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Adidas SL20.3: Simplicity
By Content Manager Bach Pham

The SL20 has had an interesting history in its short life. Version 1 provided a low profile, versatile trainer that could pick up the pace for workouts and do a bit of daily training. It was light on the feet and for some reason always on sale from day one, making it an absolute bargain for runners. Version 2 came as a surprise as Adidas amped up the amount of Lightstrike in the midsole, moving it away from a performance trainer and more into the daily training realm. Version 3 arrived this year, retaining much of last year's formula with a new upper made with recycled materials. In this review, we'll be digging into the new upper change and going indepth on what exactly this shoe's role is in the Adidas line-up.

Price: $74.88 (sale) at Running Warehouse
Weight: 8 oz, 226 g (men's size 9), 6.6 oz, 187 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 30 mm heel, 22 mm forefoot
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Lightweight daily trainer


The Adidas SL20.3 is a lightweight daily trainer with a decent amount of versatility for everyday runs. It features a slightly firmer, but protective ride and durable outsole. The upper is the only change this year, now made with over 50% recycled materials as part of their program to end plastic waste. While priced at $110 US, it remains a shoe that goes on sale regularly, providing a super affordable option for runners of every level looking for a basic trainer that can handle a multitude of tasks quietly.

SIMILAR SHOES: New Balance 880v12, Puma Velocity Nitro 2


Last year's SL20.2 ran a bit short for me when I tested a Men's 9.5. I tested a Men's size 10 this year and found the half size up to be perfect and would recommend doing it. The shoe does have a straight and fairly standard to slightly narrow fit. The toebox is just a touch shallow, but didn't cause any issues with my toes and nails. The upper is very structured and has stayed very steady. I did not have to lace lock these at all. The midfoot is a touch snug, but ultimately it not an issue for me. There is room to loosen laces and alleviate some of that snugness as needed. There's a pretty rigid heel counter the bottom fourth of the heel and a flexible, moderately padded heel counter the rest of the 3/4ths. I found it did a great job of locking the foot down. The new recycled upper overall brought solid security, but does come in a more classic Adidas fit being fairly snug. The shoe is built best for standard to narrow feet. There is a hint of arch support in the medial side that mostly goes away on the run, but is going to be noticeable for some folks slipping the shoe on for the first time. I have found that feeling to be present on occasion, but it's never bothered me on the run. Finally, the insole is removable for those who like to use their own.


Though it features a big stack of Lightstrike foam, the shoe leans on the firmer side. As a smaller runner who tends to run with a shorter stride, the midsole felt protective on all of my runs and not at all harsh. Those who strike the ground with a lot of force though may find the Lightstrike foam a bit firmer and get less enjoyment out of the midsole. If you are looking for a soft, squishy ride like a Nike Invincible or Fresh Foam/FuelCell kind of material, this is not the shoe. Some folks may want to even take a look at the Adidas Adios 7 instead. For those, however, who really enjoyed running footwear like the Adidas Boston of years past or is in the market for a no-frills shoe that can just log really clean miles, this is where the SL20.3 shines. A big reason why is the SL20.3's smooth ride. There's some light flexibility in the forefoot that does a nice job of rolling forward quickly and allowing for a fast and easy turnover at all paces.

The Continental rubber outsole features two designs: on the lateral forefoot and medial heel there is a diamond-shaped lug pattern that does a nice job of lightly gripping the road. The inner forefoot and outer lateral side features a smooth outsole design. Rolling off the medial side provides a smooth transition that's very clean and comfortable. At 8.0 oz for men's size 9 (6.6 oz for women), it's also a fairly light shoe on foot as well and contributes towards helping make transitions feel swift and nimble. While it's not springy like a super shoe, it is responsive and can do some light workouts. If you are on a minimal shoe rotation, this could be a good fit for it's ability to do a bit of everything if you are okay with a firmer cushion.

I will add this feels absolutely best with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The heel bevel could be sharper as the heel feels a touch clunky. Heel strikers may want to try the shoe first and see how it feels. I could feel the heel being a little sloppy on my long run when my form was declining.

The SL20 is a very consistent ride altogether. Whether you are logging some easy miles, or on the road for 2+ hours, the ride holds up well and just keeps you rolling along as far as you are able to go. Additionally, the durability has been fine so far with no signs of wear after 30 miles.


