This article has been updated with current models for November 2022. The New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V3 is a new addition. The New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon V3 has been removed.
In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Lightest everyday trainer: New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V3
- 3. Lightweight everyday trainer: Hoka Rincon 3
- 4. Lightweight everyday trainer: Hoka Mach 5
- 5. Lightweight everyday trainer: Saucony Kinvara 13
- 6. Lightweight marathon racer: Nike Vaporfly Next % 2
- 7. Lightweight marathon racer: Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
- 8. Lightweight speed trainer: Nike ZoomX Streakfly
- 9. Lightweight speed trainer: Brooks Hyperion Tempo
- 10. Lightweight speed trainer: New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo X V2
- 11. Lightweight trail runner: Brooks Catamount
- 12. Lightweight trail runner: Saucony Endorphin Edge
The easiest way to write this guide would be to compile a list of lightweight running shoes with their weights sorted in ascending order.
But that would be a completely pointless exercise, because that list would be full of impractical racing flats. A more effective approach is to group the shoes by use cases – in the same way how most of our other guides are structured.
If this piece was written a decade ago, most lightweight shoes would have featured injection-molded EVA midsoles with a token placement of outsole rubber.
Back then, running shoes had to conform to a strict weight budget – cuts made in one place had to be compensated elsewhere. Design and material cutbacks usually meant a compromise in performance or durability.
Those constraints do not apply to modern running shoes. Contemporary lightweight running shoes routinely match – and sometimes exceed – the median lifespan.
While the midsole foam materials have improved by leaps and bounds, a lightweight build is also a result of the upper and outsole. Single-piece engineered mesh uppers help reduce weight, as do thinner outsoles.
Thick outsoles made of superior rubber or flexible geometry are still the most durable kind. At the same time, brands use a combination of improved compounds and clever engineering to reduce weight without sacrificing durability.
For example, the Saucony Endorphin Speed V3 relies on thin, perforated lugs that flex together with the Pebax midsole. The New Balance Beacon 3 has 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, a shoe is deemed heavy if it exceeds 10 ounces.
In nearly all situations, a lighter running shoe is always better. Runners love the NB Fuelcell Rebel or Brooks Hyperion Tempo not just because they’re cushioned and versatile, but also how light and non-distracting they feel during runs.
Trail running shoes are an exception – removing things like the rock plate, a rugged outsole, and protective upper overlays affect the functionality. There are signs of progress though. Both the Brooks Catamount and Saucony Endorphin Edge use lightweight foam compounds for significant weight-related improvements.
As a side note, certain stability shoes cannot function without additional support features. Models like the Brooks Beast 20 or the Saucony Omni 20 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 and mileage-friendly running 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 last group has lightweight trail footwear.
Category 1: The lightest everyday trainers
1) New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V3
Despite its durability concerns, the Fuelcell Rebel V2 was the sleeper hit of 2021-22. By using the same midsole foam from the RC Elite, it managed to cut down its weight to just 7.2-ounces (204 grams).
And it wasn’t just about the weight. The soft and bouncy Fuelcell midsole made the Rebel extremely comfortable yet peppy enough for tempo runs. The Rebel V2 was the near-perfect 10K running shoe.
The Fuelcell Rebel V3 has reinforced the upper by using a more durable mesh and an inner sleeve.
The secure upper also carries forward some of the things we loved on the Rebel V2, like the soft tongue flap, padded heel collar, and lightweight mesh shell. Our comprehensive review has all the details about the newest Rebel V3.
Though the midsole has been redesigned on the 2023 model, it shares a similar ride character. In other words, this shoe can go fast without beating down the foot.
Weight: 7.4 ounces or 209 grams.
2) Hoka One One Rincon 3
There are a few reasons why the Rincon 3 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 to the EVA foam midsole.
There’s not a lot of layering on the upper either. A single-piece, mono-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 3 is a great example of a mileage-friendly shoe that is also lightweight. It doesn’t cost as much as other maximal Hoka models, so that’s a bonus.
Hoka has updated the Rincon 3’s upper and midsole, but the overall shoe shares a similar character as the V2.
