Monday, April 17, 2023

Puma Fast-FWD NITRO Elite Multi Tester Review: Wild, Wild Short and Fast Fun!

Article by Jeremy Marie and Nils Scharff

Puma Fast-FWD NITRO Elite ($220/ 200)


Jeremy: After the Puma Fast-R (RTR Review), which was easily one the wildest looking shoe of ‘22, Puma strikes again with something even more disruptive with the long shown but just emerging Fast FWD, a specialized weapon to crack your PBs at 5k and 10k races, and burn your legs on the track during interval sessions.

Nils: Unlike most runners out there I had the pleasure to get my hands on the Puma Fast-R quite early last year. And while it wasn’t the pinnacle of performance for my running style it still has been a very solid option in the super shoe game. It especially stood out with one of the most comfortable uppers of all the carbon plated marathon racers and therefore became my go-to-shoe for long and hard efforts during my last two marathon blocks. Mileage wise it actually ranked No. 2 of all the shoes I’ve worn last year with 225 km. So the bar is set pretty high for its supposedly faster brother the FAST-FWD. Let's find out if Puma’s 5k/10k racer can keep up with its long distance sibling.


Incredibly dynamic ride, propulsive - Jeremy, Nils

Still well cushioned - Jeremy, Nils

Not so strange running during easy jogs between reps and Wup/Cdown - Jeremy

Outsole grip - Jeremy, Nils

Flexible for a carbon plated shoe - Jeremy

Comfy, feet hugging upper - Nils

Sings to me - Nils


Forces you to a specified stride to get all the benefits - midfoot strike best  - Jeremy, Nils

Very pointy toebox - Jeremy

Loose foothold especially at the heel - Jeremy

A very specialized shoe - is it worth it? - Jeremy

Missing an extra eyelet for a proper marathon knot - Nils

Not the most stable shoe due to imperfect heel lockdown - Nils


Sample Weights: men’s  7.7 oz  / 220 g (US10.5 - Jeremy) / 218 g (US 10.5 - Nils)

Stack Height: men’s 34mm heel / 26mm forefoot ( 8 mm drop spec) 

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jeremy: It’s difficult not to get wowed by the looks of the Fast FWD. Or more precisely, by its geometry. The undercut heel and forefoot make for a really extreme looking shoe, one that really makes you wonder how this UFO will do on the run.

The upper is made of a lightweight monomesh, highly unstructured, with some inlays of PUMA’s PWRTAPE in order to give some foot hold around the midfoot area. The material used in the upper is reminiscent of Adidas’s Celermesh, or the “plasticy” material used in the first Vaporfly Next%. 

It’s highly breathable, and given it’s also paper-thin, it conforms nicely to my foot shape. The large lace loops and cutouts also help a lot in achieving a nice hugging, “close to the foot” fit as it allows either for a very wide or more narrow opening over the instep.

The tongue is thin, but also slightly padded right where it needs to be on the top of the foot, covered an overlay. It’s not gusseted, and needs a bit of attention when putting the shoes on, but thanks to this specific material, it grips to the laces and does not move at all when running. 

The laces have a nice amount of stretch, which in combination with the upper quality, makes for a very adaptable fit. The laces loops on the upper are very grippy inside: the laces slide not that easily, but I think it’s for the best and Puma did this on purpose. Once dialed in, the fit will stay true, and the laces’ stretch will provide the necessary amount of give when needed.

The heel is completely unstructured, as in the Liberate Nitro for instance. Two small paddings around the Achille ensures some comfort, but that’s all. I don’t have a need for especially structured heels, nor heel counters, so that design fits me well. And the addition of PWRTAPE strips from the heel to the midfoot brings enough foot lockdown for me.

The same “shark fin” seen on the Fast-R is back. It probably serves the purpose of limiting heel movement. Despite around 300kms in the Fast-R, I’lm still not convinced of its usefulness…Let’s say it brings a touch of “family look” to the Fast FWD with the long-tempo intended Fast-R. It’s also still a pain when you like to put off your shoes using the other foot: the fin digs into your underfoot.

There’s one area that made me a bit more tepid at first: the forefoot. Its shape is very pointy and does not give the toes a lot of space to splay. It tapers quickly from the base of the metatarsals and can feel a bit constrictive - a sensation limited by the thin monomesh. We’ll see later how this feeling evolves while running, for different reasons.

I particularly love the small “running geek” touches that PUMA puts in the shoes. 

