Spring marathon in your sights? It’s time to sort your footwear for long, comfortable runs.
1) Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit, £110
The “Free” in the name indicates this shoe has an emphasis on “natural motion”. The Flyknit upper holds and flexes with your foot really well.
The midsole (there’s no conventional outsole) has a pattern of deep flex groves that not only offers excellent forefoot flexibility but also means your whole foot moves more naturally.
This fluency feels great and if you are used to a more structured or protective shoe the difference is marked. It takes time for your feet and ankles to get used to it so if you need more support this is not the shoe for you.
Cushioning is reasonable, there’s not as much on offer as from a conventional training shoe, but there is more than you would get from an out and out minimalist shoe.
Verdict: Great as an alternative shoe and as a means of strengthening and mobilising your feet and ankles. Only a daily use shoe for very well conditioned runners with good biomechanics.
2) Adida Supernova Glide 8, £105
This shoe ticks all the key boxes you want from a neutral training shoe. It’s well cushioned with a comfortable ride from heel to toe. There’s a springy feel to the shoe from heel strike to toe-off and decent stability adds to this clean transition. The fit’s very good with the upper hugging your foot well at the heel and midfoot and there’s enough space in the toe-box. Good flex in the upper adds to the comfort.
While it’s neither a minimalist shoe nor a racer, the Supernova Glide 8 is relatively light and responsive. This means covering the miles is easier and for faster running the shoe will cope well. Whether you want a shoe that happily covers mile after mile or one that allows you to push the pace on, this one does the job.
Verdict: A versatile shoe that offers great comfort
3) Pearl Izumi Road N3, £94.99
A shoe for the pacier runners amongst us. The N3 is going to work well for interval sessions, hard timed runs over 8 10 miles as you get ready for the marathon, and perhaps most importantly of all, race day given its competitively low weight.
Sitting on a beautifully cushioned midsole, there’s a nice wide feel to the toe box, and perhaps most significantly, a real sense that you can drive off from your toes. While the shoe leans towards the neutral runner, those with mild pronation won’t be unhappy with the responsive feel, and you’d certainly favour it for key workouts and the “big day” without any problems.
Keen runners will know there are two schools of thought for midsoles, summarised simply as hard versus soft. This shoe is definitely on the soft side of that particular divide.
Verdict: An efficient shoe happy to perform on race day as well as in training.
4) New Balance Hierro, £100
Running manuals and an endless line of experts – our illustrious team included – will wax lyrical about the benefits that trail running offers for your marathon training, additional endurance, better core strength and so on, however put your hands up if you actually live in an area with the required amount of unspoiled countryside? If like us, most of your runs consist of Tarmac, some meagre sections of canal path or other hard packed dirt surfaces, then meet your new shoe!
The Hierro is springy, soft even, wellequipped for stony surfaces and forgiving on the road. Now shop staff will tell you this is a trail shoe, but let us tell you, the shoes won’t mind being “Chelsea tractors” either. Okay, they’re a bit cumbersome for pace work and the race itself, but for everything else for runners who mix and match and are looking for a jack-of-all trades these really are shoes to consider.
Verdict: Designed with rocky paths in mind, the Hierro won’t mind some road mixed with some trail. Great for long distance work.
5) Asics Metarun, £200,
This is an oddly stressful shoe to test because of the price and its numerous extra technologies. For this kind of money you hope something sensational will occur. So what do you get?
Well, more cushioning, five times more technology and much less weight, pretty much an ideal package then.
Asics’ FlyteFoam plays a pivotal role in providing all you expect from a performance shoe. Fans of Asics’ Kayano will certainly love the solid, stable feel of the shoe. Cushioning is from the futon-school of comfort – it’s hard and good for you!
Other features include the AdaptTrus, which flexes safely under normal foot strike but becomes rigid if the arch of the foot rolls too much. It not only adapts to the support requirements of individual runners, but also provides progressively adaptive support and a smoother transition, thereby reducing local pressure as the arch drops during a long distance run due to fatigue.
Verdict: A lucky few will nab a pair of these limited edition beauties and despite the hefty price tag they won’t be disappointed.
6) Onrunning Cloudflyer, £130,
Fans of lightweight shoes should take a peak at these. The technology sounds a bit airy-fairy in that the “clouds” you’re running on lock firmly on impact to provide a solid, stable base from which to propel yourself down the road.
Propelling might be a little too enthusiastic description though, but you’ll certainly know all about the light, responsive feel these shoes provide and yes, your stopwatch might also reveal you’re moving a little easier and a little faster.
Interestingly, for such a springy shoe, they feel quite hard – no bad outcome for pace workouts, speedy 10ks and even race day itself.
Maybe you’d want another pair of slightly more cushioned shoes for bog standard, long days out over rougher terrain, but to be honest that’s being a little picky – for just about every runner these will work.
Verdict: Would-be speedsters and light-onyour- feet types will enjoy the performance, makes for a great race day shoe for most of us.