Best lightweight running shoes review 2015
When it comes to gear weight savings, nearly all the focus is on the bike. Granted, replacing your old Reynolds 531 steel tubing with a bike moulded from carbon might save you more time than a stripped-down shoe, but lightweight shoes can make a difference.
According to a study by former Nike coach Jack Daniels, adding 100g to a shoe increases the aerobic demand of running by 1%. This, he calculated, equated to around a minute over a marathon.
The reason for this extra energy expenditure has parallels with why the Kalenjin tribe of Kenya has produced runners of the calibre of Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto. The tribe has particularly thin ankles and calves – important when it comes to running because your legs act like a pendulum. The greater weight you have farther away from your centre of gravity, the more effort’s required to get it swinging.
It’s the same with lightweight shoes. Much like the Tories and Labour, though, the distinction between racers and training shoes is less distinct than in the past. Racers used to be stripped down to the bare essentials; training shoes were loaded with cushioning and stability features. Now, many racers have more cushioning – so much so that they can be used for training (see our 2015 buyer's guide for more info).
This test features many shoes that are designed for speed but would be deemed heavyweights in the racing past. Does that make a difference to how fast you run the final leg? It’s time to find out…
Quick jargon buster
How you run. Usually broken down into how you land: forefoot – ball of foot lands first; midfoot – ball and heel land together; heel strike – heel lands first then flexes to toe off.
Final part of foot contact before propelling forward.
When your foot moves inwards slightly between landing and toe-off. Overpronation is when this is to a significant degree. Underpronation (supination) is when there’s no inward roll.
Type of run shoe primarily designed for pronators. Provides adequate levels of support and cushioning.
Right then, on with the reviews…
New Balance 1500v1
Price: £80 from www.newbalance.co.uk
A lightweight racer (245g) with a medial post in its midsole is unusual – it’s more common in heavier training shoes – but it certainly adds to the stability of what’s a pretty impressive shoe.
NB’s trademark Revlite EVA performs cushioning duties with style, the 6mm drop just right for a smooth transition from landing to toe-off.
As for the upper, the mesh base is overlayed with synthetic strips around the toe bumper for added strength and durability, and is fused rather than stitched, saving weight and adding to the flowing aesthetics.
Comfort’s good with or without socks; the micro-lugs on the outsole ensure impressive grip; and a heel loop lends a nod to T2. The price is also good for a lightweight racer and, like many shoes in the NB range, there’s a choice of width fittings.
Verdict: Surprisingly comfortable shoe but not to the detriment of speed, 88%
Price: £115 from www.on-running.com
Hoorah – a shoe that revives memories of old (aka a traditional lightweight racer), coming in at 240g. Much of that weight saving stems from the trademark ‘Clouds’ on the outsole. There are 18 of them and they’re a lower profile than usual.
Whether that shrinkage reduces the amount of energy returned from the Clouds on each stride compared to their weightier brethren is hard to quantify. What’s clear is that further weight’s been saved in the upper, which is possibly the thinnest we’ve ever encountered.
Your toes are visible and it does raise questions over durability. In use, they’re not quite as comfy as some here, especially the Ultra Boost. But sacrificing comfort for speed is a common payback with shoes under the 250g mark.
Verdict: Fast shoe, though there are some question marks over durability, 81%
Brooks Pure Connect 4
Price: £89 from www.brooksrunning.co.uk
Despite the ‘natural running’ movement slowing down, Brooks’s Pure range remains – but the jury’s out on whether this is a good thing with the Connect 4. This has a more rounded heel than previous incarnations, designed to ‘align force through the ankle joint’ on landing.
That realignment isn’t particularly noticeable, but this focus on the heel surely conflicts with the minimalist aim of mid- to forefoot landing?
It certainly doesn’t add to the flow of the shoe, the heavier rear leading to a slightly staggered transition from landing to toe-off.
Mind you, the upper’s mightily comfortable and no-sew overlays keep the weight down to 270g. Your foot’s also kept nicely in check thanks to the nav-band. So plenty of positives, but where’s the Pure range heading?
Verdict: A solid shoe but one possibly undergoing an identity crisis? 80%
Continue reading our guide to the best lightweight running shoes of 2015 (2/3)