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Best triathlon race-day run shoes reviewed

To provide you with a triathlon boost, it’s wise to have some lightweight specific race-day shoes in your triathlon kit bag. James Witts and Kelly Stokes tests and rates 13 pairs of race-day run shoes…

Credit: James Mitchell and The Secret Studio

All being well, by the time you read this you’ll be one step – one stride – closer to swapping your overused training kit for your dust-collecting race apparel. To celebrate the new normal, you can instead put the duster away and bag yourself sparkling new gear. Cue a pair of lightweight race-day running shoes.

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What are the best shoes for running?

As triathletes, we know that weight matters. Which is why a pair of lightweight road running shoes really can pay off. Okay, we may only be talking 100g or so per shoe over your training shoes, but throw in a cadence of around 120 strides per minute over 5km, 10km, 21km or 42.2km, and that soon adds up. If those weight savings are equal to energy savings, in theory race-day trainers mean not only faster leg turnover, but glycogen saved for the final push, too. We say ‘in theory’ as these aren’t for everyone. Beyond weight, triathlon-specific features include elastic laces, drainage holes and heel loops.

The best race-day running shoes for men 

Kiprun Ultralight

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  • £69.99

Don’t be deceived by that swoosh and the ‘Kip’ moniker – which made us think of Nikesponsored legend Eluid Kipchoge – these are actually from Decathlon’s in-house brand, which makes them far more affordable but similarly impressive. They’re one of the lightest, race-ready shoes here, coming in at just 220g (UK10.5), which shows as they came into their own in intervals and 5km timetrials. Their sparseness doesn’t come at the expense of propulsion thanks to what Decathlon term Up’Bar technology beneath the sole. Comfort’s equally impressive, even sockless, thanks to a relatively seamless inner. Replace the traditional laces for tri ones and, even without a heel loop, you have a cracking triathlon race-day shoe.

Verdict: sub-£70 for such a lively, controlled race-day shoe’s a winner in our books 88%

Zoot Ultra TT

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  • £140

US brand Zoot is a bona-fide multisport brand, and is credited with inventing the tri-suit back in 1983 after Kona resident Christal Nylin noticed the short-and-singlet brigade needed something a little more swim, bike, run versatile to race in. This is the most tri-specific shoe here thanks to water drainage holes punctured into the outsole, a tongue and heel loops, plus elastic laces. It feels – and is – low to the ground thanks to the 3mm drop. Concerns about a flat feel were dispersed during the first sprint session, though they didn’t match the turnover speed of the Hokas or Kipruns. Comfort and weight (292g) are fine, despite being all-out racers, and while the rather floppy-looking upper had us questioning durability, they performed fine on test.

Verdict: a solid – if not sparlkling – tri-specific shoe form the original tri brand 77%

Buy from mytriathlon.co.uk

Hoka One One Rocket X 

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  • £160

The run-shoe phenomenon of recent years describes this shoe as an “insanely responsive racer geared for elite athletes”. As this ageing age-grouper can testify, it’s not solely the peak of the performance pyramid who’ll benefit from the Rockets, as these are durable and comfortable enough to train in, even proving their worth up to halfmarathon. Their 234g weight defies their far-from lithe looks and comfortable feel, and that’s thanks to Hoka’s ‘lightest foam they’ve ever used’. We can only agree, especially when the shoe features a carbon plate for added rebound force, enhanced further by Hoka’s MetaRocker. This tester would still stick with the lighter-weight Evo Rehis for racing, but that’s a personal preference and doesn’t detract from a cracking shoe.

