2012 Summer Shoe Guide

Best Buy: Mizuno Wave Nexus 6, $95
The Nexus is focused on exactly what it's supposed to be: a lightweight, stable everyday training shoe. A roomy but firm forefoot and a fairly steep ramp angle--the shoe drops 14.8 mm from heel to toe--give the Nexus a "fast" feeling that wear-testers liked. "The shoe felt quite snug," says Mike Mooney, 55, of Jackson, New Jersey, who has been running for 42 years. "Along with roominess in the toebox, it made for a perfect match. It is my shoe of choice for long runs of eight to 12 miles." To slow the roll of an overpronating foot, the Nexus includes stability features like a beveled crash pad in the heel and firm posting that runs through the arch on the medial side. A shorter heel tab minimizes rubbing on the Achilles. Another nice feature: Its price tag puts it within the budget of more runners.

Bottom Line
Supportive, high-mileage option for women or lighter and faster men.

Height: 36.7 mm (heel); 21.9 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.6 oz (M); 8.1 oz (W)

How It Fits: Mizuno Wave Nexus 6
When it comes to scans by Shoefitr, a company that makes 3-D images of a shoe's fit, green is good. If a shoe runs short, you'll see yellow or red highlights in the toe. If it slips in the heel, the rear will appear blue. Our testers agree on the comfort of the Nexus 6, but some with narrower feet wished the forefoot was more snug.

More: Ask the Experts: Running Gear

Editor's Choice: Asics Gel-Nimbus 14, $140
From the second you step into the Nimbus, you know you're in for a pillowy-soft ride. Boatloads of cushioning underfoot allow you to float comfortably over any road surface, and memory foam lining translates to that plush fit that won over our wear-testers. "The shoe felt great from the start, as if I were walking on air," says Derek Kraus, 25, of East Lansing. Kraus averages 70 miles per week and, as someone who overstrides, appreciates the extra padding that softens his footfalls. "I put it on, and the break-in process was over." At a mere 11 ounces--.7 ounces lighter than the previous version--the Nimbus delivers incredible shock protection but resists feeling clunky. (Note: Flexibility and cushioning scores at right are for a men's size 9.)

Bottom Line
The Nimbus 14 offers plenty of cushion and no bulk, suitable for all but the lightest and fastest runners.

Height: 37.3 mm (heel); 27.2 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.0 oz (M); 8.9 oz (W)

More: Tips for Energy-Efficient Running

Brooks Defyance 5, $110
The Defyance 5 offers the same comfortable fit as the Brooks Adrenaline for runners who don't require extra stability features. Brooks tinkered with the flexibility of this version, considerably improving it while not affecting the cushioning. Testers loved how the upper snugly wrapped the midfoot and that a loop higher up on the tongue kept it from shifting to either side.

Bottom Line
A daily trainer for new runners who don't need added stability.

Height: 33.9 mm (heel); 22.7 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.8 oz (M); 8.7 oz (W)

More: 6 Tips to Tackle Any Terrain

Karhu Forward 3 Fulcrum Ride, $130
Call this the anti-minimalist shoe. The Forward 3 features a ski-jump-steep 20.2 mm heel-to-toe drop--most shoes have 12 mm offsets. A fulcrum in the midsole acts as a stiff lever to shift weight quickly toward a runner's toes. "I felt like I was being propelled forward onto a cushioned forefoot," says Betsy Daly, 35, a 20-mile-a-week runner from Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Bottom Line
A durable trainer for light runners with high arches.

Height: 40.5 mm (heel); 20.3 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.3 oz (M); 8.7 oz (W)

More: 4 Exercises to Increase Your Running Speed
 
Asics Gel-Cumulus 14, $110
This update is half an ounce lighter and has a lower profile, but testers say the soft ride and comfortable fit, shown in the scan below, remain intact.

Bottom Line
A solid option for mile after mile of padded footfalls.

Height: 36.9 mm (heel); 25.8 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.5 oz (M); 9.3 oz (W)

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