The lightest running shoes

by Solereview editors


This article has been updated with current models for November 2020. The New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon V2 and Saucony Switchback ISO have been replaced with their updated versions. The Nike Vaporfly Next% is a new addition. The Nike Pegasus Turbo has been removed.

The easiest way to write this guide would be to compile a list of lightweight running shoes with their weight sorted in an ascending order.

But that would be a completely pointless exercise, because that list would be full of impractical racing flats and little else. A better way is to group the shoes by use-cases – in the same way some of our other guides are structured.

If this guide was written ten years ago, most lightweight shoes would feature injection-molded EVA midsoles with a token outsole placement.

Back then, running shoes had to conform to a strict weight budget – cuts made in one place had to be made up elsewhere. Design and material cutbacks usually meant a compromise in performance or durability.

Not any more. In 2020, lightweight running shoes match – and sometimes exceed – the median lifespan.

Though midsole foam materials have improved a lot, lightweight shoes are also a result of the upper and outsole. Single-piece knit or engineered mesh uppers help cut down on weight, as do thinner outsoles.

Thick outsoles made of superior rubber (eg. adidas Continental and Saucony ‘Crystal rubber’) are still the most durable kind. At the same time, brands use a combination of improved compounds and clever engineering to reduce weight without a durability trade-off.

For example, the Pegasus Turbo 2 uses perforated thin lugs that flex together with the soft midsole. The New Balance Beacon 3 plugs small rubber lugs over what is otherwise an all-foam outsole.

Not long ago, 12 – 13 ounces was the acceptable weight range (refer to our 2011-2012 reviews) for a running shoe. Today, solereview will instantly dock a few points if a shoe weighs a sliver over 11 ounces.

In most cases, a lighter running shoe is always better. You’re carrying less weight for every mile of your run, thus making the shoe less distracting. Runners love the NB Beacon or Reebok Run Fast Pro not just because they’re cushioned and versatile but also how light they are.

Trail running shoes are an exception – removing things like the rock plate, a rugged outsole, and protective upper overlays affect the functionality.

Also, certain stability shoes cannot function without additional support features. Models like the Brooks Beast 20 or the Saucony Omni 19 have wide midsoles with raised rims and plastic stabilizers. Here, a lighter build will water down the functional proposition.

The bar for the ‘lightest’ tag isn’t the same for every category. It would be unfair to expect a cushioned, high-mileage oriented shoe to weigh the same as a racing flat.

This guide is divided into three categories. The first group contains cushioned running shoes suitable for daily runs to a marathon. All these shoes have a high-volume midsole for long-distance comfort.

The second category has road racers and speed-friendly trainers in them, and the third have a few trail running shoes.

Category 1: The lightest cushioned running shoes

1. New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon V3

A few years ago, the Fresh Foam Beacon burst into the running shoe scene from nowhere and instantly became a crowd favorite. Its lightweight cushioning made it very versatile. Depending on how one saw fit, the Beacon could be used as a daily trainer at moderate paces or the occasional slow day cruiser.

Making the said character possible was a thick stack of foam that added cushioning comfort without the excess baggage. The single-density midsole was also smooth and supportive, traits that all only made the Beacon more appealing. Even its 6 mm heel-to-toe offset was the sweet spot for most runners.

Now in its third iteration, the Beacon V3 retains the familiar ride quality that made it successful. Also present are the obligatory rubber lugs under the heel and forefoot.

The upper fits snugly in the front like the previous Beacons. The exterior receives a few cosmetic details as well as the flared heel design that runners have come to either love or hate.

Weight: 8.2 ounces or 232 grams.

2. Brooks Hyperion Tempo

Brooks ups its lightweight shoe game with the Hyperion Tempo. For years, Brooks’ assortment was based on comfortable but rather clunky products.

