Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sam Winebaum's 2020 Run Year in Review & Favorites for Road and Trail

 Article by Sam Winebaum

2020 was an unusual and trying year with much tragedy and uncertainty worldwide. Runners saw most races canceled and often ran solo away from run pals and raced virtual and solo as well. Yet running was a solace, a way to breathe and get outside and away from it all more than ever.   

We went to Park City in early March for a few weeks and stayed through...early July. 

It was a great place to stay away from people and get in lots of running, hiking, and gear testing in magnificent surroundings and for the first time continuously through the end of winter into full summer.

According to Strava,  I ran just shy of 1550 miles as I write this, a bit less than usual as no marathons to prepare for. I accumulated 94K feet of vertical on the run on both road and trail. I also hiked abou 130 miles hiking in Utah and in New Hampshire as I joined Dominique on many of her last of 48 4000 footers and on several beautiful hikes in Utah in the high Unitas where we tested trail runners, hiking boots, and gear. 

I nordic skied another 70 miles or so both classic and skate. 

Racing well...none of annual usuals but I did run two virtual 10K road races, a virtual half and a virtual trail half in Park City, Utah. 

ASICS World Ekiden 10K leg

4 teams from RTR for a total of 24 Contributors participated

There are few days left in 2020 but it looks like I won’t get to my annual goal of a half sub 1:40. That’s OK. Somehow, and as always, I like to say "Run For Run and Race to Win”, a saying from my college running days. I mean a real race, real competition, not so much winning at my age but sometimes an age group podium. don’t need racing and race goals to enjoy running or to stay motivated but I sure love to compete against others and I missed it this year. Solo time trials are just not the same.

Run companies went virtual with offices closed yet somehow were able to get a magnificent crop of new and innovative models first into our hands to test and review and then out to the rest of the running public. Trade shows that RTR often attends were canceled with virtual presentations, the new way to see and hear about the latest.

Our test team of 20 plus of all abilities, ages, and run interests, worldwide on 5 continents from the US to Europe to Mexico, Africa, Asia,and Australia reviewed in English, German, Danish and Spanish most often in multi tester review format.  Collectively they ran very close to 50,000 miles / 80,000 kilometers of trails and roads.

The team wrote 275 articles covering road shoes, trail shoes, and Apparel/Tech/Gear with many also covered on our growing YouTube channel.

I lost track of how many running shoes I tested this year. Likely well over 100 different models plus all kinds of other gear.  Some stood out in a year of fantastic innovation and fierce competition and one like no other I can recall. Here are my 2020 Favorites!


Saucony Ride 13 (RTR Review) 

A daily trainer should provide sufficient cushion, stability, and response to handle most every kind of run from fast to slow with a focus on the middle miles of training (for me around 9:00- 9:30 minute mile pace) and not the extremes. I had 3 shoes in contention: Nike women’s Pegasus 37, New Balance FuelCell TC and Saucony Ride 13

After taking all of them for back to back runs on the same day, it was clear the Ride 13 was my favorite Not for being the fastest or even most exciting of the three, but for being the most versatile, consistent and protective. Flexible and well cushioned, it has a special responsive feel from its thick front bars of rubber over a flexible platform for some get up and go when you want to and its upper while not the lightest has a superb lockdown. Durability, always a consideration in daily trainers is excellent.


Hoka Mach 4 (RTR Review)

At barely 8 oz, a weight not usually associated with "recovery" shoes, the Mach 4 has a unique combination of soft bouncy cushion, and plenty of it, stability, decent flexibility plus an effective new rocker to easily toe off even at slow paces and even some inherent stability from its broad platform. Every run, every pace is welcome here and it is especially pleasing to have a light light shoe to do those easy miles in. It can of course also be a daily trainer.

A strong honorable mention goes to the Saucony Endorphin Shift (RTR Review). 

It has massive amounts of denser responsive cushion and lively forward roll to toe off from a stiff profile, so unlike flexy Mach 4’s. While not a stability shoe, it is exceptionally stable at the rear due to its clever extended medial side heel cup. Out slow and easy, out fast and long it doesn’t care and just rolls you along smoothly and evenly.


Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review) is.. truly bionic. 

