All the innovation we’ve seen in running shoe tech over the past few years, particularly in foams, cushioning and geometry, has given brands plenty of tools in their toolboxes. In 2024 we’ll see those innovations put to use in shoes designed to “wow” runners at all levels.
“The trends we see in 2024 will be pushing the limits of how cutting-edge technologies —midsole compounds, augmented plates, etc. — and geometries can be combined along with exaggerated stack heights to push extreme experiences for the runner,” Jon Teipen, principal footwear product line manager at Brooks tells us. “This will come to life in cushioned product that assists the runner to make running feel easier and more comfortable. We’ll also see this continue to come to life as well in pinnacle performance product to maximize an athlete’s performance on race day.”
Energy-return and more innovative cushioning are key focuses across the industry. “We think a key trend for 2024 and beyond will be the desire of runners to have not only shoes with high levels of cushioning, but also a move to the kind of cushioning that gives responsiveness and rebound as well,” says Chris Brewer, sr. director – running, Mizuno USA. “Too soft is too soft and we see the trend moving toward cushioning plus responsiveness for a better overall experience for more runners. This is why we have invested our time and effort into creating the most dynamic cushioning material in running. We call it EnerzyNXT and it is by far the best blend of cushioning, responsiveness and lightweight in a midsole material. We’ll launch this new cushioning material in autumn/winter 2024.”
David Laney, elite run team member, Craft, tells us, “I think in 2024 we will continue to see more supercritical foams in all shoes from road to trail and everything in-between. We are now seeing elastomer foams in shoes at much more accessible price points, and I think these super foams will just continue to become more prevalent in everything from daily trainers to performance racing shoes.”
Russ Stevens, product manager, Topo Athletic, says, “In 2024 the running industry will continue to respond to customers’ demands for products that deliver comfort and performance, while being made more sustainably.”
Topo expects high cushion shoes to continue to be very popular through 2024 and will introduce models to meet that demand, says Stevens. He also notes that many runners still prefer shoes with a lower stack height and more ground feel, so offering products at a range of stack heights, as the brand will do in 2024, remains vital.
“We also expect the trend towards foams that are lighter, softer, and deliver more energy return will continue in 2024,” says Stevens.
Recovery and “natural fit” are also resonating strongly with consumers. Steven Sashen, co-founder and co-CEO, Xero Shoes says more customers are wearing barefoot-type shoes for active recovery and “using the shoes as a tool in tandem with their other running shoes.” He notes, “the wider toe box and zero-drop, flexible sole benefits runners and athletes of all sports.”
Other footwear stories to watch — sustainability, durability, and the continued evolution of the trail category as participation in trail running grows and trail runners seek use-specific product from groomed to technical trails and from short to ultra-distances. “Trail product will continue to evolve to solve whatever this runner will encounter,” says Teipen.
The Novablast 4 ($140) features a lightweight, responsive foam, and delivers what the brand describes as a “trampoline effect.” It has a full-length FF Blast Eco Cushion — this foam, made with 20% bio content, is the brand’s lightest and most energetic, offering cloud-like softness. The shoe also has a breathable, engineered woven upper.
Pro Endurance 2
With its full Px foam midsole optimized for explosive toe off and soft landings, the lightweight, bouncy and durable Pro Endurance 2 ($170) road shoe delivers on energy return and is designed to deliver comfort and efficiency. It has an engineered mesh upper and a sleek, aerodynamic design. It has a 9mm drop with stack heights of 36mm and 27mm.
A max-cushioned road shoe, the 6mm drop Cloudeclipse ($179.99) is made for long runs with a double layer of CloudTec Phase for a soft and smooth ride. The brand says it’s On’s thickest midsole and softest cushioning yet, and a super-thick Helion superfoam midsole is soft underfoot while also protecting against impact. The shoe’s flexible Speedboard adds stability and guidance. Additionally, the dope dyed upper utilizes less water and resources.
GOrun Maxroad 6
The GOrun Maxroad 6 is designed for daily running — it is lightweight, neutral, responsive, comfortable, and highly-cushioned. A breathable upper offers stretch to move with the foot. The shoe also features dual density Hyper Burst Ice technology for a soft and stable run and a patent-pending carbon-infused forefoot plate for stability and energy return. Goodyear Performance Outsoles deliver traction, durability, and stability on the road.
Rebellion Pro 2
Part of the brand’s Speed silo, the Rebellion Pro 2 ($220) is designed for fast-paced running and high-level racing with its innovative geometry and Smooth Speed Assist technology that “assists” smooth forefoot running with its unique heel-to-toe bottom line geometry. Mizuno is aiming to deliver the smoothest ride ever created in a go-fast shoe. The Rebellion Pro 2 has a carbon infused nylon wave shaped plate that provides a stable speed ride without sacrificing a cushioned feeling.
A neutral cushion offering, the Glycerin 21 ($160), is for those looking for a supremely soft and comfortable shoe that delivers a distraction-free ride. It features nitrogen-infused DNA LOFT v3 cushioning, and a breathable, engineered warp knit upper for a flexible, accommodating fit. The shoe’s RoadTack rubber is lightweight, resilient, and is made using a mix of rubber and recycled silica. Stack heights are 28:18 for a 10mm offset.
A road to trail transition shoe, the MT-5 ($130) features a Vibram XS Trek EVO outsole and a new ZipFoam midsole that is more responsive than previous versions. The shoe’s drop is also increased from 3mm to 5mm, with 4mm increased heel cushioning, and utilizes recycled materials in the upper, liner, and insole.
The latest version of the Guide features more PWRRUN foam to provide 85% energy return (based on a competitive study). The Guide 17 also features Saucony’s new CENTERPATH Technology which creates max stability with a wide platform and higher sidewalls to cradle the foot. It’s scheduled to hit retail in late February.
New for Spring 2024, the Steadfast II ($199.99) features the stability elements Xelero is known for. The brand’s propulsion technology is designed to make running and walking easier by creating forward motion and reducing forefoot bottom pressure via the control plate in the midsole. The rear foot is stabilized via the propulsion element which cradles the heel both medially and laterally. A good choice for those working to overcome overuse injuries, the shoe is also available in multiple widths.
The pace-tuned running shoe brand has officially launched its first trail products, with the Trail Z2 ($170) designed for runners in the 8:00-12:00 minute per mile pace zone. The shoes not only feature the brand’s pace-tuned midsole technology, but also boast an aggressive tread, external rear stabilizer and toe protection. The Trail Z2 also has a wide toe box, molded foam heel counters and a rocker design.