Our verdict

The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 takes a daring approach with unique features like a decoupled heel and extended carbon-fiber plate, creating an unusual ride that may not suit everyone. We found in the lab that it's also really heavy for a modern supershoe, and stability could be better. However, we enjoyed its wild ride and design. In our view, this shoe caters to those looking for a departure from the ordinary, though it has multiple drawbacks that cannot be overlooked.

Pros

  • Enhanced energy return
  • Ultra-breathable upper
  • Exceptional grip
  • Max race-day legal stack
  • Highly responsive
  • Works for all footstrikes
  • Great for marathons

Cons

  • Excessively heavy
  • Odd-feeling decoupled heel
  • Pricier than most supershoes

Audience verdict

81
Good!

Who should buy

After testing in the lab the Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2, we've discovered that:

  • It's a standout choice for those who appreciate a head-turning design without sacrificing performance at races.
  • It excels for runners who prioritize excellent traction, as the PUMAGRIP outsole offers world-class grip in all conditions.
  • Marathoners looking for an aggressive ride will find this shoe is a blessing with its super-stiff carbon plate.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2

Who should NOT buy

The Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 stands out as Puma's most radical supershoe yet, but we found its weight heavier than desired. For those seeking a lightweight racing shoe, this is not the answer. We recommend considering alternatives like the Nike Vaporfly 3 or the Saucony Endorphin Elite, which offer world-class performance without the extra bulk.

Additionally, we believe the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 may not provide the stable ride some need. For better support, the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 and Hoka Rocket X 2 are not only lighter and more affordable, but they also offer a more stable ride.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 parts

Breathability

Proper ventilation is crucial in any racing shoe, and the Ultraweave upper of this shoe appears highly breathable at first sight. Is it really? Let's find out in the lab.

Our initial test, involving smoke to trace airflow, is crucial. Fortunately, it confirmed excellent airflow, earning the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 a perfect 5/5 on our scale.

Puma achieved this with an ultra-thin engineered mesh, clearly visible as we moved the upper over our light. We've encountered only a few uppers thinner than this one, and impressively, this airiness extends even to the heel, ensuring comfort for the entire foot, although that will impact stability in a negative way.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 microscope

Next, we examined the Ultraweave upper under the microscope to understand its unique structure. Despite lacking visible ventilation holes, air flows effortlessly thanks to micro-holes naturally present in the mesh.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Ultraweave

Finally, a manual examination confirmed the upper is not stretchy and has minimal padding—just what we expect from a shoe designed for race day!

Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 5
Average 3.8
Compared to 221 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

We've already established that the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 offers exceptional ventilation, but this comes at the cost of using very thin materials. And this raised our concerns about its durability.

Indeed, after conducting our first Dremel test, we confirmed our initial suspicions—the upper's durability is severely lacking, leading us to rate it a mere 1/5.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Toebox durability
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 1
Average 2.3
Compared to 155 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

We flipped the Fast-R to test the heel padding, hopeful for a better result.

And we were thrilled with the outcome! The heel padding not only performed better but achieved a perfect score of 5/5. This ensures that no matter how much you race and train in these shoes, the heel padding will withstand the wear and tear.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Heel padding durability
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 151 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

We've moved on from the upper and now it's time to assess the outsole. Given its steep, 260-bucks price, we expected that the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 was going to feature PUMAGRIP—Puma's most advanced rubber technology. And here it is.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 outsole

The rubber coverage is notably generous, featuring two thick pods at the heel and full-length coverage in the forefoot. Will this hinder the shoe's weight?

With a hardness score of 74.0 HC, the formula closely mirrors that of the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2, which we found also provided exceptional grip, undoubtedly one of the best in the industry.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Outsole hardness
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 74.0 HC
Average 80.4 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 272 running shoes
Number of shoes
54.9 HC
Outsole hardness
92.8 HC

Outsole durability

To evaluate the durability of the PUMAGRIP rubber, we ramped up the Dremel to 10,000 RPM for a third test.

