For the days when you need something more than your daily trainer but don’t quite want to be in your racing shoes, these are some of the best tempo running shoes or speedwork shoes for 2023 and 2024.
These are the shoes that are designed to provide a balance of lightweight construction, cushioning, and responsiveness, which makes them ideal for faster-paced workouts and tempo runs.
Before we dive into the specifics, I’m Eric Barber, and let me cover some disclosures upfront. I bought these shoes with my own money, and I’m not receiving any compensation for sharing my opinions or endorsements. Everything I’ll discuss is solely based on my personal experiences and preferences as a fellow runner.
Now that the necessary disclosure is out of the way, let’s discuss my top tempo running shoes for 2023 and 2024.
Best Tempo Running Shoes
Just like with my top daily trainers list, I like to do things differently, so I won’t be ranking shoes from bottom to top. Instead, let’s jump right into my absolute favorite tempo running shoe, and then work our way down from there.
Securing the number one position is a shoe that tops the list head and shoulders above everything else.
It’s a shoe that has brought me joy throughout the entire year and I hope my efforts to highlight its qualities have done it justice…
1. Puma Deviate Nitro 2
Neutral 〉 W: 7.8 oz 〉 M: 9.2 oz 〉 Drop: 6 mm 〉 Heel: 37 mm 〉 Forefoot: 31 mm
Please don’t confuse the Puma Deviate Nitro 2 with the Nitro Elite 2 which is a racing shoe. The Deviate Nitro 2, which has Nitro Elite foam, also is a carbon fiber plate shoe.
Puma has integrated this impressive super foam into the Deviate Nitro 2, enhancing its overall performance. However, the Deviate has more stack height compared to the Nitro Elite 2, which contributes to a shoe that offers exceptional responsiveness during your runs.
The Deviate Nitro 2 excels in threshold mile repeat workouts, but its ample cushioning and well-designed upper make it suitable for logging plenty of daily training miles as well.
I feel like the Deviate Nitro 2 has impressive pace versatility, and you’re not sacrificing much at the top either. Even though it has a traditional daily trainer upper and a traditional amount of rubber on the outsole, it’s been an absolute pleasure to run in from the beginning to the end of my testing.
I believe the Deviate Nitro 2 embodies the essence of what the old Boston series once represented.
In general, the Deviate Nitro 2 proves versatile enough for both hard workouts and relaxed easy runs. It does an excellent job across various categories, and for that reason, the Puma Deviate Nitro 2 is my tempo shoe of the year.
At number two, we’ve got another newcomer to this list and that is what I’m considering the most underrated shoe of the year…
2. Topo Cyclone 2
Neutral 〉 W: 5.9 oz 〉 M: 6.7 oz 〉 Drop: 5 mm 〉 Heel: 27 mm 〉 Forefoot: 22 mm
The Cyclone 2 features an all-Peba midsole foam without an internal plate, and the setup strongly evokes memories of the Saucony Kinvara for me.
It’s a lightweight, low-to-the-ground shoe that proves really nice for faster workouts. For those of you who are more efficient runners, it might even serve well for daily training, offering a smooth and effective experience.
For me, I use the Cyclon 2 for mile repeats, and that’s where I believe it truly shines. The added benefit of a wider toe box ensures your toes won’t feel cramped in this lightweight, fun, and fast footwear.
Now, let’s move to number 3…
3. Adidas Prime X 2 Strung
Neutral 〉 W: 10.8 oz 〉 M: 10.8 oz 〉 Drop: 7 mm 〉 Heel: 47 mm 〉 Forefoot: 41 mm
The Prime X 2 Strung is another category-busting shoe, boasting a tall profile with a 50mm stack height filled with racing foam. Additionally, it features double sets of carbon, visible through the small window on the bottom.
Despite its substantial size and weight, the Prime X 2 Strung has got so much of everything. Similar to the Invincible 3, it performs exceptionally well in moderate efforts, making it an excellent choice for marathon workouts.
The Strung 2 extends to threshold work, particularly during mile repeats, but beyond that or at faster paces, the weight of the shoe becomes more perceptible.
Yet, in the realm of moderate paces—essentially the staple of marathon workouts—the Prime X 2 Strung shines. Simply put, the Strung is really fun to take on those tempo days and that’s why it’s my shoe number 3 of the year.
The number 5 spot goes to the Invincible…
4. Nike Invincible Run 3
Neutral 〉 W: 9.1 oz 〉 M: 10.6 oz 〉 Drop: 9 mm 〉 Heel: 40 mm 〉 Forefoot: 31 mm
For a long run with a series of marathon miles in the middle, where you prefer not to be in a carbon fiber plate, the full midsole of ZoomX foam in the Invincible 3 proves to be a comfortable and suitable choice for such a workout.
While a lot of people categorize the Invincible 3 as either a max cushion or daily trainer, I find that at those paces and efforts, the foam doesn’t quite align with my preferences. It feels like the shoe consistently wants me to adopt a stride different from my usual one.
So in my experience, the Invincible feels a bit awkward at easy paces. However, once you pick up the pace to a moderate pace, it transforms into a shoe that seems perfectly at home and capable of sustaining that intensity all day long.
