Physical Therapists Using Clinical Analysis To Discuss The Art And Science Behind Running and The Stuff We Put On Our Feet

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The Monday Shakeout: My Favorite Training and Racing Shoes of 2023
By Matt Klein

2023 has been an interesting and challenging year for me. I started the year out with a toe fracture (unrelated to running, I tripped on my barbell while carrying my cat), supported my wife through pregnancy and the birth of our daughter, progressed through the methods and data collection of my PhD (almost done!!) and redid three courses from scratch as a brand new professor. Fortunately, this did not slow down my shoe testing despite having to readjust my training. So I was still able to enjoy the many unique shoes that came out this year. Several companies refined their shoes to make them even better, while many others either debuted new ones or completely redid shoes for the better. Stability shoes finally saw some massive progressions and even a new addition. Several companies finally debuted true super shoes into the market (some good, some needing some adjustments). With 2024 just around the corner (which we are all extremely excited for), 2023 had some incredible shoes that are still worth talking about. 


My Favorite Neutral Trainer: Saucony Ride 16 | Full Review

I am a little biased in my "neutral" training shoe as I am usually looking for a shoe that is stable neutral. I tend to prefer training shoes that are lighter or lightweight trainers that provide plenty of cushion for training but enough snappiness and versatility to handle faster efforts when I want them to. The Saucony 16 check all those boxes and more. A wonderful refinement of version 15 (which saw massive changes from the prior version), version 16 saw the addition of a PWRRUN+ insole and an improved fit. The slight increase in softness and snappiness, combined with the incredibly low weight for a training shoe made for a wonderful fitting, versatile training that could handle faster workouts as well as it could handle long runs. The sidewalls and geometry of the shoe may for a smooth but not overly done rockered and stable neutral ride that I actually preferred over the Saucony Guide 16 (as someone who generally needs stability). So for anyone looking for a reliable, stable neutral, versatile training shoe, the Saucony Ride 16 should be a go-to. 


My Favorite Stability Trainer: ASICS GT-2000 12 | Full Review

While I have run in the ASICS GT-2000 series for years, most of the models have not impressed me. They have been fairly standard and traditional moderate stability shoes that sometimes had a bit of snappiness. Version 12 saw a complete overhaul of the shoe with a drop in weight, brand-new midsole foam, brand new stability and brand new geometry. The results was better stability than version 10/11 (which were more mild stability shoes) with a far more comfortable and bouncy ride. The Flytefoam Blast Plus midsole provides a lighter, bouncier and more responsive ride that made long runs, easy runs and uptempo runs equally fun and reliable. The upper provided a slightly snug, performance fit classic to ASICS that secured the foot while getting out of the way. For the first time, the heel had a moderate bevel and a truly function crashpad that created a rarely smooth ASICS heel strike. The stability was updated to provide good central guidance with moderate and solid medial stability. Every aspect of this shoe has been improved, so those who felt like the GT-2000 series was drifting away should know this series is back better than ever. 


My Favorite Distance Racing Shoe: Saucony Endorphin Elite | Full Review

There were an incredible number of super shoes that came out this year. Hoka, Mizuno, On and Salomon released their first true super shoes onto the market, some with a bang and some with an odd start. Others released fantastic updates like Nike or released completely new shoes like Saucony and Puma. The Saucony Endorphin Elite stood above them all (although a few were close) as the best distance racing shoe. Featuring the incredibly HG foam (with 95% energy return) that ran incredibly fast but firmer than the PWRRUN PB in the Endorphin Pro 3, the Endorphin Elite has everything I could ask for. A perfect geometry with a well-rockered ride and an aggressive forefoot geometry. A great fit from a light upper that disappears once you put it on. Extensive sidewalls and guidance methods rarely found in racing shoes that provided a forward-guided ride without being obtrusive. This shoe made me go so much faster than I expected and I reached for it for almost every distance I raced this year. Although best as a longer distance half to full marathon racer, I still found it fast enough to chase down fast high school/college kids this year (Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn't). For those looking for competitors/alternatives to the Nike Alphafly, Saucony has put out a true contender that is definitely worth considering. 


My Favorite Trail Shoe: Nike Ultrafly | Full Review

Initially, I was disappointed in the Nike Ultrafly. I was expecting a fast, light vaporfly for the trail. A mile into my run I realized how incredibly different and perfect this shoe was for its intended purpose. The Nike Ultrafly is a ultramarathon racing shoe that doubles as an incredibly comfortable training shoe for those who want ZoomX in a stable, reliable way that they may not have experienced before. A wonderful, wide-fitting toe box sits up top with a lower volume and secure upper that disappeared immediately. The ZoomX is encased in a protect layer that stabilizes it and keeps your legs fresh with a far more controlled bounce than its road cousins. The outsole has been incredibly durable and versatile, handling both long road and trail miles. While not a shoe I would choose for shorter trail races, it has been on my feet constantly for moderate to long trail runs when I just want to cruise and enjoy the run no matter what comes my way. 


Honorable Mentions


Brooks Hyperion GTS | Full Review

There are several shoes worth mentioning that were close to winning outright. The Brooks Hyperion GTS was a standout shoe for me due to being the lightest stability shoe on the market now. While not a super shoe and not featuring a super stack, this light stability lightweight trainer/non-super racer showed this category is not dead. Featuring guiderails in the rearfoot/midfoot and a lower stack height that finally made me enjoy DNA flash, this was on my feet for a ton of workouts this year as I tried to do more workouts in non-super shoes. The wider base, sidewalls and surprisingly wide fit made for a comfortable and stable ride while the lower stack helped me work on strength coming back from the toe fracture. The outsole has been surprisingly durable as I have close to a 100 miles on them and have still not made a significant dent in the outsole. A great pairing with the Saucony Tempus for those that need stability, the Brooks Hyperion GTS helps those of us that need stability find a bit of speed. 

Hoka Rocket X 2 | Full Review

The Hoka Rocket X 2 was also a great super shoe debut from the company we knew could do so much better than the original rocket. Featuring a stable but aggressive ride, my first race was a 5k where I picked it over the Nike Vaporfly 3 (I won). As the shoe broke in, the speed bump feel in the midfoot eased up and the half to full marathon focus came alive. While a tiny bit heavier than it needed to be, it is an incredibly reliable shoe that finally saw Hoka use PEBA. A lower volume fit did take some getting used to, but there is a reason so many people have it on their feet this year. 



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SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

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Ultraspire Fitted Race Belt: The best way to carry your phone and goods on the run. No bounce and various sizes for waist. (Also recommend the Naked belt)
Saysky Running Gear: We were really taken aback by this Scandinavian company's ultra-thin, durable performance clothing
Skratch Recovery, Coffee Flavor: Mental and physical boost post run. Coffee flavor is excellent and goes great straight into a fresh brewed cup
goodr Sunglases: Run in style with goodr's super fun sunglasses.
Feetures Socks: Massively grippy socks that will make you feel more one with the shoe
Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Water Bottle: Perfect for long runs when you need hydration in the summer
Trigger Point Foam Roller: Help get those knots out post-run and feel better for tomorrow
Theragun Massager: This small version is great on the go for working tired legs
Ciele Hat: Our team's favorite running hat of choice!
Fractel Hats: Our team's wider fitting running hat of choice!

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Previous Shakeout:
My Favorite Flat Feet Shoes of 2023

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