Thursday, January 07, 2021

Puma Running Deviate Nitro Review: The Cat is Out of the Bag! 16 Comparisons.

Article by Sam Winebaum, Derek Li, Michael Ellenberger and Joost De Raeymaeker

Puma Deviate Nitro ($150)

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 $150 entry releasing March 2021 and especially its foam and plate combination measure up? 


Pros

Sam: 

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 $150 for a technologically advanced shoe.


Derek/Joost: 

Natural-feeling ride with flexible carbon plate. 

Relatively soft, bouncy feel.

Excellent outsole grip.


Michael: Compelling, fast but not out-of-control ride; versatility; doesn’t feel its weight at all

Outsole durability and traction


Cons

Sam: Wish for lighter weight to make them also a race super shoe. 

          Quite soft despite plates. A touch firmer midsole foam, especially upfront would make

          them more speed and race versatile      

Derek: Heel fit is a bit tricky to get right.

Joost:  Heel locking pads sit a little too low for me. 

           Feels a bit bulky, clunky around tight corners

Michael: Lockdown, lockdown, lockdown.


Tester Profiles

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, with an interest in patent and intellectual property law. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 


Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.


Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his M50 age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results. His Strava is here:https://www.strava.com/athletes/reimaka


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 48 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 (US9)

   Samples: men’s 8.92 oz  / 253g (US8.5), 269g / 9.49oz (US9.5)

    Right 257g / 9,07 oz, Left 264g / 9,31 oz (US9.5)

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

Derek: measured stack including sockliner: 39/31, 8mm drop

Available March 2021. $150


First Impressions, Fit, and Upper

Sam: Bright and pink with some toning down gray showing through the very well ventilated mesh (from the gusset tongue and front liner) 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 heel counter which starts at the bottom of the internal ankle bumpers then angles rapidly up at the rear at  the achilles 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. This said I am not a big fan of flappy top collars as here as I like a consistent hold all the way to the top of a collar and tied into the lacing.


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 midly 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 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.

Derek: My first impression was that this version of crimson is even more eye-catching than I expected. The hues have an almost glowing quality to them and the rear heel reflective strip also works really well, especially at night. 

My second impression was that the upper looked very similar to the Nike Pegasus Turbo 2, a shoe which didn’t fit me particularly well because of excessive heel slippage from a shallow and poorly molded heel. Step in feel was fairly comfortable and the fit is definitely true to size. For me, the optimal fit is achieved with low-medium thickness socks. The last is not particularly wide in this one, and the fit is more of a performance fit for me, with overall volume and length perhaps closest to the New Balance RC Elite. Walking around, there is definite squish and compression to the foam, but the overall feel is that of stability, with almost no forefoot rocker feel to speak of.



Sam has done an extensive description of the upper so I won’t rehash the technical details. It is very breathable, and after going through quite a lot of puddles with the shoe, I can safely attest that the shoe breathes incredibly well and drains away water pretty well. 



I did struggle a little with the fit of the heel. The medial and lateral cushions do a decent job of holding the heel in the shoe, but there is a distinct lack of support where one would normally expect something to rest against the Achilles tendon. Instead, for me, especially in thin socks, there is a bit of an air pocket there. The result is I sometimes feel the pointy bit of laminate from the tip of the fabric poking and rubbing at my Achilles. I sometimes get this issue with uppers using a laminated edge (think Nike Zoom Fly SP, Nike Vaporfly 4% OG, Brooks Hyperion Elite 2) and during that initial phase before the laminate softens up, it can be a problem for me. I did have a bit of that with the Deviate Nitro on my first run in it, and only on my left foot (which is because of a quirk in my stride where I point my toes down more in my left foot than my right and it is when I point my toes down that the edge of the laminate is directed into the skin over my Achilles tendon. As with many high stack shoes, you do want to achieve good lockdown with the upper, to enhance stability, and to that end I think the choice of laces here was particularly good. 

