Article by Jacob Brady, Renee Krusemark, Peter Stuart, Ryan Eiler, Derek Li, Sam Winebaum
Puma Running FAST-R Nitro Elite (250€, Expected $250 )
The FAST-R is Puma’s new “marathon worthy” racer claiming to offer maximum stability and efficiency through its innovative design. Featuring a radical split geometry with light stable EVA at the rear stacked at 37mm, a gap bridged by a PWRPLATE carbon plate leading up front to a big 30mm forefoot of Puma’s Nitro supercritical foam, here a bio based PEBA. The upper is a monomesh with a stretch knit gusset tongue that extends to the rear as internal reinforcements. Not skimping on rubber or traction as it features extensive Puma Grip rubber. For sure radical in design and ride concept and quite unlike any marathon super shoe to date 6 of us at RTR, marathoners from below 2:30 to about 4 hours put it to the test. Read on to see what we thought of the new cat in town
Wide, stable, forefoot – Jacob/Sam/Derek/Renee/Peter
Stable not overly soft heel, leads to easier more consistent transitions-Sam/Derek/Renee/Peter
Very secure upper hold front to back, really locking foot to the platform-Sam/Peter/Jacob
Distinct forward squish and drop into front Nitro foam
Natural flexibility – Jacob/Derek/Renee
Amazing forefoot traction – Jacob/ Sam/Derek/Renee/Ryan
Ride is a great balance of bouncy fun, protection, stability, and responsiveness – Jacob/Sam/Derek/Renee/Ryan
Not designed for such but considerably more “walkable” than other super shoes-Sam
Low volume forefoot – Jacob//Renee
Low volume snug front of midfoot, likely needed given medial gap-Sam/Renee
Transition off the midfoot is rigid, lacks drop in feel to the soft and energetic front-Sam
Harshness in the midfoot/arch Peter
Kind of punishing Peter
Too soft on lateral side of forefoot – Ryan
Laces don’t hold tension well; could use material with more bite – Derek/Sam
men’s 8 oz / 225g (US9) / women’s 6.91oz / 197g (US8)
Samples: men’s 266 g / 9.4 oz (US12), 8 oz / 225g US9, 7.97oz / 226g (US9.5/EU 42.5)
women’s 6.91oz / 197g (US8)
Stack Height: 37/30 measured (Derek) vs official stack 37.5/30, 7mm drop
$250. General release expected August, 2022.
Jacob is a runner and general endurance sports enthusiast. He runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for over 3.5 years and averages around 50 miles per week. Jacob races on road and trail at a variety of distances from 5k to 50k. He has a recent PR of 2:49 in the marathon. In addition to running, he does hiking, biking (mountain/gravel/road), and nordic skiing. He is 26 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and 155 lbs / 70 kg. You can check out Jacob’s recent activities on Strava.
Ryan Eller A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can. He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line. More recently he has solo time trialed the 2020 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K and in 2021 marathon had PR’s of 2:27 at the Maine Marathon and 1:09 for the half marathon.
Renee is a former U. S. Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.
Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years
Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range when he is lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.
First Impressions and Fit
Jacob: The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite is a visually striking shoe in many ways. It uses bright yellow colors, a unique plastic heel protrusion, and a bubbly round design. It has completely separate forefoot and heel midsole units with an exposed carbon plate bridging between them and a thin, race-weight upper—the forefoot midsole even has a glittery sparkle.
I was really excited to take the Fast-R for a run, but I wasn’t necessarily loving the look—it gave off a vibe of looking too extreme to be functional, trying too hard to be futuristic, and the kind of shoe that slower runners would be hesitant to use. However, in the past two years Puma has released some excellent running shoes and is growing rapidly in popularity in the road running scene, so I thought the performance really could live up to the design.
In hand, the Fast-R is light given all the material and a competitive weight with other carbon-plated distance racing shoes: slightly heavier than the Endorphin Pro 1 & 2 (~250 g) and RC Elite v2 (259 g), and lighter than the Adios Pro 1 & 2 (~273 g). The difference in midsole feel between the heel and forefoot is dramatic and the plate is relatively flexible. It’s a really interesting design.
On foot, the fit is snug, glove-like, especially in the forefoot which is definitely low volume, both width and height. Foothold is outstanding. The upper material is soft and comfortable, but was a bit tight width-wise for my medium to wide foot. It didn’t end up being problematic on the run, but I imagine the snug forefoot would limit the Fast-R’s usability for runners with high volume feet.
Derek: This is the most anticipated racer of 2022 for me. I just love these superthin uppers and this one is as translucent as they come. If you have the Deviate Nitro Elite, the upper is pretty much the same type of material. Step-in feel is like sliding into a Lamborghini Diablo for the first time. The snug fit and low toe box just exudes that race-pace only vibe. The arch section is fairly narrow, so people with wide feet may be out of luck here. Walking around, the drop certainly feels closer to 8-10mm than what the official 7.5mm drop suggests. The heel is surprisingly mellow, after reading early reviews that the EVA in the heel is quite firm. Officially, the durometer of the heel and forefoot foams are quoted as 45C and 40C respectively, so I guess it should not come as a huge surprise that the heel does have some squish to it. It is quite evident from the first couple of strides that the Puma still prefers to use a plate that has a bit of flex, compared to many other brands that prefer a more rigid forefoot rocker. How does that translate to race pace performance? Let’s find out.
Renee: I’ll echo what Jacob and Derek wrote. The Fast-R is a carbon-plated race shoe comparable to the rest of top choice marathon shoes, including the Next% and Metaspeed Sky. Visually, the Fast-R seems polarizing, but the ride is much more friendly than it looks. Despite carbon-plated shoes being worn by “average” runners for years, occasionally I still read opinions of runners who think that carbon-plated, supercritical midsole shoes are for only the elites and sub elites. I strongly disagree.
Any experienced runner with a good understanding of their own fast or endurance pace can benefit from a plated shoe, even me. While I don’t like to train too often in a plated shoe, I’ll use them for confidence tempo and speed workouts every other week or so (or more when testing/reviewing a new shoe). I hardly race on the road, and I’m happy with a 5k on a random day of 19-20 minutes and a half marathon pace below 7 minute minute miles. I haven’t (yet) ran a marathon on paved road, but on rail trail and light gravel, I can run just below an 8 minute mile pace for a 26.2 miler. Currently, while reviewing the Fast-R, I’m training for around a 3:15 marathon on paved roads.
For reference, at my paces (slower than most), I thought the Fast-R worked well. I’ll agree with Jacob and Derek about the width and volume. I did find the forefoot/toebox shallow on the lateral side (above the small toe), and during my 21.5 mile run, the forefoot on the medial side felt narrow. For sizing, I suggest true-to-size, although I think reading our comparisons to similar racing shoes might help determine sizing for those between half sizes.
