Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Derek Li's Running Year in Review and Run Shoes of the Year

 Article by Derek Li

2020 has been an incredible year for me, in that it has been my most prolific year ever in terms of shoe reviews. Running took a bit of a back seat in 2018 and 2019 as I was busy with studies and work, and this year was supposed to be a big breakthrough year for me in terms of performances, but then of course all the races got cancelled because of COVID.  Hard to believe, but I have yet to run a marathon PB in a carbon plated racer, my last PB coming in July 2017 in the Nike Zoom Fly 1 (ice blue) prior to the release of the first Vaporfly. Who would have thought I would be setting review PB’s instead? By my count, I have had 26 written reviews published so far, with a couple more due on the New Year. 

The lack of races have meant I got in fairly constant running throughout the year, and I’ve clocked 6062.4km so far with 17.8km of elevation gain, and there’s still some time left clock a few more miles. That’s a lot of miles for shoe testing, and we have had some superb gems to test this year.

Here are my 2020 shoes of the year.

Favorite Daily Trainer of 2020: 

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% Flyknit  (RTR Review)

I called it early on that the Tempo Next% would likely be the best all-round daily trainer for me, and it has held true to the end. I know the shoe has met with all sorts of polarizing reviews since its launch. Interestingly, nobody in my training group has any major issues with it, and we have largely gone from a Zoom Fly dominated long run group to a Tempo Next% long run group. If you haven’t tried this shoe before, my recommendation is to give it a go, before passing judgement. Lots of US retailers now have no-fault returns policies so there is no risk in trying it, deciding it is not for you, and returning it for a refund. The 2 biggest complaints I found about the shoe are 1) very loud and slappy, and 2) very firm. I don’t disagree with the loudness of the shoe, but honestly those things don’t bother me. I run in urbanized areas with construction works and cars zooming by. I can barely hear anything above that sort of cacophony. The firm verdict is one I cannot reconcile. The shoe is SOFT. Not Novablast soft, but softer than Nike React infinity/NB Beacon/Brooks Ghost/all the Saucony Endorphins so what are these people talking about? I have no idea. And I’m someone who found the Peg Turbo 2 too firm, and harsher in overall feel than Zoom Fly 1 due to lower stack. Anyway, bottom line, the shoe has incredibly good cushioning and you can go fast and slow in it. That takes the cake for me. Honorable mentions go to the New Balance FuelCell TC, Saucony Endorphin Speed and Skechers MaxRoad 4+ Hyper. 


Favorite Recovery Shoe of 2020: 

Skechers MaxRoad 4+ Hyper (RTR Review)

With maximalist fever in full swing, there is no shortage of soft bouncy shoes on the market right now, and indeed, it was a really close fight between the Skechers MaxRoad 4+ and the ASICS Novablast for me in this category. What clinched it for the Maxroad 4+ was the faster and smoother transitioning courtesy of a better rockered profile. Novablast is all sorts of soft and bouncy, but it somehow feels a little tiring to run in for longer runs. MaxRoad 4+ is almost as bouncy but seems to propel you forward a little better, so you don’t feel like the mush is sapping all your energy. I used MaxRoad as a daily trainer for a while, until Tempo came along and stole the show. 


Favorite Tempo Shoe of 2020: 

Saucony Endorphin Speed  (RTR Review)

While I have had some really fast long runs in the Nike Tempo Next%, when I want to do long intervals, the Endorphin Speed is my first choice. It is noticeably lighter and more nimble and rolls through almost as well as the Tempo Next%. The combination of light weight, superb SpeedRoll+plate rocker, and springy (albeit firm) PWRRUN PB foam makes it the best tempo shoe of the year, at a very palatable $160. The only weak point for this shoe is its poor grip on wet surfaces. Honorable mentions go to the Brook Hyperion Tempo, and Nike Tempo Next%.

