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It's Spring! Time for our Annual Running Shoe Review

Written by Adam W. Chase
Posted Mar 30, 2009
Time to shake off that winter lethargy and put some speed back in your legs—some spring in your step, so to speak. To help with that, our 2009 road shoe review catalogs a number of new, lightweight training and racing models that are ripe for speed.

Representing Ecco’s BIOM Project, an engineering feat for feet, the BIOM A is all about allowing the foot to flow naturally, without intrusive guidance or excessive protection or cushioning. This biomechanical accomplishment is carried out with the help of modern technologies and an unexpected material: yak leather. The yak, given its tolerance for cold climates, has a thick yet breathable hide, and that translates to an ideal upper material, especially with the space age Ion-Masks treatment for water repellency. Models are also available in mesh for $195. The BIOM’s rounded heel, injected polyurethane midsole that wraps up the shoe and anatomical shank system combine with a flexible forefoot for unobstructed heel-to-toe motion. The BIOM A is dialed-in to run at a fast clip, when runners are up on their toes, and our testers noticed that they felt encouraged to pick it up when using the shoes.

There’s a long history between adidas and Boston, both with the marathon and the shoe. Each is serious and requires a certain level of ability and determination to race or wear, respectively. This shoe is designed as a lightweight trainer that can help you keep pace over long distances—think marathon—thanks to adiPRENE impact resistance and plenty of forefoot flex grooves. The women’s model features a different medial platform in the forefoot because women tend to land more centered, resulting in greater pronation. Both models feature a thinner torsion bar and a softer midsole compound to add more flexibility to the shoe, which our testers found to be the real deal when it came to no-nonsense training, especially for tempo workouts and faster workouts when you want to be up on your toes.

ASICS GT-2140, $100
If runners vote with their feet, then the most often re-elected shoe is Asics’ GT-2000 series, which has now reached the level of the 2140. Without getting into politics, Asics has maintained its top-dog status by keeping it simple, and it’s a simplicity they’ve brought to a new level with greater midsole resiliency and midfoot support and structure. For noticeable comfort, the 2140’s sockliner is made of memory foam and the upper is an all-new design, but with the same specs as prior models. This lightweight, high-mileage shoe is well-cushioned, supportive and straightforward. The 2140 felt snug for one of our testers with a high-volume foot, but he said he soon broke them in and appreciated the uniform comfort, arch support, solid-feeling heel and gel cushioning, which was “noticeable and welcome.”

This shoe got approval from both the American Podiatric Medical Association and our test team, who gave it rave reviews thanks to the combination of great features. In particular, the upper construction and out-of-the-box comfort garnered attention. The shoe features an airy mesh upper with V-Fit eyestays for a fit customized to a wide variety of foot shapes. The close-to-foot comfort of the antibacterial Ortholite sockliner also pleased our testers. The Avi-Lite’s cantilever system combines a decoupled lateral crash zone and a hollowed heel for mechanical cushioning to help with the foot’s natural landing. The heel cup got mixed reviews, with some testers liking the feel and others finding it hard on impact.

Although the Stable is Karhu’s most-hyped in its new  line of running shoes, it is still low-profile and rather Spartan for those unfamiliar with Karhu’s no-nonsense approach to footwear. That said, the Stable was given high marks from our lighter-weight, higher-mileage testers who liked it for everyday training and lightweight comfort. They found it delivered on its name with cushioning, too, using a stabilizing plate and Karhu’s patented Fulcrum technology to guide the foot to a neutral stride with torsional stability. The Stable also features a breathable, stylish upper, internal lacing for a secure fit, comfortable Ortholite insoles and durable carbon rubber outsole.

A favorite among testers, this was a lucky seven for the Glycerin and all of its luxurious comfort. Brooks was very generous when it came to the Glycerin’s midsole, giving the shoe a double helping of its environmentally friendly BioMoGo with rear and forefoot shock-absorbing viscous fluid units, a rearfoot compound for energy dampening on heel impact, and a plastic shank for midfoot torsion. The fit of the mesh uppers, the moisture-management liners and Ortholite sockliner combined to give our test team the impression that the shoes were trusted friends, even fresh out of the box. Said one tester, “The Glycerin is a dependable workhorse of a shoe.”

NEW BALANCE 904, $110
Going with the industry trend of using lighter midsole materials to reduce the aggregate weight of their shoes, New Balance’s 904 uses a compound that is about 25 percent lighter than the standard foams of the past. The foam, teamed with the shoe’s low profile and associated stability, make the 904 a solid choice as a lightweight trainer or racing shoe for those who don’t want to go minimalist with a racing flat, given the 904’s supportive qualities. Our testers enjoyed the dependable NB fit and security of the N-Lock integrated lacing system, and said the shoe was a good choice for longer road races.

To achieve the benefits gained from barefoot running, which encourages you to run on your forefoot by triggering action/reaction technology (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction), Newton offers a sweet reward for efficient form. The Gravity is a neutral trainer designed for forefoot or midfoot runners. At 10 ounces, this shoe features very bright, lightweight, breathable and stretchy uppers, a midsole with a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate, a flexible forefoot and high-rebound EVA. Newton shoes take some getting used to, so you’ll likely need to be careful while adding on daily mileage over the course of a few weeks. Our testers found the shoes forgiving and encouraged them to run on their forefeet, which translated to a quicker pace.


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