a curved, low-profile heel, a supple Wave plate (plastic wave-shaped unit in the midsole that absorbs shock) and curved forefoot that all help give a smooth heel-to-toe transition. We found the upper a bit fussy; the open mesh is really breathable but there are loads of overlays which add bulk and stop the shoe being really snug.

Verdict
A well-cushioned, solidly built shoe that’s good for speed training and longer races.

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

Saucony Type A5
£85
www.saucony.co.uk

This latest version of the Type A is the lightest yet at 160g, thanks to a new material used for the overlays on the upper – it adds just a bit of extra structure to the shoe without the weight of the old overlays. A pure racing shoe in the same vein as the Brooks T7, the Type A2 is a similarly stripped-back idea, but you can feel the extra £20 on the price in a few nice touches. Heel loops make them easier to pull on and the inside of the shoe is soft, seamless and snug. Although it’s a neutral shoe, best suited to light runners with no major gait issues, it’s quite accessible. A wide forefoot and small arch support give a feeling of security. The full-length, soft foam, though very low to the ground, gives good protection from impact and lengthways splits down the sole help to guide your foot forwards naturally. We liked the curved shape of the forefoot too, which helps you get a feel for fast running. It’s also exceptionally breathable.

Verdict
Really light, really soft inner, and a safer feeling ride than some stripped-down racers.

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

Scott Race Rocker
£85
www.scott-sports.com

This strange-looking shoe was much faster to run in than we expected from first impressions. Scott describe it as a ‘purist race flat’; we’re not sure about that, as the plush layer of AeroFoam cushioning along the sole and deep padding round the heel and midfoot in the upper mean it is a breed apart from the Asics, Brooks and Saucony racers on test. However, its rocker-shaped sole does give you a really fast, efficient-feeling ride and from the first step there’s no doubt it’s a racing shoe. It’s quite low to the ground and very light – Scott say AeroFoam is 25 per cent lighter than standard EVA (the foam usually used to provide cushioning in running shoes). However, this does make it a pretty successful race shoe for people who need a hand keeping a quick leg turnover. The flat, soft tongue and cushioned inner keep it really comfortable and the big heel tabs make it easy to pull on, though we found them a bit flappy and annoying on the run.

Verdict
An interesting shoe that helps keep turnover fast and offers a plush ride, too.

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

K-Swiss Kwicky Blade Light
£90
www.kswiss.com

Despite its light weight, the Kwicky Blade Lights run more like an everyday trainer than some of the shoes on test here. That will suit a wide range of triathletes, but might frustrate those looking for a true race slipper. Cushioning comes from foam ‘blades’ under the outsole and there’s some stability on offer from a dual-density section in the midsole and a plastic arch support. The upper is hydro-phobic so should shrug off showers, though we’re not sure why that would be an issue in most races. On the inside of the shoe, there are no seams to rub, although we did have a few problems with the inside edge of the insole on our sample pair. Overlays on the upper add to the feeling of security but we didn’t find these the most breathable shoes on test, perhaps because of that extra structure. It gave a well-cushioned and stable ride though, and is one of the fastest shoes heel-strikers can opt for.

Verdict
Stable and well cushioned, a great race shoe for heel-strikers and heavier runners.

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

Asics Piranha SP4
£100
www.asics.co.uk

Asics offer a good, tried-and-tested range of lightweight shoes from the pretty stable DS Trainer (which we tried at the shortlisting stage of this test) to the triathlon classic Gel Noosa. For this test though we’ve gone for their lightest shoe (just 120g), the Piranha SP4, which runs more like a track slipper and should be saved for your shortest, quickest races. The 2012 Summer Olympics edition here looks fantastic and, for neutral, fast runners, it’s the perfect racing flat. It’s as light as a road shoe gets with a fine mesh upper, luxuriantly soft, thin tongue and low-profile Solyte foam sole. The upper is almost seam-free and the shoe is built on Asics’ racing last, so it gives a really snug fit; you almost feel you’re running barefoot. It’s a unisex style and our female tester found the fit quite long and narrow. Traction and road feel are excellent. With no heel tabs and its super-supple upper, you’ll need to take a bit of extra time pulling it on.

Verdict
The lightest race shoe you can get, but one for the fastest runners and shorter races.

Performance 4/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5

Nike LunarGlide 4+
£100
www.nike.com

Nike led the way in the movement towards ultra-light everyday trainers and the LunarGlide has become the brand’s most popular shoe. Though not strictly a racing shoe, its smooth ride, low weight and stripped-down upper make it a logical choice for fast running. The fourth version of the LunarGlide has tweaks to the Flywire wraps in the upper – lightweight bindings that tie in to the laces and wrap right under the midfoot, helping to give security without adding weight. In the midsole, super-light Lunarlon foam gives cushioning while the two-piece structure of the midsole is designed to aid stability for those who need it. Comfort is exceptional on the inside of this shoe; it’s soft, hugs the foot and breathes beautifully. However, we found the full-length foam just too plush for fast running and felt as though some of the energy put into the run was soaked up on impact. Heavier runners might find these a more responsive ride though and will appreciate the extra cushioning.

