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2013 Running Shoe Guide: Road Tested

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published Aug 26, 2013
  • Updated Sep 6, 2013 at 8:45 PM UTC
Photo: John David Becker

Tri-Specific

Designed to meet the specialized needs of a triathlon run.

Zoot Ultra Race 4.0
Buzzwords: Explosive, snug
$180, Zootsports.com

Transition
Once your foot is in the shoe, a quick twist of the Boa ratcheting dial is all it takes to lock the shoe into place. “It’s even simpler to close than an elastic quick-lace,” said our tester. Getting in the shoes takes a little force, but the inner liner is soft and smooth against bare skin.

Responsiveness
“These shoes make pavement feel like the surface of a track,” exclaimed our tester. The sole snaps off the ground and helps drive through a stride. While it carries a few more ounces than some pure racing flats, it feels just as light and nimble as any.

Support and cushioning
Despite having the explosive sensation of a racing flat, the Ultra Race 4.0 provides a “sturdy and supportive” foundation, said our tester, offering a little extra support when your legs are gassed. The upper is snug but still allows the foot to slide forward in the shoe when charging downhill.

Pearl Izumi E:Motion Tri N 2
Buzzwords: Firm, cradling
$125, Pearlizumi.com

Transition
The tri-specific design is this shoe’s strongest suit. “They feel amazing sockless—like your feet are in a wetsuit,” said our tester. “There is nothing that could rub your foot the wrong way because the inside of the upper is truly seamless.” Runners with excellent form could get away with these for a 70.3, and others should keep it to Olympic distance or less.

Responsiveness
Upon foot strike, these shoes feel hard but not particularly springy. “They don’t give much back,” according to one tester. The firm sole creates the sensation of a connection to the ground, despite the substantial plank of foam.

Support and cushioning
Thanks to the firm sole, this shoe provides a solid level of protection. “These shoes are beefy,” said our tester, in comparison with other shoes of similar weight. “They soften the impact a little when heel striking, but not to the point where you could heel strike for a long run and get away with it.” The sole provides a solid foundation for runners requiring a little support.

Asics Gel-Noosafast
Buzzwords: Fast, nimble
$100, Asicsamerica.com
*Top Performer*

Transition
Even with the static laces, this shoe is “easy to yank down as firm as you want,” reported our tester. It’s even easier with the included elastic laces. Sockless wear isn’t so smooth, however. The tongue repeatedly folded during test runs, which created a hot spot when running barefoot. “Lots of friction,” she said.

Responsiveness
The ride and responsive feel of this shoe earned high praise from multiple testers. “These are the most comfortable racing flats I’ve ever run in,” said our veteran triathlete. “The cushioning doesn’t add any weight, and doesn’t take away from the minimalist feel, but makes [the shoe] way more comfortable.”

Support and cushioning
These shoes are great for people with narrow feet. “It definitely feels much more like a traditional race flat,” said one tester. They soften impact but not in a way that takes away the feel of the road. Heel striking is not recommended, so save these for fast workouts and races.

RELATED: The Tools For Your First Triathlon

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FILED UNDER: Gear & Tech / InsideTri / 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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