Mizuno Wave Nirvana 8 $150
Height: 37.8 mm (heel); 24.7 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.5 oz (M); 9.3 oz (W)
Like the Creation (the other Mizuno shoe in this guide) the Nirvana 8 earned praise for its glove-like fit through the midfoot. The heel, however, is a different story. Mizuno lowered the Nirvana's heel collar in this edition and made the opening longer, and several testers felt the shoe is now too loose along their Achilles. One reported blisters. Testers for whom the shoe fit, however, raved about its protective qualities and comfort. "The cushioning was better than average in every area of the shoe," says Tara Steffie, a 30-year-old runner from Allentown, Pennsylvania. "The midfoot area is especially comfortable." Testers also commented on the shoe's "fast feel," which is a result of the shoe's sharp ramp angle. The heel is 13.1 mm higher than the forefoot (in most shoes the difference is between 10 and 12 mm), giving you the sensation that you're running downhill, even on flat surfaces.
More: 6 Tips to Tackle Any Terrain
Bottom Line: Balances a "performance" feel with protective features.
K-Swiss Blade Max Glide $120
Height: 38.0 mm (heel); 24.9 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.9 oz (M); 10.2 oz (W)
This shoe's strength is also its weakness: the outsole. On one hand, testers loved the traction the Glide's deep trenches provided, especially on wet surfaces. But the all-terrain grip trapped rocks and other roadside flotsam. The heel on the Glide is the highest in this guide, providing a lot of protection in the rearfoot. Women with high arches seemed especially at home in this shoe; one said the support was so great she didn't need to wear her orthotics, a rare treat.
Bottom Line: An everyday trainer for the normal-to high-arched runner.
Saucony PowerGrid Triumph 9 $130
Height: 34.1 mm (heel); 26.4 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.0 oz (M); 9.4 oz (W)
Big guys, look no further. While the Triumph earned generally positive reviews from all who tested it, men weighing 170 pounds or more were especially enthusiastic about this shoe. Saucony added padding to the Triumph, giving the heavier runner a softer, more comfortable ride up front. The shoe also now has Sauc-Fit, which locks the foot on the platform for a better fit. But the change comes at a cost: This Triumph is a lot less flexible than previous versions. Slim striders may find the shoe not as responsive as it used to be; expect a tougher time getting the front of the shoe to bend with your toes.
Bottom Line: Forefoot-strikers can expect more protection in this update.
More: How to Find Your Mid-Foot
Asics Gel-Excel 33 $120
Height: 33.4 mm (heel); 24.5 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.7 oz (M); 9.0 oz (W)
It's rare that a shoe can provide this much cushioning and still be flexible. Usually, the extra padded protection makes the midsole hard to bend. But Asics placed deep flex grooves in the outsole of the Excel that allow runners of all sizes to bend the forefoot with ease, providing a smoother, more energy-efficient toe-off. The shoe doesn't have many stability features, which is great for high-arched runners who don't need motion correction. The one concern about the shoe, voiced primarily by women, was whether the Excel offered enough stability. "Initially I liked its light weight," says Janice Trudgeon, 55, of East Lansing. "But after running in it, I thought it didn't provide enough support through the mid- and forefoot."
Bottom Line: High-arched runners who want a flexible forefoot, look here.
More: Foot Anatomy for Injury Prevention
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