Thursday, March 25, 2021

Puma Running Nitro Collection In Depth Comparative Multi Tester Reviews: Liberate Nitro, Velocity Nitro, Deviate Nitro

Article by Jérémy Marie et Alexandre Filitti 

The new Puma lineup (Liberate, Velocity and Deviate) offers quality and versatility, lively Nitro Foam, and all are at accessible prices

Editor's Note: Our French contributors Alex and Jeremy have done yeoman's work translating their original French article to English.


  • Jérémy:

Puma is far from being the most obvious choice amongst running shoes. Some sports fans will be able to tell you that during his reign over the sprinting world, Usain Bolt used Pumas spikes. Or that the brand offers very nice lifestyle sneakers. But I bet many people don't even know that they had some nice running shoes some years ago with the FAAS line. They were no nonsense shoes, efficient, with a nice fit, a stunning grip, all at a sensible price.

For 2021, the big cat shows its claws and delivers a complete lineup, from a lightweight trainer to a pure carbon-plated race machine, all using the new nitrogen infused Nitro Foam.

  • Alex:

Puma never really left the mainstream running scene, but its image and popularity were not high the past few years. It is true that if you think of Puma, it’s more likely to have in mind images of sneakers, sprints at the Olympics but not necessarily the names of running models. Puma chose the beginning of 2021 to give a new start to its collection, by introducing a “Nitro” lineup - a name that leaves little doubt about the promotion of the new Nitro foam infused in nitrogen. We are reviewing three models of the lineup, and are absent of this test the Eternity (stability) and the Deviate Elite (even more race-ready version of the Deviate Nitro, with a PEBA foam infused in nitrogen - shoes seen on the feet of Molly Seidel during her 1:09 half marathon on February 28).




  • A consistent lineup with clearly identified models.

  • Nice work on the visual aspect of the shoes.

  • Good quality at an affordable price

  • Pumagrip outsole offers loads of grip, whatever the terrain.

  • Very nice fit combining good foothold, room for toes and comfort.

  • The Liberate! Its weight, cushioning, fit...tremendously fun shoe, pure Nitro!

  • Affordable prices for the three models reviewed (not only affordable in absolute terms but also very competitive)

  • Outstanding outsole grip

  • Excellent surprise with the Liberate 

  • Remarkable upper on the Liberate (light, flexible, and resistant monomesh) and the Deviate (very light, more structured, comparable to the upper of the Pegasus Turbo 2)


  • Efficient as it is, the outsoles are quite slappy on the ground, noisy.

  • The sizes are all over the place, the shoes fit quite long (choose 1/2 size less)

  • On the Velocity, the addition of EVA at the heel shuts down the Nitro Foam.

  • Like Alex, too much padding around the heel collar on the Velocity leading to a bit of discomfort on the run, in an otherwise comfortable upper. And it soaks up water making an already heavy shoe even heavier.

  • Not a huge fan of the heel lockdown on the Velocity (too much oppressive padding) and Deviate (poor lockdown overall)

  • The sizes are awkward (my EU 45 is a US 11.5 with a length of...29.5cm) - even half a size down I think the shoes would be “long”

  • Nitro Foam does not fully express itself in the Velocity and Deviate

  • Penalizing weight for the Deviate which, in my opinion, is not a racing shoe

  • Same colorways across the lineup, not easy to differentiate shoes 


Liberate (10mm drop - 28mm heel / 18mm forefoot)

  • Jérémy: 208g / 7.3oz 44.5EU/11US

  • Alex: 212g 7.4oz  EU45/US11.5 - 

No noticeable weight difference between left/right shoes.

Velocity (10mm drop- 32mm heel 22mm forefoot)

  • Jérémy:  300g / 10.58oz 44.5EU / 11US  330g /11.6 oz after a rainy run.

  • Alex: 297g /10.47oz EU45/US11.5 

No noticeable weight difference between left/right shoes.

Deviate (8mm drop - 32mm heel / 24mm forefoot

  • Alex:  295g en EU45/US11.5 -No noticeable difference between left/right shoes.

Tester Profiles

Jeremy used to be mostly a trail runner, but just likes to run whatever the surface, adding more and more triathlon to his practice. He runs any-distance trails (from 30kms to 160kms) and is not really interested in chrono. his only road reference is 36'25 on 10kms, and he finished 6th and 5th at SaintExpress 2017 and Ecotrail de Paris 2018. He usually runs between 50-120kms per week, plus around 8-10h ride. He's 1m78 tall (3.28ft) and weights 154lbs.

Alex is a French duathlete (AG 25-29), training mainly on road and track surfaces. He occasionally hits the trails, mostly during his off-seasons. His running PRs are 16:25 (5K), 34:00 (10K) and 2h50 (42K, Berlin 2019), and his weekly average mileage goes from 30 miles in the off-season to 60 miles in buildup phases before peak duathlon events (50 to 80 kilometers).

First Impressions


  • Jérémy:

After having had the SLab Phantasm and Pulsar in hand, the weight of the Liberate would seem almost normal to me: it remains in the realm of the two top models from Salomon, weighing just over 200g in my size. It's impressive! 

Especially since the upper doesn't feel as thin or translucent as Salomon's road racer. Its color immediately caught my wife's eye, punctuating her reaction with an unequivocal "Wow that’s some gorgeous looking shoes!". it's a kind of fluorescent orange, like a construction cone, but slightly darkened by the lightness of the upper which suggests the support insert, darker, on the inside. 

