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Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite Review: Future of Fast
By Chief Editor Matt Klein & Senior Contributor David Salas

Puma has recently made a comeback into the serious running shoe game with a whole line of successful footwear. Despite some supply issues, their first true racer of the line, the Deviate Nitro Elite, has been a consistent success as one of the more comfortable super shoes. In a clear attempt to challenge the status quo of super shoe design, Puma has been debuting some interesting-looking shoes, with the Fast-R being at the forefront. Despite the crazy look, this shoe has been developed over an extensive period with input from several high-level biomechanists. While not a shoe for everyone, this elite racing shoe not only feels fast but creates a large number of questions regarding the future of footwear design. 

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite
Price: $250 at Puma (availability expected to open this summer)
Weight: 7.5 oz, 212 g (men's size 9), 6.1 oz, 173 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 35 mm / 27 mm
Drop: 8 mm 
Classification: Elite Distance Racing Shoe



RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite is a high-level distance racing shoe with a separate midsole and two different foams. An EVA heel transitions you forward with an exposed plate into a nitrogen-infused PEBA forefoot, providing a unique gear-like transition forward for rearfoot strikers and an incredibly responsive ride for those who land farther forward. A light synthetic mesh sits up top with PWRTAPE and a unique heel fine to provide structure in an otherwise unstructured and snug-fitting upper. The design of this shoe provides a fast transition and a quick ride when used for the right paces, making this shoe specific to workouts and racing.

David: The Puma Fast-R is a top-shelf racing shoe featuring a few unique characteristics. The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite utilizes two different midsole foams as well as a decoupled midsole connected by the carbon plate. The plate is spooned out heavily riding high in the heel and lowering sharply through the forefoot. The heel is a firmer EVA with the forefoot being a softer and bouncier PEBA-based midsole for responsiveness. The result is a quickly transitioning and responsive ride.


FIT 

Matt: The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite fits me true to size in my normal US men's size 10. The fit throughout the length of the shoe is snug with a lower height in the forefoot. This makes the shoe almost feel short, but this sensation goes away on the run and I am glad I went true to size. There is a little bit of flexibility to the synthetic upper mesh, but the duel strips of PWRTAPE really lock in the front of the foot. I initially felt pressure on the medial and lateral sides of my toes when putting them on, but this immediately goes away while running. The midfoot is a continuation of the simple mesh, but features stretchy laces with additional plastic reinforcement. The stretchy laces stay locked in and are easy to adjust. The tongue is connected to the upper at the front of the midfoot and there are internal bands on both sides of the foot that further connect into the heel. The thin and sock-like material does bunch a little when you first put the shoe on, so make sure to lay that down flat before lacing up the shoe. The heel is extremely snug but does not have a heel counter. The heel collar is a continuation of the tongue material, so it is soft and comfortable. There is an external plastic fin that provides some mild structure to the rearmost portion of the upper. For those sensitive to heel counters, the external plastic fin does cause mild pressure against the Achilles, but I only noticed this while walking and during the initial try-on. I have had no issue with it while running. As comfortable as the materials around the tongue are, this shoe should be worn with socks. The inner mesh is slightly rough against the skin and the PWRTAPE can cause extra pressure on the toes. With socks the comfort is great and I have had no issues over long miles. Overall the upper fits snug and solid like a racing flat, getting out of your way so you can focus on racing/workouts.

David: Puma lasts have always seemed to work pretty well for me. The Puma Fast-R is no exception, though a little different than some of the other models. The fit is certainly a performance fit being relatively snug throughout with normal length. The heel, midfoot, and forefoot are all normal width to slightly narrow. The upper is a translucent synthetic feeling mesh that holds the foot pretty well without too much stretch in any directions. There are some mild inlays to help keep the structure as well. There is no physical heel counter but there is an external plastic piece that lines the midline of the Achilles tendon. This seems to hold the structure of the shoe, though I did not notice too much functional translation outside of this. Overall a good upper that locks down well, but might be a little narrow for some. 


