Amid all the gloom of 2020, one of the silver linings has been the number of people enjoying either running for the first time or running more. Running is often praised for its simplicity – all you need is a pair of trainers after all, but there are now so many shoes to choose from that making a decision can get a bit overwhelming.
While we can’t tell you which shoe is right for you, Coach’s reviewer Nick Harris-Fry runs upwards of 70km a week and is in the fortunate position of receiving pair after pair to test. That makes him one of the few people in the UK who has tried the majority of new releases.
In 2020 all the major footwear brands released carbon plate rivals to Nike’s all-conquering Vaporfly. Harris-Fry has run in almost every carbon-plate racer (Adidas just needs to cough up its first attempt, the Adizero Pro, as opposed to the Adizero Adios Pro he has reviewed) and below you’ll find the two pairs that performed the best.
Of course, stiff-soled shoes with towering stacks aren’t for everyone, so we’ve also recognised the achievements of shoes that are more suitable and affordable for casual runners.
Don your fanciest formal wear. The awards are about to begin.
Best All-Rounder: Saucony Endorphin Speed
We’ve racked up more miles in the Speed than in any other shoe in 2020, using it for everything from easy runs to track sessions and races. It’s the most versatile shoe released this year, with its nylon plate in the midsole helping to propel you forwards at pace while being softer than a stiff carbon plate, which means you can use the Speed for easy runs and a lot of training in general.
The shoe has the same lightweight, bouncy PWRRUN PB foam you find in the Endorphin Pro carbon racer, and the Speed comes close to the performance of the Pro for all-out speed while also being a more comfortable training option. If you only buy one shoe at a time and are gunning for PBs, buy this one, and even if you do have a full carbon racer in your arsenal, the Speed is well worth considering as a training shoe.
Best For Beginners: Brooks Glycerin 18
The Glycerin is the last word in comfort when it comes to running shoes, and if you’re taking your first steps in the sport why wouldn’t you want to take them in complete comfort? From the moment you slip on the shoe the DNA LOFT cushioning noticeably softens the impact of each step, making the Glycerin 18 a particularly good option for heavier runners as a result.
More experienced runners looking for a comfortable shoe for easy runs would also be wise to check out the Glycerin. It’s a solid option for long-distance races like the marathon too, if you’re more concerned about getting around the course with a smile on your face than about setting a lightning-fast PB.
Best Value: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37
Nike’s Pegasus line has always offered good value to people looking for a versatile shoe around the £100 mark (and usually less, since it’s almost always in a sale somewhere) and the significant updates to the 2020 model made it our favourite Pegasus in years.
The most substantial change is the React cushioning now used in the midsole. It’s the same bouncy and highly durable material we’ve loved in other Nike shoes like the Infinity Run, and it’s ideal for the Pegasus’s main purpose, which is to log a lot of training miles at a range of paces.
We were also impressed by the amount of grip the Pegasus 37 offers, which makes the hardy outsole suitable for light trails as well as roads. It’s a good all-rounder for people who only have one pair on the go at a time and prefer not to pay big bucks for the Endorphin Speed. Those with a shoe rotation will find the Pegasus 37 ideal for easy and tempo runs.
Best Racing Shoe: Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%
The Nike Vaporfly NEXT% has ruled the racing shoe roost for the past few years, but 2020 saw a slew of excellent carbon racers released by virtually every brand. Nike itself launched the Alphafly, which is the shoe that Eliud Kipchoge wore when he ran the first sub-2hr marathon in Vienna last year.
For many people, the Vaporfly remains on its perch, especially for shorter races, but we fell in love with the Alphafly once we did our first fast run in it. We rate it as the best racer going, particularly for half marathon and marathon distance events.
It has the same lightweight ZoomX foam as the Vaporfly, but adds two Air Zoom pods under the forefoot. These are firmer and more responsive than the foam alone, and add even more pop to your toe-off. When holding a fast pace over long distances, there’s nothing else we’d want on our feet.
Best Value Racing Shoe: Adidas Adizero Adios Pro
We waited a long time for Adidas to release a competitor to Nike’s carbon super shoes, but the Adios Pro was worth the wait. The shoe has a high stack of soft cushioning and rather than a full carbon plate Adidas has inserted five carbon rods into the midsole to align with the bones in your toes, plus a smaller plate under the heel.
Elite athletes have certainly enjoyed using the shoe – Kibiwott Kandie set the world record for the half marathon while wearing it – and we’ve loved running in it too. For us, it doesn’t quite have the pop and all-out speed of Nike’s shoes, but it’s a little more comfortable and stable, while certainly fast enough to set PBs in at any distance, although it’s at its best for half marathons and marathons.
Perhaps the very best thing about the Adios Pro is that it provides this high level of performance for £170 – not cheap, but significantly cheaper than Nike’s Vaporfly and Alphafly, and there is simply no carbon plate racer as good as the Adios Pro for a lower price.