We’re officially in summer ’20 now, but that doesn’t mean that reflective running shoes are passé. Even with longer days, many of us run at dawn or after sunset.
A 300+ Lumen headlamp and reflective clothing helps, but so do running shoes that reflect light from a distance. Being seen is a matter of road safety in urban areas. Motorists can pick up reflectivity from a few hundred meters away for better situational awareness.
There was a time when regular road and trail running shoes came with all the reflectivity that one needed. More often than not, the tongue label, logos, the heel, and even the outsoles had reflective trims.
Brands like Asics, New Balance, and Brooks continue to offer low-light visibility on their summer catalog but they’re nowhere close to 2013-14 levels.
To be fair to the brands, the evolution of the running shoe design hasn’t been kind to reflectivity.
Knit uppers were a rare sight 7 years ago. Today, most running shoes use a knit upper in some form or the other.
And when the shoe in question has a single-piece knit upper, it takes more effort to add a reflective layer. That’s not an excuse though. Products like the New Balance 890V7 prove that knit uppers and shiny bits can happily coexist.
Nike and adidas switched to knit uppers, and the rest of the industry followed suit. Companies like Asics and Brooks haven’t switched over their entire collection to the knit form factor – and that is partly the reason why some of their regular models can accommodate shiny trims.
To give credit where it’s due, Nike has always offered a seasonal assortment of running shoes that combines visibility elements with weatherized 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.
So far, Nike has been consistent with this winter release, and 2019 had the best Shield pack to date. Asics has also 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 versus being winter-friendly like how the Nike Shield is.
We also appreciate the fact that Asics’ approach is all-year vs. seasonal. You can find a Lite-show model any time of the year – even if it isn’t the latest model. And it’s evident from this guide; three Asics models make the cut here.
The adidas SolarBoost 19 reflective is also an option. Strangely, finding this running shoe was a bit of a treasure hunt because adidas makes no attempt to advertise this variant. The Alphaedge 4D sells in a reflective trim, but then that 3D-printed shoe is $200.
With the rest of the athletic footwear brands, shiny running shoes have been a sporadic affair. Saucony releases its ‘Runshield’ versions from time to time, but this guide doesn’t have any. New Balance occasionally does something for winter but we don’t see anything at this moment.
We recommend getting something from the Asics Lite-show or the Nike Shield pack. Most of those models offer a good blend of weather protection and low-light elements. If you want your reflective running shoe to do it all, then the Pegasus 36 Trail Gore-Tex is our top pick.
1) adidas SolarBoost 19 Reflective
Adidas has done a terrible job of advertising this particular SolarBoost; it hides in plain sight along with other non-reflective versions.
Though the luminous sections aren’t as blinding as the Asics Nimbus or Nike Shield, the stitching details, tongue label, and the heel inserts are helpful in low-light conditions.
This model isn’t weatherized – it is just a standard SolarBoost with shiny bits and pieces.
2) Asics Gel-Nimbus 22 Lite-Show
This is the shiny variant of the standard Nimbus 22. All parts – except for the reflective upper overlays – are shared across the models, so you get an identical ride character and upper fit. You make yourself more visible when running in the Nimbus 22 Lite-show, that’s all.
The reflectivity levels are similar to Nimbus 21 Lite-show. The double-layered mesh has shiny areas; additional low-light visibility elements are present on the rear and the tongue label.
We wish the Nimbus 22’s laces were reflective too. Interestingly, the GT-2000 8 and Kayano 27 Lite-Show (not on this guide yet) have special shine-in-the-dark laces.
3) Asics GT-2000 8 Lite-Show
The GT-2000 8 is Asics’ popular stability trainer, and it happens to be available in a reflective guise as well.
This is a shoe with plenty of forefoot visibility; the mesh underlays reflect light, and so do the tongue labels and laces. The heel only has a tiny shiny logo, but the rest of the upper compensates.
The ride is the same as the standard GT-2000 8. That means a firm forefoot with a relatively softer heel. There’s a medial-post included in the midsole, so if a traditional – and reflective – stability shoe is what you’re looking for, this is it.
3) Asics Gel-Kayano 26 Lite-Show
The Kayano is the more expensive and plusher version of the GT-2000. Just like the GT, the Kayano 26 has a medial post.
For the higher price, the Kayano has extra-everything. For example, the heel clip is molded, the mesh is more premium, and the forefoot gets Flytefoam Propel. Want to know more? We’ve covered the Kayano 26 in our detailed review.
The Lite-Show edition of the Kayano follows the GT-2000 format for reflectivity. The laces and forefoot mesh underlays are friendly for low-light conditions; the side logos get a reflective outline.
The Kayano 27 Lite-show is already available on Roadrunnersports, so expect a general release soonly.
4) Brooks Ghost 12
Unlike the Asics’ Lite-show collection, the Ghost 12 isn’t part of a special reflectivity pack. This is your regular neutral running shoe that gives more than just lip-service to night-friendly running.
Small areas on the toe-box and heel have high-viz trims, and that’s sufficient – as long as you also wear apparel that allows you to be seen from a distance.
May we point out that the Brooks Ghost 12 is an excellent daily trainer?
5) New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo
As noted in our review, the Fresh Foam Tempo shares many traits with the original Zante. Among them is their shared love for reflectivity. Unlike other running shoes that have reflectivity in seasonal or special editions, low-light visibility comes standard on the Tempo.
Though there’s not a lot of luminous bits on the upper, the large New Balance logos make running in the dark safer.
6) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Shield
With front, side, and rear reflectivity, the Nike Pegasus 36 Shield increases your visibility on the dark roads.
We also featured this model in our winter running guide due to its water-repellent upper and sticky rubber outsole.
7) Nike Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail GoreTex
The Pegasus 36 Trail is a dependable soft-roader. That means you can switch terrains between concrete and city parks without having to change your shoe.
But that’s not the reason why the shoe makes this list. This waterproof shoe also happens to be very reflective – the entire lacing panel shines bright when hit with light.
This is our top pick of this guide.
8) Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo Shield
The Turbo Shield is an expensive shoe, so don’t buy it merely because it’s reflective – you’ll find that in Nike models that do not cost as much.
It’s worth considering the Turbo Shield if a waterproof upper is what you need. Because this happens to be the only waterproof shoe in the Nike Shield pack – the rest are all water-repellent.