Verdict: another fine mile-muncher from the Hoka crew 84%

Brooks Ricochet 3 

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  • £120

We’ll admit, we have a soft spot for Brooks after an older model helped ease our long-standing ITB issues and rectified our sloppy gait. We’ve found Brooks to be one of the comfiest shoes around, and so it is with the Ricochet 3. The woven upper, minimally stitched inner and sewn-in stretchy tongue cradle your tootsies like its life depended on it. Throw in the tried-and-tested combination of DNA AMP and BioMoGo DNA cushioning and you have the most comfortable shoe on test. The problem is, at 309g they’re just not designed for top gear. Yes, toe-off is springy and propulsion is good. But when it comes to the marginal gains over Olympicdistance and lower, it falls short. Still, a possible for half-IM and above (it has a heel loop!). And definitely for training

Verdict: would contend for best training shoe…but this is for race day 80%

Skechers GOrun Ride 8

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  • £110

First up, we’re not a fan of the Ride 8’s looks; in fact, they’re reminiscent of the budget run shoes our mum would buy us as a youngster. But that’s just us. More importantly – the ride. They’re 316g – not light – and feel more like a training shoe than racer. Arguably, that’s down to the 6mm drop that’s packed with the company’s Hyper Burst midsole. It’s a cushioned foam number that purportedly lowers weight. It doesn’t, but it does heighten comfort; that said, a rather stiff heel counter takes a little getting used to before bedding in. The neatly woven upper’s highly breathable. In theory, this’d suit barefoot race running but no socks equals no comfort, so we’d advise against. They’re efficient, though not fast, so an option for miles over maximum momentum.

Verdict: moderate training shoe that lacks a certain spark 71%

Saucony Type A9

Credit: Zappos.com
Credit: Zappos.com
  • £100

The Type A9 is an out-and-out racer. And a damn good one at that. It’s the lightest on test at 197g and one of the loudest. That’s a good thing as racing’s not a place for the meek of heart. Comfort is high for such a stripped-down shoe, yet the 4mm drop hints at a modicum of cushioning that derives from the Super Lite EVA midsole. That said, it’s not enough to have us slipping into these for 70.3 and above. Fit is excellent. We put that down to a thin fabric skeleton within the shoe that clamps to your feet when tightening your laces. It’s a simple idea but works well. The upper breathes well, too.

Verdict: speed and comfort for Olympic distance and below 89%

Asics Gel-DS 24

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  • £120

The DS are now at chapter 24. But are they improving with age? They’re the comfiest here, with a solid heel counter stabilising your feet that’s then cradled by an EVA sockliner. This is a midsole forged from two different densities of material that dampens the impact of landing and also smooths out pronation issues. Transition from landing to toe-off is proficient, and maximised via a band beneath the midsole that prevents twisting and torsion. You do feel fast in the DS, though not up there with the Saucony, which comes down to weight. At 282g, these are over 90g heavier than the Type A9.

Verdict: a comfy and swift shoe for the heavier triathlete 81%

New Balance 1500 T2 BOA

Credit: Boafit.com
Credit: Boafit.com
  • £110

The 1500T2 is a brash beast – its colourway and Boa closure system screaming tri race day. Yet there’s substance behind the shouting as this is one fine shoe. NB has come to terms with Boa. Gone are hotspots; instead, your foot comfortably clamps into place, all at transition speed. And all without weight as, despite the added circular mechanism, it’s only 232g. Despite a minimal build, there’s comfort thanks to a REVlite midsole that’s said to be 30% lighter than other foams but without losing stability. The knit uppers add breathability, while a heel loop adds more tri appeal.

Verdict: transitions– and your final leg – just got brighter 92%

Buy from www.newbalance.co.uk

Top Women’s race-day runners

On Cloudflash 

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  • £130

Hailed as the fastest On ever, the Cloudflash has been designed with the help of elites, including multiple world champ Javier Gomez, for distances up to 10k. At 210g, the Cloudflash felt light and airy and at speed it was one of the top performers. Two layers of ‘Helion Powered Cloudtec’ offered consistent cushioning throughout the foot roll, which, along with the carbon fibre infused ‘Speedboard’, gave a zippy and responsive race-day feel. The no-sew support in the forefoot claims to assist feet as they tire towards the end of a race, which may well be true, but as it’s narrower around the forefoot area this would most benefit those with slender feet. For all the tech, laces seem to be have overlooked, with the thin offering creating notable pressure points through the slim tongue.

