Last week I wrote about low drop (6mm or less) running shoes with traditional cushioning (19-23mm forefoot stack height). It’s the sweet spot for some runners.
Today we look at a comparison among three shoes within this realm: Saucony Zealot, Nike FREE RN Distance, and the new comer, Salming Miles. These three shoes were chosen because they all have 4mm drops and forefoot stack heights of 20-22mm.
The ride and under foot feel
The Zealot gained widespread popularity among Saucony Kinvara wearers who wanted a little more padding underfoot for longer runs. Like the Kinvara, the Zealot has an under foot feel that is not really firm or soft, but leans toward the firm side. It has a little give to it, but quickly rebounds for toe-off. This feeling is consistent over a variety of speeds. The Salming Miles feels similar at faster paces, but is fairly firm and abrupt at slower speeds. As the pace quickens, the midsole compresses more, and the resulting feel is lively, quick, and comfortable. On the other end, the Nike FREE RN Distance is soft – way softer than other Nike FREE models. All that squish combined with great flexibility makes running fast a challenge. The shoe feels best on easy days.
The fit and the upper
Far and away the best-fitting shoe is the Zealot. The ISOFIT upper provides the most secure midfoot fit, yet the volume is highly adjustable. It’s a versatile fit that will accommodate almost all foot shapes. The toebox is semi-round to give some space around the outer toes. The medium height and width toebox also gives good freedom for the toes. A bootie construction is used in place of a traditional tongue. It creates a comfortable surrounding for the foot. It is thin on the sides and has just enough padding under the crossing of the laces.
The FREE RN Distance also uses a bootie construction. The execution is more sock-like: read close to the foot. The shoe has an overall low volume fit. It’s low in the midfoot and quite shallow in the toebox. Like the Zealot, the FREE RN Distance also has a semi-round toebox shape. It also has more space at the tips of the toes like other Nike FREE models. The shoe does not have a heel cup, which is comfortable but does not convey a feeling of security. The Salming Miles does have a heel cup but not a snug heel fit. It will not hold a narrow heel in place, but is fine for medium width heels. The midfoot volume is on the fuller side and works well for medium to full volume feet. It’s too roomy for a good fit on a low volume foot. The toebox is pointy and has a substantial toebumper, which can feel a bit restrictive. The shoe also fits long, so we recommend going down a half size.
The Free RN Distance is best-suited for easy days when your feet need a rest, and it has a snug fit. The Miles feels best at tempo speeds and has a roomy midfoot fit, but with a tight toebox. And finally, the Zealot is great for simply logging miles with a comfortable, universal fit and balanced under foot feel.