The Hyperion Tempo reverses that trend and offers a generously cushioned ride that is also lightweight. And by ‘light’, we don’t mean 10-ounces. The Hyperion weighs just a smidge over 7-ounces. For a brand that sells mega trainers like the Beast and Transcend, that’s quite the turnaround.

If it weren’t for the outsole rubber, the Hyperion could have been lighter. But the extra rubber does make the shoe durable and grippy, so it’s no loss.

The 8-mm drop midsole plays a huge role in dialing down the weight. The ‘DNA Flash’ foam is akin to Skechers’ HyperBurst, so the ride quality is similar. The firm cushioning is long-distance and tempo-friendly.

The snug upper is also unlike Brooks. Plushness is all but absent, with foam padding and aesthetically-pleasing overlays kept to a bare minimum.

Is the idea of the Hyperion Tempo original? No. But is it a lightweight and speed-friendly distance trainer? Yes.

Weight: 7.3 ounces or 207 grams.

3. Hoka One One Rincon

There are a couple of reasons why the Rincon weighs less than 8-ounces. This shoe sticks to the original Hoka template by minimizing the use of outsole rubber and leaving most of the cushioning work to the lightweight EVA foam midsole.

There’s not much on the upper either. A single-piece, single-layer mesh forms the outer shell to create a secure and smooth fit. The tongue and heel are lightly quilted to make things comfortable in the back.

The Rincon is a great example of a maximally-cushioned shoe that is also lightweight. It doesn’t cost as much as other maximal Hoka models, so that’s a bonus.

Weight: 7.7 ounces or 218 grams.

4. Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%

If there existed a hypothetical ‘cushioning per gram’ ratio, the Nike Vaporfly Next% would lord over all others. At less than 200 grams, the Next % packs an incredible amount of cushioning. It’s not just the mere presence of cushioning but rather the sheer quality of it.

The capabilities of the ZoomX and Carbon-plated midsole came to light when we reviewed the Vaporfly 4%. The Next % even goes further by increasing the foam volume while retaining the springy snappiness of the Carbon fiber plate.

The blend of lightweight cushioning and bounciness makes the Next % ideal for long-distance runs where ride comfort needs to be delivered in a speed-friendly package. The Zoom X foam keeps the feet fresh after many miles, whereas the rigid forefoot and Carbon plate promote fast turnovers.

A lot of the weight-related credit also goes to the upper. The thin ‘Vapor Weave’ synthetic shell weighs nearly nothing while providing a secure and comfortable fit.

Weight: 6.6 ounces or 187 grams.

Also see: The Nike Alphafly Next%.

5. Skechers GoRun MaxRoad Hyper 4

The MaxRoad Hyper 4 replaces the excellent MaxRoad 3 Ultra. Despite the use of the HyperBurst midsole, the V4 doesn’t have a weight advantage – perhaps it’s the thick and warm upper offsetting the gains?

Regardless, the Hyper 4 weighs just over 8-ounces; that’s respectably lightweight for a max-cushioned shoe. Do note that the Hyper 4 isn’t as soft as the outgoing V3. The bubbly HyperBurst foam has better responsiveness but lacks the plushness of the Max 3.

Weight: 8.4 ounces or 238 grams.

Also see: The Skechers GoRun Ride 8.

Category 2: The lightest road racers and fast trainers

1. Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro

At a retail price of $250, this shoe is frightfully expensive. But then, it’s rare for a racing flat to weigh 3.5-ounces (99 grams) and still manage to pack decent levels of ride comfort.

And what exactly does one get in return for that price tag? A featherweight Pebax foam (Floatride) midsole that is nowhere as harsh as traditional racing flats. There’s also a full-length, dual-stenciled outsole for phenomenal traction.

Topping all of that is a breezy upper that disappears over the foot.

2. Skechers GoMeb Speed 6 Hyper

The GoMeb Speed 6 Hyper isn’t in the same weight class as the Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro.

That said, a 5.2-ounce (147 grams) weight is an achievement – especially when you consider the full-length Goodyear-branded outsole.

