Winter 2013 Running Shoe Guide
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14, $120Runner's World Editor's Choice 1 of 11
Longtime GTS wearers said the 14 stays true to its heritage. It boasts all the trappings of a traditional stability model, but rides as smooth as ever. "It has the same stability, flexibility and cushioning I've come to expect for both everyday training and long runs," says Chris Garges, a speedy tester from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who trained in the GTS 14 leading up to his 1:16 at September's Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. The cushioning hits the sweet spot: It's soft enough for high-mileage training but firm enough to remain stable. New to the 14: Printed overlays are used sparingly to adorn the upper. Unlike many shoes on the market today, which have gone totally stitch-free, many of the GTS's overlays are still stitched onto the mesh to provide additional support.
Bottom Line: Soft and stable ride for runners with flat feet.
Asics GT-1000 2, $1002 of 11
A few things in life are certain: death, taxes and changes to your favorite running shoes. But Asics left the GT-1000 largely untouched with this update—even the price held steady. The shoe's upper received a more breathable, open mesh that helps keep your feet cooler in warm weather. Meanwhile, underfoot, bits of Gel have been exposed, giving the appearance of a softer heel. Mechanical testing in the RW Shoe Lab, however, shows the overall cushioning to be comparable to the debut model. That said, wear-testers are in agreement that this update delivers a comfortable ride with plenty of cushioning. Given that the shoe costs only 100 bucks, you'll sacrifice some of that luxurious, plush padding that surrounds the foot on more expensive Asics running shoes.
Bottom Line: A bargain for such a durable, versatile trainer.
Nike Free Flyknit+, $1603 of 11
The Free Flyknit+ is essentially a new upper added to the serviceable Free 5.0 midsole/outsole unit. We like the existing base, which gives you a 10-mm-drop platform that's still plenty flexible and offers a surprising amount of cushioning. The upper is where the magic happens. Advancing on its knit technology, Nike made a sock-like, extremely stretchy bootie—it's so elastic that the shoe curls up at both ends when not on your foot. The fit is so snug you almost don't require laces, but strong Flywire threads connect them directly to the midsole to ensure you don't slide around. This new thin construction shaves 1.4 ounces off the weight of the standard Free 5.0. Our recommendation: Ditch your socks, unless you have flat feet—some testers said the high arch could cause hot spots.
Bottom Line: A barely-there shoe that offers considerable protection.
New Balance 890v4, $1104 of 11
In its first three years, the 890 has proven to be a workhorse for neutral runners logging big miles. It's always had slightly softer-than-average cushioning, but it featured a fairly stiff forefoot. This overhaul corrects that. Thanks to a new midsole/outsole configuration, the shoe is softer than ever, while deep grooves and the placement of rubber allow the forefoot to be more pliable. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the change of last, the foot-shaped mold the shoe is constructed around. This gives the shoe a little more toe spring (it curves upward more at the toes) and fixes the fit, especially in the toebox. Previously, the shoe had a slanting, cone shape; its new sloping silhouette brings the mesh closer to the foot. Lighter materials saved nearly an ounce of weight.
Bottom Line: A daily trainer that will stand up to a lot of miles.
Asics GT-2000 2, $1205 of 11
Some runners felt the first version of the GT-2000 ran too narrow in the forefoot. This update puts a little more wiggle room up front. Feedback from our wear-testers and 3D scans from Shoefitr (below) confirm the fit is looser; the shoe also runs just a touch long. The blue hues toward the tip of the shoe indicate the roomy toebox. This change resonated with runners. "It's definitely an improvement over the previous model," says Rique Campa, of East Lansing, Michigan. "I liked the combination of the tight heel and wide forefoot." One knock the testers had: The shoe is a bit heavy, though they said that was to be expected for so much protection and stability underfoot.
Bottom Line: A cushy, stable shoe that works for novice runners.
Saucony Guide 7, $1206 of 11
The updated Guide 7 gets a new outsole configuration that's reminiscent of the fifth iteration of this shoe; the triangle-shaped rubber lugs found underneath the previous version are gone. Instead, bigger patches of rubber give more surface area for traction and better durability, something our wear-testers appreciate in a daily trainer. The shoe still boasts a cushy forefoot—it's one of the softest in this guide.
Bottom Line: Soft yet stable, this shoe will go the distance.
New Balance RC 1400v2, $1007 of 11
When we learned that the 1400 was in store for an update, we not-so-subtly suggested to New Balance, "Don't mess it up!" Testers report that v2 is true to the original. Using lighter, more breathable materials, New Balance shaved nearly an ounce off the shoe. "I liked the super-light weight and that it felt like a glove," says Tish Hamilton, executive editor at Runner's World. "I used this for intervals. Happily." You will be happy if you go at least a half size larger than normal; it runs short.
Bottom Line: Reserve these for race day or speedwork.
Nike Zoom Structure+ 17, $1108 of 11
The Structure is another well-rounded combination of comfort and support, similar to the Adrenaline GTS 14 and 860v4, but it's getting it done in an even lighter, lower-to-the-ground package. RW Shoe Lab tests show the forefoot flexibility is stiffer than in the previous version, but wear-testers didn't note it as an issue. A slanted wedge of foam is under the heel and arch for pronation control—the more support you require as your foot rolls inward, the more the wedge provides.
Bottom Line: Suitable for high-mileage and beginning runners alike.
Karhu Fluid 3 Fulcrum, $1259 of 11
Traditionally, Karhu shoes featured a steep angle from heel to toe, necessitated mostly by the "fulcrum"—the lever in the midsole designed to quickly transition your weight to your forefoot. That's been toned down and softened in recent models, including the Fluid 3. "You sense a 'flatness' to the shoe, but it still gives a nice ride," says Mark Steinberg, a 61-year-old tester from North Muskegon, Michigan.
Bottom Line: An up-tempo trainer for midfoot-strikers.
Altra The 3-Sum, $13010 of 11
Altra has steadily put together a stable of shoes to cater to all types of runners. The 3-Sum can work as a racing flat or fast-paced workout shoe for most of us, but it shines during triathlons. Several key features save you valuable time in transition, including finger loops at the tongue and heel for easy entry, and quick-pull elastic laces by Yankz. The upper is soft and seamless to prevent any irritation when going sockless, and drainage holes through the midsole and outsole will ensure that no water pools up inside the shoe.
Bottom Line: A zero-drop option for efficient runners on race day.