They are flat, textured, non-stretchy laces that hold tension very well as you lace them. The laces are not particularly long, so if you plan to use the last eyelet for a heel lock lacing method, you may find the laces are a little on the short side. Overall, the upper is decent and works adequately for me from a trainer perspective, though I would have preferred a more fuss-free experience with the heel collar. 


Michael: My first impression - well, credit to my buddy Noah, who instantly spotted it when I showed him the shoe - was that the upper looks straight off the Nike Pegasus Turbo 2. 

Indeed, the uppers look similar in build (look at that heel scoop and and feel light patterning to the forefoot!). Unfortunately, while I took little to no issue with the PT2 upper, the Deviate Nitro’s upper was its weakest element in my testing. Specifically, I had a difficult time maintaining a good heel lock, despite trying 3 or 4 types of socks, and messing with the lacing before each run. I think the shoe needs a little more height to the heel, or a little deeper of a footbed, because the lacing - while it tightens the shoe around your foot - does not seem to have a significant impact on heel lock.


There are positives, of course. Besides the aesthetics - which I find striking - the Deviate Nitro is breathable (at least on a muggy treadmill session) and yet warm (on a 17° morning run), even with regular old (non-thick-wool) running socks. As Derek points out, the reflectivity is great, and the laces themselves are easy to tie, stay locked, and a proper length (hey, a lot of shoes get this wrong!).

Joost: This is my first Puma in over four decades. Apart from my first ever pair of spikes at the age of 10 or so, I never ran in Pumas again. Those spikes were gorgeous, though, and I remember after getting them and having to wait a couple of days to go to the track, I would just look at them. Fast forward to now and when I opened the box that came in. A fantastic looking pair of Puma shoes were looking at me, tempting me to go out for a run, which I couldn’t do because of some hamstring niggles that made me break my running streak in order to get well for what late 2021 hopefully brings in terms of racing.


So, on to trying on the shoes and walking around a bit in them, equally anxious to be able to take them out for a decent spin. This time around, I could resist the temptation of just looking at them, what with having a couple of young daughters who require constant attention when I’m around.

Step in is made easy, because of the wide lace opening at the top. The tongue is gusseted and together with the fine structured laces, holds the midfoot securely in place. The forefoot has enough room to accommodate my wide feet and the Deviate Nitro fits true to size. 

The heel is held in place by lateral and medial pods that are a bit too prominent and sit too low for comfort for me. I didn’t have any heel slippage issues with either thin or thick socks.


After two weeks off, I finally took them out for a couple of runs, although out of precaution for my still painful hamstring, I didn’t push them faster than 3:55min/km (6:18min/mile). Read on to find more.


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 silver colored stabilizing TPU plate. 

Nitro Foam is a supercritical EVA with nitrogen used  in the processing. Other “supercritical” foams, or those called out as such, include Skechers Hyperburst (CO2) , Brooks DNA Flash (also nitrogen infused)  and Brandblack’s Jetlon as used in the door to trail Tarantula (RTR Review). 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”, and here the plate and outsole play a big role, 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 for sure  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 toe off spring but 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 its implementation is pretty much any pace ready and easy on the foot. This is not to say the plate is “racing aggressive’. 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.

Derek: One thing that really stands out for me with the midsole is how little the plate curves through the midfoot and forefoot. We know from data that the rocker mechanism relies heavily on the curvature of the plate, and flat plates or non-S shaped plates don’t work as well. Hence it is interesting that Puma opted to go with a relatively flat plate, and one that is disconnected from the heel plate at that. Adidas is the only other brand that has chosen to go with a disconnected plate but for them at least, the forefoot uses curved carbon rods so it would make sense that it would be technically challenging to make it continuous with a flat heel plate. Regardless, Puma has taken this direction, and the (really) good is that they’ve been astute enough to make the plate rather flexible. 

The resultant effect is not so much of a curved rocker feel that you often get with other plated shoes with curved plates, but more of a bend and snap response. As your toes bend (ever so slightly) through the metatarsophalangeal joints, you can feel the plate loading up on energy before springing back into shape and propelling you forward as you toe off. Well that’s one way to use a plate. I see this used in a number of other carbon shoes like the Xtep 160X from China and perhaps more recently, the Hoka Carbon X 2 which uses a noticeably more forgiving plate than its predecessor. 

