No matter your pace during a race or workout, it’s fun to feel fast. Whether you’re doing short intervals on the track or racing up to 10K on the roads, you’ll want a shoe that can help you unleash your top gear. This used to mean lacing up the lightest-weight pair you could find, since the fastest options typically offered just a stiff sole with tread or spikes to grip the track. But, serious innovation in recent years has radically changed what speed shoes look like; even road-racing models with thicker midsoles and tall stack heights are well-suited for your speedwork sessions.

Best Sprinting Shoes

    Spikes or Racing Flats?

    For serious racing and training on the track, you’re still best served by a pair of track spikes—extremely lightweight, stiff-soled shoes that envelop your feet and have spikes (aka, “pins”) attached underneath the forefoot. Track spikes for sprinters feature multiple pins under the forefoot and minimal structure in the heel, while spikes for middle and longer distance have fewer pins and thicker midsoles for a bit of comfort. The pro of track spikes is that there’s no faster footwear for track running. The con is that no, you can’t wear them anywhere else.

    asics hypersprint
    Compared to the MetaSprint on this list, Asics’s HyperSprint uses an additional fifth pin at the center of the shoe for quicker toe off. 
    Trevor Raab
    hoka one one rocket md
    Four sturdy pins on a grippy outsole make Hoka One One’s Rocket MD ideal for middle to longer distance races and intervals on the track.
    Trevor Raab

    Racing flats, which are lightweight shoes meant to maximize a race effort, are more versatile than track spikes—you can wear them to run and race both on the track and on the road. Unless you’re a pro, even lightweight running shoes will work just fine on the oval, though they’re not quite as fast around the turns as track spikes. The biggest benefit is your legs (especially your calves) don’t get beat up as badly in road shoes.

    sprinting spikes
    We hit our local track on a rainy afternoon to see how these spikes performed at fast speeds in wet conditions.
    Trevor Raab

    How We Tested

    Between our staff and a 250-runner-strong wear-test team, we laced up every single pair of the 15 spikes and road racers below. We hit our local tracks to see how they performed in both wet and dry conditions during demanding speed sessions including ladder workouts, wind sprints, and 400-meter repeats. On the pavement, we evaluated the spike-less options on this list for their fit, cushioning, and comfort during longer tempo runs and in real race situations. In addition to our on-foot impressions, we also considered the data we collected from mechanical tests in our RW Shoe Lab to determine the best use for each model.


    TRACK SPIKES


    —The Fastest Distance Spike—

    Nike ZoomX Dragonfly

    Weight: 4.7 oz (men’s size 9)
    Type: Distance
    The right shoe for: Long track races to 10,000 meters

    Nike ZoomX Dragonfly
    Nike nike.com
    $150.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Soft sole, thanks to ZoomX foam
    • Slightly roomier toe box accommodates for longer distances

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Limited availability

    Another crazy new shoe from Nike, the Dragonfly looks more like a conventional spike, albeit one with an exceptionally thick sole. That’s made possible only by the use of ZoomX foam. The result is a shoe that takes out the sting of running hard but doesn’t slow you down. Most of that foam, however, is centered right behind the ball of your foot—you feel a noticeable bulge there, and then the padding drops off at the heel. So, it’s not for easy-paced runs. Our testers all raved about the accommodating yet locked-down fit; the shoe has a square toe box, almost like a normal trainer, which makes it comfortable for long distances. Tip: Go sock-less. The mesh is smooth against your bare foot, and a hole at the back of the shoe wraps around your heel, acting like a flexible heel counter to keep you securely locked to the sole.

    Buy Unisex


    —Most Novel Spike Design—

    Asics MetaSprint

    Weight: 4.8 oz (men’s size 9)
    Type: Sprints
    The right shoe for: Early adopters going no more than one lap

    MetaSprint
    Asics asics.com
    $180.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Lightweight carbon-fiber sole
    • Lack of metal pins reduces weight

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Not as grippy as other sprint spikes

    The MetaSprint is wildly different from your usual track spike. The entire outsole is made of a carbon-fiber plate, but the forefoot doesn’t include any metal pins. Instead, there’s a honeycomb pattern of jagged edges that bite into the track. Beyond the traction component, the shape of the sole is novel, too. The plate is curved and forces your foot to roll inward on toe-off so that you’re pushing off directly over your big toe for maximum propulsion. It’s a noticeable effect that feels off initially, but smooths when you turn on the speed.

