Expert and trustworthy advice can be difficult to come by, but when it comes to Killian Byrne of the Irish Runner magazine, it doesn’t come much better in the world of running.
That’s why we recently entrusted Killian with reviewing eight of our best-selling running shoes, from which he will share his experts tips and advice to help you before you buy.
He will be looking at the women’s Brooks Glycerin 19, adidas Ultraboost 21, ON Running Cloudswift, Hoka Mach 4, Under Armour Hovr Machina 2, women’s Asics Gel Cumulus 23, women’s Puma Velocity Nitro, Nike Pegasus Trail 2.
Here’s what he said.
Irish Runner on the Brooks Glycerin 19 (Women)
Fit & Comfort
The Glycerin 19 is the max cushioned shoe in the Brooks range and with the withdrawal of a number of lines in their stable, this trainer now stands out as the frontrunner in a neutral stability shoe. Formerly super comfortable but considerably ‘clunky’, this new version goes some way to fixing what many considered was a boxy and unresponsive design.
The tweaking of the DNA Loft foam has gone a long way to transforming the Glycerin 19 into a smooth and cushioned ride, almost ‘bouncy’. This moves the lycerin into a category that you’d be comfortable chasing your speedwork, but they feel light and comfortable enough to also throw on for long runs.
We felt these were a little tight in initial testing and a very firm heel and supported ankle actually might make you consider buying a size up before you head out on the road. When you’re buying, make sure you try these shoes when in your running socks and check with your retailer if they’ll accept a return if the fit isn’t quite right before making a final decision. Many will be happy to exchange within a specific timeframe.
If you’re a Ghost wearer then the Glycerin 19 might suit you too. You’ll get a soft, balanced stable run and it’s a shoe that might just suit you for that everyday work the summer will bring.
Slightly unremarkable when out of the box, the Glycerin 19 is a neutral, cushioned trainer with a 10mm drop. A double mesh upper can make things very plush and there is plenty of ventilation to offset any excess heat. The heel cup is super firm and padded giving a very secure fit. The ubiquitous Brooks DNA Loft foam that allows good cushioning but isn’t too soft to affect your run.
A shoe that is on the expensive side but worth it for the plush feel. We’d have some concerns about the longevity as wear and tear might take its toll sooner than hoped.
Irish Runner on the Adidas Ultraboost 21
Fit & Comfort
The Ultraboost is one of the most popular shoes in the Adidas range and it has jumped the fence to sit very comfortably between technical running shoe and fashionable trainer. But the Ultraboost 21 is working very hard with a complete redesign to make its way back to being a leading performance running shoe.
If it’s possible for a running shoe to look both clunky and fast then Adidas have made it. The Ultraboost aren’t light, and a simple 8k ‘out of the box’ run around the park wasn’t the best of experiences. The snug elastic-like upper allowed for too much movement for your reviewer to feel comfortable on fast corners and no matter how tight we tied the laces there was still plenty of reticence to ‘open up’ on any kind of technical running terrain.
If you’re an Ultraboost wearer you know how plush and comfortable these shoes are and a redesigned midsole foam provides great cushioning and energy return because there is 6% more boost ‘capsules’ and they all seem packed into the heel.
The tongue-less sock design means laces thread through a stiff plastic ‘cage’. This hugs the mid-food while anchoring things in place, but we felt this just serves to enhance the loose and roomy toe box. The runner’s ankle and heel are well boxed in with extra cushioning but things still seemed loose, and in fact, there was some uncomfortable chafing two or three runs into our testing. One real bonus we liked was what adidas call their ‘LEP’ – Linear Energy Push – or the sole of the shoe to you andI. This provided stiffness and grip that allowed real push off and energy return on each step.
A completely redesigned cushioned shoe with 10mm drop that comes in a little heavy at 340g. adidas LEP system allowing 15% increase in stiffness and the addition of 6% more Boost capsules allowing a greater energy return
The Ultraboost still doesn’t know if it’s a running shoe or fashion trainer. 2021 updates make it better for running, but the fact that it’s available in up to 16 different colours says a lot. If you run in long straight lines at a comfortable pace then the Ultraboost might be for you, but for most people there’ll be other shoes that will do what you want without the fear of worrying about what’s on your feet.
Irish Runner on the On Running Cloudswift
Fit & Comfort
Out of the box, all the On Running shoes impress on design, which continues to draw looks from those that aren’t used to the bouncy ‘tube’ design and the Cloudswift are no different. The denim/midnight colour design we trialled impressed even more and added a style to the shoe that is hard to beat in this reviewer’s eyes.
It is interesting though, that we opened this review with commentary on colour, style and looks, as outside of that the technical aspects of the Cloudswift are so understated as to be almost unnoticed outside of the still revolutionary ‘cloud’ design across the soles of the On Running range.