The number 5 spot goes to the Cielo…
5. Hoka Cielo Road
Neutral 〉 W: 7.1 oz 〉 M: 7.1 oz 〉 Drop: 3 mm 〉 Heel: 30 mm 〉 Forefoot: 33 mm
The Cielo Road, a recent addition from Hoka, is an all-Pebax, low-stack-height, low-drop road flat without an internal plate.
While it doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a road racer, for those shorter-distance road racers, the Cielo proves to be a really great tempo-day shoe for you. If you’re particularly efficient, it might even serve as your daily trainer.
However, for me and other marathon runners, the Cielo Road is the go-to option that you could reach for if you’re looking to turn over your feet quickly and you want to get out of carbon for the day
If you’re on the track, the Cielo could be a fantastic choice because it’s lightweight, and exceptionally breathable, with a race-day feel that’s slightly less aggressive. It offers the benefits of a tempo-day shoe but with added ease and comfort.
|Where to buy (not affiliate)
More Solid Shoes for Tempo Runs Not to Miss
Brooks Hyperion Max
Neutral 〉 W: 6.7 oz 〉 M: 7.5 oz 〉 Drop: 8 mm 〉 Heel: 34 mm 〉 Forefoot: 26 mm
The Hyperion Max is another shoe that comes to mind when I run in the Deviate Nitro 2. This is another shoe that is made out of Nitro foam which is more akin to the foam that’s in the heel of the Deviate Nitro 2.
The Hyperion Max does not have a plate, but it has a really nice stack height and geometry that makes it suitable for easy runs but also mainly, for me, for tempo runs.
I took the Hyperion Max out for a workout and also for an easy run as well and it did surprisingly well in both of those situations.
I really like how snappy, lightweight, and very nimble the Hyperion Max felt when I was trying to turn over at that pace in between 10k and marathon Speed.
Again, the Hyperion Max is best for tempo workouts, long-run workouts, and even a little bit of racing for some people. I do think that some people are also going to be able to use it as their daily trainer as well if they like or prefer a slightly firmer ride.
Asics Magic Speed 3
Neutral 〉 W: 6.6 oz 〉 M: 7.8 oz 〉 Drop: 7 mm 〉 Heel: 34.5 mm 〉 Forefoot: 27.5 mm
They say the third time is the charm and for this carbon-plated trainer, that’s certainly the case.
The Magic Speed 3 is definitely a speed day tempo day shoe for me, but it’s got a nice amount of cushion. It’s not as soft as the Novablast or the Nimbus 25 which also uses the same type of foam and that’s going to be due to a couple of different things.
The other thing that I really appreciate about the Magic Speed is that it gives me one of the things I love about the Metaspeed series and that’s the positive feedback that I get from it, which is very helpful, especially later in a race or later in a workout.
Neutral 〉 W: 8.4 oz 〉 M: 8.4 oz 〉 Drop: 8 mm 〉 Heel: 45 mm 〉 Forefoot: 37 mm
For those people who:
- Don’t always respond well to carbon plates
- Are looking for more cushion rather than raw pure performance,
… the Superblast is a shoe that can certainly only be high at your list for your race day shoe.
If you are a high-mileage runner training for marathons or half marathons and have weekly regular long runs that sometimes have some of those pace changes in there, I think you’re really going to appreciate the lightness and snappiness of the Superblast.
For me, I’ve taken the Superblast on everything from easy paces all the way up through threshold pace and I feel like its sweet spot is somewhere in between easy+ pace and just below threshold.
Best Tempo Shoes – Full Reviews
Puma Deviate Nitro 2 (Full Review)
On paper, the Puma Deviate Nitro 2 confuses a lot of people because it combines elements of a racing shoe and an everyday trainer. However, when I run on the road, it’s probably my favorite Puma running shoe.
|Where to buy (not affiliate)
|Dicks Sporting Goods
The midsole features two different foams. The upper layer, running the entire length of the shoe, consists of Puma’s Nitro Elite foam, known for its premium racing performance. Below that is the standard Nitro foam.
Between these layers is Puma’s PWRPlate. This plate in the Deviate Nitro 2, the non-elite version, differs slightly from the one in the Nitro Elite 2. Despite both being called PWRplates, the one in the Deviate Nitro 2 is a carbon composite.
The plate in the Deviate isn’t as rigid or springy as the full carbon plate in its racing counterpart, the Deviate Nitro Elite v2.
The Pumagrip outsole has a notably thick rubber layer, and the abundance of rubber is somewhat surprising. I’ve experienced Pumagrip in a couple of other shoes over the past few years. It’s a high-quality, grippy material that proves to be quite durable, albeit contributing a bit to the overall weight of the shoe.
The upper material appears almost fuzzy to me. It’s a dual-layer mesh system that, despite not seeming highly breathable, provided sufficient ventilation during my runs. Plus, it gives the impression of being durable enough to withstand the wear and tear associated with daily training mileage and tempo workouts.
The shoe features a thin tongue, reminiscent of a soccer cleat. There’s minimal padding on the heel collar and not excessive bulk in the back of the shoe. The heel cup offers just a hint of structure – not overly rigid, but enough to provide a subtle shape.
In terms of sizing, I went for my regular running shoe size, a 9, but with the Deviate Nitro 2, I found the fit to be quite snug in the toe box.
