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Brand Overview

Brand Overview

Published June 01, 2018, Author Shoe Guide

There are two things the world is not short of: running shoe technologies and marketing noise! We decided to write an overview of each major brand to help give you the low-down of what each brand is about and what they offer. We hope it helps!

 

Adidas

The powerhouse German sports brand is guaranteed to deliver quality made shoes and the latest innovations thanks to its enormous research budget and incredible manufacturing abilities. 

Making an impact in the running market for adidas has always been difficult as it is a multisport business with a focus on Soccer, and a lifestyle business that is growing exponentially. Adidas produces an amazing array of running and track & field products and is constantly pushing boundaries in innovation but finding a great shoe from them can be difficult because of the number of shoes that they manufacture for a cross-over casual consumer.

The Adidas flagship technology is BOOST – a 3rdparty product produced by BASF with is technically called an expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) which adidas puts in the MIDSOLE of shoes to deliver some of the best feeling shoes on the market. 

Boost is without doubt the Rolls Royce of modern midsole materials right now with a super soft feel and amazing spring back response, but it’s the ability to maintain its cushioning properties over more miles that makes it a stand out technology in modern running.

Adidas have a huge lifestyle range under its ‘Running’ umbrella, so be sure to cut through the marketing dollars and find a ‘technical shoe’ make by their running department to get the best running product you can.  The best adidas running shoes on the market right now are without doubt the Ultra Boost and Supernova ranges created by the technical running team at the head office, and not the lifestyle team. 

If you are looking for beautifully soft, maximum cushioning running shoe, adidas are a great option, but be warned that Boost is not a stable compound due to its soft properties so heavy pronators should ideally stay away and look for more structured, traditional midsole designs.  

The best adidas cushion shoe we have tested so far this season is the ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST

The best adidas support shoe we have tested so far this season is the ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST ST

 

Altra

Founded in 2009, Altra is a newer brand to the market with a growing number of followers. Designed around two staple features / technologies - Altra have carved a beautifully unique space it the running market that gives the consumer a simple to understand and functional technology that some find massively beneficial to reduce injury. 

Fully cushioned shoes with a deep EVA midsole but built on a ZERO DROP platform. This is an incredibly simple idea, but it has not been done for many many years where the heel and forefoot midsole heights are the same distance from the ground – meaning the foot is in a flat position in the shoes and not on top of a traditional wedge of cushioning where the heel is raised to a higher height that the forefoot, to deliver impact cushioning and a roll forward. 

It is important to state here that a transition from traditional wedged shoes to zero drop needs to be managed, and it is not for everyone’s liking – wanting to run in zero drop is a personal thing and absolutely some people love it, and some hate it, especially on longer runs. 

The last shape (the shape of the shoe) is designed to mimic the natural shape of the foot, which Altra call Footshape. Altra create a more rounded toe shape with a squared off look, allowing the toes to spread out and the big toe to remain in a straight position thanks to the extra volume in the forefoot. The shoes look ‘funny’ but once on, they feel extremely comfortable and the last really does accommodate a wide foot easily. 

Altra is a superb brand for runners seeking that barefoot / natural shoe but without a compromise of cushioning as they have the protection of a midsole for hard surfaces. We have recently tested the racing shoes and a trail shoe and both have been very well received by our testers. Altra are expanding the range to meet the requirements of a wider range of runners, but are really keeping true to the zero drop and footshape design, so we cannot recommend them hightly enough if your keen on trying the world of zero drop footwear. 

The best ALTRA running shoe we have tested so far is the ALTRA TORIN 

 

Asics

Anima Sana ICorpore Sano – Latin for: a healthy mind in a healthy body. ASICSis / was possibly the best known and most popular ‘technical running brand’ of the past 15 years, with a huge range of shoes for all types of runners. Asics develop and range shoes for all types of runner based around its legendary GEL technology which offers superior shock absorbsion and a soft initial impact on hard surfaces. 

Gel inserts come in many shapes and sizes in the asics line, but the best versions are the shoes with a large insert of GEL in the rear of the shoe on the outside edge of the midsole, which allows the heel to de-couple nicely and gives a really smooth ride. 

Some asics GEL pads are so small in the internal versions, they are almost pointless, so try to stick to the visible versions for the best performance if your budget allows. 

Runners go back for a latest asics models year after year, thanks to the consistent range building and tweaking not re-inventing the range season on season. Asics have a huge faithful following thanks to years of well make and dependable products based around the core line of NIMBUS, CUMULUS, KAYANO and GT series shoes – all of which are superb running shoes. 

Asics have lost market share in recent years with stiff competition from other specialist brands innovating and creating great running shoes, but asics shoes are still some of the best made, hardest wearing and comfortable shoes available today. 