The lines to put the date and time of the PR achieved in their speedster,and the “ONLY RUN NGTV SPLITS” moniker printed inside the shoe, are all totally useless, so absolutely mandatory!

Of course, the first steps in  the Fast-Fwd are definitely strange. From the feeling of falling backwards when landing on heel, to the front chamfer that does the opposite…these shoes are made for running, and that just what they’ll do

Nils: I can’t add much to Jeremy’s very detailed explanations. The upper is very reminiscent of the FAST-R’s and uses the same plasticy mesh in combination with t PWRTAPE reinforcements. It’s seethrough and breathable enough to withstand all but the hottest conditions in which I would choose something more openly designed like the newest VF3.

The lockdown is fine, especially in the midfoot area where the mesh is supported by PWRTAPE reinforcements on both sides. Puma chose to implement those extra layers on the outside of the mesh medially, while they are implemented on the inside of the shoe laterally. I assume this differentiation has just cosmetic reasons and allows Puma to put the ogo on top of the lateral side of the shoe.

I was a bit skeptical about the tongue and lacing at first, as both seem to be a little rough around the edges and finicky to fine tune properly. Especially so the rubbery top layer of the tongue and the missing last eyelet which doesn’t allow for a proper marathon knot made me cautious. But once tied,  I couldn’t feel any heel slippage, and while not perfect,  the heel lockdown is OK despite the lack of a heel counter. Just be aware that the FAST-FWD doesn’t provide any element of stability in the heel area if you are someone who needs this kind of stuff (like me).

Size wise there’s nothing to report here. My US 10.5 fits TTS with a quite narrow forefoot - which I don’t mind for shorter distance races such as 5k and 10k which this shoe is designed for. 


Jeremy: The midsole uses PUMA’s excellent NItro Elite foam, a nitro-infused PEBA  foam that’s quite unique on the market. Among the other super-foams out there, I think it feels closer to Adidas LS Pro, but I’m not saying they feel similar. 

The stats let us think that the Fast-FWD has a 9mm drop, but considering the very special geometry, it cannot be described as such. The midfoot, or rear part of it, has the thicker layer of foam, and sandwiches the PWRPLATE carbon plate. The insole is also PEBA-based and makes for a very soft underfoot feeling, something that you might not expect of this savage-looking Fast-FWD.

There’s a large cut-out underfoot that shaves a lot of weight, but also allows for a great deal of foam deformation on impact, which gives the Fast-FWD a very bouncy feeling: my take on this is that this large cutout allows the Nitro Elite foam to deform and compress more than a standard midsole, and then expands even more as it has been more compressed.

Upfront at the metatarsal  base, there’s not much foam left underfoot due to the extreme chamfer: it clearly indicates that pure “front of the forefoot” striker might not benefit a lot from the shoe, as well as not getting a much of a cushioned ride. This drives how the Fast-FWD should be run, as is the heel area: the sweet spot is the midfoot, that’s where the most foam is, and where the geometry is built to guide you forward.

Interestingly enough, the shoe keeps some amount of flexibility. I can see this as a way to still benefit from a “strong foot” for short intervals, where toe push off is still effective and the runner does need to maximize his running economy, even for a 10K race.

Anyway, I’m happy to meet again with Puma’s top tier foam  as it’s one of the most exciting, living and “healthy” ones on the market, for me. 

Bouncy, squishy but still stable and not too soft, with lots of energy return…I’d really like to see how it feels in a more conventional shoe such as the Deviate Elite 2.

Nils: While my beloved FAST-R offered two different midsole foams in order to keep the heel stable during the later miles of a marathon, Puma decided to just go with the more responsive Nitro Elite in the FAST-FWD. This bio-based PEBA compound is very soft while still being responsive on impact and reminds me - similar to Jeremy - of a softer, not as quickly rebounding LS Pro. I really enjoy the sensation under foot in both shoes I have experienced so far. 

Besides the very advanced foam technology,  it is clearly the geometry of this niche racing option that makes it stand out. And especially so the very sharp front bevel that is different from any competitor and allows for very quick forefoot transitions. Nonetheless - I second Jeremy here that it also forces you to strike somewhere midfoot. If you are landing too far back the geometry almost slows you down, if you land too far forward you just don’t get the cushion and propulsion.


Jeremy:Tried and true Puma Grip compound almost totally covers the outsole, with a tiny nibs pattern. 