Let’s deal with that first.
We’ve reviewed On Running before at Irish Runner and while they’ve been comfortable, we still can’t get over the design of the sole that continues to gather the detritus of Ireland’s roads and parklands in the ridges. making the shoes grip much less effective. To their credit, On Running have addressed this and the issue is less of a concern today.
On the flipside, the spring of the cloud design provides a smooth ride on hard surfaces and for a trainer that is the very opposite of plush this provides great comfort and a super energy return on each step. The design of the sole allows for both horizontal and vertical flex, allowing for multi-directional cushioning no matter how you run.
The double mesh layer is very soft but durable and while On Running recommend you look at a half size up when buying, we found it roomy. You know your feet better than anyone, if you think you need extra space in a running shoe then bear this in mind. The Mid-foot strap holding the lacing system is very firm and at times we felt the laces were ‘digging in’ – loosening them just made our foot slip a little more.
A 7mm drop with a very rocker like sole on a shoe that can’t really be designated as a ‘stability’ shoe. Luxury double mesh upper provides a lot of comfort and room.
The CloudTec sole design and lack of deep cushioning makes the foot, shoe and ground almost act as one unit. You feel every step on a good way and that makes for an enjoyable experience when out on the road, you are always in control.
Irish Runner on the Hoka Mach 4
Fit & Comfort
We are HOKA fans and were very happy to see a pair of the new Mach 4 come through the letterbox for testing. HOKA, despite their reputation for unusual design, make great shoes for different runners and the Mach4 didn’t do anything to dampen our enthusiasm for the brand.
Comfort, cushioning, stability, smooth – all words we associate with the brand and depending on the shoe, they’re all there in every design. With the Mach 4, we seem to have dialled back on the extreme cushioning to ensure that the run is a lot more responsive than previous versions of the trainer.
I’ve described HOKA shoes in the past as being great for long comfortable runs, but I’ll flip that on its head for the Mach 4s and call these for quick, responsive racing and training. There is more feel between runner and ground than you would expect, making for a very reactive run. The firm mesh upper doesn’t allow for any slip or elasticity meaning your foot stays in place in comfortable surroundings. The solid but wide heel cup allows plenty of room and whether you feel the high back is to protect the achilles or provide a pull tab when putting on your shoes it does both with aplomb.
The Hoka ProFly cushioning does its job very well, like the bowl of porridge for Goldilocks, it is just right, allowing comfort but enough feel for the runner to control the movement rather than constantly sinking into the foam.
Are these the best HOKA shoes ever?
HOKA themselves call the Mach 4 a ‘soft and lively up-tempo daily flyer’ and I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Irish Runner on the Under Armour Hovr Machina 2
Fit & Comfort
Many years ago Nike linked up with Apple and we were all wearing ‘footpods’ embedded in a little compartment hidden under the insole of our shoes. The idea died out with the emergence of the fitness ‘wearable’ and now we get all the metrics under the sun from a wristwatch.
But fast forward a few years and Under Armour have persisted with the technology, fine tuning things for it to be a real threat to the computer on our wrist. Straight out of the box I had to connect to my phone and update my trainers – a new experience for me I’ll admit! But it works. Connecting to the Under Armour owned ‘MyFitnessPal’, you will get all the running metrics you need broadcast from a chip in your shoes.
As a trainer, the Machina 2 is a comfortable ride. Solid energy return and cushioning form the UA Hovr foam allows for a responsive run and the now obligatory internal ‘plate’ gives enough spring to propel, without you actually feeling your stability affected like some other brands. The engineered mesh upper allows for plenty of breathability without things feeling too stretchy, but I really felt the overall design was unremarkable.
Technically, this shoe is all about the technology. The manufacture and design makes for a reasonable trainer but this shoe is all about connectivity. It shines.
Don’t want to bring your phone?
Then connect and upload when you get home. Bring your phone and the shoe will train you when out on the run with personalised coaching tips. According to UA, runners go 3% further and 7% faster using this technology.
It’s hard to see past the fact that UA have hung their hat on chip technology rather than faster shoe design. I’m certainly not naïve in thinking everyone cares about % drop and foam density, but it matters. For a beginner with no interest in these things, then an embedded chip might just swing your decision to these shoes.
Here’s the kicker.
If your shoes know all about how well you run, how far you run and where you run then Under Armour and Map My Run know it too. Be careful with your data.
Irish Runner on the Asics Gel Cumulus 23 (Women’s)
Fit & Comfort
‘Hello old friend, it’s good to see you again’ is what you’d say to these shoes if you could talk to them.
If there was a template for a dependable, middle of the road, everyday running shoe then the Asics Gel-Cumulus are it.