The key benefit I see from using a softer, more flexible plate is allowing the shoe to retain a more natural transition through the forefoot over a larger range of paces; there is no doubt that shoes with an aggressively rigid rocker feel somewhat awkward at slower paces, and here the Puma Deviate makes the slower paces more palatable. Of course, the downside is you don’t quite get that roll-through that you have become accustomed to from a rigid forefoot rocker at the faster paces. 

Ultimately, it is clear that Puma has chosen to focus on the slow-moderate paces for this shoe, and that’s fine. It’s actually quite good at its preferred pace range; not all carbon trainers have to be great at fast paces and if you do need a trainer for speed work, well, there are now numerous offers on the table from the various brands. Puma has chosen to fill the void left behind by all the speed-focused trainers and focus instead on making slower miles feel easy, and cushioned. The offerings are much fewer here, and almost non-existent if the proviso includes an embedded carbon plate. 

In terms of cushioning, I think the Deviate Nitro does better than most. The nitrogen-infused foam is not of the soft squishy variety. It is springy but in a stable sort of way. The stack surprised me. I measured it at a whopping 39/31mm stack which is near identical to the Adidas Adios Pro. It surprised me because it doesn’t actually feel that tall when you put it on, and indeed when you start running in it. It feels like a firmer more stable NB FuelCell TC to me. Overall, it has good vibration dampening, which is what you would expect from a maximalist trainer, but it is not a marshmallow, so if you are looking for something to sink your feet into, this isn’t the shoe for you. It would be best for people who like racing in the Saucony Endorphin Pro/Speed range but find the Shift a little too firm/heavy, or The Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 but want something just a little softer and more forgiving as a trainer than the Hyperion Tempo. 

Michael: Sometimes we review shoes, and have a takeaway like, “this shoe has a carbon plate, but you’d never know it!” Not so here. While the plate isn’t particularly harsh (like, say, the ASICS MetaRacer) or incredibly subtle (like the Adidas Adizero Pro), it’s there, and you’ll probably feel it, if nothing else because - despite the poppy midsole, to be described below, there is some stiffness to this midsole. As Derek astutely points out, the flattened profile of the plate means you don’t quite feel that roll that’s prevalent in a traditional plated shoe - instead, there’s a gentle springing that I found to work as well at 8:00 pace as 5:00 pace.


Let’s talk about midsole foam. Puma’s blend of nitrogen-infused foam is not particularly squishy (it’s considerably denser than the FuelCell foam on the FuelCell TC, which is probably this shoe’s closest rival), but it’s not
hard, either. It’s what I’d call “poppy” - springy, without that mush. Now, sometimes mush is nice - I absolutely love the FuelCell TC - but what Puma has created here, with a more stable midsole foam anchoring a flatter, less aggressive plate, does make this shoe seem very accessible to all sorts of runners - perhaps even more so than the FuelCell TC.

Joost: The details have been meticulously covered by Sam, Derek and Michael, so I will concentrate on how the midsole felt to me.

When trying to bend the shoe, there’s the distinct impression of stiffness, but nothing like the rigidity of some of the more firm plates out there. It’s almost like the plate and the copious amount of underfoot rubber is there mainly to balance out the softness of the thick slab of nitrogen infused foam. This thick a layer of soft foam would make for a very unstable shoe otherwise. The perceived softness is there at any pace, but at the same time the Deviate is springy and not mushy in any way, as Michael also stated. This is a plated shoe that lends itself to running at any pace from recovery to tempo and if it was a tad lighter, maybe even suitable for a race.

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.

Derek: The outsole is perhaps the single most impressive aspect of the shoe for me. The grip on this beast is incredibly good, one of the best I’ve ever experienced in a road shoe. My first run in it was wet, wet, wet with raindrops moving diagonally across my field of vision and water just streaming across the road and I remember changing direction across this section of polished tiles in the park and worrying about grip and… nothing, no slippage whatsoever. 


