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Bare-Bones Speedster Designed with input from ultrarunner Anton Krupicka, who’s so allergic to carrying extra ounces he races nearly nude, this super-minimalist trail shoe, with its wafer-thin midsole and highly flexible forefoot, is among the lightest we’ve ever seen. Ideal for faster runners with perfect mechanics who pick their way…

PLUSH RIDELooking like a track shoe built atop a precarious scaffolding, the Mega Ride doesn’t scream “marathon.” But I found myself comfortably chewing up the miles on the cushy undercarriage. Near the end of one long run, I was still cruising on downhills where I’d typically be bracing for impact.

SMOOTH AND STABLE Prone to twisted ankles? The sole below the Ascend’s fore-foot fans out slightly, which made testers feel secure on trail and road alike. Additional support comes from a visible, wave-shaped, shock-absorbing composite plate that runs from the heel of the shoe to the midfoot. 9.9 oz; mizuno.com…

SLOW AND STEADY The Structure Triax creates fortresslike heel stability via three densities of foam: a rigid medial post that tempers foot rolling, a medium-density foam to absorb heavier heel strikes, and a supersoft crash pad that channels foot plants forward from the moment of impact. Amazingly, despite all the…

CushioningCombine a lightweight race shoe with a long-distance trainer, and you’ve got the Praya 2. Although it has more cushioning than the Karhu—and more than enough padding for ten-plus-mile runs—the midsole is light and snappy and had no trouble on shorter, faster-tempo runs. “It’s one of those…

Road A hydration shirt? Yes. This three-pocket cycling jersey has an integrated compartment that snugs a 72-ounce reservoir (included) to your back. Some testers were initially skeptical, but being able to carry more water—and not having to reach down for a drink—sold them. Works just as well off-road, too, though…

Road Not so sure about this minimalist running craze? The Vectana hears you. It’s a classic stability shoe—beefy midsole, thick heel, and big medial post—with an agile feel and a noticeably secure upper. The ride is a bit stiffer than most. Some liked it; some wished the forefoot was more…

Size, Price: 70 oz, $23; 100 oz, $25Flow Rate: 2*Funk Figher?: Turn inside-out for easy cleaningFilter-Compatible?: NoValve Shutoff?: YesGotta Love: Velcro roll top for easy access and a secure sealBummer: Locking mechanism is an accident waiting to happenSplat Test: Survived *Ratings: 1=Average,…

ENERGY SAVER If we had an award for efficiency, this shoe would win it uncontested. No shoe here converted downward heel impact into forward propulsion as well as the Testament, and testers reported a significant rebound leading up to the toe-off phase of every stride. Credit the springlike hard plastic…

BACKCOUNTRY VOYAGERS The Mercury rolled over everything in our path: Its sturdy construction includes a nearly punctureproof upper reinforced with PU nubuck and abrasion-resistant toe and heel bumpers. And during soggy runs in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Gore-Tex XCR liner kept our feet dry. 14.5 oz; vasque.com Bonus:…

An aggressively arched suspension with mesh panel lets air cool your back. The pack includes a two-liter reservoir and stows cargo for a long ride. Best for biking. 1.5 lbs; www.deuterusa.com…

Technical Terrain Do your runs tend to involve alpine passes and rocky scrambles? Let us point you to the Wildcat, a supportive, moderately stiff shoe that can handle all-day outings or even adventure races. With solid underfoot and toe protection, a grippy outsole that excels on rock,…

Long-Distance Voyager Ultramarathoners are a picky lot, but ours loved the Cascadia 5. The shoe has enough forefoot flexibility and torsional (twisting) rigidity to keep foot fatigue at a minimum on insanely long runs. Thankfully, it’s also comfortable enough for casual days—one reason this is the top-selling trail runner in…

Why They’re CoolEvery pavement pounder knows the drill: Just when your feet and shoes start feeling like old friends, a variety of joint ailments emerge to tell you your midsoles are fresh out of sproing. » New Balance rebels against such obsolescence with a proprietary midsole material called Acteva, which…

BUILT FOR SPEED Last year’s X-1 was like a thoroughbred—fast, but hard to handle. So Teva tamed it just a little. The result, the still respectably light X-1 Control, is a versatile, high-energy trail shoe that’s just as comfortable grinding up switchbacks as it is opening it up on fifth-gear…

