Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
All photography by Oliver Baker.
Spring’s Fresh Kicks
Springtime means racing season is here, and training is heating up for many runners. We have been testing the latest shoes from a variety of running brands big and small to bring you the freshest and fastest kicks of the season. Scroll through the gallery above to see the shoes that made our list and find details on each pair below. (Note: All shoe weights are for a women’s size 7.)
Inov-8 Roc Lite 315
$135, inov-8.com | 10.7 oz.
Minimal cushioning makes these trail shoes grip the ground and give feet a solid feel for the terrain, resulting in a confident run. One reviewer commented that the solid construction and lack of squeaky sole made her feel “graceful” while traversing the trails, which is what many of us love about running—the quiet strength it imbues us with. The waterproof construction was great on rainy runs, but this may limit breathability in warm running conditions. While the minimal construction and light cushioning was a plus for some reviewers, others found it to be too sparse for comfort on really rocky trails.
The North Face Flight RKT
$150, thenorthface.com | 8 oz.
Designed by ultrarunner Rob Krar, these trail shoes have an impressive amount of grip thanks to the specially designed outsole. The fabric is breathable and lightweight, and aids in the overall light feel of the shoe. There is minimal cushioning throughout but enough in the midsole to protect from any discomfort found running over rough trail surfaces. The lacing system lets you adjust adequately for a secure fit. Some testers noted that the shoes ran a bit small, so be sure to check your size. This is a trail shoe that is best suited to middle- to long-distance runs.
HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR4
$130, hokaoneone.com | 7.4 oz.
Our testers were surprised to find that these trail shoes were actually much lighter than they looked, and also offered more agility than expected. The outsole provided excellent grip on trails and made the feet feel nimble and supported at the same time. One reviewer commented that the midsole provided a pleasant amount of bounciness at both slow and fast speeds. Be sure to get fitted for these shoes as testers found that the arch support was too firm and misaligned for some feet. Otherwise, these shoes got high marks for hitting the trail in comfort and style.
Merrell Bare Access Flex Kit
$130, merrell.com | 7 oz.
This is a multipurpose shoe from Merrell, designed to work on both road and trail. This results in a shoe that isn’t a standout in either category. Testers noted that the arch was high and the midsole was very firm, resulting in discomfort for some. The bungee lacing system allowed for a snug fit, but some testers were unable to get the shoe secured tightly enough to prevent heel slippage. The knit sockliner has a good feel, but it lacks wicking properties, resulting in an uncomfortable and soggy running experience for sockless runners. The zero-drop design will appeal to minimalist runners, and the shoe does offer a fair amount of responsiveness on the road and trail, resulting in an agile feel with good traction on both surfaces.
On Cloud X
$140, on-running.com | 6.6 oz.
These sleek and stylish Swiss-designed shoes were our favorites by far for speedwork in this season’s offerings. The minimal materials used make this shoe feel super light both out of the box and on your feet. The lacing system offers a snug and secure fit that encourages you to push yourself faster, farther. The pods on the outsole offer a bouncy ride with good energy return and grip. The breathable upper material and overall lightness of this shoe make it a great partner for cross-training workouts as well.
Asics GT-2000 6
$120, asics.com | 8.2 oz.
This update of the GT-2000 doesn’t offer any new innovations, but it’s a solid shoe that fans of the brand will enjoy running in, especially for longer distances. Some testers found that this model ran a bit narrow compared to the usual Asics fit, and the flexibility of the upper wasn’t as accommodating as expected. The cushioning is great for long runs, but some runners may find the shoe a bit clunky and less agile than desired. This shoe is a solid workhorse for runners who stick to the road for middle to long distances.
Under Armour HOVR Sonic
$100, underarmour.com | 9.6 oz.
Lightweight and flexible, this is a shoe that is well-suited for track and road workouts. The lacing system is well designed for customizing the fit to your foot, and the sole offers enough energy return to make it easy to pick up the pace while running. The ample toe box and responsiveness of the shoe offer an agile feel and let your feet feel connected to the ground at varying speeds. The breathability of the upper and the traction offered by the outsole make this a good go-to shoe for road running.
Altra Superior 3.5
$110, altrarunning.com | 8.2 oz.