Peter: It’s a cool looking shoe–no doubt about that. First impressions were that the shoe looks cool and space age, the upper is a delightful and light mesh that feels great and holds the foot and the shoe felt nice on some strides up and down my street. Fit is true to size for me and the overall vibe is good. I don’t feel the moon/trampoline bounce of some other super shoes, but I’m excited to get out and get some miles in them.
Sam: Wildly futuristic in appearance, the eye is drawn to the massive somewhat squared off heel with its sharp short rear rocker and to the exposed gap at midfoot with its exposed carbon plate.
The combination makes one wonder… a clearly stable heel but what about the gap? Not to fear the FAST-R on try on surprised me. The first super shoe that is also really “walkable” with no odd low and soft heel or overly pronounced front rocker (Endorphin Pro). A super stable heel feel and a pleasant sensation of squish up front form the soft PEBA foam with a bit of a stiff midfoot sensation which surprised me given that big gap.
I was sent a half size up from my normal and have run them with medium weight socks. The fit and hold is near perfect, totally forget about the upper experience on the run. The thin soft flat laces ( a bit too thin and stringy and hard to tie) play well with the equally soft thin stretch tongue, the heel hold is total with the front while a bit low helped by the PWRTAPE overlays ending before the toe with no stiffening at the far front beyond the narrow wrap up of the outsole. With thin race type socks I think I would be true to size, with my medium socks at half size up also perfect.
Ryan: It’s certainly a radical design. A large carbon plate showing its bones, with only a bit of material between it and the arch of your foot — you sure about this, Puma? But the initial try-on was a delight, with a stretchy, comfortable tongue inviting my foot into the upper’s sheer but strong mesh. My size 9.5 was true to size and fit snugly but comfortably, hinting at its capability as a high performance marathon shoe. While the large valley between heel and forefoot midsole foam is slightly noticeable at rest, it didn’t feel nearly as drastic as I thought it might. The midsole compound immediately makes its intentions known, with its playful bounciness beckoning you to go rediscover your true 10k pace.
Puma has been advertising in prominent locations all over Boston, so my hope was that they’d spent as much money on shoe R&D as they did on marketing. I’ve already had two people ask me what shoes I was wearing, in a tone of voice implying that I looked a little ridiculous by wearing them. Luckily for me, I really only care how they feel and perform, so on to the rest of the review!
Jacob: The upper uses a thin, translucent, lightly stretchy mesh with additional reinforcement in a few areas and a very nice partial inner stretch bootie. For reinforcement, there is structure around the heel collar for lockdown and comfort, Puma’s PWRTAPE strip-style overlays, and one of the Fast-R’s signature features, a narrow, tall plastic clip at the heel. The plastic is flexible and provides beneficial support without feeling in the way. It sticks out oddly far back from the shoe, but the extra material adds stiffness, so it seems largely functional and works well to contribute to the Fast-R’s excellent foothold.
Overall, the thin mesh, stretch bootie, and targeted support elements lead to a lightweight upper with a comfortable fit and top notch foothold. As I noted in my First Impressions, the volume is a bit low in the forefoot for my feet and my little toes felt a bit squished, but it did not lead to any issues on the run and the fit is still overall comfortable for me.
Renee: Jacob covered the details well. The upper is a race-orientated fit meant to be light, secure, and to a degree, comfortable. I don’t always have a good secure fit with a booty upper. The tongue of the Fast-R does not sit flush against my foot, but I had no issues with security or fit because of the booty upper. The tongue is connected to the material that extends around the heel and it has a semi-gusseted extension to the midsole on both sides of the foot. The small amount of padding around the foot opening/collar helps with comfort and security. During my first run of 13.3 miles, I did not lace using the top eyelet and I wish I had. The fit was fine, but the heel hold for me is improved when lacing with all eyelets.
I did not notice the low volume toebox (lateral side) during my first three runs, and I think it’s because I was running at a consistent pace (marathon or faster pace). During my 21.5 long/easy run, my small toe felt cramped and I had irritation under my forefoot on the medial sides. I think wide footed runners may have some issues with the upper/fit of the Fast-R.
Peter: The upper is the best part of the Fast-R for me. I love the translucent mesh. I think it will be breathable and comfortable over any distance. The foot hold is great and there’s just enough material to get the job done. The stretchy tongue is a nice touch. It’s nice to lace up the shoe and then just pull the tongue into place–and it stays in place just fine for the duration of the run. A great upper. Another plus to the upper is that it doesn’t hold much moisture. Runs in the rain didn’t leave me feeling like I had big soggy sponges on my feet. About that heel fin. I’m going to go ahead and guess that it’s meant as a nice sharp way to keep dogs away from you on a run. I can’t imagine there’s a real aerodynamic purpose to them. They’re kind of sharp.
Sam: I agree with the others, the upper is outstanding and along with the stable so well cushioned heel landing is the FAST-R key best feature for me.
The thin dense translucent mesh provides a seamless totally secure overall fit with big help from the material itself. The fit is helped mightyly by the stretch tongue with a more rearward facing than usual gusset, seen through the upper running just below the Cat.
This single material, single piece inner support layer also extends down the sides to below the laces and to the rear around the collars creating a single inner support unit which also includes longer than usual collar bolsters and that unusual rear plastic extension.
The result is a combination of materials and design that works brilliantly. Often super shoe designs try to minimize upper weight but here, and yes the FAST R weighs somewhat more than some competitors, Puma wisely decided that a great secure lockdown was a priority and the extra linings and the rear plastic are well worth it.
Ryan: You’ll be hard pressed to find many downsides of this upper. It manages to provide just the right amount of stretch without giving up strength. To the touch, it felt like it might be made of recycled plastic, but it still managed to be fairly breathable.
It’s so transparent that I could clearly see my hand through the top of the toe box material.
I especially appreciated the “PWRTAPE” overlays, running parallel to the ground on both the lateral and medial sides. They seem to provide extra strength where the upper is tested the most, but they don’t detract from comfort and still allow the rest of the material to yield to the shape of the foot.
While the tongue is delightfully stretchy, it doesn’t detract from its performance, aside from lacking the padding found in some of its competitors.
We find a typical ring of padding wrapping around the inner/upper part of the heel to help with lockdown, and a supple, blister-reducing type of fabric around the top of the entire heel collar.
I’m not sure what’s going on with the excessive fin coming off the back of the heel, but I’ll let it slide. It makes for a firm heel counter at the far center rear — and an easy way to shave weight for V2. The only slight issue I had was with lace slip. My double knot turned into a single knot on two occasions, but a bit of extra cinch force seemed to fix that concern.
Derek: I really like the toe box here. It is low and snug but not uncomfortable. It really gives you a secure locked down feeling when you are running at fast paces. There is no stretch in the translucent upper material, so there isn’t any “give”, which is really what you want in a racing shoe, but it also means you need to get the lace tension right. The others have done a great job of giving details on the upper so i won’t rehash it. Suffice to say the toebox is low, and the fit is overall slightly on the narrower side, especially at the arch.
The one thing I think could be improved is the choice of laces. These laces don’t really have any bite, and the tension has a tendency to slip even with double and triple knotting.