The Hyper foam isn’t soft – its firm density works best on low-profile midsoles like the kind on GoMeb Speed. The lightweight midsole provides excellent feedback while protecting the foot from the landing forces. We see the Speed 6 as the ideal speed shoe for up to 10-mile distances.

As with most Skechers, the synthetic-feeling upper with a plastic heel clip isn’t perfect but there are no serious flaws either. The sizing fits small so we recommend to buy a half or full size larger. (US 9 = US 9.5 or US 10)

3. Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper

If hard-on-your-feet racing flats aren’t your preferred choice of footwear, buy the Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper. The latter isn’t a racing flat – it’s more like a speed-friendly shoe with lots of cushioning.

The Hyper Burst foam midsole provides an optimal mix of cushioning and responsiveness – all within a 6.4-ounce (181 grams) silhouette. If you’re planning to run longer while maintaining threshold speeds, then the Razor 3 is the right shoe for the job. The upper fits narrow and somewhat shallow.

Also see: Reebok Floatride Run Fast 2.

4. Saucony Kinvara 11

Except for the redesigned – and slightly snugger upper, the Kinvara formula hasn’t changed since the V10. The shoe still weighs below 8-ounces and has the low-drop, medium-soft ride that delivers the versatility everyone loves.

The midsole has changed to Pwrrun (from the last year’s EVA+) but the results are the same. There’s enough cushioning to make runs of most distances comfortable. At the same time, it’s not slow; the new foam is resilient and has ample ground feedback for tempo runs.

Weight: 7.8 ounces or 233 grams.

5. New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo

At just under 9-ounces, the Fresh Foam Tempo isn’t the lightest of the bunch. After all, the Tempo shares screen space with 3.5 Oz and 5.2 Oz marvels like the Reebok Run Fast and the Skechers Speed 6.

And yet, the Tempo manages to hold its own among other lightweights. This is a shoe that is modeled on the Zante, so it packs a lot of the Z-shoe goodness. The Fresh Foam EVA midsole has a comfortable ride that doesn’t feel lacking under higher speed tempo runs.

The snug-fitting upper is also comfort-oriented and a perfect fit for the do-it-all midsole.

Weight: 8.7 ounces or 247 grams.

Category 3: The lightest trail running shoes

1. New Balance Summit Unknown

The New Balance Summit Unknown replaces the Vazee Summit – this means that the Unknown is a lightweight trail shoe meant for speed-work. This shoe weighs less than 9 ounces but offers all the essentials.

The forefoot has a protective rock-plate, the upper has a synthetic toe-bumper, and the aggressively treaded rubber outsole does what it’s supposed to.

The midsole is constructed using dependable Revlite foam that balances cushioning with ground feel.

Weight: 8.6 ounces or 243 grams.

2. Saucony Switchback 2

On paper, the Saucony Switchback 2 is an updated version of the Switchback ISO. But this time, the changes go beyond name deep.

The Switchback 2 gets a rock plate that was missing on the ISO version. The midsole is also updated with the softer Pwrrun+ foam instead of firmer Everun, so the rock plate was necessary to counter the reduction in firmness.

The rock plate gives the Switchback increased versatility over the previous model. Trail runs are padded by the cushy Pwrrun+ stack whereas the pointy stuff is repelled by the over-sized plate. The outsole is made of a colony of sticky Pwrtrac rubber so traction is plentiful.

The redesigned upper carries forward the BOA lacing from the Switchback ISO but the rest of the exterior is brand new. The heel opening is a closed bootie instead of having a separate tongue. Also new is the flap that covers the foot, with the BOA lacing restricted to one side.

Because of this, there’s a lot more protection from the trail debris due to the reduction in exposed areas. On the flip side, runners with a high instep will find it difficult to enter the Switchback and find it tight around the ankles.

The changes in the midsole and upper results in the Switchback 2 losing a full ounce over the Switchback ISO.

Weight: 8.8 ounces or 249 grams.

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