It’s race-training season. And in preparation for your 5K or Half Marathon, a spate of new super shoes want to help shield your feet and joints from the miles you’re about to put on them.
Three new technologies—from Adidas, Puma, and Nike—promise to give your running experience an upgrade—in both comfort and performance.
Of course, while all three companies bill the advances as game-changing for runners, it can be tricky to separate marketing exaggerations from real benefits. “I do think it is interesting that since the minimalism [shoe] trend every company feels like there has to be a ‘next big thing in running,’ and I think that’s what all three of these initiatives are about,” says Johanna Bjorken, who, as merchandise director for JackRabbit Sports, evaluates more shoes than anyone else we know.
Her advice? “When evaluating product, the first question in my mind is what I think should be in every runner’s mind, before any and beyond any marketing claims: Is it comfortable on my foot? Does it make me want to run?”
If any of these fit the bill, slip them on and hit that Central Park loop ASAP.
1. Adidas Energy Boost ($150)
When Adidas launched its shoe with Energy Boost cushioning material last month, it was with a star-studded press event that boasted of “a revolution in running” and of “changing running forever.” The new, high-tech material replaces the industry-standard EVA foam that makes up the shoe’s midsole. According to the company, Boost foam, which is made with tiny “energy capsules,” both cushions your foot on the down stride and provides a “maximum energy return” giving you a, um, boost that should improve performance. It’s also supposed to last longer without wearing down, and is temperature-resistant.
2. Puma Mobium Elite ($110)
Puma’s Mobium technology is based on the idea that the human foot expands and contracts as it moves, and the shoe is meant to expand and contract along with it. (The original inspiration came from the way a cat’s foot opens and closes as it lands.) To do that, the sole features ‘Expansion Pods’ in places that the human foot that most need cushioning, protection, and flexibility, say the designers. The shoe also includes an elasticized band that runs in a figure eight around the sole, which is meant to act like the foot’s tendons, adding extra spring. On a few test runs, the Mobium really did move with my feet more than any other shoe I’ve tried, while still providing cushioning you wouldn’t get from a minimalist shoe.
3. Nike Flyknit Lunar1+ (starting at $100)
Nike’s newest innovation made Time Magazine’s list of the best inventions of 2012. Essentially, it changes how shoes are manufactured. While most are stitched together from individual components, the top of a Flyknit Racer is made in one piece, using precisely engineered yarns that are threaded together, like a sock. This helps reduce seams, friction, and weight, and it allows the shoe to move with the foot more easily. “I do think Flyknit is pretty exciting in concept,” Bjorken admits. While the technology officially launched as part of the Racer shoe in February of last year, it was originally aimed at elite athletes. This year, the company launched the Flyknit Lunar1+ in a rainbow of fun spring colors, aimed at everyday runners. Maybe like you? —Lisa Elaine Held