Many brands offer high-viz running shoes in their seasonal catalog but they’re nowhere close to 2013-14 levels. Asics is an exception; even their standard models perform very well from a reflectivity standpoint. New Balance isn’t bad either.
To be fair to the brands, the evolution of running shoe design hasn’t been kind to reflectivity.
Knit uppers were a rare sight a decade ago. Then Nike and adidas switched to knitted uppers, and the rest of the industry followed suit.
It requires greater effort to add a reflective layer on a single-piece knit upper. That’s not an excuse though. For example, the New Balance 1080V12 proves that a knit upper and shiny bits can happily coexist.
To give credit where it’s due, Nike was the first to offer a seasonal assortment of running shoes that combined high-viz elements with weather-proof features like water repellency.
It is called the Shield collection, though there were a couple of years when it was called the ‘Flash.’ You can read our review of the 2011 Nike Lunarglide Shield here to get a sense of how far back this goes.
Though Nike sells the Pegasus 38 in a shield variant, we haven’t included it on this guide. Though Pegasus 38 Shield has a wind and water-resistant upper, it’s nowhere as reflective as it needs to be.
Nike still makes an appearance on this page, thanks to the Vaporfly Next% 2 and its mega-reflective logo.
Asics has been selling a reflective pack called the ‘Lite-show’ for over 7 years now.
Everything about the Lite-Show assortment is reflectivity for running in the dark, which is a contrast to the winter-friendly approach of the Nike Shield. For example, most Nike Shield products are water-repellent and warm; Asics Lite-Show shoes are not.
However, Asics now sells the AWL (All Winter Long) variant in some of their popular models. These versions combine warm and water-repellent uppers with reflective trims.
Asics’ reflective running shoe strategy is to sell them perennially rather than making a seasonal push. You can find a Lite-show model during any time of the year – even if it isn’t the latest model. And it’s evident from this guide; five Asics Lite-Show models make it to this list.
The adidas is a hit or miss since it lacks a consistent strategy with regards to running shoe reflectivity. They sell a ‘Cold.RDY’ collection (previously known as Winter.RDY), but the products focus on thermal insulation rather than high visibility. The performance benefits are somewhat similar to the Nike Shield assortment.
A few adidas models have some reflectivity than the others, but it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack – those shoes are all over the place.
For this guide, we have included just one adidas product – the Terrex Speed Ultra. Since we did not have a trail running shoe on this list so far, this reflective adidas trail shoe adds value.
Brooks came up with the ‘Run visible’ collection a couple of years ago, and the Ghost 14 has been updated with the reflective treatment. We expect other reflective Brooks models to follow soon.
We recommend getting something from the Asics Lite-show pack. Most of their models offer a good blend of everyday versatility and high visibility elements.
The Asics Lite-Show models are spread across multiple categories – be it plush neutral cushioning (Nimbus) or traditional stability (Kayano). This way, there’s a reflective Asics shoe for most run types.
It’s also worth noting that there’s no up-charge for the shiny Asics models over the standard-issue version.
1) New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 V12
The New Balance 1080 V12 is one of those rare running shoes that have an abundance of high-visibility elements. We call it rare because most brands are now selling a reflective version of their popular model for additional business.
Thankfully, New Balance hasn’t gone that way, not just yet. The standard 1080 V12 has not just one, but three different reflective placements. The largest trim is the molded logo on the midfoot, followed by smaller pieces over the heel and forefoot.
The high level of reflectivity makes the 1080V12 excellent for low-light conditions. But that’s not the only reason why one should buy the 1080.
The deep cushioning reservoir of the high-volume midsole makes high-mileage runs easy on the feet. Our comprehensive review has everything that you want to know about this shoe.
The cushioned 1080 V12 is no slouch, either. The rocker-shape midsole and the resilient foam work together to make everyday runs peppy, so this shoe isn’t just for lazy runs.