While I’m not inclined to recommend sizing up, it did feel tight. The toe box not only lacked ample volume and height, but it also seemed a bit too snug.
If you’re often on the fence about sizing, sometimes you size up and sometimes you don’t, this could be a shoe where you want to size up.
Now that we’ve covered some specs, let’s talk about what it was like to run in the Deviate…
What it was Like to Run in the Daviate Nitro 2
I feel like the Deviate offers relatively more stability compared to its racing counterpart, albeit at the expense of a bit of the excitement that the Nitro Elite foam can deliver in a run.
It’s not an overly firm shoe, but it actually just feels like a very responsive daily training/tempo-day shoe. I’d describe it as more comfortable and capable than a shoe solely built with Nitro foam.
In comparison to the Velocity Nitro 2, I find that the Deviate Nitro 2 has the capability to pick up the pace effectively. I took it for a fartlek workout, and it proved to be nice for that purpose as well.
Plus, it performed well on longer easy runs. While it leans towards being more responsive than what I typically choose for everyday runs, there’s still a pleasant softness to the shoe.
If the Adidas Boston series is no longer catching your attention, the Deviate Nitro 2 is likely the update you’ve been seeking.
Shoes to Pair with the Deviate Nitro 2
When thinking about racing shoes, the Asics Metaspeed Sky+ is the first that comes to mind. Its blend of slight firmness and considerable speed seems like a fitting complement to the Deviate Nitro 2.
Another intriguing option could be the Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro.
Also, the Adidas Adizero SL stands out as a strong contender. It uses regular Lightstrike foam as its primary material, with a forefoot puck featuring Adidas’ racing foam.
Topo Cyclone 2 (Full Review)
|Where to buy (not affiliate)
What it was Like to Run in the Cyclone 2
The Cyclone 2 offers a nice amount of squishiness that effectively absorbs the impact when your foot makes hits the ground. What’s impressive is that you don’t feel trapped in the foam; as it decompresses, it propels you into the next stride with a lively and peppy energy.
This exceptional feel of the Cyclone 2 can be attributed to the use of Pebax foam, known for delivering a lively and enjoyable running experience.
The Cyclone 2 strikes a remarkable balance by feeling incredibly light on the feet while maintaining a nimble and lightweight quality. It’s a versatile shoe that offers a mix of cushioning for longer miles and agility for speedier sessions.
I find it well-suited for various running activities, from hill intervals to speed sessions, and even easy runs. Its adaptability makes it a favorite for both shorter, speedier options and more extended training sessions.
I really like it for those sessions and kind of shorter speedier options, but I’ve also really enjoyed it for all sorts of running from hill intervals to speed sessions to just easy runs.
In my opinion, the Topo Cyclone 2 suits those who want a fast shoe for daily training and tempo workouts, especially if you prefer feeling more connected to the road.
Shoes to Pair with the Cyclone 2
For racing, you can pair the Cyclone 2 with the Endorphin Pro 3. The Pro 3 offers an upgraded marathon-distance racing experience.
On recovery days, when you want to just be even more relaxed, pair the Cyclone with the Triumph 21. The Triumph provides more stability, structure, and a lot more stack height.
Adidas Prime X 2 Strung (Full Review)
The Prime X has been one of my all-time favorite shoes. Its massive and chaotic design appeals to me, especially for fast, long runs. Now, with the complete overhaul in the Prime X 2 Strung, has Adidas made the necessary adjustments to steer clear of a sophomore slump?
|Where to buy (not affiliate)
The Prime X 2 Strung remains a 50mm rule-breaking shoe, defying the World Athletics regulation that restricts shoe height to 40mm and permits only one layer of carbon.
However, this rule primarily affects elite runners subject to pre-race equipment inspections for prize money or record attempts. If you’re not in that category, the rule doesn’t impact you.
In the midsole, there’s a top layer and a bottom layer of Lightstrike Pro, along with two carbon fiber plates. Sandwiched in between the two carbon elements, there’s a squishy layer of padding of foam.
When you compress the shoe, both layers of carbon fiber and the middle foam layer get squished. Upon release or decompression, you get a lot of nice pop.
They’ve also adjusted the drop in this version. The Prime X Strung 2 has a 6.5mm drop, a reduction from the 8.5mm in the previous version.
The outsole retains a substantial amount of Continental rubber, albeit with a notably different tread pattern compared to the previous year’s Prime X and Prime X Strung.
In terms of the lacing system, the Prime X 2 Strung introduces significant changes. Last year’s Prime X had a standard non-gusseted tongue, but this year, we have a sewn-in knit material, creating more of a knit bootie than the regular tongue in the previous version.
As far as the heel cup goes, the back still has a very floppy and unstructured design, which I appreciate for racing and fast runs.
However, with each Prime X iteration, there’s a subtle increase in padding. However, as we’ve gone through each iteration of the Prime X, there is just a tiny bit more padding added each time.
It’s almost not noticeable unless you look at the shoes next to each other and we have the most padding we’ve ever seen as far as these little bumper pads go in order to help keep the ankle and heel locked into place.
In terms of weight, the Prime X 2 Strung comes in at a substantial 10 oz. or 283 grams. While it’s not overly heavy given how much shoe there is, keep in mind that last year’s Prime X Strung weighed in at 9 oz. or 255 grams.