Verdict: fast and responsive, just slightly lacking in fit and comfort 83%

361° Fierce 

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  • £109.99

Only founded in 2016, Dutch brand 361° has been put on the map by the Fierce model. With an engineered knit upper and an Ortholite sockliner, they offer cushioning and flexibility while effortlessly moulding around the contours of your foot. The ‘Stayput’ tongue proved to be comfortable and unobtrusive with the ‘Quickspring’ sole reducing compression and, as the name would suggest, putting a light spring in our step. Although the shoes don’t feel as fast as some, 361° FIERCE they performed surprisingly well across all distances. At 229g they were the heaviest on test, but still felt light and breathable and also offered the most comfort. At shorter distances this may not be a priority, but for 10k+ they come into their own and allow your feet to feel as fresh as they did in the first km.

Verdict: the Fierce is a great all-rounder option without the hefty price tag 88%

Topo Athletic Cyclone 

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  • £120

With a focus on ‘natural running,’ the Cyclcone features Topo Athletic’s familiar wider toe box which accommodates toe splay during running. This offers forefoot comfort but also gives the shoe more of a streetwear look. The sole features a ‘ZipFoam’ core that gives a bouncy feel off the tarmac, while the ortholite footbed offers good arch support and claims to provide anticompression and anti-microbial properties. The rubber outsole is designed for increased traction and durability, but it lacked flexibility, resulting in an overly stiff foot roll. The shoe is designed for all distances, which is possibly its failing. It doesn’t offer top-end speed nor longer distance comfort. Granted, it’s at a lower price-point than some here, but it doesn’t give the same race-ready feel.

Verdict: performs great as a casula trainer, but is lacking in performance 79%

Salomon S/Lab Phantasm

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  • £165

Bold, bright and daring, the Phantasm is designed to feel dirty fast. The upper mesh is super breathable and featherlight, helping to bring the weight down to only 199g. As a result, there’s minimal cushioning, but there’s still support where needed. The reverse camber design means you spend less time on the ground, while the midsole is designed to deliver a bouncy energy return, which, despite being a forefoot design, gives plenty of support around the midfoot and arch. The Contagrip sole has flat wide lugs, designed to grip on flat hard surfaces. Over the shorter distances, the Phantasm was lightning fast so if you’re looking for 5k PBs, this is the number one choice. But for training or anything above 10km, you’ll want something a bit more forgiving.

Verdict: if you can justify two sparate shoes for racing/training, this one will fly 86%

Newton Gravity 10

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  • £155

The eye-catching Gravity 10 is setting new standards when it comes to sustainability. The laces and mesh upper are made from 100% recycled material while the EcoPure sole is designed to breakdown into nontoxic biomatter 75% quicker than standard trainers. The gender-tuned fit is snug but comfortable and flexes to support your foot’s natural movement. At 204g they’re breathable and light, while Newton’s distinctive ‘lugs’ come with Action/ Reaction technology that increases responsiveness and reduces energy loss with every stride, making them one of the fastest shoes on test. For those new to Newtons, the minimal 3mm drop claims to be the most natural position to run in but adjusting to this can take time. For those who persevere, the Gravity will reward

Verdict: sustainability and performance in one package; hard not to be impressed 89% 

Best road running shoes verdict

Thankfully, the flash exteriors seen here aren’t compensating for inferior technologies below. In all honesty, there isn’t a bad shoe here, although some clearly tick the race-speed box with more elan than others.

We all want PBs on race day but picking the best shoe to help achieve that can be a minefield. Over a 5-10k distance in the women’s racers, the electric speed of Salomon’s Phantasm is hard to ignore and provides energy with every stride over a hard surface. Above this distance, and especially in hot conditions, the all-day comfort offered by 361°’s Fierce gives you confidence your feet will keep going for as long as it takes. But for versatility across the distances, the environmentally friendly Gravity 10 is lightweight and responsive and provides the optimal balance of speed and comfort to take top spot. W

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It was a mixed-bag on the men’s side with the Skechers’ and Brooks’ models more for training than racing. Many of you will be attracted to the Hoka Rocket X’s – and with good reason. They’re a swift shoe, are extremely comfortable and, let’s be honest, who’s not persuaded by a strip of carbon (especially when it does seem to aid propulsion). We’d recommend them to all. But they’re not the winners. Simple, fast, effective, the Kiprun UltraLight from Decathlon takes the prize. With a staggering RRP, their performance, price and colourway are hard to ignore.