That’s not a bad thing.i
In fact, it’s probably the best recommendation you can get for a trainer because where some shoes excel in parts, they fall short in others. As a beginner or experienced runner that’s not what you want. You want a shoe that will bring you around the park for a walk or a run, one that will bring you on your couch to 5k or see you through your marathon plan or a shoe that will sit in the wardrobe while your motivation wanes, but be there ready and waiting when you find that mojo again.
Priced very competitively, the Gel-Cumulus have all the technology you can get with the might of Asics design team behind them.
The Cumulus are light enough and not too narrow but the mesh upper adds support in targeted areas and is firm without being constricting. If you feel you need a wide shoe for more room or have wide feet then try a half size up. You’ll not swim in the larger size but it will benefit your comfort.
Talking about comfort, the shoe really benefits from both the Asics FliteFoam and its Lite rubber improves durability. Every step is both cushioned and secure. The Gel cup in the heel works impeccably and with both male and female specific design the shoe works with the mechanics of all types of feet.
A stable and neutral runner with a low 7mm drop. But really this isn’t a shoe about the technology, it is about comfort, fit and just getting out running.
Theses trainers will do what you want when you want it without causing a fuss. They’ll easily get you to a marathon but are probably best suited to someone that enjoys their running and likes to go long one day but grabs 20mins on another.
They are probably the ‘best in class’ everyday running shoe.
Irish Runner on the Puma Velocity Nitro (Women’s)
Fit & Comfort
Puma have launched five new running-shoe styles this year, all with their new Nitro foam technology for increased comfort and running efficiency. I was really interested to try them; Puma used to be a very popular choice with runners but I haven’t seen them on a start line in years.
These are neutral, cushioned shoes and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable they were. They felt very cushy underfoot – like wearing slippers – but at the same time you can feel the road. Though they’re lighter, they have a similar feel to the Saucony ride – soft, but still responsive and bouncy.
The sizing is similar to other well-known brands, and the fit comfortable, with enough space in the toe box. I found I had to experiment with lacing to get the shoe to fit snugly around my ankle, but after that they felt good on the run. The knit upper has a silver puma leaping majestically across the big toe, which I liked, and a comfortably padded tongue that doesn’t slip out of place (thanks to an elastic link to the shoes’ sides).
Puma also design their male and female shoes on separate lasts for a more specific fit.
I haven’t tried them in the wet – thanks in part to our run of fine weather and in part because they are such a light colour that they’re unsuitable for rain and muck! But on paths and park trails the grip was good.
My only con was the colour: I trialled electro peach/silver, and while I loved their box-fresh, springtime look, they are just impossible to keep clean in Irish weather!
Neutral, cushioned and light with a 10mm drop
At €120 these are priced at the mid-range for road running shoes, which represents good value for money. I’ll definitely keep using these as neutral, everyday runners across a range of distances
Irish Runner on the Nike Pegasus Trail 2
Fit & Comfort
The Pegasus 2 is built to take on the best of what the trails have to offer.
We brought them to the Wicklow mountains to see how they performed.
These shoes are good to go out of the box, they are very comfortable, the React foam provides excellent cushioning and they feel like the type of shoe you would be happy in for long easy days out on moderate trails. There is room in the forefoot and the mesh upper is accommodating and the React foam provides plushness. On more rocky sections, I did find that I could still feel some rocks through the foam but for those who still like some ground feel in their cushioned shoes this is no bad thing.
It is a big shoe and on the heavier end of the scale weighing in at 343g for a size 10.
On rolling moderate hills, road sections and forest paths, this shoe is in its element. However, in my opinion, this is not a shoe for more technical mountain trails. I tried different lacing set ups, but I just could not find one that kept my foot feeling supported and secure.
Despite the plushness of the React foam and the flexibility of the upper material. I would describe the feeling on all surfaces as running ‘on’ the shoe as opposed to ‘in’ it.
The shoes performed well on a wide variety of surfaces and I only felt a little slippage on a wet rock section that challenges all shoes I have worn. The lugs are small enough that these shoes are also perfectly at home on tarmac roads. After 80+ km there is no visible signs of wear and the outsole looks to be very durable. I like the cushioning and comfort on easy to moderate trails, and I found the grip to be good on all but the wettest of rock.
With a 10mm drop this enters the territory of a ‘maximalist’ shoe. There is a full NikeReact foam midsole and a full rubber outsole with a lug design that resembles a mountain bike tyre tread.
If you already like Nike, their fit, and you run a mix of both road, parkland, trail, forest, or easy hills, this could be your shoe.
If you want a shoe capable of carrying you in comfort for anything from a short run up to a marathon or ultramarathon, then this is a shoe to check out.
There’s plenty of food for thought in Killian’s shoe reviews, after his extensive testing of each product.
Make sure to let us know if you found this helpful when you’re trying to pick a new running shoe.
You can shop Running right here.