Fall 2012 Running Shoe Guide

Runner's World wear-tests and reviews the latest in fall running shoes to help you find the perfect fit

September 6, 2012
woman running outside
1/24 Thinkstock

Finding the right pair of shoes is a highly subjective exercise, but we've simplified the task by reviewing 23 top new models. To find the best pair for you, answer the questions in this flowchart. Your choices will lead to a set of options tailored to meet your needs and preferences. For even more reviews, see runnersworld.com/shoefinder.

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Saucony Omni 11
2/24 David Clugston
Saucony Omni 11, $120

Height: 36.9 mm (heel); 27.7 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.7 oz (M); 8.9 oz (W)

Saucony has significantly overhauled many of its flagship shoes, making them lower profile and lightweight. It did the same with this update of the Omni. We found the 11 to be a considerable improvement over the previous version, which some wear-testers said felt clunky. According to measurements taken at the RW Shoe Lab, the Omni 11 is nearly two ounces lighter than the 10 (which weighed 12.6 ounces for a men's size 9) and sits closer to the ground. To bring the shoe to an 8 mm drop, Saucony lowered the heel height (to 36.9 mm from 40.9 mm) and slightly raised the forefoot (to 27.7 mm from 24.4 mm). Testers say the shoe felt a bit heavy, but found the ride to be responsive and well-cushioned. "It really wraps around the foot, feels great, and gives nice support," says Michele Belisle, 41, of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, a longtime wearer of the Omni.

Bottom Line: Flat-arched runners will find many happy miles in the Omni.

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Mizuno Wave Alchemy 12
3/24 David Clugston
Mizuno Wave Alchemy 12, $115

Height: 35.5 mm (heel); 23.1 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.5 oz (M); 9.2 oz (W)

The Alchemy is all about stability. Two plastic plates help protect the foot by slowing its inward roll and absorbing impact. Sandwiched between layers of midsole foam, the plates soften what you feel underfoot. Even so, it is the firmest traditional shoe in this guide--leading some wear-testers to feel a "breaking-in" period was necessary.

Bottom Line: A protective trainer for larger or injury-prone runners.

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Brooks Dyad 7
4/24 David Clugston
Brooks Dyad 7, $110

Height: 38.4 mm (heel); 27.4 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 12.8 oz (M); 10.4 oz (W)

Put simply: The Dyad is a tank, offering big cushioning for big bodies. "It seems as if it engulfs your foot," says Andrew Fillwock, of East Lansing, Michigan, who, at 6'1", weighs 195 pounds and runs in a size 13. But all that foam underfoot comes at a price--extra weight. This was by far the heaviest shoe we tested for this guide; it's rare to see a shoe tip the scales at nearly 13 ounces these days.

Bottom Line: A wide platform adds a touch of stability for larger runners.

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Adidas Supernova Sequence 5
5/24 David Clugston
Adidas Supernova Sequence 5, $115

Height: 33.8 mm (heel); 22.9 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.7 oz (M); 10.0 oz (W)

Adidas rolled out a satisfying update of the Sequence. Previous versions felt heavy to wear-testers--the Sequence 4 topped the scales at 12.9 ounces. RW Shoe Lab tests show the 5 is lighter by 1.2 ounces, more flexible, and offers better cushioning. To save weight, Adidas removed the external heel counter--a plastic piece that holds the foot in place at heel-strike--and slimmed down the stability post that runs along the inside of the arch. 

Bottom Line: A high-mileage trainer for moderate overpronators.

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New Balance 1260 V2
6/24 David Clugston
New Balance 1260 V2, $145

Height: 37.0 mm (heel); 23.8 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.3 oz (M); 9.1 oz (W)

While not pillowy soft, the updated 1260 still offers enough cushioning to work for runners who require some stability. The V2 comes in an ounce lighter than the first version, even with such motion-controlling devices as a crash pad in the heel, a shank in the midfoot, and a medial post that runs through the arch.

Bottom Line: A sturdy shoe that still feels fast and light.