For me, fit-wise, the heel volume is just marginally a little high relative to the rest of the shoe. I have low arches and so I end up having a pretty tight midfoot under lace tension in order to eliminate heel slippage (even with heel lock lacing). Similar to what I am experiencing with the Deviate Nitro (but no issues in the Deviate Nitro Elite), I would have liked thicker padding at the ankle collars. That said, once you figure out the lacing and fit, the shoe does really disappear on your foot in a brilliant way.
The heel fin seems a bit gimmicky to me, and I think won’t make any difference to anyone but the fastest professionals. For me, it is a constant reminder not to step on the heel to slip out of the shoes as I am wont to do with most of my trainers. Here, you have to carefully remove the shoes by hand.
Jacob: The Fast-R midsole is a radical design with fully decoupled heel and forefoot midsole units bridged by an exposed carbon plate. It is the first shoe I have run where both the top and bottom of the plate are visible. The foam material in each unit is different, with a modern super-shoe classic—PEBA—in the forefoot and a less soft, less energetic EVA-based heel. The forefoot is awesome though somewhat as expected for PEBA being light, soft, bouncy, and fun. The heel is more stable than I expected given the relatively small contact patch and I think how it leads the foot into the forefoot works smoothly. There is no strange feeling due to the decoupling, most notably just more flexibility.
The plate in the Fast-R is quite flexible compared to many carbon-plated racers and leads to a natural, non-prescriptive feel. It reminds me a bit of the New Balance Rebel v2. Along with the flexibility, the forefoot platform is very wide which adds stability and confidence on the run. I found the shoe feels best at faster paces when I am striking more toward the forefoot and taking advantage of the cushioned, high-rebound forefoot. The level of protection to ground feel is well-balanced and the Fast-R neither feels too plush nor too harsh. Overall the unique design works well and does not feel as different as it looks.
Renee: The forefoot midsole is Puma’s Nitro Elite, a Pebax foam, which is soft, bouncy, and responsive. The ride forward is great when landing from the forefoot. The heel foam is a firmer EVA-based foam, which helps with stability despite the more narrow platform. Underfoot, the combination of the midsole foams and carbon plate is a good balance of stability, comfort, and responsiveness. Most of the midsole creasing I have at 50 total miles came during my first run on gravel. My ankle rolled in after hitting some ruts and I corrected by dragging my heel.
Peter: The heel foam and the foam in the forefoot feel like (and look like) two different shoes to me. The heel feels soft and forgiving and I’ve yet to find the sweet spot for the forefoot. They’ve felt better on strides than on long hill work at easier paces. I will put them through some more speed work and amend this when I see if they feel a little more forgiving at pace. I would like the forefoot to be just a bit softer and bouncier.
Ryan: I think most people will find that this shoe works much better when landing on the midfoot, and at a relatively hard effort, than it does at more casual paces. No, the midsole doesn’t feel as radical as it looks, but it also isn’t a super mellow daily trainer. While the foam of the heel doesn’t feel any softer to the touch than the forefoot foam, I think that the small and isolated contact area at the rear makes it feel softer and less stable than it would if it had a more traditional geometry. The heel block is deep and springy, and it’s very easy to overpronate if you’re inclined to do so.
Notice how much higher up in the stack the carbon plate sits in the heel that it does in the forefoot.
At quicker paces, the nuances of this unusual geometry mostly fade away, and the energetic snapiness of the forefoot shines. To my legs, it feels almost as forgiving as any other super shoe out there, and the carbon plate certainly infuses the midsole with serious ability at toe-off. These felt only a little out of place on the turns of some faster laps around the track, but on asphalt, even at 4:40/mi pace the midsole felt right at home.
My only qualms in this category relate to the support on the lateral side of the forefoot. I happen to be a midfoot striker with moderate pronation, and the foam in that area doesn’t quite provide as much support as I’d prefer. I noticed quite a bit of wear on the foam after one particularly hard effort, and it had me wishing there was a bit more volume there to help propel me forward. Pictures are better than words here:
Derek: The heel uses EVA foam while the forefoot uses a bio-based PEBAX foam. The heel has a reported durometer of 45C (which is hardly firm by traditional standards), while the forefoot has a reported durometer of 40C and this is indeed on the softer side. 40C is actually lower than the official durometer of the NB RC Elite 2 Fuelcell foam (which was claimed at 42C if I recall correctly).
Puma has gone on record as saying their choice of a bio-based PEBAX has nothing to do with environmental concerns, but more because they found that the bio-based PEBAX performs best. Regardless of the reason, the Nitro Elite PEBAX foam is really springy and lively at fast paces. You don’t quite notice it at slower paces though. I think the main noticeable thing here is the decoupled design of the forefoot and heel, and how the carbon plate is the only thing connecting heel and forefoot. That puts incredible stress on the plate as it is the only thing holding up the shoe when loading the shoe at midfoot.
You can clearly see that the plate has ridges at the exposed curved middle section, and that section has been heavily reinforced to improve its resilience for this purpose. Unlike some of the other brands, Puma prefers to use a plate that flexes a little and then rebounds, as you load and unload the shoe. The plate is not the uber-stiff type you find elsewhere, and therefore the rocker also feels a lot more natural when you are running.
I just want to talk a little about the decoupled design here. I think it’s a really good feature, and helps to illustrate the role the long-axis torsional stiffness has in influencing our natural running gait. Clearly, if you have a solid and rigid plate with full-length foam, there is going to be very high torsional stiffness and supination-pronation is not going to feel as natural and smooth as it would be if there is more torsional flexibility built into the shoe’s design.
Interestingly, the 2 companies who seem to be proponents of this are Puma and Adidas. Adidas’s carbon rod design also lends itself to better torsional flexibility vs a more conventional design. I think once you try the Fast-R, you will agree that the way you land and pronate and toe-off are a lot more natural compared to other super shoes of similar underfoot softness. (Of course, you can get around the issue even with a conventional full length foam/plate design if your foam is sufficiently soft to deform as the foot lands in a supinated fashion, so it still feels quite natural. However, as the foam firmness increases, the more “block-y” and unnatural the transition will start to feel. Not singling out any shoes here, but you probably know which shoes have softer foams and which are firmer.)
Sam: The others have described the midsole and its design and performance well. Puma tells us the concept of separating the heel (using a somewhat firmer more stable EVA) from the Nitro forefoot is to, as rapidly as possible, get the heel stable as possible as quickly as possible then transfer energy forward through the carbon plate to the bouncy Nitro PEBA foam upfront. Their studies show reduced muscle contractions (source of fatigue and cramps), somewhat reduced cadence, increased stride length, and improved running economy.
Watch Puma Senior Product Line Manager Todd Falker present FAST_R
I feel this although for my tastes and paces the plate at mid foot and the geometry forward somewhat lacks a sensation of ramp down and roll to toe off which the sharp plunge of the plate at mid foot would seem to indicate would happen. I do find it works better by leaning forward, as I do in the original Vaporfly but here the groove is harder to find.
