Earlier this month, the Reebok brand changed hands.
While it currently remains within the house of adidas, the ownership will eventually transfer to the Authentic Group in 2022.
The deal raises questions about Reebok’s future direction, and its running shoes in particular.
If a shoe giant like adidas failed to make Reebok work, then it seems obvious that the Authentic brand group would adopt a different strategy to make Reebok commercially successful.
At this time, it’s not known whether performance running shoes are an important part (or not) of the said strategy.
Just a few years ago, the future of Reebok running shoes looked bright. The lightweight PEBA-based Floatride midsole quickly found its way into several winning products.
Reebok also replaced its terrible ‘Delta’ logo with the classic Vector stripes that were synonymous with the brand. The classic Reebok logo has a strong visual impact – enough to transform the external appearance of the line-up.
The now-discontinued Floatride Ultraknit was Reebok’s wedge against the Ultraboost; we even compared the shoe with the Nike ZoomX Invincible. Then there was the excellent duo of the Run Fast Pro and Run Fast – the racer and speed trainer, respectively.
These two shoes still exist in the line-up, so they feature on this guide.
Finally, there’s the under-stated Floatride Energy – a $100 running shoe that quickly won over a large population of runners. Its expanded Polyurethane midsole delivered resilient and durable cushioning that didn’t feel lazy. This ride character made the Floatride Energy the perfect everyday trainer that made other $100 running shoes look like rip-offs.
We have a soft spot in our heart for Reebok, and we hope that the Authentic brands group turns this brand around. It also needs to go beyond the adidas strategy of relying on retro sneakers and classics.
Reebok has so much potential.
Between the late eighties and early 2000s, Reebok used to be a powerful force in the athletic footwear industry. And we aren’t talking just about running shoes; Reebok had deep investments in categories like basketball, tennis, cross-training, aerobics, and lifestyle footwear.
The ’90s were the golden period for Nike and Reebok, an era of hype and innovation. Footwear tech like Reebok Pump, DMX, and Hexalite went head-to-head with different versions of Nike Air. The Air Jordans competed with signature Reebok Allen Iverson basketball shoes. And who can forget the Reebok Shaqnosis?
And it went far beyond loud marketing. At one point, Reebok used to make excellent running shoes. First released in 1993, Reebok’s excellent Aztrec runner was a worthy competitor to the Nike Pegasus. Ditto for the 1992 Pyro. Reebok also introduced single-piece EVA midsoles to the market with the 3D Opus, Electrolyte, and Areeba.
You get the idea – Reebok, like adidas and Nike, played an important part in shaping the sports footwear industry as we know it today. We hope that Reebok’s new owner builds on that foundation.
On a side note, if you like reading about the history of the sports shoe industry or shoes in general, we recommend this guide on footwear literature. We have curated a list of books on this topic – collectively, these books cover the stories of the large brands and then some.
Given the circumstances, there’s not much to say about the current Reebok assortment. Most of it – including the Floatride Energy and Run Fast models – are updated versions of what existed the year before.
There are a couple of Floatride Energy variants like the ‘Grow’ version that’s made partly of sustainable materials, and the reflective version that appears to be currently out of stock.
The ‘adventure’ edition of the Floatride Energy 3 is an outdoor-ish spin on the road model. However, it is strictly a ‘soft roader’ that’s suited only for easy-grade trails.
There are new models like the $80 Liquifect Spring (an Asics Gel me-too), but we prefer to leave them out of this guide for now. As our budget option, we recommend the $65 Energen Plus.
Also excluded are shoes like the Floatride Energy Daily; after all, why settle for an E-TPU heel when one can get the superior Floatride Energy for just $10 more?
Before diving into the write-up, it is important to know the difference between the two versions of Reebok’s ‘Floatride’ foam. The lightweight Pebax foam is used on the more expensive models like the Run Fast and Pro.
The Pebax formulation makes the shoe lighter and softer as compared to the lower-priced models like the Floatride Energy 3 that use a heavier e-TPU foam.
Reebok has a lot of flab in its running shoe assortment, so here’s our curated pick of the top six Reebok models. We’ve prefixed each shoe with its use-case so that it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
1) Daily neutral trainer: Reebok Floatride Energy 3
Though the 3rd edition of the Floatride Energy 3 has been completely redesigned from the ground up, it retains all the traits that have made the series so successful.
Powering the midsole cushioning is a full-length stack of Floatride tech – an expanded Polyurethane foam that has built its reputation on other shoes like the adidas Ultraboost and Saucony Triumph.
However, Reebok’s version of E-TPU is firmer, and that means that the relatively low-profile design of the Floatride Energy 3’s midsole is a happy meeting place of many performance attributes.