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Mizuno Wave Enigma 2
7/24 David Clugston
Mizuno Wave Enigma 2, $135

Height: 36.7 mm (heel); 24.0 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.4 oz (M); 8.9 oz (W)

The sophomore effort of the Enigma is nearly an ounce lighter than the first version (which weighed 12.1 ounces for a men's size 9) and is considerably more flexible. Testers noted the shoe still feels stiff, likely due to a plastic midsole plate that extends the length of the shoe. This does, however, aid in a smooth heel-to-toe transition.

Bottom Line: A daily trainer for intermediate runners with flat arches.

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Brooks Ghost 5
8/24 David Clugston
Brooks Ghost 5, $110

Editor's Choice
Height: 34.7 mm (heel); 23.8 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 11.3 oz (M); 9.3 oz (W)

The ghost is spooky good. For the third straight Fall Guide, it has garnered our top honor. We like that little has changed from the fourth version of this shoe. The Ghost remains fairly lightweight with a soft heel and relatively firm forefoot, which gives wearers a fast feel. "I didn't have that 'squishy' feeling I sometimes experience with cushioned shoes," says Chris Garges, 37, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who has a 2:47 marathon PR. To adapt to more footstrike patterns, the segmented heel has been extended forward along the outer edge of the foot. It also helps smooth the heel-to-toe transition.

Bottom Line: A versatile shoe that can handle whatever workouts you throw at it.

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Brooks Glycerin 10
9/24 David Clugston
Brooks Glycerin 10, $140

Height: 37.7 mm (heel); 28.2 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 12.3 oz (M); 10.0 oz (W)

The Glycerin is the Cadillac of running shoes--its suspension ensures a bump-free ride mile after mile. The midsole and outsole have been heavily sculpted; columns of foam and rubber promote a fluid landing. Brooks extended the midsole to fill in a gap at the outer edge of the midfoot, where previously a plastic shank held guard, for a smoother heel-to-toe transition.

Bottom Line: Luxury cushioning for runners with normal and high arches.

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Nike Pegasus+ 29
10/24 David Clugston
Nike Pegasus+ 29, $100

Height: 38.7 mm (heel); 25.5 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 9.9 oz (M); 8.4 oz (W)

The Pegasus remains a go-to choice for a marshmallowy-soft ride. A breathable mesh upper provides structure to hold the foot in place with few overlays. Underneath the foot, Nike removed the independent crash pad at the heel, opting instead for cutouts in the sidewall that compress upon heel-strike to slow excessive inward roll of the foot. Wear-testers say the high heel tab can irritate the Achilles.

Bottom Line: A sound choice for recovery runs and long miles.

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New Balance 870 V2
11/24 David Clugston
New Balance 870 V2, $110

Height: 35.3 mm (heel); 22.6 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.0 oz (M); 8.1 oz (W)

The 870 V2 is an agile shoe with a nice blend of cushioning and mild stability. Some testers found the original 870 to be too narrow through the toebox. In this update, New Balance changed the last--the foot-shaped form the shoe is constructed around--to provide more room in the forefoot. In the process, though, it may have made the shoe slightly too roomy, as seen in the scan below. "I think my shoes were a half size or even one size too big," says Wanda Wang, 48, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who runs in New Balance shoes regularly. Good cushioning in the heel, combined with a slightly firmer forefoot and a standard ramp angle, gives the 870 V2 a fast-feeling ride.

Bottom Line: A responsive daily trainer for runners who need stability.