Verdict
Not the most light-footed shoe on test but brilliant step-in feel and cushioning.

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

Pearl Izumi Transition
£100
www.pearlizumi.com

One of two triathlon-specific racing shoes we tested, the Transition was designed with two-time Ironman world champion Tim DeBoom and the athlete input is clear from the attention to detail. It has all the features you’d want from a tri shoe: one-pull laces, big heel tabs, drainage holes in the sole and a seamless inner. Where this shoe scores well though is that all these features work. We found the laces took a while to get the hang of, but the low-profile upper on this shoe makes them genuinely fast to get on. Fit is impressively snug for a shoe with a quick lacing system and the inner is soft and easy on your feet. We really liked the balanced ride these give too; the relatively wide fit combined with firm cushioning helps them feel supportive, but there’s enough flexibility and ground feel to help you run fast easily.

Verdict
The most successful triathlon-specific  race shoes we’ve tried.

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

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 45
Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award, issue 45

Zoot Ultra TT 5.0
£100
www.zootsports.com

We’ve raced happily in previous editions of the Zoot Ultra TT and this is still a really cleverly designed shoe, but some niggles we had on previous versions still haven’t quite gone away. On paper it’s got everything you need, from elastic one-pull laces to a one-piece upper and big hole in the tongue to help you pull them on. But somehow this isn’t quite as successful in practice as the Pearl Izumi Transition. It actually took us a while to get these on thanks to the default, narrow opening of the shoe – the high tongue and back of the shoe and very snug fit make it a squeeze until the shoe is broken in. We also found the high back irritating on the run. Those issues aside, and after a few runs have loosened the foot opening, this is a great shoe to race in. That same snug fit that makes it hard to get on gives a really secure feeling; a midsole unit helps give a smooth heel-to-toe transition, and the ride is firm and responsive.

Verdict
A well-designed tri racing shoe that’s just let down by the built up back and tongue.

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

On Cloudracer
£115
www.on-running.com

The racing version of On’s Cloudrunner shoe uses the same CloudTec lugs on the sole, designed to absorb shock and help you push off quickly – little teeth inside the hollow lugs interlock as you push off so you don’t lose energy or ground feel. The lugs on the Cloudracer are lower to the ground and the heel-to-toe drop of the shoe is also lower, which makes it feel much more responsive. A big heel tab is useful for T2 and the ultra-fine mesh upper, perforated tongue and soft inner mean they are breathable and comfortable for summer races. The low profile combines with a lack of cushioning right at the back of the shoe to help encourage (but not force) a midfoot strike and fast leg turnover, and the surprisingly firm and less flexible feel means they give good energy return on the road. One tester found the fit on the big side so make sure you try them on.

Verdict
Firm-feeling fast shoe for mid to forefoot strikers, with great breathability.

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

Newton Distance
£125
www.newtonrunning.co.uk

Newton have been at the forefront of the ‘natural running’ movement for the last few years and, though the Distance is not a tri-specific shoe, the light weight, low profile and open mesh upper lend themselves to multi-sport racing. It’s designed to be more accessible to overpronators than some of the other shoes in Newton’s range, so you’ll only find their Action/Reaction lugs (which press into the shoe on impact then return energy to the runner) in the forefoot. There’s no heel-to-toe drop, so in theory they allow a more natural running style. Anyone who runs with a midfoot or forefoot strike will love these shoes, while those who are re-training their gait or tend to heel strike when tired needn’t worry – our usually heel-striking tester had no problems getting used to them. They’re impressively light for a pretty well-cushioned shoe. However, the price seems high for a race shoe.

Verdict
A great shoe for forefoot strikers, well cushioned, firm and breathable.

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

Overall Verdict

It’s amazing how many completely different shoes we received after asking brands for lightweight racers. Pared down slippers that wouldn’t be out of place on a track – the Asics Piranha being the obvious example – will suit those with few gait problems who just want to run blisteringly fast over short courses. Plush but light everyday trainers like the Nike Lunarglide or Puma FAAS 350 will go down well with heavier runners looking for a bit more impact protection without adding too much bulk, while those wanting to improve their running style might try some of the more innovate shoes here such as the On Cloudracer or Newton Distance. Of the shoes we tested here, it was the Puma FAAS 350 that gave a really pleasant surprise; at a low price and looking simple and bulky, we weren’t expecting much, but its light weight and fast ride makes it a good racing choice for most people. If you’re ready to invest a bit more cash and commit firmly to the triathlon cause though, we’d go for the Pearl Izumi Transition. Its tri-specific features work really well, but it’s also just a pleasure to run in. Because of that we’ve awarded it both our Peak Performer and Gold Award.

This review was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

You’ll find loads more triathlon gear and kit reviews in triradar.com’s Gear section

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