5 Best Super-Lightweight Running Shoes!
When we ask runners to tell us about a shoe, they eagerly lay out exactly what they think, no holds barred. They rave (or rant) about fit, cushioning, and support – the shoe-sperience, if you will – and how it transforms their run, and sometimes even inspires them to run more. What they don’t talk about is midsole technologies, levels of pronation, or lacing systems.
So for this year’s guide, we sifted through the last decade’s worth of 52 582 comments from approximately 3 000 wear-testers in our database to see what experiences runners noted most. According to the report, they kept coming back to four key feels: LIGHT WEIGHT, CUSHIONING, SUPPORT and a COMFORTABLE FIT.
Not all that surprising, right? Runners know, or at least have an idea of, what they like; they’re just not always sure which shoes offer it.
Which is why we did all the hard work here (no, seriously, there were a lot of charts and spreadsheets). We crunched all the data on the shoes we tested, to sort out which offered what type of experience. Then we threw the marketing jargon out of the window and put the results into words you understand.
All you have to do is close your eyes and imagine how you want to feel when you run: light, fast, empowered? Like you’re running on clouds? Supported and invincible? Good. We’ve got those shoes. Here are five of the best lightweight running shoes on the market right now.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
The RW Shoe Lab performs mechanical tests on the industry-standard sizes, men’s 9 and women’s 7, to give you a general understanding of the features. Here’s what the numbers you’ll see in this guide mean.
Some runners care a lot about weight, and research shows that you expend more aerobic energy with heavier shoes. To put it into context, the heaviest shoe in this guide is 340 grams (Vivobarefoot Primus Swimrun) for men, and 348 grams (Olympic Ramble Ladies) for women. The lightest is 227 grams for men and 198 grams for women (Altra Duo).
A fancy machine called a digital contact sensor measures the ‘stack height’, or the total thickness of the sole from your foot to the ground, in both the heel and the forefoot. The ‘drop’ is the difference between the heel and the forefoot measurements, or how much your toes drop below your heel. The least amount of drop in this guide is 0mm for both men and women (Altra King 1.5, Vivobarefoot Primus Swimrun). The greatest amount of drop is 14.4mm for men and 12.9mm for women (Reebok Harmony Road 2).
The lab takes cushioning measurements from the heel and forefoot, then averages the scores to give you an idea of the overall cushioning experience. The cushioning scores in this guide are on a scale of 1 to 100, with the lowest (or the least cushioned) coming in at 30 (Puma Speed 300 Racer) and the highest (or most cushioned) coming in at 85 (Saucony Kinvara 9).
These five shoes floated to the top of our lab data charts as the lightest shoes in the guide. Our wear-testers generally raved about how effortless kilometres felt in them, particularly for shorter-distance runs.
New Balance 890 V6
PRICE: R2 000
WEIGHT: M 261 grams, W 215 grams
DROP: M 7.3mm, W 5.8mm
NEED TO KNOW:
The 890 was reborn as the V6 after being retired over four years ago, with a one-piece midsole and updated last.
This shoe strikes a balance between feeling light and feeling cushioned, according to testers. A TPU (thermoplastic unit) in the forefoot gives the shoe a ‘snappy feel’; which our lab tests noted as stiffer, but testers enjoyed as ‘responsive’.
This version has a little more volume in the forefoot, for a roomier fit.
GET IT NOW: newbalance.co.za
PRICE: R2 350
WEIGHT: M: 227 grams, W: 198 grams
DROP: M: 2.7mm, W: 4.8mm
The Duo is lighter than it looks, despite the fact that our lab test found it has the thickest and softest forefoot (no surprise, given Altra’s founding principle of ‘zero drop’ – their goal to keep the heights of the heel and forefoot as close to level as possible).
The outsole has only rubber in high-wear areas to save on weight, which could mean it won’t hold up through months of kilometres on the road. Still, our wear-testers didn’t notice any issues with durability.
The tongue has soft foam to prevent irritation from tight laces, and the heel cup is reinforced for added stability and comfort.
GET IT NOW: altrafootwearsa.com
Puma Speed 300 Racer
PRICE: R2 299
WEIGHT: M 270 grams, W 230 grams
DROP: M 8mm, W 8mm
Profoam is a high-rebound EVA midsole that provides lightweight cushioning and responsiveness. It’s a light and fast shoe for those chasing a parkrun PB.
The shoe has a sock-like knitted upper, and customisable lacing.
A nylon construction in the forefoot, called a Proplate, is intended to propel the foot forward. Testers noticed a zippy ride in the toe-off phase.
GET IT NOW: Puma Stores 021 551 0832
Altra King MT 1.5
PRICE: R2 599
WEIGHT: M 240 grams, W 198 grams
DROP: M 0mm, W 0mm
The King MT 1.5 gets the royal treatment on its outsole, with extra deep lugs made of Vibram’s ultra-sticky rubber compound. The shoe’s highly durable tread means unbeatable traction and grip that perform across any surface, and it adapts readily to uphills, downhills, lateral movement, and fast stops.
Its minimal cushioning makes the King MT nimble underfoot on even the nastiest ground, and its zero-drop offset ensures a natural, smooth ride, from trailhead to trailhead.
Altra made some minor tweaks to the shoe’s upper – e.g. shortening the midfoot strap – that have made the King 1.5 just a smidgen better than its predecessor.
GET IT NOW: altrafootwearsa.com
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 5
PRICE: R2 150
WEIGHT: M 266 grams, W 216 grams
DROP: M 5mm, W 5mm
HOKA have significantly improved and modified the upper. It’s made from engineered mesh, with fewer overlays than previous versions, to optimise breathability and comfort. Testers noted a more secure fit.
True to its heritage, the 5 is light, cushy and very fast. It has the same high-stack, high-cushioned, meta-rocker midsole as its predecessor; but testers noticed this version felt slightly softer, and was a smoother ride.
GET IT NOW: hullabaloo.co.za