Thursday, January 07, 2021

Puma Running Deviate Nitro Review: The Cat is Out of the Bag!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Puma Deviate Nitro ($160)

The Deviate Nitro represents a state of the art return to performance running shoes by Puma, of course a long time athletic shoe pioneer, but one who in more recent years has leaned more “lifestyle”, basketball, motorsport, golf and Track and Field (Usain Bolt!). 

The Deviate Nitro is a thoroughly modern run trainer with a supercritical nitrogen infused Nitro Foam midsole, a front carbon composite plate, a clever rear TPU stabilizing plate, a very breathable engineered mesh upper and a PumaGrip outsole.

At 9.1 oz / 257g in a US 9 it weighs exactly the same as the New Balance FuelCell TC and clearly is also one of a new generation of plated and rocker based trainers which can race such as the TC, lighter Saucony Endorphin Speed, Nike Zoom Fly , Nike Tempo Next , Craft CTM Carbon Ultra  as well as ASICS Glideride. Comparisons to all of the above below. 

The plate makes the geometry completely rigid so the rocker geometry is key to its ride.  With a stack height of 32mm heel, 24 mm forefoot it is clearly also a trainer of the max cushion variety with the Nitro Foam on the softer and bouncy side  For a category which didn’t even exist 2 years ago how does this surprising new $160 entry releasing March 2021 and especially its foam and plate combination measure up? 


Pros:

Soft, highly cushioned, forgiving ride with bounce (foam), stability (rear plate), and smooth springy front propulsion rocker (carbon composite plate) 

Versatility from tempo runs of all lengths to recovery, a first for a carbon plated shoe for me.

Fairly priced at $160 for a technologically advanced shoe

Cons:

Wish for lighter weight to make them also a race super shoe. Maybe in a follow on version?.

Quite soft despite plates. A touch firmer midsole foam, especially upfront would make them more speed and race versatile.


Tester Profiles

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs. 


Stats

Weight: men's  9.1 oz / 257g 

   Sample: men’s 8.92 oz  / 253g (US8.5)

Stack Height: 28mm forefoot / 38mm heel (including sockliner), 10mm drop

Available March 2021


First Impressions, Fit, and Upper

Bright and pink with some toning down gray ( from the gusset tongue and front liner) showing through the very well ventilated mesh with the black Puma logo on the medial side and the “cat” perched over the toes the design projects a fast look that isn’t totally over the top.


The fit has been a perfect true to size for me with a variety of socks although with thin socks my narrower right foot’s heel hold is a bit loose. Given the unpadded relatively high far rear achilles hold I recommend quarter height or higher socks with the Deviate Nitro 

The upper is a very thin, very pliable mesh with its support coming from a stout inner gusset tongue construction with at the rear very substantial internal pads on each side of the ankle.  


The firm heel counter starts at the bottom of the internal ankle bumpers then angles rapidly up at the rear at the achilles up to the bottom of the fabric surrounding the collar. 

The rear achilles is un padded and presented no issues for me as the foot is locked down by the pads.

The lace eyelets structure is a surprisingly firm plastic piece with the tongue opening very broad. 

The eyelets structure sits off further to the sides than many shoes and it seems is a key component of structure at mid foot. I wish it was a touch softer as while no bother it is mildly noticed.

The thin flat laces sit over a thin fairly stiff tongue with just enough dense padding and overall tongue width to prevent any lace bite while also helping wrap the foot to lock it down in conjunction with the lace eyelets structure.

The toe box is completely unstructured with just a hint of toe bumper stiffening at the sides with the wrap up outsole (also with a tiny cat ) keeping the foot secure. This is an extremely secure toe box for such minimal structure, credit as usual to the rest of the hold with more room and better hold up front than the similar construction TC’s upper.


Midsole

Deviate Nitro has a 32mm heel / 24 mm forefoot stack. Up front we have a carbon composite plate while at the rear there is a neat gray protruding 10mm long stabilizing TPU plate. 

Nitro Foam is a supercritical EVA with nitrogen used  in the processing. Other “supercritical” foams called out as such and there may be others, include Skechers Hyperburst (CO2) , Brooks DNA Flash (also nitrogen infused)  in the Hyperion Elite 2, Hyperion Tempo and Catamount and Brandblack’s Jetlon as used in the door to trail Tarantula. All of these approaches infuse or use gasses into EVA seeking to to create more consistent resilient foams through the shape and characteristics of the internal bubbles 

To pressing (and on the road), understanding that the outsole and plates also play a huge role in both “softness” perceived and response, Nitro Foam here is slightly softer than Hyperburst as in the Ride 8 and for sure softer than Brooks DNA Flash and is slightly firmer than the FuelCell foam (exact processing and materials unknown)  in the FuelCell TC. It is clearly softer and bouncier than Fresh Foam and slightly bouncier and softer than Nike React but is denser feeling (and heavier)  and less springy than Zoom X. 

