Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 2
With its medium-thick, firm, and responsive midsole and sparsely lugged outsole, the Kiger 2 ($125) felt confident on dry, nontechnical turf. But the wrap tongue, socklike fit, and flexy heel cup make the upper feel like a minimalist runner. 7.1 oz; 4 mm drop.
Inov8 Race Ultra 290
“A Cadillac for ultrarunners.” That tester comment sums up the Race Ultra($130). Wide and roomy for foot-swelling epics, this is a true ultra freak. It has the kind of meaty midsole and sidewall protection needed for runs over 50K, and a thickly padded tongue boosts comfort. Best paired with wider feet (or thick socks) and a support crew. 10 oz; 8 mm drop.
Merrell Bare Access Trail
The Bare Access ($100) is a flexy, zero-drop trail slipper for midfoot runners, but it’s one with adequate cushioning to roll comfortably over rocky trails and flat-topped, deeply cut lugs for loose or hard-packed turf. A snug fit made it agile on twisty trails, despite the roomy toe box. Ideal for wider feet and distances under 50K. 7.2 oz; zero drop.
Thin, smooth, and light as a race flat, the Hitomagi ($100) excelled as a tempo-day trainer, offering, in the words of one tester, “the perfect, speedy balance between minimalism and comfort.” We loved it for race days and shorter-distance training runs, too. Our only quibble was the round laces, which don’t stay tied. 6.5 oz; 9 mm drop.
Brooks Ghost 7
This is a traditional cushioning shoe that goes heavy on the foam and thick on the tongue for maximum plushness. Despite all that, the Ghost ($120) still feels impressively stable. Since the deep-dish cushioning takes a good bit of spring out of each step, we found it best for long, slow cruising—and ideal for heel strikers. 8.6 oz; 12 mm drop.
Newton Distance III
The updated Distance ($155) features five of Newton’s prominent, energy-boosting lugs in the forefoot, giving the shoe a broader, more stable platform up front. Other than that, this is the same quick-striding, lively shoe that die-hard Newton fans have come to love, with enough foam to accommodate light heel strikers. 7.8 oz; 2 mm drop.