The detail of the feline brand bands that start from the upper and continue on the midsole, the color of the upper repeated on the front of the shoe, the logo on the big toes, the reflecting inserts on the back, the heel cup having a specific design and an even different material ... The designers clearly went all-in on the Liberate to achieve, on this model, a clear success. Some may find the upper too complicated, heavy-looking, but the shoe has a fluid, light line and feel. Thanks to the transparency of the upper, you can see an internal sleeve, which extends on two loops of the laces above the instep, and to the very front end of the shoe. Finally, as usual, I easily  “fold” the shoe between my hands to gauge its flexibility. And from this point of view, the Liberate reminds me of my first love with “natural shoes”, the Kinvara 3. The shoe is soft, flexible.

  • Alex:

First hands on impressions of the Liberate point towards its lightness. To be honest, I found it even light when it still had its paper protection inside. Once the latter is removed, the weight is stunning. And indeed with a 212g weight in my size (about 6.49 oz / 184g in a US9, this is one of the lightest shoe I have run. (I can only think of the Next% as slightly lighter, obviously putting aside spikes and XC pairs). The other immediate reaction was to see how flexible the shoe is. You can twist it in all directions with your hands without any effort. 

Finally, the translucent and thin upper is intriguing.In terms of color, the red / orange - or “fluorescent salmon” as I heard at home - is attractive to the eye without being overdone (the official name of the color is “lava blast” - I have never seen lava up close but indeed the idea is perhaps closer to lava than to salmon or brick!).


  • Jérémy:

The color of the Velocity is really flashy compared to the Liberate. The mesh is much more dense and therefore the fluorescent orange color is more visible. Visibility will not be an issue with this one! 

In the hand, the sensations are the opposite of those experienced with the Liberate: the upper is thicker, almost too thick at the heel collar with generous padding, to say the least. Thanks to the heel insert, the specific construction of the midsole is easily noticed, with a layer of classic EVA (ProFoam Lite) topped by a layer of NitroFoam closer to the foot. The two reflective felines still roar on the front of the foot, and the Puma logo is on the external side of the shoe. The design is simpler and more streamlined here than on the Liberate. The shoe is around 300g in 44.5 9 (9.13 oz /258g in a US9 sample)  which makes it one of the heaviest multi-purpose trainers I've had in recent years but still for most well below the “magic” 10 oz barrier for daily trainers. 

In terms of flexibility, the shoe is the opposite of the Liberate: firm and rigid in flexion in the forefoot, it is just as much in the longitudinal axis. It reminds me of an Adidas Boston as it weighs just a touch more. It remains consistent with the target of this Velocity: a versatile trainer providing cushioning, stability and a snappy ride over the miles. 

  • Alex:

The Velocity has the brightest color of the three pairs in my opinion (the tones are very close though). But what is most obvious is the heel padding and the prominence of the TPU clip around the heel, in the middle of the midsole. 

We will come back to this later but this piece, whose usefulness is yet  to be demonstrated for me, really prominates the most on the Velocity. We also immediately notice the EVA insert under the midsole in the heel area. 

There is a clear lateral separation between the two layers (Nitro foam and EVA). Of course in  hand one  immediately indicates that the shoe is not in the same weight category as the Liberate and the scale confirmed it at 297g in my size. You can twist the shoe a bit at the front, but the flexion stops the closer you get to the EVA insert. Longitudinal torsion is possible but remains limited, quite normal for a “neutral” shoe with a reinforcement dedicated to stability.

Velocity on the left, Liberate on the right

Deviate  (RTR Multi Tester Review)

  • Alex:

What is most obvious on the Deviate is the rocker profile below the metatarsals. 

The weight is surprisingly similar to the Velocity at 9.1 oz / 257g in a US 9.

A few details however differentiate it from the other two models and give it a more elegant appearance: on one hand the laces, covered with small black dots, giving a visual aspect similar to the checkered flag (little geek observation: there is a similar checkered pattern and the same visual effect on the plastic ends of the laces of the Vaporfly Next% - at least on the original green color that I have), and on the other hand fluorescent orange details on the outsole.



  • Jérémy:

The upper of the Liberate is described as an ultralight breathable monomesh, quite similar to the upper of the Salomon Phantasm, but with a little more material, thickness, and giving the same impression of laminated film. It is very flexible, and doubled over a good part by an internal sleeve which ensures a very good support, but is not constraining. This sort of inner sock starts at the top of the midfoot and goes all the way to the toes. In addition to providing supple support for the foot, it also allows contact with a material softer than the outer shank. Sockless runners should be happy: I’ve tried a quick 10kms sockless and did not have an issue, safe from the slightly too long shoe (½ size less would be great). 

The tongue is thin, but provides sufficient comfort, and is stitched to the internal sleeve, which makes it very stable: it won’t turn or bend be it when putting the shoe on or while running. 

Inner sleeve with gusseted tongue, and the lateral insert connected to laces holes.

That’s a really nice implementation of gusseted tongue, very effective. Something I would have liked on the Phantasm. The laces have a little elasticity, which ensures a firm and consistent lacing, but have just enough give to allow for foot splay on longer runs. Most importantly, the laces stay tied, which hasn't always been the case for me on the Phantasm, or the Boston 8. 

The forefoot is comfortable, and my wide foot fits nicely in the toe box without any pressure point. The heel is made of a very fine mesh, with a slight cup on the lower part, and two pads that frame the achilles tendon. The support is excellent, my foot did not move despite the half-size up pair sent by Puma, so I did not have any friction concerns. The upper provides excellent foothold as well as comfortable space in the forefoot, while avoiding any sloppiness, and is packed with flexibility and lightness. 

Breathability is great too, and the mesh's TPU material does not absorb water, ensuring the foot dries quickly be it under high temperatures or during rainy runs. Quality-wise, nothing suggests that this model is sold at $110/110 €. 

