Top 5 Transitional Road Running Shoes of 2012

Earlier today I posted my top 3 most disappointing running shoes of 2012 – I wanted to get the bad news out of the way first so I could proceed on to the good stuff! I’ve had the good fortune to run in a lot of fine shoes this year, and given the diversity of shoe styles that I run in, a simple top 5 list didn’t make a lot of sense. As such, I’ve decided to break my top performer lists into four categories:

1. Top Transitional Road Running Shoes of 2012
2. Top Barefoot-Style Road Running Shoes of 2012
2. Top Cushioned, Zero Drop Road Running Shoes of 2012
3. Top Hybrid Trail Running Shoes of 2012

As indicated by the title of this post, I’m going to tackle the transitional road shoes first. I use transitional as a catch-all category to describe shoes that range from about 1-8mm heel-forefoot drop. These are the shoes that I run in most, and this list is going to be the longest of the four (5 shoes vs. 3 for the others) since I’ve run in so darn many good shoes that fit here. Here goes:

5. New Balance RC1600

The RC1600 is a really solid racing/speed shoe even though it nears the upper end of my preference for heel-forefoot drop (8mm). It’s light, firm, and fits snugly without being constricting. I wish the sole had just a bit more pop, but I’ve enjoyed running in it and would consider it a top choice among higher drop racing flats.

Read my full New Balance RC1600 review here.

 

4. Saucony Kinvara 3

The Kinvara winds up on my list almost by default – it’s a shoe that has worked well for me for a long time, and the most recent update seemed to provide just a tad more volume in the forefoot, which was a nice addition. I don’t run in the Kinvara as much as I used to (in part because I haven’t trained for or run a marathon since Boston 2011), but this is still probably my most frequently suggested shoe when I’m asked for recommendations. 

Read my Saucony Kinvara 3 review here.

 

3. Skechers GoRun 2

Skechers GoRun 2

Full disclosure here – I was involved in the wear testing process for the GoRun 2 and provided feedback that led to some direct changes to the design. Most everything that I didn’t like about initial iterations was changed, and thus this shoe is one that I’ve spent a lot of time with and it was tweaked to the point where I couldn’t think of any other negative thing to say (additional disclosure – aside from the shoes I receive, I do not get paid by Skechers or any other shoe company to provide feedback on footwear – it’s something I do because it’s incredibly fun to take part in the development process).

The original Skechers GoRun was a funny shoe in that it felt awful to stand in it due to the midsole being thickest under the arch, but once you got moving it felt pretty darned good. The GoRun 2 is updated with a less pronounced midfoot bump (it’s still there, but I can walk around in them all day now without discomfort), an even better upper (and I loved the original GoRun upper), and an optional insole. The fit and softness of the sole are very reminiscent of the Kinvara, and this is a shoe that I would very seriously consider for my next marathon (I like a softer sole for long distances). All around great shoe!

I haven’t published my Skechers GoRun 2 review yet as the shoe just came out, but you can read more about it on the Skechers website.

 

2. adidas Gazelle

The Gazelle is the “intermediate” shoe in the adidas adipure natural running line. At 6mm drop (it feels less) and 6oz the Gazelle is near my sweet spot in its key specs, and the shoe is insanely comfortable. I love the roomy forefoot as well as the stretchy, non-constrictive upper material (the forefoot of the Skechers GoRun 2 is made of a similar material). The sole has a slight softness on the run that is a good match for me. My only complaint is that the stitching attaching the adidas stripes to the upper rubs a bit, but other than that the Gazelle is near perfection in a running shoe.

Read my full adidas adipure Gazelle review here.

 

1. Saucony Grid Type A5

This one will come as no surprise to people who have followed this blog in 2012. The Grid Type A5 is a phenomenal shoe, and it carried me through hard training this summer and a half marathon PR in October. What I love about the A5 is its simplicity – lightweight, low drop (4mm), simple upper – nothing excessive in this shoe. It disappears on my feet and does everything I need a shoe to do. Simply fantastic. What’s more, in a market where racing flats seem to be more often priced in excess of $100, the A5 is a true bargain. The A6 is coming soon, hope they don’t change it too much!

Read my full Saucony Grid Type A5 review here.

Next up: Top 3 Barefoot-Style Running Shoes of 2012

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Of these shoes, which do you think is best suited for those of us whose feet run on the wider side?

  2. Levente Dorogi says:

    You say that the NB 1600 has an 8mm drop. Why ? Everywhere it is listed as a 6mm drop shoe. Even in running warehouse and on he NB homepage. hmmm ? Do you use your own measurements ?

    Thanks

    • Pete Larson says:

      It’s 8mm with the included insole. Lots of times reported numbers from brands and retailers don’t include the insole, which can add to the drop. I have a pair of calipers that I use to confirm drop.

  3. Nick Phillips says:

    Whatever feedback you gave Skechers was spot on! A vast improvement from the original GOrun. Am currently weartesting it and so far it seems like an awesome shoe. Gonna use it for a 25KM race over here next Sunday and see how it performs but for now it’s getting a huge place in my heart :D

  4. does the NB 1600 have that slant that some NB shoes have? also, running warehouse doesn’t allow the runblog10 on adidas shoes :-/

    for NB1600 sizing, if i’m 9.0 in the A5, should i go 9.0 in the NB1600? usually, i’m a NB size 8.5.

