Stability and support run shoes have traditionally relied on a very firm "post" and or plastic elements at the mid and rear foot to "control" pronation. I have never been able to stand this approach at all. Yet, my 2015 Shoe of the Year was the Altra Impulse (review here) a stability shoe without any post, relying on outsole pods and angle of the midsole to provide the stability. Brooks tested me with their new Stride Signature program at Outdoor Retailer (see here) and said that my obvious heel rotation(bottom left quadrant) could benefit from their Transcend 3 stability shoe, a shoe with a conventional single density midsole and no posts but with other stability features.
|Brooks Running Stride Signature Analysis|
|Left to Right: Brooks Transcend 3, Hoka Infinite, Skechers Forza|
Comparative Basic Stats
- The Brooks Transcend 3 is the most flexible overall and smoothest running from heel to toe. It runs the most like a conventional neutral shoe, relying on its Guide Rails where upper and midsole meet, a flared pod (green below) on the outsole, and a substantial heel counter for stability. It is the most expensive by $50 and built of very high quality materials. Likely one will see superb outsole miles and overall durability over time, especially for heavier runners.
|Brooks Transcend 3|
- The Hoka Infinite has the most pronounced feeling of having mid foot stability elements at the midsole level, particularly at slower speeds, as the platform is very wide under mid foot. It has the roomiest, highest volume toe box (the widest of any Hoka to date for me and of the three in this test) and is the lightest by almost an ounce. It is stiffer than the other two relying on the effective Meta Rocker geometry to transition from heel to toe off. It has a 5mm drop while the other two drop in at 8mm.
|Hoka One One Infinite|
- The Skechers GoRun Forza has the liveliest forefoot feel with firm and responsive heel cushioning. It is the only one of the 3 with a denser medial mid foot foam to provide stability but it has by no means a post feel, having a smooth transition in feel from front to back, side to side. It runs lighter than its weight. The toe box is the narrowest but this is deceiving as the soft fabric like toe upper and soft bumper conform and hold my foot just right and it flexes and stretch well.
|Left to Right: Transcend 3, Infinte, Forza|
The Transcend midsole is Brooks' Super DNA. It is a great feeling midsole. Very cushioned yet not mushy, quite responsive, and the most flexible of the three. Heavy runners will not be quickly pounding it flat. It's a single midsole material with no firmer inserts. It runs very smooth from heel to toe when combined with that nicely segmented outsole and upper with minimal firm overlays. Take a few millimeters off the stack, and thus some weight too, and Transcend would be an incredible go fast and long shoe.
The Forza is the only shoe of the three with a dual density midsole of 5 GEN Resalyte, and it is brilliantly executed with a smooth, barely noticeable transition from softer laterally to firmer medially for that support. I didn't care for the Strada where the stability was largely through a thick firm outsole material at mid foot. The shoe flexes very easily upfront but the flex stops where the firmer material starts on the medial side, so not a long flex, but the flex extends a bit further back on the lateral side where the midsole is softer. The black zig zag material in the photo above is the firmer Reslalyte and it extends towards the middle of the shoe generally under the yellow outsole in the picture below from what I can see.
Midsole Upper Interface
Before we move to the uppers, we have a special category as the Infinite and Transcend rely in part for their stability elements on a foot cradle between the upper and midsole with the foot sitting below, the black below the blue upper in the next picture. The Transcend uses Brooks' Guide Rails. I worried this approach would make the shoe stiffer, as it does the Hokas, but this is not so as the height of the Rails tapers down towards the forefoot. With the flexible outsole this is why I called the Transcend the most "neutral" feeling of these three stability shoes. I do worry a bit that those with very wide feet will bump into the side of the rails towards the front of the toe box. I might have stopped the Rails a bit earlier or made them a bit lower yet towards the front.
All three shoes have outstanding uppers. Their fits are slightly different. I have no issues with any of them and appreciate their comfort and great front to back foot hold.
The Infinite has the roomiest most polished upper on a Hoka yet for me and the roomiest most accommodating of the three tested. No awkward toe box. Plenty of noticeable toe splay room, very decent volume yet a good foot hold. A bit roomy and a bit loose for my taste but those with wider and higher volume feet or planning Ultras are liable to be happy. The dense mesh and overlays are noticeably softer than the Clifton 2. In particular the firm part of the toe bumper on the Infinite does not extend nearly as far back as on the Clifton 2. This said the Active Frame on the Infinite is a bit higher than Clifton's but I did not notice. The first toe overlay in the Infinite starts at the second lace hole whereas the Clifton's starts at the first lace hole for a more relaxed front of foot hold in the Infinite
|Hoka Clifton 2 Left, Hoka Infinite Right|
The Transcend 3 upper, what can I say. This is a luxo, highly evolved upper. A very thin,fine "fishnet" like mesh sits above an inner layer with the white areas, actually laser cut out of the mesh below then adhered to an inner layer. The top fishnet is free floating. This should be the most breathable upper of the three and one that will drain well.
In an attempt to quantify what I felt running in these shoes I created the following table. Low score (1) is best for me. The differences between shoes were slight. They are all great shoes and all work well for me but they do have their differences.
- The Brooks Transcend 3 is the most flexible overall, smoothest running from heel to toe of the three tested and runs the most like a conventional neutral shoe relying on its Guide Rails and substantial heel counter for stability. It is the most expensive by $50 and built of very high quality materials. Likely one will see superb outsole miles and overall durability over time, especially for heavier runners.
- The Hoka Infinite has the most pronounced feeling of mid foot stability elements at the midsole level, particularly at slower speeds, as the platform is very wide there. It has the roomiest, highest volume toe box (the roomiest of any Hoka to date for me) and lightest weight (as it has the lowest stack) by almost an ounce of the shoes tested. It is stiffer than the other two relying on the effective Meta Rocker geometry for transition from heel to toe. It has 5mm drop while the other two drop in at 8mm.
- The Skechers Forza has the liveliest forefoot feel with firm and very responsive heel cushioning. It is the only one of the 3 with a denser medial mid foot foam to provide stability but it has by no means a post feel, with a smooth transition in feel from front to back, side to side. It runs lighter than its weight. The toe box is the narrowest but this is deceiving as the soft fabric like toe upper and soft bumper conform and hold my foot just right and it flexes and stretch well.
The shoes in this review were provided at no cost to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely our own.
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Brooks Transcend Men's Women's
Skechers Forza Men's Women's