LONG-DISTANCE PLAN Some trail shoes make you cringe at the thought of training for anything longer than a 10K. Not the Cascadia. With plush cushioning and easy flex, this shoe is perfect for high-mileage runs on mellow terrain. The combination of a unique trail-stabilizing system—foam wedges at mid- and forefoot…

BURLY SUPPORTER Good for Technical Trails If the other shoes here are sedans, the Velocity is an SUV. A plastic spine in the midsole stiffens this powerful shoe and does an extraordinary job of correcting off-camber footstrikes. Testers appreciated the aggressive tread in muck, and rocks…

Rain-soaked singletrack? Don’t even hesitate. The Apex is made for muck. The aggressive outsole gripped well on both the way up and the way down, and the Gore-Tex upper fended off even the slushiest snow. The stiff, supportive platform is very stable—easily crossing over for all-day hike/run epics—but it’s…

Hybrid Hauler The Adrenaline ASR 7 is a classic stability road shoe with a perk: four-wheel drive. Its outsole has teeth for grip on snowy roads and moderately technical trails, but the rest of the shoe is made for high-mileage pounding on pavement. The tread didn’t wow us on rocky…

If a moon boot gave birth to a trail runner, it would look like the Ochoco. But we doubt it would run as well. The padded ankle, soft tongue, and firm arch support gave us blissful feet after long hours pounding the trail. The just-right midsole has enough cushioning…

LONG-HAULERThe X stands for ten—the number of revisions Asics has made to this lightweight standard bearer. Serious racers will still find Asics’s proprietary gel cushioning and the firm arch post they’ve come to depend on. But with an open-air mesh upper, this year’s DS offers a more stable ride, a…

HARD CHARGER Aggressive, all-conditions runners will love these stable, protective, and well-cushioned shoes. Rocks, logs, unstable sand, and even snow gave us no trouble, thanks to a lug pattern that grips in all directions. The gel cushioning absorbs impact on hardpacked trails, and the forefoot flexes easily for a comfortable…

MOTION CONTROL LITE Runners whose mild or moderate heel rolling doesn’t warrant a fat, heavy heel brace will find smooth striding in the new Gel-3000. The wide, stable heel features a moderately cushy foam—offering the softness and sprightliness of a neutral-cushioning shoe at heel strike. But as the shoe rolls…

CushioningCan’t stand the squishy feeling of your current running shoes? The Glycerin 7, by far the firmest shoe of our picks this year, might be more your style—especially if you’re a heavier runner or a slow-and-steady type. Of the neutral shoes on this page, the no-frills Glycerin…

Trail Newton’s first trail shoe still uses the company’s trademark set of prominent, extra-springy lugs under the forefoot to encourage mid- and forefoot running, but it adds tight mesh to the upper to keep debris out and grippier rubber for traction. It’s good for working on form and running fast,…

Size, Price: 68 oz, $23; 101 oz, $25Flow Rate: 3*Funk Fighter?: Antimicrobial coatingFilter-Compatible?: YesValve Shutoff?: Yes, via capGotta Love: Spring-loaded valve barely needs biting; hygienic capBummer: Valve cap bangs around when not in placeSplat Test: Splatted *Ratings: 1=Average, 3=Excellent…

SPEED ABOVE ALL Let’s put it this way: If all the other shoes reviewed here are full-suspension bikes, the Wave Creation 8 is a hardtail. The stiffness, which makes this shoe startlingly lively, is the result of two suspended plastic plates embedded underfoot. Some break-in time might be required: “At…

LONG-DISTANCE TRAVELER Like a full-suspension mountain bike, the Arnuva can barrel over rocky, undulating trails with utmost comfort. The upper is armored against trail debris, and the ultrarunners on our crew deemed it an excellent choice for even the harshest high-alpine trails in Colorado’s Indian Peaks. A Gore-Tex liner keeps…

Aerated foam backing, mesh shoulder straps, and a two-liter reservoir make this a good summer runner, but check the fit: Some testers found the straps set too far apart for their shoulders. 13 oz; www.thenorthface.com…

Technical Terrain The Ascend 4 wins the award for best out-of-the-box fit. The low-to-the-ground silhouette, combined with multidirectional traction, make this shoe impressively agile, while its ample cushioning and structured, supportive heel kept our testers feeling fresh on ten-plus-mile runs. It’s not sturdy enough for nasty scree-filled…

