Best women’s lightweight running shoes review 2015
Now the race season is here, it’s time to start thinking about the kit that will best get you from swim to finish line – and when it comes to the run, shoe choice is key. As a triathlete you’re well catered for but there are choices to make.
Do you run in your old faithfuls? (Not a bad choice if you’re a newbie looking to survive in comfort), or do you go for something a bit special?
And if you decide to splash the cash, should you pick a shoe designed with the needs of triathletes considered, such as the Zoots and Pearl Izumis below, or a racing shoe created with pure speed in mind, like either the Adidas or the Mizunos?
Well, we’ve included a range below – all tested over our 5k and 10k loops that incorporated fast flat sections, as well as a couple of sharp hills. Read on and find the pair that will take you to your next PB…
Adidas Adizero Boston 5
Price: £95 from www.adidas.co.uk
There seems to be a trend among shoe manufacturers to equate eye-popping colour with performance, but don’t let the understated looks of the Boston 5 fool you (although a neon-soled version is available).
This is a shoe that combines speed and comfort in a lightweight (210g) package that made every step of our 10k test loop feel like we were racing at our hardest – yet enjoying it at the same time.
That’s thanks to Adidas’s Boost technology in the sole, whereby tiny energy capsules are designed to return energy to you, keeping legs fresh and the pace high.
The Coolever mesh upper is light and super-breathable (hold these up and you can see daylight through them), while the Continental rubber outsole keeps them grippy in the wet. One note: go up a half-size, as sizing is pretty stingy.
Verdict: Not tri-specific, but for fast efforts these are the best we’ve tried, 92%
Pearl Izumi EM Tri N2
Price: £94 from www.madison.co.uk
One of only two truly tri-specific shoes in this test, the Em Tri N2 naturally draws comparison with the Zoots. With regards weight there’s little to choose between them, with the Pearl Izumi coming in at 224g for our UK6.
We found the tri laces on this shoe a little trickier to do up though, as there’s a sliding button toggle to navigate, but that’s a minor niggle.
Out on our test loop, the Pearl Izumi felt roomy and comfortable, although the weight of the cushioning in the heel led to a slightly flat feeling at times, meaning we didn’t quite get up on our toes as we’d like to.
The feel was similar to the Scotts overall, but with slightly more cushioning leading to a comfier overall ride. The linings are soft and breathable too, meaning we were chafe-free when wearing without socks – and a generous heel loop aids in transition.
Verdict: Comfy and tri-friendly, but they just didn’t give us that race-day kick, 80%
Mizuno Hitogami 2
Price: £85 from www.mizuno.eu/gb
The least expensive shoe on test is also the one that took top honours in last year’s race shoe test – and the Hitogami continues to impress in this second incarnation.
It’s gained a little weight since 2014 (204g vs 181g on our scales for a UK6), something Mizuno put down to a new two-piece upper, designed to give a better fit.
On test though, these shoes still feel nimble and Mizuno’s now well-established Wave and Smoothride technology do a great job of creating a sure-footed and flowing run gait.
Alongside the Boston Boost these are the shoes that feel most like performance racers, although in this test we found them just a little less cushioned than their three-striped rivals.
Also, they feel quite narrow, especially across the top of the foot. If they fit you though, these will serve you well come race day.
Verdict: Still a solid contender in its second incarnation – and at a great price, 86%
Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 100
Price: £114 from www.asics.co.uk
Aside from winning the ‘shoe easiest to spot in transition’ award, what else makes Asics’ 10th incarnation of this shoe tri-specific? Well, there’s the triathlon swim/bike/run graphics festooning it as well as a set of elastic laces.
But although the upper is soft, and there’s breathable mesh around the toes, the inside still includes different sections and a separate tongue that would make us think twice about ditching the socks. There’s no heel loop for easy fitting either.
Yet the weight is comparable to others on test (242g) and the shoe is aimed at longer-distance triathletes looking for pronation control.
As such it includes Asics’ classic Guidance Line technology as well as Gel cushioning in the rear and forefoot, making for a very comfortable run experience – it just seemed more training shoe than racer.
Verdict: More tri features needed to market it as a tri shoe, but a competent performer, 80%
Zoot Ultra Tempo 6.0
Price: £115 from www.zootsports.com
Having struggled a bit with the wire/click wheel Boa ratchet in last year’s race shoes test, it came as a mighty relief to see this year’s shoes from tri pioneers Zoot arriving with a reassuring set of elasticated laces in place that you simply tug to anchor them in a clever groove.
Those, combined with the tongue hole and heel loop make these a doddle to slip on while the soft interior is designed to be worn barefoot.
The Tempo 6.0 is a guidance shoe with a 10mm offset and it does have more of a training shoe feel about it than some of the others on test, but it still only comes in at 224g and we’d happily take on longer races with the comfort they offer.
If you’ve struggled with more pared-back shoes yet still want something that’s fast and responsive for race day, these will serve you well.
Verdict: The best tri-specific features on test, in a shoe that feels reassuringly stable, 88%
Price: £120 from www.on-running.com
These might be the heaviest shoes on test at 272g (UK6), but we’d argue that weight isn’t the primary consideration with On’s offering – although if that is a deal-breaker, then you’d be better off looking towards the Cloudracer included in last month’s lightweight run shoe test.
What you lose with those though is the deeper pods and comfy upper that make the Cloudsurfer such a delight to run in – with every step you bounce along and although they take a little bit of getting used to, our legs still felt fresh after a good 10k-plus of effortful running.
The Surfer is pitched as a performance shoe so you do get a lighter mesh upper and ‘Speedboard’ mid-sole, making it a better choice for faster efforts. One small note though – this isn’t a shoe for muddy, gravelly or uneven surfaces!
Verdict: More bounce than Tigger, but questions over whether this is a true race-day shoe, 78%
Scott Race Rocker 2.0
Price: £95 from www.scott-sports.com
It might look like a bit of a chunky monkey, but picking the Race Rocker 2.0 up we were pleasantly surprised as, at 183g, it’s the lightest shoe on test. That’s partly due to the lightweight and extremely breathable upper, but also to Scott’s new AeroFoam+ midsole material which is designed to offer more durability and rebound.
In practice, we found these shoes felt barely-there on the run and a large heel loop made them easy to pull on. The sole is designed to rock you from mid- to fore-foot and we found they delivered on that – although the thin sole at the toe end felt just a bit too thin after we’d put in a few miles and they didn’t offer the springy, up-on-the-toes feeling we got throughout our test sessions in the Boston Boosts. One for shorter, faster efforts perhaps?
Verdict: It’s lighter than air granted, but a touch too harsh for anything over 5k? 73%
Brooks PureConnect 4
Price: £100 from www.brooksrunning.co.uk
With the excellent T7 and Racer ST5 already scoring highly in previous 220 run shoe tests and still available, this shoe from the PureProject range might seem a strange choice to market to triathletes.
That said though, it’s relatively light at 210g and offers a minimalist profile that will appeal to those looking for a stripped-back race-day shoe. The fit is snug yet comfortable thanks to a high arch and that elasticated nav-band and we loved the soft, flexible no-sew upper, that was easily comfy enough to go sans socks.
Our only question? Like our male tester last month, we couldn’t quite understand how the rounded, chunky heel helps in a minimalist shoe that is more suited to mid-to-forefoot running – and on our longer runs, they did start to feel a touch clumpy.
Verdict: Lots of positives, but for pure race-day speed Brooks have better options, 82%
For lots more advice on the best triathlon kit, head to our Gear section