Tuesday, July 11, 2023

10 Super Cushion Plated 2023 Road Trainer Comparison Review: adidas, ASICS, Hoka, New Balance, Nike, Puma, Saucony, and Skechers

 Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor

In the article I will compare ten 2023  “Super Trainers” with their key highlights, strengths and weaknesses (few actually) in brief with links to our multi tester reviews. All but one have plates of various kinds.

There  is quite a bumper crop of them including  New Balance FuelCell SC Trainer v2 (RTR Review), Saucony KInvara Pro (RTR Review), Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 (RTR Review), Hoka Mach X (RTR Review), adidas Adizero Boston 12 (RTR Review), ASICS Superblast (RTR Review), adidas Prime X Strung (RTR Review), Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review), Skechers Ride 11 (RTR Review) and Puma Deviate Nitro 2 (RTR Review)

The last few years has seen the emergence of not only “super” plated race shoes but super trainers as well. Generally somewhat heavier and more practical, as well as lower priced than full on racers, these shoes can be characterized by their high stack heights and here we’ll start at 36mm at the heel. 

The emergence of supercritical foams of various types as at least a layer in the midsole mix as well as lighter yet supportive uppers and more minimal outsoles on some keeps the weights of all very reasonable. None of the shoes in this round up exceed 10 oz in a US9, quite remarkable as only a few years ago run of the mill lower stack trainers weighed more. To stabilize these giant platforms and provide propulsion carbon, carbon infused plastics, and nylon are being used in all the shoes here except the unplated ASICS Superblast.

Below is a table of stats and specs for all the shoes covered in the article. Bold for each line are “highest and lowest” for each category.

New Balance FuelCell SC Trainer v2 (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Moderate paces to fast daily training

Key Highlights

  • Softest overall foam and ride at the heel

  • Lowest drop than all but Mach X at 5mm

  • Easy paces friendly

Dropping in stack height and weight from v1 to a still big 40mm heel 34mm forefoot the v2 checks in at 9.52 oz / 270g. It features NB’s non supercritical but low density soft FuelCell foam and a carbon Energy Arc which bows out from the large central cavity to deliver notably soft landings at slower paces and decisive rebound at faster ones. A bit less aggressive than v1 it now is a more general and more stable trainer with a very pleasant soft ride and generous fit.  


Saucony KInvara Pro (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Moderate pace daily training, long runs

Key Highlights

  • Highly refined, smooth and consistent riding

  • Most slow pace and heel strike friendly but can also move along

  • Very well integrated ¾ length carbon plate

The Kinvara Pro in my testing was the most balanced and smoothest running of the group but not the “fastest” although it can move along. Its 3/4 length carbon plate gives plenty of well protected front impulse without making the rear over rigid while its broad heel, mostly a EVA/TPU blend below the PWRRUN Pb supercritical top layer, delivers plenty of stability and a touch of rubbery bounce.  With no outsole, its PWRRUN outsole grade midsole allows it to “feel” more flexible and ground conforming than the others with a touch of long flex. Releases August 2023. $180

Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Faster daily training and racing

Key Highlights:

  • Energetic, soft, fast and versatile. 

  • Best cross over to racing of the group for me.

  • Lightest and also lowest stack but still plenty

One of my big favorites of 2022, the Speed 3 has a softer single density supercritical foam and a flexible nylon plate which towards the heel has some stabilizing elements. Somewhat lower stack at 36/28, it shines at faster daily training paces and can race as I have with it. Its upper is comfortable but a bit “relaxed” for its speed purposes.  $170 Available now..

Hoka Mach X (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Faster daily training, tempo and racing

Key Highlights

  • Most “traditional” riding yet also lowest drop at 5mm 

  • Very stable, responsive, quite firm rear of shoe with snappy flexible plating up front.

The new Mach X features a dual density midsole with PEBA foam under foot and Hoka’s customary quite firm compression molded EVA below and concentrated at the heel. It has a PEBAX plastic plate and is more flexible than several of the other choices here. I found the heel very stable and firmly responsive with the forefoot snappy if not as explosively bouncy as say the SC Trainer v2.  It is a clear competitor to the Endorphin Speed, Deviate Nitro and Boston 12 in the faster daily training to racing side of the shoes here. Its upper is secure, comfortable and well matched to its speed purposes. 

adidas Adizero Boston 12 (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Faster daily training, tempo and racing

Key Highlights

  • Fast, responsive and closest in feel to a full race shoe. 
  • Among the “firmest” but not as rigid rough as v11.  Very solid outsole

The Boston 12 saw big changes from v11 with a more resilient, less dense Lightstrike foam, slightly softer supercritical Lightstrike Pro and a new Energy Rods design that is full length and eliminates the former rear quite harsh rear carbon plate. It mellows a bit for the good as it is slightly softer and more flexible with a much less structured and comfortable upper. All of this said of the shoes here it is more on the snappy responsive side than softer and more mellow, most closely resembling the Mach X and Deviate Nitro than say the SC Trainer v2 or Ride 11.

ASICS Superblast (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Daily Training middle pace and long miles

Key Highlights:

  • 2nd lightest and nearly the highest stack height. 