  • Alex:

The upper of the Liberate is a monomesh which visually gives an impression of plastic or more precisely of vinyl. It is ultra soft, flexible and at first glance you might even think it is waterproof as the material seems non-porous. To the touch it is slightly grainy, or at least ridged, and you can feel these fine streaks when you run your finger over it. The upper is actually not as thin as it looks as it is lined from the inside. The liner also acts as a gusset for the tongue which is fully gusseted to the midsole from the inside. This contributes to the support of the foot and to the comfort thanks to the lining which wraps the foot from the inside and which is pleasant and malleable. Interesting point that said: the tongue is fully gusseted, but in addition two strips of fabric join the eyelets to the midsole from the inside: we therefore have a fully-gusseted tongue and two additional connectors to ensure optimal support and lockdown of the forefoot/midfoot. 

The volume available at the front is more than generous, awkward sizing helping, and the toe box is slightly stretchable thanks to the flexibility of the monomesh. The tongue is also very well made, thin and reasonably padded at the same time, it does not interfere at all with the top of the foot but is not too thin and doesn’t move around when running. Some shoes (Next%, Hyperion Tempo) had even thinner tongues that were going a bit all over the place when lacing, or worse when running. 

The upper end of the tongue is made from a thin strip of felt-style fabric. We can also find this same thin band around the heel counter. No real drawback here but the thin band in question is already deformed on my pair. The heel collar is very thin and has two bolsters on each side, which fit perfectly under the malleoli and offer a great heel lockdown.


  • Jérémy:

It’s an all different sensation with the Velocity, whose mono-mesh upper is much more dense and closed. It seems to be in more classic fabric. The internal construction is the same, with a gusseted tongue and an inner sleeve that starts mid-tongue towards the toes. However, the upper mesh being thicker, it makes the assembly more constrictive, heavier. And given the density of the mesh, one can wonder if keeping the same internal sleeve has real advantages on this model. 

This feeling of heaviness and over-construction is also found around the heel collar whose excessive padding looks like a dating shoe design. The support is just as good as on Liberate, from the heel, which has a more substantial heel counter, to the forefoot, but with too much material, which comes to be rather awkward during the run, especially around the collar. 

Another negative aspect of this construction is that all these reinforcements and foam paddings absorb water. Like lots of water. I saw it on an outing in the downpour, when I got home I could wring out the entire collar which was soaked in water. and at the same time the foot remains very wet during the run. And in addition to this, the shoe becomes considerably heavier. I weighed the Velocity after this rainy outing at 330g, which is 30g more than the shoe is dry, or 10% more weight.  After the almost flawless upper of the LIberate, the Velocity brought me back pretty hard to earth, despite the comfort of the shoe when putting it on.

  • Alex:

To start with the upper, the mesh gains a few micrometers in thickness compared to the Liberate. Surprisingly, the upper does not lose too much flexibility but still, it is much more “built” than on the Liberate. The toe box and overall volume are still generous. Breathability does not seem compromised to me either, so it makes you wonder what the real contribution of a thicker upper is if it actually fulfills its function about as well as the - lighter - one of the Liberate. The tongue also gains in thickness. Comfort is still present. The tongue is also fully-gusseted. Note, however, the disappearance of the two side strips, probably less useful with a slightly more rigid upper material. The real difference is in the heel counter and collar which are both much thicker, padded and stiffer than on the Liberate. For me, the main flaw of this shoe is the excessive support around the ankle because of the collar that is really too present even when oppressing. 


  • Alex:

The Deviate's upper stands out from the other two with a slightly less vibrant color. It is  a little speckled (or even zebra-ed) and is reminiscent of the upper of the Pegasus Turbo 2. The material is always flexible and unlike the other two pairs we can really distinguish here the different stitching layers of the mesh. The upper is really remarkable in use, really breathable (but also really porous), very light, and absolutely imperceptible when running. 

Visually the tongue is similar, fully-gusseted - minus the two side straps noticed on the Liberate. The heel counter and collar are also visually identical (to the Liberate) with the same bolsters under the malleoli. In reality the bolsters are thicker, and wider. The shoe is also much more structured and stiff all around the heel, compared to the Liberate. But then comes the big question of this test: how is it possible that with such a similar design, the lockdowns of the Liberate and the Deviate are so diametrically opposed? Because while the ankle support is excellent on the Liberate, it really isn’t top notch on the Deviate. A question of proportions in my opinion (too big bolsters? not placed optimally?), but the lockdown on the Deviate is really bad despite the common elements and more structure / firmness. Strange and disappointing to me.



  • Jérémy:

Made from a single layer of NitroFoam, the Liberate's midsole is flexible in both axes, without being too soft. The lack of an outsole in the midfoot helps a lot in this. 

As on the other models in the range, a heel clip is present ... A priori only to bring a reflective element to the rear, considering its short size. I have not felt its contribution save from that. By pressing on this layer of foam, you can really feel the density and behavior of the Nitro Foam. Soft at first glance, it seems to resist more and more, becoming denser, firmer, and returns a lot of energy, without ever appearing too firm or hard. 

On the run, this sensation is confirmed, with a shoe that remains comfortable on slower paces, and that gradually becomes more playful, gaining responsiveness and  becomes very dynamic when you pick up the pace. The generous amount of foam (28/18) ensures comfortable cushioning even at the end of the run, when tiredness comes into play, and  one starts to have a more clunky footstrike. 

The drop might seem high for a shoe close to “natural running” concepts, but that never bothered me. My stride seems no more different with this model than with a shoe with a lower drop. Combining substantial thickness and a flexible, dynamic cushioning, the Liberate's midsole fully lets the Nitro Foam express its qualities.