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Nike LunarGlide+ 4
12/24 David Clugston
Nike LunarGlide+ 4, $110

Best Update
Height: 36.5 mm (heel); 22.9 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 9.7 oz (M); 7.5 oz (W)

For such a lightweight shoe, the LunarGlide features excellent cushioning and stability, yet remains very flexible. That's a tough combination to execute well. The previous version of the LunarGlide struggled with this combination, garnering some of the lowest wear-test scores we've ever recorded for fit, comfort, and ride. This update was greatly improved. "The perfect balance of springy yet pillowy cushioning, while still having ample stability and support," says Joe Kennedy, 32, of New York City, who has run in the LunarGlide+ 3. In RW Shoe Lab testing, all measures are better--the LunarGlide+ 4 is lighter by .7 ounces, lower to the ground, more flexible, and offers better cushioning and stability. The upper hugs the midfoot, thanks to a Flywire saddle, which provides a direct connection between the laces and the midsole to securely lock the foot in place.

Bottom Line: Excellent protection from a surprisingly light and flexible shoe.

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Saucony Ride 5
13/24 David Clugston
Saucony Ride 5, $110

Best Buy
Height: 34.7 mm (heel); 25.1 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 9.2 oz (M); 8.6 oz (W)

A best buy pick that tops $100? If you're shopping for new shoes, you know they're getting more expensive. But the Ride 5 is indicative of a trend we're seeing: The shoe is $10 more expensive and is a full two ounces lighter than its predecessor. That weight savings is largely a product of using less foam in the midsole and a reduction in rubber on the outsole, which also makes this update lower to the ground and more flexible. The changes resonated with testers, who rated it the highest of any shoe in this guide for comfort, cushioning, and ride. So, despite the price hike, it's worth the splurge.

Bottom Line: Offers cushioning for long runs but is light enough for fast efforts.

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Asics Gel-Blur 33 2.0
14/24 David Clugston
Asics Gel-Blur 33 2.0, $100

Height: 32.5 mm (heel); 21.9 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.5 oz (M); 8.6 oz (W)

The Blur looks like a minimal model, but offers cushioning and a heel-to-toe drop consistent with traditional shoes. RW Shoe Lab tests found the forefoot to be firm and stiff, which was confirmed by wear-testers who say they'd prefer a softer ride. The flat sole keeps the foot in contact with the ground to provide some stability.

Bottom Line: Best suited for quick runners with normal to high arches.

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Puma Faas 900 Cushion
15/24 David Clugston
Puma Faas 900 Cushion, $110

Height: 36.8 mm (heel); 24.7 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.3 oz (M); 8.9 oz (W)

Puma put even more foam underfoot for a supremely cushioned ride. But that addition results in a bottom-heavy shoe, which some wear-testers felt was a little cumbersome; others said the shoe was "mushy". Even with so much midsole and rubber, the 900 remains flexible, thanks to grooves spanning the width of the shoe.

Bottom Line: Intended for high-mileage and heavy runners.

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Mizuno Wave Precision 13
16/24 David Clugston
Mizuno Wave Precision 13, $110

Height: 35.3 mm (heel); 20.9 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 9.7 oz (M); 7.6 oz (W)

The precision 13 feels downright zippy, thanks to the highest heel-to-toe drop in this guide--14.4 mm; the average running shoe is 12 mm--combined with a soft heel and a firmer-than-average forefoot. But some testers accustomed to more minimal footwear or racing flats found it to sit too high, especially at the heel. Although the chassis underfoot is the same as the Precision 12, Mizuno tinkered with the upper slightly, lowering the collar to allow a better opening for the foot. A fabric band runs under the open mesh upper at the midfoot, connecting the laces to the midsole to securely lock the foot in place.

Bottom Line: A versatile shoe, capable of handling faster workouts and races.

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Asics Gel-Lyte 33
17/24 David Clugston
Asics Gel-Lyte 33, $100

Height: 30.0 mm (heel); 22.4 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 7.7 oz (M); 6.4 oz (W)

The lightest shoe in Asics's 33 collection, the Lyte features a thin mesh upper that moves well with the foot, but the sewn-on overlays rubbed some wear-testers. Shoefitr scans confirm a looser-than-average heel fit.

Bottom Line: A fast, flexible shoe for lightweight runners.

