Racers, trainers and trail shoes all see new additions to the market this month. Here we take a look at a range of new models
ON – Cloudboom Echo 3 – £260.00
Highly anticipated and worth the wait, the latest version of On’s carbon-plated racer brings it right up to speed with the lead pack, having already seen some great results on the road from the likes of Hellen Obiri.
Now using a soft, PEBA-type foam, Helion HF (Hyper Foam), the shoe has the softer feel athletes were hoping for, along with a full-length carbon plate.
It’s still not the same shoe we’ve seen some of the brand’s sponsored athletes wearing (that’s a prototype ‘triathlon’ racer) but at least this shoe is softer, more agile and more responsive than the previous versions.
The fit is typical ON, which means it’s a sleek, wrap-around feel that hugs the foot and has a great build quality and finish.
It’s light at just 215g and the usual attention to detail is present. Silicon print on the insole prevents any in-shoe slipping and the upper tailoring is superb.
The softer cushioning on impact is welcome and the shoe feels like a road-going spike with extra cushioning; perfect over 5km and 10km where you can keep on the forefoot and attack the distance. For now, at least, it’s the best racing shoe ON has produced and the go-to choice for top-speed performance.
Nike Vaporfly 3 – £234.95
Unquestionably the leader in terms of super shoes, the Vaporfly is back in this third-generation model.
The shoe is ever so slightly lighter and slightly re-modelled, but ultimately it provides pretty much the same ride and performance as the previous version.
While the overall stack remains around that World Athletics limit of 40mm, the amount of ZoomX cushioning has been increased by a couple of millimetres by reducing the thickness of the outsole to accommodate it. While this will most probably affect the durability of the shoe in the long term, the ride is slightly softer thanks to the perforated design of the forefoot rubber.
From the word go the shoe feels as fast as ever. That soft, springy ride is ever-present and when you put your foot down it delivers with a surprisingly high level of energy return.
The new upper uses a very open construction to the mesh with lots of space to provide what must be the most breathable upper on a racing shoe right now. The neat heel collar remains as do the stay-tied laces.
For the ultimate race-day performer, the Vaporfly remains the number-one choice!
Puma – Fast FWD NITRO Elite – £200.00
Described by the brand as the ‘next generation of innovation’, the Fast FWD is a road racing shoe aimed at shorter distances. We’d probably limit that ‘shorter distance’ to 5km, given the shape of the shoe. That said, although the design does look radical it runs a little more normally, essentially like a track spike.
The deep, aggressive cutaway section in the heel is similar to one or two other super-shoes but it’s the forefoot rocker and cutaway cushioning that make this model stand out.
Cushioning comes from the NITRO foam and, of course, it wouldn’t be a super shoe without a carbon plate.
While first impressions feel a little radical, after a few strides you can appreciate the toe-off design and it feels great, albeit when at race speed.
The minimalist upper is a single-layer mesh with supportive inner straps that is present simply to hold the foot in place while keeping weight to a minimum.
It’s great to see such unusual designs from Puma and good to see innovation that could lead to future developments.
Ultimately the Fast FWD is built for doing just that – moving fast, forwards!
Saucony – Triumph 21 – £160.00
While only featuring small updates to the previous version, the Triumph 21 is an improvement. The main changes come with a flat knitted upper which takes on a super plush feel that holds the foot in place beautifully. The premium feel extends to the shoe’s lining where a soft, seamless construction is neatly padded around the heel for a fit that welcomes the foot with a sock-like feel.
The deep, 37mm stack of PWRRUN+ foam is unchanged from the previous version and it soaks up every single stride with ease, offering a great push-off with a responsive feel where you notice the ‘energy return’.
The same PWRRUN+ foam is used in the shoe’s inner-sole, which adds further to the overall plush fit and ride.
The outsole provides coverage in all the key areas, helping durability yet at the same time reducing the weight.
As a daily, high-mileage training shoe it provides good great cushioning that’s both durable and highly responsive, adding a little spring to every step.
Altra – Torin 7 – £130.00
Re-engineering their popular road running shoe completely, Altra has made improvements from top to bottom in the Torin 7.
The Altra EGO MAX midsole sees an additional 2mm added to its stack height, taking it up to 30mm running the full length of the shoe for the familiar Altra balanced ride. This promotes a natural midfoot strike to help reduce impact forces.
The brand’s foot-shaped fit creates a broader forefoot, allowing the feet to naturally splay to both absorb impact and keep a balanced gait.
The new upper features a very neat, engineered mesh upper. There’s a little more padding all around than previously, most noticeably in the tongue and ankle collar, but it makes for a very plush, foot-welcoming experience and enhances the overall fit and feel of the shoe.
JOMA – R-2000 – €90.00
This latest model from the Spanish brand offers a highly responsive option for logging speedy miles which won’t break the bank.
The R-2000 is designed to offer versatility, from long runs through to recovery, but in our view the shoe is at its best when you pick up the pace.
Featuring a 10mm drop, it’s very comfortable thanks to Joma’s Fly Reactive midsole system which encourages the user on to the forefoot and provides excellent energy return. The front of the shoe also features a higher density phylon to aid shock absorption.
The R-2000’s well constructed upper is light, flexible and highly breathable, adding to the feeling that this is a shoe for fast running, plus the sole is made with durability rubber designed to improve traction and performance on the tarmac.
In terms of quality and feel, this is a shoe which scores well but doesn’t come with a big price tag.
XERO – Mesa Trail – £120.00
Inspired by the book, Born to Run, the Mesa Trail is a barefoot type shoe from Xero, a brand that specialises in this type of footwear.
It’s a relatively simple construction; a basic upper and thin rubber outsole stitched together with a 3.5mm thick inner sole. It’s light, flexible and simply provides a layer of protection for barefoot runners.
The rubber outsole measures just 5.5mm thick and, when you disregard the depth of its studs, designed for off-road traction, it’s very thin and flexible indeed.
The shape of the shoe allows the feet to spread out naturally, adding to the natural fit and feel.
Off course, this type of shoe will take quite an adaptation period, so proceed with care, but on good grass surfaces it’s quite welcoming to run in. I tried it for strides and some light jogging and how the feet work when working naturally is quite refreshing.
Barefoot running isn’t for everyone but, for those wishing to try it, this shoe is relatively reasonably priced and versatile enough to be used for other, non-running activities.
361 – Futura – £145.00
Utilising the same Engage midsole cushioning from their Centauri road shoe, 361 has created a highly cushioned and responsive trail shoe that’s perfect for the summer trails.
The midsole features the brand’s super-critical foam and has a great level of energy return. It’s most noticeable on firmer trails, but thanks to the Vibram Metagrip outsole, there’s no reason why this shoe couldn’t cope just as well in the wet.
On the firm gravel tracks and fire roads, we tried the shoes they felt great. The cushioning is outstanding for a trail shoe and although relatively deep at 30mm, the shoe feels stable enough on uneven ground. The traction was also good without a hint of a slip wherever we ventured.
The engineered mesh upper is soft and plush, using rubberised, printed overlays to add protection and aid durability. This gives the shoe road shoe comfort with trail shoe capabilities making it a versatile option this summer.
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