  • Alex:

Looking at the Liberate from the side, I quickly thought of Hoka's Rehi. Well I must admit that I checked a photo and in reality the shoes are really different but you will get the idea: a reasonable sole thickness (28mm / 18mm) and a one-piece midsole. The Rehi has always given me that visual impression of a slipper and I have a similar feeling here with the Liberate. 

I spent quite a bit of time just playing with the shoe in my hands, twisting it in all directions, pressing down on the Nitro foam with my fingers. And quite frankly the experience is pleasant: you can bend it, twist it, undulate it in all directions and the nitrogen-infused midsole is particularly fun to the touch. Less firm than ZoomX or than DNA flash, a little more lively than PWRRUN. It really reacts like a flexible and supple spring. 

All the characteristics encountered to the touch are present when running. The Nitro foam midsole is playful, feels natural, dynamic but still reasonably structured for such a soft and flexible construction. The front is not too close to the ground (18mm) but still leaves room for good ground feel. 

The 28mm stack height in the heel gives some stability and confidence. The hard TPU clip on the top of the sole (the smallest clip of the three pairs by the way), seems to me frankly of little use except for its reflective appearance. I doubt the midsole would lose in stability if removed.


  • Jérémy:

As with the upper, the switch to the Velocity dampens the excitement generated by the Liberate quite a bit. Like the Boston (and many other models), the Velocity combines homemade “super-foam” with a more traditional layer of an EVA derivative. Here, the EVA is closest to the ground, whereas we meet the reverse construction for example on the Boston where the Boost is glued to the outsole with EVA above. I don't know if it is the order of this stacking, or the mix of the two materials, but the contribution of the Nitro Foam seems clearly muted in the Velocity. The cushioning is noticeably firmer, the shoe less flexible. The TPU clip located at the heel, and which protrudes quite a bit, is certainly no stranger in this behavior. It certainly adds stability when landing on the heel, but I feel that it also hardens the contact with the road. The feeling when running is immediately less engaging, and retains a more classic vibe. Be careful, “more classic” does not mean bad. It just loses the wow-effect I had with the Liberate.

  • Alex:

I have resisted reading Jeremy's review up to this paragraph but I totally concur with him. I actually don't have see any real drawbacks with the Velocity's midsole. Everything is correct, everything is working fine, nothing is shocking. 

The midsole is obviously much less flexible because of some additional rubber on the outsole but also because the EVA insert that stiffens a good third at the rear of the shoe. 

The EVA insert occupies the bottom 50% of the heel thickness and decreases in thickness as you move towards the midfoot. Between the EVA insert and the nitro foam is the (very) rigid TPU clip. The shoe is actually more stable thanks to the EVA, but I don’t think necessarily due  to the TPU clip. The midsole has also a bit more of a rocker shape to it.

The efficiency, responsiveness and overall effect of the Nitro foam is way lower compared to the Liberate. Is it because the EVA insert? The outsole? Or the weight of the shoe? Probably a bit of all, but the midsole is a bit off.


  • Alex:

The Deviate compares to the Velocity midsole in terms of stiffness. The addition of a full-length carbon plate further stiffens the whole thing. No EVA insert but the TPU clip remains.

 Note that the midsole gets narrower in the midfoot. You cannot feel it in the fit nor when running which is good. Underneath the midsole is a 4cm by 1.5cm deep hole within which you can see the carbon plate. The weight is here again guilty for killing a bit the Nitro foam fun, which cannot express itself fully here. Too bad because in my opinion Nitro and carbon can go hand in hand very well on a lighter shoe.

The upcoming Deviate Elite is around 25% lighter - see Sam's first impressions video in English here). Note that the rocker geometry under the metatarsals is the most pronounced on this pair, which gives an even more emphasized feeling of propulsion.


Left to Right Outsoles: Liberate, Velocity, Deviate 



  • Jérémy:

The outsole can be cut into two parts, with a PumaGrip insert over a large part in the forefoot, and another insert in the heel. The material is a bit noisy, banging on the ground, but we will forgive this downside as the grip offered is nothing but excellent. Equipped with small, slightly textured lugs, I have never experienced the slightest skidding or stalling, whether on paths or on wet asphalt. 

The front part has flex grooves across the width of the shoe, two of which are deeper on the outer part, providing a little more flexibility on this fairly rigid outsole material, as well as a long deep longitudinal groove that completely goes through the outsole. This is a design that can be found in other brands (Salomon and its Sonic series) and allows for a smooth transition during the stride, and on the Liberate, helps with its excellent flexibility. In terms of durability, although it is still a little bit early to assess, I think this Puma Grip will go the distance: for the moment, even the micro-textures on the crampons are still new, without any trace of wear after about 50kms. This would be in line with the feedback on the old FAAS range, which had a reputation for excellent outsole durability. Having such an amount of effective rubber on such a light shoe is unexpected and is a great achievement for Puma! 

  • Alex:

At 212g in my size, I expected little rubber on the outsole. But no, instead Puma offers itself the luxury of covering between 50 and 60% of the outsole of the Liberate with its Puma Grip. Only the middle third is not covered but the forefoot is completely covered with Puma Grip, with a triangular pattern it, and the rear is covered as well - cut in three parts, one under the heel, and two more midfoot bands whose placement surprised me a little actually. They may for a touch for stability as outsole coverage in that area is often used for that purpose. Still, the grip is fabulous, dirt roads, gravel, rain, cobblestones, nothing surprised me. My stride pattern corresponds well to the rubber placed in the forefoot and even at the end of the session or on tight turns, the grip was fantastic. Wear so far  is absolutely imperceptible and I would predict great durability.