  • No plate leads to a consistent deeply, deeply cushioned ride 

No plate all supercritical FF Turbo foam and the second highest stack height (after Prime X) and lightest weight of any of the shoes. While not as propulsive as the plated options here the deep, deep cushion and light weight are striking making it a great option for lots of miles and well protected legs.

adidas Prime X Strung (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Faster runs with a mid to forefoot strike

Key Highlights

  • Most exciting with a unique sensation of flight off the front.. if you can stay there..

  • Highest cushion stack to weight ratio

By far the most fun to run..and least practical for most, the Prime X Strung has the highest stack height and nearly the lightest weight, clearly the most dynamic take off and fastest ride (handled right). It also has the the least rear stability as its platform out back is the narrowest. No slow running or heel striking prominently advised here! Its Prime X Strung upper is not the most supportive given the platform. All of this said, and keeping in mind its $300 price tag, it delivers when taken fast with the right form, the most exciting and fastest experience of all the shoes here. 

Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Uptempo long runs

Key Highlights

Aggressive and explosive while highly cushioned at fast paces (ZoomX plus Air pod) 

The Tempo Next is the OG in the super trainer category. Second only to the Prime X in stack height and remarkably light at 8.9 oz this beast of a shoe thrives on.. tempo runs of the longer variety.  

The React foam heel (similar construction to Kinvara Pro and Mach X) keeps things stable, the upper is highly supportive if not nearly as comfortable as the more recent entries. Wind it up and get bouncing decisively off its front Air and rolling through its carbon plate and it is reliable and highly consistent on long fast longer runs. This said it isn’t much fun at slower paces so it is not as versatile as many here such as the Superblast, Kinvara Pro or SC Trainer v2.  

Skechers GO RunRide 11 (RTR Review)

Best Uses: All around daily training

Key Highlights

  • Best value at $125, and by a long shot.

  • Solid not over the top introduction to a plated shoe

  • Soft deeply cushioned ride with enough front H plate impulse to move things along

  • Copious high durability and grip GoodYear outsole

A real bargain at $125, the Ride 11 features a dual density Hyperburst Ice supercritical foam midsole, a mellow front carbon infused H Plate, and lots of GoodYear rubber. It’s alot of shoe for the money. 

It is the most friendly slow paces trainer here with plenty of stack height at 38/32 and weight still under hte magic 10 oz at 9.7 oz /275g . Something has to give at $125 and it is the upper which while comfortable and secure is thicker and warmer than most here. 

Puma Deviate Nitro 2 (RTR Review)

Best Uses: Faster daily training, tempo and racing

Key Highlights

  • Energetic foam and plenty of it, 

  • Most aggressive race shoe like front plate

The Deviate Nitro 2 has wonderfully energetic dual density nitrogen infused Nitro foam with the denser foam concentrated at the heel for a bit of stability. It is less slow paced friendly than some here with the plate more noticeable than shoes such as Kinvara Pro, Speed, Mach X, and SC Trainer v2 if you are not pushing hard on it. It is in the same more uptempo to race ride type class as the Boston 12, Mach X, and to a lesser extent the softer, more flexible Endorphin Speed 3.

Thanks for reading! Please also read each linked multi tester review and please reach out in comments if you have questions.

Video version covering Hoka, New Balance, Nike, Saucony, Nike and Skechers (11:42)

Please shop for most all of the Super Trainers at our partners below.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets lucky.. training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run or nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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Absurd said...

The first table is missing the Pumas, and while you've mentioned in the narrative, and in the table that Superblasts are the lightest, it seem the Endorphin Speed' are the lightest.
What's your favourite from this group?
As a relatively light runner, I find the weight of the shoes matters to me. I find that the stack in Endorphin Speed is still plenty, especially with the nylon plate in there, It doesn't 'bottom out' for me on the run. I currently run my long runs in the Tempo Next's but it's firmer than i'd like (and the upper is quite constricting for my foot, I basically run with laces barely tied).
Boston 12s look like something I should try, but you describe them as the firmest, so if they are firmer then Tempos, I may need to stick to Endorphin Speeds in the future!

Sam Winebaum said...

@absurb. Thank you very much for catching that error. Much appreciated. I was clouded by its lower relative stack but I agree still plenty of fun cushion. Boston 12 is not much firmer than Tempo Next but is "less" stack. As it is flexible it is not overwhelmingly focused on.. tempo as Tempo Next is for me. It most resembles an Endorphin Speed 2 maybe in firmness but constructed differently with a softer top layer, firmer bottom and more aggressive plate.
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

@absurb oh my favorites.. depends on primary use. For general training the Kinvara Pro. For faster training and some racing the Endorphin Speed 3 or Boston 12
Sam. Editor

Anonymous said...

Where do you think something like the Asics Magic Speed 3 fit into this lineup of shoes? Not sure if you don’t consider the MS3s as super shoes but they seem like a natural competitor to the Endorphen Speed 3.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous Magic Speed 3 is considerably stiffer firmer and more race oriented if you like that than Endorphin Speed 3. Magic Speed 2 would have been more in the category of the article for me. Sam, Editor