Spring/Summer 2021 Running Shoes Review

Team Run4It have been trying out new running shoes for the Spring/Summer 2021 season. Your favourite brands have (again) made some outstanding progress with this latest range, including shoes for roads and trails, speed and plush comfort.

We are thrilled to share the team’s thoughts on these models. Let’s see what they have to say about them. 

Road Running Shoes – Neutral

Will wear tests the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

  • Category: Neutral Soft 
  • Weight: 263g men’s / 230g women’s
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Price: £135 

What’s new?

When a shoe gets to version 11 it will have a strong following and will usually be pretty dialed in. As Will put it, “tweaks and updates usually have a knife-edge to walk; don’t change too much to upset those that know and love the shoe, but seek constant improvement to appeal to more runners.” 

In this 11th version, New Balance only made minor changes to the upper, and it didn’t disappoint Will for his first experience with the shoe. “The 3D printed heel counter fits like a glove and there is less of a seam in this model, giving it an excellent wrap around fit at the ankle. The weave on the Hypoknit upper is more flexible so I would expect this to fit more people’s foot shape. I found the shoe to fit like a glove, secure at the back of the heel and in the midfoot but open enough in the toebox not to feel crammed in.” 

The Fresh Foam X midsole, unchanged from the previous version, is still the number one attraction for this model and according to Will “the stuff is brilliant”. 

“I used this shoe for the first time on an easy recovery run after a hard session the day before and was struggling to slow down. Not because I was working hard but because the shoe was giving me so much bounce. The Fresh Foam X is really responsive but in a very forgiving way. During the run I was purposefully trying to ease off the pace but over the course of an hour I was running 15s per km faster than normal. If you are looking for a daily shoe that makes running easier then this is it!”

The Fresh Foam 1080v11 is a highly cushioned neutral soft shoe that also delivers great levels of energy return and does give that extra springy feel compared with other neutral soft models. 

Will’s verdict

“Running easy it feels forgiving but bouncy but when you want to turn up the pace then the midsole is more than equipped to work with you and drive you forward. I think it is a great option for those runners seeking an all round, daily running shoe and a jack of all trades to handle a wide range of sessions.” 

John wear tests the ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23

  • Category: Neutral Soft 
  • Weight: 310g men’s / 260g women’s 
  • Drop: 10mm men’s / 13mm women’s 
  • Price: £155 

What’s new?

The latest Gel-Nimbus features never before seen ASICS Technologies, offering the ultimate in protection while delivering a softer feel. To John, “the New ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23 was a surprise! I’ve had versions of this shoe in the past. Although it has always been one of the most cushioned shoes on the market, on those runs where you want to feel a bit of zip in your stride, it has been left wanting. Not the 23!”

Featuring a new upper, it is designed to wrap the foot like a second skin. “This version immediately feels lighter as soon as you slip it on, it retains that really plush feel with nice padding around the heel collar and a well padded tongue. The new mesh in the upper fits snug, but not tight and my first impression was that it felt really comfortable.”

Constructed with gender specific cushioning and support, John noticed the premium materials used. “Once you set off to run, this is when you really notice the difference in this new version, you have the new Flytefoam propel which gives the shoe a lighter feel, but in the forefoot it has some real responsiveness. I usually run mid to forefoot striking, and this responsive feel was very apparent, not taking anything away from the generous Gel pad in the heel, this for me became really apparent on a long downhill section of my run, when I used my heel more often and that Gel pad was very noticeable and soft.”

John’s verdict

“The new Gel Nimbus 23 is a lighter shoe than its predecessors, more responsive in the forefoot, with a nice neat fit and feel to it. This shoe will appeal to the runner that wants to feel they are well protected for their longer run, but with the added bonus that it won’t feel too soft and sluggish.”

Scott wear tests Brooks Glycerin 19

  • Category: Neutral Soft 
  • Weight: 289g men’s / 255g women’s 
  • Drop: 10mm 
  • Price: £140

What’s new?

Brook’s softest neutral shoe comes back in a 19th version, more cushioned and more comfortable. Scott is a long-time fan of the brand and was keen to get them on his feet and see how they compared to the previous versions he had.

“These days I tend to look for more underfoot protection in my shoes than I used to. In this respect the latest version of the Glycerin really delivers. With more midsole cushioning than ever before, these shoes give a really plush feel which, strangely, wasn’t obvious when I first laced them up. But after 2 or 3 runs the Ortholite sock liners felt like they conformed to the pressure placed upon them by my feet and worked in tandem with the DNA Loft, resulting in an almost custom-like feel.” 

It isn’t only the soft and plush feel underfoot that impressed Scott: its secure fit provides an extremely comfortable and stable ride. “With Brooks shoes I’ve always loved the locked-down support provided by the uppers and in the Glycerin 19 they’ve nailed it again. I have pretty narrow feet and can find they move around inside shoes without a supportive upper, but there’s none of that here! The mesh upper holds my foot brilliantly and gives a real feeling of security and support. Having said that, there’s plenty of room and scope for runners with much wider feet than me to get on really well with these! The flaring of the midsole under the heel and the robust heel counter help in adding a nice, supportive feel on heel strike.” 

