The season’s best trainers keep you moving through nasty weather.
New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi
Gear of the Year
Take these pages as proof that we’re in the midst of a running-shoe renaissance. They feature not only the best of our extensive test, but also some of the most creative designs we’ve seen in years. Like what? Try a midcut hiking boot that doubles as a legit trail runner. Or a roadie with a knit sock for an upper. Or the do-it-all maestro of the season, the Gear of the Year–winning Gobi. It’s a fast, energetic road-trail combo that delivers speedy responsiveness and quick turnover on pavement, as well as a solidly secure fit and light protection (16 millimeters of foam in the heel) on gravel roads and rolling hills. One day it logged 11 miles in the woods; the next it banked 200-meter repeats on the track. Only on steep, wet, rocky trails did we feel its limits, due to the low, smooth-rolling lugs and lack of a rock plate in the forefoot. But on dry, packed terrain, it was an absolute blast. “There’s just something magical about a shoe that feels good no matter what,” one tester said. 9.3 oz; 6 mm drop
Hoka One One Clayton
Best For: Speed with softness.
The Test: It’s worth a double take: 7.3 ounces? For a 24-millimeter stack of foam, that’s very impressive, and it gives the Clayton not only the deep-dish cushioning you expect from a Hoka, but also extremely quick turnover. Add to that the formfitting, minimalist upper and supportive, snappy midsole, and the Clayton pushes the limits of what a maximalist, high-mileage training shoe can be. No less than “one of the best all-around performance shoes of the season,” as one tester put it.
The Verdict: A recovery shoe that can crank. 7.3 oz; 4 mm drop
Nike LunarEpic Flyknit
Best For: Experimenters.
The Test: The LunarEpic Flyknit is a marvel of design—a thickly cushioned maximalist (27 millimeters in the heel) with only a compression sock for an upper. Like Donald Trump, the LunarEpic triggered some strong opinions, popping up at either the top or the bottom of testers’ lists. The upper is snug enough to keep the midsole locked in place. But that same knit had too much compression to wear for long. Then there’s the question of foul weather—with no rubber on the outsole, it craves dry pavement.
The Verdict: A fun shoe on cruisey days. 8.3 oz; 9 mm drop
Saucony Zealot ISO 2
Best For: Freewheeling comfort.
The Test: Like a good diplomat, the Zealot knows how to compromise without sacrificing too much. While it didn’t top our charts in terms of cushioning, speed, or responsiveness, it was the dependable shoe we reached for most often after the test wrapped up. Flexy and cushioned without excess, the soft foam midsole is sufficiently forgiving on long hauls but thin enough to keep the energy up. Since the weight is south of ten ounces, it never felt like a drag.
The Verdict: An admirably comfortable shoe that trucks along at a fair clip. 9.5 oz; 4 mm drop