Now that we’ve covered some of the paper specifications, let’s talk about how it performs when you hit the roads…
What it was Like to Run in the Prime X 2 Strung
There’s a lot to talk about…
Adidas made a significant adjustment to the rocker’s angle at the front of the shoe. While the change makes it slightly more gradual, it starts at a much earlier point, giving the Prime X 2 Strung a more aggressive feel.
This seems beneficial, particularly when dealing with a shoe of this magnitude, which aids in a smoother turnover. Overall, the Prime X 2 Strung feels more aggressive and it’s easier to get onto the toes and pick that heel up as you’re getting your legs turned over
I’ve noticed that the Prime X 2 Strung is quite sensitive to your running form. When you’re running with good form, the Prime X 2 Strung really rewards you and you’re feeling a nice positive feedback from the shoe. But even if your form becomes a bit sloppy, it’s still forgiving for a carbon-plated racer, but the excitement diminishes a bit of course.
It gives you a little bit more of a reminder to make sure that you’re running as efficiently as possible, and that’s something that I love to see in all my carbon-plated racers and tempo workout shoes.
I also think the combination of Lightstrike Pro with the carbon fiber plates makes it feel notably easier to achieve speeds beyond marathon effort.
I’ve tested this shoe in both threshold workouts and marathon-effort miles, and I must say it performed exceptionally well for both. But the faster you go, the more you’re going to feel the weight of the shoe, and it might seem a bit clunky. However, compared to the previous model, I feel like the Prime X 2 Strung is a shoe that you can definitely take for those faster threshold type of workouts.
If you’re a fan of substantial shoes with big stack heights, here’s a rotation for you…
If you’re going to be using the Prime X 2 Strung as your workout shoe, I recommend the Endorphin Elite as your marathon racing shoe.
The Endorphin Elite is a 40mm shoe that’s technically race-legal, remarkably lightweight, and equipped with two high-end foams.
Its featherweight upper breathes well and efficiently sheds water. Racing in this shoe could be a delightful experience, especially if you’ve been putting in your workout miles with the Prime X 2 Strung.
For your easy and recovery days, consider the Fresh Foam More v4, a shoe that boasts one of the most significant stack heights.
The More v4 is super squishy, albeit in a different manner than the Endorphin Elite or Prime X 2 Strung. It’s exceptionally comfortable, featuring the familiar early rocker feel that you’ve likely grown accustomed to if you’ve been logging miles in the Prime X 2 Strung.
That’s my suggestion for a rotation with some giant shoes that could add an enjoyable variety to your runs.
Given that the previous Prime X Strung is still on the market, if you lean towards a slightly lighter weight and prefer a later-stage rocker that becomes aggressive toward the end, you might find some dynamics in the Prime X Strung version 1 that could make it preferable over the version 2 for certain runners.
Tempo Shoes That Compete with the Strung 2
The Prime X stands out in its own category with limited competition in the market. However, one contender that comes to mind is the Asics Superblast. Similar to the Prime X 2 Strung, the Superblast has a jumbo stack height and uses racing foam.
The key difference lies in its use of a layer of daily training foam instead of a carbon fiber plate at the bottom. Instead of a carbon fiber plate, the Superblast has a layer of daily training foam on the bottom to help stabilize everything and make everything a little bit more manageable at a wider variety of paces other than kind of just race pace.
Additionally, the Superblast has the advantage of being featherweight compared to the Prime X 2 Strung. If weight is a concern for you, the Superblast is worth considering.
Another shoe that I’m going to compare the Strung 2 to is going to be the New Balance SC Trainer v2.
The original version had a tall stack height comparable to the Prime X and Superblast. Although this year’s version is brought under the 40-millimeter mark, it still utilizes two layers of racing foam and a carbon fiber plate, which provides an experience quite similar to how I would use the Prime X 2 Strung. It’s a comfortable, tall, and enjoyable shoe great for long-run workouts and even some threshold mile repeats.
What I didn’t like about the Strung 2
I think one of the things that they’ve done is that they have flared out the back part of the heel just a little bit compared to what the heel looked like in version one of the Prime X.
Nike Invincible Run 3 (Full Review)
The Nike Invincible Run 3 is a somewhat perplexing shoe. While some see it as an easy-day max cushion trainer, others view it as a long-run workout shoe. However, for others, myself included, it seems to fall distinctly into one category or the other.
|Where to buy (not affiliate)
The midsole of the Nike Invincible Run 3 features only ZoomX, Nike’s premier racing foam. It’s a departure from the typical use of ZoomX foam in racing shoes, where it’s often combined with a carbon fiber plate, a Zoom Air pocket, or both. The Invincible Run 3 offers a unique experience, allowing us to feel the effects of ZoomX on its own.
To protect the ZoomX foam, the Nike Invincible Run 3 features an almost full rubber coverage on the outsole. There are only a couple of cutouts, strategically placed to assist with flex grooving and facilitate easier bending of the rubber, also contributing to a slight reduction in weight.
The upper of the Nike Invincible Run 3 undergoes significant changes. Notably, they’ve removed much of the additional padding that used to be attached to the outside of the shoe, and there’s a reduction in padding on the inside as well.