  5. Jay Torres says:

    Hi Pete! I’m a big fan of your blog almost as much as I’m a big fan of the Skechers GoRun shoes! :) I just wanted to bring up a point on insoles. I’m a little worried about the insoles on the GoRun 2′s. I’ve run 2 marathons with Skechers, 1 with the GoRun Ride and another with the GoRun 1′s. Wouldn’t you know it, it rained in both. My problem is that the footbed is so smooth and comfortable that the insoles on the Ride did not stay in place. It bunched up at the forefoot. So, on the next marathon, I put the Ride insoles in the GoRun. Yup, you guessed it, they bunched up as well. So, (I’ve asked this question on the Skechers site) I was wondering, in any of your conversations with them, did you think about this issue? Were you able to test the insole in wet weather for the 2′s? With the winter marathon season in full swing, I’d like to get the 2′s because of the heel, but I’m worried about the insole. Sure, I could run with out them, but I liked the little extra cushion that the insole provides. I’ve run in other shoes (Kinvara 2′s / 3′s) in the rain without having this issue. Anyways, TL;DR insoles + GoRun + rain = lost toenails

    • Pete Larson says:

      Good points! Yes, the insole is being tinkered with. Seems like I get an envelope with new insole designs every week! The challenge is making something very thin that can hold it’s shape and not fold up. While I have not experienced what you have in the Skechers shoes, it did happen when I used the Go insole in the Brooks Grit (swapped it) and I’ve experienced it with insoles from Vivobarefoot as well. They’re trying things like texturing the bottom so it doesn’t slide, stiffening it a bit, etc. Hopefully a good solution will arise, I’m impressed by how quickly they work at a problem like this :)
      Sent from my iPad

      • Jay Torres says:

        Hi Pete, Just to follow up. I chatted with the folks from Skechers and let them know of the issues with the GoRun Ride insoles. As I suspected, putting (read that as “forcing”) the GoRun Ride sockliner into a GoRun shoe was probably not a good idea since both weren’t built for that. I’m pretty excited to see how the GoRun 2′s perform in really wet conditions now that they have a textured insole bottom. That entire line is one the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn! Gotta throw in my Mizuno Universe 4 in that list as well :)

    • Pete Larson says:

      Jay-
      Shoot me your email address at pete262@runblogger.com and I’ll put you in touch with Skechers. They may be able to provide one of the newer sockliners.

  6. I nominate Merrell Bare Access. Zero drop with ~15mm stack height. Perfect for me.

  7. Larry Wagner says:

    Pete, I have the go run ride. D you know of sketchers plans to release a ride 2, or is the run 2 it? I don’t like the narrow heal cups of the ride and hope that will be a fix on the next go around.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I would imagine there will be a Ride 2, but not testing anything myself (Ride was too much shoe for my taste). The GoRun came out several months before the Ride, so they are not on the same timetable for new releases I don’t think.
      Sent from my iPad

  8. Aren Voorhees says:

    Hey Pete,

    Thanks for all the reviews and articles. You’re site has become a major source of running related info for me!

    I was curious about the upper on the Gazelles – do you feel that it breaths well enough to keep you’re feet from overheating? I tried out some Nikes a while ago that had a similar stretchy upper and (although they were comfortable) I ended up hating them because they made my feet too hot.

    Just wanted to know if you thought that was an issue with the Gazelles?

    Thanks!

  9. I had to comment on this when I read about the Skechers GoRun2. I cant bring myself to like the shoes! I feel like it would be such a waste of money and I would be getting Walmart quality shoes. Yes indeed the do support a very comfortable sole, but come on! its a Skechers shoe!!! Anyone wanna hop in on this?

  10. I thought the go bionic might have made an appearance, rather than the go run.

  11. Emilie Reas says:

    Great pics! I’m currently rotating through 4 shoes depending on the run and reserve the Gazelle and Grid Type A5 for my long runs. Perfect amount of cushion while still so comfortable and lightweight! Looking forward to your other lists.

  12. The Saucony Grid Type A5 looks remarkably similar to the Kinvara 3, does Saucony Grid have a wider toe box than the Kinvara? I tried the Kinvara and loved it, unfortunately the toe box wasn’t wide enough for my foot though. I developed a blister on my right pinky toe every run. Right now I’m in Newtown Distance and Brooks Pure Flow. I like the Newtons more than the Pure Flow. How do the Skechers Go Runs factor in – are they similar to any shoes I listed here?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Fit is similar in the Kinvara and A5, A5 is like a Kinvara racer. GoRuns may be a bit wider up front, and have a stretchy mesh that has a lot of give. Softness is like the Kinvara, but the sole geometry is quite different.