In terms of “bounce”, the Deviate Nitro is not quite as bouncy at the heel as the TC likely given the rear plate with the front plate more masked in harshness than TC's.   It is also, to my sense, bouncier and with more spring for sure than Skechers Ride 8 which suffers from not much of a rocker and stiffness up front. 

While there is more than an ounce weight difference in favor of the Endorphin Speed, the Deviate is softer, bouncier and has far less of a feeling that the heel is low or unstable at slower paces, again the rear Deviate plate  and also the copious Puma Grip rear rubber. The Endorphin Speed does feel faster with a more pronounced final toe off spring roll but it is firmer, less stable at the heel and less versatile as  it does not handle slower paces as well as Deviate for me. 

The Nike Tempo Next is slightly firmer and more responsive  from its giant air pod up front leading to a soft very front of the shoe for toe off whereas here we have a more traditional , if rocker rigid  , longer roll to toe off.

The front carbon composite plate does its propulsive job with admirable discretion well sandwiched between the soft Nitro Foam. I only sensed its presence at tempo paces at the end of two 7 mile progression runs as a touch of firmness under the area just back of my toes. Was this a function of faster paces towards the end of two runs or just fatigue, I don’t know. 

This said, compared to shoes such as the Endorphin Pro or even Speed, the front carbon composite plate implementation is pretty much any pace ready and easy on the foot. Carbon composite plates tend to be less harsh and stiff than purer carbon plates. The plate is not as “racing aggressive’ as some. It is more training friendly in feel. The only midsole (and outsole) combination which may top it for training if you prefer a softer more forgiving is the lighter Mach 4’s with its ProFly joined to rubberized foam or if you want a more traditional, flexible, slightly firmer riding trainer the New Balance 880v11, neither shoes with plates.

The Skechers Max Road 4+ with its “pillars”, no plates and lower drop is bouncier for sure but not as stable and notably lower and softer feeling at the heel and as with the Endorphin Speed favors faster paces for me.


Outsole

The outsole is PumaGrip with moderately firm thick rubber at the heel and slightly softer up front. Grip has been fine to date as has wear.


Ride

The ride strikes a near perfect balance of (near) carbon powered rocker geometry with softer bouncier cushion. The rear TPU plate stabilizes the softness even at slow paces, unlike say the TC, and provides an early, noticed,  well aligned kick forward to transition at all paces. No over soft heel to get past here if you end up back there. The front plate is present and effective but more gentle than most in feel with, in combination with the Nitro Foam, a pleasing combination of bounce and a long, well noticed spring forward from the plate. 

 

The ride, even with all the plates in the mix is decently soft and forgiving while dynamic. My preference would be for a slightly firmer more responsive ride as say the Tempo Next has but then it might slip the Deviate Nitro out of daily training all arounder over more closely to tempo shoe, 



Conclusions and Recommendations

Puma is out of the gate fast in 2021 with a thoroughly modern plated trainer (and for quite a few long racer)  that can handle a wide range of running needs and paces. At 9.1 oz / 257g it is on the lower end of weight for very well cushioned daily trainers with good rubber coverage. The upper is mostly truly superb ( light, very breathable, and totally supportive) but some may wish for more collar padding at the far rear. I was fine. 


Not “super shoe” race light or super charged in pricing at a very fair $160, Deviate Nitro offers runners seeking a dynamic, forgiving max cushioned ride with some carbon pop a plated versatile fast trainer which can handle just about any pace or distance. While I welcome the combination of softer bouncy Nitro Foam and springy stabilizing plate propulsion I wish the foam or the outsole was a tiny touch firmer at the forefoot to increase overall responsiveness at faster paces. 

Sam’s Score: 9.37 /10

Ride: 9.4 (50%) Fit: 9.4 (30%) Value: 9.5 (15%) Style: 8.5 (5%)


WATCH SAM'S INITIAL VIDEO REVIEW




Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)

Sam: At exactly the same weight, the FuelCell TC has a softer, less stable bouncier heel and a sharper more aggressive forward spring from its full carbon plate. It is not as useful at slower daily training paces as the Deviate although it is more dynamic and faster at quicker paces. The Deviate is more stable, is useful at a wider range of paces and has a more cushioned less harsh forefoot feel and due to its rear plate a more stable heel and one that is easier to move off of at all paces. As a long run shoe I would choose the Deviate over the TC.


