The ACTIVE Spring 2022 Running Shoe Guide

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Whether your weather is finally in a place where you don't have to put on 15 layers just to venture outside, or you're coming out of your post-quarantine hibernation and ready to get back into running, it's the perfect time to invest in a new pair of shoes.

That's where this guide comes in handy.

We gathered testers from all over the country, including veteran runners at ACTIVE, to extensively test the shoes in this guide. All of our testers put their shoes through a minimum of 20 running miles while paying attention to comfort, fit, weight, breathability, flexibility and ride.

From updates of old favorites that had our feet singing to new releases that will ensure you'll find something to motivate your miles well into summer, you're guaranteed to find a shoe you'll love. We know money might be tight, but if you can, treat yourself! You deserve it.

Adidas Solarglide 5

The Adidas Solarglide 5 is a fairly neutral daily trainer and fits true to size with a normal width, tapered toe box and thicker toe guard. The upper is a breathable knit material that is completely recycled. The full length, heel to toe, Boost midsole provides cushioning yet feels on the stiffer side due to the Linear Energy Push torsion system—an H-shaped plastic shank that provides a guided platform throughout the shoe. These two components create an ideal shoe for those wanting a stiff-yet-cushioned ride for high mileage training. The outsole is made of Continental rubber, which provides good traction through most road running conditions. It's on the heavy side at 13 oz for the men’s version and 11.8 oz for the women, so it’s best saved for easy recovery runs, as well as used for a daily mileage trainer.

One Favorite Thing: “I love having a comfortable cushioned shoe for my longer training runs.”

One Area for Improvement: “Currently only the very top of the tongue is padded and the middle is not. I have to be extra careful to get the tongue adjusted correctly before putting the shoe on to prevent problems while running.”

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $130

Weight: 11.8 oz (women); 13 oz (men)

Drop: 10mm

Buy Now: Women’s; Men’s

Adidas Ultraboost 22

If you want stability and perfect fit in a shoe that immediately feels like an old friend, the Ultraboost 22 is the shoe for you. Lace placement and fabric type is perfect to make the shoe feel snug on your foot yet not too tight. The heel padding makes it easy to get on and off even though it has a sock-like design. The sole adds as much stability as you need for any type of run.

Overall, it's an instant and comfortable fit with a springy boost that makes running easy. Almost like running on a cloud!

One Favorite Thing: "It’s great to have a shoe that you can put on and immediately feel like you've been wearing it forever.”

One Area for Improvement: “With this much cushion it comes with the territory, but the shoes feel a little clunky due to the weight.

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $190

Weight: 10.2 oz (women); 12.0 oz (men)

Drop: 10 mm

Buy Now: Women’s; Men’s

Brooks Caldera 6

Without looking at the tread, it would be easy to mistake the Brooks Caldera 6 as a road shoe. Even when lifting these lightweight shoes out of the box, they could still pass as a shoe for marathons. It’s not until looking at the bottom and seeing the trail lugs that it’s noticeable that these are designed for off-road running.

Brooks has managed to smash together a maximalist lower, minimalist upper and grippy 4 mm trail tread to create a beast of an ultramarathon trail shoe. Immediately apparent is the maximalist cushioning—yes, that’s the same lightweight, nitrogen-infused DNA Loft foam used on the fan-favorite, Glycerin. The midsole stack height is 26/20 for a 6 mm heel-to-toe drop. Despite giving the appearance of a massive stack from its profile view, it manages to remain very stable laterally, as well as remain very nimble and responsive while moving forward. Contrasting the appearance of a typical trail shoe with a bulkier and more rugged construction, the near-seamless engineered-mesh upper is lightweight, thin and highly breathable. Coupled with low-cut ankles that add to the airflow, these can handle hot and wet conditions with ease. You’re probably wondering about debris, but Brooks thought of a solution for that, too, providing gaiter attachments on the heels. Of course, the bottom line is speed and comfort. In the case of the Caldera 6, one doesn’t need to be sacrificed in favor of the other. The answer is YES to both.

Brooks has completely revamped the Caldera, creating a game-changer of a trail shoe that’s ready for new personal records.

One Favorite Thing: “A trail shoe that's as responsive as a road shoe! I don't say this lightly: These are the best trail shoes I've ever worn.”

One Area for Improvement: “My only concern is long-term durability. They still look and perform like new through my round of heavy testing, though.”

Type: Neutral Trail

Price: $150

Weight: 9.8 oz (women); 11.0 oz (men)

Drop: 6 mm

Available soon!

Brooks Launch 9

The Brooks Launch 9 is a great update on a legendary line of everyday running shoes. Brooks has added 2 mm of stack height to the midsole, which makes the cushioning on this pair better than ever without sacrificing responsiveness. Nearly an ounce lighter than the 8s, this iteration feels even speedier despite the extra midsole height. The redesigned upper is also breezier than the 8s, making this a great summer training shoe.

