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We are continuing our run through our DPT Approved Awards! Our team has tested over 110 shoes and ran over 14,500 miles in 2021 (so far) and we are ready to dish out our picks for numerous categories of shoes. Today we break down the best non-plated performance trainers in 2021 while presenting our individual picks and our team's consensus pick. We define performance trainer as "a shoe that specializes for uptempo running, workouts, and can even double as a racer for some. It's even better if the shoe can handle warm-ups well and do a few easy miles on the ends of workouts, but typically isn't as comfortable for daily mileage.

PS: Haven't checked out our Daily Trainer Awards? Click here to read.

Best Non Plated Performance Trainer of 2021 | Discussion

Our team discusses our favorite nonplated performance trainers of 2021. Listen to the full verison here via Apple Podcast.

Writer's Pick - Contributor Ryan Flugaur


Puma came out with a bunch of great shoes this year with one of my favorites being the Puma Liberate NITRO. The NITRO foam is responsive and soft and feels great during my tempo and workout runs.  The shoe has a more performance fit meaning its snugger and hugs the foot keeping it secure.  I am typically bothered by shoes with a narrower toe box but the Liberate felt great during all my runs.   Coming in at only 6.3 oz, this shoe is easy to pick up the pace and the NITRO foam keeps the ride smooth and fun. Side note: At only $110 USD, it makes the shoe a little sweeter. - Ryan Flugaur

Writer's Pick - Contributor Megan Flynn


Saucony’s Kinvara line has been a favorite of mine for a couple years and the Kinvara 12s continued this trend. Due to its lighter weight, cushioning, and flexibility, I consider this shoe my “go-to” whenever I need to just log miles or if I’m running on tired/sore legs. The combination of the cushioning and flexibility allows for natural foot/gait mechanics while the lightweight quality provides the option to pick up the pace. I’ve used the Kinvaras for just about every type of run from recovery runs to long progression-type runs to tempos and they never disappoint. Overall, a great option to protect your feet/legs without sacrificing speed, making them my top non-plated performance trainer of 2021!Writer's Pick - Contributor Megan Flynn


The New Balance Beacon v3 is a lightweight, neutral shoe with responsive cushioning. It is a rare shoe that can be used for easy days, intervals, and races. At faster paces, the Fresh Foam X becomes even more responsive and the flexible forefoot and toe spring help with turnover. The Beacon is the most natural feeling shoe I have run in and is a true Jack of all trades. - Andrea Myers

Writer's Pick - Social Media Wizard Bach Pham


There are few shoes this year that I took out on a first run and immediately felt really excited about in the first ten steps. There's a softness to the Adios 6 initially on landing and then immediate bounce that makes you want to turn over quickly, which makes it an absolute joy when picking up the pace. Additionally, the torsion system - which makes it different from the Pro 2 and Boston 10 - helps add a snappiness to it that prior Boston fans will like a lot. On top of that, I found the shoe to be surprisingly fine for daily training at easy to even recovery paces, the same torsion and slab of Lightstrike Pro that aids in propelling you during workouts working together to help turn over with ease. - Bach Pham

Writer's Pick - Senior Contributor Nathan Brown


A great option for the new runner wanting to try a faster shoe or the experienced runner wanting a cushioned uptempo/workout shoe. A lightweight upper sits up top that provides security and comfort that works for easy and faster days. The midsole is forgiving, yet combined with the lighter feel can turnover well, although not at top speeds. This is a shoe that can handle all types of workouts, may be a forgiving race option for some and a lightweight trainer for others. - Nathan Brown

Writer's Pick - Senior Contributor David Salas


I almost forgot about this shoe when we were compiling the list of trainers for the cateogry. When I saw the Kinvara 12, I suddenly remember everything I really loved about the K12 we reviewed all the way back at the beginning of 2021. There aren't many shoes like this now that are so simple with an EVA midsole and barely-there outsole. The Kinvara 12 is an incredibly natural rolling shoe that's lightweight and protective. I've done just about everything in it from workouts to long runs up to 18 to 20 miles. It just fits the performance trainer category perfectly for me. - David Salas

Writer's Pick - Chief Editor/Founder Matt Klein


Often when people talk about versatility, they are only referring to the midsole. The Asics Noosa Tri 13 has it in the upper as well. With one of the most comfortable uppers of all the shoes I tested this year, it can handle slow and fast paces with and without socks. Made for triathletes to be able to transition off the bike after swimming without socks, the Noosa Tri 13 will work for anyone. The super comfortable upper holds the feet well while a firmer ride underneath works well for normal miles, uptempo efforts workouts and may work for many as a longer race day shoe. Although there is not a plate, the ride is stiffer with a significant toe spring up front, which provides a buttery smooth transition off the forefoot especially at higher speeds. Ashoe that will work as a workout trainer for some, a lightweight trainer for another group and a racing shoe for those who want a protective but firmer efficient ride, the Asics Noosa Tri 13 is my 2021 non-plated performance trainer of the year. - Matt Klein



There isn't a category that our team debated more for 2021 than performance trainers. Time and time again though, we couldn't help but come back to the Rebel V2. The unique combination of softness and responsiveness it provides in a nimble package makes it an absolute blast to do workouts in. For some of our runners, it also works well as a lightweight daily trainer due the very soft FuelCell midsole. Contributor Nathan Brown happily pounded out recovery miles in the shoe while Chief Editor Matt Klein daily trained in it for many miles (including some trail which we again, as always, caution against).

This is not a stable, or even stable neutral shoe by any means. Despite that, there are some great design mechanics including a wide geometry underfoot with lateral flare in the midfoot, a strategic convex rib along the medial midfoot of the midsole, and good lockdown that all works to help stabilize the otherwise soft, unstable FuelCell foam. The lateral flare is unique in that it also benefits a subset of runners that supinate, but is mild enough that it still works for neutral runners. It's credit to New Balance's design work.

If you are a looking for one shoe to help round out a rotation, especially a non-plated option that will carry you through many great workouts and do a little extra when needed, we found few options as fun and exciting as the Rebel v2 this year.

Also, it looks good.

Thanks for reading! Make sure you also visit our
Best Daily Trainer of 2021 feature here.

Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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