2) Asics Gel-Nimbus 24 Lite-Show
The reflectivity on the regular Nimbus 24 isn’t bad at all, so the Lite-Show version performs even better under low visibility conditions.
In addition to the reflective heel strip, the side logos of the Nimbus 24 Lite-show also happen to be reflective. The bright, fluorescent color scheme also helps make the shoe visible.
Most of the Lite-Show model’s high-viz action takes place around the midfoot; both the inner and outer logos are reflective. Since they span across 3/4th of the shoe’s side profile, they also deliver uni-directional reflectivity.
We wish that the laces were reflective too. Interestingly, the GT-2000 9 and Glide Ride 2 Lite-Show have shiny laces. So we’re not sure why Asics would edit that component on the more expensive Nimbus 24 and Kayano 28.
The Lite-Show Nimbus shares an identical sole unit with the standard Nimbus, so it delivers the same plush ride that makes long-distance runs extremely comfortable. The Nimbus 24 has a brand-new Flytefoam blast midsole that results in an engaging ride experience.
For what it’s worth, the Nimbus 24 feels faster than the 23 due to the reformulated midsole. It’s still an excellent running shoe for long-distance cruising and everyday runs. Our deep dive on the Nimbus 24 can be found here.
3) Nike Vaporfly Next% 2
There’s only one reason why the Vaporfly Next% 2 makes it to this guide. Well, make that two reasons, since we refer to the two reflective Swoosh logos on the lightweight upper.
The Vaporfly uses what’s called is a ‘media logo’ in the marketing industry. These giant logos are meant to be clearly visible on video during a race-day performance, a trend that made its debut on Nike’s football boots.
Anyway, we digress. The oversized Swoosh logo on the upper reflects light in the dark, thus making the Vaporfly Next% visible during dawn and dusk.
As for the rest of the shoe, most of you know the spiel by now. The soft and bouncy ZoomX foam midsole contains a Carbon plate to deliver its signature responsiveness. This 6.9-ounce marathon racer also delivers an exceptionally high cushioning-to-weight ratio. Our wear-tested review of the Vaporfly Next% 2 is here.
4) Asics Gel-Kayano 28 Lite-Show
A reflective running shoe with an old-fashioned medial post; there aren’t many of them around, are they? The Kayano 28 Lite-Show is a traditional stability shoe that also has high visibility bits.
Many recent Asics running shoes have made their cushioning softer, and the Kayano 28 is no different. It may not be as plush as the Nimbus 23, but it’s noticeably softer than the V26 and slightly more so than the V27.
This is a supportive 11-ounce shoe, so it feels heavier during runs when compared to the lighter GT-2000 10.
The upper is typical Kayano. The fit and feel are made comfortable by a plush lining and quilted foam pockets. But it shines during runs in low lighting conditions; the intensely luminous upper makes it easy to be spotted from afar.
5) Asics Gel-Kayano 28 AWL
AWL – short for All Winter Long is Asics’s answer to adidas Cold.RDY and Nike Shield. The AWL version of the Kayano 28 is a winterized version of the popular stability trainer.
Unlike the ‘Lite-Show’ Kayano that focuses just on the reflective aspect, the AWL is not only reflective, but has a water-repellent upper along with a suite of features that’s appropriate for cold weather.
Take for instance, the bungee cord lacing of the upper that is easier to operate with gloved hands.
The ripstop-like upper mesh has wind and moisture blocking properties. The fused toe-bumper blocks the cold splashes from entering the shoe; the fluorescent and reflective trims are helpful in low-visibility conditions.
Just like the standard Kayano, the Flytefoam midsole has a medial post. The ride experience is identical to the road Kayano 28; long-distance comfort is delivered with a hint of motion control.
There’s no price upcharge over the road model.
6) Asics Gel-Cumulus 23 Lite-Show
The Lite-Show variant trails the regular Cumulus by almost half a year, so here’s the high-visibility variant of the Cumulus 23 and not the Cumulus 24 that was released earlier this month.