Massively cushioned, very stable from upper to midsole with an incredible zonally knit  Flyknit upper they are super fast and rock solid. No sense of the road here, no shock, no mushy softness either but lots of noise from the outsole. The giant front Zoom Air Pods have a distinct snappy pneumatic rebound and as you go forward off and compress the pods they tip you into the soft forefoot and off you go. Not only a great tempo long run option but many should consider it  for long racing as they tone down the softness of Alphafly and should keep you tracking better late in a race. Yes there is some weight at 8.9 oz / 252g but there is also an effective giant stack of 46mm heel / 36mm forefoot all super well controlled and tracking fast and forward. It clearly can also serve as a daily trainer for faster runners.

A strong honorable mention must go to the New Balance RC Elite (RTR Review) which is much lighter than Tempo Next % but still has a substantial, well cushioned, bouncy FuelCell midsole. Its ride is more traditional in feel with its carbon plate not noticedl. The lightest of the super shoes (but for the Next %, not a shoe I would train in much), it is also of course a great racer.


The elegant, super well fitting snappy ASICS Metaracer (RTR Review) goes to a max 10K for me (two virtual 10K races in them). I say it is the run shoe James Bond would rock!

The adios Pro (RTR Review) is clearly also a fine option in this category for me as is the Skechers Speed Elite (RTR Review) 


adidas Adios Pro (RTR Review

Not many real races this year at all, just a virtual half (adios Pro) and three virtual 10K (two in Metaracer and one in Alphafly). Clearly if I lined up for a half or below the adios Pro would be on my feet and maybe for a marathon too although the Alphafly intrigues me with its soft bouncy ride, maybe too soft and bouncy for late miles?  

The adios Pro is the first racer of the new era that I find truly “different” in ride from the original Vaporfly which is my all time favorite race shoe, and still is, at least until I can really race the adios Pro!

The 5 Energy Rods up front in the Adios Pro deliver a more exciting dynamic and natural feel and a faster one than any other contender and there were many. Just delightful. The upper is perfect in its super ventilated comfortable and secure fit. The super thin exotic outsole is durable and blends well with the soft enough Lightstrike Pro midsole.


Adios Pro, hands down the biggest smiles of the year shoe for me.  I am old. I am not that fast anymore (or never was) but there is something special in lacing up these beauties, winding them up, and activating the Energy Rods. The upper is magnificent, the midsole just right in balancing cushion and stability, and the super thin outsole groundbreaking in its feel and grip, durability, and light weight. 

In the training category the Mach 4 is clearly the winner and biggest smiles shoe for me.


The adios Pro was clearly my biggest surprise of the year coming from a company which only a month or two before released the quite frankly very conventional and rough riding carbon adizero Pro then to suddenly emerge with the most innovative long racer since the original Vaporfly and one that delighted slow old me and set world records. Quite a range of paces there…



ASICS Trabuco Max (RTR Review

The Max is very well cushioned, stable enough for all but very technical trails at speed and has a superb multi purpose outsole. The plateless Guidesole rolls you along without overdoing it with a lively rockered ride that has all the rock protection one could wish for without a plate in the way or over firming things. As most of my trail runs include at least some road or hard smooth dirt the Max has been an ideal companion.  


Didn't think I was going to choose the Salomon Sense Ride 3 (RTR Review) for any award as it has a relatively dull dense ride on smoother terrain but on technical taken at my slow cautious paces and for longer distances, especially, its superb upper hold and all that dense cushion has it leading the pack.

The far, far lighter Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 ( RTR Review) gets  honorable mention. Its agility, more than adequate cushion and outstanding grip were a highlight on many hikes in the White Mountains on highly technical terrain.

And for winter conditions and wet, the high top zip upper adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro (RTR Review) with its ski boot like midfoot wrap with BOA  closure is fantastic. 

The  Boost and EVA midsole has plenty of cushion and a lively flexible front to  go with a protected ride on both trail and road with plenty of all purpose traction from its Continental rubber outsole. It is not light!  But runs way lighter than its weight,


Sam: Brooks Caldera 4  (RTR Review). 

Plenty of cushion on a broad platform. Roomy, decently light and with a pleasant rocker they are easy to move along and secure and stable enough that you don’t have to focus on every step as you amble easy does it on just about any terrain.


Inov-8 Terraultra G270 ( RTR Review) 

Oh but it may depend. I raced a virtual trail half on a smoother Utah single track in the Salomon Sense Pro 4 whose grip and firm and protective ride and very secure upper stood out but that was before I had the Inov 8 TerraUltra  G270 or the Brooks Catamount. I took all three on some of the same trails on my 5 mile or so test loops in both Utah and New Hampshire where the Inov-8 ended up fastest pretty much across the board overall in both places but not by much. I was clearly faster in the Inov-8 on the more technical NH trails than in the Catamount with the Catamount shining on smooth non technical downhills and uphills in Utah. The Sense Pro 4 shone brightest where the terrain was roughest and most technical but the ride was a bit firm and rough, comparatively to the Inov-8.  So the winner for me is the Inov-8 as it proved most versatile.


