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You’ve put in the distance and you need a shoe that will go the distance with you on the big day. We have three running shoes up for the test that will see you reach the finish line and keep on going

Killian Byrne

Brooks Glycerin 17

Cushioned trainers are where it’s at right now with more and more manufacturers placing comfort as a priority alongside the old standard of pronation support. Sure, pronation matters but when you’re looking to ‘go long’ in a set of shoes then today’s amateur runners realise the benefits of having a pair of shoes that will be as comfortable at the end of a 21km run as they were at the start. This is particularly important if you’re planning on heading out again just a few days later because your training plan tells you to.

Brooks do cushioned shoes very well. The Glycerin range is probably the best-known neutral shoe from Brooks in what is becoming a crowded category and after some considerable updates for the Glycerin 16, the 17 seems to have taken an ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ attitude.

The DNA Loft-foam sole offers bounce and flexibility without being too ‘springy’. There’s enough flexibility there to be sensitive but the rubber outsole is very solid, giving you durability for many miles of training. These trainers are designed to last.

The upper runs similar to others in the Brooks’ ranges, a double mesh allows breathability but is snug without feeling restrictive, this just adds to the comfort. The Glycerin 17 is a good shoe and will get a lot of use.

SCORE: 7/10

RRP: €170

Hoka Carbon X

And now, for something completely different…kind of. Yes, they’re a shoe pitched at the distance runner and when we talk distance, is a 50-mile world-record running shoe far enough? Thought so. But, compare the Hoka Carbon X to either of the other two brands under test this month and you’re talking chalk and cheese.

The Carbon X is a shoe born from technology and then given the familiar Hoka makeover. For all intents and purposes, these look like a set of spikes with a cushioned sole, but the good stuff is inside, and the clue is in the name. With a carbon plate embedded within the very familiar Hoka ‘Meta-Rocker’ sole, this shoe seems to fall very squarely between stools. Is it a shoe for a fast 5km or to save you that five per cent of energy on the longest of long runs? Only you can decide.

With a comfortable, cushioned and unmistakably springy sole, the Carbon X pushes you along, step by step, with the Y-shaped carbon plate doing its job. I just couldn’t get away from the unfamiliar upper though. A tight-knitted mesh with a solid, reinforced heel makes things tight but I never felt 100 per cent comfortable. There was always a little give and trying to get used to the noticeable spring left me just a small bit unsettled.

If you regularly wear Hoka shoes, then you’ll be very familiar with the balance of these, they roll you from step to step in a cloud-like spring but for me, the Carbon X will be what I wear for speedwork, for my 5km PB or for short-paced training runs.

SCORE: 7.5/10

RRP: €180

New Balance 1080 v9

Back in the crowded neutral, cushioned, long-distance, capable shoe category, we find the New Balance 1080 v9. This is not a case of the same old homogenous offering we have found with brands that populate this part of the shoe wall in any running shop.

It’s been a while since I tried New Balance – in fact, they were the first trainer to be featured in the Gear & Gadgets pages and I wish I hadn’t left things for so long. You’d hardly call these a flash-looking trainer but sometimes it’s the quiet ones that surprise you the most. Every manufacturer seems to have their own patented foam or air-based sole – New Balance has Fresh Foam.

Fresh Foam is firm, cushioned, comfortable and responsive – can it be true? Yep, all four in one go. Out of the box, the sole looked a little slick and I was initially concerned with the quality of the grip but there were no issues at all.

With New Balance having a reputation to run very true to size, there was plenty of room without feeling too big. A roomy toe box allowed for plenty of comfort, even after a hot and difficult long run, and the engineered two-material upper allows plenty of breathability. The 1080 v9 is an excellent shoe. Fast, firm, flexible and fresh – New Balance has a real gem here.

SCORE: 8.5/10

RRP: €170


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