The Launch 9 is a good shoe for everyday runners since its cross between speed and cushioning makes it work for both light speed work and recovery runs. More advanced runners will look to a faster shoe for races, but this is a good pair for an intermediate runner to lace up for a half marathon or 10K.

One Favorite Thing: “The weight. This is my lightest pair, and that makes all the difference on the last few miles of a long run. Hamstrings rejoice!”

One Area for Improvement: “There is a little bit of stiffness on the outer side of the midsole. It only bothered me when I was on a recovery run and focused on comfort, but I just don't expect to feel that in a neutral shoe.”

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $110

Weight: 7.05 oz (women); 8.11 oz (men)

Drop: 10 mm

Buy Now: Women’s; Men’s

HOKA ONE ONE Kawana

Imagine only needing one shoe to bust out burpees or dance moves in your favorite fitness class, transitioning to the weight floor for a leg-day sesh, and finishing your gym tour with a two-mile run in the sun with your friends. This is exactly what the innovation team at HOKA dreamed up when it designed the Kawana.

New to the HOKA lineup, this all-in-one daily trainer offers its wearer some serious performance potential. Starting at the top, the mesh upper is incredibly breathable and offers substantial padding with a semi-gusseted tongue and memory foam around the collar to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Hailed as a neutral shoe, the sidewalls of the Kawana have been reinforced in a way that pairs nicely with its wide platform, offering a more stable and secure ride as you cut side to side or take off running. For card-carrying members of the heel striker’s club, the extended crash pad and flare of the Swallowtail heel bevel has been proven to reduce impact, and when paired with HOKA's signature early-stage meta rocker, you're in for a smoother and faster turnover—which you'll especially feel kick in with quicker up-tempo work.

If you've been considering switching to a pair of HOKA's, this shoe might be a good springboard. With a lower stack height and cushioning that isn't overly plush, the Kawana serves as a great model to transition into. This is definitely a shoe to add into your fitness rotation, whether your workout of the day is inside a gym, hustling in the parking lot of your local bootcamp or hitting the road for an enjoyable run.

One Favorite Thing: “As a group fitness instructor, it's great to finally have a pair of running shoes that will safely work for every class I teach!”

One Area for Improvement: “Though the heel has been designed with a lot of plush cushioning, it still slips quite a lot. I had to heel-lock my laces to stop the slipping, but even then I could still feel some movement.”

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $140

Weight: 8.4 oz (women); 10 oz (men)

Drop: 5 mm

Buy Now: Women’s; Men’s

La Sportiva Akasha II

The La Sportiva Akasha II does what La Sportiva trail shoes do best: travel up and down hilly terrain with confidence.

The Akasha II makes slight improvements to the original version and manages to maintain the core benefits from its predecessor, which are precision traction, extreme durability and cushioning. The 4.5 mm lugs provide a confident ride in any weather conditions, and the reverse lugs on the rear provide excellent braking. Despite the taller lugs, they feel natural on smoother trails—not clunky like a football cleat. Solid construction is apparent from top to bottom with reinforced weak points. The breathable mesh uppers and toe cap are overlaid with additional structural support, and the outsole uses a separate hardened rubber in the toe and heel. This gives durability in the high-wear areas while allowing the midsole to remain responsive.

As with the previous model, the Akasha II best finds its home in longer distance ultramarathons or as a durable trail trainer where the slightly increased weight from cushioning and reinforced construction is a worthwhile trade to a few seconds of pace.

The Akasha II has a precise, glove-like fit without feeling restrictive. The uppers are able stretch and expand as the foot swells after hours on the trail. However, as is the case with most in the La Sportiva lineup, these run about half a size too small. Therefore, size up slightly from other brands (a typical men’s 9.5 should buy a 10, for example).

La Sportiva followed up with an excellent sequel to the original Akasha that can absolutely be a go-to shoe for long-distance trail racing due to its comfort and durability mile after mile.

One Favorite Thing: “Glorious, glorious tread. 4.5 mm lugs provide confident traction, yet they somehow avoid feeling bulky on smoother trail sections.”

One Area for Improvement: “It's hard to make an improvement without sacrificing the main benefits of this shoe: durability and comfort. Sure, it would be nice if this shoe was a little lighter, but it would come at a cost to one or both of its main features.”

Type: Neutral Trail

Price: $150

Weight: 9.2 oz (women); 10.9 oz (men)

Drop: 6 mm

Buy Now: Women’s; Men’s

Merrell MTL Long Sky 2

After such positive reviews for the debut of the original MTL Long Sky, the second iteration brings even more versatility to the trail. For trail runners wanting a light and fast shoe, this speedy successor handles all types of terrain. With trail running, attention to the details is vital, and Merrell delivers in this respect.