The lateral heel rubber seems to be very firm, likely your usual carbon-injected rubber, but the rest of the rubber isn’t particularly soft like blown rubber so likely somewhere in between, maybe with some other additive to increase durability.  I don’t have enough miles to comment on durability, but at 35 miles, the outsole looks essentially brand new, which is good enough for me. 



Michael: With Derek, I’m genuinely surprised at how damn good this outsole is. On ice and snow (including some seriously tricky corners with simultaneous hidden  ice and slush), I had no issues whatsoever in the Deviate Nitro. In fact, despite its weight, the outsole makes this shoe one I’d actually consider racing in for cold, winter races (if we were allowed to do that!). My old go-to in that category was the Skechers GoRun Speed TRL Hyper - I think Puma has matched that level of outsole grip here, and on a road shoe!

Joost: The outsole has excellent grip and is the kind that almost feels like it sticks to the ground when new. There’s quite a lot of it, so it should take a long time before you wear through it.


Ride

Sam: 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 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 long spring forward from the plate. 

 

The ride even with all the plates in the mix is decently soft and forgiving while also 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, 

Derek: My first run in it out of the box, I knocked out an 18 miler in it. While the ride isn’t mind-blowing (which would take some doing after the superstars I’ve managed to test in 2020), it certainly feels cushioned and smooth enough over a range of paces from 8:00/mile down to ~6:40/mile pace. It is very stable, on par with the likes of the Saucony Endorphin Shift and Nike Tempo Next% which is about as stable as you would want in a neutral shoe before it starts to interfere with your stride. I did note that the balls of my feet got a little sore toward the end of the run. This is something I get with certain carbon-plated trainers like the Saucony Endorphin Speed or Nike Zoom Fly 3. I think it has to do with fatigue and some altered gait mechanics making load the balls of the feet a little excessive. It only ever happens on my right foot (which for me is my non-dominant leg) and I don’t see it happening consistently enough to attribute to anything in particular about the shoe, except that perhaps my fatigued form tends to favor a 10mm drop at the end of a long run.

I do note that the shoe does feel a little bit bottom heavy, and it probably has to do with the very light upper pairing with a substantial platform. At slow-moderate paces, it’s hardly noticeable, but if I ramp up the pace, then I start to feel the weight of the shoe, and I struggled to hold it at anything around 6:20/mile or faster. It is at this faster pace that I feel the shoe would lose out to those with forefoot rockers. Again, there are horses for courses and perhaps that’s just not the focus of this shoe. My take on the ride is that it is a smooth natural feeling one, with the slower paces being equally comfortable as the moderate paces. It’s fine for faster paces, but you probably want something more rockered or lighter for those.  

Michael: “Pleasant surprise” comes to mind immediately. I mean - who would have thought Puma would have one of the smoother riding, more accessible carbon-plated trainers of the generation? Certainly not me, but Puma has really created a compelling product here, and one that deserves to be sold into run speciality and similar. 

Let’s talk specifics. Derek’s comment about the Deviate Nitro coming across bottom heavy is spot on. There’s a lot of rubber - a benefit, as previously discussed - but with such a light upper and packed carbon plate, the sensation is that the shoe “tugs” towards the ground. I didn’t find this to be an issue, necessarily - but it’s noticeable. 

On the run, I found the Puma to smartly balance cushion and speed. Now, these two traits are also expertly balanced in the FuelCell TC (more on that below), so there’s a lot of direct comparisons here, but I think Puma holds its own - the Deviate Nitro is almost more comfortable at slow/easy/medium paces than it is at tempo and faster. Some of this is because of the aforementioned bottom heaviness, but I think the inert stability of the trainer also comes into play. A lot of faster, more racing-oriented options really are wobbly - they have curved carbon plates and minimal outsoles that aren’t necessarily conducive to easy or even medium running, and I think Puma has done right to focus on that.