  • Jérémy:

In line with its vocation as a versatile trainer, the Velocity has an outsole that covers more of the shoe. We can clearly identify three sections, with a part in the forefoot, two inserts at the midfoot, and an insert in the heel. Each of these parts is decoupled, to add a bit of flexibility. 

There are also small lugs on the forefoot here, too, without the micro-texturing seen on the Liberate. However, this visual difference did not have an impact on the grip which remains just as excellent. Surely contributing to the reduced flexibility of the Velocity, the outsole has fewer flex grooves than on the Liberate. But what you lose in flexion, flexibility, you gain back in stability. The stiffer sole ensures a safe stride for those in need with more support,  and will also help when fatigue sets in on the long run.

As with the Liberate, the outsole screams quality and confidence.

  • Alex:

The Velocity is obviously much more covered with rubber and it would be coherent to list what is not covered (a band of 15cm by 3cm approximately under the arch of the foot), more than what is (you got it: the remainder of the outsole). 

Note the triangular micro-crampons pattern in the forefoot, which are the deepest across the lineup. The rear and side bands of rubber do not have the same pattern, but the thickness of the rubber remains similar. The grip is similar here, so really excellent. Thicker rubber combined with the EVA insert, the landing is obviously less lively, heavier but the rocker geometry guarantees a secure propulsion - yer more so given the great grip at the front. The Velocity's outsole is quality stuff, well-finished, reassuring and you get a lot of bang for your buck.


  • Alex:

I was surprised to discover an outsole as thick under the Deviate (if not even more) than under the Velocity. The Deviate is supposed to be a near race shoe and the Velocity a daily trainer. I expected to find a minimalist approach, race oriented, with minimal rubber coverage and it's almost the opposite. 

The rubber coverage is almost 60/70% of the outsole. There is really too much of it... Especially with an asset like the Puma Grip and its grip, one could think that Puma would have used it in moderation to ensure a good grip without penalizing the shoe in terms of weight. The front has a diamond pattern, and the rear (orange to distinguish the so-called race pair from the rest) is grooved in both axles. Once again the grip is incredible, the security and the relaxedness of the ride are real assets but what a shame to weigh down a pair like the Deviate with so much rubber.



  • Jérémy:

Composed of a single layer of Nitro foam, the Liberate seems to be the demonstration model of the qualities of this material. The feeling of energy return is stunning whether when pressing it, walking or running. The shoe is ultimately quite simple, without unnecessary layers, reinforcements, inserts, or carbon plate, and this simplicity makes the Liberate a very natural shoe to run in. I rediscovered the spirit of my first Kinvaras (the 3, but also the 5): a shoe without frills, which is flexible, which lets the foot and the stride express themselves, but here in an updated version, boosted by a modern midsole and a flawless grip. 

Whatever the pace, the cushioning is perfect, thin so as to not to be cut off the ground, but sufficient not to feel big impacts, even on longer runs. 

Depending on the pace, the feeling starts with softness and  flexibility during jogging, to something more dynamic when increasing the pace. The foot, perfectly held thanks to the internal sleeve, without any tightness, can fully play its role and "work" over the stride: a comfortable, cushioned foot landing , and a dynamic toe off boosted by the Nitro Foam

It's a playful, simple shoe, and a lot more versatile than its weight might suggest. At the time, I used my Kinvara to do everything from the cool recovery run to the track repeats, and I used the K5s on marathon in ... 2015 (my one and only, run “by chance” after winning a bib!). The Liberates will be just as versatile, and certainly more efficient in every area thanks to their midsole being more generous and incomparably livelier than a traditional EVA, and to a welcome stability when the exit lengthens. 

Far from being limited to shoes for short runs, they will be the perfect allies for all outings, at all speeds. I took them on a progressive run, from a easy pace to a 3km pace, including a few sprints, and they delivered, smoothly, whatever the intensity. If they are at the antipodes of the current racers (thick, rigid sole, carbon plate, rocker profile), these Liberates - excuse the pun - will liberate your stride and your foot. They provide very different sensations, but so much more pleasant, and fun. Surely that's worth the “4% loss of efficiency”, no? 

  • Alex:

The Liberate really makes room for the nitrogen-infused Nitro foam. You can feel it when you touch it, you can feel it when you walk and obviously you can feel it fully when you run. This foam asks only to live, to express itself and the Liberate gives the runner everything they need to enjoy that midsole. No rocker geometry, nor rigid insert, and therefore the midsole really accompanies the unwinding of the stride with great softness. Each support zone benefits from a fine cushion, total flexibility in the roll and a surprising dynamism. 

The shoe brings the runner's stride to life and vice versa. The stack height leaves room for good sensations without being too close to the ground and the 10mm drop guarantees a really smooth stride, soft on the posterior muscle chains. The stability is not lacking because although it is soft, the nitro foam does not collapse at all under pressure this also helped by the stout outsole coverage. 

This foam is truly a successful compromise between support and comfort on the one hand and flexibility / dynamism on the other. In comparison, Boost does not really have this flexibility for example (its density may be too high to allow it?). And the Liberate is really a perfect showcase for the Nitro foam which expresses itself wonderfully there. 

Presented as a “racing flat” dedicated to 5 / 10km on the road, the shoe is actually much more versatile and accompanies the runner on all kinds of paces. I tried it on recovery runs between 5:30/ km and 6:00/ km and where I really let myself go but I also pushed it under 3: 00min / km and I had no bad surprises whatsoever. 

Obviously the midsole lacks thickness compared to the new super shoes (Vaporfly et al.). But otherwise it is a pair that could accompany many runners in daily training, on fartlek sessions, or even intervals. And for 110 €, it really stands out from the competition. Hats off Puma!