Despite Nike’s claim of using Flyknit, I feel that this doesn’t quite feel like Flyknit. This has been a concern in previous versions of the Invincible Flyknit, and even though they dropped the term “Flyknit” from the title in the Invincible Run 3, the material doesn’t live up to the Flyknit standards.
It lacks breathability, isn’t as stretchy, and seems as though someone tried to make a regular mesh upper waterproof by coating it with Mod Podge. The oddly shiny appearance isn’t something I’m enjoying.
Nike, bring back the real Flyknit from the Vaporfly, Zoom Fly 2 Flyknit, or Epic React—materials that are breathable, stretchy, comfortable, and confidence-inspiring during the run. Consider even incorporating Atomknit from the Alphafly, as those have been fantastic iterations of knit materials in an upper.
The Invincible Run 3 still provides a comfortable fit that accommodates a variety of heel sizes and types. The inclusion of a foam bumper pad in the back helps keep the ankle securely locked into place.
Let’s talk about what it was like to run in the Invincible 3…
What it was Like to Run in the Invincible 3
Looking at that substantial stack of ZoomX foam might suggest it’s a shoe for easy, max-cushion days. Personally, it took me a while for my foot strike to adapt to this shoe.
At slower paces, finding a rhythm with the Invincible 3 is relatively easy. However, if you happen to fall out of that rhythm, a distinct clap-clap feeling serves as a quick reminder. It’s a unique sensation that might require some adjustment.
I felt the Invincible seemed to encourage a slightly faster pace than I wanted to go for my usual easy paces. Nevertheless, it provided substantial underfoot cushioning and had ample room in the toe box, which is noteworthy, especially for a Nike shoe.
During a taper workout, the Invincible Run 3 impressed me. Landing on the front part of the shoe, I found it easy to get up to marathon pace with a satisfying spring and response.
The cushioning provided the desired squishiness upon landing, while the pop-off during the push-off at marathon effort was particularly enjoyable.
I’m confident in pushing the Invincible Run 3 to half marathon pace, and even for some threshold work. However, for a threshold-like mile repeat workout, I’d lean towards a carbon-plated shoe.
The sweet spot with the Nike Invincible Run 3, in my experience, is in the middle of the training block—perfect for long runs and a substantial portion of marathon effort. I value a shoe that effortlessly accommodates hitting and maintaining marathon paces while ensuring a quick recovery for my next sessions.
Again, you might find affection for the Invincible 3 on easy runs and max cushion recovery days. Alternatively, you could appreciate it for workouts, sessions, and even marathon racing if you prefer non-carbon shoes. It’s a versatile shoe catering to varied preferences.
If you’re considering getting the Invincible Run 3, there are a couple of options you might want to pair it with…
Shoes to Pair with the Invincible 3
If you appreciate the Invincible Run 3 for easy days or as a max cushion recovery shoe, consider pairing it with the Saucony Endorphin Elite. The Endorphin Elite, being lighter, tall, and featuring significant stack height, provides excellent cushioning.
The dynamics you experience in the Invincible during long runs at marathon effort sessions might transition to racing a marathon in the Endorphin Elite.
If the glossy Flyknit of the Invincible doesn’t appeal to you, a traditional alternative is the Tracksmith Eliot. Priced similarly, both shoes share the same midsole foam source material, applied in distinct ways. The Tracksmith Eliot provides a more traditional running shoe feel and is slightly firmer compared to the Invincible Run 3.
If, like me, you find the Invincible ideal for tempo days, consider pairing it with a daily trainer like the Novablast 4. The Novablast brings a lively and enjoyable bounce, which makes it a great option for easy days and offers a nice feel for runs with strides. And when it comes to the long runs on weekends, that’s when you can reach for the Invincible Run 3.
If you’re unsure about using the Invincible Run 3 for workouts and are looking for a different premium racing foam without the carbon-plated feature, then I think you should look at the Asics Superblast.
Just like the Invincible, the Superblast tends to be somewhat polarizing – some prefer it for max cushion runs, while others appreciate it for workout sessions. Personally, I find the Asics Superblast to be particularly enjoyable for running marathon effort sessions.
Hoka Cielo Road (Full Review)
In 2023, Hoka introduced premium Peba racing foams to their lineup, making up for lost time by unveiling a range of Peba-based offerings. The latest addition, the Cielo, is a 5K/10K racer, entirely composed of Peba but without the inclusion of a plate.
The Cielo has pure Peba racing foam goodness, but there’s no plate or other stabilizing elements. It’s just you and this racing foam.
The Cielo does have some other signature Hoka elements. It is curled at the forefoot so that way the foot strike rolls a little bit easier through that gait cycle.
On the outsole, the Cielo has a lot of exposed midsole foam along with Durabrasion rubber. However, I’m disappointed with the outsole performance, a sentiment echoed from the Rocket X2.
Even though there is a considerable amount of rubber, the traction isn’t the best on wet surfaces, especially with the Durabrasion rubber used in 2023.
The specific level of wetness I’m referring to is akin to the conditions at aid stations during road races. This wetness appears to be a challenge for the Cielo Road and the Rocket X2.
In summary, I have reservations about the rubber outsole Hoka is using in 2023 for their racing options, and I wanted to bring this to your attention.