I wonder if the plate and its ridges there are too rigid. In terms of cushioning at the rear, about the best and most stable of any super shoe. As more of a heel striker I prefer a somewhat firmer landing and the FAST-R delivers. Upfront the bounce and toe off is noticed as a pleasant sinking then rebound which is less vertical feeling than say Meta Speed Sky and Alphafly but less rolling than Next % . Yet, as said above, getting past the midfoot is a bit more labored than I would like. No “hitch” just a sensation that I would like to be able to more easily drive down to the front quicker.
Jacob: The outsole makes the Fast-R excellent. The traction and ride quality are just outstanding. The outsole uses Puma’s Pumagrip high traction rubber with full coverage on the wide forefoot midsole and some decoupling on the heel. On the run it is quiet, smooth, well-integrated with the midsole, and has inspiring traction asphalt, dirt, road debris, road paint, and everything I’ve taken it on in testing.
With a mediocre outsole, I wouldn’t like the Fast-R nearly as much—it would not feel as complete. The Fast-R is comparable to or on-par with other brands top racing shoes in many ways but its outsole is by far the best.
Renee: Jacob is right. The outsole is the magic for the Fast-R. If having that PumaGrip on the outsole adds weight to the Fast-R, then I’ll take the weight gain for extra traction. Most of my runs are on trail or country roads, and carbon plated shoes are hardly an option for that terrain. I have ran with the Hoka Carbon X 3 and the Craft Ultra Carbon on uneven country roads, but I don’t consider either of the those shoes in the same category as the Fast-R. While I won’t use the Fast-R on my country hills (too uneven), they work great on light gravel paths or rail trails. I’ve seen several runners use the Next% on rail trail marathons/ultras (me included), and I often wish Nike would make a version of the Next% with full outsole coverage. Despite the unexposed PWRPLATE of the outsole, the stability is great. I hit a few ruts on my first 13.3 mile run with the Fast-R, but with the wide forefoot landing, recovering back to an even stride was easy. The Pumagrip outsole has no wear after 50 miles despite having smaller gravel wedged in. On pavement, the outsole is obviously good. As a mediocre runner, I wouldn’t notice the weight difference between a plated shoe with max outsole coverage and a plated shoe without it. In fact, I’ll feel more confident running on gravel and on wet/icy pavement.
Peter: This forefoot outsole grips it and rips it. It reminds me of the the first version of the NB RC Elite. Definitely adds a race-ready excitement to the shoe. Holds the road very well in rainy conditions!
Sam: The front outsole gives a neat sensation of tenacious all over very broad grip but without lugs “protruding” and for sure without any sensation that certain conditions might be “slick”. I ran a half along the coast with in places sand on the road and even there grip was secure.
As with upper, Puma chose to not skimp on coverage or rubber thickness. Yes this, as with the upper the choices may add a bit of weight but this is one substantial and effective outsole with enough rubber to also make the FAST-R training durable adding to value.
Ryan: I won’t belabor the consensus here — the outsole is fantastic, and exposes almost none of the midsole to the ground. Copious amounts of rubber adorn the majority of the forefoot and heel, with a texture that will work under all conditions. I’d be willing to bet that this is the most durable super shoe midsole to date. I definitely prefer it over the minimalist, treadless outsoles of shoes like the Adios Pro even if it weighs a bit more.
Derek: As others have already said, the outsole on this shoe is phenomenal in terms of its grip. So much so that when I take a corner hard in it, the shoes stay planted but my foot is threatening to spill over the lateral side if the laces are not snug enough. It is too early to talk about outsole durability, as I have been very careful in using the shoe for specific high quality workouts so far, but I am not seeing any wear at all about about 30 miles in the shoe. I will say that I found it interesting that I am seeing more outsole staining on the medial sides of both heel and forefoot. This is in contrast to a more even or even lateral bias of wear/staining on my other racers. Could it be a sign of the way my foot is pronating a bit more with this design? I am not feeling any unusual aches or discomfort after workouts so far…
Jacob: Like its style, the Fast-R ride is unique even among plated racing shoes. It is defined by the forefoot feel—wide, stable, flexible, protected, soft, and bouncy. It is just a blast to run fast in. The forefoot sticks solidly and blasts off the ground with excellent energy return. I had a hard time running slow in the Fast-R as I was having the most fun when I was landing on the forefoot, which is easier for me the faster I run.
The Fast-R is a carbon-plated racer but the plate does not dominate the ride as it does in many shoes in this category. The effect is more relaxed which is a positive in that the ride feels more natural and free, but a negative in that I did not notice the same level of “effortless speed” or “shoe running for me” effect as I do in many plated marathon racers (e.g. Vaporfly, Alphafly, Adios Pro, Metaspeed Sky, RC Elite).
I did two long-ish (11 and 18 miles) workouts in the Fast-R and had a blast, taking seven Strava CRs between the two runs, but my calves were more sore after than in any other workouts this year. I think this is due to the less rigid plate and tendency for me to run on my forefoot in the shoe. Thus, though I think it is a fast, energetic, fun shoe, for me it does not seem like it’ll be a top pick for a marathon—I find I benefit more from a shoe that can assist me more in keeping my form together and legs turning over as I tire and land more toward my heel at the end of a race. However, I think the Fast-R is currently my top pick for anything at or under the half marathon distance, especially the 10k where I had been using the Vaporfly NEXT%. I am really excited to race the Fast-R, as that will provide valuable insight.
Renee: My first run was 13.3 miles on a gravel path in 20-25 mph winds and the shoes disappeared on foot, aside from the few times I hit ruts and slightly lost my balance. The stability of the shoes is good thanks to the wide forefoot platform, firmer heel midsole, and PumaGrip outsole. Like all carbon plate shoes (including the Next%), the carbon plate and supercritical midsole is not as lively on gravel/dirt as it is pavement.
My 10 mile run at marathon pace was out of the wind and on a hard surface, and I was able to run 20 seconds faster per mile than my 13.3 miler. Overall, during my first three runs, I had no issues with the shoes feeling shallow or narrow. I had a few issues during my 21.5 miler easy/long run on pavement. The toebox on the lateral side felt shallow, and I had irritation under my forefoot on the medial side. My guess is my slow pace created a harsher landing as compared to my faster runs. Plus, I was fighting steady 25-30 mph winds with gusts of 50 mph, and my form became super sloppy.
Peter: Yeah, maybe I need to run faster in these. I have found the ride to be kind of harsh. I’m not getting soft/bouncy or fun out of them yet. I am getting some arch pain that I have to think has something to do with the visibility decoupled front and rear end. There’s a visible plate right there but no real support under the arch–so it might be that the arch is given too much room to flex without any support. I’m not sure yet. I felt pretty trashed after longer runs in the Puma Fast-R that I don’t feel in other super shoes.