  • Jérémy:

The fairly significant stiffness of the Velocity is quickly felt from the first strides. However, this does not interfere with the roll of the foot, thanks to the little grooves in the outsole and the slight rocker profile; my rather midfoot stride is not hindered at all. 

The feeling when running is pretty consistent regardless of the pace, as long as there is a minimum of dynamism and energy from the runner. 

It’s not an ideal shoe for cool recovery runs due to the firmness of the cushioning. Fans of traditional Hokas and soft cushioning, this shoe is not for you! It will take a bit of commitment to make the most of the qualities of this Velocity. This fits with the vocation of this model: a rather versatile shoe for daily training. It will not be suitable for cool recovery runs, where its stiffness and firm cushioning will be awkward or even uncomfortable for some. Likewise, its excellent qualities of dynamism and energy return (firm cushioning + fairly rigid flexion combo) will be somewhat extinguished by its weight for short interval sessions such as 200m or 400m. 

But safe from those extremes,  the Velocity will fill the bill by ensuring excellent dynamism and good propulsion when pushing. Qualities already seen on  the recent Adidas Boston, which I found magnified in the Puma model. 

Finally, it's a comparison that I often had in mind with the Velocity: they made me think of “Boston ++”: a little firmer, a little more cushioned, a little more dynamic, a little more comfortable, a little heavier. For a coming back to running shoes, there could be a worse comparison! 

Firm cushioning and stiffness give the Velocity excellent stability, especially combined with the fairly wide platform either in the heel or forefoot. With a few more miles, the EVA layer begins to “break-in” a bit, making the whole thing just a hair softer, and revealing a really nice shoe. 

I initially found this model to be really on the borderline of my likings in terms of stiffness, whereas I usually like shoes with rather firm cushioning. But that feeling faded after about thirty kilometers. The shoes keep their responsive, firm character, giving back what we throw at it: go with tired legs, a lazy stride or the desire to jog very gently to recover, and you will endure the shoe, its rigidity, its firmness. Conversely, during an active endurance session and beyond, the shoe will wake up and perfectly help a dynamic and swift stride, with a nice toe-off, including on long outings where I found that muscle fatigue did not set in until very late. Maybe that's where the Nitro Foam layer comes in, whose character is clearly muted when running, but provides good ground impact filtration to save muscles when the runs get longer. And this is also certainly a consequence of the excellent stability of the shoe. 

A very positive point about this model is that at no time did I feel like I was running with a 300g shoe (or 330g under the downpour!). My other heaviest road shoe weighs 50g less, but that difference was not noticeable. The good weight distribution over the length of the shoe, and the firmness of the midsole are certainly part of what I felt. 

In the end, the layer of Nitro Foam that is so engaging on the Liberate is a little extinguished by the EVA part and the additional rigidity and weight. You won’t  find the same feeling of rebound, "fun" that you’ll feel on the Liberate. The overall feeling is more akin to classic running shoe sensations. The addition of Puma's super-foam is more discreet, and mainly comes into play for comfort over the long runs, allowing the Velocity to be a good choice for long races with pace, with a welcome stability….and excellent, versatile everyday trainer.

  • Alex:

I'll say it again here, but the excessive padding around the heel was the first sensation when putting on the shoe. Two things: the feeling of having a very firm contact around the ankle and the restriction in terms of freedom of movement. Not that the foot is stiffened either but clearly the range of action of the ankle is constrained by the excessive padding. That being said, the feeling of security is present and this is confirmed with the first strides in the pair. 

The shoe does not move, the support is straightforward and the stride is really accompanied by a shoe that impinges a little on the sensations but still really allows you to play on a large range of paces without any problem. 

The rigidity removes the playful and supple, almost airy feel of the Liberate. Weight isn't much of an issue but because of the EVA insert, the Nitro foam can't deliver its full potential. Surprisingly, I found that even with a sole of 32mm at the rear and 22mm at the front, the ground feel is good. Cushioning is firm without being hard, and the stiffness is only horizontal and the midsole has some give to it vertically for cushion and rebound. 

I really had in mind the Boston from Adidas a lot while running it. A more built and more stable Boston but something in common in terms of sensations.The Boston would actually rather be halfway between the Velocity and the Liberate, with a little less flexibility in terms of midsole. The 10mm drop is comforting and totally spares the legs which are not tired after a run in the Velocity. I say it again here but the grip is phenomenal. 


  • Alex:

Even when walking I found the lockdown to be special.. With just about every pair of carbon-plated “super shoes” I've tried, the first thing on my mind during the first strides was that “wow” effect. None of that here. My first sensation was telling myself that I was either going to lose the shoe or twist my ankle. And I'll say it again: my Puma size is probably half a size down from my normal, but that's the case for all the pairs in the test, which didn't pose the same problem. So I retightened my laces using a runners knot but the effect was not sufficient to take away this unpleasant feeling of insufficient and worrying heel lockdown. 

Let's move on to the ride itself: the platform is stable and rigid (despite the absence of an EVA insert) and is reminiscent of the Hyperion Elite 2. The carbon plate is not immediately noticeable and you have to accelerate a bit to understand that it does indeed bring a little pep to the nitro foam (also not fully exploited here because of the weight of the shoe). 

The rocker geometry provides a more natural toe off phase, and encourages “pushing” on the plate. The ride is also reassuring and stable here, far from some unstable marathon shoes. 