The upper of the Cielo incorporates recycled content in the mesh, but it is a very stripped-down, basic design. It’s exceptionally breathable, almost see-through, with some structural elements in the forefoot reminiscent of the old Hoka One One Tracer 2.
Towards the rear of the shoe, there’s minimal structure, lending it a floppy feel—something I appreciate in a racing shoe. To ensure a snug fit, there are small bumper pads on each side around the heel.
The tongue is thin and breathable, generally staying out of the way. However, it’s not gusseted, so I found that it required a bit of effort to get it settled correctly. On some runs, the tongue shifted around a bit, although it didn’t result in any discomfort.
The upper of the Hoka Cielo provides a great fit. In my experience, Hoka has shown some sizing inconsistency, but with the Cielo, I went with my true size 9, and it feels just right. Surprisingly, there’s more room in this size 9 compared to what Hoka typically offers in some of its faster shoes, which is really good.
Now that we’ve covered the specs of the Hoka Cielo, let’s talk about the actual running experience.
What it was Like to Run in the Cielo Road
I want to highlight the experience of running in the Hoka Cielo. It’s a speedy shoe, and I enjoyed the Peba cushioning—it’s responsive and avoids feeling mushy. You get that nice springy quality as the shoe compresses and rebounds in a pleasant way.
Now, when it comes to the feel of this shoe as a 5K/10K racer or a road flat, I think it falls a bit short. The midsole stack height in the midfoot and heel is noticeable, and despite the 3mm drop, the transition to the forefoot felt a bit cumbersome. I found myself needing to adjust my foot strike, either getting all the way up on my toes or transitioning between midfoot and almost heel striking.
Because it lacks that aggressive get-on-your-toes sensation, I see it more as a speedy daily trainer rather than a dedicated road racing flat. How does that resonate with you?
If you like what the Cielo presents, let’s talk about some other shoes that you can use to build out a rotation around it…
Shoes to Pair with the Cielo
If you’re drawn to the concept of a Rincon 4 or a Rincon X, I’d suggest you stay within the Hoka family and use Clifton 9 for your easy days, cruisy long runs, and recovery runs.
The Clifton has seen a consistent string of solid improvements, and I find it lighter and more enjoyable than ever. It’s become a go-to for me when it comes to logging miles.
For your racing needs, while the Rocket X2 is a solid choice, there’s another shoe that I believe stands out even more—especially if you’re a fan of the Cielo Road.
I’m talking about the Asics Metaspeed Sky+. In my opinion, the Sky+ offers a substantial amount of premium racing foam in the forefoot, complemented by a carbon fiber plate for that extra pop. It combines these elements in an efficient racing package.
If you’ve been training and doing workouts in the Cielo Road, transitioning to the Metaspeed Sky+ could be a smooth and enjoyable move for you.
Tempo Shoes That Compete With the Cielo
I think that the natural competitor for this shoe in my mind is the Topo Cyclone 2. Firstly, the Topo Cyclone 2, with its all-Peba, no-plate midsole, provides a fun experience for fast workouts and could be suitable for 5K/10K races. It’s a contender I find to be among the most underrated shoes for 2023.
The other shoe that I think the Cielo Road feels more like is the Adidas Adizero Adios 8.
The Adios does have some plastic on the bottom in terms of stabilizing element to make sure that the squishy premium racing foam, that’s only in the forefoot, doesn’t get too squirrely underfoot.
But it’s not a carbon fiber plate so you’re not getting that carbon springiness if that’s something you’re looking to specifically avoid. And for the shorter distances, I feel like the kind of the low slung nature and the speedy nature of this Adios 8 makes it a worthy competitor to the Cielo Road.
Brooks Hyperion Max (Full Review)
|Where to buy (not affiliate)
|Dicks Sporting Goods
It’s been nearly four years since the debut of the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, and finally, we have its long-awaited successor—the Hyperion Max. The Hyperion Tempo, a beloved shoe released several years ago, hasn’t seen any updates, and it seems Brooks intends to keep it that way.
Instead, the Hyperion Tempo will transform into the Hyperion, dropping the “Tempo” from its name, while the new addition, the Hyperion Max, distinguishes itself with an extra layer of stack height.
This essentially means the Hyperion Max is an amped-up version of the beloved Hyperion Tempo.
The Brooks Hyperion Max retains the familiar DNA Flash foam, and it seems to be the same formulation as before. There’s no additional plates, stabilizers, or foams.
The DNA Flash midsole foam in the Brooks Hyperion Max might feel strange and perplexing initially. When you first put it on, the foam gives you a sensation of firmness and stiffness, creating an uncertain feeling about whether it will be enjoyable or not.
However, the Brooks Hyperion Max and the Flash DNA foam truly shines when you pick up the pace and add some extra force to your steps.
At higher speeds, the midsole foam effectively absorbs impact, decompresses, and returns the energy in an exciting and quick way.
The platform appears to be slightly wider, providing not only a deeper cushioning experience but also a broader base for landing.
The Brooks Hyperion Max features a distinct outsole pattern made from Brooks’ Green Rubber, designed with environmental considerations.
I found the outsole to be nice and grippy without excess bulk, which makes it particularly useful on days when top-tier racing shoes might face challenges.
