By Brian Metzler
Picking favorites is never easy, no matter if it’s marathons, fast-food french fries, craft beers or running shoes. But since we’re at the end of the year and a new batch of shoes is on the way for 2023, I’ll take a stab at choosing the best models in three categories. Even if these aren’t at the top of your list, trust me, they’re great shoes. You might agree or disagree — or you might even immediately start looking for close-out deals online.
Best Training Shoe of 2022 — Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 ($170)
The Endorphin Speed 3 is not only better than the two previous incarnations, in my humble opinion, but it’s also hands-down the best running shoe of the year. Saucony has continued to improve this shoe in small, but significant ways that have made it a better everyday training shoe. It still has a curvy flexible nylon propulsion plate embedded in the midsole that provides an energetic zest in every stride, but the plate has been updated with flared-out wings on each side for added stability. Plus, there’s a slightly thicker, wider and softer full-length layer of PWRRUN PB foam in the midsole that makes it even more comfortable, more accommodating and more responsive.
It has an updated SpeedRoll Technology rocker geometry and an enhanced upper that have helped improve the shoe’s fit, feel and ride. It’s still a great shoe for fast workouts and racing, even though it doesn’t have quite the amount of energetic pop as its carbon-plated brethren. It retains the mid-range 8mm heel-toe offset and a near-maximal cushioning stack (36mm in the heel/28mm in the forefoot), but the added stability and slightly lighter weight (7.2 oz. for women’s 8.0, 8.1 oz. for men’s 9.0) make it ideal for long runs, recovery runs and just about everything else. Bottom line: If I could have just one shoe in my quiver, it would definitely be the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.
Runner-up: ASICS Novablast 3
Honorable mentions: Hoka Clifton 8, Brooks Ghost 14, ASICS GEL-Kayano 28, Mizuno Wave Rider 25, On Cloudmonster, Puma Deviate Nitro 2, Altra Vanish Tempo, New Balance FreshFoam 1080v12, Saucony Tempus, Reebok Floatride Energy 4, Skechers GOrun Razor 4
Best Trail Running Shoe of 2022 — Hoka Tecton X ($200)
This year several shoe brands began putting carbon-fiber propulsion plates into trail running shoes, but in my experience the Hoka Tecton X is one of only two shoes that really got it right. (Speedland’s SL:HSV is the other.) The challenge with putting stiff carbon-fiber plates into the soft midsoles of trail running shoes is that it limits the lateral stability on technical terrain with rocks, roots and uneven surfaces. Hoka solved that problem by inserting two parallel carbon plates inside the high-rebound ProflyX midsole foam of the Tecton X, which allows only a portion of the shoe to bend in a lateral direction while still providing forward propulsion and protection.
The Tecton X is an extremely light, smooth and well-padded shoe, even though it’s not as maximally cushioned shoe as others in HOKA’s line. It has a moderate 5mm heel-toe offset (33mm in the heel, 28mm in the forefoot) and it’s one of the lightest trail shoes available (6.9 oz. for women’s 8.0, 8.9 oz. for men’s 9.0). The low-profile lugs of the Vibram Litebase outsole serves up reliable traction, while a single-layer jacquard engineered mesh provides optimal foot-hugging comfort. Those elements combine to create a very energetic trail shoe that’s optimally cushy and sturdy enough for high-mileage training and light and fast enough for up-tempo running and short- to long-distance racing on mild and moderate trail terrain, as well as dirt, gravel and even paved/concrete roads if necessary.
Runner-up: Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280
Honorable mentions: Altra Lone Peak 6, Hoka Speedgoat 5, Saucony Peregrine 12, Salomon Speedcross 6, Brooks Catamount, Craft CTM Ultra, Merrell MTL Long Sky 2, Nnormal Kjerag, Speedland SL:HSV
Best Road Racing Shoe of 2022 — ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ ($250)
Since the advent of carbon-fiber plates embedded in high-stack midsoles, there have been a lot of great racing shoes. Finding the one that works best for you is no small task, since they all fit, feel and ride differently. For me, the best of the bunch is the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+. The updated Metaspeed Sky+ has 4 percent more energetic FF Blast Turbo foam material, a new, more pliable engineered mesh upper and an updated shape and positioning of its carbon-fiber propulsion plate. The responsive vibe of the Metaspeed Sky+ comes from the chunky foam, dramatic forefoot rocker geometry and stiffness of the plated midsole. I like the light and energetic sensation (6.2 oz. women’s 8; 7.2 oz. men’s 9) it serves up in every stride, but what’s most compelling is how the plate and midsole are shaped and positioned specifically for my long-striding gait. (If you’re a quicker-cadence runner at faster paces, you’ll want to opt for the ASICS Metaspeed Edge+.)
The ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ has a wider midsole, minimal outsole rubber and a moderate 5mm heel-toe offset (39mm in the heel, 34mm in the forefoot) that the original Metaspeed Sky model, giving it a great combination of agility, traction and stability. Another key improvement is the one-piece engineered mesh upper that features what ASICS calls MotionWrap Technology — essentially a perforated fabric construction that provides comfortable and accommodating stretch, structured support and good breathability. All of those modifications pushed the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ to the top tier among marathon racing shoes in 2022, making it a legitimate contemporary to Nike’s Vaporfly Next% 2 and Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3.
Runner-up: Saucony Endorphin Pro 3
Honorable mentions: Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2, Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3, Atreyu The Artist Under Armour Flow Velociti Elite, Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% Flyknit, Craft CTM Race Rebel, Brooks Hyperion Elite 2, Puma Fast R Nitro Elite