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Sole Decision: Hybrid Run Shoes

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published Sep 14, 2012
  • Updated Dec 17, 2012 at 4:08 PM UTC

High mileage meets minimalism in a new hybrid style of run shoes.

Thickly Cushioned Shoes Vs. Racing Flats
Traditionally, well-cushioned shoes and racing flats have had one key difference that wasn’t necessarily tied to their intended purpose: heel-to-toe drop. If you wanted a shoe with substantial padding, that meant wearing a shoe with a big height differential between the heel and toe, typically 12mm. As minimalist running shoe evangelists have loudly declared, this 12mm difference practically forces an “unnatural” heel-striking gait.

Racing flats have been constructed with barefoot-approved heel-to-toe height differences for a long time (often 4mm, sometimes 8, sometimes zero). These shallower height differences promote mid- and forefoot striking but, since these shoes were designed to go fast, they lacked cushioning that many people need or want.

When more and more athletes–triathletes especially–decided that mid-foot striking is best for them, this strict division between the two types of shoes became a problem. Runners either had to pick a shoe that catered to their preferred gait pattern or a shoe that offered a soft ride and lots of cushioning.

This church-and-state separation is crumbling. More running shoes designed to cushion impact and promote mid-foot striking are popping up. Even the mainstream brands are buying in to this progressive philosophy originally promoted by the little guys, such as Newton Running.

These shoes represent the new evolution of the high-mileage trainer, with substantial cushioning and a small heel-to-toe drop to promote a more natural stride.

New Balance 890 V2
$110, Newbalance.com

Just months after releasing this new trainer with a 12mm drop, New Balance took the 890 back to the lab and shaved 4mm off the heel to create the 890 v2. The cushioning gently gives underfoot, and the semi-narrow upper is perfect for lower-volume feet.

Saucony Cortana
$145, Saucony.com

Despite boasting cushioning as robust as any stability shoe, the Cortana’s foundation drives a quick cadence because it only drops 4mm from heel to toe, equivalent to many racing flats. The upper gives the forefoot freedom to expand.

Altra Instinct 1.5

$100, Altrazerodrop.com

The Instinct’s heritage in the barefoot running philosophy shines through with its completely flat sole and extra-broad toe box. Semi-riggid cushioning is less forgiving than the others, and helps maintain more proprioceptive feel of the ground.

Newton Gravity

$175, Newtonrunning.com 

Built upon Newton’s forefoot lug system, this trainer feels more sturdy and solid than Newton’s original shoes while still preserving the feeling of a go-fast shoe. It injects spring into your gait while padding the ground.

RELATED: Seven Race-Day Gear Blunders To Avoid

FILED UNDER: Gear & Tech / Run TAGS:

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh is the Senior Tech Editor of Triathlete magazine. To submit a question, write Aaron at Ahersh@competitorgroup.com.

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