Field Tested: Women’s Running Shoes
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
It's spring, so there are countless reasons to get out more. My reason? Running. My morning runs before work are becoming more enjoyable, now that I no longer have to struggle through the freezing dark of winter. I've also completely changed my running form, thanks to Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. Instead of landing on my heel, I now land on my forefoot, which makes it easier to push off in stride. It's murder on the calves at first–and requires much focus to change an old habit–but the results are worth it: lighter movement and a more engaged core, which translates into less aches and pains overall.
My new motto: Run easy, light, and smooth, as Caballo Blanco says. Here are two new trainers helping me to do so.
ASICS GEL-Kinsei 3: Now, I know that McDougall writes against well-cushioned shoes in his book, but I must admit, the GEL-Kinsei 3's cushioning is really nice. It feels like you're running on pillows. And the shoes are so lightweight that you can't blame them for any lack of speed on your part. The heel is jacked, and the sole has solid traction, which makes it good for trail running, but you'll notice the cushioning more when you're on asphalt or concrete, making these very good road shoes. The verdict: An incredibly comfortable and versatile pair of kicks. ($180; asicsamerica.com)
Nike Free 5.0: Nike is known for its fancy running shoes, but it decided to do a 180 when it hopped on the barefoot-running craze. The Free 5.0 is bare bones in design, and it's incredibly lightweight because there's not much material here. Even the heel is very basic; just a few grooves for a bit of traction. The style, like the design, is streamlined and classic. The tongue is only free on one side, so the shoe pulls on like a slipper. I decided to go with the whole bare-bones concept and ran the first few times without socks–made sense because the fit is snug, but I don't recommend it because you're likely to get blisters. There's minimal cushioning, so you can really feel whatever surface you're running on, which is fine when you're on dirt, but not so great when you're on the road or sidewalk because your joints will start to feel it. The verdict: Bare bones is good, but sometimes you miss some nice cushioning. ($85; nikerunning.nike.com)
ASICS Diabetic Crew Socks: These socks, like the GEL-Kinsei 3, are very plush. They really do feel like cashmere, as the company promotes. They're anatomically designed, come up to mid-calf, and supposedly aid circulation. They're thick, and they feel kind of loose because the yarn has a lot of give, but I haven't had a problem with blisters. The socks wick away sweat well, and the yarn has anti-microbial properties, so it won't start to smell even after you've been soaking it with your effort. I've used the socks for several runs without washing in between, and there's still no hint of odor. ($14; asicsamerica.com)