Whether you’re new to triathlon or an IRONMAN veteran, a fresh pair of shoes is always something to look forward to. We tested some of the best tri-approved running shoes on the market to ensure you toe the line with confidence.
We tested (and tested and tested) each shoe in an effort to help our readers make the most educated decision. Our reviewers included the following members of the ACTIVE team:
- Melanie Clancy – Editor in Chief of ACTIVE.com.
- Kolby Paxton – Running Editor at ACTIVE.com.
- Jackie Veling – Fitness & Nutrition Editor at ACTIVE.com.
- Elizabeth Grimsley – Cycling & Triathlon Associate Editor at ACTIVE.com.
- Tad Preston – A multiple marathon and half IRONMAN finisher.
- Kristen Sudela – An avid runner, triathlete and community builder.
Skechers GoMeb Razor$110 1 of 11
The GoMeb Razor is a fast, lightweight trainer with excellent ground feel and sufficient cushioning. I went on a variety of runs from 3 to 14 miles—including a few tempo runs to see how they felt with some speed, instead of just running at my usual pace. These shoes responded great as my speed increased, and there were times on my regular runs when I found myself running faster than what I had intended.
Do these shoes make you faster? Well, at the very least they feel great—and look great—on your feet, which always adds a little spring to your step.
Both the sole and the GO knit upper have proven durable and comfortable and the toe box is expansive—perhaps even too roomy in terms of excess material. Overall, you've got to love what Skechers is doing with their performance line of running shoes. This is a great shoe for training or racing.
"The Skechers GOmeb Razor™ is designed for runners ready to train, with a virtually seamless GO KNIT upper and lightweight, responsive 5GEN cushioning."
Weight: 7.7 oz. (men's)
Asics Noosa FF$140 2 of 11
If I were writing a love letter to the Asics Noosa FF, I would probably lead with my infatuation for the new colorways, which have been toned down just enough to make the latest iteration of this venerable running shoe more appropriate for everyday wear (fear not triathletes, there is still a hint of neon). But the real substance of my love affair with this nimble shoe resides in the responsiveness of Asics' FlyteFoam technology, which lent a downright bouncy feel from my midstance to toe off.
Weighing in at under 8 oz., I prematurely discounted the Noosa's ability to hold up over longer distances—alas, after a few 6-plus mile runs, I was pleased to admit my error, as the rearfoot cushioning system more than adequately tempered shock during impact phase. Triathletes, take note: The Noosa FF is here to win your heart.
"The seamless upper construction features a technical mesh that permits sockless wear, while the wet-grip outsole and heel/tongue grips allow for easy on/off access—ideal for triathletes looking to make a quick transition between race stages."
Weight: 7.2 oz. (women's)
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3$99.99 3 of 11
Slipping on the Zante v3 is the equivalent to Spotify spinning your favorite track, right when you need it most. Your turnover picks up, your pace quickens and before you know it, you're flying at a pace you later realize was completely unsustainable. Yeah, they're that fast.
Perfect for speed work, the Zante's aggressive toe spring and uber-light construction are just plain fun—you can practically feel them smiling as you push the pace. One of my favorite features of the v2 was the woven feel of the mesh upper, and this design carries through to the v3; in fact, it might be slightly more breathable this time around. I found the ride to be firm but still snappy, and at that price point? Well, they really can't be beat.
NEW BALANCE'S TAKE:
"The Fresh Foam Zante v3 is streamlined for speed with bootie construction that delivers a snug fit. Meanwhile, the lightweight solid rubber outsole offers durable cushioning that's designed to endure mile after mile."
Weight: 7.5 oz.
Drop: 6 mm
Zoot Ali'i$150 4 of 11
Remember when shoelaces were a thing? After testing the Zoot Ali'i, that's what I imagine runners of the not-so-distant future saying to each other. One of the only shoe manufacturers on the market today to utilize the Boa® Closure System more commonly seen on the foot of road cyclists, the Ali'i is a lightweight tempo trainer perfect for the track. For those unfamiliar, the Boa system contains three integral parts: a micro-adjustable dial, super-strong lightweight laces and low friction lace guides. Initially I was concerned about whether or not I'd be able to dial in the fit securely, but my heel was locked in and secure and, when coupled with the built-in tongue, created almost a cocoon-like casing that hugged my midfoot. I ran with lightweight socks, wool socks and no socks at all, and experienced no issues with blisters or slippage. The benefit of the closure system is adaptability when training or racing—for example, you can easily dial back the tension if your feet are prone to swelling during the last leg of a triathlon.