    Footwear tech has been under scrutiny in recent years, and the MetaSprint calls to mind Puma’s “brush spikes” from the late ’60s. Those had dozens of tiny needles on the bottom for grip, helped runners set world records, and were banned. Current World Athletics regulations stipulate a maximum of 11 pins on the sole of a track spike. It’s unclear how they count a shoe like the MetaSprint—which has eight clusters of raised hexagonal shapes—but it’s been approved for competition by World Athletics.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s


    —Best for Competitive Mid-Distance Runners—

    Nike Air Zoom Victory

    Weight: 4.6 oz (men’s size 9)
    Type: Middle distance
    The right shoe for: Front-runners looking to win a 5,000-meter race

    Air Zoom Victory
    Nike nike.com
    $180.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Radically different design with a very propulsive feel
    • ZoomX midsole foam

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Expensive

    The most futuristic track spike on the market today is the all-new Victory. It uses a combination of a two-piece Air unit and springy ZoomX foam, plus a stiffening carbon-fiber plate to help you rocket around the track. The shoe feels entirely weird the moment you step into it—its tippy, and you notice two distinct bulges under your foot. As you run, it comes alive. However, the sensation isn’t springy, like you might expect from ZoomX, a Pebax-based foam (the same used in the Vaporfly) that’s extremely lightweight, well-cushioned, and has boatloads of energy return. Instead, you feel tension build and the shoe load up as you press your weight down into it, then launch forward with toe-off. The sole isn’t soft in the general sense, but it’s less punishing than a conventional track spike without being slowed by cushioning. Finally, unlike the fit of long- and skinny-like spikes of old, there’s a little bit of a flare that squares up the forefoot to accommodate wider feet.

    Buy Unisex


    —Best for Narrow Fit—

    Brooks Elmn8 v5

    Weight: 4.3 oz (men’s size 9)
    Type: Middle distance
    The right shoe for: One- to four-lap racers who love a next-to-skin fit

    Elmn8 v5
    Brooks brooksrunning.com
    $120.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Extremely light
    • Carbon-fiber plate

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Runs a little long

    Thanks to a carbon-fiber plate plus a snappy outsole plate, this spike has a springy feeling at quicker paces. Carbon fiber’s strength-to-weight ratio and ability to bend and rebound is especially noticeable, making the shoe’s forefoot stiff and ready to rip. Brooks updated the plate to cover the entire forefoot, with extra ridges and cutouts to save weight. But compared to the previous version, the upper is where this shoe really shines. Brooks also upgraded the v5 to the exceptionally fine woven fabric it’s used in shoes like the Hyperion Elite with great success. It keeps the upper extremely thin yet provides outstanding strength and locked-in support without requiring additional reinforcements—it’s the kind of shoe we would have worn without socks back in high school and college. We noticed the v5 runs a little long and narrow, but none of our testers reported any pinching or discomfort.

    Buy Unisex


    —Best Grip on Turns—

    Hoka One One Rocket MD

    Weight: 4.1 oz (men’s size 9)
    Type: Middle distance
    The right shoe for: Middle-distance races, where you want great grip through the turns

    Rocket MD
    Hoka One One hoka.com
    $56.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Novel spike plate design
    • Affordable performance

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Thin heel

    What sets Hoka’s spikes apart from the competition? It designs the spike configuration to optimize grip on the track’s curves. The brand started that concept with the flashy Speed Evo R spike worn by Leo Manzano and carried it into this budget-priced spike that delivers for events from 400 meters to the mile. Underfoot you’ll see that the pins closest to the outer edge of the track are placed farther forward on the shoe. The asymmetrical design doesn’t impede you when you’re running the straights, however, and it went completely unnoticed by one of our testers. However, we did feel the lack of any heel cushioning. Younger legs might not be bothered, but we were hoping for just a little more padding there when landing heel-first. Fortunately, the spike plate is built in a way to create a slight pivot under the ball of your foot, so it’s most comfortable if you stay up on your toes.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s


    —Best for Elite Sprinters—

    Nike Zoom Superfly Elite 2

    Weight: 5.2 oz (men’s size 9)
    Type: Sprints
    The right shoe for: Less than one lap at elite speeds

    Nike Zoom Superfly Elite 2
    Nike nike.com
    $150.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Insane grip
    • Extremely lightweight

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Hard to find in stock

    To rip a straightaway or lap as fast as humanly possible, you’re going to need to be locked to the track. The Superfly Elite 2 does that, thanks to eight metal pins under each forefoot—four are positioned in a line directly under the ball of your foot. One tester described the shoe’s grip as “trust”—trust that they’ll deliver no-slip speed. The shoe also eliminates any extra foot movement, due to the unbelievably tight-fitting upper. We all had trouble even getting them on and off. (One tester ripped the tongue loop getting into the shoes; I nearly dislocated my shoulder taking them off.) But, once on, the AtomKnit fabric is breezy yet secure.