Sam: If long and rough Saucony Xodus 10  (RTR Review) if up to a half Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 on most all terrain, If half up to 20 miles on smooth hard pack Brooks Catamount (RTR Review), if highly technical and shorter up to a half Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review)


Nothing in the field quite like the Saucony Xodus 10 (RTR Review) for max cushion for long runs on any terrain as it delivers tons of cushion, stability and bounce, all leading to a lively any surface ride from the most technical of trails to even serving as a superb recovery oriented road ride. The aggressive outsole plays nice on any surface with outstanding grip and there is all the protection one could ever dream of. Yes, it is heavy but the weight isn't that noticed. 

Yet, I was amazed how fresh my legs were after long day hikes in the White Mountains on highly technical terrain in the Terraultra G 270, the best performing most agile and grippy shoe there of any I tested this summer, including even several boots. 


Sam: The upcoming early 2021 ASICS Trabuco Max (RTR Review) checks all the boxes for me as a door to trail shoe. 

Plenty of forgiving non mushy cushion, a rockered plateless geometry that rolls along very smoothly and is stable on all but the more technical terrain with no harshness and an aggressive (more so than most door to trail options)  outsole that leans trail and while noisy delivers response on the road and isn't in the way, all topped with a comfortable upper.

Honorable mention must go to the Brandblack Tarantula (RTR Review) with its broad on the ground stable supercritical midsole, super durable Vibram XS Trek outsole, and comfortable upper. 

More door to smooth trail oriented it is a shoe I didn't think about taking off after runs for the rest of the day as it transitions to everyday use with style and comfort, not always the case with trail shoes.


No question the Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 (RTR Review) is my trail shoe of the year.

At barely 9.1 oz /  257 g with its grip everything Graphene outsole, a TPU/EVA blend midsole, and even an innovative TPU beaded footbed this zero drop shoe punches all the boxes magnificently with a lively fun ride, great upper security, breathability and water draining delivering, literally, any terrain versatility and superb traction.

Don't fret the zero drop too much as it is not really noticed, it’s more like running ma 4mm shoe for me. I put it through a huge range of uses including technical hiking in the White Mountains, where there was more than enough protection and tons of agility as well all kinds of fast and mostly shorter runs on all kinds of terrain and even on roads. It is a joy to run and sets a new and high bar in trail running shoes.

Favorite apparel of 2020 

Odlo set the bar very high this year in summer and winter base layers with in summer's heat their Blackcomb Pro T shirt with its Cermicool, anti stink, and superb wicking and fast drying technologies. 

In winter, their Blackcomb Long Sleeve Baselayer with Mask and hood has been outstanding and that is even before we get to their Zeroweight jackets including the incredible light fully waterproof DualDry. (RTR Reviews in our 2020 Gift Guide).

Yet, my single Favorite 2020 apparel  piece is the Tracksmith Running Off Roads Crew. (RTR Review).   

This stylish looser fitting near but not quite sweatshirt can be worn for every cooler weather workout and as it dries so quickly and looks  good for the rest of the day I basically didn’t take it off  and this for several days. Super versatile. The blending of Merino and Polypropylene to deliver insulation, wicking, warmth, breathability and stink resistance is genius.  

Honorable mentions:

Ultimate Direction Ventro Jacket (RTR Review Gift Guide) I have never run in puffy jacket but discovered the Ventro is highly highly breathable and temperature regulating. An insulated warm jacket truly designed for high output activities.

Salomon Sense Pro Shorts, Tank and S/Lab Short Tight For about the last 10 years I have always raced in Salomon kit. The new Sense Tank has 37.5 tech and is as wicking soft and comfortable as any warm weather gear I have ever used. Even Kilian races in the Sense Tank and not an S/Lab version. The shorts have quite large stretch pockets front and back that blend in to the rest of the short and hold phone and soft flask securely. Under, I alway race in the lightly compressive, not overly long, never chafing dual thigh pockets Short Tight. And best of all Salomon apparel lasts seemingly forever. My 10 year old S/Lab short is almost still like new.