The best neutral asics running shoe right now is the ASICS GEL NIMBUS 

The best support asics running shoe right now is the ASICS GEL KAYANO

 

Brooks 

Brooks running has gone through an enormous growth over the past 10 years because of its back to basics philosophy of product creation. A small range of shoes compared to other mayor players, allows Brooks to focus its efforts and it has paid off with a number of best in class shoes available today being a Brooks product. 

With nothing flashy, and beautifully balanced shoes, Brooks always had the reputation of making amazing stability shoes but its cushion shoes are equally quality these days. Brooks look like proper traditional shoe when you pick them up – overlays on the uppers in the right places, no really fancy materials to try to fake a look, and midsole/outsole designs that are right no point for high mileage training and racing. 

Brooks technologies are well designed and simple but combine effortlessly to deliver soft yet responsive shoes across the range, nothing to break and fall apart. 

DNA is the key technology that is hidden inside the midsoles, and is a non-Newtonian material that looks like a gel material (or simply put, a material that reacts to the forces that you apply to it – push it gently and its soft, hit it hard its more rigid) which means its adapts to the pace that you are running. Slower runs get a softer feeling, and faster runs get a firmer feeling – a win win solution to a running technology. The DNA is encased in a MoGo midsole (CMEVA from Brooks) that is a very high quality delivering a solid platform but enough rebound to feel comfortable. One thing I love about the Brooks midsoles is that they are biodegradable – if you know anything about the shoe industry, its very dirty, polluting so any brand doing something positive is a real bonus.

The heel to toe transition on Brooks shoes is amazing thanks to a segmented crash pad (the heel area has separate sections that compress individually) delivering a smooth landing and a supple transition from heel to toe during the gait cycle. Brooks call this a Caterpillar design, and it is an really relevant and well thought through design feature. 

The best Brooks neutral shoe this season is the Brooks Ghost

The best Brooks support shoe this season is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS

The best Brooks motion control shoe continues to be the Brooks Beast

 

Hoka One One

Massive midsoles, with insanely thick layers of CMEVA underfoot and a wide base of support is the signature look of Hoka One One. A newer brand to the market created by some clever people who are ex Salomon, offers runners the option of maximal cushioning but not much weight, and a really smooth heel to toe transition thanks to a clever rocker shape in the midsole. 

Hoka are not the softest shoes on the market despite the midsole thickness which many people find surprising, as the EVA can be firm feeling in most Hoka shoes, but the shape of the midsoles delivers a unique feeling which if suits you, is a beautiful feeling underfoot. Because of the midsole thickness, Hoka can create a heavily curved shape in the heel and under the toes, so you can a gentle (supported) landing and a nice roll during toe off – something traditional geometries in shoes doesn’t allow. 

Hoka shoes can have twice the thickness of EVA than some other running shoes and with that thickness comes width of midsole – so overall, it’s a huge block of foam that protects the foot in lightweight shoes. This very wide base of midsole gives a really solid platform and is very controlling and supports the foot well. 

Hoka are not for everyone, especially the look of them, but they are definitely worth a try if you need a combination of support and cushioning in a high mileage trainer. 

 

Inov-8

Born in the North of England, where off road and mountain running is incredibly popular, Inov-8 are the kings of extreme mountain running with extremely grippy, and very durable shoes that can take a real beating. 

A small brand that loves to push the technology boundaries and constantly seeks out the newest innovations that would suit its market. Shoes are made with a fit for purpose, no fluff mentality with technologies that are very relevant to off road running. 

Trail shoes and mountain running shoes with excellent sticky rubber treads that grip amazingly well on wet rock, rock plate technology that supports that metatarsals in your foot and incredibly supportive uppers that lock your foot in place to allow you to run in extreme conditions, and some of the key features. 

The range is built on a number of different midsole depths from very low profile and therefore very nimble and ground reactional shoes, to slightly deeper midsoles for more protection on longer runs.

Lug depth and spacing are always very well considered to allow anything from maximum muddy grip to wider lower profile lugs for hybrid road to trail running. Inov-8 spend much of the design and development time on outsole design as its vitally important for an off road shoe and it makes or breaks the overall performance. 

Inov-8 do make the odd road shoe now, but we would recommend you stay away as they are not perfected. But if you are looking for a Spartan racing shoe, or a great mountain and trail shoe, then you cannot go wrong with an Inov-8 product. Support a small brand, who really care about the consumer and you will get a great shoe in return. 

The best mountain running shoe from Inov-8 this season is the Inov-8 x-Talon 230

The best obstacle racing shoe from Inov-8 this season is the Inov-8 Mudclaw 300

The best trail running shoe from inov-8 this season is the Inov-8 Parkclaw

 

Mizuno 

An old Japanese running brand that prides itself on its ‘technical products’ – the overall range is enormous, and there is absolutely a shoe for everyone from neutral to sever over pronator all built around a Mizuno Wave technology. Mizuno pride themselves on having a shoe for every runner, but this does mean that it is very hard to pick a shoe from the range easily as many of the shoes look like they are all doing the same thing for the same type of runner. 

