pile of super shoes
Super shoe showdown (Photo: 101 Degrees West)

Super Shoe Showdown: The Best Racers Head-to-Head

We ran in 10 super shoes back-to-back and compared their feel and ride so you can narrow your search for the best model that fits your stride and preferences.

pile of super shoes

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The super shoe phenomenon is here to stay, after its controversial start. Now every top brand has models with light, thick, soft, bouncy cushioning, with curved rigid plates imbedded in a rocker foam midsole to modulate, enhance forward roll and produce levers, which, combined with the rebound of the super foam, lengthen your stride and speed you along with less energy loss than traditional running footwear. But which is the best for you?

After putting multiple miles on this year’s crop of super shoes, we noted that each had a distinct feel and ride that either synced with our stride or seemed to fight it, or at least lacked magic. In an attempt to define and compare those rides, we ran in 10 super shoe models back to back, doing 1 mile (Adam) or 1 fast-finish kilometer (Jonathan), in each. All miles were run on pavement, between 7 – 8:30 minutes per mile to approximate a citizen marathoner’s pace. Adam wore them in alphabetical order, Jonathan in reverse order.

Our impressions are personal, and differ, as each of us has a unique stride, mechanics and preferences. The overall trends for each, however, may help you narrow your search for the best shoe for you — one that complements your stride and creates magic.

Soft Score and Rocker Feel
For each model, we assigned a “Soft Score” which rates the amount we perceived the foam sinking in before rebounding, using 1 for the least deflection and 10 as the most. Plus, we present our best description of how the rocker feels underfoot.

The Showdown: 10 Super Shoes

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro super shoe
Adidas Adizero Adios Pro super shoe Photo: adidas
Price $200
Weight 7.9 oz.
Drop 8.5 mm
Soft Score 4
Rocker Starts late, past ball of foot — quick rolls off toes

Adam: The firm, rather turgid midsole foam invited high turnover and the curved shape of the rocker and plate pushed my toe-off to the big toe for a somewhat unstable medial launch that promoted upright running in these peppy, but not cushy, racers with a fit that is snug enough that I felt some pressure on my instep.

Jonathan: Overall Feel: Supportive cushion. The thick, semi-firm foam produces a sensation of contoured support under the heel and arch and stays thick all the way under the ball of my foot, providing a solid stance before the late rocker under the toes kicks in at the very end of my stride. Foam compresses under ball, particularly the big toe, and rebounds when pushing off the platform. 

Asics MetaSpeed Sky

Asics Metaspeed Sky super shoe
Asics Metaspeed Sky super shoe Photo: Asics
Price $250
Weight 7.0 oz.
Drop 5 mm
Soft Score 8
Rocker Starts early, before ball of foot — long, gradual curve

Adam: The ride was a cushy and bouncy one that made me want to go longer in these roomy, soft and absorbent shoes that had impressive stability on corners and didn’t feel as high profile as their actual stack height.

Jonathan: Overall Feel: Balanced and efficient. The foam is notably soft, but not sloppy. The long, gradual, rigid rocker seems to gather up the foam’s compression as I roll through the stride, then release as my foot extends behind and drives backward. Feels closer to ground than others without losing cushioning, and hugs foot comfortably.

Brooks Hyperion Elite 2

Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 super shoe
Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 super shoe Photo: Brooks
Price $250
Weight 7.6 oz.
Drop 8 mm
Soft Score 5
Rocker Supportive stance, then moderately-fast roll-off ball to toes

Adam: These are strong racing shoes with balanced comfort, efficiency, fit and comfort. Did not feel all that “super”– in both a good and bad way – with less bounce or spring from the foam/carbon plate combination; they are just promoters of straightforward turnover.

Jonathan: Overall feel: Smooth, stable speed. The foam falls right in the middle for softness and rebound — combining cushion and support from heel to toe — and the rocker speeds up turn-over but doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to fall on my face. I feel supported, cared for and able to keep clicking off an efficient stride for long miles. 

HOKA Rocket X

HOKA Rocket X super shoe
HOKA Rocket X super shoe Photo: HOKA One One
Price $180
Weight 7.4 oz.
Drop 5 mm
Soft Score 4
Rocker Starts gradually past ball of foot, accelerates toward toe

Adam: The upper comfort was notable, with a soft and secure foothold, and they ran like a top racing flat, albeit one that didn’t feel “super” or all that springy, other than welcoming a higher cadence and efficient turnover.