After all, the Nimbus 24 and Kayano 28 are already accompanied by their reflective editions. That means that the Cumulus 24 Lite-Show should show up in fall.
Except for its florescent color scheme and reflective details, the Lite-Show version has an identical ride and fit quality as the standard Cumulus 23.
The Flytefoam midsole has a soft consistency throughout its length that delivers ride comfort without feeling mushy. Though the upper doesn’t have an inner sleeve, the insides are smooth and true to size.
To sum up, the Asics Cumulus 23 is a safe, do-it-all daily trainer as long as you aren’t pushing the boundaries of speed and distance.
7) Asics GT-2000 10 Lite-Show
The GT-2000 10 is Asics’ popular stability trainer, and it also happens to be available in a reflective guise.
The GT 2000 is a toned-down and $30 less expensive version of the Kayano 28. As both the GT-2000 models share the same ride and fit quality, our review of the non-reflective GT-2000 10 is a relevant read.
This is a shoe with plenty of visibility, as most of the exterior has various light reflecting trims. Even the laces are the high-visibility kind along with luminous cut-outs on the heel.
The ride is the same as the standard GT-2000 10; the midsole has a supportive forefoot with a softer heel. There’s a firmer medial post on the inner midsole for the traditional stability shoe experience. Asics doesn’t advertise the firmer wedge, but it does exist.
8) Asics Glideride 2 Lite-Show
We have reviewed both the Glideride V1 and V2, and we loved its unique ride quality that blends a high level of ride comfort with quick transitions. The foam density isn’t overly soft, so the midsole is very supportive and neutral.
The thick Flytefoam stack creates a cushioned foundation for high-mileage runs. Inside the dual-density midsole is a Nylon plate that allows the foot to roll forward during the final stage of the gait cycle. The GlideRide is an apt name, alright.
The reflective upper locks the foot in plush snugness. High visibility elements are abundant on the upper. The laces, logo, and even the heel trims reflect light during the dark to ensure 360-degree coverage.
9) Brooks Ghost 14 Run Visible
Brooks is slowly warming up to the idea of making its reflective collection semi-permanent, similar to how Asics and Nike do it.
We’ve seen the ‘Run visible’ pack for a few seasons now, so Brooks appears intent on making the reflective shoes a regular part of its catalog.
We haven’t included the Glycerin 19 Run Visible for the sake of brevity, but just know that it’s an option as well. The Glycerin is to the Ghost what the Asics Nimbus is to the Cumulus – a cushier version with a plusher upper.
But if we had to pick just one shoe of the two, it’d be the Ghost 14. The one-piece midsole has just the right mix of cushioning and smooth transition that’s delivered in all its neutralness. This makes the Ghost 14 very versatile; it could easily be the one running shoe to do everything.
The soft and smooth upper of the Ghost 14 Run Visible is crowded with reflective trims. The logos are shiny, and so are the midfoot and heel details. The laces also contain high-viz specks.
It’s worth highlighting that the Run Visible variants use the same upper materials as their road models. This means that the ventilation levels are unaffected, unlike the Nike Shield or adidas Cold.RDY products. This is not a flaw, but an FYI for runners who run in warmer weather.
10) adidas Terrex Speed Ultra
The adidas Terrex Speed Ultra is an excellent trail running shoe, reflective or not.
This speed trail runner weighs under 9-ounces without compromising on performance. A Boost foam core delivers a tried-and-tested cushioning and does not stiffen in the cold. A firmer EVA frame contributes stability and quickness to the ride.
The Terrex Speed uses a full-length Continental rubber outsole with an aggressively lug geometry for dependable traction. Though the midsole lacks a rock plate, the rubber outsole acts as a protective shield and delivers proprioceptive feedback.
This is a speed-running product, so the upper balances a minimalist design with protection. The thin tongue is lightly padded and perforated for comfort and ventilation; the exteriors use strategically placed overlays for reinforcement.
However, the real reason why the shoe features here is its additional reflectivity. The 3-stripe logo detail is reflective, and so are the laces.