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Puma Fast-FWD Nitro Elite: A Highly Niche 5k-10k Racer
By Matthew Klein

Most companies have now caught up in the super shoe wars, evident by almost everyone having a PEBA-based carbon fiber maximal stack height long-distance racing shoe. While these shoes certainly can be used for shorter distances, faster, lighter 5k-10k type shoes have mostly disappeared except for the occasional older models you can still find on the sale rack. At the request of their track athletes, Puma is one of the early companies to debut a 5k-10k specific super shoe to the market. What differentiates this shoe is that it takes geometrically manipulation of the sole to a new level, although time will tell if it Puma's outside-the-box thinking with the Fast-FWD and Fast-R pays off. 

Puma Fast-FWD Nitro Elite
Price: $220 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 6.6 oz, 189 g (men's size 9), 5.2 oz, 147 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 36 mm / 27 mm
Drop: 9 mm
Classification: 5k-10k Super Racing Shoe


The Puma Fast-FWD Nitro Elite is an aggressive 5k-10k super shoe for those who want an alternative to spikes for both the track and road. A narrow fit sits up top with a minimal mesh that keeps weight down. A large amount of Nitro Elite foam sits underfoot with a unique and aggressive forefoot rocker. An interesting sole design makes this shoe best for those who land at the middle of the shoe, want a carbon-plated shoe that still has some degree of flexibility and are looking for a low feeling but well-cushioned 5k-10k racing shoe. 

: Adidas Takumi Sen 9, New Balance FuelCell SC Pacer


The Puma Fast-FWD Nitro Elite fits me true to size in my normal men's US size 10. The width is snug in certain places but required some additional lockdown in others. The forefoot is quite narrow and somewhat tapered but does stretch with time. The midfoot fits normally in width, which contrasts with the rest of the shoe. I had to really lock down the laces in this area during every run, but no further adjustments were usually necessary once that is accomplished. There is a thin non-gusseted tongue with some strategically placed padding. The padding does a great job protecting the top of the foot from the laces, offsetting pressure from the required tightening. The heel fits snug, making it a requirement to loosen up the midfoot just to get the shoe on. There is a thin flexible "spoiler" in the rearfoot that acts as a small heel counter. It was initially irritating to my heel but broke in quickly. The heel collar has small pads right alongside the top posterior section, which provides gentle cushioning that offloads the spoiler somewhat. Those sensitive to heel counters or pressure directly on their heel/Achilles insertion should definitely approach this shoe cautiously.

The upper is moderately flexible, with additional structure added with strategically placed PWRTAPE. Security-wise the upper is good running in a straight line but not great turning. There is no last eyelet to lace lock the heel, so tightening down the laces at the midfoot is absolutely required. Turning quickly causes a great deal of sliding and initially going around the bend of the track at high speeds felt a bit unstable. Continuing to lock down the laces helped, but still doesn't feel great. This feeling was solved as I took this shoe off the track and onto the roads with straighter areas to run.

Despite the inspiration from track spikes, I highly suggest wearing this shoe with socks. The internal PWRTAPE on the lateral side gave me a few blisters when I tried to use these sockless while wearing socks completely eliminated this issue.


The Puma Fast-FWD Nitro is a light, plated, super foam shorter distance racing shoe. Coming in at 6.6 oz (men's size 9), the midsole features a large amount of Nitro Elite foam without feeling bulky. This is accomplished through cut-outs of the midfoot and toe region. The Nitro Elite is soft and energetic, although this version seems to be a slightly firmer than that of the Deviate Nitro Elite and Fast-R. The heel drop is listed at 9mm, but with the compression of the foam and unique geometry, it feels far lower. The heel transition is a bit awkward as the bevel is extremely sharp and is angled slightly medial. This makes it feel like there is extra lateral flare. This is not a shoe for slower runs, so those landing a little farther forward at the heel/midfoot will do better. Despite a full-length carbon plate, there is still some flexibility in the sole. Transitioning through the middle and posterior forefoot feels great and transitions quickly. The midfoot gap is really noticeable and I feel like my feet drop closer to the ground, giving a "pseudo-ground feel" type sensation. The forefoot under the metatarsal bones is highly cushioned, however, the midsole thins out extremely quickly after that. Pushing through the MTP joints feels great, but as soon as you get onto your toes, it feels like there is no cushion and your toes are hitting the ground.