Okay, doubling back here after a 10k workout in the Fast-R. They feel much better at speed than they do at an easy pace for me. I settled into 10k pace nicely and felt pretty smooth doing so. I still feel like the forefoot could do with being a hair softer–I find them perfect on the track and just a little harsh on the roads. Overall the ride felt pretty good at speed and I didn’t feel as beat up at the end of it. I’ll certainly do some more workouts with them to see how they do over time.
Sam: I am now a slower and more heel striking style runner. The heel cushion and stability is the best of any super shoe to date with me. The rear of the shoe for sure allows it to be run both slow and fast. I ran a local half in them this past Sunday with not only a bad cold but a dodgy hamstring at a bit faster than my marathon pace at 8:19 per mile and the ride was steady and consistent but lacked for me some get up and go faster feel or maybe it was me!
I am thinking the stiffness and location of the plate at midfoot was getting in my way. Somehow the transitions off that great landing through the midfoot are a bit stiff with not enough of a forward drop in feel or easy enough flow to the clearly felt squishy and bouncy forefoot at my moderate paces.
Is it the 7mm drop with 9mm-10mm in a super shoe usually working better for me? Is the plate and gap location a bit too far back or the gap not long enough with the plate too high and stiff there ? Or could the front midsole geometry on the medial side use less flaring for a touch more late pronation down to the big toe? Or of course unlike my faster younger colleagues I am more back on the heels!
The cushion overall was superb with fresh legs all the way to the finish and despite my hamstring issues no cramping or last miles instabilities as I often have in super shoes when form goes south, The stability from midsole and upper support was near perfect with about the best balance of light weight and cushion of any super shoe, and disagreeing with Peter the ride in no way harsh.
Yet, I missed a bit more “assist” to transition as the OG Vaporfly has and to a certain extent but not as pronounced the Next%. I did not miss the soft heel of the Metaspeed Sky where unless I am at 10K pace up as far on the forefoot as I can manage the shoe doesn’t work for me that well. So, FAST-R has more of a marathon ride to half ride for me and is a choice for hillier, bumpier, wet courses with maybe a dirt or gravel road base in the mix.
Ryan: As Peter has alluded to, I felt that the plate was a bit more noticeable in the midfoot than it is in the Fast-R’s competitors. Similar to Renee, I had a bit of a strange sensation during my first two easier runs when I thought I was developing hot spots right in front of my arch. However, after picking up the pace post-warmup, the strangeness subsided and the pop of the midsole came to life. Toward the end of a longer 18 mile run, I began to feel the shape of the forefoot on the lateral side, just in front of the cavernous arch region. A fairly minor matter of feel, but a less than perfect ride nonetheless. Again, I’ll mention that the lateral side of the shoe didn’t feel as well supported as I’d like, and it made it a little too easy to roll out onto the bulging foam of the midsole. I think this shoe could use a touch more drop given the heel’s softness and the plate’s stiffness. Criticisms aside, I found the snappiness of the plate and the liveliness of the Pebax to create a strong sense of energy return.
Derek: I am sure there is a plate in there, and that it is helping with the toe off in some way, but when I am running at faster paces in the shoes, I am mostly feeling the spring of the PEBAX foam more than any perceived bending and rebound from the plate.The transitions feel quite natural to me, and you don’t really get that assisted feeling of forward propulsion or forward roll-through. Having said that, the shoes don’t slow you down and comparing my workouts in the Fast-R to some of the other supershoes, I am seeing what I would consider very similar performance with the Fast-R. Which is to say the shoe is pretty darn good. The shoe is meant to go fast, and clearly seems to work better with a forefoot and midfoot strike pattern.
At slower paces when I spend more time on my heels, the shoe feels less special and the forefoot spring is more muted. It is still very cushioned and the heel is by no means harsh for me, but it feels like a normal lightweight trainer at moderate paces. Vibration dampening is noticeably better than in the Deviate Nitro Elite even though the stack difference between the 2 shoes is only 2-3mm.
In terms of underfoot firmness, the Fast-R sits between the Adidas Adios Pro and the Saucony Endorphin Pro. In terms of geometry, the shoe really feels more like a regular 8-10mm drop shoe than the official 7.5mm drop. I think there is a dynamic increase in drop involved as the heel compresses a little less than the forefoot when you are running. My biggest workout in these shoes was 20km at marathon effort, on heavy untapered legs, and honestly I went into the workout feeling quite flat and not even sure I would finish the workout. My first 10km were sluggish and I was just trying to find the cruise control zone and I ran it in about 39:30 feeling like the shoes were ok and not really very lively this time. As my body started to warm up, and I started to lean into the shoe more and work more on forefoot loading, that’s when the springiness of the forefoot came alive and I sped up to a more spritely 37:05 second 10km. Clearly, this shoe works best at faster paces. I think for me, at a minimum, I would need to be going at tip top shape marathon pace, or half-marathon pace to really bring out the best in the shoe. It would not be a great option for moderate pace long runs, for example.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Jacob: The Fast-R is a unique and competitive addition to the growing selection of modern road racing shoes and may be a top choice for some runners based on preferences and usage. It has distinct pros and cons over its competitors and does some things very well. It has amazing traction, good stability, natural flexibility for a plated shoe, a very secure fit, and a smooth and energetic ride. For downsides, it is a bit low in the forefoot and feels the best with good form at a fast pace and forefoot strike, which limits its usage to sub-marathon distances for me. It doesn’t feel like it has the same level of effortless speed as some of its competitors (e.g. Vaporfly, Alphafly, Adios Pro, Metaspeed Sky). For runners with lower volume feet looking for a racer with the best traction possible and a uniquely flexible and stable forefoot, especially if their preference is for a forefoot strike, the Fast-R is at the top of the list. I think slower runners, those with wide feet, or those who want to relax more and let the shoe take them would be best with a different shoe. Overall, I am a fan of the Fast-R, have a blast running in it, love the outsole, and look forward to racing in it.
Jacob’s Score: 9.0 / 10
Ride 9 (50%) Fit 9 (30%) Value 9 (15%) Style 9 (5%)
Sam: Radical in appearance, yet actually well behaved and steady in ride, the FAST-R combines a stable well cushioned heel with a bouncy forefoot of lively PEBA. It is an interesting beast!
The heel landing and its firm enough cushion and stability is the best in a super shoe for me as mostly a heel striker (only the considerably heavier Tempo Next better yet for me) with the springy stable forefoot blending the lively rebound of the Metaspeed Sky with a somewhat easier way to stay there as the heel is not super soft or low. It’s in between, at the bridge between the front and back, that I wish for more “help”, a touch more of an easy to drive ramp down to the front. Is the exposed carbon plate at the midfoot overbuilt to handle the forces with no foam in the gap? Could the FAST-R use more drop than 7mm? Not sure. While there is no hitch in transition for this heel striker there isn’t much of a dramatic easy to fine plunge either that would have me favor it over shoes such as the Next % for distances half and under.
The upper is superb. Well held, comfortable, and while not the roomiest totally appropriate for the tasks at hand.
