Sunday, September 10, 2023

Super (Critical) Race "Flats" Comparison Review: Saucony Sinister, Nike ZoomX Streakfly , Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8/9, Topo Cyclone 2, Hoka Cielo Road

 Article by Sam Winebaum

Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8/9 ($180),Topo Cyclone 2 ($150), Nike Streakfly ($160), 

Hoka Cielo Road ($160), Saucony Sinister ($150)

In the article, I take a look at what in 2023 can be considered “race flats” those light agile shoes designed for short distance and even if one goes prior to the Vaporfly for all distances including the marathon including legendary shoes such as Zoom Streak, earlier Adios, various ASICS and Mizuno flats, etc…  

With the advent of lighter more energetic super critical foams even very light racing shoes such as these can now provide higher cushion stacks.  In fact, only one shoe here, the very lightest the  5.45oz  / 155 g  Saucony Sinister can be considered to have a more “classic” race flat stack height of 25mm heel / 19mm forefoot. All of these shoes are lower stack and lower weight than most marathon super shoes.

Only one of the shoes, the Adizero Takumi Sen with its full Energy Rods is plated with the Nike Streakfly have a modest midfoot plastic shank, in itself a key feature of the old school flat.

All share supercritical foam, none weighs more than 7 oz / 198g  with each very distinct in its strengths, best uses, ride characteristics and upper.  All are super “fun” to run at pretty much any pace from all out to more mellow with the exception of the super “serious” Takumi Sen which is the purest racer, and fastet of the bunch but warning.. on the right fast feet.

Saucony Sinister  (RTR Review)

Approx.Weight: men's 5.45oz  / 155 g (US9)  

Stack Height: men’s 25 mm heel / 19 mm forefoot ( 6 mm drop) 

Heel/Midfoot/Forefoot Platform Width (mm): 75/50/100


Best Uses/Strengths: short distance road racing, speed workouts and only one here also for more mellow trail racing . Most reasonably priced (tied with Topo Cyclone), most secure upper-by far. Most fun to wind up fast.

The Sinister has the narrowest platform, lightest weight, and lowest stack. It has the most secure and performance oriented upper by a long shot with webbing bands and a narrower fit totally locking the foot to the platform. The only shoe here with a full coverage and aggressive outsole,  the rubber stabilizes at the ground and has great grip. It has a distinct front flex point and with its narrow lower platform it is the most agile of the shoes here. I have raced it up to 5 miles on road and 5K trails while fellow tester Adam raced his 25K on smooth San Francisco Bay Area trails. Along with the Streakfly,  it most reminds of the classic race flat but with a far more energetic foam. 

Nike ZoomX  Streakfly  (RTR Review)

6.0 oz  / 170g (US9)

Stack Height: men’s 32mm heel / 26mm forefoot, 6mm drop

Heel/Midfoot/Forefoot Platform Width (mm): 80/68/100


Best Uses/Strengths:  Lightest trainer on the planet that can also crossover to racing. Easy friendly ride at all paces. Highest cushion to weight ratio.

The Streakfly has the best cushion to weight ratio of any of the shoes here as of course it has Zoom X. It is soft and energetic with a longer flex than the Sinister with the midfoot shank giving it some snap. I wish the shank was a bit longer to the front for more snap..Marketed as “5K-10K” shoe, I had a great 10K race in them just to see but a plated super shoe such as the Vaporfly would have been faster. I would call them the lightest trainer on the planet and a super friendly capable one as they have plenty of energetic cushion , a generous upper, and a design that accommodates a wide variety of paces. I would not hesitate to race a half in them although there are better choices. I would not call it an all out “elite” short distance racer as I do the Takumi Sen. If you are not a fan of plated racers its weight to cushion ratio and friendly ride make it a great race choice.

Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8/9  (RTR Review)

6.8 oz / 192g (US9) 

Stack Height: 33mm heel / 27 mm forefoot, 6mm drop

Heel/Midfoot/Forefoot Platform Width (mm):70/60/100


Best Uses/Strengths:  most pure and dedicated short distance racer, end of story! Very aggressive geometry requiring mid to forefoot strike at all times.  Holder of many short distance world records.

The Takumi Sen 8/9 takes a radical departure from the 7, a classic low slung and firm race flat.  It has the 2nd highest stack in the group of firmer reactive LightStrike Pro foam and carbon infused Energy Rods. It does have some flex of the super snappy variety at midfoot. The focus here is decisive midfoot to forefoot striking at fast paces and really nothing else. Wind them up and they are incredible with decisive quick rebound off the front. Slow/tired and back on the heels spells big trouble, even compared to the Adios Pro 3. For me, at my far less than elite paces near 7:30 miles, max 5K-7K racing. Faster runners can of course take them to 10K and potentially beyond.  

Topo Cyclone 2 (RTR Review)

6.9 oz  / 196g (US9)  

28mm heel / 23mm forefoot, 5mm drop

Heel/Midfoot/Forefoot Platform Width (mm): 85/75/105


Best Uses/Strengths:  Racing and training with a more natural vibe. Most flexible, broadest and best upper of the group, low drop, very energetic foam, lots of ground feel, surprisingly stable as they have the widest platform on the ground. Most versatile outside of short all out racing.

The Topo is the most natural riding shoe here. By that I mean, it is the softest and most energetic of the group with its generous stack of PEBAX foam sitting on the broadest platform and 2nd lowest stack height and 2nd lowest drop at 5mm. The thin rubber outsole and very fine rear geometry provides just enough structure and stability to hold it all together (not bottoming out) while not getting in the way of lots of bounce, road feel, agility and plenty of cushion.  If you don’t like plates and want a versatile, soft, very flexible and very light shoe with plenty of toe box room, a lower drop and a superb comfortable hold it is a great choice. Outside of short distance racing it is the most fun of the bunch and tied for me with the Streakfly as most versatile.

Hoka Cielo Road  (RTR Review)

7 oz / 198g (US9) 

Stack Height: men’s 33mm heel / 30mm forefoot ( 3mm drop spec)

Heel/Midfoot/Forefoot Platform Width (mm):  80/67110


Best Uses/Strengths:   Fast workouts and shorter fast tempos, racing up to a half. Most stable and highly cushioned forefoot . Highest forefoot stack, lowest drop. Semi rigid rocker profile 

I said Takumi Sen was the most serious racer in the group, well the Cielo is the most serious riding "near" racer for me. By serious, I mean it combines energetic PEBA foam, a more rigid rocker geometry than all but the Takumi with a flex point at the midfoot (the extensive front outsole essentially creating the rocker). It has the most stable and most cushioned forefoot in the group. While only a 3mm drop, I did not notice any low feeling heel (did however wish for more drop) during a 10 mile race in them and I was smooth to the end with notable stability. They are not as explosively fast as Hoka’s Rocket X 2 or as prescriptively aggressive upfront as the Takumi Sen. 

With less forefoot stack (more flex, lighter weight, higher drop) they would likely rise to the top of the group but, as is, they are a great choice for fast workouts and tempos and if you like a lower drop and a very stable forefoot for racing to at least a half.

All the shoes in this article are available at our partner


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 very very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

The samples reviewed were provided at no cost. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, the order of shoes does not match the photo.
Right now it is:
Saucony Sinister ($150), Nike ZoomX Streakfly ($160), Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8/9 ($180), Topo Cyclone 2 ($150), Hoka Cielo Road ($160)
But I think it is:
Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8/9 ($180), Topo Cyclone 2 ($150), Nike ZoomX Streakfly ($160), Hoka Cielo Road ($160), Saucony Sinister ($150)

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Will rearrange

house of hazards said...

Not the zippiest out there, but that's okay. I appreciate its focus on stability and control for faster tempos and race efforts. Less drop and weight could elevate it further, but I get the trade-offs.