The grip is astounding on the track, even a wet track as I experienced during a short intervals session. On asphalt, the result is equally good, no matter the conditions.

I just have the feeling that the outsole is less durable than the previous incarnations of this compound, as I can see some very light wear after 30 kms.

Nils: One reason I have collected as many miles in my FAST-R like I did is the outstanding traction. Therefore, it has been my weapon of choice all winter for track sessions in wet conditions. PUMAGRIP is just one step ahead of all other outsole compounds you can find in any road shoe out there. Therefore I’m very happy to have the FAST-FWD as another option in the quiver to run my track sessions in all kinds of weather.


Jeremy: The ride of the FWD is clearly its main pro, but also its main drawback at the same time.

This is clearly a very specialized tool, far more than any other road running shoe in the market.

Despite its wild look, warmup miles and easy paces are not too weird with the Fast FWD. 

There’s just one thing to keep in mind: the Fast-FWD is intended for midfoot strikers to deliver its goods. Heel striking is uncomfortable and unstable, and the excessive chamfer at the back feels like there’s an extreme amount of flare. Not good.

Land too much farther from the midfoot, and you’ll be losing most part of the midsole, landing a bit flatter on a thinner layer of cushioning and the transition to the almost upright toe area won’t feel very natural at all, as you’ll be missing transition speed.

This speed of transition really appears when landing on the midfoot: the foam’s compression, the slight rocker profile under the midfoot, the plate that flexes a bit here really accelerates leg turnover in yet unseen proportions, for me.

I don’t have prior experience with track spikes, but PUMA confesses that this was a design goal for the Fast-FWD: make a road-runnable shoe that feels like spikes, yet cushioned.

During my first “serious” intervals session with the Fast-FWD, I experimented a bit with different foot strikes: from midfoot (more natural to me) to a more forefoot biased one. It was clear that landing on the midfoot -or just a little upfront- is by far the way the shoe wants you to run. 

You can then impulse more or less energy in your stride, but the more you push the shoe, the faster it responds. The acceleration in the turnover was clearly felt -I’ve almost never run that fast for short intervals (200-300-400 meters) even when 10 years younger. I was shocked by the efficiency of the design of the shoe. 

Even during a more tamed effort (a fast 2K brick run after a turbo trainer session), the shoe reacted equally great, as long as I was able to keep a clean form and footstrike.

And this is the real, main drawback with the FastFWD: it forces you to a specific footstrike to get the most out of it. Even if it’s totally runnable at an easier pace (recoveries, warmup /cooldowns), it’s not what it’s meant for. Nor longer that 10k effort - for which I think I’ll lean towards something like the VaporFly as I’m not sure I can benefit from the PUMA’s quality during 10k.

Nils: I received the FAST-FWD just at the beginning of my marathon taper. Not the most ideal scenario to test such a fast shoe one might think. But while the volume of my training decreased the intensity ramped up to another level and the FAST-FWD just came at the right time for those sharpening sessions. 

My very first run in this wild looking Puma shoe was a 7x1k at a pace somewhat in between 5 and 10k pace. And what should I say - it felt surprisingly effortless. Starting into my first rep I automatically accelerated to something faster than 5k pace without even thinking about it. I had to intentionally slow down all day during this workout and the heart rate was reasonably “low” even in the last rep (or lower than I expected). Obviously the taper might have started to kick in here and provide me some extra freshness, but I sincerely enjoyed the PUMA FAST-FWD!

Digging a little deeper into efficiency numbers and the workout data quickly made obvious what I already could feel during the workout: A quite low ground contact time hints at the quick transitions from mid- to forefoot while the balance of the ground contact between left and right foot was a little more off than usual. The reason for the latter is probably the quite unstable heel area which lacks a solid heel counter as well as the possibility to lace lock the shoes.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeremy: Want a shoe dedicated to track sessions, short runs, and getting the most out of your work for 5k/10k? The PUMA Fast FWD can be THE shoe you didn’t know you were expecting. 

The extreme geometry totally works, but it also totally forces you to a specific footstrike to get all its benefits. Foothold is really good despite the thin upper , and the shoe is stable. You just need to be a midfoot striker and keep that form for the duration of your session or race. Depart from it and you’ll find a totally different shoe underfoot, less stable, less effective with quirky transitions.

But as long as you can stay in “its zone”...Wow. You’re just encouraged to accelerate the cadence, give more energy during toe off, and feel pushed forward, while still getting protected from the ground thanks to the generous amount of foam under foot.