The closest description I can give is that this shoe feels like it bottoms out under the toes. At extremely high speeds this feels okay as long as you are driving through your hips and not excessively from your calves. Pushing hard through the ankle results in a ton of pressure at the forward toes, so delays in getting off the ground during terminal stance feels odd. Likely due to the forefoot shape, I found starting a hard effort felt awkward and things only clicked when I got up to speed. Once at a high speed, it is easy to maintain things but the transition to that point can feel weird. As mentioned earlier, this shoe can rapidly change pace, but this movement needs to occur from your hips rather than your ankles given the awkward feeling when you push hard through your toes.

The Puma Fast-FWD Nitro Elite is best for shorter efforts like road miles, 5ks and 10ks. The aggressiveness of the forefoot make this shoe best for shorter efforts. The lightweight feel and mild flexibility make it feel better for running incredibly fast efforts, but it takes time to figure out the shoe. Initial runs felt awkward, especially trying to run fast around the bend. As I learned to drive more through my hips, this shoe felt more natural. However, the lower feel (not actually) makes it feel better at shorter distance efforts like aggressive short-tempo runs, intervals and speed work sessions.

Although there is solid grip and outsole rubber on the Fast-FWD Nitro Elite, this shoe is best for well kept roads and tracks. the exposed plate and mild flexibility make this a solid choice on tame terrain and I absolutely would not take this on any type of trail. Durability-wise I have already worn down the nubs in the rearfoot on both shoes, but have not yet worn through the rubber after 30 miles. So while the nubs are gone, there is still more life left to this shoe. It will not last as long as most long-distance super racing shoes, but will likely last longer than a spike.


The Puma Fast-FWD Nitro Elite is a neutral racing shoe. There are no traditional forms of stability but there are a few interesting ones. Puma has actually been doing well with medial forefoot stability (like the ForeverRun, which unfortunately has been held back by a terrible rearfoot/midfoot) and the Fast-FWD continues this trend. The unique forefoot rocker geometry results in the medial forefoot aspect of the midsole continuing slightly farther forward than the lateral side. With more material on the medial side, this creates a bias laterally. This is slightly noticeable the faster you go with the shoe almost directing you off the lateral side of the forefoot. For those that collapse across the medial forefoot, this shoe may be an excellent racing shoe. For those that go too far lateral, this is a shoe that will probably not work for you as it will probably push you farther that way. The midfoot is quite neutral with a large medial cut-out and lateral reinforcement. At the speeds I have been going I don't usually notice it and the plate seems to add just enough rigidity to keep you going forward. This is noticeable during longer miles, but I would suggest keeping this for shorter distances. The heel is medially biased as the bevel faces slightly inward. This creates what feels like additional lateral flare that pushes my foot medial during rearfoot contact. Overall, those that need mild medial stability in the forefoot will do well in addition those that need a neutral or medially biased rearfoot/midfoot.

Thoughts as a DPT: The Biomechanics of The Toe Off Phase of Gait
By Matthew Klein 

We frequently discuss landing mechanics as it relates to stability, but when it comes to shoes for speed, the propulsive phase of running is equally if not more important. During normal running gait, the calf and plantarflexors of the ankle serve as the primary propulsive muscles (Hamner, Seth & Delp, 2010. This obviously includes the gastrocsoleus complex (Gastroc and Soleus) but also several other muscles that assist. This includes muscles like the posterior tibialis and flexor digitorum, longus among a few others. The terminal stance or toe off phase of gait refers to the point when your stance foot (foot on the ground) travels underneath and (hopefully if you have enough hip extension) behind you. The activity from the plantarflexor muscles and the forefoot rocking mechanism of the foot will naturally cause your heel to lift, shifting your weight onto your metatarsophalangeal joints and finally toes before the foot leaves the ground (Novacheck, 1998). It is therefore natural to put pressure through your phalanges (toe bones) not only for the normal transition through the foot, but also as you utilize your natural forefoot rocker and let toe muscles like the flexor digitoruum longus help control and generate force through these areas. 

