Women's Road Runners

Outside Buyer's Guide (2006 Annual)

Can bike specialist Pearl Izumi really make a top-quality running shoe? In a word, yes. The Pace is the Syncro line's first lightweight stability shoe, designed for a light, overpronating woman. The Pace sports a firm thermo-molded polyurethane frame, a cushy TPU heel, and a bouncy, injected-EVA forefoot. Translation? Runners get a comfy, springy ride that still offers plenty of support. The women's last is narrower in both the heel and instep, which helps lock feet in. Bonus: Pearl's signature seamless-mesh upper eliminates chafe. Bummer: The upper's cushioning feels like a marshmallow—soft but bulky. www.pearlizumi.com

Pick up the pace with this fast-forward shoe. Fans of its predecessor will recognize the familiar heel-cushion design, with its embedded thermoplastic springs (or "waves"), but now there are three waves rather than two, and they're angled farther forward. The effect: It improves heel-to-toe transition, propelling you into the next stride for a faster gait. It also minimizes the need for excess cushioning material, reducing overall weight and extending the life of the midsole. Bonus: We packed on the miles and the Wave Creation showed no sign of wearing down. Bummer: Bigger runners could use a little more cush. www.mizunousa.com

This shoe packs in technology like a NASA experiment, delivering the year's fastest, most comfortable ride. The midsole material, called Solyte, is about half the weight of Asics's standard-density EVA; discreet gel units in the rearfoot absorb impact by adapting to individual strides; and the new polyester upper material—Spacemaster-UV—stretches for a precise fit. Bonus: Access your inner disco ball with a glut of reflective material. Bummer: Technology ain't cheap. www.asicsamerica.com

Don't be fooled by the AdiStar's low weight and open-mesh upper. It's a solid motion-control shoe for heavier runners or severe overpronators looking to hammer out miles. Adidas recently streamlined their proprietary Ground Control System, resulting in a sleeker, lighter shoe with the same support benefits. It nips overpronation in the bud but without the boxy feel of many stability shoes. The ultralight mesh upper is reinforced so you don't lose any support up top. Bonus: That open mesh, combined with midsole vents, cools feet on the hottest days. Bummer: Some testers found the toe box too roomy; making it best for wider, higher-volume feet. www.adidas.com

—Kate Siber



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