Apart from the lockdown, the Deviate did not surprise me neither in the positives nor in terms of drawbacks. It behaves like a tempo day shoe but is too heavy and for me useful at speeds faster than “marathon pace” (and at everyone's, I'm not talking about mine in particular). The PumaGrip grips very well, but that's no longer a surprise. What bothers me is to market it as a race day or near race day shoe because this is not the case. The dynamism is lacking, the liveliness and the propulsion is too weak to even hope to be in the category of hyper shoes (and even less to compete with them). But for that Puma has the Deviate Elite!



  • Jérémy:

This shoe is an excellent surprise. Light, playful, comfortable, stable, catchy, flexible, dynamic ... all at an unbeatable price. Like Alex, it’s my “crush” of the brand's new feline range, with a magnificent implementation of their new Nitro Foam. With a high level upper, nice foothold, a design that works well and provides a present but almost invisible support to the foot thanks to the internal gusset, and you have an excellent shoe that deserves to be known and is so reasonably priced.

  • Alex:

A lot of good things about this model which combines lightness, support, dynamism and offers a flexible, lively but always controlled ride experience. The nitrogen infused Nitro foam is in the spotlight and fully expresses itself. Puma has developed a really nice, playful but also supportive foam and it is on the Liberate that it shows its real strengths. Phenomenal grip and the really competitive price at 110 €. My favorite in the lineup!


  • Jérémy:

The serious, almost austere counterpart to the Liberate, but one which delivers. This is how Velocity feels to me. After the torrent of praise for the Liberate, it might sound negative, but it's far from a bad shoe. It will be a good shoe for everyday training and those who prefer a little less flexibility, a little firmer cushioning, and more consistency. 

This is the good all-rounder of the range, without rings and bells, much like a Brooks Launch, or Saucony Ride. By reworking the excessive padding around the collar a bit, and adjusting the EVA / Nitro ratio (or changing the order of these two layers?), Puma could have a real hit for the future Velocity, which today is a little weighed down by weight in the category of versatile trainers.

  • Alex:

The Velocity ticks all the boxes for a reliable, high-quality, stable, and versatile daily trainer. It doesn't shine in any aspect, but for its price it's not what you expect either. It will delight many runners looking for a pair that gets the job done, reassures and makes you smile because it will not disappoint you day after day. The grip is excellent and the main downside is the heel collar. The EVA insert stifles the Nitro foam and more joyful combinations (less EVA, better distribution, more nitro, different outsole design or a mixture of these options) will make the pair a more playful and more unique pair in future iterations. 


  • Alex:

The Deviate Nitro is well built, the upper is remarkably worked and breathable. The ride is stable, consistent and coherent. The grip is almost perfect and the rubber on the outsole is almost excessive. The Deviate is also affordable for a pair with a carbon blade. But the weight, lack of aggressiveness and really poor lockdown don't make it a competitive pair but just a good training pair.

Scores: Ride: (50%) Fit: (30%) Value: (15%) Style: (5%)

Liberate  8.9/10 for Jérémy and 8.8/10 for Alex 

Velocity 7.7/10 for Jérémy and 7.8/10 for Alex

Deviate 6.3/10 for Alex 

14 Comparisons 

List of all RTR articles and reviews: HERE

Adidas Boston (RTR Review English)

Alex: (Boston 6) Really a lot in common especially in terms of ride, fit and overall experience. The Boston sits somewhere between the Velocity and the Liberate. Between the three I would probably take the Liberate, which is more playful, with a more ventilated and less constructed upper, and a lower price. On the other hand, the Boston takes precedence over the Velocity for me because it is less firm and lighter.

Jérémy: (Boston 8): a shoe that I thought about when trying the Liberates ... then the Velocity. Like Alex, I find that they are placed between the two Puma models. Firmer and stiffer than the Liberates, they will be more flexible and softer than the Velocity, and especially lighter. I’d take the Liberate without hesitation, whatever the race format. 

Adidas SL20 (RTR Review English)

Jérémy: A good comparison to the Velocity, at a similar price, with similar qualities. The SL20's fit is better, and simpler. The qualities of cushioning and dynamism are similar too, but the SL20 is much lighter, albeit a little less cushioned. The Adidas model has my preference. 

Kinvara (3,5, 10): 

Jérémy: Despite the differences between these models, the spirit is the same: fairly simple shoes (less and less with the years on the Kinvaras side...), flexible, versatile, standard bearer of natural running from its beginnings. The Liberate is lighter, more cushioned, more lively, will undoubtedly have a better lifespan (difficult to do worse than the Kinvara 3 and 5….), has better grip… in short will be more effective whatever the use. And yet the Kinvara are a model that has a special place in my “Footwear Hall of Fame”. A big scratch from the feline! 

Hoka Mach 4: (RTR Review English)

Alex: The Hoka Mach 4 can be compared to the Velocity as both have a “super foam” and an layer of EVA in their construction. But the design of the Mach 4 is much more successful, and the Profly plus rubberized EVA outsole/midsole  is the opposite of the somewhat extinct Nitro foam on the Velocity. The Mach 4 offers a superior cushioning and a more comprehensive running experience, including a better rocker shape and the ability to go longer distances, thanks in particular to being nearly 50g less in weight than the Velocity. The Mach 4 volume in the forefoot is good, lockdown is decent but not exceptional - it's still better than the Velocity where lockdown is quite oppressive. Mach 4 for me, especially given the price tag is “only” 20 € more. 

Saucony Endorphin Speed   (RTR Review English)

Alex: A bit of an unfair comparison here because the Speed has a nylon plate, and only the Deviate is a plated shoe in this review (and it’s a carbon composite plate). The Speed has a narrower platform width and won't necessarily suit runners looking for stability, at least not on longer runs. On the other hand, it is the most versatile of all these pairs, but also the most expensive (180 €). 