We then measured the indentation in the outsole and found a 1.0 mm gap. Considering the softness of the rubber, this is a good result.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Outsole durability
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 1.0 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 133 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

We measured the outsole thickness with our vernier caliper and were surprised to find a substantial 3.0mm of rubber.

This is quite impressive for a marathon shoe and might contribute to a heavier weight. However, for those who value durability in a supershoe, this is certainly welcome news.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Outsole thickness
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 3.0 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

We've already expressed concerns in previous tests about the weight of this shoe, noting its heft during our runs. And the scale confirms our suspicions.

At 9.3 oz or 264g, that's HEAVY for racing. We suggest this model only if the extra weight isn't a deal-breaker for you.

In fact, apart from the Cielo X1 from Hoka, top-tier supershoes like the Nike Alphafly 3—which sports a similar design and stack height—are significantly lighter, weighing just 7.1 oz or 201g on our scale.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Weight
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 9.31 oz (264g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

While the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 is on the heavier side, it effectively maximizes its dimensions to the 40-mm heel limit set by World Athletics, packing as much cushioning as possible. We measured the heel stack at an impressive 39.7 mm.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2

This is particularly beneficial for heavier heel strikers seeking a shoe that can comfortably support their weight over the full 26.2 miles of a marathon.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Heel stack
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 39.7 mm
Average 33.6 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
42.7 mm

Forefoot stack

The forefoot cushioning measured at 31.9 mm, ranking it among the tallest supershoes we've analyzed in the lab.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Forefoot stack
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 31.9 mm
Average 24.9 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
35.8 mm

Drop

Following our initial measurements, we calculated a 7.8-mm heel-to-toe drop, closely aligning with Puma's stated 8-mm drop.

We're pleased with this accuracy—discrepancies with brands are typically more pronounced! Additionally, the 8-mm offset makes this shoe versatile, suitable for nearly every type of footstrike.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Drop
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 7.8 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The insole, while comparable in thickness to average running shoes, was a surprising find for us—competition shoes typically feature thinner footbeds.

Why does this matter? Well, installing a 4.3-mm insole, as found here, within a shoe restricted to a 40-mm overall stack height results in a loss of 2 or 3 mm of foam. This could have been allocated to high-energy-return, Nitro Elite instead.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Insole thickness
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 4.3 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

Speaking of energy return, we discovered the expected material in the midsole: Nitro Elite.

It's Puma's premier foam, known for its substantial energy return. However, Puma has shifted its formulation from supercritical, nitrogen-injected PEBA to Aliphatic TPU—a first for the brand.

In terms of softness, Puma opted for a balanced approach with a hardness of 19.5 HA. Because of this formulation, we didn't find the experience plush at all, particularly in the forefoot, which we attribute to the ultra-low placement of the carbon-fiber plate.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Midsole softness
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 19.5 HA
Average 21.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 219 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

Given that it's made from TPU, we weren't surprised that the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 performed exceptionally well in our first freezer challenge. We placed the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes and then retested its softness, finding only a 9% increase!

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 9%
Average 25.6%
Compared to 218 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Plate

The standout feature is the PWRPLATE, which is prominently visible throughout the shoe due to the absence of foam in the midfoot, exposing the carbon-fiber plate.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 carbon

Puma has really gone wild with this design, and the stiffness of the plate reflects that. It may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those looking for a comfortable racing shoe.

In our view, if less stiff feel is a priority, we suggest opting for the comfy ride of the New Balance FuelCell Elite v4 instead.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Plate

Rocker

Another standout feature of the bizarre design of the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 is the toe rocker. It begins noticeably early and the plate extends beyond the upper.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 extended plate

This is intended to enhance running economy, though its real-life benefits can be hard to quantify. However, what is clear is that this design is truly one of a kind.

Stability

Lateral stability test

One major concern with supershoes is often their stability, which usually takes a back seat in the final product. In our tests, the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 offered a somewhat stable ride, performing better than some of the plushest supershoes.