Finally, let’s talk about the toe-off sensation. With a nitrogen-infused midsole and carbon-fiber plate, you’d expect some decent pop, and you’ve got it here. I think the overall sensation is muted slightly by that heavier platform and thick outsole rubber, but it doesn’t inhibit the enjoyment of the ride - just mitigates it slightly. This isn’t a racing shoe (with the caveat of my winter-race-scenario, described above) but it is a pretty fast shoe, and one that really serves my sort of training (fast when I feel it, slow when I don’t) well.

Joost: I have to agree with Derek and Michael. The Deviate feels a little bottom heavy. Since I’m nursing a hamstring injury, I’m really sensitive to this at the moment. However, unlike Derek, I could definitely feel a rocker sensation in the forefoot. I land right on it and while doing so, rear heavy sensation was also noticeable for me. Like Derek, I also had some issues with the balls of one of my feet hurting, but only after 30 minutes or so. It came on quite suddenly and I had to do some insole surgery and cut away an area under the second metatarsal of my second toe to stop irritating it on my second run. After that, it felt fine. I don’t know if I can ascribe it to the two weeks off running and then going at it again, or to some combination of the plate, altered run mechanics and some other factor in the geometry of the shoe. Otherwise, the Deviate has a pleasant ride at about any pace I could muster, although at race pace, I would probably go with a lighter or more responsive shoe.

One other minor niggle I had with the Deviate Nitro is that it felt kind of “clunky” going around tight corners. This is probably due to the big slab of outsole rubber, making it fairly inflexible laterally.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: 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 $150, 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. 

With Molly Seidel recently signed by Puma and no sooner that done running a 69:15 half in what appears to be a race variant we can’t wait for one comes next from the Cat!

Sam’s Score: 9.37 /10

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


Derek: The Puma Deviate Nitro is a great first attempt at a carbon plated trainer. I’ll repeat that. Trainer. It will do an excellent job at carrying you through the meat of your marathon training, especially the long runs and easy runs. Sure, you might want something a little racier for the speed and race-specific workouts, but for everything else, this shoe gets the job done. Given its pricepoint, I see it as a direct competitor to the NB FuelCell TC, Nike Tempo Next%, ASICS GlideRide and Saucony Endorphin Shift. Some of these models are heavier, some cost 20% more. I list these because they all do great at the middle miles and long runs. Why choose the Puma Deviate Nitro over the others? Let’s look at it this way. 


You want stablity; Endorphin Shift and Tempo Next are your alternatives, Shift is heavier and bulkier and Tempo costs $40 more. Deviate nitro sits in the middle and does a little of what the other two shoes do, at a compromised price and compromised level of cushioning and speed right in the middle. 


You want cushioning. Max cushioning. Now it comes down to GlideRide, Shift and Tempo. Shift is the firmest, while Tempo has the highest stack. Glideride is looking pretty good. Soft, unique rocker, high cushioning. That may well be the best choice, but it’s not the snappiest of shoes. The Deviate Nitro has one of the highest stack heights on the market and is at least snappier than the Glideride, and is significantly lighter. So now you have options.


Where the Deviate Nitro loses out is in terms of speed “potential”, for me. A stiffer plate helps this, but then you lose that natural transition at slower paces. So in terms of speed potential, it will fall behind the Tempo and NB TC because they have design elements prioritizing faster paces over easy paces. I’d say the Deviate Nitro is still a faster feeling shoe than the GlideRide or the Endorphin Shift though.


Finally, we look at outsole performance. The Deviate Nitro blows the rest away in this category, so if you tend to run on a combination of surfaces, maybe including grass, some light trails, then the Deviate Nitro should shoot up to the top of the pile for you.


So why is my score so low? Simply put, I prefer a shoe that is more towards the aggressive end of the rocker spectrum, even in a daily trainer. The Nike Tempo Next% is my daily trainer of choice, and I would use it every day if I didn’t think it would become a crutch. So from that perspective the Deviate Nitro lacks snap for me, and that’s why the ride score gets pulled down.