    Buy Unisex


    ROAD RACING SHOES


    —Best for Weekly Track Workouts—

    Saucony Endorphin Pro 2

    Weight: 7.5 oz (M), 6.3 oz (W)
    Type: Distance
    The right shoe for: A firm, smooth, and durable ride for 5Ks to marathons

    Endorphin Pro 2
    Saucony zappos.com
    $199.95

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • New upper fit fixes foot slippage
    • Better durability than other carbon-fiber racers
    • Cushioning is on the firmer side, but not too harsh

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Midsole geometry can feel awkward at slower paces

    The Endorphin Pro 2 has undergone subtle changes, so runners smitten with the OG can exhale a sigh of relief. This second iteration of Saucony’s carbon-fiber-plated racer continues to offer what its competitors fall short on. For example: The thin, cloth-like, single-​layered engineered-mesh upper envelopes the foot without any unnecessary pressure. It doesn’t overheat like Nike’s Vaporweave when you’re six miles into a marathon. And it has a more secure ankle fit than Brooks’s unisex Hyperion Elite, which women found to have a loose collar and heel—a common problem for women running in unisex shoes. The first Pro lacked stability, especially in the heel; turning sometimes led to an ankle roll and a bunched-up, off-center tongue. The 2 provides more support around the heel with an even more secure fit, though runners with weak ankles may still feel wobbly cutting tight corners.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s Full Review


    —The Fastest Running Shoe—

    Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2

    Weight: 6.9 oz (M), 5.8 oz (W)
    Type: Distance
    The right shoe for: Road racing at any distance

    ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2
    Nike nike.com
    $250.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Fastest road shoe on the market
    • Better-fitting upper than first version

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Expensive

    When you make the world’s fastest shoe, you don’t mess it up. And, good news: Nike didn’t. In fact, the changes to version 2 were limited just to the upper, to improve comfort and durability. You still get exceptionally lightweight, soft, and springy ZoomX foam underfoot and a rigid carbon-fiber plate to help you bound down the road with less effort. It’s the kind of package that lets elite marathoners race well under five-minute pace, so it’ll deliver in your fastest training sessions. But, when you’re going long, you’ll find it just feels better on foot. That’s because Vaporweave has been replaced with an engineered mesh. Vaporweave, a ripstop nylon–like material, was great because it didn’t absorb water or sweat while you ran, but it also didn’t stretch or breathe particularly well. The new mesh resolves those problems.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s


    —Bounciest Speed Trainer—

    New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2

    Weight: 7.3 oz (M), 5.8 oz (W)
    Type: Training
    The right shoe for: Fast-finish long runs

    FuelCell Rebel v2
    New Balance zappos.com
    $129.99

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Midsole is 2mm thicker than the v1
    • Upper breathes well and accommodates wider feet

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Runs about a half-size short

    “It feels dangerously fast,” said Eileen Cody, a Runner’s World+ member who tests shoes with us. Eileen is dangerously fast herself, having won the RW Half two years ago. Many other wear-testers had a similar experience with the V2: The shoe feels completely different from the first iteration—it has more life, more spring, more speed. V1 had a notable bulge on the lateral (outer) edge of the shoe, which was designed to give you extra contact where a midfoot striker would first touch the road at high speeds, as in tempo runs or races. The bulge remains, but New Balance slimmed it down so it’s imperceptible. What you do notice is the bouncy foam underfoot. It’s shockingly springy—New Balance claims the new compound has 14.4 percent more energy return than the foam used in V1. You’ll get a similar bouncy sensation from both the FuelCell TC and Lerato, but this shoe delivers more comfort and a smoother ride, thanks to the harmony of the foam and a thinner layer of rubber than what’s found on those other two models.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s


    —Best for 5K Races—

    Nike ZoomX Streakfly

    Weight: 6.0 oz. (Men’s 9)
    Type: Short road races
    The right shoe for: Efficient runners in 5K road races

