Spring Running Shoe Comparison
By Rob Penner
Spring will be out in full-force in just a matter of days or weeks depending on where you live, so it’s high-time to consider that next pair of running shoes for warm weather.
But this year perhaps more than ever, you have a big decision to make: light vs. traditional cushion. Building off the increased popularity of minimalist running shoes over the past few years, all the top brands now feature excellent lightweight running shoes – many with their own technical attributes. It’s clear they are coming up with better fabrics and improved construction techniques with each passing year.
This is not so much a running shoe review as it is a comparison. Kind of like Car & Driver magazine comparing two very different car models – but both featuring excellent engines: a sports sedan and a speedy roadster. Our job is to give you some insights to help point you in the right direction. In the end, it may just be personal preference.
For the purposes of this road test, we pulled two best-in-class shoes to answer the pivotal question: is it better to buy light or buy traditional cushion this spring?
For our lightweight shoe, we tried on the Mizuno Men’s Wave Inspire 10. They came in the black colorway. If first impressions are important to you, these shoes look both stylish and fast – like a lot of lightweight models these days. We loved the subtle styling touches and the all-yellow tongue.
Despite weighing just 9 oz with less fabric and minimal mid-sole cushioning, the Inspire still provides a good bit of cushion and guidance on touchdown and transition. More than you’d probably expect.
During the initial run test, I could feel the inside, bottom portion of the sole under my heel strike first and subtly direct my foot outwards a bit. I overpronate a fair bit, so this slight adjustment worked well for me – but it did take a little getting used to.
Because the minimalist shoes use less fabric on top, the shoes feel cooler and more aerated. But perhaps a little counter-intuitive, you actually notice the fabric more at the tongue seam, right where it meets the toe box on the top of the foot, compared to the other shoe.
We haven’t worn the Inspire 10 long enough to comment on durability but other lightweight runners that we have tried have certainly shown a higher propensity for wearing through in the upper due to having less, or thinner, fabric. This is to be expected, but certainly worth considering when debating your purchase.
I loved running in these shoes for my standard workout distance of about 4-5 miles but equally love to take them on the road to throw on with a pair of jeans – or for a trail walk with shorts.
By contrast, the Asics Gel-Kayano 20 weigh in at 11.3 oz. almost 20% heavier; they do look and feel a bit bulkier. But they are clearly going to be more durable. It’s an obvious paradigm – more material equals more durability. It’s why hiking boots are often heavy clunkers.
Full disclosure, I’ve been an Asics loyalist since running my first marathon 10 years ago; this is the third consecutive pair of Gel-Kayanos I have worn and I’m pleased to say that the 20th anniversary edition is the best one yet.
In fact, I can’t remember a time when Asics made so many changes from one edition of Kayanos to the next. And counter to Asics’ conservative approach, they even put some 20th anniversary touches on the shoe, including some writing around the toe.
I also liked the new ASICS FluidFit upper technology that has been added, providing both more support and a nice visual touch with the multi-directional mesh with stretch reinforcements.
I was impressed with the lightness of the shoe given its cushioned midsole. The Kayano has dropped some weight over its last few redesigns – perhaps a reaction to the growth of the lightweight segment. But it still does not have the low profile that the minimalist runners are sporting.
You definitely can’t go wrong with the Gel-Kayano’s. I was especially impressed with how smooth the heel-to-toe guidance and transition felt while striking the ground with your foot; the higher-level of cushioning is certainly noticeable starting with runs around 4-5 miles.
In the end, I would probably make my own personal buying decision based on the four L’s: longevity, length, looks & light weight. Go with a cushioned shoe like the Asics Gel-Kayano 20 if you want longevity and length in your runs – especially over that 45 minute to 1-hour mark. But if your preference is looks and lighter weight for multi-purpose use, you could opt for a minimalist shoe this spring. And in this category, the Mizuno Wave Inspire 10 is one of several terrific entries.
Rob Penner oversees Sports Marketing for SwimOutlet.com and ran the Hamburg Marathon in 3:24. He’s also run in several other shorter 10K races and fun runs.
Enter to win a pair of running shoes! Tell us in the comments below whether you prefer a pair of lightweight or traditional cushion running shoes for this spring season and you’ll be entered for a random drawing to win a pair of running shoes! Leave your comment by April 18.Email Address Invalid. Please enter an email address in the format: firstname.lastname@example.orgMarsha Mullen
7 years ago.Traditional shoes are getting harder to come by... I just bought the Kayano... 1 run in... So far so good!Ariana
7 years ago.Id prefer the lightweight for competitions,Denise
7 years ago.I lean towards the traditional but am getting more lightweight as time goes on.Sherri
7 years ago.I like the traditional for the durability. :)Cait
7 years ago.I always like the feel of the traditional shoe. I have not been able to get use to the feeling of the light weightTori
7 years ago.I always stick with the traditional cushioned running shoe because it always feels like it's better support for me...I've been an asics fan since I started running.Dave
7 years ago.I prefer the lightweight shoe. I like the "feel" of the surface when I run and the perceived freedom of a light shoe. That being said, I believe the minimalist trend has gone too far in many designs, but certainly not in the Mizuno product.Vicky
7 years ago.Definitely tradititionalSara
7 years ago.I like something in between the two. My feet get really sore when there's too much weigh on them, but I don't like being able to feel every single rock under my feet, which sometimes happens with lightweight shoes.Debbie
7 years ago.I am going to stay with traditional.richard
7 years ago.I'd go with tradionalKevin McCartney
7 years ago.Service spIne surgery ha forced me off the road and out of the pool
During recovery I'll be looking for a more traditional shoe
But I really look forward to returning to swimmingJuan Leal
7 years ago.Lightweight is more natural!!!Loren
7 years ago.I'm sticking with traditional for now!Donna
7 years ago.I am not sure - I have just started running so kind of getting a feel. I have flat feet so comfort is huge.Lori
7 years ago.I tend to go for the cushioned shoe that is the most light weight I can find. I need the cushion because I always have foot problems.Francisco J Morales
7 years ago.I'm about two hundred and twenty therefore I'm going with the cushionEllen
7 years ago.Would love to try lightweight, but have flat feet and think traditional would be better for me . . .Dee
7 years ago.Traditional, I prefer the extra shock absorbance.Martha
7 years ago.I like a traditional cushion, but thinking about trying a lightweight after reading this.Rebecca
7 years ago.I would like the traditional! :)Stacy
7 years ago.i'm on the fence!Susie
7 years ago.Would love to try a lighter shoe. Your comment on a cooler and more aerated feel sounds wonderful for our hot humid weather in Florida.Mia
7 years ago.Lightweightdeb
7 years ago.I am old (62) and thought I needed traditional for the support but would love to try lightweight to find out if they would help make me FLY.Add a Comment
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