Hoka Carbon X 1 (RTR Review)

Sam: I did not test the just releasing Carbon X 2 but did the X 1. The lower drop X 1 is flatter in feel and its carbon plate more aggressive in its push up on the toes. I prefer the ride of the Deviate and its more secure upper.


Hoka Mach 4 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Mach 4 has a broader platform front and back with a non plated softer feeling rocker with some flex. It is plenty stable with equivalent front stack but 3mm less at the heel. The ride is sumptuous in comfort and versatile with the upper a touch more dialed in overall. Mach 4 edges out the Deviate for me in this match up. 

 

Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)

Sam: Our RTR 2020 shoe of the year, the Pebax PB foam and nylon plated Speed is tough competition. At the same price it is a bit more than 1 oz lighter than Deviate. The Deviate handles a wider range of paces better for me especially in the slower ranges (9 min miles or slower) but is not quite as “speedy”. I do prefer the more relaxed longer flowing plate geometry of the Deviate and its more noticeable overall spring plus bounce but wish it weighed closer to the Speed.


Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review)

Sam: The radical Tempo Next is yet more cushioned than the Deviate with somewhat firmer less bouncy React at the heel and springy Zoom X further forward mostly masked by the giant air pod and plate. Noisy, highly responsive with noted rebound from the air pod the ride is far less “traditional” than Deviate’s. On the same 5 mile course a week apart the Tempo Next proved to be somewhat faster. For heavy duty tempo runs the Tempo Next, for more general training the Deviate.  


Nike Zoom Fly 

Sam: I never got along well with any version of the Zoom Fly. Harsh, unstable at the rear and a shoe that when tired and more back on the heels had me struggle. Clear preference for the bouncier, springier, and more stable Deviate. 


Craft CTM Carbon Ultra (RTR Initial Review)

Sam: The Carbon Ultra has a somewhat firmer EVA midsole with a touch of bounce (but notably less than Deviate) and a giant heel to toe drop and more stack. It weighs about 0.7 oz more It’s carbon plate is actually somewhat flexible leading to a similar (to Deviate) more friendly longer plate and rocker impulse. Its strong suit is door to trail and especially hilly dirt road use as it has moderate trails worthy lugged outsole and some flex for climbing.


ASICS Glide Ride (RTR Review)

About 1.5 oz heavier the Glideride is for sure a rocker based shoe and has a hardened EVA plate. It is more consistent and directed than the Deviate with a very prescriptive forward roll from heel landing to toe off from its Guide Sole tech. It is more stable but less bouncy and springy. If I don’t want to think about form I reach for the Glideride. If I want to have fun on the run and plan tempo paces the Deviate. 


ASICS Evoride 2 (RTR Review)

Sam:  About 0.5 oz lighter the Evoride has a rocker based rigid geometry as does the Deviate but with no plate. It is firmer and snappier but I would struggle to daily train in it as I easily could in the Deviate.


NB Fresh Foam 1080v11 (RTR Review)

Sam: While the Fresh Foam X in the 1080v11 is notably improved (softer with a touch more bounce),  and the plate less rocker ride of the 1080v11 is super fine it is not as dynamic or bouncy as the Deviate’s.  About 0.4 oz heavier the v11 is more cushioned but not by much. The rear achilles hold of the 1080v11 was found to be too shallow by some of our testers, but not me, and potentially those same testers may have similar issues with the Deviate’s achilles collar. In this match up I go with the plate fun and bouncier midsole of the Deviate. 


NB Fresh Foam 880v11 (RTR Review)

Sam: A traditional flexible high drop daily trainer the 880v11 at $130 does everything right from modern materials to an easy any pace ride. If you don’t want to go with a rigid plated shoe such as the Deviate it is a safe and fine daily training option


Skechers Ride 8 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Ride 8’s Hyperburst foam is similar in feel to Nitro Foam. It may be a touch more cushioned. Unfortunately, it has an inadequate rocker and lower drop of 6mm vs 8mm for its copious front cushion and is lumbering and duller and harder to toe off in comparison to the Deviate, especially at faster paces. At $45 less on the sticker it is a good value for a durable protective daily trainer but one with fewer smiles for me.


Skechers MaxRoad 4+ (RTR Review)

Sam: With tons of forefoot bounce from its similarly soft Hyperburst and pillared geometry, the Max Road 4+ is a super fast and pleasant shoe for me to run...fast. It’s lower drop, more minimal outsole and no plates, especially at the rear as the Deviate limits its versatility in comparison to the Deviate and especially for a runner who tends to heel strike at slower paces.

Products 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

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