Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Jeff Beck's 2020 Run Shoe and Gear Favorites

 Article by Jeff Beck


Favorite Daily Trainer of 2020 

Saucony Endorphin Shift. (RTR Review) I came a little late to the Shift party after reading my colleague’s gushing review, and I’m glad I did. I’ve been a much bigger fan of Saucony’s more cushioned/premium midsole material PWRRUN+ over their lighter and firmer PWRRUN (I know, terrible naming scheme) in the past, but in this application it works really well. This is the Honda S2000 of running shoes, and not because it’s super light weight with a high reving four cylinder - it’s because it’s greater than the sum of its parts. None of the elements of the shoe stand out as that great , but when you put them on your feet and go for a run, the day just got better. Earlier this year we did an out-of-state move, and that meant two really long days. I try not to casually wear shoes that I’m still running in, but I wanted to stack the deck in my favor, and I was wearing the Shift the whole time. Not much better compliment I could give (though the Wave Sky Neo hadn’t been delivered yet).

Favorite Recovery Shoe of 2020 

Mizuno Wave Sky Neo (RTR Review). I had to track these down and import them, and I’m very glad that I did. Unlike the standard Wave Sky series, there’s tons of Mizuno’s latest midsole material, Enerzy, and I’m very impressed with it. While it is a heavy shoe, it doesn’t run heavy, but it does run super cushioned. Also, the upper holds the foot well, and while it’s a little shallow, I think it’s one of the coolest looking shoes out there.

Favorite Tempo shoe of 2020 

Saucony Endorphin Pro (RTR Review). I haven’t tried the Endorphin Speed that so many folks have fallen in love with, but the Endorphin Pro is one of the most fun shoes to run in. While it’d be on my shortlist for marathon shoes (when marathons happen again), I’m not sure it’d take the cake over Nike’s offerings - however, it’s a very easy shoe to recommend because of the shape/platform. While other “super shoes” taper in around the midfoot, making runners with even normal width feet a little awkward and the E-Pro doesn’t do that at all. The plated pop at toe-off is slightly muted compared to a few others, but that just means the shoe runs super smoothly.

Favorite Short Distance Racing shoe of 2020 

New Balance Fuel Cell RC Elite (RTR Review) There are a number of similarities between the RC and the E-Pro, and I could very easily swap these categories. Both are incredible shoes to run in, both have actual foot shaped platforms, and both are remarkably lightweight for their level of cushioning. The stable platform means turns at higher speeds are very secure.

Favorite Long Race Shoe of 2020 

Nike Alphafly Next % (RTR Review), long live the king. I wanted to like the Tempo Next%, but it’s elevated midfoot makes my landing awkward as all get out. The Alphafly however, is a solid blend of wide platform up front, and lots of cushioning in the back too - and a few hours into a run it’s greatly appreciated. I’m still not sure if it’s a better long distance racer than the Vaporfly Next%, but it’s definitely in the running for the best super shoe around.

Absolute Favorite Road shoe of 2020 

Mizuno Wave Sky Neo. (RTR Review)

Every time I run in them I can't help but smile. Outside of cost and availability, there's nothing I can fault the shoe for, and I’m very curious to see what’s coming next. And hopefully they release whatever that is in the states.


Favorite Daily Cruiser Trail Shoe of 2020 

New Balance More Trail (RTR Review

It’s  versatile, it's smooth, and comfortable. At a glance around the house I continue to confuse this shoe with the Hoka Speedgoat, but I think the More Trail might be a bit more comfortable (if less capable on technical terrain) than the Goat. And that’s high praise.

Favorite Technical Trail Shoe of 2020 

Saucony Peregrine 11/11 ST (RTR Review soon). Absolutely loving Saucony's 1-2 punch of great foot hold, good protection, and unreal traction. These shoes both have the Goldilocks level of just enough cushioning, just enough rock protection, just enough toebox space, and TONS of traction and durability. A year ago the 11 would have been the only variant I’d appreciate, but moving to a climate that gets weather, having a shoe for muddy days is suddenly great - and the ST is up to the challenge.

Favorite Easy Day Trail shoe of 2020 

Nike Pegasus Trail 2 (RTR ReviewIt might not have all the rock protection I'd like, but I like everything else about it - so great for easy days. The toebox works well, I like how the upper feels, and it has really good foothold. Throw a solid rock plate in there and it might even move up the list for me.

