3 Running Shoe Trends Coming in 2023
The Running Event is a shoe nerd's nirvana. Here's what to look out for.
I spent the better part of last week at The Running Event in Austin getting a sneak peek at some of the newest innovations and exciting updates coming to running shoes in 2023. (Yea, I know, this job is so tough.) This year had the largest exhibit hall in TRE history and one of the highest-attended conference programs, according to the organizers, and it was honestly a whirlwind of technical specs, secret back rooms, and group run opportunities with what felt like at least half of the 280 exhibiting companies. There’s a lot I’m excited about for 2023—and if you want more specifics on any of the shoes, check out WearTesters’ or Believe In the Run’s reviews—but these were the industry trends I was most interested in this year.
1. Brands are catering to beginners.
I recently came across a (unfortunately unsourced) stat that claims there are “as many as 20 million more new runners in 2022 compared to early 2021.” I’m not sure if the numbers are true, but there’s no denying we’re in the midst of another running boom—and I loved hearing how many brands are acknowledging and designing for newer runners. Puma will debut the new Foreverrun Nitro in 2023, aimed more at health enthusiasts than experienced runners; the two-piece Nitro midsole has firmer rim and softer core plus there’s a more custom orthotic insole that wraps around the heel and arch for support and stability throughout.
Reebok is really leaning back into running for 2023 and beyond, especially with the Floatzig 1 (coming fall/winter 2023), a new shoe that offers better cushioning and better energy return than previous models that have used Floatride Energy foam; the goal, the company said, was to make running more fun and enjoyable, especially for newer runners.
I also got a sneak peak at Saucony’s Kinvara Pro (out summer 2023), a carbon-plated daily trainer that the brand called “a beginner’s marathoner shoe.” It’s got a higher stack height, PWRRUNPB foam, and a carbon plate, with the goal of making lightweight efficiency available to the everyday runner. It reminded me a lot of the New Balance SuperComp Trainer (my NYC Marathon shoe), the second iteration of which will come out in 2023 with a slightly lower stack height (to make it legal for road racing) and a new foam that makes it 1.4 ounces lighter than the OG.
Adidas’ pricey Adizero shoes typically end up on race podiums (I wore the Adizero Adios Pro 2 at the Colorado Marathon and did not win, but I did PR, soo…), but the Adizero SL is meant to reach more people than just the fastest runners. “SL” stands for “Super Light” and brings some of the top technology from the brand’s fastest shoes into a more affordable (read: accessible) shoe that retails for $120 and can be used by anyone getting into running.
And, of course, there were the expected updates to perennial beginner recommendations: The Brooks Ghost 15 (out now) uses a new, lighter Loft v2 midsole compound, and the HOKA Clifton 9 (out in February) received a top-to-bottom update that amps up the softness and uses a new midsole compound that’s more resilient and responsive.
2. Customization has entered the chat.
One of my favorite stories I worked on last year was about how shoe companies were rethinking shoe design to better support female runners. But it’s not just about gender—all feet are unique. I’ve noticed several brands letting go of the one-size-fits-all approach to embrace the personalization of running shoe design, so runners can choose which model works best for them.
Vimazi makes running shoes specifically tuned for the pace of the runner. For example, the Z40 is designed for running 6:15-7:45 min/mi pace, while the Z60 supports 8:30-10:30 min/mi pace (there are currently six models in the line, all of which are sold out at the moment). Because ground reaction forces change depending on speed, the idea behind pace-tuned shoes is to maximize cushioning and propulsion efficiency mainly by tweaking the foam density, but also with external adjustments like a wider base for slower runners who tend to hit more on the heel versus less rubber in the outside for faster runners who hit more on the midfoot/forefoot. I requested a couple of pairs to compare, so stay tuned for more on that in an upcoming issue.
I didn’t get to see Hilma at TRE, but this women-specific brand launched in October and combines what they call “a revolutionary fit model” with a personalized buying experience. On the website, you start with an online consultation that asks questions a number of questions—including things like what brand offers the best fitting running shoe in your size is; do you buy separate inserts or insoles that you add to your running shoes; do you ever struggle with your heel slipping out of the shoe; and what do you care most about in your running shoes—to help you find the right fit. Where traditional running shoe brands typically offer 10 sizes per shoe style, Hilma offers 45 sizes (it looks like there are three fits offered per size). I’m waiting on my “personalized fit” to be delivered, so more on this soon as well.