Speed Demon For shorter trail races, no shoe made us feel faster than the Avi-Stoltz. It’s a highly reactive shoe whose comfortable, simple upper felt “like a house slipper,” according to one tester. (Others found the high ankle cuff annoying.) Despite its light weight, the Avi-Stoltz delivers enough support and…

Why They’re CoolHow little does a runner need the heavy exterior material of most road shoes? If these sleek mesh numbers are any indication, very little. » The 21-ounce Swift Vapors practically drifted from their box to the ceiling. But would the less-is-more aesthetic spell instant speed? Yes. » Not…

FAST AND CUSHIONED Isn’t it disheartening when you spot a chunky-looking guy at the starting line—inside you think, Well, at least I won’t come in last—and then he pulls away, leaving you sucking wind? The Lava Run is that guy. “They look like they’d be clunky,” said one tester, “but…

VERSATILE AND FAST We’re not saying you were the kind of kid who got chased home from school. We’re saying if you were that kid, this shoe could have saved your ass. With a snug fit and low-to-the-ground design, the Zoom inspires high-speed running on everything from hard-packed dirt trails…

TRACTION ACTION Good for Technical Trails Those who like to stay in tune with the trail will love the low-riding 840. Cleat-like, dual-density lugs dig in on loose, loamy terrain, making it a good choice for speedmongers in climes where dusty trails turn to mud in the winter.

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to run in beefy shoes. The light weight, streamlined silhouette, and lateral stability of the SpeedComp made us more nimble on trails of all sorts, while the Gore-Tex upper kept us warm and dry. With the one-pull laces and a women’s…

Muck Stomper True, you’ll wear this shoe only on nasty, muddy, slushy winter days—or paired with snowshoes (see page 58). But compared with other trail runners with an integrated gaiter, this is the lightest, most spry-feeling of all, weighing an impressive 13 ounces despite all that protective material. Underneath the…

HIGH-MILEAGE CUSHION If you’ve followed a marathon training program, you know what a grind it can be to crank out those 18- to 22-mile runs about a month before race day. Not so with the dreamy Praya NC, a lightweight trainer that derives cushioning from a thick foam midsole and…

ONE SWEET RIDEForget the South Beach Diet: The cushioning here will convince you that you’ve lost ten pounds. Credit trademarked midsole components (they boil down to strategically tuned EVA and a bit of foam rubber), which render each foot strike a pleasure instead of a pain. A thickly padded, noncreeping…

So hot you’re tempted to run in sandals? Give your feet the air—and support—they need with the Cardrona. Thin, open-weave mesh means your dogs can feel every cool mountain breeze that blows their way, and vents in the midsole actually let air circulate beneath your feet. The design works…

LOVES LONG RUNS If neutral shoes are sedans and stability shoes are SUVs, then the Infiniti is a minivan. It’s part of Brooks’s new “guidance” line of shoes, which are designed to be a bit less structured than stability shoes but not quite as minimalist as trainers. To wit: The…

Mild Stability Old perceptions die hard, and a few of our testers initially scoffed at the idea that Puma, better known in other sporting arenas, is making legitimately high-performance running shoes. The Concinnity III changed that. At under ten ounces, it’s a remarkably fast and agile shoe.

Tough Guy This is a stand-up pack—literally. Thanks in part to its extremely heavy-duty fabric (“Like Carhartts,” said one tester), the 29.5-liter Pit Boss stands up straight, on its own, even when empty. But the truly unique feature is the pack’s three interconnected zippers. Two close the lid over the…

Size, Price: 68 oz, $24; 96 oz, $26Flow Rate: 3*Funk Fighter?: Roll-top opening for easy cleaningFilter-Compatible?: YesValve Shutoff?: YesGotta Love: DoubleShot valve doubles the flowBummer: Dual rubber valves are slick, hard to biteSplat Test: Survived *Ratings: 1=Average, 3=Excellent…

AN IPOD-READY STABILITY SHOE If rock and roll is integral to your running—and we mean either the Flaming Lips or the instability caused by pronation—then you’ll want a pair of iPod-compatible, supportive Equalons. Testers raved about this shoe’s stability and heel-to-toe cushioning. But the real genius of this soft-flexing shoe…

