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Top 3 Zero Drop, Cushioned Road Running Shoes of 2012

Posted on December 31 2012

Welcome to post number three in my top running shoes of 2012 series – this time I take on the zero drop, cushioned road shoe category. This is a category that grew in a big way this year, and is set to expand even more through the first half of 2013. Personally, I find a bit of cushioning makes a shoe more versatile, and I can run longer and more comfortably with some padding underfoot (obviously individual experiences will vary – if you prefer ultraminimal shoes, view my top barefoot-style shoe list).

There are a lot of great options in this category, and a number of solid choices that didn’t make my list. For example, the New Balance Minimus Road MR00 is really nice, but the sole lacks pop and it’s a bit narrow through the midfoot (it also has an odd bump along the outside of side of the sole in this region). The Saucony Hattori LC is another nice shoe, and probably would have made this list but for the fact that I get a hot spot under my big toe when I run more than a few miles in them. I’d consider both of these to be honorable mentions.

Let’s get down to the business at hand – here are my top 3 cushioned, zero drop road shoes for 2012:

3. Altra Instinct 1.5

Altra Instinct 1.5

When I think of the Altra Instinct 1.5, the two words that come to mind are flat and wide. Shaped like a Croc or Birkenstock, the Instinct is one of the most spacious shoes that I own. Version 1.5 sports a far more attractive upper than the original, and the full rubber outsole should provide ample durability. My only complaints about the Instinct are that it is a tad heavy and a bit inflexible, but for a flat shoe with a bit of cushion it’s a great option. View my full Altra Instinct 1.5 review here.

You can purchase the Altra Instinct 1.5 at Running Warehouse.


2. Merrell Bare Access 2


I give the Merrell Bare Access 2 a slight edge over the Altra Instinct 1.5 due to the fact that the Merrell Barefoot last fits me so perfectly. Roomy forefoot, glove like fit through the midfoot and heel, and very little excess material (resulting in a considerably lighter shoe than the Altras). Like the Instinct, the Bare Access 2 has a full rubber outsole which should provide excellent durability. Great shoe – you can read my full Merrell Bare Access 2 review here.

Purchase the Merrell Bare Access 2 at Zappos.


1. Skechers GoBionic

Skechers GoBionic

I need to provide full disclosure on this one – I helped with the development of the Skechers GoBionic by wear testing and providing direct feedback to the designers of the shoe. Thus, much like the Skechers GoRun 2, this is a shoe that I wore a lot and some of the suggestions I offered were incorporated into the final design. There’s a lot that I like about the GoBionic – it’s extremely flexible, semi-firm yet quiet, and fits me perfectly. I love the removable insole with finished footbed beneath, and the shoe is incredibly comfy both on the run and for all-day wear (it’s another shoe that I often wear to work). You can read my full Skechers GoBionic review here.

Purchase the Skechers GoBionic at Zappos.

—>Next up, my top 3 “hybrid” trail shoes of 2012.

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