At my marathon paces, the combination of stability and consistency at a competitive 8 oz / 225g would have me for sure considering them for a marathon, particularly on a hillier bumpier, wet course where superb upper is all about lockdown and for sure for a course where there was some gravel or road base as the Puma Grip outsole is the best I have experienced in a super shoe.
Puma is clearly not standing still after their strong re-emergence or just updating uppers and calling things new. We already saw big changes in the barely year old Velocity. And here they really turn up the heat and sharpen their claws with a radical and effective marathon contender!
Sam’s Score: 9.25 /10
Ride 9.0 (50%) Fit 9.7 (30%) Value 8.9 (15%) Style 10 (5%)
I would like the ride to be a bit more “assistive” to toe off. Fit and upper are outstanding. Value is fair but I wish the shoe had more distance range for me down to 10K. Love the styling!
Renee: I rank the Fast-R next to my other carbon plated racers. The ride is smooth from a forefoot landing, and the midsole offers some comfort to couple with the responsive, bouncy ride. Overall, the Fast-R is what runners expect from a “super” shoe. Like most carbon-plated racers, the Fast-R felt the best to me when running closer to marathon pace or faster (fine for short bursts or 5K efforts too). When running my easy long run (21.5 miles), the toe box felt shallow on the lateral side and slightly narrow on the medial side. Neither of those issues were felt during my other runs (at faster paces). For races from a 5k to marathon, I’ll still choose the Next %, but it’s hard to compete with the Pumagrip outsole.
Renee’s score: 9.35/10
-.15 heavier than similar racers, -.15 shallow lateral side toebox, -.35 slightly narrow under the forefoot on the medial side
Peter: Ugh, so far it’s not my favorite super shoe. I feel pretty beat up in them on slower long runs. They feel decent. I love the upper–and I’m hoping they break in a bit. My expectations were very high, so perhaps I’m disappointed that they’re not AMAZING. After putting some more miles in them at faster paces, the Fast-R are growing on me. I think they’d be 3rd or 4th favorite super-shoe if I had to rank them right now, but the upper is just stunning.
Peter’s Score: 8.8 /10.
Arch pain and overall fatigue leave me feeling a little blah about the Fast-R at easy tempos but I like them much better at race pace. I’m excited to see how they develop as a shoe and–as these are my first Puma running shoes–it’s clear that Puma is in the game for real.
Ryan: Overall, this is a very impressive showing by Puma that left me pleasantly surprised and looking forward to what they have in store in the years ahead. This isn’t a knockoff or a half-hearted effort to try and play in the big leagues. I give the designers major kudos for attempting such an unconventional design. The upper is tenacious yet comfortable, and the outer will be hard to improve upon.
There are some minor downsides to such a drastically disconnected midsole design, although the Fast-R still turns in a great performance, and doesn’t ride as radically as it looks. With a few extra mm of drop, a bit more midsole on the lateral side of the midfoot, and perhaps a few tweaks to the plate’s shape/location, they might catch up to the major names.
Detractions for slight discomfort directly in front of the arch, ride quality at slower paces, and not quite as refined as its competitors to warrant such a steep price.
Ryan’s score: 9.2/10
Derek: It’s quite hard to score this one, because it is a really good racer, but at the same time, the competition in this space is red hot right now. I think the shoe fits people with lower volume feet, and you really need to prefer a snug feel to like it. There isn’t a lot of leeway for creativity in terms of fit if you have wider or larger feet.
It works best with a mid-forefoot strike pattern, and you really want to lean into the pace to bring out the best in the shoe.
I can foresee with the outsole that the Fast-R is going to be one of the most durable super shoes on the market and that makes it really good value for money, but then I have to weigh this against the background of the very good Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 and Adidas Adios Pro 2, both of which are retailing at $220, or ~10% less than the expected retail price of the Puma Fast-R.
I think the Fast-R’s strongest weapons are its superb outsole grip, and the excellent forefoot and midfoot lockdown. I think in a wet, technical race, the Fast-R is going to be the best shoe on the road.
Derek’s score 9.51 / 10
Ride 9.4 (50%) Fit 9.6 (30%) Value 9.5 (15%) Style 10 (5%)
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Puma Deviate Nitro Elite (RTR Review)
Sam: The Nitro Elite is considerably lighter at 6.74 oz / 191g, 1.25 oz lighter than FAST-R and rides on a fairly similar stack height of 36mm heel / 28mm with the FAST-R having one more millimeter at the heel and 2mm more at the forefoot. The Deviate Elite has an all Nitro foam front to back and has a softer lower feeling heel with a more pronounced bounce. It is not as stable feeling with its upper more minimal and unstructured in mesh and overall support. It seems to favor faster cadence, well aligned and lighter runners and in the Puma line up shorter races for most given the emergence of FAST-R. I prefer it to the FAST-R for shorter fast efforts say up to 10K but beyond that would reach for the FAST-R.
Nike Alphafly (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Fast-R and US9.0 in the Alphafly. Both shoes are best run with a mid-forefoot strike pattern. In the case of the Alphafly, I think heel strike will actually make you slower vs other supershoe options. Overall, the Alphafly has the softer and more cushioned ride, and I think it is also more versatile in terms of feeling fun and bouncy over a wider range of paces all the way down to jogging paces. The Fast R has the better outsole and the better performance fit for me. For a shorter race like the half-marathon and below, i would go with the Fast-R. But for a marathon, and especially a hilly marathon, i think the Alphafly would be a better option.
Nike Vaporfly Next % (RTR Review)
Renee: The Next% weighs 1.3 ounces less than the Fast-R in my women’s size 8. The sizing is comparable, although I did not have any issues with volume or width in the Next%, despite the shoes looking narrow. With the Fast-R, at slower paces, my small toe was cramped and I had some irritation under my forefoot (medial side). My choice for racing is still the Next%, but the Fast-R outsole is awesome. I have used the Next% for two 26.2 mile runs on gravel and the outsole is fine, although the PumaGrip will provide much better traction and grip off pavement or in wet conditions.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. Even though the Vaporfly Next% has the softer and bouncier ride, I actually feel faster and more efficient in the Fast-R, especially at race paces. Fast-R’s firmer heel lets me move through to the forefoot more easily. I prefer the Fast-R overall.
Peter: Same size for both. I’d say that the Next % feels a little more exciting and a little more forgiving over the longer miles.
Sam: While I prefer the heel feel of the FAST-R I roll more smoothly forward in the Next%. For a half or under clearly Next %. Beyond a half at toss up but leaning Next % for that easier to find forward groove.
Jacob: The VF NEXT% has remained my overall racing shoe of choice despite testing over a half dozen competitor shoes. The FAST-R feels more free, grippy, stable, and less dramatic and more robust. However the FAST-R does not have the speed-encouraging geometry of the NEXT% that leads to effortless speed to the same degree and is over an ounce heavier. Like Sam said, I roll more smoothly forward in the NEXT%. Thus, for longer races, like the half or full marathon, I would choose the NEXT%, however, for fast workouts, wet or rough courses, and sub-half distance races, I am leaning toward the FAST-R at least to give it a shot at racing.