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Adidas Tempo 5
18/24 David Clugston
Adidas Tempo 5, $110

Height: 30.6 mm (heel); 20.3 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 8.4 oz (M); 7.0 oz (W)

The Tempo 5 is a lightweight and responsive trainer. It excels in hard workouts or races, but can feel stiff at a jog. RW Shoe Lab tests show that this update is 2.5 ounces lighter and sits 3 mm closer to the ground.

Bottom Line: Mild support that works for most runners during races.

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Altra The Instinct/The Intuition 1.5
19/24 David Clugston
Altra The Instinct/The Intuition 1.5, $100

Height: 21.9 mm (heel); 19.8 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 10.1 oz (M); 8.3 oz (W)

We've been fans of The Instinct and The Intuition since they garnered Best Debut honors in our Spring 2012 Shoe Guide. The midyear tweaks Altra made are minor (hence the half-version designation in the name), but they improve upon an already solid package. Wearers of the original version felt the shoe, with its wide and flat forefoot, ran a little slow. So Altra added some toe spring--a bit of lift at the front of the shoe to help it feel faster. The forefoot remains roomy, but not baggy. Aesthetically, the shoe still won't be confused for any traditional models in your closet, but gone are the horizontal lines and dull colorways that made the original appear larger than it really was.

Bottom Line: "Zero drop," but with some cushioning for protection.

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Saucony Kinvara 3
20/24 David Clugston
Saucony Kinvara 3, $100

Height: 29.4 mm (heel); 22.4 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 8.0 oz (M); 6.5 oz (W)

A perennial favorite of wear-testers, the Kinvara saw several minor fixes.  Most notably, Saucony stripped rubber from where it wasn't as necessary on the outsole and added pods where heavy wear occurs during toe-off. Visually prominent welded overlays wrap across the upper, providing a surprisingly firm grip on the foot, while also reducing weight.

Bottom Line: Faster runners may find the forefoot too soft for race day.

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Reebok Real Flex Speed
21/24 David Clugston
Reebok Real Flex Speed, $110

Height: 27.2 mm (heel); 17.5 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 9.8 oz (M); 8.1 oz (W)

This new shoe is reminiscent of a Nike Free. The Speed features 76 separate foam-rubber lugs, making the sole very pliable. Unlike minimal footwear, its 9.7 mm heel-to-toe drop is similar to that commonly found on performance-training shoes. Wear-testers appreciated a snug fit but wished it offered better cushioning.

Bottom Line: An alternative on tempo runs for efficient runners.

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Puma Faas 350 S
22/24 David Clugston
Puma Faas 350 S, $85

Height: 23.5 mm (heel); 19.7 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 8.7 oz (M); 7.3 oz (W)

Low-slung and responsive, the Faas 350 S is a no-frills training shoe capable of pulling double duty for faster-paced workouts and long runs. The foam-rubber midsole is exposed, while only a minimum amount of outsole is used to keep the shoe lightweight and superflexible. One drawback: limited traction. Wear-testers said the 350 S slips on wet surfaces. Faster runners appreciated how the shoe performed. "The Faas 350 would be among my choices if I were to buy only one shoe for everyday training," says Ulrich Fluhme, 37, of New York City, who has a 2:33 marathon PR and primarily trains in racing flats.

Bottom Line: A good first step for those curious about trying minimal footwear.

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Sketchers GObionic
23/24 David Clugston
Skechers GObionic, $90

Height: 15.7 mm (heel); 13.9 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 6.2 oz (M); 5.0 oz (W)

The GObionic is the lightest shoe we tested for this guide, thanks to a super-bendy sole with rubber limited to only where it's needed for durability.

Bottom Line: A barefoot-like experience for efficient runners.

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Skora Form
24/24 David Clugston
Skora Form, $195

Height: 18.2 mm (heel); 14.4 mm (forefoot)
Weight: 8.5 oz (M); 7.0 oz (W)

The eye-catching goat-leather upper softly hugs the midfoot. Thin layers of midsole foam and rubber outsole give the slightest relief from the road.

Bottom Line: Like wearing socks, for runners not yet ready to go barefoot.

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