As if the surge of runners returning to the roads wasn’t evidence enough, we’re officially heading back into race season. Of course, the spectrum of what that exactly means is quite wide. Perhaps you’re training for a 5km charity fun run or you might be gearing up for your Boston Marathon qualifying race in Mississauga next month. But regardless of time, distance, or stakes, all those trials of miles mean little if you’re not training and racing in the proper running shoes.
Over the years, running shoes have evolved to the point where it’s becoming almost overwhelming. Stability shoes, motion control shoes, “super shoes,” and countless others have flooded the market, with seemingly every brand releasing models to fit each category. That challenge is only amplified by certain models not making their way across the border until long after the season ends. And the moment you think you’ve found the perfect pair – poof – a new brand emerges and demands the running world’s attention.
With all the noise, it can be nearly impossible to know whether or not you’re selecting the right shoe for you. Of course, only you can know what’s exactly right for your body and your training regimen, but we can certainly help narrow down the choices.
Whether you’re putting in speed work on the track, plodding along the pavement to stack up those junk miles, or racing towards a new personal best, these are the eight shoes designed to carry you there.
New Balance 1080 V11
Why mince words? The New Balance 1080 V11 is my favourite shoe currently on the market. As was the 1080 V10, as was the 1080 V9, and – without being too presumptive – I’d bet my next paycheck that the 1080 V12 will once again be my go-to training shoe. For years, the 1080 has been one of New Balance’s best-selling shoes, and for good reason. It’s a premium quality neutral cushioned shoe and, while it used to only be suitable for long slow runs, the evolution of technology and overall lowering of shoe weights means it’s now far more adaptable to anything from a 5km race to the ever-daunting marathon.
Personally, I think they act as the perfect every day training shoe. Sure, they might be a bit expensive for the role, but the stand-out cushioning, durability, and unbeatable versatility are what make them so popular year after year.
Asics Gel-Nimbus 24
Once a shoe reaches 24 iterations, it’s pretty much cemented its “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” status. Long known for its gel-based cushioning, Asics has added several crucial details that help the Gel-Nimbus 24 stand out. The FlyteFoam Blast+midsole material is lighter and softer than standard FF Blast, but it still offers a good “poppy” energy return. Yet while it’s a lot lighter and peppier than the 23 – and remarkably so for a shoe this comfy – the 24 still isn’t quite right for speed sessions or short races. But when it comes to logging long runs and every day miles in plush comfort, Asics’ Gel-Nimbus 24 delivers year after year.
If you happen to have an internet connection or live amongst civilization, you probably haven’t gone an hour without coming across an ad for On’s latest release, the Cloudmonster. This appropriately named behemoth of a shoe was the Swiss brand’s inauguration into a maximalist shoe. Boasting the largest CloudTecelements (the hollow pods in the midsole) of any model, the Cloudmonster is designed for long or easy runs. Above the pods sits a plastic plate that On (somewhat generously) calls its Speedboard that acts as a push-off platform, not entirely unlike a carbon plate one might find on a racing shoe.
There’s certainly enough of a punch to the Speedboard to push the pace when running on your forefoot, but despite the public discourse showering the Cloudmonster with praise, I wouldn’t use them for any serious speedwork. But for slower speeds on the road or light long runs, the softness of the CloudTecelements makes On’s latest model an exceptionally comfortable option.
Adidas Boston 10
While the name might suggest that this sleek Adidas model should be reserved for marathon status, the Boston 10 makes its case as an all-distance shoe. With a deadly combination of everyday cushioning and snappy carbon rods that help push your interval training to the next level, Adidas is delivering one of the more responsive shoes on the market. Compared to previous versions of the shoe, the Boston 10’s energy return will have you feeling like you’re a stone skipping across still waters, whether it’s on a track workout, a Sunday long run, or your next Boston qualifier.
New Balance Fuelcell Elite V2
Yes, this is the second time we’re celebrating New Balance throughout the round-up and no, I staunchly refuse to apologize. In part, because New Balance successfully crafted a shoe that genuinely rivals that of Nike’s Vaporfly NEXT% and, in part, because they simultaneously designed the most beautiful model of the year with the New Balance Fuelcell Elite V2.
The brand bills the shoe as offering a “competitive advantage on race day” and, on aesthetics alone, this sleek, colourful model plays the part to perfection. But as every runner who’s been roped in by a flashy underperformer before knows, a shoe’s looks can only take you so far. Luckily, the Fuelcell Elite V2 lives up to its design. It offers the pace and pop you need for race days and speedwork sessions, with a healthy amount of FuelCell midsole and a full-length carbon fibre plate. In my opinion, it’s far more stable than rival “super shoes” with comparable performance in speedwork and half-marathon distances.
Hoka One One Rocket X
When it comes to a running shoe, there are few feats I appreciate more than when one manages to marry speed and stability. It’s like dating someone who rides a Harley but bakes scones on the weekend. Or maybe it’s not at all. My point is, Hoka delivers the best of both worlds with one of its lightest models yet in the Rocket X.
The only downside? It’s somewhat of a niche shoe and might not be suitable for runners hoping to log heavy, steady junk miles. Still, its low-slung, snug silhouette and its thin carbon-fibre plate make this a seriously fast shoe while its stable base won’t make you feel like you’re racing on skates like Nike’s Vaporfly. So, if you’re looking for a pair of race day shoes but aren’t well-versed in the world of “super shoes,” the Rocket X will be a fitting introduction.
Saucony Triumph 19
With a model now passing the legal drinking age in Canada, Saucony’s Triumph 19 has found its formula and all but perfected it. Although it’s heavy, on par with other luxe trainers, it rides light and bouncy. Sure, it’s not the sexiest of shoes in either design or function, but the real triumph comes in its all-encompassing comfort. The collar and tongue are like a pillow, securing your foot after knotting the laces while still offering your toes ample wiggle room. It’s a trusty recovery shoe and a mainstay as you crank up mileage for your next big race. It may not grab the headlines, then again, after 19 stable models, what else is there to say?
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%
I had to save the best – or at least the fastest – for last. Of course, “fastest” is relative to who’s running in them but, I mean, let’s not get into technicalities. My general rule of thumb is if Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly Next% is good enough for the greatest long-distance runner of all time to wear during his sub-2:00:00 marathon, well, then they’ll probably be good enough for me.
In all seriousness, these shoes are the Ferrari of racing shoes (with the price tag to match). They won’t give you a ton of miles – in fact, I’ve had runners recommend no less than one or two speedwork sessions before you debut them – but if you’re looking for a model that will almost guarantee a personal best on race day, this is the shoe. Every detail on the Vaporfly Next% was crafted with intention; the laces feature grooved edges to prevent them from loosening for 26.2 miles, the mesh upper has been designed to cool your feet mid-run, and its base has increased stability compared to previous iterations.
For what it’s worth, this is what I’ll be wearing to tackle my major races this year (and for what’s worth a lot more, so will Eliud Kipchoge).