A word of caution, however: If you don't like a super snug fit, you may want to consider sizing up, as the toebox runs a little narrow and the overall fit was on the small side. As for how this shoe feels out on a run, it is definitely built for speed. The toe-off is snappy and the midfoot is springy and responsive, noticeable even when I was just walking around to break it in. This shoe looks fast, too—inspired by Kona, Hawaii, home of the IRONMAN World Championships, the bold upper was designed by Keith Tallett, a mixed media artist born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii. With a shoe this fast, you'll be saying "Mahalo" to Zoot for their inspired design.
"This lightweight neutral running shoe is perfect for racing and just right for tempo runs and track workouts. Weighing in at 9.9oz (men's size 9), this shoe provides a lightweight comfortable ride. The Boa® Closure System delivers a fast, customized, and comfortable fit; providing quick application and on-the-fly adjustment for racing and training."
Weight: 9.9 oz (men's)
Drop: 8 mm
HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 5$150 5 of 11
Hoka's Bondi model is a bit like the Brett Favre of running shoes—a legend in its own right, pushed out of the limelight by a younger, sexier model (Hoka's Clifton is the Aaron Rodgers in this scenario).
Still with me?
You see, the Bondi is what put Hoka on the map, creating buzz among oft-injured runners everywhere who fell in love with the pillowy soft ride and max cushioning. Then along came the lighter, more accessible, slightly less silly looking Clifton, and the Bondi was all but forgotten.
The fifth iteration, however, has the Bondi poised to make a resurgence—and as a dyed in the wool Hoka fan, I for one couldn't be happier. Don't get me wrong, a stack height of 37 mm is a lot, even for someone like me who runs in Hokas almost every day. My first few runs included plenty of scuffs and trips as I got used to the added height, but eventually you settle right in. The heel toe transition is silky smooth, and the Bondi's decidedly wider toe box answers a frequent complaint in other Hoka models. Sure, you're going to sacrifice some flexibility and responsiveness as you would with any max cushioning shoe, but at the half marathon and marathon distance you won't miss it a bit.
Overall, if you're not already a Hoka believer, the Bondi 5 may just be too much shoe for you; but if you're loyal to the brand or seeking out a shoe that will soften impact on your body and leave you feeling fresh deep into a long run, you're going to love it.
"The next iteration of the game-changing Bondi legacy, the '5' is the most cushioned shoe in HOKA ONE ONE's road specific lineup. With a more accommodating toe box, increased breathability and support, and better compression set, it delivers a smooth, cushioned and balanced ride."
Weight: 8.5 oz. (women's)
Drop: 4 mm
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v7$149.99 6 of 11
New Balance's latest iteration of the Fresh Foam 1080 features just a few upgrades to the previous model. The shoe's upper now has an improved mesh design that better wraps around the front of the foot, and the outsole grooves have been redesigned (thanks to runner data) to enhance overall flexibility. I'm happy to say, though, that the signature of this shoe has stayed the same—the Fresh Foam midsole continues to give the shoe that plush, cushy ride we've come to love.
I took my pair out for runs ranging from two to seven miles and found that the foam was as durable as I remembered, maintaining its responsiveness even as the miles wore on. Though New Balance might not be the first brand you think of for long-distance training, its foam line is changing things. We found this newest version comparable to the well-cushioned Brooks Glycerin.
If you're looking for a neutral running shoe with cushioning that can withstand the miles, it's a tough buy to beat.
NEW BALANCE'S TAKE:
"In addition to unbeatably comfortable Fresh Foam cushioning, the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v7 running shoe has a roomy toe box to let your feet move naturally and molded foam collar to help support your ankle for comfort that lasts mile after mile."
