There’s an argument for saying that the best run trainers you can choose for a triathlon are those that you feel most comfortable in. After all, whichever distance you’re taking on, this is the part of the race where your legs will be most tired, your feet battered and in need of some help to get through.
Back in our men’s race day shoes test though, we quoted the results of some research that showed that a balance of minimal weight, plus cushioning for comfort and maximal energy rebound is ideal for fast efforts. So in the main, that’s what you’ll find here, too.
During the test period we focussed on the same 5km run loop (all on road, mostly man-made surfaces and both in the dry and wet) and also ran on the treadmill in controlled conditions. We took into account how these shoes might adapt to tri-specific issues: for example how quickly you can get them on in transition (we tested them with manufacturer-supplied laces, although you could obviously add elastic laces for little cost). We also considered whether they are comfortable enough to wear without socks and with damp feet, without irritation.
Now in their 8th incarnation, Saucony describe the A8 as their ‘most popular road racing shoe’ and there’s a lot to like with these come race day. With a 4mm drop they offer a good halfway-house between zero drop and the more cushioned shoes on test and were also the lightest at a mere 148g for our UK6.5. You feel great connection to the ground, allowing you to really pick up the pace, but without having to completely change your run style. The Flexfilm engineered mesh upper was very light and breathable (although perhaps a little delicate, so save these for race day!), yet hugged the foot for a great fit and the soft inner made them comfortable without socks. They also had a nice wide toebox, allowing plenty of room for swollen end-of-race feet to move. Finally you get an elastic heel loop, making them quick to pull on in T2. We’d just add elastic laces, too. saucony.com
Verdict: true race shoes with the bonus of features that make them ideal for tri 90%
Buy from www.saucony.com
The fact that these are the heaviest on test at 280g might seem at odds with the name ‘levitate’, but rather than meaning they are floaty-light, that refers to the wodge of super-bouncy DNA AMP midsole technology, designed to ‘energize’ you and propel you forward. Taking them round our test loop you certainly noticed the bounce and they are very plush feeling – plus the 8mm drop is exacerbated by a high arch and ‘rocker’ shaped sole which also acts to propel you forward. Hoka have shown that a more platform-style shoe can work come race day and certainly with these at the other end of the spectrum from the Vivobarefoots, it’s good to see real choice. For this tester though, these felt a little too disconnected from the ground and we felt just a bit unstable in them when we picked up the pace. Kudos to Brooks for the space-age silver sole, though!
Verdict: stop here if you want tigger-style bounce – but at the cost of feel for the ground 77%
Buy from www.brooksrunning.com
We’ve been running in On shoes for a couple of years now, but out of the box the new Cloud X instantly felt more comfortable than its predecessors with a remodelled seam-free upper that was instantly very comfortable, hugging the foot but with plenty of room for toes. It’s lighter too – our UK6 came in at just 194g compared to a trusty old pair at 251g. On tarmac these felt propulsive with just the right mix of cushioning and contact with the ground. Those ‘clouds’ compress so you still feel connected to the road, despite having enough bounce to keep legs fresh. The upper was breathable and dried out quickly when used on soggier days. In fact, the only downside of these we could find was that when used at a local 5km on mixed surfaces the centre channel on the sole got gummed up with mud and grass.
We still got a PB though, so we’ll forgive them!
Verdict: fast with the right mix of comfort, cushioning and contact with the ground 92%
Buy from www.on-running.com
Fresh out of the box, these futuristic rose pink booties (also available in black) looked more something designed to keep the bloggerati happy than for serious running. But there is one big benefit for triathletes – namely the lack of laces – which means you can very quickly slip these on in T1 and go.
They’re also really plush and comfortable, with the Primeknit upper snugly wrapping around the foot to keep it in place yet leaving lots of room for toes to move. We happily wore these without socks, too. Technology-wise you get the same grippy Continental outsole and Boost cushioning as found in the Adizero Adios 3 that scored 85% in issue 348’s men’s race shoe test. The upper seemed a little delicate though and they felt less sure-footed than others from Adidas.
Verdict: pack more tech than you might think – but there are better adidas for the spend 72%
Remember when Born To Run came out and we all went barefoot-mad and promptly shredded our calf muscles? Well, if that put you off, then Vivobarefoot could be the ones to tempt you back. The brand are passionate about educating runners about good biomechanics and after a lesson with their coach (and a lot of practise!) we’re starting to gradually adapt to these zero-drop shoes and a pitter-patter run style. As for the Primus Lite, it’s the lightest run shoe Vivo offer (153g for our UK6) and is super-flexible, designed to fit with plenty of wriggle-room for your toes. We loved the freedom they offer and the feeling of contact with the earth, even if we’re not quite there with running long distances yet! The
shoes feel nicely constructed and, thanks to the mesh upper and soft heel cup dried the fastest on test and were super-comfortable when worn without socks. vivobarefoot.com
Verdict: high potential if you’ re prepared to put in the work to adapt to barefoot 86%
Buy from www.vivobarefoot.com
With a drop of 8mm and plush inner, these shoes from Asics felt closer to a high mileage shoe than an out-and-out racer, especially when compared to others in the range such as the men’s test-winning Road-hawk [issue 348]. Where they will appeal, though, is if you’re a runner looking for a shoe with a bit more substance that can be used for both training and racing. There are certainly things to like – the upper is breathable and lightweight, while the sole makes use of Asics’ lightweight Flytefoam technology. For us though, these felt a little bit clumpy compared to others in the range and just a touch narrow across the forefoot. As a shoe that would serve you well for longer runs and training as well as racing, they may well be a good call – although those looking for marginal gains should be excited by the new Asics Gel-451 triathlon shoe with boa lacing, reviewed here soon. asics.com
Verdict: felt more like a training than a racing shoe, but a good all-rounder 80%
Buy from www.asics.com
Coming in at 219g (UK6.5) these felt light but still cushioned enough to serve as a regular training shoe as well as a race option – good if you don’t want to fork out for two pairs of shoes and even better value when you consider the price point. Ok, so almost £100 is still a considered spend, but with the price range in this test shooting up to near £160,they’re competitive! The 6mm drop suited us, and straight out of the box they felt comfortable, encouraging a midfoot stride that helped pick up the pace. The sole felt sticky enough despite the shallow tread and gripped well on surfaces both wet and dry. These weren’t as responsive as some of the pure racers on test, but are definitely speedier than your average high-mileage shoe. Plus, they’re super reflective for night running which is a nice bonus!
Verdict: more of a fast shoe for training and regular use, but will have wide appeal 85%
Buy from www.newbalance.co.uk
Images by The Secret Studio