Jonathan: Overall Feel: Fast. The feel underfoot is a slight give with firmness underneath, like a wrestling mat. The plate feels straighter than others, until the fast roll under the toes. Ride a bit harsh until up on my toes, forwardly balanced, then they propel a quick, lively stride.

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2

New Balance Fuel Cell Elite 2 super shoe
New Balance Fuel Cell Elite 2 super shoe Photo: New Balance
Price $225
Weight 7.8 oz.
Drop 8 mm
Soft Score 8
Rocker Starts early, before ball of foot — long and gentle roll, slightly flexible

Adam: The v2 has outstanding energy return and delivered a cushy, soft, absorbing ride yet with rebounding giveback that made my stride longer, with a resilient, wide toe-box, non-constraining fit. 

Jonathan: Overall feel: Soft and smooth. A comfortable, plush ride from top to bottom. Feels too squishy until at speed — still sinks in but compression controlled by plate and long rocker channels rebound forward at end of stride. Encourages long strides extending out behind. 

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% super shoe
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% super shoe Photo: Nike
Price $275
Weight 7.4 oz.
Drop 4 mm
Soft Score 9
Rocker Starts early but gradually, accelerates under toes after zoom-air rebound platform

Adam: Way super! These make me run faster with more ground covered per step while stoking the impulse to step faster in these comfortable but tight uppers and some instability when cornering.

Jonathan: Overall feel: Boing! Like running on a trampoline — all bounce. Can hardly feel the rocker, can hardly feel anything as I bound along with an exaggerated stride on top of elevated platforms. Can’t help but run with a looong stride and slower cadence, which felt uncomfortable, yet pace was faster than I felt I was running. 

On Cloudboom Echo 

On Cloudboom Echo super shoe
On Cloudboom Echo super shoe Photo: On
Price $270
Weight 7.76 oz.
Drop 9 mm
Soft Score 3
Rocker Starts as weight moves over ball of foot, rolls quickly onto upturned toe 

Adam: Compared to the others, these felt flat, albeit with great turnover, a secure fit, all-foot comfort and a balanced ground feel so that, while lacking in super shoe qualities, they make a fine racing flat.

Jonathan: Overall Feel: Responsive, connected security. Can feel the pods compressing individually for a smooth, custom ride that feels more cushioned than the firm midsole would suggest. Great upper fit provides a sense of security. Little bounce, but speedboard underfoot encourages short ground contact time and a snappy turnover. 

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite super shoe
Puma Deviate Nitro Elite super shoe Photo: Puma
Price $200
Weight 6.7 oz.
Drop 8 mm
Soft Score 5
Rocker Starts just before ball of foot — moderately-fast roll, slightly flexible

Adam: These make running fast fun, what with a controlled spring that is predictable under foot and a secure fit that lacked extra room in the toe box.

Jonathan: Overall Feel: Smooth and light. The foam hits the sweet spot with a soft landing and quick rebound. The rocker is early, but slightly flexible so doesn’t force you forward — creating smooth rolling feel but less propulsive pop than others. Doesn’t rearrange stride, a well-cushioned racing flat feel.  

Saucony Endorphin Pro 2

Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 super shoe
Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 super shoe Photo: Saucony
Price $200
Weight 7.5 oz.
Drop 8 mm
Soft Score 8
Rocker Starts under ball of foot — rolls quickly as weight moves forward to toes

Adam: I was pleased to have these late in the test because they are a blend of many of the best qualities of super shoes with stride-lengthening zippiness paired with float, cushion, and an exceptionally comfortable upper.

Jonathan: Overall Feel: Soft roll. Soft landings give way quickly to forward roll and bouncy pushoff. Rocker engages just as weight moves to forefoot and isn’t too aggressive: feels efficient and unobtrusive while speeding stride — and pace.  

Skechers GOrun Elite Hyper

Skechers Speed Elite super shoe
Skechers Speed Elite super shoe Photo: Skechers
Price $190
Weight 5.7 oz.
Drop 4 mm
Soft Score 2
Rocker Starts just before ball of foot — rolls sharply with upturned toe spring

Adam: The lack of weight and springiness makes me want to burn it up in these, given the snappiness, especially for shorter distances and up to a half marathon — but probably not much further.

Jonathan: Overall Feel: Quick! Supercharged racer with a close to the ground feel moderated by just a bit of Hyperburst’s firm, protective cushion and quick bounce. Up-turned rocker kept me on my toes and turning over quickly — more fast than efficient, geared to shorter races.

From PodiumRunner
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Lead Photo: 101 Degrees West

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