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How We Tested Running Shoes

By Matthew Richardson ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday October 12, 2022

We've tested a diverse selection of footwear products over the years. To make your decision-making easier, we share buying advice to help you find the perfect pair of running shoes based on your needs, in addition to our detailed review. For this review, we tested the men's running shoe competition through the streets of Durango, Colorado. While not known for its road running, we implemented a standard testing loop for each model. This 7-mile loop contains 450 feet of elevation gain and multiple surface types such as a concrete sidewalk, asphalt pavement, gravel road, grass fields, single-track dirt, and stairs. This loop extends downhill for two miles (-.5% through -2% grade), 3-miles of flats, and one steep staircase climb. We kept the pace constant throughout the testing between 6 to 7-minute mile pace.

running shoes - the endorphin speed 2 has excellent cushion and responsiveness...
The Endorphin Speed 2 has excellent cushion and responsiveness, shown here on the paved portion of our testing route.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Each contender also went through extended long runs to analyze long-distance comfort and to look for potential blister issues. Additionally, we performed a tempo run for 3 miles which helped us analyze the responsiveness and comfort during harder efforts. While most of these metrics are subjective, we know we provided fair assessment between the different models, testing them multiple times under many conditions.

Cushioning and Landing Comfort


We created the standardized test loop to better compare cushioning and landing comfort, which features various terrain and gradients. We took each model on a run around the loop and noted what we liked about the cushioning and what we didn't like. We then took each model on an extended long run to see how our legs held up. Taking notes of fatigue and discomfort helped us narrow down which cushioning we liked the best.

running shoes - the hoka mach 4 has surprising responsiveness given the amount of...
The Hoka Mach 4 has surprising responsiveness given the amount of cushion.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Responsiveness


Our tempo runs determined how we felt about the responsiveness of each model. We performed a threshold run of 3 miles for each model and noted how we liked the responsiveness. While we did take time/pace into account, we recognized that different days could produce different levels of freshness, so we did not only consider this. We did side-by-side testing to see which had the fastest feel and produced the most rebound for our energy input.

running shoes - thinner forefoot foam is responsive and offers a springy rebound.
Thinner forefoot foam is responsive and offers a springy rebound.

Upper Comfort


Upper comfort was evaluated by comparing all of the run types (test loop, long, and tempo) and evaluating which upper worked best with our foot. We tried differing thicknesses of compression socks and ran in different weather conditions. We analyzed the toe-box and heel cup, looked at the different footbeds and arch support types, and checked for hot spots or blisters and pressure points from the upper. At the end of our testing, we did a short 400-meter track loop to check if our notes were in line with the ending comfort to see if durability or breaking in of materials caused us to change our mind.

running shoes - the seamless knit upper works well to hold your foot in place. we...
The seamless knit upper works well to hold your foot in place. We experienced minor heel slippage.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Lateral Stability and Support


One of the main reasons we wanted to make sure our test loop had different surfaces was to check for lateral stability and support. This allowed us to analyze how the different heel drops and stack heights impacted this performance metric. We took careful note of how the stability transferred into our ankles and knees. We also examined the wideness of the models to see if there was a correlation between width and stability. Models which were more stable and supportive received the highest scores.

running shoes - the pegasus provides great responsiveness with maximum energy...
The Pegasus provides great responsiveness with maximum energy transfer when running fast.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Weight


All weight comparisons were taken using a personal scale and the left foot size 9.5 shoe and were recorded in ounces. The lightest models received the highest scores, and the lowest models received the lowest scores.

running shoes - weighing saucony kinvara 12 on a personal scale.
Weighing Saucony Kinvara 12 on a personal scale.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

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