    Nike ZoomX Streakfly
    Nike nike.com
    $160.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Extremely lightweight
    • Speedy for 5K racing

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Heel strikers will want firmer foam

    While the Vaporfly Next% 2 is versatile on the roads all the way up to a marathon, some runners wanted even less shoe for short road races like the 5K and 10K. Enter the Streakfly. It’s Nike’s lightest racing shoe, harkening back to the time when we all believed a shoe had to be lighter to get faster. But unlike the old, thin racing flats, the Streakfly uses ZoomX, the springy peba compound that is protective underfoot. There’s no carbon-fiber plate here, as in the Vaporfly. Instead the shoe uses a short Pebax plate under the midfoot only, designed to stabilize your foot as you go through your stride. Based on our testing, with one runner using it on tempo runs and even a 20-miler, we find it’s best suited for speedy runners with an efficient stride who land midfoot or forward. If you’re a heel-striker, you’ll feel the foam “bottom out”—there’s a noticeable “thunk” as the foam compresses as far as it’ll go and your foot runs out of room to travel.

    Buy Unisex


    —Best for Tempo Runs—

    Puma Deviate Nitro

    Weight: 9.3 oz. (M), 7.5 oz. (W)
    Type: Training
    The right shoe for: Longer intervals

    Deviate Nitro
    Puma puma.com
    $160.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Affordable performance
    • Responsive midsole

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Heel fit needs improvement

    One of the most exciting shoes of 2021 comes from an unexpected brand: Puma. Yes, for real. The Deviate Nitro is the first indication that the company is on the right track in building performance running shoes again. Like nearly all of the fastest shoes now, it has a carbon-fiber plate. And, like those other carbon-plated speedsters, the Deviate Nitro leverages lightweight, bouncy foam—it’s TPE instead of the pricier, springier Pebax that some other brands use. The foam is nitrogen-infused, which delivers a responsive sensation underfoot that makes you want to kick your heels to your butt and feels snappy when you’re running laps on the track with comfort for longer road runs. It’s heavier than most of the other speed shoes we recommend, but on foot it feels lighter and more lively than the scale suggests.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s Full Review


    —Lightest Road Racer—

    Asics MetaSpeed Sky

    Weight: 6.8 oz (M), 5.5 oz (W)
    Type: Road Racing
    The right shoe for: Ripping a fast 10K or half marathon

    MetaSpeed Sky
    Asics asics.com
    $250.00

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Nylon foam performs like Pebax
    • Bouncy and fast

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Runs a little short

    The Sky is the first model available in a two-shoe collection from Asics. The reason for two shoes is because Asics believes there are two ways runners can go faster: you can either take longer strides or take more steps. The Sky is built for that “stride” runner, who you’re often going to find gliding around an oval. With a 5mm drop and an almost uniformly thick midsole from heel to toe, it helps those runners increase their stride length while making them roughly three percent more efficient. This means runners can use less energy to cover a given distance.

    The midsole isn’t Pebax, like on the Vaporfly; instead, Asics found that Nylon delivers similar benefits. (Nylon compresses easily when you land, feels squishy and soft, and firms up when you need to launch off the ground.) A carbon-fiber plate ratchets up the responsiveness and speed, too. In our testing, we found the Sky’s sweet spot to be tempo runs, but the shoe doesn’t hesitate when you want to make a sprint for the finish line.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s Full Review


    —Best Trainer and Racer—

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line | New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2

    Weight: 7.8 oz (M), 6.3 oz (W)
    Type: Distance
    The right shoe for: Comfort on long runs and marathons

    FuelCell RC Elite v2
    New Balance dickssportinggoods.com
    $224.99

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Thick, comfortable midsole
    • Excels in training and racing

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Heavier than some other racers

    The biggest surprise in footwear this year may just come from this legacy brand. Typically, running shoes only see major updates every other year. But, for v2 of this plated racer, New Balance rebuilt it from the ground up. It’s much softer and springier than before, thanks to a thicker midsole. The heel stack height—a measure of everything between your foot and the road—is up to 39mm, 7mm taller than before. And the forefoot got an even bigger boost, reducing the drop from 10mm to 8mm. That extra thickness not only improves cushioning, but it gives New Balance more space under the hood to beef up the engine: The carbon-fiber plate embedded in the foam has been reshaped to curve more, delivering better responsiveness and propulsion. Counterintuitively, New Balance ditched the sporty outsole of v1, which featured a sea of little triangles bonded to the foam, for a more traditional blown rubber outsole. It also gave the shoe one of the most comfortable and conventional uppers that we’ve seen on such a super shoe. But our test team tells us that it does nothing to hinder performance, yet makes the shoe even more versatile for both training and racing.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s