Scott’s verdict

“With the level of cushioning we’re talking about here, the Glycerin is unlikely to be your shoe of choice for burning up the roads on fast interval sessions, but if you want a shoe which looks after your feet on recovery runs and longer training runs, then the Glycerin 19 is definitely worth a closer look!”

Gillian wear tests the Saucony Kinvara 12

  • Category: Neutral Responsive 
  • Weight: 213g men’s / 184g women’s 
  • Drop: 4mm 
  • Price: £120 

What’s new?

The Kinvara is one of Saucony’s most distinctive models and is a true example of innovation in the footwear industry. 

With a design reminding us of the Endorphin range, to Gillian, this 12th edition fits slightly different than previous models. “It definitely has more of a ‘performance’ fit: a minimal upper body that provides breathability and a lightweight feel, a slimmer fit from the heel to the midfoot and toe box; perhaps something to consider if you prefer a ‘roomier’ fitting shoe.” 

The Kinvara 12 has not lost what it’s good for: delivering lightweight speed alongside good cushioning. 

“The overall cushion in the Kinvara is firm, yet the PWRRUN foam in the midsole gives a softer feel on landing than previous versions; nevertheless, you still get the responsive return of energy you would expect.” 

“Whilst the Kinvara is a neutral shoe, there is a feeling of very subtle guidance running along the midline of the shoe; this addition gives a greater sense of control – especially towards the end of a harder tempo session.” 

At 184g the Kinvara 12 will obviously perform well on faster runs! 

Gillian’s verdict

“The Kinvara will see you through controlled tempo runs, interval training and even the easier miles. It’s a great shoe to incorporate into your rotation alongside something like the Saucony Endorphin Pro to help preserve the miles on the soles.“

“You get an efficient and smooth ride in the Kinvara. In simple terms, the shoe feels natural. Natural and fast.”

*Saucony Kinvara 12 shoes will be available to buy online from mid-March

Jack wear tests the ASICS Novablast

  • Category: Neutral Responsive 
  • Weight: 260g men’s / 220g women’s 
  • Drop: 10mm 
  • Price: £130 

What’s new?

When a shoe is inspired by a bug, you can expect it to offer an amazing experience. An experience different from what Jack was used to with ASICS

“This is a shoe that really does live up to the hype! The new Flytefoam Blast cushioning has revolutionized my concept of ASICS trainers. The Flytefoam Blast is super cushioned and very protective underfoot throughout long, slow base miles. However, running at race pace or during intervals is when you really feel the benefit of them. You experience such a great bounce and toe-off each step, which makes for an encouraging and just a super fun experience.”  

The upper has a “barely there” feel to it that feels very nice, according to Jack: “it is super lightweight and the minimal upper they have used compliments the feel underfoot perfectly. You feel like you have a lot of freedom to really smash a session, whilst also not feeling too intrusive for the slower heavier miles. “ 

Jack’s verdict

“It’s a great option for someone who wants a versatile shoe for marathon training. I think ASICS really have hit the nail on the head. All I can say is, get these on your feet and run fast and you will see how good these really are.” 

Road Running Shoes – Stability

Gayle wear tests the Brooks Glycerin 19 GTS

  • Category: Stability Soft   
  • Weight: 303g men’s / 269g women’s 
  • Drop: 10mm 
  • Price: £140

Previously named the Transcend, the Glycerin GTS 19 is a “game changer for those runners requiring a stability shoe for slower, longer runs” according to Gayle. 

What’s new?

It lives up to its reputation as Brooks’ softest shoe. Gayle says “you can definitely feel the additional full DNA Loft right through the midsole making the transitions from heel to toe a much smoother ride.” 

The structure of the upper is ideal for runners who have feet that swell a lot or who often suffer from rubbing and friction; “the Glycerin GTS 19 feels like a firm hug as it envelops your foot, supports through the arch and is firm to stand in. The updated 3D print mesh upper gives your foot flexibility to move where it needs to, breathability and you can feel the additional DNA loft cushioning from the start of your run as it softens as you go. It was like running on fresh powder snow, soft but responsive.”

Gayle’s verdict

“This shoe is a good option for a consistently paced runner requiring a stability shoe for longer distances looking for that added comfort and support. Ideal for any road runner.”

Sarah wear tests the Mizuno Wave Inspire 17

  • Category: Stability Responsive  
  • Weight: 285g men’s / 240g women’s 
  • Drop: 12mm 
  • Price: £130

This new Wave Inspire has some strong updates that place it as one of the best all-round stability shoes.

What’s new?

The Enerzy heel wedge offers a soft experience without compromising the responsiveness of the shoe, as Sarah describes.