Altra is one of the few shoe companies that makes shoes specifically for the female foot, with toe boxes designed to allow toes to easily splay when running to promote a natural and comfortable running form. The Superior 3.5 is a new trail shoe that offers exceptional traction control. Getting the fit right is essential in these shoes to ensure a comfortable run, so make sure to be properly fitted. The short lacing system doesn’t allow much room for adjustment. These shoes are light and responsive, making them good for tired feet. They also have gaiter attachments for more intense trail runs. The lightweight design paired with superb traction control and overall agility earned these shoes our award for best trail shoe of the season.
Adidas Aerobounce ST
$110, adidas.com | 8.7 oz.
The Aerobounce ST is Adidas’ new offering for those looking for a comfortable, everyday trainer for distance running. With a generous toe box and a new engineered mesh upper, this shoe has good breathability while keeping feet dry in wet conditions. The arch support is noticeable without being overly aggressive. The slim outsole means that runners will feel in touch with the ground without being aware of every nuance in the terrain, making this shoe nimble enough to tackle a variety of surfaces. It provides average energy return for a trainer, but its light feel and adequate cushioning mean that long runs are where this shoe finds its stride.
Nike Air Zoom Vomero 13
$140, nike.com | 9 oz.
These shoes delivered on all fronts: performance, fit, style. All of our testers found this to be a reliable pair of shoes for middle to long distances, and they were used in races ranging from a 5K to a half marathon. The lacing system provides a secure fit with laces that stay tied, the cushioning is sufficient for long runs without making the shoe feel clunky, and the upper proved to be breathable and comfortable in various conditions. The simple aesthetics of the shoe were also popular with our testing group.
$60, ryka.com | 9.6 oz.
This brand designs shoes solely for a woman’s foot, so expect a good fit. The memory foam footbed is the standout offering of this shoe. It provides a cushy ride great for long runs, and the flexible toe provides enough responsiveness to make running uphill not feel more laborious than it should. The shoe has a snug fit that keeps it from slipping around on your foot, and the laces are long enough to allow for adjusting the fit to your needs. The accessible price point makes this a good shoe for beginners to start training with, thanks to its stability and cushioning.
Saucony Liberty ISO
$160, saucony.com | 8.7 oz.
This is a brand-new design from Saucony, and it features a full-length EVERUN midsole, the company’s most advanced cushioning technology. The 4mm drop gives a natural feel while striding, and the addition of some medial guidance provides enough stability to take this shoe out on longer runs. The lacing system offers good adjustability, and the tongue and upper are designed to conform to your foot for a more comfortable fit. Testers found this shoe to be responsive and great for interval training. The roomy toe box and flexible sole made picking up the pace fun instead of laborious.
Mizuno Wave Inspire 14
$130, mizunousa.com | 8.8 oz.
This stalwart of the Mizuno stable has received an updated upper and sole for the spring season. Fans of this shoe will find all of the familiar design elements here: snug fit, solid lacing system, padding that is sufficient for long runs but not overly cushy and removable soles to allow for custom inserts. This shoe is ideally suited to middle- and long-distance running on roads, although the sole does allow for decent traction on wet roads and trails without intense grades or surfaces.
Puma Speed 500
$120, us.puma.com | 7.9 oz.
This is an attractive, speed-friendly shoe from Puma that has an impressive water-repellant fabric, making running in wet conditions much more palatable. The minimal design and heel drop aid the quick and fast feeling of the shoe. It responded well to upping the pace on runs and still had enough cushion to be comfortable for heel strikers. The shoe made our runners feel light and nimble on both the road and trail. The lifestyle design aesthetics were also appreciated by our testers.
$150, brooksrunning.com | 9.7 oz.
Brooks spent a lot of time and energy creating the Levitate, its most responsive shoe ever—and all of the effort clearly paid off. This is the snappiest pair of Brooks we’ve ever tested, and it was universally praised by our testers for its comfortable ride and impressive amount of energy return. The shoe is incredibly soft without being squishy, and the fit is snug in a pleasing way. A good choice for runs of any length and light enough to use for speedwork and tempo runs, these shoes are a current favorite at the Women’s Running office. We are also fans of the aesthetics of this shoe, a departure from the traditional Brooks colorways. The Levitates are one of our top choices for running shoes this spring.