If you want to get fit, having the right gear is half the challenge. You can supercharge your gym session, your afternoon run or your weekend trip out on the trail with a new pair of high-tech footwear — and there’s a lot to learn before you even go and try on your first pair.
There are a lot of different shoes, though, and every different running shoe brand has its own suite of proprietary technology — fancy woven breathable material, multi-layered cushioning and step-improving bounce soles, as well as more niche features like waterproofing and reflective paneling. Hell, Adidas even has a footwear prototype created entirely on a 3D printer. We’ve chosen some front-runners, though — pardon the pun — to showcase exactly how advanced your running shoes can be. Within the three broad categories of road, track, and racing, these are a few of our favourite new high-tech running shoes.
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For Road Running, Regular Training And Long Distance
For long distance running, you generally want a good cushioning sole that keeps your heel and the ball of your foot comfortable throughout hundreds of moderate impact footfalls, a breathable upper that stops your foot from sweating and becoming uncomfortable over time, and an overall light weight that doesn’t cause undue fatigue over longer circuits. One is good, two is better, but all together is best.
Nike’s Flyknit Lunar3 combines a few important high-tech features that make it great for long-distance running. Chief amongst those is Flyknit, with enough structure to stay rigid but that is flexible enough to fit and wrap feet. Flyknit is stitched more tightly at the heel to form a stronger, but still seamless cup, and looser across the toe to let more air through. Adidas’s Ultra Boost has a similar tech called Primeknit.
A natural-fit running shoe like the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit, too, keeps your feet in a comfortable position as they hit and rise off the road or running surface — it’s actually Nike’s lowest-profile shoe, and has a sock-like collar that hugs your ankle, adding to Flyknit’s already foot-hugging feeling. As a combination of sock-like construction and super-cushioning sole, Under Armour’s Speedform Fortis is a great choice. Any figure-hugging shoe with a sock-like upper construction should keep your feet muscles comfortable over a longer period.
For All-Out Racing, Sprinting And Short Fitness Stints
When you’re running fast, generally for shorter periods of time than a long-distance road run or an off-road trail trek, you want all-out bounce response from the shoe’s cushioning. Each shoemaker has its own secret blend of cushioning, rubber outsole and secret herbs and spices, but all racing running shoes will give you a step-to-step rebound that’ll help you move faster than any other shoe.
The Puma Ignite is worn by the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, and its namesake is the Ignite foam that cushions from harsh footfalls but compresses and provides a high rebound force. Where the Ignite has chevrons along the sole, Nike’s Lunaracer+ 3 has Phylon stripes that add stability and guide steps into a more natural position, as well as slightly larger pistons on the outsole that absorb initial force.
New Balance goes all out with nitrogen-infused cushioning in the N2 Burst technology inside its all-purpose 1260v5, cushioning the landing and boosting the toe-off for a supposedly smoother run overall thanks to NB’s Abzorb pad on the heel to prevent bottoming out. Or, if you need the absolute best traction without going for a proper track spike, you could take a look at for Nike’s Zoom Rival. Either way, you want a slim and lightweight shoe with as much rebound in the sole as possible.
For Trail Trekking, Night Workouts And Off-Road Running
If you’re running off the road or off the beaten track, you’re going to be dodging around rocks and twigs and sticks coming up out of the ground — that means your shoes have to be super sturdy. As well as that, their soles have to be flexible enough to allow for running on uneven surfaces without damaging your ankles, and extra visibility to other runners or drivers is always useful.
Reebok’s All Terrain Super 2 is made for the great outdoors, with a H2O Drain design that pushes any rain or puddled water out from the upper and sole to the front of the shoe, where it’s pumped out six channels cut in the sole — so your feet don’t stay wet. The Terrain Skin upper is a tight weave that stops any rips, too. North Face’s Ultra Cardiac trail shoes are built around a lightweight honeycomb foam, which wicks away moisture but that dries very quickly.
For outright visibility, you can’t really go past Under Armour’s Charged Night Bandit running shoes — their entire mesh upper is reflective, so you’ll be visible from a long distance. Like other good all-terrain shoes, their soles are equally flexible over the entire base, so you’re not going to be pushed uncomfortably to one side if you land unevenly on an obstacle in your path. Similarly, Asics’ extremely loud Gel-Noosa Tri 10 shoes have gel cushioning that protects the centre of the soles and lets the rest of the sole provide more soft cushioning.
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