“This shoe sits at the soft end of the responsive category, which makes it work well for different types of run. The midsole cushioning felt forgiving and protective when I took it out on easy runs, but had enough rebound to help me hit my target pace during an interval workout.

The redesigned fan-shaped Wave plate feels unobtrusive and suits my flat arches. While the sturdy heel counter provides some lateral stability and gives me confidence that the shoe is working holistically to guide my foot in motion.”

Sarah’s verdict

“It is a strong everyday trainer for runners who need a stability shoe, and the accommodating fit would suit many different foot shapes.”

Laura wear tests the On Cloudflyer

  • Category: Stability Responsive
  • Weight: 280g men’s / 270g women’s 
  • Drop: 7 mm 
  • Price: £140

What’s new?

The Cloudflyer has more structure added to it and is the best option from On if you’re looking for a stability shoe. This lightweight stability shoe provides support in a non-intrusive manner and combines soft Helion superfoam cushioning with a Speedboard structure to deliver protection and great energy return. Laura from Edinburgh had this to say.

“The main thing I noticed when I first put the Cloudflyer on was that I didn’t feel as if I was wearing a stability shoe as the support within the midsole wasn’t intrusive. Normally my feet get really warm when running any distance but with the new engineered mesh upper my feet are super breathable in the Cloudflyer. With the current goal of trying to improve on my times, the responsive snappier feel that the Speedboard provides makes it a great shoe for shorter, faster sessions. Despite this when on longer runs the shoe still feels cushioned, making the Cloudflyer a great all-round shoe!”

Laura’s verdict

The Cloudflyer is one of the lighter stability shoes available on the market. This makes it a great option for runners who want a lightweight feel for their runs. If you rotate your running shoes, pull these on for your faster run sessions.

Trail Running Shoes

Mandy wear tests the HOKA One One Torrent 2

  • Category: Trail Running  
  • Weight: 254g men’s / 215g women’s 
  • Drop: 5mm 
  • Price: £110

What’s new?

The Torrent 2 was designed for training and racing over variable distances and surfaces; and it didn’t disappoint Mandy.

“The route I chose to test these shoes was extremely muddy on the day. I was surprised how amazing they were at gripping the ground. I’ll be honest I did not expect the grip to be this efficient on this terrain. The multidirectional pattern of the lugs came into its own. It was also lower to the ground than the Hoka One One Speedgoat and made me feel very stable when running on technical trails. Little details like the strong chunky laces and the overlay around the shoe which help keep out some mud, made the shoe stand out even more.”   

“The fit of the upper felt great, not as narrow as the Speedgoat on the toe box. I was able to stay to my standard one size up from normal shoes. (normally a UK 4 and wear a UK 5 in running shoes).” 

The upper is made recycled plastic and is slightly thicker than the first version to increase durability: 

“What really impressed me was its weight! I just couldn’t believe how light it felt and made running even more pleasurable. Before I knew it I felt super confident running through the muds and climbing over slippery rocks. 

Mandy’s verdict

“I  would recommend using this shoe on grassy and rocky trails and it’s definitely going in my racing bag for mountain races!”

Chris wear tests the Saucony Peregrine 11

  • Category: Trail Running / Hybrid 
  • Weight: 310g men’s / 270g women’s 
  • Drop: 4mm 
  • Price: £115

What’s new?

The popular trail shoe from Saucony comes back in a new version and with only small updates made from the previous version (including more protective and durable upper). 

“The most important thing to know about the Peregrine 11 is that it’s one of the few general trail shoes that can actually perform on wet mud. The 5mm chevron shaped lugs, paired with enough cushioning to make road miles feel smooth. Not so much as to sacrifice ground-feel for hitting more technical stuff, means this has got to be one of the most versatile shoes on the market just now.” 

The grip on the Peregrine is perfect for running on wet, muddy and rocky trails – as Chris experienced it. 

“Given the time of year I’ve only taken the Peregrine 11s out in less than enticing conditions. The best day was a fairly sloppy outing around Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I was surprised to stay on my feet without having to break too hard on some of the descents given the conditions. I almost lost my footing on a patch of semi-frozen grass on a steep slope. Apart from that one mini-wobble they outperformed anything else I’ve used for traction short of specialised hill running shoes.”  

Chris’ verdict

In an ideal world, trail runners would have at least a couple of options to handle whatever the British countryside can throw at them. But according to Chris, “if you’ve only got room for one option, the Peregrine 11 stands alone as the do-it-all trail runner that doesn’t compromise in any area”. One last advice from Chris, depending on your history with running shoes and amount of road running you’re looking to do with the Peregrine, it might not be the best option:  “with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop this might not be suitable if you’ve got to run more than a couple of miles to get to and from the trails – especially if you’re used to running in something around 10mm and/ or you’ve had achilles issues or plantar fasciitis.”

For more running shoe advice

If the team’s reviews have given you food for thought, you can find more information on our website. Learn more about the difference between neutral and stability, or soft and responsive, in the shoe advice section.