The blend of cushioning, mild responsiveness, and smooth transitions make the shoe extremely versatile; use it as your daily trainer or long-distance shoe.
Just like the first two iterations, the FE3’s snug upper fits a bit long. The asymmetrical/skewed lacing free up space inside the forefoot. The price stays at $100, so the shoe continues to be an excellent value proposition.
2) Soft-roading trail runner: Reebok Floatride Energy 3 Adventure
This is not your do-it-all trail running shoe. It’s merely a more robust version of the road model, and that means design elements like the thicker upper layering add a higher level of protection for a $10 up-charge.
It’s not all that different from how Asics design its GT-2000 trail shoe. Which is, reinforce the upper while making the overall color scheme dirt-friendly.
Besides the reinforced toe-box, there are other outdoor-friendly components. To be specific, we’d like to call out the durable quick-drain mesh and thicker tongue along with the round, hiking-type laces.
There’s no difference between the midsole and outsole of the road vs. adventure models, so the ride behavior is identical. Its design limits make the Floatride Energy adventure good for mild trails that do not comprise difficult terrain.
For hardcore trail runs, we recommend performance trail running shoes.
3) Affordable neutral trainer: Reebok Energen Plus
Though this $65 shoe is very basic, it qualifies as a proper running shoe. A mono mesh shell makes up most of the narrow-fitting upper, the tongue included. The Reebok logos give the upper the support it needs, as well as adding styling appeal.
Unlike the more expensive Floatride Energy 3, the Energen Plus uses standard EVA foam (aka the Fuel Foam) midsole to deliver firm and stable cushioning.
Some step-in softness is available in the shape of the die-cut Ortholite insole, but the rest of the midsole has a flat ride character.
Despite its entry-level pricing, the shoe gets a full rubber outsole that delivers satisfactory traction and durability.
4) Daily neutral trainer: Floatride Energy Symmetros
Till the summer of last year, the Floatride Energy was the only Reebok running shoe with a full-length Floatride (e-TPU) midsole.
The Floatride Energy Symmetros amends that situation. Like the FE-3, it has a Floatride midsole but in a higher-volume avatar. There’s more of the resilient foam under the foot, thus making the Symmetros’s ride cushier.
That said, the Symmetros is a very different shoe than the FE-3. The thicker stack makes it softer but also gives it a carefree character; one that feels at home during long and easy runs. The transitions are smooth due to the pronounced heel bevel.
The dual-zone outsole – which is harder in the rear and softer under the forefoot – provides sufficient levels of traction.
The upper is OK. There was no need to make the heel collar with stitched edges – that just increases the risk of Achilles rubbing. Like the FE3, the lacing begins far away from the front, so the fit runs a bit long.
5) Cushioned Speed Trainer: Reebok Floatride Run Fast 3
The Floatride Run Fast 3 is one of the two performance running shoes (in Reebok’s line) that uses the lightweight Pebax foam.
Its low-profile midsole makes it an incredibly lightweight fast trainer; the Run Fast is easily the best in class. It’s also worth mentioning that the adidas Boston is no longer the low-profile trainer it used to be, so the Run Fast 3 offers unique utility value.
The featherweight Pebax foam has a high cushioning to weight ratio that makes it disappear during runs. Stability isn’t a trade-off here; the firm EVA frame on top adds stability.
A speed run isn’t the only act that the Run Fast 3 is capable of. There’s enough cushioning and outsole to make it versatile enough for daily runs – if your current shoe feels too clunky, that is. The aggressive lug geometry of the outsole results in excellent traction.
Shoes of this category fit snug, so expect the same of the Run Fast 3. Other than that, the insides fit smoothly with sufficient ventilation.
6) Hyper-light Racing Flat: Reebok Run Fast Pro
When selecting a pair of racing shoes, you can go two ways. Experienced runners who can do with minimal cushioning prefer racing flats – or some version of it. The other approach is to get a shoe with abundant cushioning – some of them even have Carbon plates.
If you are in the first group of runners and have $250 to spend, there is no better flat than the Reebok Run Fast Pro. This isn’t to say that there aren’t other great flats – but the Run Fast Pro does a lot of things better.
The midsole material has a significant advantage over others in this category. By using Pebax foam for its midsole, the Pro’s ride is nowhere as jarring as flats with EVA-based midsoles. The Fast Pro offers an unbelievable amount of responsive cushioning for – hold your breath – its 3.6-ounce weight.
Apart from the inherent lightness of the Pebax foam, you can see where the weight-saving measures have been deployed. The snug upper is a breezy set-up with only a minimal amount of heel padding. There’s a full outsole that uses directly injected lugs to reduce bulk while making the underside sticky.
If money is no object, this is the ultimate racing flat pick. Our full review is here.