The upper of the Brooks Hyperion Max features a stretch weave material, reminiscent of the original Hyperion Tempo. While the fit is similar, the Hyperion Tempo’s material may have felt a bit stretchier.
The upper design provides breathability and comfort, with minimal padding in the back to ensure a secure fit without unnecessary bulk.
Overall, the upper is comfortable and pretty much disappears on the foot when properly cinched down. In terms of fit, I went true to size on the Hyperion Max and I feel like that was the right way to go for me.
The Brooks Hyperion Max features an aggressive rocker, referred to as Rapid Roll technology by Brooks. This design includes a curled-up front that helps pick your heel off the ground and gets you moving forward to your next stride.
This feature contributes to the shoe’s snappy and responsive feel.
Let’s talk about what it was like to run in the Hyperion Max…
What it was Like to Run in the Hyperion Max
The Hyperion Max gave me a feeling similar to running in a Hyperion Tempo but with a slightly softer touch. It provided a bit more cushioning underfoot compared to the Hyperion Tempo. If you’re a fan of the Tempo but thought it was a tad too raw and close to the ground, the Hyperion Max is the shoe for you.
Personally, I prefer the Hyperion Max over the Tempo, especially because I appreciate that extra cushioning for my marathon training days.
I find myself liking the Hyperion Max even more than the Hyperion Tempo, mainly because I appreciate the extra cushion it provides during my marathon training days.
Surprisingly, I even prefer the Hyperion Max over the plated Hyperion Elite. Despite the Elite being wider, I feel the plate and DNA Flash midsole foam in the Max don’t really complement each other well.
The added stack height in the Hyperion Max makes it versatile for both tempo workouts and easy runs. I took it for a 10-mile run, and it turned out to be a comfortable daily training shoe that rolled really well.
If you’re thinking about the Hyperion Max, I think there’s a couple of shoes that you should also be considering…
If you’re in search of a race-day option with DNA Flash, the Hyperion Elite is a great choice. Again, it’s a bit wider in the forefoot and features carbon for added performance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you prefer something plush and cushioned, consider pairing the Hyperion Max with the Fresh Foam More v4.
The More has a tall stack height with a spongy Fresh Foam X midsole, offering a soft counterpoint to the firm snappiness of the Hyperion Max and its DNA Flash midsole.
For racing, the Asics Metaspeed Edge+ might be a suitable option. The Edge+ is designed for a snappy turnover and provides stability upon foot impact, making it a good race-day shoe for those who enjoy the Hyperion Max.
Asics Magic Speed (Full Review)
|Where to buy (not affiliate)
In the midsole, there are two layers of foam with a carbon fiber plate sandwiched in between. Asics utilizes their FFBlast+ foam, which is their top-tier daily training foam, for both the layers above and below the carbon fiber plate.
While Asics typically uses FF Turbo for race shoes, the FFBlast+ in the Metaspeed Edge+ provides a lightweight and bouncy yet cushioned experience, combining training sensations with a workout/racing setup.
The outsole of the Magic Speed features a pattern similar to its racing counterpart, the Metaspeed Sky. While sharing similarities, there are slight differences, particularly in the extent and depth of the rubber outsole. The Magic Speed boasts an extra layer of thickness in the rubber outsole, enhancing durability for prolonged use.
The upper of the Magic Speed 3 has undergone a significant change from the previous version. Instead of the daily trainer materials and meshes used in the last model, this year’s iteration features the same motion wrap upper as seen in the Metaspeed series.
While the Magic Speed 3 maintains some differences in the tongue and adds a bit more padding compared to the race version, its overall design leans more toward supporting faster-paced runs than prioritizing comfort.
In terms of weight, the Magic Speed 3 sheds some ounces from its predecessor, now weighing in at 7.7 oz. or 220 grams.
In terms of the fit of the Magic Speed, the racing upper material provides a snug type of fit, which aligns with the typical snugness expected in racing shoes. But when you’re moving faster, you normally like to be really locked in and feel that you’re going to be confidently above the foam with each and every stride
Now that we’ve gone over the specs, let’s talk about what it was like to actually run in the Asics Magic Speed…
What it was Like to Run in the Magic Speed
In terms of the carbon plate’s position, I find it to be more akin to the placement in the Metaspeed Edge+ rather than the Metaspeed Sky+.
To elaborate, the low position of the plate contributes to a heightened sense of stability and quick turnover, as opposed to a more bouncy sensation.
So, while running in the Magic Speed, I don’t experience an exaggerated pop from the carbon plate. Instead, what stands out is the shoe’s confident landing, devoid of any instability, followed by a swift and efficient roll forward for the next toe-off.
The Magic Speed didn’t quite win me over for easy runs. I tested it on a run with a mix of moderate paces and fartlek intervals, and during the easier portions, the firmness and plate position of the shoe became more apparent in a way that I didn’t find very favorable. As a result, it’s unlikely that I’ll be reaching for the Magic Speed for my regular easy runs.
To sum it up, I think the Magic Speed 3 is best for someone looking for a shoe dedicated to tempo days, speed workouts, and sessions that involve repeats.
Its optimal performance range spans from marathon pace down to mile pace, making it shine in a variety of workouts.
