As you’re logging miles this winter to build the foundation for next season, make sure you have the shoes to match up with each important workout on your schedule — whether it’s on trails, through snow or on pavement. To guide your search, we recruited a diverse crew of wear testers — ranging from experienced runners to novices — to put this wide range of footwear through the paces.
Adidas AdiZero Adios Boost
A classic low-to-the-ground racing flat with high-tech midsole foam, the AdiZero Adios Boost definitely has a speedy demeanor. It’s crazy light and has a low-profile sole similar to previous Adios models, but it also has a mild springy feel underfoot. That’s because it features Adidas’ responsive new Boost foam, which offers resilience and energy return that our testers said contributed to their forward momentum. Although it has a 9mm heel-toe drop and a modest crash pad in the heel, there’s not much cushioning in the forefoot, which is why our testers felt it was best for shorter road races, speed workouts and possibly sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons.
8.0 oz. (men’s), 6.4 oz. (women’s)
Pearl Izumi Road N2
Versatility is the hallmark of this energetic neutral-cushioned shoe. It has ample cushioning and enough protection for long, slow training runs, but its responsive midsole gives it a peppy feel for faster workouts or races. A midrange 9mm heel-toe drop and a seamless upper that conforms to and moves with a runner’s foot add to the N2’s smooth-riding quality at any pace. Summed up one tester: “I really liked the light feel, the flexibility in the N2, yet I still felt protected.” (The similarly equipped EM Tri N2 shoe, $125, is a triathlon-specific racer built with a quick-lace system and an airy open mesh upper that helps encourage drainage and evaporation of sweat and water.)
9.6 oz. (men’s), 8.1 oz. (women’s)
Nike Free FlyKnit+
Nike has taken big steps to adapt its natural motion Free running shoes with an upper as snug and comfortable as a sock — a rather sturdy one. Yes, the company’s been down that road before with a variety of shoes in the 1980s and early 1990s. But new technologies and materials (and several years of R&D and 17 rounds of prototypes) give the Free Flyknit+ a soft, conforming feel that is mated to the über-flexible undercarriage of the standard Free 5.0. In combination, it wears like a dreamy extension of your foot. It has a modern 9mm heel-toe drop and the agility of a triathlon race shoe.
6.8 oz. (men’s), 5.4 oz. (women’s)