A day before the 30th anniversary of the L.A. Marathon is no time to change your shoes — if you are running. But a couple of days later, when the experience is fresh in your mind and your body starts healing, the planning for No. 31 should begin. This review of innovative shoes, which will appeal to a range of runners and shoe collectors, is a good place to start.
Fountain of youth
Adidas Ultra Boost: This trainer features a sock-like upper and a bouncy midsole material called Boost that is made of 3,000 squashed-together foam capsules (20% more than earlier versions).
Likes: Almost everything — the comfort, the looks, the energy. The front of your foot nests in a sock-like woven upper; your heel luxuriates in a pillowy gap that pampers your Achilles tendon. Most of all, the Boost foam makes you feel young, providing a noticeable bounce that makes the shoe feel lighter than its moderate weight (11.5 ounces in men's size 9.5). Adidas claims the foam is so resilient that it won't stiffen up in the cold and breaks down much more slowly than typical foam, thereby providing the same cushion at mile 500 as it did at mile 5. So in theory you'll get twice the miles out of it, knocking down the pricey cost-per-mile.
Dislikes: Besides the sky-high price, the thinness of the outsole makes me worry it will wear quickly, negating the foam's longevity.
Price: $180. adidas.com
Asics Limited Edition LA Marathon 33-DFA: A low-profile special edition made for the 30th anniversary of the L.A. Marathon has unique graphics. The 33-DFA refers to the 33 joints of the foot.
Likes: The words. It'd be cool to frame this along with your finisher's medal. "LA Marathon," "Santa Monica," "26.2 miles," "2015," "Stadium to the Sea" and "West Hollywood" are all printed somewhere on the forefoot upper. Strangely, so is "March 9" — even though the race is March 15. Someone at Asics wasn't paying attention, as the "dislikes" will testify. Not super-light for a racing shoe at 10.5 ounces in size 9.5.
Dislikes: The shoe feels hard. Compared with the Adidas, it had much less cushion and flexibility.
Price: $100. asicsamerica.com
High and soft
Hoka One One Bondi 4: The trainer with the highest level of cushioning on the market. Designed for heel strikers who worry about force-impact injuries. This new model has more rubber on the outsole and padding on the tongue than earlier Bondis.
Likes: It makes me taller. I've lost an inch over the years, and the 2-inch pile of soft EVA heel cushioning (about double that of the other shoes here) got me back to college height and more. Despite the bulk, it is remarkably light (11.5 ounces in size 9.5), possibly making it marathon-worthy for some. Biomechanically correct types will like the minimal 4-millimeter drop from the 33 mm heel to the 29 mm forefoot. Die-hard heel strikers will like the Mega-Rocker 10-degree heel bevel, which helps propel you through the gait cycle. The extra cushioning is probably best for heavier runners who want to baby their aching joints.
Dislikes: The upper is too stiff and narrow. My D-plus width feet were suffocating. The ground feel is nil, as expected. Being a minimalist-wearing forefoot lander, I felt kind of sluggish and unbalanced. They are not cheap, unless you absolutely need a lot of cushioning.
Price: $150. hokaoneone.com
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante: This lightweight trainer-racer has decent cushioning. "Fresh Foam" refers to a design that uses concave and convex hexagonal blocks, respectively, on the medial and lateral sides of the midsole.
Likes: Comfy, super-light (8.5 ounces in size 9.5) and fast with good ground feel. The Fresh Foam delivers a surprisingly robust cushion. It has a bootie-style stretchy-mesh forefoot with seam-free interior and attached tongue, and it has won raves from the running magazines and fast runners with narrow-to-medium width for its "smooth feel" and "responsiveness." While some mistakenly put this shoe's foam in the same league as the much-heavier Adidas Boost (it lacks the energizing bounce), its shock absorption will be a treat for lightweight marathoners.
Dislikes: The toe box cramped my little toes at first; they got used to it but seemed to spill over the outside edge, which made me feel unstable. The narrowness was surprising for a shoe with the normally roomy New Balance nameplate. Heavier people (I include myself at 185 pounds) will find this shoe too frail.
Price: $99. newbalance.com
Skechers GOMeb Speed 3: This is the ultralight racing shoe that American Meb Keflezighi wore while winning last year's Boston Marathon.
Likes: It's not as plush, bouncy and energizing as the Adidas, but it's comfy and very fast because of its feathery weight (8 ounces in a size 9.5 on my scale, but Skechers claims 7.1 ounces in size 9) and a lively feel. Its nice combination of cushioning and low-to-the-ground stability may be due to a plastic midfoot plate and ¾-inch thick Resalyte midsole foam, which is dense and protective with a good spring-back. The nearly-flat shoe has a 4 mm drop from heel to forefoot. It cuts the weight with a seamless, structureless one-piece mesh upper and a thin, unpadded tongue. The mesh, thicker and less flexible than that of the heavier New Balance Zante, lent the shoe a substantial feel and seemed to keep my foot in place. Also, it comes with a rare extra pair of laces — in fluorescent green.
Dislikes: It's a bit low-volume in the toe box; my big toenails scraped the inside. The marketing techno-babble — "GOimpulse sensors that offer flexibility and feedback" — is a little grating. The "sensors" are just 11 ¾-inch circles of harder rubber embedded in the foam sole so it doesn't wear out too quickly.
Price: $120. skechers.com
Wallack is the co-author of "Barefoot Running Step by Step." firstname.lastname@example.org