Nike Vaporfly 4% OG (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. Both shoes have quite similar geometries for me, in terms of ride, though it is clearly different on paper. VF 4% has more ground feel, but a faster and more aggressive transition than Fast-R for me. For marathon distances, i think the added cushioning of the Fast-R may actually prove more beneficial, while for the half marathon and below, I would prefer the more aggressive ride of the VF 4%.
Peter: Similar to the Next %. Softer, bouncier, more radical feeling than the Fast-R.
Sam: A bit more long slung and firmer, highly assistive from mid foot to toe off the OG has an easy to find and recover to groove which I miss in the FAST-R.
Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. Both shoes have a firm heel and soft forefoot type of feel. Both shoes have excellent performance fits. Fast-R makes the Tempo feel bulky and clunky by comparison, and the long axis torsional flexibility of the Fast-R really stands in stark contrast to the stiffer more directed forward roll of the Tempo Next%. The Tempo remains the more cushioned shoe on paper and in terms of real-world feel, and would be my preferred choice for training runs, while the Fast-R would handle fast paces better.
Sam: I concur with Derek. Considerably heavier, noisy, and explosive off the front in a pneumatic way the Tempo Next can be thought of as a similar more heavy duty training focused FAST-R in ride feel with stable heel and a more explosive forefoot. Unlike the FAST-R I find the Tempo Next transitions to toe off easier to drive hard. Its equally effective upper is crude in comparison to the Puma’s.
Jacob: I agree with Derek and Sam. The Tempo Next% doesn’t feel high energy, streamlined, explosive like feel of the Fast-R but has a lot of well-directed energy return that moves me along very easily and with low effort. The Fast-R is more natural and less strange underfoot but doesn’t provide the same sensation of carrying me along. It handles 10k and faster paces better than the Tempo Next% with less bulk or excess, but doesn’t have as pleasant of a ride for a long run workout. Despite both having a performance fit, for what it’s worth I have less issues with pressure on my little toe in the Tempo Next%. Consistent with the marketing of each shoe, I would choose the Fast-R for racing and the Tempo Next% for training.
New Balance RC Elite 2 (RTR Review)
Peter: The RC Elite 2 is a softer, bouncier and more forgiving feeling racer for me.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The RC Elite 2 is very soft and forgiving and has very little ground feel. Fast-R has much more noticeable ground feel, but also feels faster and more efficient at race paces, and this is magnified the faster you go in the shoe. RC Elite 2 seems to struggle to go faster than half marathon pace for me, while the Fast-R can pretty much go as hard as my legs can push it. For hilly races where you want more cushioning, I think the RC Elite 2 is the better option. For flatter races, I would lean more towards the Fast-R.
Sam: The RC Elite 2 is very pleasant to run, very light, and fits me well, almost as well as the FAST-R. It is too soft for me for racing and is more a fun and effective trainer.
Jacob: I agree with Derek in most regards. I find that for marathon pace and longer runs the forgiving, relaxed feel of the RC Elite 2 is preferable. It’s easier to run in and leaves my legs feeling fresher. However, it doesn’t have nearly the go-fast, explosive feel of the Fast-R and would not be my pick over the Fast-R or much of the competition for distances below the half marathon.
Adizero Adios Pro 2 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. AP2 has a softer and denser sort of underfoot feel.. Fast-R has the snugger, racier upper feel for me. Both shoes are pretty much a wash in terms of performance at race paces for me. I think I would prefer the Fast-R for the better forefoot hold. Fast-R seems to have the more durable outsole. Both shoes have very good wet surface grip.
Jacob: The Adios Pro 2 is a favorite of mine in the plated racer category and has a pretty different ride and feel than the Fast-R, being more dense, less flexible, and more relaxed. Like Derek, I’m not sure which performs better at race paces—they are both fun and capable shoes. I prefer the Adios Pro 2 for longer races such as the marathon or maybe half, but the Fast-R for anything shorter, where the softer, relatively subdued feel of Adios Pro 2 doesn’t inspire me as much as the highly energetic forefoot of the Fast-R.
Adizero Adidas Prime X (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.0 in Prime X and US9.5 in the Fast-R. Prime X is a very different beast from Fast-R. Prime X is all sorts of mush and cushioning compared to a more conventional feeling Fast-R. Fast-R’s upper is a lot better and more supportive, as the Prime X’s upper is one of the weaker aspects of the shoe. Prime X definitely first choice for easy miles, while Fast-R works better for faster runs.
Sam: A simply wonderful highly energetic ride in the Prime X that fits my strike patterns to a T. Tons of soft cushion and rods well done. But.. not nearly as stable requiring constant focus to stay aligned with a shaky upper not helping much. In the later stages of a race or hard long run the Puma will continue to track far better
Hoka Carbon X 2 or 3 (RTR Review)
Renee: The Carbon X 3 weighs about .66 ounces more than the Fast-R in my women’s size 8. That said, my women’s size 8 in the Carbon X 3 felt too long, and I would suggest half sizing down in the Carbon X 3. Still, the Fast-R will be the lighter shoe. Overall, the Fast-R is going to be the faster, more race-specific shoe at any distance. I consider the Carbon X 3 to be more of a trainer. The midsole is firmer and the Hoka rocker drives the ride in the Carbon X 3; whereas, the Fast-R has a bouncy, faster spring from the forefoot. Both shoes are stable, but the Carbon X 3 has a wider more traditional platform, making it fine for uneven terrain. The upper of the Carbon X 3 was far too voluminous for me.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in Carbon X 2 and Fast-R. I didn’t test Carbon X 3. Carbon X 2 is stable with surprisingly good vibration dampening. That said, Fast-R is softer underfoot, with better vibration dampening, and noticeably better outsole durability. The Fast-R also transitions more smoothly and holds faster paces more easily than Carbon X 2. The Fast-R is an overall better shoe across the board.
Sam: A comparatively sloppier heavy knit upper is no match up top for the Fast-R lighter and more effective approach. As Derek said, the new supercritical EVA Carbon X 3 midsole is clearly firmer and single slab with not the distinct focused dynamism of the Puma’s dual front and rear approach. Both are a bit hard for me to transition. Race day I would pick the Puma, training the Hoka.