LIGHT AND NIMBLE If you crossed a mountain goat with a ballet dancer, the offspring would wear these shoes. The lightweight and easy-flexing 800 is especially nimble for a trail runner, delivering a smooth heel-to-toe transition on flat terrain. It has plenty of cushion for long runs, and the aggressively…

Not every run is a race. For long-distance training at a slow pace, this stability shoe delivers a surprisingly smooth ride for runners seeking firm support. All testers—even those who don’t pronate—scored the 857 high for protection, cushioning, and durability. Stability is enhanced by stiff support under the arch and…

Heartily cushioned, especially in the heel, this stability shoe is customized for women, with a narrower last, lower heel height, and more flexible forefoot than the men’s version. 9 oz; reebok.com…

Mountain Maniac Can a shoe give you superpowers? With the amount of confidence the Raptor inspired in our testers, it came pretty close. The most protective and stable—but still fairly lightweight—shoe in our test, the Raptor let us ignore the terrain and just run. The extremely grippy proprietary rubber and…

Why They’re CoolLet the marathoners worry about shoe mechanics—here’s a fat-foot Cadillac for the rest of us. » Reebok’s top-of-the-line cushioning road shoes padded my peds like a down pillow. But it was the perforated heel that sold me. The innocuous-looking row of holes along the outer heel reduced skidding…

OFF TO THE RACES Designers got out their knives—very sharp ones at that—and stripped the 790 down for speed: It’s a full five ounces lighter than some shoes here. Not surprisingly, the featherweight design didn’t impress any testers in the cushioning or armor departments, and it’s probably not the best…

SPEEDY BUT GRIPPY Fact: The Italians make great shoes. Lesser known fact: They dominate competitive mountain running. That combined mastery is evident in the Crosslite, which is all about getting through the rough stuff as quickly as possible. A race-ready shoe with a minimalist design, the knobby-lugged Crosslite combines the…

HARD-CHARGER Good for Technical TrailsFor a debut shoe from a brand-new company, the Ignition gets enthusiastic Rookie of the Year props. It handled technical, rocky trails with aplomb, but unlike many other burly mountain-running shoes, it also felt remarkably light and nimble. Large, well-spaced lugs on the outsole clung…

Good for Trails At a mere seven-plus ounces—almost half as much as the sturdiest trail runners—this feather­weight flat initially seemed like it would be too flimsy for everyday running. Even though it’s designed for elite trail racing, we midpack runners still loved its fast and incredibly spry…

Wave Runner “It feels like a racer with more cushioning,” said one tester. Indeed, this neutral trainer may not be as feathery as the Kinvara (page 50), but at a mere ten ounces it’s no slogger, either, thanks to a redesigned TPU “wave plate” (Mizuno’s springy cushioning device) and new,…

TAKES IT EASY Good for Packed Trails If cushion is king for high-mileage training or heavier runners, then the Supernova reigns supreme. Its pillowy crash pad is perfect for cruising on mellow trails. And despite its speedy geometry—the shoe is tilted slightly forward—the forefoot foam doesn’t feel gutted.

SEAMLESS DREAMTrot out the Lizards for trail-running where the term “trail” is generous. Seams in the uppers won’t blow out from abrasion—because there aren’t any. Even the synthetic-leather trim is heat-welded rather than stitched. A fat rubber toe cap provides further armoring. Serious shoe abusers, such as adventure racers and…

A quick-connect hose makes these reservoirs easy to refill (you can remove the reservoir without rethreading the hose and bite valve through the pack's hydration port). 48–100 ounces; nalgene-outdoor.com      …

LOTS OF CUSHIONING The Testament II was a bit too sluggish for our most gazelle-like testers but well received by our heavier and slower (read: normal) runners. Impact energy is centered by a cushy, concave heel and transferred smoothly down a springy plastic shank to the luxuriously soft forefoot. “It…

Mild Stability If the 769 were a coffee drink, it’d be a quadruple espresso. That highly caffeinated feel is due in part to a lightweight midsole compound and deep flex grooves under the toes. Which is not to say it’s jittery: A midfoot shank and a dual-density…

Size, Price: 70 oz, $28; 100 oz, $30Flow Rate: 3*Funk Figher?: Antimicrobial treatmentFilter-Compatible?: Yes, with $7 adapterValve Shutoff?: YesGotta Love: Angled mouthpiece puts bite valve where you need itBummer: Tricky to drySplat Test: Survived *Ratings: 1=Average, 3=Excellent…