There are some changes, though. The upper now has a racer-like tongue flap (the V2 had a padded tongue), and the mesh has larger in-built vents.
Weight: 7.7 ounces or 218 grams.
3) Hoka Mach 5
Despite the word ‘Mach’ in this shoe’s name, the Hoka Mach 5 is much more than just a speed shoe.
At 8.2 ounces, it weighs more than the Rincon, and even has a higher volume midsole.
The dual-density midsole also makes the ride quality more nuanced and fun. On top is a softer foam material that Hoka calls Profly+, and the base is a more supportive EVA foam layer that also doubles as the outsole. For comparison’s sake, the Mach 5 runs slightly softer than the Mach 4.
The absence of rubber lugs on the outsole keeps the weight low, as does the lightweight mesh upper that edits all the necessary trims. The snug-fitting upper (there’s an optional wide just in case) has a padded heel, but the tongue is a flat racer kind to reduce the bulk.
Weight: 8.2 ounces or 232 grams.
4) Saucony Kinvara 13
Last year, the Kinvara received a comprehensive redesign that made it closer to the original low-profile trainer concept. For example, the midsole got improved stability due to the wide flare. Nonetheless, the 12 retained the low-offset, medium-soft ride with the Kinvara versatility that everyone loves.
The Kinvara 13 carries forward the same sole design as the 12, so nothing has changed from a ride perspective. And if you are wondering whether it has a Pwrrun+ insole, the answer is no. Our full review has all the details.
There’s enough cushioning to make runs of most distances comfortable. At the same time, it’s not slow; the firm EVA foam is resilient and has ample ground feedback for tempo runs.
The lightweight upper is soft, breathable, and fits securely. The Kinvara 13 doesn’t have a full sleeve like the 12, but only a partial gusset.
Weight: 7.2 ounces or 204 grams.
Category 2: The lightest marathon racers
5) Nike Vaporfly Next % V2
This guide wouldn’t be complete without the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, would it? Its predecessor – the Vaporfly 4% – was the catalyst for the cushioned racer trend.
The second edition of the Next% has everything that made the first version a commercial success. The midsole contains a deep reservoir of soft and springy ZoomX foam that makes long-distance runs and races less punishing on the feet. To learn more about the Vaporfly, please read our detailed review.
And inside this cushy foam stack is a curved Carbon fiber plate adds delivers the transition-friendly snap. The ZoomX core is protected by front and rear outsole rubber pieces that offer reliable traction.
The Next% uses an incredibly lightweight upper that’s true to size and relatively spacious. The deconstructed upper disappears on the foot during a run.
All of these features are contained within a compact sub-7-ounce form factor.
Weight: 6.9 ounces or 196 grams.
6) Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
The 3rd edition of Saucony’s popular marathon racer is here, and it’s as lightweight and cushioned as ever.
Powering the soft and comfortable ride is a full-length PEBA foam midsole that Saucony calls Pwrrun PB. The name ‘PB’ is an obvious take on PEBAX foam, but is also a tongue-in-cheek reference for Personal Best.
Because that’s what the Endorphin Speed 3 is good for. The responsive midsole brings long-distance comfort to the table without adding excess weight, and the full-length Nylon adds the springboard-like snap under the heel and a transition-friendly roll to the forefoot.
In short, the Endorphin Speed 3 is an excellent running shoe that delivers an optimal blend of distance-friendly cushioning and tempo character.
The minimally-designed upper does its part in keeping the weight low, but without the trading fit security and comfort. Our in-depth review is here.
All of this is packed into a lightweight 8-ounce package.
Weight: 8.1 ounces or 229 grams.
(Note: The Endorphin Pro 3 is lighter than the Speed 3, but the latter is a more versatile option.)
Category 3: The lightest road racers and fast trainers
7) Nike ZoomX Streakfly
There are a couple of reasons why Nike’s newest lightweight racer weighs only 6.0-ounces for a half pair of US 9.
Most of the midsole is made of ZoomX – a PEBA foam that also helps the Vaporfly Next% keep its weight low. Even the forefoot outsole of the Streakfly is made of foam, with only the heel getting two thin lugs of hard rubber.