When it comes to pairing options for your running shoe rotation, you can easily build an entire lineup around the Magic Speed 3 while staying within the Asics family…
Shoes to Pair with the Magic Speed
For racing, the Metaspeed Sky+ is one of my favorite shoes that you could pair with the Magic Speed 3. Use the Magic Speed 3 for your daily sessions and the bulk of your miles and then save the Metaspeed Sky+ for your most significant workouts and key races.
When it comes to daily training and easy runs, again, I recommend the Novablast 4. The Novablast shares the same FFBlast+ foam but provides a more relaxed and comfortable package with additional heel foam. This shoe is ideal for logging those easy miles and building your aerobic base during your weekly training sessions.
Tempo Shoes That Compete With the Magic Speed
One of my go-to workout shoes is the Adidas Takumi Sen 9, and I find it perfect for everything from mile repeats to attempting a 5K PR.
It’s an incredibly lightweight and thrilling race-day shoe. For marathoners, not just 5K or 10K runners, I believe these two shoes will serve similar purposes.
Another shoe worth considering in comparison to the Magic Speed 3 is the Endorphin Speed 3. Both these shoes seem suitable for tempo workouts but can also handle a bit of daily training when needed. They share a versatile profile for those who want performance in various running scenarios.
Asics Superblast (Full Review)
|Where to buy (not affiliate)
The Novablast 4 is my favorite daily trainer in 2023-2024, thanks to its impressive FFBlast+ midsole. On the racing front, the Metaspeed Sky+ with its FF Turbo midsole has earned a spot among my favorite racing shoes. Now, imagine combining these two outstanding foams, and you get the Superblast—an exceptional creation.
But with a stack height of 45.5mm, the Superblast pushes the limits of eligibility for use as a marathon racer, but this rule mainly matters for those aiming to set world records or compete for prize money at major marathons. For everyday runners like me, it’s not a significant concern.
The Superblast has got a giant layer of FF Turbo, Asics’ top-tier racing foam known for its resilience, cushioning, and lightweight design tailored for high performance.
Beneath it lies a layer of FFBlast+, Asics’ premier everyday foam featured in various degrees across their daily trainers, showcasing its versatility from easy and recovery days to more intense workouts.
There’s no carbon fiber plate, shank, plastic, or gel. There’s nothing else in it except for those two foams.
I found that the Superblast’s substantial stack height made me notice a bit of ankle height, especially during turns and on loose gravel or rocks. However, I didn’t feel it was unstable. On paved or firm surfaces, I felt confident in my footing, and I think you’d feel secure while running.
The outsole features Asics AHAR+, their high-abrasion rubber, now in its second formulation. AHAR+ provides excellent grip and durability without adding too much weight. This aligns well with the Superblast’s purpose—a versatile shoe for tempo work.
It’s not necessarily a racer and not necessarily a daily trainer but something that’s somewhere in the middle where you’re going to be able to do a lot of high-quality tempo work in it while also getting the durability of that daily trainer.
The upper has a thicker and less stretchy material with a coarse feel, reminiscent of the Metaspeed Sky or the Metaspeed Sky+. However, it’s more durable and suitable for regular use, not just on workout or race days.
The fit is comfortable, not as snug as a racer, with ample room and a lightly padded tongue that stays in place. The heel cup has minimal padding, contributing to a favorable fit. The long, spaghetti-like laces are a minor annoyance, but overall, the fit is good. I opted for my usual US men’s size 9.
All right, let’s talk about what it was like to actually run in the Superblast…
What it was Like to Run in the Superblast
I think the Superblast can serve as either your marathon trainer or your marathon racer. The dual-layered midsole, featuring FF Turbo for responsiveness and FFBlast+ for added cushioning, benefits both midfoot and rearfoot strikers.
The FF Turbo is nice and responsive and we’re getting that super-shoe sensation in the Superblast as well. The bottom layer of that FFBlast+ softens things out just a little bit so that way when you are logging in all those high-mileage weeks.
The Superblast absorbs that impact just a little bit and takes a little bit of that edge off so that way you can be ready and recovered a little bit sooner and get ready for that next workout.
Even with there is a bunch of foam, both midfoot and rearfoot strikers can benefit from the Superblast’s design. Its geometry, reminiscent of the Metaspeed Sky+, features a less aggressive rocker and maintains a thick layer of foam throughout the shoe.
As the forefoot curls up slightly, the combination of FFBlast+ and FF Turbo provides a satisfying compression and decompression, delivering a snappy feel with each step. This design allows for versatility, accommodating different foot striking patterns.
So, the longer the company delays that forefoot curl, the more foam there’s going to be underfoot. This will allow FFBlast+ and FF Turbo to work together to give you a nice compression and decompression, providing a snappy feel with each step.
Due to FF Turbo’s lightweight nature and the ample stack height, the Superblast offers a lively rebound along with forgiving cushioning.
While the Asics Superblast may not push the limits like a carbon-plated racer, it maintains a peppy and race-day-special feel that many runners will find appealing.
These are my thoughts on the best tempo running shoes or speed-day tempo workout shoes.
I’d love to hear what you’ve been working out in. Share what shoes you’re lacing up for your workouts, especially if you have preferences beyond your super shoe racing options.