Top Road Running Shoes of 2014 – by David Henry
Posted on December 16 2014
I’m not as experienced with the road scene as I am with trail and ultra running (see my top 2014 trail shoes here), but I’m really enjoying the weekly track workouts I’ve been doing. Since training for the Spokane Marathon this last October, I’ve decided to keep incorporating a couple of road days in my training throughout the winter. Consequently, I’ve recently been doing some experimenting with road shoes. Although my comfort with some trail brands (inov-8 in particular) has influenced my road shoe choices at this point, my picks below are the shoes I’ve enjoyed running in most for the amount of road running that I do.
I’ve broken the road section up into two categories (racing and training), basically because I have way too many shoes, but also to highlight some of the distinctions I make in certain design approaches as to the shoe’s end use and what I’m looking for in a shoe for specific purposes. Here we go:
Road Running – Racing Shoes
1. inov-8 Road-X Lite 155 – Such a great shoe for nearly everything fast. Not sure I’d run beyond a half marathon in them, but they are my go-to for track workouts, 5k/10k racing, and they have a nice, wide fit for a racing shoe. The Fusion rubber (mix of rubber and eva) outsole is light, responsive, yet fairly durable (I’ve got nearly 300 mile on mine and they are still running strong).
2. Skechers GoMeb Speed 2 (review here) – I was really surprised by the GoMeb Speed 2 when I tried them this spring. I used them quite a bit this summer for everything from a 10k race, to long tempos runs, and I ran a marathon in October in them. Great all around racing shoe with a more cushioned ride than most other shoes in the 6 oz range. Looking forward to trying the Speed 3 in early January!
3. adidas adizero Takumi Sen 2 – Haven’t run much in this shoe as I just recently purchased it, but so far it has really impressed me as a one of the best no-nonsense racers out there. I don’t know why I waited this long to try it (oh wait, it retails for $150 (!), that’s why). Managed to find them discounted a little and decided to try them out. Very impressed with the shoe. It is very light (low 6 oz range), yet offers a moderate amount of (quite firm) cushioning. It has enough underfoot structure that I could see potentially running a marathon in them, and a fit that hugs the foot like a glove. Coming from the Japanese market, the name Takumi Sen means “artisan of the highest order” – this fits as this shoe is quite the piece of art. If it weren’t so expensive or was more durable, it would rank higher in my list, but both the inov-8 Road-X Lite 155 and Skechers GoMeb Speed 2 can routinely be found for around $60 so hard to justify over double the cost even if it is an awesome shoe.
-Honorable Mention: New Balance 1600 – While I’m not a fan of New Balance’s REVlite midsole foam, mainly because it is not very resilient (i.e. good energy return) or durable, the 1600 is light and low enough (and on my favorite New Balance last – NBJ) that it doesn’t matter. While I wouldn’t run a marathon in these, they definitely feel very nice and light for most everything else, and even have the ability to handle a little trail running with a good chunk of rubber in the forefoot.
Road Running – Training Shoes
1. adidas adizero adios Boost – I stayed away from the adidas adios for awhile because of the 10mm heel to toe offset. I dabbled with the adios 2 (non-boost version) awhile ago, and while it was responsive, I found the fit to be slightly uncomfortable and the shoe to be pretty stiff overall unless running at tempo or faster pace. The adios Boost really changes this with a wider fit, lower stack height, and slightly softer (but still responsive) Boost midsole that gives them better flexibility. The result is a shoe that runs as fast as it does long, has great grip, and holds up well. My feet feel good in it for long miles, but when I want to push the pace the shoe responds. It is probably be the best all around road shoe I’ve ever run in. If they ever make this 6mm drop or lower it would likely be the only road shoe I’d use for everything except track workouts and 5k/10k races. As it is, I’m not entirely comfortable doing the bulk of my road volume in a 10mm offset at this point so I mix in the shoes below.
2. inov-8 Road-X 233 – This shoe has been discontinued for at least a year now (although you can still find the last colorway available here and there), but has been a staple road shoe of mine for the last 4 years. Although it has some shortcomings (mainly a slight lack of enough responsive cushion, they are slightly heavy, and the upper needs a few tweaks in the overlays), the level of protection and durability inov-8 achieved with the shoe is very far above any other shoe I’ve tried that is as minimal as this shoe is. It has the 1st gen dynamic fascia band, which, although stiffer than the gen 2 which is in the Tri-X-Treme, gives good pop to the shoe and gives it quite a bit of structure for shoe that is built on a racing flat geometry. Love it for the racing flat feel with loads of durability; basically the best option I’ve found if you want to run the bulk of your miles in a racing flat, but don’t want to buy a new shoe every month or so :).
3. inov-8 Tri-X-Treme 225 – While inov-8 is not known for their road running shoes (and rumors are that they are being discontinued after 2014), they tend to make road shoes with stack heights right in the range that I’m looking for (typically more like the stack heights of racing flats), and they have features that make them suitable for longer training runs. The Tri-X-Treme 225 has a good, firm ride, 4mm drop offset, gen 2 dynamic fascia band shank that helps give structure, and a seamless, somewhat warmer upper (which I’ve liked this fall). Great overall shoe. Sits right at the perfect geometry and stack height for my tastes. Too bad inov-8 appears to be throwing in the towel on the road market as this shoe with a few tweaks could be a really nice lower-drop training shoe.
-Honorable Mention: Nike Lunarlaunch – Nike released this shoe very much under the radar. It has not been sold in run specialty stores as far as I know (Running Warehouse for example doesn’t carry it; Zappos does), but it caught my eye because it was a 4mm drop road shoe from Nike (I think that might be a first other than Nike Frees). Turns out the geometry is shared with the Nike Kiger trail shoe (same last and stack height). At first I thought the shoe, which has a Lunarlon midsole instead of the Kiger’s much firmer Phylon, was too soft. However, I then realized that the footbed was made of a super soft, thick, memory foam like material. I switched that out with a standard fit 3mm footbed from inov-8 (the lasts are very similar) and the shoe shifted just enough in firmness to be runnable for me. It still feels well cushioned, not to mention it fits my foot like a glove. I’ve really enjoyed them for easy runs and love the super soft, seamless, lined upper that will also be pretty nice in winter. Great shoe if you’re looking for a light, lower drop shoe that has some softer cushion. A downside is that at anything much faster than 7:00 pace it feels like the cushion bottoms out a bit.
These are the shoes I’ve been drawn to the most this year and by no means are “the best” out there for every runner. If you have any comments or want to share your favorites, I’d love to read about them!