Road Runners

New Balance 902

New Balance 902     Photo: Photo by Mark Wiens

Speed of Light
Eight testers. Twelve weeks. And a combined 3,800 miles logged on pavement, concrete, and smooth dirt paths in and around Boulder, Colorado. We put this year's best new road shoes through their paces, and then some. You get: The final word on the latest innovations—like improved rear-foot cushioning and motion control, and the no-compromises weight-cutting achieved by the Gear of the Year New Balance 902. Read on for complete reviews of the season's ten top models. Whether you're a high-cadence speedster or a high-mileage jogger, you'll find your running mate here.

New Balance 902 (10.1 oz) $100 newbalance.com
1. A handful of shoes boast construction this light, but most are minimalist racing flats without much structure. Not so with the 902. Thanks to new-tech, lightweight materials—in the cushioning, foam, and even the breathable mesh of the upper—the 902 supports your foot better than many midweight shoes.

2. The outsole is broken into segments to minimize weight and maximize flex. Where you need extra cushioning, along the medial side of the heel and the forefoot, you'll find greater amounts of soft blown rubber. Higher-wear areas, like the heel-strike pad, are reinforced with a more durable compound.

3. Every tester was impressed with the 902's support-to-weight ratio, but it was our most nimble runners—those with efficient, upright running form—who got the most out of the shoe's cushioning. "To have a lightweight trainer with this much cushioning is astounding," said one tester.

4. The bane of most lightweight shoes is often tongue migration or bite. The 902 solves that problem with a smartly positioned soft foam insert and a secure daisy-chain lace guide. And, because the tongue is also lined with a moisture-wicking fabric, testers never complained of sweaty feet.

5. The 902's fit is snug and lean, but not spartan. An exoskeleton support system offers lateral support, which is why testers loved this shoe in varied terrain. "You can slam the downhills with abandon," noted one tester, "but it won't bog you down on the flats." Bonus: The 902 is available in multiple widths.

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