It is therefore odd to me that Puma would remove cushioning under this area so abruptly and awkwardly. The removal of this requires almost the avoidance of pressure through the toes as doing so provides a highly firm, aggressive and somewhat harsh sensation. For those that want better ground feel up in that area, it may make sense. However, Puma seems to have reversed the forefoot rocker curve, which is an important part of making the foot/body more economical. I can see how this may add additional stiffness up front without the need for a stiffer plate. A good forefoot rocker will roll you forward well and reduce the tension required to transition there. Reversing it may do the opposite, but goes back to the fact that different people will need different levels of stiffness to optimize their economy (McLeod et al., 2020). Increasing the stiffness and firmness in only a certain section of a shoe certainly creates a contrast. This level of contrast may not work well over long-distance efforts, so as Puma suggests, I would keep this shoe for shorter-distance efforts even if you like it. 


Hamner, S. R., Seth, A., & Delp, S. L. (2010). Muscle contributions to propulsion and support during running. Journal of biomechanics43(14), 2709-2716.

McLeod, A. R., Bruening, D., Johnson, A. W., Ward, J., & Hunter, I. (2020). Improving running economy through altered shoe bending stiffness across speeds. Footwear Science12(2), 79-89.

Novacheck, T. F. (1998). The biomechanics of running. Gait & Posture7(1), 77-95.


I appreciate Puma making some interesting product, but I think they went a little far with several aspects. Overall, this is probably too niche of a product. Track spikes already are an extremely tiny part of the running market and making a road alternative will be even smaller. The other challenge is that while the design is interesting, it doesn't make sense. The heel bevel is (again) facing the wrong way (some people at higher speeds still land on their heel, although less commonly), which again does not match with typical gait patterns. The forefoot is way too aggressive. As mentioned above, one of the major plantarflexor muscles include the long toe flexors. In order for those to work, the toes need to have a comfortable and appropriate place to push off from at the end of the terminal stance phase of gait. The design feels like the shoe bottoms out at the toes, which feels awkward and may put more pressure than necessary in this area (as evident by a lateral ligament sprain I sustained in that area during the first two runs in this shoe).

I would redesign the forefoot to provide a normal amount of midsole and find other ways to shape the midsole in order to shave weight. Right now it feels awkward if you land or push off from anywhere but the majority of the midfoot/posterior forefoot. Finally, for a 5k/10k racing shoe, the cost is way too high. I understand this has all the components of a super shoe, but to really succeed as a track spike alternative (which usually max out around $160 for distance spikes) this shoe should be under $200.


The Puma Fast-FWD Nitro Elite is a 5k/10k racer and track shoe alternative for those who want a narrow fit and the majority of cushioning centered around the midfoot. The transition at the posterior heel is a bit awkward and driving through the toes makes the shoe feel like it bottoms out. While super light, this is a niche product that will work optimally for a small population that land a bit more centered and do not toe off hard. Those who tend to collapse medially may enjoy this shoe, while those who drive off their lateral side of their forefoot may find themselves pushed even farther. The Fast-FWD is a great example of how shoes are tools and if you are interested, this is one you will need to spend some time learning how to use properly. While interesting, I'm still not sold on the design of this shoe. I think this will be too aggressive for a large number of people that would be better off in something like the Deviate Nitro Elite 2. For those that want an aggressive and unique ride, this might be one to check out. 


Fit: (Narrow fit with comparatively wider midfoot that needs to be carefully secured by the laces. Good security in a straight line but less so while turning)
Performance: B+ 
(Fast shoe for those that land and spend most of their time around the midfoot. Weirdly solid ground feel at certain parts. Best for fast efforts, mile, 5k-10k)
Stability: B [Neutral] (Heel bevel in wrong direction with medial bias at heel. Forefoot provides mild lateral guidance, which may not be a good thing if you go too far that direction. Surprisingly not unstable though)
DPT/Footwear Science: B-/C+ (Points for innovation but not sold on execution. Shoe bottoms out under toes and appears to have a reverse forefoot rocker. Heel bevel in the wrong spot, but at least weight is reduced in interesting ways)
Personal: B (Solid shoe with fast unique feel. However, I would rather use a super spike for the track and a more traditional super shoe for the road. Not comfortable and smooth enough for me to consider this over either and/or both of the above)
Overall: B


Puma Fast-FWD Nitro Elite
Shop: $220 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 through Running Warehouse with personal funds. 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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New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3

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