Favorite Accessory of 2020  (Packs, lights, poles, etc)

No question the Camelbak Octane 25L (RTR Review), the most versatile pack I have ever tested. 

This larger capacity vest/pack blends the best of a race vest (many front side and rear pockets) with the rear well organized capacity of a day pack. Run, hike, travel, commute/computer bag it si one pack to do it all and it even comes with a fine 2L bladder and all for a very reasonable $145.


Three GPS watches stand out all for different reasons: 

The Coros Pace 2 (RTR Review) 

It is its lightest yet GPS sports watch at sub 30 g weight, is full featured for any kind of training, has ultra worthy battery life and superb accuracy, all for the low low  price of $200. 

The ultra comfortable, stylish, long battery life and complete training and recovery system delivered by the  Polar Vantage V2 (RTR Review) is my “daily driver” watch.

It has always been on one of my two wrists since I received it to test.

The Suunto 7 (RTR Review) is the first “platform” watch that I have tested that also delivers on being a real sports smartwatch. 

It’s new microfiber band makes it the most comfortable sports watch I have ever worn and with the  band is commendably light at 47g for such a big display watch.  It has a superb high res screen about 2x the resolution of the usual for dedicated sports watches  (yes it does have less than average battery life), to show beautiful maps with easy routing via the app This makes it not only a run watch but an adventure watch (keep those adventures to a day trip though)  Somehow in a Wear OS or Apple platform watch we have decently complete and easy to configure and customize (and sure to improve) run data fields.


Clearly for me the shoe tech of the year were the two key elements in the adidas adios Pro: Energy Rods for a more natural feeling dynamic ride working with your toes instead of the toes driven down and directed by a plate and the thin seemingly wear proof outsole which clearly is a ground breaking approach to outsole compounds. 

In the foam wars FuelCell has a implemented in the TC and especially the flavor in the very light RC Elite delivered a wonderfully pleasant new option to compete with Zoom X and Hyper Burst.

Nike’s use of giant Zoom Air Pods worked well in the Tempo Next and Alphafly which were clearly designed around them but not so well in the “over pumped up”  men’s Pegasus 37, a more conventional shoe.

Arriving soon the Craft CTM Carbon Ultra (RTR Initial Review) a mixed smoother surfaces ultra racer and all around versatile trainer for the first time incorporates a thin carbon plate with some flex leading to an incredible smooth roll and the most distinct "spring" in any carbon plated shoe I have tested.


The adios Pro and Inov-8 G 270. Both brands were known for something else, "firm" kind of dated rides and tech and both shocked with groundbreaking innovative new models that a joy to run and fast.

Hoka’s Sky collection of hikers and Deckers’ Lab more street sneaker oriented shoes  with their heel outrigger super broad Hubble geometry. Radical and now in toned down form the approach is starting to appear in run shoes such as the Mach 4 and Clifton Edge. Concept car stuff.

Yet of all the Sky shoes the Kaha Low GTX (RTR review soon) was the most impressive with by far the most stable highly cushioned platform of any shoe I have ever hiked in, topped by an incredibly stout nubuck leather upper. 

I can’t recall a boot this stable. Hiker, outdoor work shoe, stand all day on concrete shoe it doesn’t have bright cheery looks as its Sky stablemates do and is all business.


adidas adizero adios Pro and Inov-8  Terraultra G 270. Both shoes surprised.. and delighted! Fast, comfortable, groundbreaking.


Saucony came out in 2020 with not only the all new Endorphin line but updates to literally every single model road and trail during during the year. 

They simplified midsoles using 3 types of midsole foams across all shoes road and trail. They also refined and yes simplified all uppers and beautifully so. And they did away with confusing ISO naming going to simple numbering for models and got rid of ISO too. ISO was an often awkward approach to fit for me.

Saucony replaced ISO across the board with FormFit which starts at the midsole and works its way through the footbed and upper, to deliver excellent “forming” of the foot to the platform. 

Every Saucony proved excellent in my testing, not super flash but just carefully considered improvements of real benefit. Special notes for me in 2020 were Endorphin Shift, the Ride 13 and Xodus 10, all more trainers than racers because as the year went on other options I preferred for racing emerged.. And special kudos to the Saucony team (and all brands o locked out of their offices and access to test samples to send) for pulling this all off in such a challenging year and for publicly revealing all of their 2020 line in December 2019 at the Running Event and then delivering in such a challenging year.