An extreme looking shoe, with a limited range of use, loads of fun…a very specialized tool. 

Does it still have a place nowadays ? It depends on your running habits. One thing is sure: the price is very high for a shoe that can be compared with track spikes, even modern ones. So the value of the shoe is tough here and will greatly vary based on your needs.

Jeremy’s Score: 8.9

Ride: 9.5 (50%) Fit 9 (30%) Value 6.5 (15%) Style 8.5 (5%)

Smiles score:


Nils: I’m blown away by the Puma FAST-FWD! This shoe is so much fun if you are using it for the right runs in the right way. It’s definitely a fast day shoe for track workouts, interval sessions on the roads and races up to the 10k distance. And while this already narrows it down quite a bit, you additionally have to be a midfoot striker with not many stability needs to fully benefit from the shoe’s geometry. But if that’s you, you will have a ton of fun with the FAST-FWD! 

This shoe really sings to me when I’m pushing the pace and the bouncy propulsion is second to none at those quick paces (around 5k). And while I agree with Jeremy about the value, at least you get one of the grippiest and most durable outsoles in this 200€ package.

Nils’ Score: 8.7

Ride: 10 (50%) Fit 7.5 (30%) Value 7 (15%) Style 8 (5%)

Smiles score:



Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

adidas adizero Takumi Sen 8 (RTR Review)

Jeremy: Also marketed as a short distance race, the Takumi Sen is far more versatile, as it can easily work for a HM without any issue for me. It can be a really nice daily interval trainer trainer , works great on the track, for long intervals, is definitely fun to run thanks to the bouncy LS Pro midsole, and also retains some flex using composite EnergyRods in place of full carbon ones.

It’s far from being as efficient and fast as the Puma, which I think are simply unbeatable at their game of “short intervals/runs”. Not being a dedicated short races runner, and exceeding 42 y/o now, I’ll lean towards the Takumi without hesitation, despite all the fun I have running in the Puma’s.

Nils: I fully agree with Jeremy - the Takumi is lighter, better cushioned, more stable, more versatile and therefore it has been my go-to racer for 5 and 10k the last year. But as I’m using it for nothing else, it is exactly in the Puma’s wheelhouse and the FWD just feels more fun and - dare I say it - more efficient for me and my running style. So there I will give it a go during my next race!

Nike Vaporfly Next % (RTR Review)

Jeremy: I’ll get to the same conclusion as previously with the Takumi Sen: the VF are more versatile, quicker and easier for longer efforts, even if you lose a part of the fun and speed that you undoubtedly get in the Fast-FWD.

Nils: We could do this comparison to any other super shoes and the result would always be quite the same. All of them get the nod for versatility and especially at the lighter end of the spectrum like the new VF3 are totally capable to race a fast 5K in them. But where the Puma gets the nod is a) traction and b) fun. So if you have money to spare go for both of them.

Puma Fast-R NITRO (RTR Review)

Jeremy: The Fast-R is the perfect complement to the FWD. One is perfect for longer runs, tempo runs, HM or even maybe a full marathon for those who do not need or want a high stack shoe . Paired with the FWD for shorter efforts or full-speed workouts, it makes a nice and versatile couple. Then, I always come back to the same point: the price point of the FWD is really high for such a narrow-usage shoe.

Nike Alphafly Next% (RTR Review)

Nils: I add this comparison as I think that those two shoes are quite similar despite aiming for completely different race distances. Both force you to strike in a certain way, both don’t work for anybody/everybody. But if you get along with their characteristics, the sensation is second to none over their respective field of application. Could you just buy one pair of VF and replace both? Yes! But you would miss out on a small boost of performance and fun on both sides of the distance spectrum.

Tester Profiles

Jeremy MARIE, French, 42y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90 kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120kms, Some shorter more mellow races (Saintelyon 45 kms, Ecotrail Paris 45 kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km - 4’30/km. He has an un-official marathon PR of 2h54 (solo) and 10K PR of 36’25. He does few timed road races.

Nils:  33 years old. Heilbronn, Germany.. My young running career just started 6 years ago with a company run which I joined together with some colleagues in 2017. I ran roughly 1000km in my first year, doubled and then tripled that number in 2018 and 2019. I've run 6 marathons to date with a marathon PR of 2:52.  My other PRs are 17:32 for the 5k, 36:15 for 10k and 1:17 for the half.

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