Out of the box, what stands out is the lightweight feel of the shoe, which provides comfort and cushion without any bulk. The soft breathable mesh upper flexes with the movement of the foot while the toe end provides protection without heavy bumpers. The fabric upper made with “quantum fiber reinforcement” is substantial defending against rips and tears while keeping its fabric-like softness. The tongue is never noticeable, even after a long day on the trail. Additionally, the elastic lace-holder is perfect for containing the provided non-slip laces and made it easy and fast to take the shoe on and off—two tiny details that could make a major difference in a bad-weather race!

Continuing with comfort is the FLOATPRO mid sole. The shoe cradles the heel and arch nicely providing stability under rocks and roots. For those new to the trail, this shoe provides a great balance between feeling the ground while cushioned under uneven surfaces without a ton of stack height. The shoe is responsive with good energy return (almost as if it was a road shoe) and comfortable enough to go all day on the trails.

The most recognized feature is the 5 mm VIBRAM MEGAGRIP lugs. For a lower drop shoe, 4 mm, these lugs really offered excellent traction. Despite some slick terrain over rocks, the lugs gripped without catching or breaking the stride. Sandy slopes were no problem as well as they grasped the terrain with ease!

For trail runners wanting a shoe to go fast over various types of terrain, or for road runners wanting to switch to the trail, the Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 is a great choice!

One Favorite Thing: “I like the lower drop and still have a comfortable, fast trail shoe; fits like a road shoe but performs like a trail shoe!”

One Area for Improvement: “Extend the support of the arch/ midsole a bit closer to the toe box.”

Type: Neutral Trail

Price: $130

Drop: 4 mm

Available soon!

New Balance 880v12

The NB 880v12 is a great workhorse trainer. With a durable outsole, snappy forefoot feel and the addition of Fresh Foam X, it's a great combination of affordability and performance. This shoe feels very similar to the 1080 but has slightly fewer premium extras.

The v12 comes is some great colorway options and features an upgraded logo design, but the jacquard mesh upper can feel a bit thick at times. This isn't a shoe you'd want to wear for fast intervals on the track or for a 5K PR, but neutral runners will love it for everyday miles.

One Favorite Thing: “I particularly love the navy and orange colorway and the updated (reflective) New Balance logo.”

One Area for Improvement: “This shoe is a bit heavy for what it is. I'd also like to see a high flex knit like the 1080.”

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $130

Weight: 10.3 oz

Available soon!

New Balance 1080v12

If you're looking for a premium neutral trainer, look no further than the New Balance 1080v12. Coming in at a lightweight(ish) 10.4 oz, this shoe is a great option for runners looking for a plush everyday running experience.

The newest iteration of the 1080 model looks and feels similar to prior models, but it features some "under the hood" improvements. The molded heel counter is gone and replaced with a more traditional heel cup, and the sole features even more cushioning and Fresh Foam X. The high flex knit upper offers great breathability, a comfortable fit and comes in a range of fun colorways. This 1080v12 is a great upgrade for anyone looking for a lightweight daily trainer.

One Favorite Thing: “The Fresh Foam X sole is plush and cushiony, making this my go-to shoe for everyday miles.”

One Area for Improvement: "I'd love for New Balance to bring back the molded heel counter.”

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $160

Weight: 10.4 oz

Drop: 8 mm

Available soon!

On Cloudmonster

The On Cloudmonster offers maximum support and cushion for long runs. The cloudtech lower is very bouncy and allows for minimal shock on landing, as well as good rebound for the push-off. The shoe has a rocker type shape that is beneficial for runners with a more pronounced heel or midfoot strike. The light-weight mesh upper and sock liner give the shoe a non-bulky feel that helps to offset the extra high stack. On Cloud is a very popular brand offering various everyday shoe options. The popularity has influenced the high $170 price tag for the Cloudmonster. 

Overall, the Cloudmonster is a very comfortable shoe. It is extremely soft and forgiving, making it an ideal choice for easy recovery or slow long days. The high stack could make some runners a little uncomfortable, especially rounding corners. It almost feels like you’re standing on a bouncy platform that could result in a rolled ankle if a corner is taken too quickly. However, this is a great choice for runners looking to minimize shock to joints and maximize comfort mile after mile. Our tester loved adding this shoe to his rotation.

One Favorite Thing: The cushion and support feel like you're running on a cloud. Great for recovery days.

One Area for Improvement: The stack is very high and takes some getting used to. Good for running in straight lines but could cause issues around corners.

 

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $170

Weight: 8.5 oz (women); 9.7 oz (men)

Drop: 6 mm

Available soon!

Reebok Floatride Energy 4

The Reebok Floatride 4 is a breezy, quick, neutral shoe with good responsiveness and an excellent, grippy outsole. The shoe is masterful at conquering speed work in wet or icy conditions, lending confidence and security in spring slush.