Derek’s Score: 9.09 / 10

Ride 9.2 (50%) Fit 9 (30%) Value 8.8 (15%) Style 9.4 (5%) 

Michael: Stating this is the best Puma trainer ever (and probably the best Puma running shoe ever, besides the Harambee spike - RIP) isn’t that high of praise, but I genuinely hope runners don’t roll their eyes at Deviate Nitro. It’s biggest downfall for me is, unfortunately, it’s upper and imperfect lockdown - but it overcomes that largely with a dynamic and enjoyable ride, a stable platform, a really rugged outsole, and just an overall fun and enjoyable performance. I would never have pinned it at 9+ ounces on-foot, and the ride really is a compelling one. 

Michael’s Score: 9.3/10

Joost: The Deviate Nitro is a great effort by Puma and worth a try if you’re looking for a plated shoe that doesn’t feel too stiff, has great bounce and feels equally well at slower and faster paces. The upper in the heel areaneeds a little bit of work. Unlike Derek and Michael, I didn’t have any slippage issues, but the pads are a bit uncomfortable, being positioned a little too low. Overall, good value and I recommend you give them a try.

Joost’s Score: 8.5/10


16 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 nearly 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.


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes, though I get away with US9 for the TC with thin socks. The TC has a more bouncy, untamed character than Deviate. Beyond that, they actually feel pretty similar underfoot when you are running at a moderate clip, but I do feel that the curved plate of the TC does propel you forward a little more. I actually feel that the TC plate isn’t very stiff either but the curvature helps with a more rockered feel to the ride. There is no question the Deviate is more stable, and has the more secure-feeling upper. That said, overall I prefer the bouncier ride of the TC as a trainer even if it feels a little odd at slow paces.


Michael: The TC is bouncier and slightly softer underfoot, but also more aggressive - it’s certainly more of a racing/training hybrid than the Puma’s trainer-with-carbon positioning. Both are good, but I like the FuelCell TC more, owing largely to its superior upper and generally more aggressive stance. Runners who want a little boost but prefer a stable platform should take the Puma.


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.


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Carbon X 1 has a very aggressive rocker and low drop, making it great for fast running but it is awkward at easy paces. I don’t quite see the Deviate as a direct competitor to this shoe, as the Deviate is more of a pure trainer for me. Nevertheless, the Deviate is a more versatile shoe for me, and is definitely more cushioned. 


Hoka Carbon X 2 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Carbon X 2 is surprisingly versatile, as it is a softer and slightly bouncier ride than Carbon X 1. More importantly, the plate is more flexible and therefore it is much more pleasant at easy paces. That makes the CX2 a very versatile shoe. It still isn’t my first choice for easy runs though. It’s a difficult choice here for me. I like the CX2 more than I expected to after CX1. The fit and ride and the pace range of the CX2 are pretty good. In the end it boils down to cushioning for me. The Deviate is noticeably more cushioned, and so as a trainer the Deviate is better for me. If I were looking for a do-it-all shoe including speed work, then the CX2 would be preferable.


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. 

 

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Both are great cushioned shoes. The Mach 4 is more bouncy but the higher stack of the Deviate really comes through in longer runs. Mach 4 is the more versatile shoe for its lighter weight and higher pace range. I prefer the Deviate for long runs, but Mach 4 is better for everything else. 


Michael: Two fast and stable options, I prefer the Hoka only because the upper on the Puma is so lackluster (and often irritating). But really, both are great. I think the outsole of the Puma will make it slightly more durable, but more miles on each will tell the full story.


Joost: The Mach 4 feels softer and more luxurious. It’s still the daily trainer to beat for me, but the Deviate might be my choice for longer runs.

 

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.


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Endorphin Speed was my shoe of the year for the first half of 2020, but its one flaw is outsole grip on wet surfaces, while the Deviate has one of the best outsoles i have ever tried. Overall, the Endorphin Speed is still the more versatile and better fitting shoe for me, though again for long runs, the Deviate’s higher stack makes it the more forgiving option.  


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.  


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Tempo Next% is the better shoe at pretty much everything here. I’d happily pony up the extra $40 for the Tempo.


Nike Zoom Fly

Sam: I never got along well with any version of the Zoom Fly. Harsh, unstable 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. 


