Where We Test
A successful road run begins with the right running shoes that fit your running style and budget. Because we are specifically testing these running shoes on the road, we have the distinct pleasure of testing wherever there are roads. Our testing has taken us through neighborhoods and down bike paths in South Lake Tahoe, CA, Reno, NV, Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, and San Luis Obispo, CA. In these locations, we have sought out different terrain on which to run. Some days we conduct our training on tracks, while other days are all about the secluded bike paths. No matter where we are testing, we ensure that we give each shoe its time in the spotlight so that we can provide you with the best, most current information about the best running shoes on the market.
During our testing runs, we bring our phones and dictate our impressions and thoughts regarding each pair of shoes to Siri. We scour the internet in search of other reviews by which to gauge our own opinions. Only after all of our perspectives have been included and accounted for do we survey the price of each shoe.
Responsiveness is a key component of a running shoe that many runners look amp up their speed care about. Responsiveness essentially describes the amount of energy return each shoe has. In recent years, the trend is to pack the midsole with a ton of tech so that runners feel propelled from one footfall into the next.
We take into consideration what each shoe is made for. Some shoes are specifically designed to be speedy while others are better suited for dampening the impact on your joints. We test responsiveness by trying to run fast in each pair of shoes. Of course, we do consider the technology included in each pair as we do this, but testing responsiveness is all about the run. Some shoes feel like bricks on your feet while others feel more like rollers. The more a shoe feels weightless and like it is allowing you to effortlessly roll from one step to the next, the better its responsiveness.
This might be the metric that many people are the most captivated by. Underfoot cushion is huge when it comes to finding comfort in a shoe. Some people need more than others and we keep this in mind as we assess each shoe's landing comfort. Initially, we take note of each shoe's stack height. This means that we measure (or look up) how high each shoe stands off of the ground. We consider the heel-to-toe differential and then subtract it from the overall stack height to find the forefoot cushion.
Much like responsiveness, this metric is gauged largely by feel. The preferences towards underfoot cushioning are subjective, but the literal amount that each shoe houses is not. We test each shoes landing comfort by pounding the pavement and noting how each footfall feels. On longer runs, we take copious notes about how our joints feel after each distance effort to help us assess.
Stability is a critical metric for some and completely inane to others. Some runners need stability in their running shoes, especially for longer runs and training blocks. Other runners feel better in lighter shoes with less overall structure. A quick way to find out what running shoes are best for you (minimal, neutral, stable, maximal, etc.) is to assess your gait patterns at your local running shop. They will be able to tell you whether or not you overpronate, which is what we call it when your ankles roll in towards each other. Becoming intimately acquainted with your gait patterns will help you sift through the dozens of shoes on the market. You will be able to narrow down what style of shoe will best suit your gait and also your goals.
Some running shoes are built to be stable and have lateral structures in place to help runners' gaits stay organized, even as they fatigue. Other shoes rely on their engineered mesh and others still offer even less support. We test for stability by intentionally trying to overpronate as we run and documenting the results. Sometimes we feel a shoe's stability, or lack thereof, towards the end of long runs when our tired legs want to relent. Other times we can feel a lack of structure immediately. Decide what type of shoe will best serve you and begin your hunt from there. Personally, we love a shoe that offers some stability but not so much that it becomes obnoxious.
We test upper comfort by initially surveying what kind of materials are used in the upper construction of the shoes. We take note of the tongue and lace bed style, knowing that shoes made for sprinting are less likely to have super comfortable uppers. We run a lot of miles in each pair of shoes, and we get to know which ones we prefer for long distances and which ones are best worn in short spurts. The shoes that score the highest in the metric tend to have plush tongues
with lace beds that don't dig in. We love an articulated heel collar that offers enough cushion to stay snug and avoid creating heel blisters. Finding the right shoes comes down to personal preference regarding upper comfort. Some toe boxes aren't quite right for some runners, which is okay! Once you determine what your shoe needs are, you can decide how much emphasis you want to place on upper comfort.
We test weight in the most obvious way - we weigh each pair of shoes on a food scale in our kitchens, of course. We weigh each pair right out of the box to ensure that we accurately note each weight. We then find the average weight of all of the shoes and assign our scores from there. We are careful to note how evenly the weight feels distributed in each pair while running as well.