Surprisingly, I give the Liberate a lot of credit in this comparison, because despite the lack of a plate and lower versatility, it holds up well thanks to its weight and price. If we compare the two “plates” pairs only, the Speed plays in a different category compared to the Deviate even though the Speed is not marketed as a race shoe (but it can definitely fulfill this function, contrary to the Deviate). The Deviate is only better for its upper and outsole grip. For everything else I go with the Speed. 

Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 (RTR Review English)

Alex: I will only compare the Brooks with the Deviate. These are probably the two closest carbon plated shoes on the market as both are extremely stable, with similar construction and geometry (thin, ventilated upper and comfortable volume / rocker geometry, more pronounced on the Deviate that said). The two don't have that classic explosivity associated with carbon plates, but the Elite 2 is still more lively and the DNAflash is better exploited. A little less rigid, more propulsive and lighter - but also much more expensive (+ 90 €). I choose the Elite 2 even though less choosy runners will do well with the Deviate.

Nike Vaporfly Next%

Alex: Comparison with the Deviate only here as well. The Vaporfly is the ultimate racing shoe: light, explosive, excellent cushioning for long distances, superior running economy. The lockdown, quite poor in the Vaporfly, still remains better than in the Deviate. The Deviate's grip is better, but at the cost of added weight. The Vaporfly is more expensive (+ 115 €) but the price difference is largely offset by the performance offered. 

Nike Alphafly Next%

Alex: Comparison with the Deviate only here too. Similar to the Vaporfly, only the grip of the Deviate competes with its counterpart feature on the Alphafly. While the upper could have been discussed with the Vaporfly, here the Atomknit of the Alphafly is my preference over the - very good - upper of the Deviate (because more elastic, more accommodating, very breathable). The ZoomX obviously plays a major role and it contributes a lot to the lively performance of the shoe. The lockdown of the Alphafly is really superior and the stability is still decent despite a higher stack height in the heel (+ 8mm). The price of the Alphafly is much higher (+ 140 €) but again for the superiority of the performance on race day, there’s not much to be debated.

Nike Zoom Fly 3

Alex: Much like the Endorphin Speed, here we can compare the Zoom Fly 3 to all pairs in the range. The ZF3 has a carbon plate but its weight and behavior do not necessarily show it. The Liberate, closer to the ground, lighter, more natural, really doesn't have to be ashamed of anything in this comparison. ZF3's React is firmer and less forgiving than Nitro foam. The ZF3 is also a little narrower in  fit but also in terms of platform width which removes stability (the Velocity scores a point here). More dynamic than the Deviate, they are both close for training use. The Puma range is superior in terms of grip (and durability).

Nike React Infinity 2  (RTR Review Francais)  (RTR Review-English

Alex: Intuitively this is a pair to be compared with the Velocity. The Liberate is too light for the benchmark to hold. The comfort is perhaps a little better on the Infinity v2 because there is no discomfort associated with the oppressive heel collar of the Velocity. In terms of stability, the Velocity offers a more natural and less forced approach: the TPU clip is unobtrusive while the “magic” clip of the Infinity (supposed to protect the knees ...) can be noticed by some runners negatively by some running. Both are rather firm but the Nitro foam is less on the hard side of firmness and therefore advantage to the Velocity, which is more versatile and less expensive (-40 €).

New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon 1 (RTR Review English)

Alex: I had the same kind of good surprise with the Beacon 1 as with the Liberate. A flexible, light, dynamic experience. The upper of the Beacon v1 was much more constructed and less ventilated. Less roomy in the toe box too. Durability, grip, and stability are all three better on the Liberate. In terms of price, the Beacon 1 was sold for an extra 10€. Liberate for me, but if you smiled with the Beacon 1, you might like the Liberate too!

Nike Pegasus Turbo 1 (RTR Review English)

Alex: The Turbo 1 could play in the Liberate and Velocity fields. More built and heavier than the Liberate, it also had a surprisingly pleasant ride but a more rigid  one and one more suitable for long efforts. The cushioning was firmer but also preserved the legs well. The Velocity shares a double sole (React + ZoomX on the Turbo) but a less successful approach because the EVA is too grouped under the heel and kills the Nitro foam while on the Turbo the two foams responded well and the whole thing was more consistent (and gave more room for the ZoomX to express itself). The Turbo had a thick and well maintaining heel collar and counter (but without obstruction). The lockdown was good but the upper was less breathable than on the Velocity. The grip was not the best, so Puma scores a point here even though overall I'm more on the Turbo side (except if you want to have more fun and then go for the Liberate ). Pricewise the Turbo 1 is considerably more expensive (180€ the pair).

Nike Pegasus Turbo 2 (RTR Review-English)

Alex: The Turbo 2 kept most good things encountered on the Turbo 1 and just replaced the upper (with one similar to the Deviate’s), but also removed some material and support around the ankle. Turbo 2 all the way for me and for the same reasons (even if in this comparison, the Liberate marks a point in terms of heel lockdown).

Brooks Hyperion Tempo  (RTR Review-English)

Alex: Like the Beacon 1, the Hyperion Tempo gave me a big smile in July 2020 when I got it. The comparison with the Liberate keeps all its promises. The upper of the Liberate is better done. The Hyperion Tempo lacks grip and something like a bit of PumaGrip would do it a huge service. The DNAflash is a little firmer, also dynamic and therefore the midsoles are quite close, with a little more of a rocker effect on the Tempo. More rigid, the midsole of the Tempo is also more stable at higher speeds. I lean for the Tempo, a little more versatile, but we are on the verge of a tie when taking into account the price (+40 € for the Tempo).

Nitro Collection available from Puma HERE

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review from Puma EU. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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