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The FITNESS 2012 Sneaker Guide

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Walking Shoe

    For casual strollers to serious power walkers

    Winner: New Balance 895

    Bye-bye, staid walking shoes. This bold "superlight" pair is "incredibly flexible, while being supportive and cushiony," testers say. The unique egg-crate-inspired design of the outsole "puts an extra spring in your step." That, combined with a stable-but-not-stiff foam midsole, makes them "well built for both casual and speed walking." ($85, shopnewbalance.com)

     
  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Walking Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Ryka Dash

    "The perfect travel shoes," according to testers, these kicks are "comfortable out of the box" and "have fantastic cushioning, without the added weight." The leather-and-mesh uppers and rubber outsoles "can really take a beating." The verdict: "You'll want to walk in them forever." ($60, ryka.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Hiking Shoe

    For off-road walkers or day hikers

    Winner: Vasque Talus WP

    These "great" lightweight hiking boots had one tester raving that the waterproof Nubuck leather "keeps your feet dry and warm, even when they're fully submerged in water." The Vibram outsole offers "excellent grip" and "a sufficient amount of traction for all types of trails," and its women's-specific upper "hugs your feet nicely." ($150, vasque.com for stores)

     
  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Hiking Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Teva Forge Pro Mid eVent

    Testers were amazed that this "supercomfortable" boot "fit like a glove from mile one." Thanks to its breathable, waterproof membrane, feet stay "pleasantly dry." It also has a "very grippy" rubber outsole, which aced "rock, mud, light snow, ice, and gravel." A stretchy ankle cover keeps grit out of your shoe. ($140, teva.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Neutral Running Shoe

    For stable foot strikers who don't need correction from their shoes

    Winner: New Balance 890v2

    A "Cinderella fit," "good arch support," "perfect cushioning" — testers "absolutely loved everything" about these colorful kicks. The "extremely light," "bouncy" sneakers have a shorter-than-usual drop from heel to forefoot that encourages a "stronger," "faster," "effortless," and more natural stride. ($100, newbalance.com)

     
  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Neutral Running Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Mizuno Wave Creation 13

    Nicely "supportive for people with high arches," these sneaks are "cushioned, without seeming pillowy," testers say. A thermoplastic wave design in the midsole gives them their spring, making you "feel more aerodynamic" on your runs. ($150, mizunousa.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Mild Stability Running Shoe

    For runners whose feet roll inward (overpronate) slightly as they strike

    Winner: Mizuno Wave Inspire 8

    This "extremely lightweight" shoe offers "great stability and shock absorption," testers say. Its breathable open-mesh upper wraps around your foot for a pleasing "glovelike fit," and its stable-yet-springy midsole provides "wonderful support for an overpronating stride." ($115, mizunousa.com)

     
  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Mild Stability Running Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Saucony Hurricane 14

    These shoes may be an ounce lighter than the previous version, but they "still offer excellent support," allowing you to "feel connected to the road while still protecting your feet and joints." An antimicrobial sock liner and foam midsole provide "nice cushioning under the tongue and the balls of your feet." ($140, saucony.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Extra Stability Running Shoe

    For runners whose feet roll inward (overpronate) considerably as they strike

    Winner: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12

    Testers rave that these sneaks are "supportive and cushioned to perfection." Their biodegradable foam midsoles incorporate a thermoplastic device and varying densities of foam to "prevent your feet from rolling in." A flexible forefoot puts a "nice spring" in your stride. ($110, brooksrunning.com)

     
  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Extra Stability Running Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Nike LunarEclipse+ 2

    This shoe "doesn't look as if it would be very supportive, because it's so light, but it is," testers marvel. Its midsole packs "unmatched cushioning" and features a wedge-shaped design that kicks in extra stability only when you start to overpronate. In short, "you may never want to take these off." ($135, nike.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Minimalist Running Shoe

    For striders who want the barefoot-inspired experience

    Winner: Merrell Dash Glove

    This "extremely comfortable," "flexible" shoe weighs just 5.8 ounces but "still provides a lot of support," and its Vibram outsole supplies "great cushioning for running on pavement or rocks," testers say. Thanks to its zero drop from heel to forefoot, you land on the ball of your foot. Testers felt "no slipping or friction" from its "snug fitting" synthetic leather-and-mesh upper. ($110, merrell.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Minimalist Running Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Brooks Pure Connect

    Testers were "surprised by the amount of cushioning" these six-and-a-half-ounce shoes served up. With a heel-to-toe drop of just four millimeters and a split toe box, they make "forefoot striking a joy." The flexible kicks "move and expand with your feet." ($90, brooksrunning.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Trail Running Shoe

    Winner: Saucony Peregrine 2

    These "dream" trail runners have "lightweight, flexible" foam midsoles and "nice, low-cut ankles." The durable carbon-rubber tread "grips well on a variety of terrains," and its built-in rock plate protects your feet and "allows you to recover quickly whenever you stumble on roots, rocks, and the like." ($100, saucony.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Trail Running Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Asics Gel FujiRacer

    "Potholes, uneven roads, gravel and grass were no match" for these bulk-free trail shoes, testers say. With extra gel pads under the heels and "arch-supporting" foam midsoles, they are "just right on cushioning" and "great for running long distances." A water-drainage system helps keep your feet dry. ($110, asicsamerica.com for stores)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Cross-Training Shoe

    For exercisers who do workouts with a lot of side-to-side moves

    Winner: Reebok RealFlex Transition

    Testers loved wearing this "bouncy," "breathable" shoe for their elliptical, stairclimber, total-body, and CrossFit workouts. The flexible, waffle-patterned outsole "offers a ton of cushioning for jumping exercises" and "facilitates pivoting and moving side to side." Its mesh upper is "extremely comfortable" and "takes a huge load off your gym bag." ($90, reebok.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Cross-Training Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Puma Pumagility

    This "deceptively light" sneaker has "good lateral support" that "prevents your foot from moving around during side-to-side or front-to-back moves." The cushy triangular pieces in its midsole compress on impact so that "your knees feel better supported" when you jump. ($85, shop.puma.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Cycling Shoe

    For those who clip in for road cycling or Spinning

    Winner: Specialized Torch TR

    This women's-specific clip-in shoe is "great for powering through" your workout and has an arch-supporting midsole that "keeps you properly aligned" as you ride, testers say. Its sturdy, injection-molded and glass-reinforced outsole provides "good energy transfer" and has "generous vents" so there are "no hot spots." ($125, specialized.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Cycling Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Louis Garneau Women's CFS 300

    With two interchangeable insoles that you heat in the oven and then mold to your foot, this splurge clip-in style provides "a custom fit" and "makes you feel in sync with your bike." Two straps and a ratchet cinch the mesh-and-leather upper snugly. ($300, louisgarneau.com)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Tennis Shoe

    Winner: Asics Gel-Solution Speed

    Testers note that these "superb" sneaks "move very well" with "no slipping." The extra gel cushioning under your forefoot and heel provides plenty of shock absorption, and the lightweight upper, with memory foam in the heel, offers "a lot of ankle support." ($130, asicsamerica.com for stores)

  • Jeffrey Westbrook

    The Best Tennis Shoe: Runner-Up

    Runner-Up: Adidas Barricade 7.0

    "Movement feels quick" when you're wearing this "very comfortable," "sturdy" shoe, testers say. It's more than an ounce lighter than the previous Barricade model, with a seamless upper and a flexible, cushioned midfoot that "keeps knees and joints feeling good." A durable outsole makes you "feel superstable while moving laterally" on the court. ($130, adidas.com)

    Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2012.

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