This is a guest post by Fastblr
Hidden from prying eyes, shoe brands develop their latest secrets and technologies in labs, often for many years, hoping these assets will give them an edge over competitors. The recent Asics Gel Quantum 360 (which we will look at in detail below) was in the works for 8 years. And in another example, Adidas’ Boost foam, a “revolutionary cushioning technology”, was put into development in 2009, and the brand only released the first Energy Boost in 2013, 4 years later.
To display newer technologies, and also to get some kind of return to costly R&D, brands release premium models which are often the most expensive in their lineup. Every year, runners are hoping to slip them on and be amazed by the “softer but responsive cushioning” or the “glove-fit and breathable upper”, qualities so refined and precise that we could be talking about a high-end sports car. Of course, these command a premium, so it’s not for the average runner, but for those who have really picked up the habit of running daily, and in marathons regularly.
Asics Quantum 360
Released in July 2015, the star of this shoe is Asics’ proprietary GEL System. The GEL, a special kind of silicone that enables optimal shock absorption, was released by the Japanese brand in the 80’s and revolutionized the footwear industry.
For the Quantum 360, Asics doubled down on its GEL technology, and featured it throughout the length of the shoe, for the first time. The technical feat was to adapt gels with different densities to specific locations – on the sides, forefoot and heel – so that the spectacular cushioning didn’t interfere with footstrike stability and control. For the plushest ride possible, Asics added a proprietary Fluidfit upper to provide form-fitting comfort. The Asics Quantum 360 is a superb running shoe for everyday training and races, and a hallmark for the Japanese brand.
Mizuno Wave Prophecy 4
The first Mizuno Wave Prophecy took 7 years to develop and debuted in 2012, and was mostly praised for its innovative cushioning system. Rather than relying on foam to do the most part of the work, the Prophecy features 2 Wave plates, one on the top of the other and supported by rubber pillars. In the middle, there’s air. The compression and decompression of this structure enables, according to Mizuno, an “unparalleled riding experience”. The luxurious upper, which is shared with the cousin Wave Rider 18, has top-notch finishing, and the same goes for the superb footbed. The Wave Prophecy 4 is for runners who strike with the heel, and need the right balance between cushion and responsiveness.
Adidas Ultra Boost
The “greatest shoe ever made”, Adidas called it upon release. To support that claim, the Ultra Boost packs the supposedly ground-breaking Boost foam and a new upper material named Primeknit, a single elastic mesh which adapts to your feet – tighter or looser in specific areas as needed. Like Nike’s Flyknit, it offers superior lightness (and thus performance) than traditional sport footwear construction.
The midsole filled with tiny little spheres of Boost material, provides you a springy ride. Soft at low paces, it gets more responsive with speed in a uniform heel-to-toe transition. A truly luxurious running shoe!
Hoka One One Clifton 2
French brand Hoka One One sent the market in a tizzy when it released the first Clifton – it was the most sold model in the specialty store Running Warehouse. If the market was going towards minimalism – small frames and flat soles – the huge stack of the Clifton arrived with a big splash. It founded the “maximalist” category: high stack and a low heel-to-toe drop. It still looks large, but has all the comfort that maximalists crave.
With the added bonus of making you taller, the Clifton 2’s midsole volume (supposedly 250 percent more than standard shoes) is said to offer 50% more cushioning. Surprisingly, it doesn’t come with extra weight since the proprietary EVA formulation is 30% lighter than the normal rubber. If “marshmallowey” cushioning is what you seek, then the Clifton 2 is the right pick.
Nike Flyknit Lunar 3
There are not one, but two breakthrough technologies in the Flyknit Lunar 3: the Flyknit and the Lunarlon.
The Flyknit, an engineered knit which can be more or less dense, replaced traditional overlays and glued layers in the upper of the shoe, making it much lighter. Nike was able to reduce 20% of the weight, increase fit and decrease factory waste. On the other hand, the Lunarlon, a cushioning foam, took 4 years to be developed and was especially conceived for elite marathoners and basketball players and debuted during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. It’s known for soft cushioning for long-distance protection and bouncy response for fast transitions.
The Flyknit Lunar 3 can perform as an extremely flexible trainer — light enough to handle fast 5ks but cushioned enough to go the distance. The result is a relaxed fit and a smooth ride.
Saucony Triumph ISO
Fit is determining factor for an efficient ride and to avoid injuries. To achieve that, a well-made “upper” can make all the difference. Soft finish and a glove-like fit are attributes most sought by demanding runners.
To solve this problem engineers at Saucony developed their own take on what an upper should be and released it with a big “hype” under the name ISOfit. The first shoe to sport it is the Triumph. But what is it?
The ISOfit is a ultra-soft inner sleeve made out of air mesh, inducing a sock-like feel. The air mesh used here is especially elastic and soft, so the foot can be wrapped in motion from midfoot to forefoot. To provide the necessary support, the ISOfit sits on an independent cage which conforms to the foot, where the lacing can be found.
If the the upper is an essential part of a plush and premium ride, the Triumph stays at the top. Triumph excels in the premium category for its cushioning, lightweight construction, comfort, stability and multitude of features.
It’s impressive the amount of technology that comes with a shoe – where foam is not just foam, and where fabrics are “engineered”, not simply sewed. Certainly, that doesn’t come cheap. But luckily for brands, there are affluent runners who are willing to pay to have the perfect run. And these premium shoes offer a great running experience more than anything else.
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