The Floatride Energy Foam midsole provides the shoe's responsiveness but is firmer than some competitors' midsoles. Coupled with the shoe's narrow fit, that firmness can caused some foot and knee pain for our tester. Runners with lower extremity injuries would do well to take a pair for a spin if possible prior to purchasing.

 

One Favorite Thing: "These are the grippiest shoes I've ever put on my feet, aside from trail runners; I have never felt so confident mastering the icy-puddly combo that is Chicago spring running."

One Area for Improvement: "While the responsiveness of the midsole is excellent, something about its construction caused me foot pain along the outer side of my sole and flared up runner's knee issues that have otherwise been stable recently."

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $110

Weight: 7 oz (women); 8.4 oz (men)

Drop: 9 mm

Buy Now: Women's | Men's

 

 

Skechers GOrun Razor Excess 2

When comparing the running options in the Skechers lineup, the GOrun Razor Excess 2 is definitely a favorite for weekly distance training when considering both comfort and response. Multiple design features of the shoe make it feel like a custom fit, providing efficiency in turnover and maintaining a smooth ride.

Noteworthy to Skechers is the comfort and feel of the mono mesh polyester fabric upper. The GOrun Razor Excess 2 is exceptionally light weight, breathable and soft while still providing support. The fabric is soft and smooth without excess bulk, so there‘s no rubbing or uncomfortable pressure. While some soft fabrics tear or rip easily, the Razor Excess 2 stays strong without fraying: The glove-like feel remains sturdy and looking great after many miles.

Attributing to the comfort is the “podiatrist certified” Archfit insole. True to its name, the insole does rise to meet and support even those with higher arches. Unlike off-the-shelf inserts, the feel is still cushioned and doesn’t force itself harshly against the rise of the foot. Combined with the insole is Skechers' Hyperburst cushioning and Hyper Arc technology. This ultra-lightweight cushioning produces a comfortable ride, especially under the heel. From the middle to the back of the foot, feet feel supported without ever feeling bulky or too much pressure. With a 4 mm drop, the shoe is highly responsive and efficient. For runners who want to increase cadence and still have cushioning without all the typical extra bulk and height, Razor Excess 2 is a smart choice.

Adding to the list of performance technology found in the Razor Excess 2 is the carbon infused forefoot plate, designed to maximize energy return with its extremely high stiffness-to-weight ratio, making it a faster shoe while still going some distance. With less cushioning in the forefront and the winglet design of the plate, the shoe helps propel the stride forward effectively. With less cushioning in the front combined with the drop and the narrow design of the overall shoe, it responds well to ground contact. And speaking of surfaces, underneath it all, the Goodyear performance outsole provides great traction and stability in rainy weather with very little deterioration.

Overall, for those wanting a light, responsive, distance-ready, stylish shoe, Skechers’ GOrun Razor Excess 2 is a great addition to any runner’s collection.

One Favorite Thing: To have arch support and heel cushioning in such a lightweight shoe is a wonderful combination, and the flashy, blue tiger stripe colorway got so many compliments!

One Area for Improvement: Adding a tiny bit more cushioning to the forefront would make it an even better long-run trainer.

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $135

Weight: 5.7 oz (women); 7.2 oz (men)

Drop: 4 mm

Buy Now: Women’s; Men’s

Under Armour Flow Velociti Wind 2

Under Armour’s Flow Velociti Wind 2 is the second iteration in the Flow Velociti line and touted as a shoe that will make you go fast. It’s lightweight, responsive and has plenty of cushioning—leading the wearer to believe that fast isn’t only possible, but completely doable.

The bottom tread is rather unique and is designed to grip the ground better as you pick up the pace. The sole is completely rubberless and provides all-in-one cushioning so you feel good doing it, too. Plus, perhaps the most innovative feature is the incorporation of UA’s MapMyRun integration, allowing you to run, analyze and repeat, all with just your pair of shoes. The app will even notify you when your shoes are ending nearing the end of their life!

The flexible “UA Wrap” upper is breathable and molds to your foot, so you don’t have to worry about rubbing, blisters or other discomfort as you pound the pavement mile after mile in all kinds of weather.

Overall, the Flow Velociti Wind 2 isn’t all that different from the original iteration, so if you’re trying to pinch pennies, it might not be worth the upgrade. However, if you have your eye on the latest and greatest models on the market with the most innovative tracking technology, the Flow Velociti Wind 2 might just be the perfect everyday trainer shoe for you.

One Favorite Thing: “I know this feature has been around for a while now, but I love the smart metrics and how you can use the MapMyRun app to look at your workout data in more detail.”

One Area for Improvement: "The price seems a bit steep for an iteration that’s not all that different from the original.”

Type: Neutral Road

Price: $160

Weight: 7.91 oz (women); 8.35 oz (men)

Drop: 8 mm

Buy Now: Women’s; Men’s

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