Brian Metzler rounds up the best of the best for your virtual race months.
There still aren’t many races in the U.S., but they’ll be back! However, you can still create your own opportunities to run fast on your own — either through virtual races, personal time trials or simulated race efforts with your running pals.
To run your fastest, you’ll need a lightweight, speedy pair of shoes. Here are five of the best shoes in a variety of price categories that will keep you on pace for fast times and inspiring new goals for 2021.
HOKA CARBON X 2
The HOKA Carbon X returns after the successful first edition won races and set records. It proved itself among the best of the initial crop of long-distance racing shoes built with carbon-fiber plates embedded in thick, cushy midsoles.
The Carbon X 2 is a maximally cushioned neutral-oriented speed shoe. It has a staunchly rocker profile and an energetic vibe that promotes fast-cadence running ready for race day and tempo runs ahead.
Weights: 8.5 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 7.4 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (39 mm heel, 34 mm forefoot)
BROOKS LAUNCH 8
A $100 running shoe? For racing a half marathon or marathon? Is that a mistake? Heck no! The Brooks Launch 8 is an energetic and well-cushioned shoe that also comes with an affordable price tag. With a relatively light and snappy demeanor, the Launch is somewhat of a unique ‘tweener. It falls between the category of performance trainers and the wide range of high-mileage trainers that are about a full ounce lighter. But if your race goals are modest or just want to complete a 10K, half marathon or marathon at your own goal pace, this can be an ideal shoe is for you.
Plus, it can also double as an affordable, do-everything trainer shoe that’s versatile enough to endure long runs and also quick enough to run faster, shorter workouts like tempo runs, fartlek runs and track intervals.
Weights: 9.2 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 7.5 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (26mm heel, 16mm forefoot)
HOKA ONE ONE RINCON 2
$115 While Hoka One One’s Carbon X is an exceptional long-distance racing shoe, we’ve chosen to focus on the fast and light Rincon model for this roundup of racing shoes instead.
Why? First, it’s a great shoe for running fast over all distances from 5K to the marathon. It’s also because it’s much more affordable too. The Rincon 2 is unfettered and fast, but it still has a lot of cushioning in every stride thanks to the full-compression EVA midsole.
The Rincon doesn’t feel like a stripped-down racing flat, but the soft, smooth and energetic demeanor allows it to perform like one when you want it to. It’s light and fast enough to be an energetic performance trainer for fast workouts. It also enough cushion and protection to be a long-run shoe or even an everyday trainer.
Weights: 7.7 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 6.8 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (men: 29mm heel, 24mm forefoot; women: 26mm heel, 21mm forefoot)
NEW BALANCE 890V8
$120: New Balance has several racing shoes with carbon-fiber plates embedded in their midsoles. But the 890 is the brand’s tried and true featherweight performance-oriented trainer/racer. It has always been known for its light, agile and very energetic vibe.
The New Balance 890 has been overhauled in recent years. It now includes a high-rebound FuelCell midsole, a supportive yet comfortable knit upper and a gusseted tongue for a snug, race-day fit. It has a semi-firm feel and a slightly lower to the ground geometry. This gives it excellent feel-for-the-ground proprioception and a lively feel in every stride. The 890 is fast, light, versatile and capable of taking you race-day goals. Even if your race is a virtual event or your own personal time trial!
Weights: 8.4 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 7.2 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (25mm heel, 19mm forefoot)
SAUCONY ENDORPHIN PRO
$200: The Saucony Endorphin Pro is a top-tier long-distance racing shoe. It features a carbon-fiber plate embedded in a soft, very resilient midsole foam. It debuted on the feet of Saucony pros at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February in Atlanta, including women’s second-place finisher Molly Seidel. It represents the best of Saucony’s engineering and design efforts. It’s built on SpeedRoll technology, a forward-leaning geometry that propels you forward. It has a feeling of continuous momentum, so you can run faster and more efficiently without running harder. It feels light, firm, energetic, efficient and smooth, especially at faster speeds.
Weights: 7.5 oz. (men’s size 9.0); 6.3 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (35.5mm heel, 27.5mm forefoot)
NIKE AIR ZOOM TEMPO NEXT%
$200: The Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% mixes durability with a design that helps push to a personal best. The result is a shoe built like a racer, but made for your everyday training routine.
Nike ZoomX foam in the footbed delivers energy return as you move forward. A visible Zoom Air unit provides responsive cushioning, giving you an additional spring with your stride.
The rubber outsole features a design created using data from hundreds of runners. That information helps place traction where your foot needs it most, giving you grip on multiple surfaces.
Weights: 9.8 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 7.9 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (46mm heel, 36mm forefoot)
FUELING MARATHON RUNS: MAURTEN NUTRITION
Maurten sports fuel is easier to tolerate for athletes. The pioneering sports-fuel company has found a way to encapsulate high concentrations of carbohydrates in hydrogels.
Anyone who has experienced ‘gastric distress’ due to excess sugar in an endurance event will know nutrition is key to how a race will unfold.
Incidentally, the winners of the last twenty major marathons have all grabbed a Maurten bottle at on-course drinks stations. Think they might be on to something? With the mantra, never try anything new on race day, pick up some Maurten hydrogels and sports drink mix and give them a try during training.