PERFORMANCE 

Matt: The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite is a racing and workout shoe. The design is unique and works best at faster paces. The heel is sharply beveled and transitions into a mildly soft EVA foam in the rearfoot. The centered bevel aggressively rolls you forward quickly into the supercritical nitrogen-infused PEBA Nitro Elite foam in the forefoot. This foam is incredibly soft, bouncy, and responsive. Combined with the early toe spring, the transition off the forefoot is incredibly easy and fast. There is an 8mm drop that felt exactly as listed if not slightly higher (likely thanks to the difference in forefoot/heel foam compression rates). At slower speeds, the heel feels clunky and the shoe feels somewhat awkward. When the pace hits at least moderate levels, it feels like you are being transitioned far smoother and faster off the EVA foam into the Nitro Elite foam. The design of the shoe is to facilitate forward motion and the faster you go, the more efficiently it performs this. Landing further forward feels better at all speeds thanks to the forefoot foam but creates a different ride. As alluded to above, the Fast-R workouts best for uptempo runs, hard workouts and faster races. Due to liking aggressive shoes, I would consider this for a marathon personally but most people will find it works from 5k to half marathon. The aggressive nature of the shoe may make a half marathon too far for some people unless you are running at higher speeds. For workouts, the Fast-R has the versatility for intervals to tempo runs. I have enjoyed running fast and consistent uptempo paces. The forefoot makes it great for intervals and the faster transitions make it solid for sustained efforts. The one thing this shoe is not great for is easy runs. While I have used this shoe for warm-ups and cool-downs, the midfoot gap becomes more apparent and the heel feels far less smooth at slower paces. For that reason, the Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite is a more aggressive racing and workout option that may work better for those who land farther forward or transition quickly off their heels. 

David: The ride of the Puma Fast-R is very unique. The shoe is beveled pretty sharp through the heel and provides a moderate toe spring. The midsole in the heel is a firmer EVA foam that holds the structure of the shoe at initial contact that eventually rolls you pretty quickly into the isolated plate midfoot and Nitro Elite forefoot. The plate is spooned out with a relatively large angle from the heel into the forefoot. When rolling off of the heel you feel like you are rolling quickly onto the plate and forefoot. The spooned out plate certainly feels loaded and responds accordingly with a much softer and bouncier forefoot. The result is a midfoot and forefoot biased response from the shoe that has a lot of responsiveness and bounciness. When picking up the pace and shifting my load closer to my midfoot and forefoot the shoe begins to feel much more alive and natural. The ride is certainly unique with this spooned out geometry and may not be for everybody, but I really appreciate the responsiveness through the midfoot and forefoot from this shoe. 

Editor's Note: The versions we were sent feature a different outsole that the final production version. The lugs in our versions will not be present in the production models, so we will get our hands on a pair to report on durability and traction. I (Matt) currently have 65 miles on my pair with some fairly average posterior-lateral heel wear.

STABILITY 

Matt: As I somewhat alluded to in my Sub 2 Initial Review of this shoe, I had some early concerns about stability in the Fast-R. However, thanks to a few methods, I have found this shoe to be on the more stable side of neutral. This is a neutral racing shoe with no traditional methods of support. At slower speeds, the stability is certainly neutral. However, there are a few concepts that make it more stable than a few others on the market when you are running faster. The heel foam being firmer EVA relative to the forefoot does provide more inherent stability than if it was a softer foam. Landing here with the mild medial and lateral sole flare does provide a more stable platform than if it was a far softer PEBA foam. Some internal research at Puma demonstrated a lower rate/speed of rearfoot eversion in the Fast-R compared to other racing shoes on the market. The midfoot features two mild sidewall extensions from the heel that provide mild guidance forward. The medial side is larger than the lateral side and provides a bit more guidance, although subtle, for me. The forefoot is stable like most super shoes thanks to the wide last, extensive sole flare medially and laterally along with a wide and low plate. The shoe seems to do the concept of fast guidance well in regards to keeping most of your momentum forward. The biggest factor seems to be how quickly the heel transitions you forward. However, this is highly dependent on your speed. The faster you are going, the better job it does. For those with mild stability needs running fast, you will do well here. For those running slower with higher stability needs, this shoe may not be enough.

David: Anytime a shoe is as unique as the Fast-R, concerns about stability are going to be brought up. Overall, the shoe does feel pretty stable underfoot and I have not had many issues in that category. The firmer heel does seem to set the stage for a nice transition forward without having too much deformation of the shoe at initial contact. Despite the decoupled midsole at the midfoot I didn't notice too much torsional movement when running. Because of the difference in foam densities though you do feel pretty high up on the shoe dropping into the forefoot. When running on dirt surfaces or anything off-road I did notice losing some sensations of confidence and stability, but overall nothing overly concerning as this is designed to be a road shoe.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

The Puma Fast-R has a unique geometry and construction. The first obvious thing is the decoupled midsole and exposed plate through the midfoot. The shoe is also using two different types of midsole foam in different regions of the shoe. The heel is a firmer EVA and the forefoot is a much softer and bouncier PEBA-based foam. Upon internal conversation with Puma, we discussed stability and some of things that were found with the Puma Fast-R specifically. Within their testing, Puma found that the speed of pronation and calcaneal eversion was slower in the Fast-R compared to other top-shelf competitors in the racing shoe category. They also found metabolically that running economy and other metrics were comparable. The decreased calcaneal eversion and pronation speed is interesting because this would mean the foot and ankle is not collapsing as quickly. Potentially this would decrease the rate of collapse and could give the runner and their intrinsic musculature more opportunities to resupinate at the toe-off phase of gait without excessive deviation. Only time will tell and more research needs to be done, but things are looking in a positive direction for this shoe build and potentially stability as the definition begins to be quantified more with research. - Senior Contributor David Salas

RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite is a fun shoe that I have enjoyed putting miles on. The upper has been comfortable for me and at faster speeds the sole has done well. The forefoot is my favorite part of the sole and it works extremely well for me during terminal stance/toe-off. However, I would still suggest filling in at least part of the midfoot. While the plate is extremely thick and does a great job of keeping the sole rigid, I think the heel/midfoot transition could be made smoother for a larger variety of people. I would like to see the Nitro Elite foam at least reach along with the plate from the forefoot to the heel. Then make the midfoot medial and lateral gaps match up with the medial and lateral arches. That would create offset gaps that would line up better with the natural shape of the foot. This shoe is not meant for everyone given its aggressive nature, but it could be made more accessible. I completely understand that this design has done fantastic in well-established biomechanics labs and was found to be as economical or more so than competitors on the market. There is a balance between performance and natural foot mechanics. I absolutely applaud Puma for their creativity but want to remind them that the shoe should enhance the natural workings of the foot/lower extremity and not try to change them.

David: I really enjoyed the Puma Fast-R all-around. I think my main recommendation would be making the upper a tad more comfortable on foot without sacrificing the security. Otherwise, the shoe worked really well for me and I have been able to crank some really good workouts and hopefully some races soon.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR 

Matt: The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite is a high-level racing shoe for those who want a snug fit and a more aggressive ride. The relatively firmer (but still soft) EVA heel provides a controlled landing at faster speeds that transitions you quickly to the bouncy and responsive forefoot. The upper fits securely with a performance fit and minimal but strategic structure. The Fast-R Nitro Elite is a specific type of tool that works best at faster speeds and is not for easy runs or for those running slower paces. It was designed intentionally for and functions best at faster speeds, including workouts and races. Those looking for a shoe for faster runs who land farther forward or want a shoe that quickly transitions them off the heel may want to check this shoe out. 

David: The Puma Fast-R is a top-shelf racing shoe for someone looking to have a fast feeling midfoot and forefoot. The transition into the midfoot and forefoot may feel a tad "aggressive" due to geometry, but the toe-off responsiveness is great. Those that have a hard time with soft heel landings may also want to look into the Puma Fast-R as a potential performance shoe as the heel is firmer. The Puma Fast-R certainly belongs in the conversation for top-tier racing shoes this year. 

Hear more of David's thoughts on the Puma Fast-R vs the Nike Alphafly here.

GRADING 

Matt
Fit: A- (Snug performance fit with mild structure where necessary. Tongue bunches a little unless you lay it flat)
Performance: 
A- (For it's intended purpose of fast running, tremendously responsive and fun)
Stability: A- [Neutral] (Stable at higher speeds thanks to guided forward transition and firmer heel transition)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (A heavily researched shoe with some unique takes on biomechanics. I still caution Puma to be careful with that midfoot gap)
Personal: A (Feels like a racing shoe should. Aggressive, fast and I keep reaching for it for all workouts)
Overall: A- (An aggressive racing shoe for those running fast, wanting a secure but minimal upper and with a different landing and toe off).

David
Fit: A- (Overall a good upper but still a little snug with a material that could be a little more comfortable on foot)
Performance: 
A- (Highly responsive shoe that can easily race. It does still feel a little like a lot of shoe when approaching 5k/10k pacing however.)
Stability: A- (Overall done well throughout for most situations. At slower paces for myself the up tall feeling is a tad off and not great in dirt)
DPT/Footwear Science: A (I appreciate the scientific approach Puma is taking with trying to quantify their metrics and push innovation in the racing category. A unique shoe that will certainly catch eyes.)
Personal: A (A very fun shoe to run in with fast transitions and responsive toe off. One of my favorite racing shoes.)
Overall: A-/A (A very well done racing shoe that uses a firmer heel to hold structure and create a fast transition into loading the plate and highly responsive forefoot.)

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite
Price: $250 at Puma (availability expected to open this summer)

*Using the following link to purchase helps support Doctors of Running. Thanks so much!

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FURTHER READING

Find all our carbon plated reviews at our resource guide here.
New Balance Fresh Foam X More Trail v2 - A very high stack trail runner for long distances
New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v12 - A well-fitting workhorse for your daily training needs
Xero Shoes HFS - A ultra minimal shoe, one of the few for 2022
Skechers Razor Excess 2 - A higher stacked shoe that now features a forefoot plate
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Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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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 provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Puma Running for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. 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.

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!
Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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