    —Best Budget Speed Shoe—

    Asics Magic Speed

    Weight: 8.1 oz (M), 6.5 oz (W)
    Type: Distance
    The right shoe for: Three-hour marathoners

    Asics Magic Speed
    Asics amazon.com
    $150.00
    $109.95 (27% off)

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Excellent performance and value
    • Bouncy midsole

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Not as fast as the MetaSpeed Sky

    The Magic Speed was designed with some trickle-down knowledge from shoes like the MetaRacer and has more budget-friendly components from shoes like the NovaBlast, making it a good race day option for those of us running marathons competitively in the three to four hour range. We also love this shoe because it holds up to a heavy amount of speed training. To help you sustain those long efforts, it uses a lively FlyteFoam Blast midsole that’s bouncy and springy underfoot. You won’t mistake it for the Pebax found on a Vaporfly Next% or Asics’s own nylon-based foam from its top-of-the-line MetaSpeed Sky, but it offers an excellent combination of cushioning, energy return, and durability. This shoe, like second-tier performance shoes—Saucony Endorphin Speed or the now defunct Nike Zoom Fly—gets slightly cheaper components. Instead of a full-length carbon-fiber plate, the Magic Speed has one made from carbon and TPU (a plastic polymer) that spans only the front half of the shoe. The result is that the shoe isn’t nearly as stiff from heel to toe, losing a little of that snappy turnover you get from a fully plated shoe. But, it’s softer on heel-strike and still manages to feel peppy.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s


    —Best Upper Comfort—

    Brooks Hyperion Elite 2

    Weight: 7.6 oz (men’s size 9)
    Type: Road racing
    The right shoe for: 5K to marathon

    Hyperion Elite 2
    Brooks amazon.com
    $250.00
    $199.95 (20% off)

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    • Upgraded foam is softer than the original
    • Upper is one of the softest you’ll find

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Still firmer than many super shoes

    When Des Linden won the 2018 Boston Marathon, she wore a prototype of the original Hyperion Elite. It was a light and stiff shoe, but unless you were small in stature or light on your feet, the sole felt exceptionally hard. Fear not: Version 2 has an all-new foam package that boosts underfoot comfort without sacrificing a tick from the finish line clock. The DNA Flash midsole uses a nitrogen-infused foam that is softer than the original Elite’s EVA, but not nearly as squishy as its competitors at the $250 mark. The upper really shines on this shoe, thanks to the stretchy woven fabric that is incredibly comfortable no matter how far you run.

    Buy Unisex Full Review


    —Best for Bold Style—

    Skechers GOrun Speed Freek

    Weight: 7.0 oz (M), 5.8 oz (W)
    Type: Road racing
    The right shoe for: Versatility from 5K to marathon

    Skechers GOrun Speed Freek
    Skechers skechers.com
    $200.00

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    • Extremely Lightweight
    • Versatile from 5K to marathon

    womens nike air max sequent 2 blue line

    • Style may be too bold for some runners

    With the wave of new midsole foams, we’ve discovered that cush is king—even on race day. Skechers has been working with one of those new formulations, which it calls Hyperburst, with wonderful success. For its previous top-of-the-line racer, the Speed Elite, it used a moderate amount of foam that, in the end, just proved to be too little for going long distances on pavement. It was too much like a traditional racing flat. Enter the Speed Freek, which is basically the same shoe but with a considerably thicker pad of Hyperburst on the bottom. That extra cushion costs you another $10 and tacks on an ounce of weight. But it makes a huge difference in how far you can run at top speed. Unlike the Speed Elite that we only really employ for 5K or, maybe, 10K road races, the Speed Freek is easily capable of going a full marathon. Embedded within the forefoot are carbon-fiber winglets, Skechers’s approach to rigidity. Rather than using a thin full-length plate, it opted to stiffen up only the front half of the shoe, and only at the edges. The banana-shaped pieces give the shoe incredible snap when you’re running at a hard effort, yet allow the forefoot to feel more compliant and flexible as you roll from your midfoot onto your toes.

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s