Over the lightweight midsole is a featherweight upper that uses a breathable mesh with no superfluous trims.
The ZoomX Streakfly is an excellent shoe for runs up to a 10K distance. The soft foam stack has sufficient ride comfort for mid-distance runs, whereas the embedded midfoot shank maintains transition efficiency. It’s not perfect, though – our detailed review explains why.
Weight: 6.0 ounces or 170 grams.
Also see: The New Balance SC Pacer – a lightweight (7.1-ounces) yet soft racing shoe with a Carbon transition plate.
8) Brooks Hyperion Tempo
For many years, the Brooks catalog consisted only of comfortable yet 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 Addiction, that’s quite the turnaround.
If it weren’t for the outsole rubber, the Hyperion could have been lighter. But the extra rubber makes the shoe durable and grippy, so all’s good here.
The 8-mm drop midsole plays a huge role in bringing the weight down. The ‘DNA Flash’ foam is akin to Skechers’ HyperBurst, so the ride quality is similar. The firm cushioning is friendly for long-distance and tempo runs alike.
The comfortable upper sticks to the basics. Interior plushness is all but absent, with foam padding and superfluous overlays kept to a bare minimum.
Our detailed review has all that you need to know about the Hyperion T.
Weight: 7.3 ounces or 207 grams.
9) New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo X V2
At just over 9 ounces, the Fresh Foam Tempo X isn’t the lightest of the bunch. After all, the Tempo shares the screen space with many 7-ounce hyper-shoes.
And yet, the Tempo X manages to hold its own among other lightweights.
This is a shoe that’s modeled on the Zante, so it packs a lot of the Z-shoe goodness.
The Fresh Foam X EVA midsole has a comfortable ride that doesn’t feel lacking under high-speed tempo runs. The newest iteration of the Tempo is a wee bit more responsive and lively because of the reformulated Fresh Foam X midsole.
The snug-fitting upper is smooth, comfortable, and complements the do-it-all midsole. For 2022, New Balance has updated the model with a brand-new upper with targeted areas of stretch and support.
Weight: 9.1 ounces or 258 grams.
Category 3: The lightest trail running shoes
10) Brooks Catamount
Cushioning tech from road running footwear is gradually making its way into trail shoes. As a result, outdoor running shoes are getting lighter. The Brooks Catamount is a case in point.
The Brooks Catamount uses the same midsole tech as the Brooks Hyperion, so the hyper-lightweight DNA Flash (Nitrogen-infused EVA foam) allows the Catamount to be cushioned yet versatile.
The shoe weighs just over 9 ounces, and that’s very respectable for a product that has a trail-worthy outsole and rock plate. The aggressive lugs made from the sticky rubber (TrailTack) compound deliver a sufficient bite, whereas the plate protects the foot from the pointy rocks and roots.
We’ve heaped praise on the Hyperion Tempo’s cushioning, and the same material equips the Catamount with supportive cushioning for the trails. The firm ride of the 6mm offset midsole has inherent stability for off-road runs with sufficient comfort for high-mileage trail runs.
The upper keeps the weight low by applying protective urethane films over a mesh exterior. The partial sleeve helps keep the debris out and secures the midfoot.
Weight: 9.3 ounces or 264 grams.
11) Saucony Endorphin Edge
Sure, the price of admission into the Endorphin Edge experience is high; this trail running shoe retails at $200. In return, what you get is a trail running shoe that excels on flat trails if speed and comfort are what you’re after.
The Endorphin Edge feels as if the Saucony Peregrine 12 and Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 were mixed in a blender. And the result is what you’d expect too.
While there are familiar bits like the Pwrtrac outsole with its 4 mm lugs and the lightweight yet protective upper, the midsole is unlike any other Saucony trail running shoe.
The Pwrrun PB works together with an articulated Carbon plate for a distance-friendly ride that is more adaptive than the road models. The forefoot plate has a split design for better ground feedback and power delivery.
Of course, the ride stability isn’t the best due to the soft and responsive midsole. That said, it’s a fair trade-off for the speed-friendly, yet comfortable ride experience over non-technical terrain.
Weight: 9.0 ounces or 255 grams.
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