 Favorite Short Distance Racer of 2020: 

Skechers Speed Elite Hyper (RTR Review)

This shoe has the most aggressive forefoot rocker of all the racers on the market, and that makes it an incredibly good racer over the <10km distance. It only comes in full sizes and for that reason, I think they could have gone with a rigid heel to allow people between sizes to get a better heel hold, even at the expense of a few grams in weight. It is the absolute lightest of the high stack racers on the market right now, and is by far the fastest feeling of the racers. The main weakness of the shoe is the outsole durability and rubber placement. I hope that with a move to GoodYear and maybe some updated rubber placement, this issue will be solved by the next version. Honorable mentions go to the Saucony Endorphin Pro, which is a little firmer and has an even stiffer and more prominent forefoot rocker than the Endprohin Speed, and the little known QiaoDan Flying Shadow (a carbon plated 6mm drop shoe out of China using supercritical EVA foam at a stack of 29/35 and weighing only 6.7oz in a US9.5) that I didn’t review on RTR but posted it on my own IG page. It has a prominent forefoot rocker but has a very soft overall feel to it, and I hope eventually folks in the US will be able to try it cuz it sells at <$120!!


Favorite Long Distance Racer of 2020: 

Adidas Adios Pro (RTR Review)

Adidas really took their time with the release of their answer to the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly range, and boy did they make an impression! The Adios Pro now owns the men’s World Half Marathon WR, smashing it by a half a minute, in emphatic terms. Not bad for a company that was largely written off at the beginning of the year. In truth there were A LOT of really outstanding shoes in this category. In any other year, the Nike Alphafly, New Balance FuelCell RC or even Saucony Endorphin Pro would own it here, but this was supposed to be an Olympic year, and everyone brought their A game. For me, the Adios Pro did it best. It’s not the lightest of the super shoes, but it has the best combination of cushioning stack, bouncy ride and “assistive” touch among all the shoes. With a 39mm heel stack, it has the highest heel cushioning of the bunch together with the Alphafly, and I like that the whole package promotes the roll through the forefoot really well, almost as well as the Nike Vaporfly OG Ice Blue. I think the position of the curvature can be moved even farther back to allow your foot to rock forward earlier, but I guess the pros prefer it a little more towards the toes. 

Outsole grip which has always been a concern given its bare appearance, seems to be a total non-issue for me and durability seems decent as well. Far from being just a race-only type of shoe, I have used the shoe for medium pace long runs that have left my legs feeling incredibly fresh at the end and allowing me to close out the runs at paces I normally only expect to hit in the VF4%, and at near-A-race peak fitness. When you consider that the Adios Pro is one of the cheapest super shoes out there at $200, it should come as no surprise that it’s pretty much sold out everywhere, while someone on the Running Shoe Geeks forum just found a pair of Alphafly at Ross going at $55. 

Absolute  Favorite Road Shoe of 2020 :

Adidas Adios Pro. Overall the most fun and cushioned shoe for me. Very close tie with the Tempo Next%, but the Adios Pro is lighter at the same price. 

To end this article, I just want to say that 2021 is shaping up to be an equally exciting year, judging from what’s coming down the pipeline, so I say it’s time to cash in those TSLA shares and save up for some shoe shopping! 

RTR Team's Best of Run 2020 Articles HERE

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

RoadTrailRun receives a commission on purchases at the stores below.
Your purchases help support RoadTrailRun. Thanks!

USA  Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns
EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Join VIP Family, Get Free Shipping and 15% in VIP Benefits on every order, Details here

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE


Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook: RoadTrailRun.com  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun




1 comment:

Patrick said...

Thanks Derek, as a fellow Singapore reisdent, I've enjoyed your many reviews on RTR, as the environment here is kinda atypical in terms of humidity and consistency of temperature (at least compared to my native sydney, my god, I thought I was heat adjusted when I moved in January...).

Discoveries for me this year would be the Novablast - I see what people mean about the lack of stability around the heel, but it just doesn't bother my form at all, and for a very chunky shoes, I find they roll along nicely. They don't beat up my feet at all.

Biggest surprise for me has been the Brooks Revel. This unassuming shoe is cheap as hell, features no razzle dazzle tech or midsole, but geez, it's light, it's reasonably fast (makes for an enjoyable tempo run), and most of all it's fun. Better yet, I can buy two of them for virtually every other shoe on the market. Makes it a no brainer.

Biggest let down of the year was discovering how few brands bother selling their stuff in Singapore. Brooks has to be ordered internationally, Skechers only offload their old crap. Saucony cannot be had for love or money (wanted to try the endorphins). The only brands that seem to have decent stock here are NB, Asics and Reebook, weirdly - at least that's my experience. Nike and Adidas is certainly available, but not necessarily in the model/size/price you want.