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Our stylist reviews three running trainers

Our stylist reviews three running trainers

To be honest, I’m not hating lockdown. Aside from the obvious hardships (and lack of football), I’ve actually enjoyed being able to spend time focusing on staying healthy and pushing my training. Whilst I know the restrictions are harder for many, I want to focus on one of the positive aspects to come out of lockdown: more people exercising in the fresh air. It’s been great to see more runners on the roads and trails – at a safe distance from each other, of course. 

If you’re one of the people getting more into running during this time, then the right pair of running trainers can provide you with enhanced flexibility, motion control, traction, and much more. Essentially, it pays to invest in the right ones. And while full disclaimer, I’m no expert on the technical features of trainers, I have spent a decent portion of time testing various styles, so hopefully my experiences will guide you in selecting the best design for you. Read on for my practical insights into the top running shoes out there – and the odd anecdote on style. 

Photographed: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 GTX (£135)

1. Best all-rounder running shoe

 

Background

The best all-rounder is Hoka One One (pronounced: “Ho-Kah Own-ay Own-ay”) Speedgoat 4. This fourth iteration of the Speedgoat was released recently, but myself and a couple of friends have loved running in the Speedgoat 2 and 3. Whilst known as a trail running shoe, it’s more than adept on the roads too. The Speedgoat got its name from trail running legend Karl Meltzer. He is best known for having won more 100-mile ultramarathons than any other runner, and he's also held a lot of ultramarathon speed records – hence the nickname the Speedgoat.

In collaboration with Hoka, this gem was born and continues to be a favourite in the running community. When running an ultramarathon, sections of the race are likely to be on road, usually somewhere between 10-15 miles, so the shoe has proved it can do it all. But by no means do you have to be an ultra-runner to reap the benefits of this shoe. They’re engineered to help anyone get the most out of their training. 

Why it’s a great choice

Hoka has nailed the style. Technical running shoes aren’t usually pretty (as we’ll see with Salomon later), but Hoka has done a great job of making them look good. It’s really helping the young brand quickly make a name for themselves. Style aside, Hoka are also known to provide great cushioning and comfort. The first ultramarathon I ran, I wore a pair of Hoka’s (The Challenger ATR 4), and my feet felt great afterwards.

You hear horror stories of lost nails and severe blisters, but I came away unscathed. Considering the race was over the tricky terrain of Exmoor National Park in Devon, I can’t speak highly enough of the comfort that you get with Hoka. This also rings true for the Speedgoat, so if you value comfort above all when running, then this is the shoe for you. 

Things to consider

In order to provide this much cushioning, Hoka shoes tend to have a large mid-sole and can feel a little strange when you first put them on. You tend to feel the ground less, and with this, there can be a tendency to not pick your feet up enough and trip where you otherwise might not. This is less of a concern when on the roads, and you do get used to the shoe quickly, but it’s worth noting. The Speedgoat is also slightly on the heavier side — it’s very marginal and only worth worrying about if you’re hitting those seriously long miles. 

The short version

This is a great all-round shoe that can tackle any trail as well as comfortably get you round anything from a 5K to half marathon on the road. And they will keep your feet protected and comfortable doing so, but the added comfort means a little less stability and more weight. 

Photographed: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 (£109)

2. Best on road trainers

 

Background

For the best road shoe, I’ve chosen the Nike Pegasus 36. It’s hard to overlook Nike when it comes to road running. Especially with the recent, mind-blowing display by Eliud Kipchoge in Vienna, doing what was previously seen as impossible: running a sub-two-hour marathon. (That’s an average speed of just under 4:35 per mile!) He did this wearing a Nike prototype Alphafly Next%. I don’t care what purists might say about the support / technological advantages he had, it was an incredible achievement.

The Pegasus is Nike’s classic daily trainer and the one I recommend 99% of the time when people are getting into running.

Why it’s a great choice

Whilst I wouldn’t consider The Pegasus a race shoe, the comfort and traction you get with it will see to all your training needs. It’s a lightweight shoe and has the full-length Zoom ‘air-pillow’ to make your run smooth and comfortable. Unlike the Hokas and Salomons, The Nike Pegasus won’t look out of place in the gym or with any other training you might do. The styling makes for a very versatile shoe that you can also fit nicely into your everyday attire.

Things to consider

There aren’t too many bells and whistles with this shoe. It’s an excellent shoe that will have you wanting to get out more often and will no doubt improve your training. But if like me, you want to nerd out on the details, I’d look elsewhere. You may also have to invest in a more advanced race shoe before too long if you really catch the bug. If you decide to, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly range might be more your bag. 

The short version

If you’re just starting out, or running is a part of but maybe not all of your training, then this is an elite shoe. It will have you posting quicker times than ever, have you excited about getting out there, and doing its job in the gym too. However, it’s not all that technical and may need to be upgraded if you start getting serious. 

Photographed: Salomon Speedcross 3 ADVANCED (£109)

3. Best on trail trainers 

 

Background

Meet the Salomon Speedcross 3. For the runner in me, this pick was a no-brainer, but for the stylist… it was tough. My brother and I have debated the look of this shoe a few times. In short, he loves it – I think it’s ugly. But looks aside, from a technical and practical point of view, the Speedcross 3 is an awesome bit of kit.

Since I’ve mentioned two running icons to match the choices above, I’m going to finish with the best of the bunch: Kilian Jornet. This man isn’t human. He is Salomon-sponsored athlete and holds the fastest known times for the ascent and descent of Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali, and Everest. He also summited Everest twice in one week with no fixed ropes or oxygen. So if you’re lucky enough to live near some exciting, technical trails, and you’re looking to spend a lot of time out there, there isn’t a better shoe than the Speedcross. 

Why it’s a great choice

Ironically, given that they have now made their way into the fashion world with everyone from designers to influencers sporting them, Salomon don’t consider style a key part of their appeal. The brand always innovates and designs for the most technical and challenging outdoor pursuits, even if they are currently seen more on catwalks than trails. 

The most appealing feature of the Speedcross for me is the lugs. This is the term given to the small raised treads on the bottom of trail shoes. They are more prominent and ‘pointier’ than on road shoes. Fun fact: the treads on road shoes are also referred to as waffles in reference to the first popular Nike outsole created by Bill Bowerman with the help of his wife's waffle iron. The lugs on the Speedcross give excellent grip even in the most challenging conditions. Whether the trail is rocky and uneven or muddy and wet, you won’t get a better grip than with these. This combined with a thinner mid-sole than the Hoka’s, allows you to ‘feel’ the ground more too. This may cause a couple of eyes to roll, but that feel is really important when the risk of falling and injury is higher. 

Things to consider

As mentioned, I ran the longest race I’ve taken part in a pair of Hokas. And for me the comfort of these felt most important at the time. The Speedcross can’t offer that level of comfort. It’s not to say they aren’t comfortable. My brother, who completed a 100-mile race, has spent hours in these with no complaints. But you don’t get the bounce of the Hoka. Technically, that’s the only thing I can pick at, and it’s a small one. You just have to get over the looks too. 

The short version

There’s no better shoe or brand than this if you want to be sure that you’ve got the most technical, advanced kit out there with an unbeatable pedigree behind them. They’re best suited for runners hitting the most technical and challenging trails and are likely to have a variety of shoe options in their kit bag. So this is a very specific shoe, but look to Nike or Hoka if you’re after something more versatile. 


Words: Freddie Kemp