Derek: The different Zoom Fly versions all have their own pluses and minuses. I think the Deviate Nitro is closest to the ZF3, but in a higher stack package. I find the ZF’s to be in general more versatile shoes, though none of them work particularly well for slow paces. I think if you consider easy runs important, the Deviate Nitro would be the better shoe. If you want something that handles the long tempos well, then the ZF would be the better option.


Michael: I was a huge fan of the Zoom Fly Flyknit - perhaps my favorite trainer of 2019 - and prefer it to the Puma Deviate Nitro. The surrounding shoes - the Zoom Fly 1 and 3 - I only have limited miles in, but neither quite did it for me. One thing the Nike is not is stable, so those who don’t love that racing-flat-like platform of the Fly will absolutely prefer the Puma.


Craft CTM Carbon Ultra (RTR Review)

Sam: The Carbon Ultra has a firmer EVA midsole with a touch of bounce 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 dirt road use as it has moderate trails worthy lugged outsole. 


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 rear to toe off. 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 the Deviate. 


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Glideride is an excellent cushioned soft and rockered trainer. The weight prevents it from being a truly exceptional all-rounded shoe. Overall I prefer the unique ride of the GlideRide but the Deviate Nitro is the more versatile option. As a do-it-all, the Deviate is the better option.


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),  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 plated fun and bouncier midsole of the Deviate. 


Michael: Both have frustratingly flawed upper, but both manage to break out of their respective “classes” and work for a lot of different runs. The v11 comes across as softer on my foot, and overall more cushioned, but it’s certainly not as fun or dynamic on the go. This is a hard choice, in my book - very much old guard vs. new guard - but I think I prefer the Puma.


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, fine as the Deviate is it is a safe and fine daily training option.


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The 880v11 is an excellent all-rounder for me. The Deviate Nitro does all those things, at a higher stacker, and a lower weight. There is no question the Deviate is the better shoe in terms of ride. 


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.


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. GRR8 is not as lively as its brethren in the Hyperburst family. I think the Deviate is the overall better shoe, being smoother, livelier and more cushioned. Of course, the Deviate is significantly more pricey


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.


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I really enjoy running in the MR4+ and if it had a higher heel-toe drop it would be a near perfect trainer for me. In the end, both are comparable in the ride department. Both could improve in terms of quality of the upper in small ways. With the extra stack, the Deviate wins out but only just.

Saucony Endorphin Shift  (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Shift has an excellent rocker geometry but is a little on the firmer side for such a high stack shoe. The Deviate is softer and lighter but lacks that rockered profile. Overall, I think the Deviate has the more natural and versatile ride, and is the better shoe all-round if you can fit it well.  


Michael: Both terrific shoes, but I keep coming back to the Endorphin Shift as the pinnacle of what a “big” trainer can be. It manages the same semi-aggressive, go-fast-when-you-want-to platform as the Puma without the carbon plating, and feels more supportive and forgiving to boot. Take the Saucony.

The Deviate Nitro releases March 2021

Tested samples were provided at no charge for testing purposes. No other compensation was received for this review from Puma. The opinions herein are entirely 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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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does the shoe compare to the xtep 160x? I find the xtep to be a very good daily trainer with it's med-high stack height & softer pebax foam. Its softer & more flexible than the E speed, sounds like the deviate nitro is about the same but with 2-3oz heavier. Def like to hear the review teams thoughts. THANKS!

Derek Li said...

The Xtep foam is softer and the plate is overall more flexible, but the main difference is the drop. Xtep 160x has a near zero drop while the Puma is a 8mm drop. Puma is not as stiff as E Speed but still stiffer than the Xtep 160X. In general I think the Puma makes for a better daily trainer simply because it as a lot of stack and cushioning, and it transitions a lot smoother than the Xtep. However, I’m not speaking as a forefoot striker. I know a few runners who love the Xtep and they are all forefoot strikers. Forefoot strikers tend not to like rockered shoes like the Puma/E Speed as much because the forefoot rocker makes the shoe feel quite harsh for them.