  13. Where would you let the Mizunu Wave Universe end up?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Not included because it hasn’t been updated in several year (i.e., not a 2012 shoe), new update coming in 2013.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      -My book: Tread Lightly: link to ow.ly
      -Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
      -Twitter: link to twitter.com
      -Facebook Page: link to facebook.com
      -Discussion Forum: http://www.runblogger.com/forum

      • Where is it nowadays in your personal top transitionals shoes? I am just wondering. I like your advise. Also in comparison to the A5. Still looking for a superb shoe for my next marathon.
        Greetings and all the best for 2013!

        Alex/Errez

        Verstuurd vanaf mijn iPad

        Op 1 jan. 2013 om 15:11 heeft “Disqus” <notifications@disqus.net> het volgende geschreven:</notifications@disqus.net>

        • Pete Larson says:

          I’d put it among the top racing flats I have. Right up there with the A5 and adidas Hagio. It’s pretty minimally cushioned for a marathon, but if you’re adapted to that should not be a problem.

          —-
          Pete Larson’s Web Links:
          -My book: Tread Lightly: link to ow.ly
          -Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
          -Twitter: link to twitter.com
          -Facebook Page: link to facebook.com
          -Discussion Forum: http://www.runblogger.com/forum

          • Okay, I can’t handle a top 5 :) Too much choices. I have been looking at the Hagio, Universe, A5 etc. I need to order from the net anyway, the closest thing I can find in stores here is the Kinvara 3 (which I already own) and the Adidas Feather (feels good in same size as Kinvara 3). Luckily I found a UK-site that ships to the Netherlands for free. I only have to pay the return, if needed.

            So please try to imagine Pete, you only have a pair of Kinvara 3 and a pair of Nike free 3.0 v4 (I know, disappointing) for your long runs. What would be your third shoe besides these, in which you might run a marathon later this year? It may be a choice from any shoe mentioned above, or any other. It might even be a shoe you are expecting soon. But name one. Please. I am very interested.

          • Pete Larson says:

            What size shoe do you wear?

            —-
            Pete Larson’s Web Links:
            -My book: Tread Lightly: link to ow.ly
            -Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
            -Twitter: link to twitter.com
            -Facebook Page: link to facebook.com
            -Discussion Forum: http://www.runblogger.com/forum

          • Pete Larson says:

            I’ll probably be running a marathon in May, and right now my three top shoe options for the race would be the Kinvara (which you have), the Skechers GoRun2 (not sure if you can get this one where you are), or the A5. Of these, the A5 would probably be my favorite at the moment, but it’s less cushioned and I have not yet run marathon distance in it. If you want a flat for marathon distance, A5 is my top choice.

            —-
            Pete Larson’s Web Links:
            -My book: Tread Lightly: link to ow.ly
            -Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
            -Twitter: link to twitter.com
            -Facebook Page: link to facebook.com
            -Discussion Forum: http://www.runblogger.com/forum

          • Kinvara size 10. Nike Free 3.0 v1-3 size 10. V4 in 10.5. Today I tried on Adidas Feathers and size 10 was good. I also just found an old pair of Saucony Triumphs: 10.5.
            I would like to order A5s, but not sure 10 or 10.5.

          • Pete Larson says:

            I wear 10 in Kinvaras and Freev1, 10.5 in A5

  14. Louise Bourque Cunningham says:

    Thank you for referring me to the Kinvara 2′s when I started running. They have been my “go to” shoes all summer when I needed a break from the others. I still have 3 pairs of them that I rotate on runs.

  15. Simon Goodship says:

    Hey Pete. Thanks for all the listing posts – always interesting to check-out. What works for your feet seems to work well for mine, so you have become my ultimate guide. Did you have any abrasion issues with the GoRun 2 at all? I thought it was an awesome shoe but it cut my sock-less feet. The main issue was where the seems meet at the end of the eyelet strips by the toes. I am going to have to return them sadly. If it wasn’t for this issue, I could see me loving them.

  16. What about the New Balance 730? Do you consider them transitional at a 4mm drop? With a little searching on the net you can find them for $50.

    • Scott, I agree. The 730 has been my go-to shoe for long runs: lightweight, medium cushioning and they disappear on your feet they’re so comfy. The low cost is a bonus on top of a solid shoe.

  17. Very nice, Pete.

    I agree almost across the board, except I think that the Gazelle is a little thin for the broad spectrum. To combine the offset and smooth ride of the Gazelle with the moderate increase in protection of the Motion is to have a great go-to shoe for the masses. Their Kinvara. A more palatable Adios.

    The 1600 is almost an anachronism, if it weren’t for that schmancy upper. It’s old school without looking so. NB is on right now.

    The Kinvara and the A5 (come on, the Kinvara Racer) are simply brilliant models. My two most often used models.

    And if people can get beyond any prejudices they might have with the Skechers brand they’d find some of the best stuff available, reasonably priced. The Skechers I’ve wear tested are some of my favorites in the rotation. Smoothiness.

    Thanks again for all your great writing and ideas Pete.

  18. I love your reviews – never shop for a running shoe without checking here first-. I absolutely love my Kinvara 3s and have been running in them exclusively. However, I am ramping up my mileage for my next half-marathon and am feeling as though I may need a bit more cushioning for my longer runs. I am leaning toward the Saucony A5 but am wondering about the Skechers Go Run. How do they compare in terms of cushioning and lightweight feel?

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