Saucony Kinvara 3 Shoes
BEST FOR: Hard training.
THE TEST: The latest iteration of the Kinvara, one of Saucony’s most popular shoes, has a lighter, stretchier, comfier upper. To improve durability, Saucony also reinforced the outsole in strategic places with higher-density rubber. Otherwise, it kept everything the loyalists like: the light weight, 4-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, and perfect amount of cushioning—just enough for long runs, but not so much thatit interferes with midfoot strikes.
THE VERDICT: A smart update in a wicked-looking package. 7.7 oz; 4-mm heel-to-toe drop.
New Balance 870v2 shoes
BEST FOR: Mild overpronators who need a daily trainer.
THE TEST: New Balance claims the 870v2’s midsole lends the shoe a “unique smoothness.” The claim had us scratching our heads, but the 870v2 had us ticking off miles. A small medial post stabilized overpronators, and the moderate 8-millimeter drop didn’t bother midfoot-striking testers, although heel strikers liked this shoe best. The low-profile outsole is especially grippy on rainy days, even if the upper isn’t waterproof.
THE VERDICT: Ideal for long-distance heel strikers who mildly pronate. 10.6 oz; 8-mm heel-to-toe drop
Brooks Ghost 5 shoes
BEST FOR: High-mileage heel strikers.
THE TEST: The thickest-cushioned shoe here, the Ghost 5 performs best when your form starts breaking down—at the end of a long run when your legs have turned to Jell-O. But it’s no slouch when you’re fresh, too, and testers were impressed with how flexible the forefoot was, making for a surprisingly springy ride. While midfoot strikers found the elongated crash pad in the heel a bit cumbersome, neutral heel strikers appreciated the boost.
THE VERDICT: Capable on a range of runs, as long as you’re landing heel first. 11.2 oz; 12-mm heel-to-toe drop.
Merrell Bare Access shoes
BEST FOR: Runners transitioning to full-on minimalism.
THE TEST: Many true minimalist shoes in this weight range have around four millimeters of cushioning; the Bare Access has eight. In addition to that (relatively) plush amount of padding underfoot, the Bare Access has a wide, ultracomfy toe box, creating a sweet ride for long runs and everyday jogs alike. The downsides to that construction: some testers found the cushioning a bit firm; others wanted more flex in the midfoot.
THE VERDICT: Takes the sting out of concrete sidewalks. 5.9 oz; 0-mm heel-to-toe drop
Inov-8 Road X-Lite 155 shoes
BEST FOR: Dry-weather road racing.
THE TEST: Like most minimalist shoes, the 155 is ultralight (6.2 ounces) and nearly flat (a three-millimeter heel-to-toe differential), with a largely mesh upper. Unlike the majority of them, the 155 is designed specifically for road racing, which means no spacious forefoot or hard rubber underneath. Instead, you’ll find a snug forefoot and soft outsole, which makes for exceptionally responsive toe-off. Our one concern: while road feel was excellent, punctures from glass and burs had us questioning durability.
THE VERDICT: Our top lightweight race shoe. 6.2 oz; 3-mm heel-to-toe drop
Reebok RealFlex Speed shoes
BEST FOR: Heel strikers with one foot through the minimalist door.
THE TEST: The RealFlex Speed is a tweener. While it’s respectably light (just over ten ounces) and offers a full range of motion through the forefoot, it has a more traditional nine millimeters of drop and moderate cushioning under the heel (21 millimeters, compared with the Bare Access’s eight). The result is a blend of flexibility and support that hit the sweet spot for midtempo runs in the five-to-ten-mile range.
THE VERDICT: Better for everyday training runs than for speed work or races. 10.1 oz; 9-mm heel-to-toe drop.