In the fight for the hearts and feet of the world's runners, shoe manufacturers have R&D'ed all sorts of technology to set their products apart, from new cushioning foams to funky energy-transfer outsoles. But now there's a new front in the footwear arms race: the foot itself.
By studying podial anatomy and watching how muscles and bones move at different points in the running process—both in and out of shoes—engineers and designers discovered that the foot is seriously complex, and everyone's feet are different. That led to the development of some of the most fit-focused shoes every constructed. And if you're any kind of runner, that means you’ll likely be upgrading your gear this spring.
Adidas Ultra Boost
The Ultra Boost is a major upgrade to Adidas' two-year old Boost technology, adding 20% more cushioning to the midsole to maximize energy return. And you feel it as soon as you put the slip on the shoe. But it's the Primeknit upper where the shoe earns its three stripes. The flexible, breathable fabric was engineered to give wearers a precision fit by stretching and adjusting based on the unique foot movement while also providing a secure, comfortable ride. $180, adidas.com
Asics Gel-Nimbus 17
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante
The latest addition to New Balance's Fresh Foam line is good for training or low-impact runs. But speedsters will get the most out of it. It sits two millimeters higher and weighs 1.7 ounces lighter than the Boracay, which helps with velocity. No matter how you use it, thought, the Zante was built with comfort in mind. By analyzing impact data from speed runners' foot strikes, designers crafted an upper wrap that hugs the foot and keeps it stable in the boot. $99.95, newbalance.com.
Reebok ZPump Fusion
Twenty-five years after achieving immortality as a basketball shoe, Reebok's iconic Pump is back as a slimmed-down, lightweight runner. The ZPump Fusion is constructed of only three pieces: an updated Z Series sole, a re-engineered Pump bladder, and a single piece of fabric holding it all together. A few pumps creates a customized fit that grips your midfoot and heel without limiting your foot's natural movement. Let the air out and the shoe becomes low-profile enough to collapse down to a fraction of its pumped up size. $109.99, reebok.com.
Under Armour Speedform Gemini
This update to UA's Speedform Apollo takes the cushioning and design of the earlier model to the next level. It's still made in a lingerie factory (the only athletic show that can make that claim), but the new Charged Cushioning midsole is way more responsive and the sole's flex grooves were designed with an eye to anatomy for a more natural ride. Meanwhile, the sewn-in foam footbed adapts to a runner's foot and the molded heel cup locks it in. $129.99, ua.com.