The Best Kicks of Summer 2014
From superfat to ultrathin, these are the best new sun-season road runners.
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You can practically swim through the humidity and there are tsunami heat waves rising off sticky tar roads. But that’s not going to stop you from pounding the pavement this summer. Rather than suffer, equip yourself with hot weather running essentials and get your feet into one of these quality pairs of shoes. You’ll leave those heat waves in the dust.
New Balance Fresh Foam 980 ($110)
We’ve got one word for this neutral trainer: fast. The Fresh Foam is the quickest shoe here—a soft, bouncy platform with a slim fit and a bare minimum of structural pieces. We love the stretchy upper and four millimeters of drop, which gives you enough forward lean to keep you effective on your toes but also lets you sink back into the heel on mellower cruises. Efficient runners will fault the soft forefoot, but for the rest of us the Fresh Foam is a slipper with booster rockets. 8.8 oz; 4 mm drop.
Hoka One One Clifton ($130)
The Clifton is a minor miracle of design. It comes with Hoka’s signature double-thick foam suspension, yet it boasts a floats-on-your-foot weight of less than eight ounces. That’s lighter than many minimalist shoes. The feel? Quick, lively, and smooth rolling, thanks to the rockered midsole and a supple, form-fitting upper (the best we’ve seen from Hoka). Given the trend toward maximalist shoes among high-mileage and heavier runners, the Clifton will be one of the summer’s hottest. 7.9 oz; 5 mm drop.
Saucony Ride 7 ($120)
For slow and steady fitness runs, the Ride 7 is a godsend. Dropping half an ounce from last year’s version, it has the marshmallowy plushness of a cushioning shoe but weighs just 9.4 ounces—light enough for smooth turnover, despite the pampering upper. Midfooters and light heel strikers will be happy with the moderate drop, though heel pounders will probably want thicker suspension in the rear, and efficient runners might find the squishy foam a tad sluggish. 9.4 oz; 8 mm drop.
Under Armour Speedform Apollo ($100)
Think of it as a running shoe in a compression shirt. Under Armour fashioned the Speedform Apollo’s upper from one unstitched piece of stretchy fabric—an impressive feat that delivers a slim, snug, supportive fit. The thin midsole is fast, but eight millimeters of drop help ease the strain on your Achilles. Close to the ground and weighing a mere 6.5 ounces, this shoe absolutely motors. Cheesy laces and a few cosmetic blemishes belie how well this shoe performs—especially in its featherweight class. 6.5 oz; 8 mm drop.
Adidas Supernova Sequence 7 Boost ($130)
The Sequence is a real-deal stability shoe, but one that doesn’t feel like it comes with a prescription. Adidas’s popular Boost midsole material—a bouncy alternative to foam that doesn’t firm up in cold weather—gives it zip. The Sequence is built low to the ground, and a full-length brace of denser foam (Adidas calls it Stable Frame) helps it feel sturdy underfoot. The moderately lean upper will seem constricting to wider feet, but we loved the snug, seamless fit. 10.9 oz; 10 mm drop.
Brooks Glycerin 12 ($150)
Like the Saucony, Brooks’s Glycerin 12 is a staunchly traditional cushioning shoe for mainstream fitness runners, but it offers a firmer and more energetic ride. At nearly 11 ounces it never felt fast, but it was snappy and responsive—we lost very little forward energy with each foot plant, making it a good choice for runners who want a stable, efficient platform. In short, it’s plush but doesn’t overdo it. Wide-footed runners will relish the roomy midfoot and toe box. 10.9 oz; 10 mm drop.