(Inga Hendrickson)

The Best Road Running Shoes of 2018


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Seven top performers for pounding the pavement.

(Courtesy Hoka One One)

Hoka One One Mach ($140)

Since Hoka hit the running-shoe scene in 2009, not one of its lightweight megafoam constructions has managed to earn our Gear of the Year honors. This year the curse is broken. The superfast, midfat Mach was the top pick of about half our team, and it earned strong marks from everyone else—a rare instance of something approaching unanimity. Built atop a snappy midsole that’s firmly energetic but easy on the legs, the Mach is thick, quick, and easy to love. “The responsiveness allowed me to get some energy back when I took these on a tempo run,” a tester said. One downside: the thin upper has almost no padding. Another: the soft outsole wears fast and is a little slippery on wet pavement. While there’s enough cushion to take the sting out of heel strikes, the five-millimeter drop makes this best for those who favor the midfoot. At the risk of stating the obvious, the Mach is likely to please runners who prefer maximalist shoes, but with 24 millimeters of stack height, it isn’t so beefy that others won’t enjoy it. At long last, a Hoka that doesn’t polarize. 8.2 oz (men’s) / 6.7 oz (women’s); 5 mm drop

Men's Women's

(Courtesy On)

On Cloud X ($140)

Best crossover trainer

This funky, lightweight low-rider from Swiss upstart On is part cheetah, part gym rat. For purists, it delivered a surprisingly crisp ride on short and medium-length runs. The unusual mid- and outsole construction—hollow foam arches compress to absorb shock—delivers a fairly smooth transition. The attention to detail and quality of construction are impeccable. “The shoe fit my foot extremely well,” one tester said (and several others echoed). Cushion is limited, however, giving the Cloud X a harsher feel than other shoes we tried. It’s designed for efficient, light-landing midfoot strikers—and, frankly, indoor use. Heel strikers and foam addicts should probably look elsewhere. 8.5 oz (men’s) / 6.6 oz (women’s); 6 mm drop

Men's Women's

(Courtesy Mizuno)

Mizuno Wave Shadow ($110)

Best for tempo runs

The Wave Shadow is something of a hybrid racing flat and trainer. The shoe is low to the ground, with a thin, moderately firm midsole and very quick turnover. Its greatest asset is the fit, which our team universally praised. But the Wave Shadow won’t pamper you. It’s made for efficiency and ground feel—characteristics favored by lighter, speed-oriented runners—and performed best on three-to-six-mile distances near the red zone, not long-range efforts, where the thin midsole could prove exhausting. Runners who like Mizuno’s firm, responsive ride will enjoy the snappy feel. But the more you weigh (or the harder you land), the more minimalist the shoe feels. 8.8 oz (men’s) / 7.4 oz (women’s); 8 mm drop

Men's Women's

(Courtesy Nike)

Nike Epic React Flyknit ($150)

Best for heel strikers

This shoe came close to earning our top honors for the season. It belongs to a rare class of trainer: both thick and speedy. In addition to an unusually snug and stretchy knit-mesh upper, the Epic React Flyknit is distinguished by its heel-strike-friendly geometry. Where the shoe surprised testers most was in its peppy ride, even with the foam’s generous softness. While the heel is plush and deep, the forefoot is responsive and low to the ground. That combination produces a comfortable, pampered ride with a poppy toe-off. If you’re a heel striker looking for a cushy feel but still want to keep pace with the rest of the pack, consider this your fatty. 8.4 oz (men’s) / 6.9 oz (women’s); 9 mm drop

Men's Women's

(Courtesy Saucony)

Saucony Kinvara 9 ($110)

Best for speedy midfoot strikers

The Kinvara defies categorization. As a trainer, it’s ridiculously light—just 6.4 ounces in the women’s version, and a mere ounce heavier for men—but then there’s that moderately fat heel. The pairing makes it a blistering training shoe, one that can accom­modate long, pounding runs and mellow days when you want to go easy on your legs. (Be warned, though: the flexy, unstructured midsole can be a little fatiguing on longer efforts.) Overall, the fit of the Kinvara was superior to every other shoe we tested in this category. The updates to this year’s version are more form than function, and fans of prior editions won’t notice a big difference. There’s still plenty to love here. 7.5 oz (men’s) / 6.4 oz (women’s); 4 mm drop

Men's Women's

(Courtesy New Balance)

New Balance 890v6 ($120)

Best daily driver

The 890v6 is a compromise between a lightweight speed shoe and a go-to trainer. Some testers believed that the combination made it a jack-of-all-runs, while others couldn’t get past its mastery of none. The shoe is lean, durable, and comfortable—built for up-tempo training, with an excellent fit and buoyant feel. It lacks the spark of the faster shoes we tested, but the 890v6 is better adapted to daily training, given its durability. After logging 80 miles in a pair, one of our testers reported almost no visible wear. Everyone gave the shoe high marks for its lean, perfect last. This is a quick-moving workhorse adept at heavy mileage. 8.9 oz (men’s) / 7.8 oz (women’s); 6 mm drop

Men's Women's

(Courtesy Brooks)

Brooks Levitate ($150)

Best for cruising

This wasn’t the most exciting shoe in our test, but it proved its worth as a slow and steady cruiser with even cushioning and a plush ride. Despite its name, the main knock against the Levitate is its portly weight. Every tester dinged it for slow turn­over. Once you get past that, however, it’s an enjoyable shoe for long, rambling runs. The fit is on the narrow side, especially in the forefoot, but the lack of overlays around the meta­tarsal heads means there’s noth­ing to rub you raw. And the pillowy padding on the heel collar is a luxurious touch. The upshot: opt for the Levitate if you want an even-tempered, comfort-centric shoe with traditional geometry. 11.2 oz (men’s) / 9.7 oz (women’s); 8 mm drop

Men's Women's

From Summer 2018 Buyer’s Guide Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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