Favorite Short and Fast Trail shoe of 2020 

Brooks Catamount (RTR Review) They say it's great for 100 miles, but not for me. If races were happening, and the race was short, this would be on my foot. It is firmer than I anticipated, but that just means you feel planted when you turn up the heat. Traction is really good too, maybe not Peregrine good, but still has a smooth ride on roads too.

Favorite Race Day Trail shoe of 2020 

Saucony Peregrine 11 or 11ST, depending on the terrain. Great upper, great midsole, killer outsole. When it comes time for racing, why settle for anything less than awesome?

Favorite Long-Distance Trail shoe of 2020 

ASICS Trabuco Max (RTR Review) Such a fun shoe, great cushioning, and incredible geometry - but not great for technical stuff, so long distance is its forte. ASICS continues to surprise, and effectively making a trail version of the Glideride was a master stroke, provided you don’t get too rocky. I felt more than a little high centered on a few steps, but if things are long and smooth, you can’t get much better.

Favorite Door to Trail shoe of 2020  

Nike Pegasus Trail 2. (RTR Review) Great on the road, and great on buffed out trails. Not a bad looking shoe either.

Absolute Favorite Trail shoe of 2020

Brooks Catamount (RTR Review)

Light, well cushioned, solid protection, great traction. I wouldn’t be offended if they added another ~5mm of stack to the midsole, but that’d change the category of shoe altogether. 

What is your favorite Brand of 2020 and why?

Saucony. The Triumph 17 was my shoe of the year last year, and the 18 is even better, but it's likely their 3rd best trainer of the year (Ride 13 and Endorphin Shift). They are killing it, on all facets - road, trail, race, you name it, they are among the best around. I still think naming midsoles almost the same name was a mistake, but otherwise, they’re batting 1.000.

What is your biggest surprise of 2020 and why?

Saucony Ride 13 (RTR Review)

Saucony nailed it with an incredible daily trainer, making the most vanilla shoe around into a fun shoe with a smooth ride with plenty of cushioning for just about any run and runner. If I had to reduce my collection to just one shoe, the Ride 13 would be a coin flip with the next shoe.

Overall Shoe of the Year

Mizuno Wave Sky Neo (RTR Review)

Heavy and expensive shoes don’t make running fun, but in this case, they do. Every single run I’ve had in the Neo finishes with me smiling bigger than normal, and wanting to push another few miles. What’s more, this is just the start. I can’t wait to see what Mizuno does with Enerzy from here, because out of the gate they are nailing it.


Favorite Apparel of 2020

Lululemon Pace Breaker Short. Comfortable, stylish, and a nice pocket for the phone along the thigh in the liner - which I thought would be awkward but works really well.

Favorite run accessory of 2020 

Still the Kogalla UltRA Adventure Light (RTR Review). If you run in low light, you need one of these, if only so everyone can see you. I did find if you are wearing during a race that has you crossing paths with other runners you are likely to blind some folks - but if you just hold your forearm across the top of the lights you make friends out of strangers pretty quickly.

Favorite Run/Fitness Tech of 2020

I don't have one, but the battery life of the Coros line of watches is just off the charts incredible. I've been a Garmin guy for a while, but when this thing wears out its welcome, or its battery diminishes too much more, I might be switching brands to the watch that never dies. There’s something really satisfying about the thought of almost never having to think about your watch battery again.

Runner Up: Peloton app. My wife and I recently picked up a treadmill to help keep mileage up when the weather gets really bad, and signed up for the Peloton app to keep us entertained while running in place. Surprisingly, the classes are great - and not just the running ones. There are hundreds of fitness classes, targeting muscle groups or integrating barre, pilates, yoga, etc, and they aren’t just phoning it in. My wife has been a personal trainer for ~5 years, and her takeaway was the Peloton workouts were some of the best she’s ever had. I’ve had a few that made it hard to lift my arms the next day - I couldn’t even use shampoo.

Jeff's Run Bio

Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 40 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in Phoenix, Arizona and just more recently Colorado. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39. In December 2019 he raced his first 50 mile trail ultra. 

Some of the the product reviewed were  provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.

RTR Team's Best of 2020 Articles
Road Running Shoes HERE
Trail Running Shoes HERE
RTR Contributors Best of Run 2020, Year in Review Articles

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

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