Finally, there’s Speedland, which prioritized customization with its first shoe, the SL:PDX, which offered customizable lugs and drainage holes plus a removable Pebax midsole and removable carbon fiber plate. The GS:TAM launched back in November with a similar approach, and the founders talked a lot about their goal to treat shoe buying like building out a bike—you choose the components that are most important to you to create a shoe that supports your particular running goals or style.
3. A lot of companies are leaning more into trail.
Trail running has grown 231 percent in the last 10 years, according to a recent report by RunRepeat.com in collaboration with World Athletics, and I was excited to see so many brands that I think of as road-first talking about new innovations in trail.
For starters, I got my first look at the Nike Ultrafly (out this summer), which I was first briefed on way back when the Alphafly 2 was announced. Nike’s goal was to adapt the Vaporfly for trails by maintaining propulsion and protection but adding stability. They did that with a lower stack height, forked three-quarter length plate, a textile fabric wrap that protects the ZoomX foam, and a really aggressive outsole.
New Balance’s Fresh Foam X Trail More v3 (yes, that’s a mouthful) is an off-roading iteration of their max cushioned road shoe; it’s got a two-part midsole that’s harder on the bottom for security and softer up top, plus a Vibram outsole with microtraction nubs on the lugs for even better grip. The brands also showed off the SC Trail, a racing shoe that combines FuelCell foam with a trail-tuned carbon plate; the midsole is a higher density that what you’d find in the SC road shoes, and the outsole of course provides more coverage (there’s also a lowered stack height).
I really liked the look of the Saucony Endorphin Drift, a new lightweight trail racer with a PWRRUN PB midsole and a PWRTRAC outsole on top of a rock plate. Brooks introduced the Catamount 2, a faster trail shoe that uses SkyVault technology—a plate embedded in the midsole—for maximum propulsion going uphill, with lots of ciushioning for longer trail runs. And Adidas Terrex introduced SoulStride Ultra, a new line for 2023 focusing on maximum cushioning and performance for long distances. If you’re used to heavier Boost shoes, a new version of the foam called Light Boost cuts weight by 30 percent.
Read Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman
I didn’t know much about Lauren Fleshman before reading her upcoming book (which comes out January 10 and is currently available for pre-order), but I found myself really engrossed in her story. It’s part memoir, recounting her experiences as a collegiate athlete and national champion, and part call to action, highlighting a number of the ways running as a sport has failed female athletes—and what can be done to change that. I wasn’t a runner in high school or college, and the parts of this book that addressed rampant eating disorders and mental health issues were heartbreaking to read. Despite that, Fleshman has a lot of hope for the sport—and that hope was infectious by the end of her story. And her relatability throughout makes this a must-read for any runner (male or female).
Records Got Destroyed at the Valencia Marathon
Maybe I need to run the Valencia Marathon? Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum ran 2:01:53, which is the fastest marathon debut in history (only Eliud Kipchoge, the current marathon world record holder, and Kenenisa Bekele have run faster). Amane Beriso Shankule, from Ethiopia, won with a time of 2:14:58, a two-plus minute course record and less than a minute off the women’s world record (she’s now the third fastest woman in the marathon). And Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, who came in second, ran the fastest female marathon debut ever.
Try the OOFOS Slides
I wrote about recovery shoes back in 2019, but—to be totally honest—since there’s no real scientific proof that wearing super cushy sandals (or other footwear) post-run can speed up your recovery, I didn’t exactly jump on the bandwagon. But New Balance gifted me a pair of the OOFOS OOahh Post-Run Recovery Slide Sandals after the NYC Marathon and I find myself wearing them ALL the time, even just around my house. There’s something about the way they support the arch of my foot that feels totally different from any other slide I’ve worn. Are they actually reducing stress on my feet? I have absolutely no idea. I’m a big believer in the placebo effect, though, and not afraid to admit when I’m wrong about a trend, so here we are!
Sunday was a big day for OTQs
In 2019, 63 women qualified for the 2020 Olympic Trials at the California International Marathon. Then the USATF announced faster qualifying times for the 2024 Trials; women would have to run faster than 2:37:00, or eight minutes faster than in 2020. It raised the bar significantly, but women stepped up to the occasion: Overall, 42 ran under the 2024 Olympic Trials qualifying standard. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of running that fast for that long, but it just further proves that women’s distance running is the most exciting part of the sport right now.
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