Weight: 9.1 oz. (women's)
Reebok Print Elite Ultraknit$109.99 7 of 11
The Print Elite Ultraknit is for the efficient runner. The slip-on style means there's no need to tie and retie the laces each time out—perfect for someone who just wants to get up and run. However, if the shoe doesn't fit you perfectly, there's little the laces can do to help tighten the situation.
The shoe is cut low around the ankle, allowing for a full range of motion on all terrains and surfaces. And with relatively neutral pronation, this shoe works for casual, everyday runners. The Ultraknit technology on the upper provides a breathable material to keep your feet cool even in the hottest temperatures, and the dual-density bottom provides cushion without going overboard.
This shoe is perfect for casual runners, not looking to put in the hours for a marathon but instead blow off some steam with a 5K or after-work workout with a friend.
"Slip on these shoes to rev your run. As your breath quickens and your heart rate spikes, the Ultraknit upper hugs your foot to keep you secure yet light on your feet. Lay into quick turns with security from the locked-in ghillie lacing system fit."
HOKA ONE ONE Hupana$115 8 of 11
My favorite surprise of February was not the the end of the Oscars. It was, in fact, the HOKA Hupana. For a company whose reputation for building some wild-looking footwear is well-earned, the Hupana provides a refreshing and impressive move in the opposite direction.
HOKA has marketed this shoe as one that can (and should) be worn for far more than just running. I'll say this, the shoe's sleek appearance makes that easier to pull off than it would be for, say, the Arahi. Of course, most brands market "casual" shoes, but few of them are truly functional as anything close to a daily trainer. The Hupana breaks the mold in that regard, with supreme cushioning and surprising energy and resiliency at footstrike—thanks, in large part, to the sole that blends RMAT material with EVA foam rubber.
For the sake of objectivity, I should pull back on the reigns a bit with something negative, but I have no idea where I'd even start. The knit upper is supremely comfortable, the shoe looks fantastic (which was sort of the point for HOKA) and it's great for virtually any scenario I can imagine—from the local trail, to the treadmill, to your office.
"Named for the Maori word for "spring back," the HUPANA's responsiveness—due to its full RMAT midsole and outsole—creates a sensation of flying just above the ground. This feeling is reinforced by the ultra-breathability of the knitted upper. The Hupana is a shoe you can wear all day."
Weight: 8.2 oz. (men's)
Skechers GOrun Forza 2$115 9 of 11
Just "go run," right? That's exactly what this shoe allows you to do. It carries the runner with light but supportive constructs and doesn't impede or force anything. I was able to really connect with my runs without even considering the comfort or support of the shoe—it was a given.
If a narrow toe box is not an impediment, this is a great shoe for short-to-intermediate runs. I need a little more support for my long-run trainer, but I wear the Forza 2 for both running and HIIT training—an illustration of its versatility.
"Tackle the miles ahead in the Skechers GOrun Forza 2 stability shoe. It's lightweight, and responsive with added support to enhance your run. Molded heel counter and inner support strap provides a stable and secure fit."
Weight: 10.6 oz. (men's)
HOKA ONE ONE Arahi$130 10 of 11
The Arahi is a relatively lightweight, maximum cushion stability road shoe for medium-to-long distance runs. For having so much cushion, the shoe is surprisingly responsive, while providing excellent stability for runners that need it. The J-Frame technology on the sole effectively guided my stride without making me feel like it was forcing me to do something I wasn't used to.
During a few tempo runs, I was surprised that, with all of the cushion, I didn't feel like I was working hard to run faster. Initially, it seemed like there were springs in the sole, but as I put more miles on the shoes, the sole firmed up. This is a good thing, though, because that's when I felt like the shoe was most responsive.
I can see this well-constructed shoe lasting up to 600 miles—which is par for the course with HOKA. While it's obviously a great choice for someone who requires a great deal of stability, as someone who typically does not, I can tell you that the Arahi will cause you to re-think your preference.
"HOKA One One, known for its groundbreaking approach to running, tackles stability head on with the arrival of the Arahi. Shockingly lightweight and cushioned, the ARAHI redefines what is possible with a supportive shoe."
Weight: 9.3 oz. (men's)