Mizuno is a firm feeling brand in terms of cushioning without exception across all its shoes and lack the plush feeling that many brands are seeking right now, but where they lack plush they more than make up for in responsiveness. Mizuno in comparison to an equivalent shoe from another brand nearly always feel firmer but faster. This becomes an advantage for a runner who needs support, because we love Mizuno support shoes for the fast responsive nature, but the cushion shoe do lack a little softness compared to other brands. 

Wave Technology is a PEBAX material that is incredibly durable and resilient, so when it is formed into a Wave shape it delivers incredible responsiveness and a springy ride to compliment the foam cushioning in the midsole. PEBAX is used heavily in running spikes and football boots because of its incredible durability, so it is an excellent material for running but it is expensive to manufacture and licence, so you will find Mizuno shoes are at the higher end of the price scale in running stores. The wave plate is the reason why!

Each shoe has a very different Wave platform so Mizuno can ‘tune’ the wave to suit different running style, and in the extreme form can deliver a very durable stability shoe with a progressive support yet retain a shoes lightweight property, or a quick feeling cushion shoe that feels like a racer. 

Wave is a brilliant technology that comes in a variety of shapes so whatever style of shoe you are after – Mizuno will have a shoe for you. The extreme support shoes are well worth a mention as best in class, due to them being very light and fast feeling with no compromise on support!

 

Newton 

Based in Boulder, Colorado, Newton is a brand built by runners trying to do something a little different. You either love them or hate them is the best way to describe the brand, and people who like them, think they are the best thing ever, but because of the key technology they are really not for everyone. 

The shoes are built with block of rubber under the forefoot with move into the midsole and spring back out when you push them down during a stride. Newton call it the Action/Reaction technology, and is best described as a trampoline-like cushioning system that promotes a forefoot foot strike and a lighter on your feet running action. The pods protrude from the outsole so promote a forefoot strike, and you can feel them when running, so it is an acquired taste running in Newton. 

Newton shoes tend to be lighter and more responsive than most brands, with a low profile midsole to enhance the alternative foot plant technology, so if you are a heavier runner or an over-pronator they may not be suitable, but if you are efficient and want to travel quickly they are an interesting option to look at. 

Price is high and we are not so keen on the build quality, but this is a result of a smaller brand producing smaller volumes at source with large overheads, so it is not unreasonable to have a higher retail ticket. But there are plenty of runners out there that absolutely love Newton shoes and what they do for their running action and efficiency, so as an alternative technology – the Action/Reaction technology is well worth considering if you have a relatively efficient running action.

 

New Balance

We at Shoeguide think that New Balance are getting a little left behind in the cool technical stakes of the running industry with basic but well made shoes that are good but not spectacular. 

Nothing about New Balance really jumps out and says wow right now except the amazing ability to still buy shoes in numerous widths, which is a massive bonus for people with a less than average foot shape. 

The shoes are good and feel great, but with every model it would be fairly easy to name an alternative shoe from another brand than someone likes more. A solid range with no stand out shoes really does make it hard to showcase the NB range as a top end running brand right now. 

There are no real technologies to talk about that stand out as innovative or particularly note worthy. NB shoes made from good quality CMEVA (Fresh Foam or Vazee), which are extremely comfortable not a patch on adidas Boost, Nike React, or Saucony Everun if you compare them like for like. 

If you are a fan of the fit and feel of NB because of the great last shapes, then the shoes are good and worth trying, but if you are not in need of a unique shape you could be better looking elsewhere right now for alternative brands offering better technologies, better underfoot comfort and better responsiveness. 

 

Nike 

The monster that is brand Nike sometimes gets a bad rap when it comes to technical running shoes and their credibility, but if you can cut through the huge range of lifestyle shoes and focus in on the technical range, Nike delivers a superb array technical shoes that constantly lead the industry for innovation (no surprise when you consider the research budget they have).

Lunar Foam, Air or React Foam all have their place in credible running shoes, so read the reviews to help you make a decision if you want more info. The whole range is enormous, and incredibly complicated, but if you stick to the core running shoes made specifically for a technical market you will have no issues with any of the nike range.

Nike tend to ride soft, and plush, with amazingly comfortable uppers that feel like socks – the only think you need to get right is the amount of support that you need, and don’t get swayed by the amazing designs that might pull you to the wrong shoes.

 

On Running

Swiss Engineered and a really innovative running brand with a different technology that works beautifully. On shoes are built on a technology called Cloud which are holes in the midsole that sheer and compress all that the same time to soften vertical and horizontal impact forces. 

The holes create a soft and cushioned ride, that is surprisingly smooth when you land on the ground because the de-coupling (the compression of the midsole to soften the impact) is brilliant. The shoes tend to be lower to the ground, and supple but there is no compromise on the cushioning properties thanks to the cool looking midsole. 

On are a lighter and faster shoe than most, across the range, so more suited to efficient, faster and lighter runners. We love the technology and the way it performs for long runs to faster tempos or racing. 

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