However, don't anticipate a very supportive run experience. The minimal upper and the decoupled midsole don't contribute much to stability, and, true to the design and geometry of this shoe, the ride is definitely on the wild side!

Torsional rigidity

As soon as we stepped into this shoe, we were struck by its rigidity. It's absolutely mind-blowing, a stark contrast to the flexibility of something like the Merrell Vapor Glove 6. Naturally, it earned a 5/5 in our manual assessment for its steel-like rigidity.

Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 270 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

Conversely, the heel counter is extremely flexible, as is typical for a racing shoe, which led us to give it a 1/5 rating.

For those requiring a more secure heel hold—and thus might prefer a more traditional running shoe while still targeting top performance—the ASICS Superblast is an excellent choice.

Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 1
Average 2.8
Compared to 254 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

We've already highlighted that the design of this shoe is truly unique, leading to some intriguing findings in the lab.

One surprising discovery was that although the midsole appears exceptionally narrow, measurements showed it to be fairly standard at 114.2 mm. This demonstrates that initial feelings can sometimes be deceiving and that lab testing really matters...

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 114.2 mm
Average 113.6 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The heel also feels narrow, and indeed it's not broad at all.

Measuring just 86.6 mm, it's clear to us that those requiring stability in the heel may not enjoy a lovely ride in the Fast-R NE 2.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 86.6 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

During our rigidity evaluation, where each shoe is bent to a 90-degree angle, the Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 displayed significant stiffness, achieving a Hulk-like force measurement of 84.4N.

Why going so stiff? Well, crafting a top super shoe typically involves a combination of resilient foam and a rigid structural plate. In this case, the lively bounce is provided by Nitro Elite A-TPU foam, and the mind-blowing rigidity is courtesy of the carbon-fiber PWRPLATE. Puma just decided to go all-in here.

Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 84.4N
Average 29.3N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 274 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

We conducted another freezer test, placing this Puma in there for 20 more minutes, and we observed a 19.2% increase in stiffness (100.6N!). If you're planning to run a winter marathon, be prepared to handle this level of rigidity.

Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 19.2%
Average 36.3%
Compared to 274 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Given its radical design, we anticipated a unique fit in the toebox. However, when we measured the widest part of the upper, it came to 96.9 mm, which aligns quite closely with the norm for racing shoes and even resembles the fit of many daily running shoes.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 96.9 mm
Average 98.3 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Conversely, the big toe area fully embodies the Fast-R spirit. It is one of the most tapered designs we've encountered in the lab—a fact that's visually apparent and was confirmed with our calipers.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 toebox

The sole flare is pronounced, and it denies any chance of having a roomy fit, as it necessitates pairing a narrow upper with a wide midsole.

Clearly, we believe that those with square-shaped feet will find this shoe unsuitable.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 60.4 mm
Average 78.0 mm
Compared to 166 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

For those looking to not worry about their shoe’s tongue during a race, we believe the sock-like tongue is the way to go. It stays perfectly in place—it doesn’t shift, clings closely to the feet, and offers a tight feel.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Sock like

Comfort

Tongue padding

The tongue of the shoe is exactly what we anticipated for a proper marathon shoe—remarkably thin at just 1.3mm.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 tongue

Regular laces on a $260 shoe? That's disappointing...

Due to this, comfort is minimal, and we advise being cautious when cinching down the laces before a marathon. Over-tightening could lead to mid-race instep pain, as we discovered during our tests.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Tongue padding
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 1.3 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 289 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

In the heel, we discovered a handy finger-loop heel tab, which is absolutely essential in any shoe featuring a sock-like upper.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Heel tab
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Finger loop

Removable insole

The insole is removable, which is uncommon in competition shoes. However, as shown in our photo, the outsole's unique shape—with a protruding midfoot area—may pose some challenges when trying to replace it with a different option.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Removable insole
Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

The Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 stands out as one of the few racing shoes that incorporate reflective elements—kudos to Puma for this one!

Test results
Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 Yes