SUPERLIGHT AND SUPER-SECURE The lacing system on this shoe swerves so radically you might think it’s a factory blooper. It’s not. Less than a mile into a training run along the Boulder Creek Path, it was clear that the Concinnity’s off-center lacing system pulls double duty: It helps provide an…

If you’re one of the lucky ones who can trot out the front door and weave together a perfect run on a mix of trail and pavement, stop gloating and buy a pair of Odysseys. At first glance the toothy tread appears to be trails-only, but the low-profile lugs, four-density…

Thanks to a full-length TPU Flexion Plate that instigates forward motion, we simply felt fastest in these light stability shoes. In other words, they’re pricey but worth it. And you can run them hot: The breath­able mesh is treated with temperature-regulating material that actually seems to work. 10 oz;…

The most gender-specific shoe in our test, the Wave Rider accommodates a woman’s unique biomechanics. The result is a nimble, comfortable, impressively breathable, neutral trainer that’s also ready to race. 8 oz; mizunousa.com…

Cool Runner We have to admit, the Ravenous surprised us. Columbia is new to the running market and debuts with this breathable, lightweight, perfectly competent trail shoe. It’s best on rocky terrain and—with its particularly breezy open mesh—begs to be unleashed in humid climes. The traction ranked high on dry…

Why They’re CoolThe translucent outsoles are made of a house-brand polymer that, according to Brooks’s R&D crew, lasts 30 percent longer than that supersticky rubber you see on approach and climbing shoes. It also improves wet and dry skid resistance by 20 percent. In the lab, anyway. » The road…

SMOOTH, CUSHIONED VERSATILITY Lucky number 13? It is if you count a commitment to research as good fortune. The 13th version of this all-purpose favorite is the result of years of accumulated R&D. This Kayano boasts thicker gel cushioning units in the heel than previous models, resulting in an even…

CAN TAKE THE HEAT The 874 is built like an elite road racer: a slender torso atop a powerful lower body. A weird physique for a shoe? Perhaps, but the combination of an almost lacy, two-layer mesh upper wedded to a thick midsole and luggy tread works extremely well on…

ROCK AND ROAD Sometimes run roads, sometimes trails? This hybrid combines ample cushioning and a road-shoe-like fit for pounding pavement, with a bi-directional tread that gripped even the sloppiest terrain. Though pillowy, it’s still responsive. Faster testers appreciated the smooth transition from heel strike to toe off. The tight mesh…

Good for Trails If you run both roads and mellow trails, be good to your budget: Buy one shoe that can handle both. The Boulder Canyon has the guts of a neutral road shoe—a single-density EVA foam provides ample cushioning on pavement. But it also has grippy,…

Saves Some for Later Last fall, we picked Nike’s amazing LunarGlide+, with its unique Dynamic Support midsole, as our Gear of the Year. Nike built the new LunarEclipse+ on the same platform but opened up the toe box, and took its stability one notch further, bracing the heel with a…

Size, Price: 64 oz, $23; 100 oz, $25Flow Rate: 2*Funk Figher?: Yes, with cleaning tablets, sold separatelyFilter-Compatible?: YesValve Shutoff?: YesGotta Love: Big Bore wide opening: Throw in the ice!Bummer: Rigid valve can be tough on teethSplat Test: Survived *Ratings: 1=Average, 3=Excellent…

BRING ON THE BREEZEYou don’t know ventilation until you’ve experienced the GCS Pro. The uppers are like a screened-in porch—take off the shoe and look straight through it to read your watch, if you wish. But its real worth comes with every stride; on a warm fall day in the…

Gaping openings make for fast, thorough cleaning. 70–100 ounces; deuterusa.com      …

CAN HANDLE HEAVY STRIKING The Elixir is like a Ferrari with all-terrain tires. It combines the barely there mesh upper of a race shoe with the full-foam midsole of a distance trainer. A snug heel cup and soft forefoot flex promote maximum thrust at toe-off, while a thermoplastic spring mechanism…

Mild Stability Which sounds more like your morning ritual: Trying to set a new PR, or trying not to hit snooze again? If it’s the latter, the SyncroPace III is your shoe. Like most of Pearl’s running shoes, it has a remarkably comfortable, seamless upper and a…

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