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  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

    Previous: 2014 Hot Weather Running Essentials

    1 of 7

    For rocky trails, smooth pavement, and everything in between.

    —Compiled by test director Justin Nyberg

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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    Brooks Transcend

    This is a big shoe with a narrow heel for smoother landings, “guide rails” that wrap around the midsole to correct pronation, and a thick midsole and wide outsole for big-time shock dampening. We loved the bounce of the Transcend ($160) for fitness runs, but the slow turnover was palpable, and the effect of the guide rails was… subtle. 9.6 oz; 8 mm drop

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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    Puma Mobium Elite V2 Beta

    How does a slim-fitting, lightweight trainer ($110) feel so plush? It could be the bungee-like spring built into the outsole (seriously), but we credit the wispy flex pattern in the forefoot, which lets the pads splay like a cat’s. Heel strikers should steer clear: only midfooters will be able to abide the block of foam in the heel. 7.4 oz; 8 mm drop

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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    Newton Distance Elite

    Built for the thin niche between a race shoe and a lightweight trainer, the Elite ($155) follows Newton’s proven formula: a barely-there upper, a low-to-the-ground midsole, and a block of four prominent lugs that protrude from the sole of the forefoot for hyper-efficient toe-off. Once testers got used to the lugs, this shoe became a team favorite. 5.9 oz; 2 mm drop

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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    ASICS Gel-FujiTrainer 3

    Foot security and agility are not the point here. This pillowy shoe ($100), which fits nearly all foot shapes, is about logging comfy miles on mild and rolling trails without completely sacrificing handling and responsiveness. Careful: floss-thin laces can create pressure points. 7.6 oz; 8 mm drop

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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    Scott T2 Kinabalu 2.0

    The Kinabalu 2.0 ($130) hits that sweet spot between zippy and protective. Well cushioned and with quick turnover, it impressed everyone who tried them, no matter her running style. The aggressive lugs didn’t spoil an extremely smooth roll, but we noted a wee lack of stability on dodgy turf. 8.8 oz; 11 mm drop

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

    Next Up: 2014 Women's Travel Essentials

    7 of 7

    Dynafit Pantera

    With a narrower last for women and unusually stiff flex, the Pantera ($140) is thick, firm, and highly supportive. It’s a bit harsh on packed fire roads but congenial on all-day runs (or hikes) in alpine terrain. Fast? Supple? No and no. This is a protective tank. 10.6 oz; 8 mm drop