Article by Sam Winebaum
New lighter dynamic midsole foams, carefully designed outsoles placing coverage just where it is needed, and lighter thinner yet full supportive new upper constructions have ushered in a generation of light maximally cushioned shoes from Nike, Saucony, Hoka, and New Balance. While all sharing a max cushion ride they differ in personality and potential uses.
Making the cut: Hoka One One Mach 4 ($130), Nike ZoomX Invincible Run ($180), New Balance Fresh Foam More v3 ($165), and Saucony Axon ($100)
While there are for sure many others in the max cushion category I only selected those that are at 10 oz / 283g or lighter for this article and all have a full stack height of at least 35mm at the heel
Hoka One One Mach 4 (RTR Review)
Best for all around daily training.
Most stable and consistent at all paces.
“Firmest”, a relative term here as all are softer and the most responsive.
Lightest at 8 oz / 227g US9
Most performance oriented secure upper.
The Mach 4 weighs 8.0 oz in a US9 with an approximate full stack height of 35/30 and relatively speaking it is the lowest stack height of the group. It has a softer ProFly compressed EVA midsole top layer with below a thick layer of firmer rubberized foam which also serves as the outsole. “Outsole” wear in extended testing has proved excellent.
Smooth and consistent at all paces with plenty of forgiving cushion, its swallow tail heel stabilizes landings extremely well and rocks you forward and away with a combination of rocker and front flexibility. It has a moderately responsive ride, and is the most responsive of the group not in the sense of bouncy bouncy as say the Invincible is but with a more measured rebound. The Clifton also meets the specs for stack height but I much prefer the Mach 4.
Nike ZoomX Invincible Run (RTR Review)
Bounciest, softest and most dynamic.
Most fun to run.
Highest drop at 9mm
Most expensive at $180.
The Invincible has a giant broad single layer of 100% softt, bouncy and energetic Nike ZoomX foam as found in the Next% but with no plates, plastic pieces or even the customary lasting board below the sock liner. You ride on soft springy ZoomX that’s it.
At 39/30 stack height, it is the highest drop shoe here at 9mm with also has the most heel cushion by height on the broadest heel platform. Even the outsole is thin to maximize the energetic bounce of the midsole.
It has a broad landing platform, a sculpted midfoot to move you toward and a soft and flexible toe off. All fun sensations it is stable enough for me but the least stable of the group. At 9.8 oz / 278g it is the 2nd heaviest.
New Balance Fresh Foam More v3 (RTR Review)
Most cushioned run feel.
Easy to run at all paces.
Almost as soft as Invincible, more stable and not quite as bouncy
Heaviest at 10 oz / 283g
Best upper and best for broader feet.
The More v3, even with its approximate 36/32 full stack height, has an inherently stable platform with an excellent geometry combining rocker and a long flex that for me favors either slow paces or faster paces when you can really activate the softer and bouncy Fresh Foam X upfront.
The outsole unlike prior versions is now zonal, reducing the weight and finally playing well with the Fresh Foam and also finally gives the big platform some long flex even considering the big forefoot stack. While not as stable as Mach 4 it is the second most stable of the contenders,
Saucony Axon (RTR Review)
Budget friendly and least expensive at $100
Most cushioned by stack height
Mellow easy going vibe
Only rigid rocker of the group and an effective one.
Least polished upper
Lowest drop at 4mm and second lowest weight at 9.3 oz.
With the same stack height as the popular Endorphin Shift, the Axon softens the ride, mellows the stability elements and brings the price down to $100, the least expensive max cushion shoe we have seen so far. At 38/34 it is the highest stack lowest drop shoe here. It is the most massively cushioned and has a mellow comfortable ride best suited to moderate pace daily training and recovery.
It has a rigid rocker profile with an effective final toe off roll. Its upper is a simple mesh with not quite the polish and hold of the others, and while fine, its stability due to the giant stack and upper isn’t quite up to the level of the Mach 4 or the Fresh Foam More v3 but is more solid than Invincible’s.
- Mach 4: My favorite of the 4 due to its versatility, lightest weight, stable platform and responsive yet forgiving cushion.
- Invincible Run: So much fun to run but lacks the versatility and stability of Mach 4
- More v3: Steady, all around, max cushioned performance with a touch of bounce
- Axon: Admirable pricing. Solid mellow ride.
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