Honorable mentions:

New Balance delivered a wide variety of ride experiences based on FuelCell and improved Fresh Foam X with special note the FuelCell in the TC and RC.

Nike continued to "shock" with the Alphafly and Tempo Next pushing boundaries in new and interesting directions but went to far with their mainstay men's Peg 37 for me by somehow overemphasizing gender "preferences" in ride feel leaving the superb softer lighter and smoother women's Peg ride for smaller men's feet. 

adidas was a one trick pony with their adios Pro but suspect not for long in road as they are on a roll with the lessons learned. Their Terrex division delivered a fantastic Boost and BOA based winter and rough conditions shoe in the Terrex Agravic Tech Pro 

ASICS which had a lot to remodel, delighted with the elegant Metaracer, the Novablast and Dynablast, improved on Evoride and Glideride, and in a late in 2020 a surprise for 2021, a superb trail shoe in the Trabuco Max.

Brooks came out in relatively rapid succession with 2 versions of their Hyperion Elite marathon racer while staying the course, pretty much, with their road line stalwarts. Brooks really shone most brightly in trail with their all arounder the Caldera 4 and a new fast and light shoe the Catamount with the same foam as the second Hyperion and Tempo and in superb $100 shoes: the Revel and new Divide trail runner, a price category most welcome in this challenging year for so many. 

Skechers continued to push the envelope with lighter and lighter shoes based on Hyperburst with plates in the mix and generally lower stacks than the marathon super shoes with the Speed Elite fantastic for shorter fast efforts.

Inov-8 long a trail shoe specialist, known for firm, agile and snug rough terrain shoes struck gold for me (and our team as it was the team’s shoe of  the year as well as mine) with a seeming, by looks and basic stats alone, “ minor update” to the Terraultra G 260, the G 270. From its exciting to run and protective re formulated bouncier midsole, innovative springy footbed, outstanding light and secure upper and of course Graphene Grip outsole it was an easy pick for my trail shoe of the year in a very crowded field of great shoes.

Here is to a brighter 2021! Thank you very much for reading, watching, and following RoadTrailRun on all our channels in 2020

What were your 2020 Favorites? 

The products reviewed were mostly 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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Taylor said...

Hi Sam,

Thanks for this! I'm curious how durability has been in the Tempo Next%. How many miles have you logged, and how have they held up? At $200 for a trainer I'm going to get at least 200 miles out of them, and would be thrilled with 300, but I'm pretty rough on shoes.

Many thanks.

John Haake said...

Hi Sam,

Do you know when the Xodus 11 will be released? It seems to be released around the same time of the Peregrine. Thanks.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi John,
Xodus 11 should be later in spring around April and appears to be an upper change Peregrine is scheduled to release sooner in January.
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Taylor,
I have relatively low mileage and no wear or change so far. I asked our contributor Derek Li who has considerably more on his Tempo Next and he reports that he has run about 250 miles and midsole is still bouncy with minimal outsole wear.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Sam - I rarely comment but felt the need to thank you and the team for your truly fantastic site. Always excellent reviews and information. Keep up the wonderful work and look forward to the coming year.
Cheers! JMP.

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks so much JMP! Much appreciated!’

Unknown said...

Good morning. 2 questions, please:could xodus 10 & ride be used by people with arches?
2nd question : how many miles do you think ride 13 may last? Is it better than pegasus? Thanks indeed from Spain, EU.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hello Unknown from Spain.
The Ride 13 and Xodus 10 both have good support from the FormFit which starts at the midsole and then extends through the insole. As far as mileage Ride 13 has plenty of rubber so should last a long time and midsole is decently resilient as a blend of EVA and TPU. Although both depend on your weight and mileage. I much prefer Ride 13 to men’s Pegasus 37 a quite awkward feel unless you really can drive the air pod by mid foot strike or your weight. Women’s version in a D width far far better for me as it is softer React, lighter and has less Air Pod pressure.
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

Hello Unknown from Spain.
The Ride 13 and Xodus 10 both have good support from the FormFit which starts at the midsole and then extends through the insole. As far as mileage Ride 13 has plenty of rubber so should last a long time and midsole is decently resilient as a blend of EVA and TPU. Although both depend on your weight and mileage. I much prefer Ride 13 to men’s Pegasus 37 a quite awkward feel unless you really can drive the air pod by mid foot strike or your weight. Women’s version in a D width far far better for me as it is softer React, lighter and has less Air Pod pressure.
Sam, Editor