Sole Mate Running Shoe Awards
Whether you’re feeling the need for speed or craving comfort, these 15 winners will put a spring in your step.
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Running is all about having fun and feeling free. Whether you’re a conventional girl with a wild streak (aka, an Asics Kayano Lite-Show) or are ready to tear up the trail in neon green (à la Dynafit Pantera), we have the latest updates and new editions to make every warm weather run an event worth celebrating. Even better, this bodacious bouquet of fabric, mesh and laces comes in a range of colors sure to be the envy of every wildflower field—we’ll take our New Balance Fresh Foam in blue aster and cherry blossom pink, please!
For chicks who want a bit of cushion in their kicks—hold the stability, please!
Karhu Fluid3 Fulcrum
The smooth ride of this breezy, mesh runner is equally at home on mellow morning jogs along the boardwalk, or at a goal race where you want to push the pace. A neutral sole allows your stride to shine, while the comfortably roomy upper gives enough wiggle room to let toes have some air.
$125, 8 oz.
Scott eRide AF Trainer 2.0
You’ll look for reasons to pile on the miles once you lace up these lithe shoes. Scott manages to keep the weight low without scrimping on cushion, both under the foot and around the ankle collar. A slightly rockered design (created to persuade your foot to roll forward) contributes to dynamic striding.
$130, 8 oz.
WINNER: Adidas Energy Boost 2
The midsole foam of the Boost stays consistently springy, without getting sloppy in warm temperatures or firming on cooler days. It holds your foot snug with a stretchy, sock-like upper and welded band. A nest-ﬁt heel cup makes sure your foot feels cradled from heel to toe.
$160, 9 oz.
For striders who need structure in their shoes in order to keep their gait straight and feet from pronating.
Ryka Fanatic Plus
Heel strikers rejoice, there’s a shoe just for you. The Fanatic Plus serves up a yummy dish of plushness and support at a great price. Heels get an extra boost from an extra-thick crash pad and stay put thanks to the supportive cup. Cushioning continues in the tongue for a comfortable fit, and the rubber outsole grips like a champ on both the road and the treadmill.
$70, 8.6 oz.
Mizuno Wave Paradox
The wide forefoot calms pronation issues with an extra midsole structure for a straight and narrow stride. Support continues in the upper with a stout heel counter and a narrow fit. Fans of Mizuno’s Wave technology (a “wave” of midsole plastic helps with energy return and stability) will appreciate that the longer plate now extends all the way to the toe.
$135, 10 oz.
WINNER: Asics Gel-Kayano 20 Lite-Show
For the 20th edition of this cult-status shoe, Asics made a good thing better by creating the upper out of stretch mesh for a huggable fit, lightening up the midsole, adding more reflective accents and incorporating glow-in-the-dark gel details. It’s cushioned, it’s stable, it has some support and it’s good to go, no matter the distance.
$170, 9.5 oz.
For speedsters ready to set a personal best on race day- and ladies who prefer an airy feel when it comes to their footwear.
Nike Flyknit Lunar 2
Shoelace anchors run up the side like a corset to give your feet a nice little squeeze. Breathable with a slim fit, these flashy shoes incorporate a cushioned ride (with responsive handling). “Too tired” days don’t stand a chance with these flashy partners waiting by the door!
$150, 6.9 oz.
WINNER: Saucony Kinvara 5
Get ready to rock your way to a personal best in these Cinderella-fit road slippers. A cooling upper keeps feet feeling breezy, while the padding around the heel whisks away moisture, and the wide landing platform helps smooth out your stride. Lace these up on race morning, before speed workouts on the track, or for everyday runs, if you are comfortable in shoes with minimal support.
$100, 6.7 oz.
Skechers GoRun Ultra
When we tested these shoes, they felt so good, we literally giggled! These cushy-but-airy kicks are like running on marshmallows, and more than worth their sweet purchase price. Even better was the combination of an aggressive, go-anywhere tread and easy ride, with just enough of a rocker feel to give your step a little oomph.
$85, 7.2 oz.
For forward thinkers who must remove their Google Glass before heading out for a jaunt.
With 25 percent more cushion than any other shoe in their line, Brooks went big and bold with this brand-new release— like the cruising comfort of a pontoon boat with the bling of fireworks. Supportive and stable, the only thing you’ll feel under your feet is a soft ride.
$160, 10.1 oz.
New Balance Fresh Foam 980
You want plush cushion and a springy ride—we get it, you probably eat swirl ice cream cones! The Fresh Foam delivers, with firm cushioning and a nimble running experience for an all-around enjoyable shoe with smooth heel-to-toe transition. Try them on carefully for size; we found them to run a bit long.
$110, 7.4 oz.
WINNER: Under Armour Speedform Apollo
Some of the hype surrounding this featherweight, breathable speedster focuses on the fact that the upper was made in a bra factory. The result, with a smooth fit and minimal seams, begs to be worn without socks and even has a silicone strip in the collar to keep your naked foot in place. A molded seamless heel cup keeps with the theme.
$100, 6.5 oz.
For dirt lovers who prefer their run with a side of rocks, roots, and water crossings.
WINNER: Merrell AllOut Rush
Rock your mud runs in this awesome trail rider. Circular midfoot lugs tackle a variety of terrain. But the real teeth are in the heel and toe, exactly what you need it to land and take off without a hitch—no matter how treacherous the terrain. Cinchable laces and a structured heel pod keep your feet snugly secure.
$120, 8.5 oz.
Burly trails are no match for the cushioning, full-foot protection and bomber toe bumper in these all-around mountain runners. Factor in a secure fit with a little extra room in the toe box and you’ll be happily striding for long miles in stable, yet responsive comfort.
$110, 10.1 oz.
The North Face Ultra Smooth
Grab this road-ready hybrid when you aren’t sure where your run will take you. This shoe works just as well on pavement as it does on rugged trails. The underfoot was firmer than many we tested, making it a good training pick for runners with a quick, light step.
$110, 7.7 oz.