2018 was an excellent year for new shoe releases and a lot of that momentum has pushed forward into this year.
Here’s what happened in the past year. adidas revamped their Supernova product lines and merged them into Solar. Brooks brought the DNA Loft to game day. Reebok surprised everyone with the Floatride. Nike brought the React and ZoomX foam into the mainstream. Saucony and New Balance made small but visible improvements to their existing line.
Yes, we know, it’s still spring so this guide is far from conclusive. We’ll update the list some time during this year. We chose just one shoe for each category based on the following selection criteria.
1) The relative ease of worldwide availability: Considering that over half of solereview’s audience lives outside North America, the featured models are from established brands rather than niche ones. Even limited releases from major brands are excluded. That’s the reason why you won’t see the Reebok Floatride Fast here. Or for that matter, brands like Hoka, Altra, Salomon, or On.
2) Price-value ratio: Except for the Brooks Beast, all the shoes have a US retail of $120 or less. At this price range, one gets all the important bits required in a running shoe without any compromise on performance. Not everyone can afford a $180 – 200 shoe.
3) Safe, non-polarizing choices: Some shoes tend to divide opinions. That’s why we recommend the Ride ISO over the Pegasus 35 – the full-length Zoom Air bag isn’t for everyone.
For the same reason, the Saucony Guide ISO 2 gets a spot instead of the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 or the Nike Structure 22.
4) Versatility: For a specific category, only one shoe should be able to do it all. It might not be a perfect choice – we understand that preferences on the ride comfort and interior room will vary. But if you choose a shoe from this guide, it’s a good place to start.
Frankly, we didn’t expect the list to be dominated by New Balance, Saucony, and Brooks, but here we are. We initially assumed that there would be a couple of adidas and Nike shoes here, but they came up short based on the selection factors.
1) Best everyday neutral running shoe: Saucony Ride ISO
The EVA midsole is firmer than other neutral trainers and it always has been so. This makes the Ride more useful on faster runs and not just the long/easy workouts.
There’re two stacks of foam above the midsole – the first being the Everun topsole and the second is the molded insole on top. This setup gives you a great blend of step-in softness and ride efficiency. The heel has an offset of 8 mm and the overall package weighs just under 10-ounces. That’s good a sweet-spot as any.
The ISOFIT upper is geared towards providing more comfort than the outgoing version, and it does. Soft-touch materials are used all around, and the addition of the sleeve with the ISOFIT update was a much needed feature.
2) Best everyday support running shoe: Saucony Guide ISO 2
If you’re buying the Guide ISO 2, you’re probably doing so with the hope that you get a supportive running shoe with a firm and cushioned ride. And you would have made the right choice, for the Guide is truly supportive yet comfortable.
The midsole is firm so the medial post isn’t conspicuous. It blends in perfectly with the rest of the shoe while doing its job as an additional support element. Since the Everun topsole started making its appearance, the Guide has acquired a bit of cushioned responsiveness.
The interiors are very comfortable, just like the Ride ISO. Except that there’re a few extra bits to make the fit more supportive. Like a different mesh. The inner midfoot gets a structured upper. And areas like the ISOFIT straps are reinforced with fused lamination.
Don’t be scared of the firmer midsole wedge. Just treat the Guide as a much firmer version of the Ride – for that’s exactly what it is.
3) Best max-stability running shoe: the Brooks Beast 18
C’mon. Do we really need to tell you about the Brooks Beast 18?
All 13 ounces of this shoe is designed towards making the ride as stable as possible. There’s a triple-density midsole with a medial post and an ultra-wide outsole footprint. The upper is packed with creature comforts such as plush lining materials and a breathable air-mesh.
The Beast has lots of ride comfort. The removable insole is perhaps the cushiest in its class, and the midsole and the blown rubber outsole adds lot of cushioning.
4) Best lightweight trainer: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Pursuit
Let’s be very clear; the Zante Pursuit is not the replacement for the standard Zante. This is an ounce lighter than the latter and it’s easy to see why. The snug-fitting upper is nothing more than a single piece of knit upper with a gusset.
There’s just enough cushioning packed within the low-profile midsole to pad your feet from getting beat up. The foam isn’t hard like the 1400 but similar to the original Zante – but around 30% less of it.
When the minimal upper and low-profile midsole is paired with the grippy outsole, you get a shoe which works perfectly for fast-paced training.
6) Best road racer: New Balance 1400 V6
There exists a spot between lightweight trainers and racing flats, and this is where the 1400V6’s at. The 1400 is much firmer and grips better than a shoe like the NB Zante, Asics Dynaflyte or the Saucony Kinvara. At the same time, its midsole and insole provides more cushioning than a racing flat.
6) Best road racing flat: New Balance Hanzo S V2
At the time of writing this review, the Hanzo S V2 is the best road racing flat, bar none. Not everyone will want to run a half marathon in these, that we understand. But if you need to set PR/PB’s on a 5K course, then get a pair of the Hanzo.
This hyper lightweight racing flat (almost, it’s got a 4 mm drop) has all the ideal bits. The forefoot lugs are super aggressive for grip and the thin Revlite midsole adds cushioning without getting in the way of ground feedback. A midfoot shank bridges the outsole for fast transitions.
By racing flat standards, the upper is super comfortable. The lightweight 6-ounce shoe disappears on your feet during runs – and that’s exactly how it should be.
7) Best Trail Running shoe: New Balance Summit Unknown
A good trail shoe is hard to get right, because many design features need to come together in the perfect proportions.
For example, if you provide too much protection, does it make the shoe too stiff and reduce proprioception? If the shoe has a cushioned midsole without a plate, will it stop the roots and pointy rocks from poking through?
And how do you add a sticky outsole and a durable upper design without increasing weight? And importantly, how does one pack everything together while not making the shoe too expensive?
All things considered, the New Balance Summit Unknown does a fine job at juggling many things simultaneously. To begin with, the Summit retails at $110. Which isn’t a lot given the fact that the shoe has a forefoot rock plate, a durable upper, and a full-length rubber outsole made of New Balance’s sticky compound.
Performance-wise, the Summit Unknown scores well in most areas. The outsole has excellent traction and there’s plenty of protection under and over the foot. The thin and firm midsole cushions the ride without robbing the shoe of the ground feel.
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