If you’re a runner who constantly seeks the latest and greatest technology in a running shoe, chances are you’ve probably run in a “premium” categorized running shoe, think ASICS Nimbus or Kayano. At Running Warehouse, we define a premium shoe as a shoe that utilizes the highest quality materials as well as the newest, most innovative footwear technologies. While premium shoes typically focus on delivering the most comfortable around-the-foot experience, extra weight from added technologies or plush materials typically makes the shoes an unfavorable option for faster running. But now companies are starting to produce premium training shoes in lighter and faster packages, and a new category of footwear may be forming: the premium performance shoe.
Traditionally, performance shoes have been built with an emphasis on simplicity over technology or maximum comfort. The shoes have performed great due to their light weight feel, but the low weight presented comfort limitations for long runs or regular use among some runners. The addition of “premium” to performance shoes may help address this issue. With the introduction of shoes like the ASICS Dynaflyte (mens, womens) and New Balance 2090 (mens, womens), we are seeing companies place their top-of-the-line features into go-faster performance shoes.
The challenge at hand was to produce a relatively light shoe (under 10.0 oz for men, 9.0 oz for women) that had enough cushioning and comfort for a broad range of runners. The ASICS Dynaflyte, addresses this challenge with the introduction of a revolutionary midsole technology called Flytefoam. This midsole utilizes organic fibers that are embedded into the foam to offer increased energy return. An advantage of Flytefoam is it can have the desired effect in a low profile midsole, which helps keep the weight down.
With the 2090, we see New Balance combine existing technologies, N2 and Revlite, to produce a responsive, lightweight and durable shoe. Revlite is a light weight foam found in racing shoes like the 1400 and 1500 and light weight trainer like the Vazee Pace. N2 is a premium cushioning technology found in the 1260 and earlier versions of the 1080.
In both of these shoes, underfoot comfort and weight have been addressed through technology solutions. But comfort extends beyond how the shoe cushions and extends to how the shoe wraps the foot. Traditional performance shoes have minimal uppers to keep weight down. So the next challenge with these premium performance shoes was to reach a comfort threshold in the upper without driving up the weight. Neither upper is as luxurious as their premium daily trainer counterparts (ASICS Nimbus 18, New Balance 1080 v6), but they are clearly step up from the traditional performance shoes. Both shoes have nearly seamless uppers for next-to-foot comfort, bonded seams for clean lines and rich textiles.
It should be noted that the ASICS Dynaflyte and New Balance 2090, were not the first of their kind. The Saucony Zealot was the first shoe to package light weight performance and a premium fit. And Saucony looks to up their game with the Freedom ISO which will be available in December, 2016. As the first Saucony shoe to utilize a full length Everun midsole, we expect the Freedom ISO to have a soft, yet responsive ride. Mixed with a light weight ISO-Fit upper for seamless wrap and snug lockdown, this trainer is surely going to compete as a top shoe in the category.
So where do these premium performance shoes fit in? The mixture of a light weight design, responsive cushioning, and comfort-oriented fit make these shoes an option for a wide variety of runners. The underfoot cushioning is sufficient for long run needs, but the weight and responsiveness will make the shoes a solid option for tempo runs or fartleks. If you tend to run in premium shoes like the ASICS Nimbus, New Balance 1080, Brooks Glycerin or Saucony Triumph, these new premium performance shoes can be used for faster paced running, without a huge drop in comfort. However, if you tend to run more in light weight performance shoes like the adidas adizero Boston, Brooks Launch, Nike Zoom Elite or New Balance Zante, these new shoes can add comfort to a long run or daily runs, while retaining the responsive feel you have been accustomed to.