The SL20.3 is ultimately still very much a neutral shoe. It has a fairly standard, straight last. There are some elements that help make it more stable than many current trainers though. The firmer midsole provides some good rigidity throughout the shoe and provides the main form of stability here. The forefoot has mild flexibility along with a bit of a guidance line in the forefoot inbetween the two outsole materials. Together, these elements help encourage some forward motion. The upper is very structured and helps keep the foot feeling fairly dialed in as well. The main instability comes with the regular width of the shoe. If you have a lot of motion medially in particular it's still fairly easy to become sloppy, even with some rigidity helping alleviate that.

In general, there are some decent stability elements in play that help make this daily trainer a bit more stable than other neutral shoes in the market today, but those with moderate to high stability needs may want to consider a Hoka Arahi or On Cloudrunner first.


2021 featured a total revamp of the Adizero line for Adidas, leading to a bit of shift in where different shoes are placed. While some of the changes were controversial (see Boston 10), these changes did help actually work to simplify the line somewhat. In previous years, the Adidas line looked somewhat like this: 

Adizero Adios - Non-plated racer, workout trainer
Adizero Pro - Lower profile racing shoe
Adizero Adios Pro - Super shoe
Adizero Boston - Daily trainer/workout trainer
Ultraboost - Max cushioned trainer
RC - Lightweight workout trainer
SL20 - Workout trainer 

What you ended up with was a lot of snappy shoes that almost overlapped in what they were doing. Effectively, several of the shoes were subtle variations of the other,. 2021 helped realign the brand to focus on more "pairings" which we have started seeing with other companies. 

Adizero Adios 6/7 - Workout trainer
Adizero Boston 10/11 - Training companion to the Adios Pro
Adizero Adios Pro 2/3 - Super shoe for half marathon to marathon distance
Takumi Sen 8 - 5k/10k racer
Ultraboost 22 - Max cushioned trainer
SL20.3 - Basic daily trainer
RC3 - Lightweight workout trainer 
Adistar - Max cushioned trainer with a high stable heel
Solarglide 5 - Similar realm to Ultraboost
Adidas Supernova+ - A cushioned trainer in-between SL20 and Ultraboost

The biggest difference between the recent years is that the pairings in the Adidas line for 2021 makes a lot more sense down the line regarding the role of each shoe and where it slots among one another. The one loss in the changes may be for those who enjoyed the low profile Boston of yesteryears, but as far as creating more distinctions and less overlap in their line, Adidas did a nice job of moving in a more focused direction for 2021 and has carried that into 2022 with the addition of new models.


I personally enjoyed the SL20.3 for it's pure simplicity. My recommendation is unique today. I feel Lightstrike ultimately shares much with most EVA-based shoes. I think to fit in with Adidas' goal to end plastic waste and become a sustainable company, the SL20.3 provides a great opportunity to swap to a sugarcane, castor bean, or recycled hybrid midsole. All of these should provide a very similar 1-to-1 swap with the current midsole, and in some cases may even be softer thanks to how fast the field has moved. Shoes like Zen Running's ZR-01, Reebok's Floatride Energy Grow, and others have shown a lot of promise with their blends, and I think adidas could make a really simple transition with this base model.

For technical recommendations, some resizing to help be more true to size with the market would be a good first step. The midfoot could also use a bit more width as the laces lockdown well. Though aesthetically pleasing, the lug pattern in the heel could also be smoothened out to help further clean the ride. A little more bevel would also help smoothen the rearfoot ride and negate some of the clunkiness that exists there now.  


The Adidas SL20.3 is a neutral daily trainer with some uptempo capacity if you want to tackle some strides or a few progression miles. The shoe does feature a firmer ride than most daily trainers, but a protective one rather than harsh. It feels really great to run in a controlled pace and log daily to middle distance runs. Within the Adidas line-up, this is a great shoe to pair with either a Takumi Sen or Adios Pro if you plan on preparing for race day, or the Adios 7 if you are just looking to pair it with a fun workout companion.


Fit: B+ (Locks down well, but does need a half size up likely for most people and is more standard/narrow width)
B+ (Really fluid ride through the forefoot, but a little clunky in the heel)
Stability: B+ ]Neutral] (The firmer foam and some guidance through forefoot helps make it an above average neutral daily trainer)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Recycled upper is nice, but not a major change this go-around)
Personal: B+ (Personally really enjoy no-frills running footwear, and the SL20.3 is the definition of it)
Overall: B+


Price: $74.88 at Running Warehouse

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Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your
local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were purchased by Doctors of Running. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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