ASICS Metaspeed Sky (RTR Review)
Renee: Surprisingly, the Fast-R weighs 1 ounce more than the Metaspeed Sky in my women’s size 8. The sizing is comparable, although the Metaspeed Sky runs slightly shorter (perhaps worth half sizing up for some). The ride of the Metaspeed Sky has more cushion and comfort underfoot, and the upper has more flexibility for wider feet as compared to the Fast-R. I do think the toebox in the Metaspeed Sky feels slightly cramped, but I think that is caused by the forefoot rocker/roll more than upper itself. The Fast-R has a more traditional ride favoring a strong mid-forefoot landing.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Metaspeed Sky has the wider and higher volume toe-box by comparison. Sky fits me overall better for my wider mid-foot shape. Both shoes work best with a forefoot loading running style. Sky has by far the more dynamic and responsive forefoot and holds fast paces more easily than the Fast-R. The lower drop of the Sky means that if you start to tire and lean back on your heels, you will notice it hard and fast because the ride gets affected big time. With the Fast-R, the ride is more consistent because the firm heel allows you to still transition fairly well to forefoot even with a more pronounced heel strike. Sky is also noticeably lighter, and I think it will outperform the Fast-R at shorter distances. The Fast-R may be the better option for people over the marathon, as it is more forgiving of a break in form from forefoot striking toward heel striking later in the race.
Ryan: (M9.5) The Asics has a more traditional ride, and doesn’t have as finicky of a personality as the Puma. Its smoother transition handles a variety of paces and foot strike types, giving it a wider range of uses. The Fast-R’s outsole gets the better of the Metaspeed, and comparing the uppers is a matter of choice – narrower (Puma), or a bit more room for long distance comfort (Asics)? My choice would be the Asics for most hard running, given its refined characteristics, more stable midsole energy return, and its weight advantage.
Sam: Really clear here for me. Metaspeed Sky for 5K-10K hands down as I can keep up and on the explosive forefoot and off the soft heel at those paces and the ASICS is considerably lighter too. Beyond 10K no question the Puma.
Brooks Hyperion Elite (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Fast-R has the better and more comfortable upper for me. It is also noticeably more forgiving underfoot, while also having the more dynamic and assistive ride. Glaringly, the Fast-R is excellent on wet surfaces, while the Hyperion Elite can really struggle on wet roads. Overall, i would say the Fast-R is the better shoe.
Ryan: (M9.5) I agree with Derek that the Puma wins on the upper and the outer, hands down. The Hyperion has been known for sketchy outsole grip, especially on smooth and/or moist surfaces, whereas the Puma’s rubber is confidence inspiring under almost any conditions. The Brooks has a more stable platform underfoot, most likely thanks to its wide and continuous slab of DNA Loft foam. I’d take the Puma over the Brooks under most circumstances. Size-wise, these shoes offer a similar fit.
Saucony Endorphin Pro 1 or 2 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Endorphin Pro has the more pronounced rocker feel to the ride, but it is also less cushioned. Fast-R is more forgiving underfoot, and while it doesn’t feel as fast as the Endorphin Pro at hard efforts, the Fast-R’s superior underfoot cushioning and grip allow you to hold paces for longer in a more efficient way. I would say the Endorphin Pro is better at 5-10km races, but the Fast-R would be better for half and full marathon distances.
Ryan: (M9.5) The Endo Pro 1 has a distinctly firmer midsole feel underfoot, and its more traditional shape makes it better suited for shorter distances than the Puma’s soft and forgiving midsole. The Endorphin also features a more rockered “Speedroll” toe, encouraging a more aggressive toe-off. The Saucony’s upper feels more fabric-like than the Puma’s plasticky mesh, and while the Endo has a similarly low forefoot volume, it doesn’t deliver the same quality of lockdown that the Fast-R provides. The Saucony’s outsole also doesn’t produce the same level of grip that the big slab of Puma rubber offers.
Jacob: The Endorphin Pro is firmer, much more rigid, and has a significant rocker that defines the ride. The Endorphin Pro is an effective shoe but is one of my least favorite carbon-plated racers as I felt like it was comparatively a bit harsh, unforgiving, and didn’t feel like it gave me that much propulsive effect. I prefer the Fast-R for all race distances as it has more comfort underfoot, higher rebound, and excellent traction which leads to a better overall shoe. It is worth mentioning though that the Endorphin Pro 2 upper is less narrow which I think would accommodate a larger variety of foot sizes than the Fast-R.
Saucony Endorphin Speed 1 or 2 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Endorphin Speed has the more accommodating fit and upper for more foot types here, and the ride while marginally softer, somehow feels more harsh over longer distances. The Fast-R has the more responsive plate and you feel faster and more efficient in the Fast-R than in the Endorphin Speed. I would still use the speed for training, but for racing and special workouts, the Fast-R would be my preferred choice, for all distances.
Craft CTM Ultra Carbon (RTR Review)
Renee: The CTM Ultra Carbon has a good amount of outsole coverage and a more stable platform as compared to the Fast-R. The upper of the CTM is cumbersome and the lockdown is nowhere near as good as the Fast-R. At 1.81 ounces heavier in a women’s size 8, the CTM Ultra is not the best choice for a road race as compared to most carbon plated shoes, including the Fast-R. The 10mm drop of the CTM Ultra can seem polarizing.
Peter: I prefer the ride of the Craft, but I sure wish it had the Puma upper. That would be a killer combination!
Derek: Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes, though I could probably go down a half size in the Craft. The Fast-R has by far the snugger and more performance-oriented upper feel, and the softer underfoot feel, and has faster transitions. Both shoes have good grip for me. Overall, I feel smoother and fresher in the Fast-R.
Scott Speed Carbon RC (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Both shoes have a similar flexing sort of carbon plate here. The Fast-R has the softer underfoot feel, and the more natural transition, as I feel the Scott’s lower heel-toe drop makes it less effective for heel-striking. Fast-R has the more performance-oriented upper and fit for me. Fast-R has by far the bouncier and more responsive forefoot, especially at faster paces. Overall the Fast-R is the better shoe.
Sam: The RC Carbon is more stable, firmer and for me more practical as a trainer than the Puma, only held back for training by its shakier upper. For a half marathon or under I would reach for the Puma, beyond that it might be a toss up for me as the Scott sure is stable and forgiving as paces distingrates due to its dynamically flexing carbon plate.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in all my Xtep shoes. I own the Xtep 160x 1.0, 160x Pro and RC260.
The 160x 1.0 is a very low drop, lower stack shoe that is best compared to e.g. Altra Escalante. It has a plate but it is very flexible, and you don’t really notice it when running.
The 160x Pro is probably closest to the Fast-R. It has a lower drop of 5-6mm, firmer and very springy underfoot ride that really comes alive with forefoot striking and a stiff and responsive carbon plate. 160x Pro actually has higher stack numbers of 40/34 by my measurements but also heavy at 9+oz in my size. Overall, I love the 160x Pro for moderate pace medium-long distance running, but Fast-R is better for faster paces for its superior fit and lighter weight, and more natural transition.
The RC260 is one of the newer models and has a stack of 37/27 by my measurements, and a decent 8.75oz in my size. The RC260 has a softer and forgiving heel and quite natural transition with a not too stiff plate. It is also very good as a trainer, but due to the lack of plate stiffness, does not maintain fast paces so well compared to some other shoes.
The Fast-R, for racing, is better than all these shoes by virtue of a better upper, and more responsive forefoot. I like the Xtep for training purposes and saving the Fast-R for race day.
The FAST-R general release expected August 2022
Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’
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