1.7 Methodology update: June 2023
Our lab reviews are now presented in a standardized, clear-cut layout where each section is dedicated to a particular aspect of a shoe such as breathability, durability, cushioning, etc.
Each section includes multiple lab and field tests that give an in-depth look into what the shoe feels like and how it performs. We interpret every lab test result to make it clear to a beginner athlete or someone who is not geeky about shoes.
We measure and assess over 20 parameters for each shoe in our lab. These measurements are then compared to the average in a given shoe category.
In the example below, we measure the heel stack height of a road running shoe and present it in a table and a graph in comparison to the average heel stack of road running shoes.
New durability tests with a Dremel
Following the success of our toebox durability test, we now apply the Dremel to the shoe’s heel padding and outsole.
We chose heel padding because it is another area on the upper that is most prone to abrasion due to constant chafing against the ankle. We make sure that the Dremel always touches the padding with consistent force (3.2N) and speed (10 RPM). Due to the material’s fragility, we only hold the tool for 4 seconds. The damage is then assessed on a scale from 1 to 5.
When it comes to the rubber outsole, we hold the Dremel for 12 seconds with the same force (3.2N) and speed (10K RPM).
We then measure the depth of the dent with the help of a tire tread depth gauge.
1.6 Methodology update: April 2023
Durability tests with a Dremel
To check the upper’s resistance to abrasion, we now perform a Dremel test on one of the most sensitive parts of the upper - the toebox fabric and the heel collar lining.
The shoe remains in a fixed position as we apply the Dremel to it. The following conditions are applied to all shoes for consistency:
- 3.2N of force
- 4 seconds
- 10 000 RPM [August 2023 update: we lowered the speed to 5000 RPM]
To prevent the shoe’s color from creating bias, we put a piece of contrasting white plastic underneath the textile.
Close-up photos with a microscope
Having added a microscope to our lab, we are now able to take a much closer look at each shoe’s upper fabric and other parts.
Close-up shots of the upper, for example, help us support statements about the shoe’s breathability, waterproofing capacity, and durability.
Sample of a waterproof textile
Sample of a breathable mesh
Shoe rocker visualization
We added a visual demonstration of how much of a rocker is present in each shoe’s design. Initiating movement in the heel, we aim to replicate the heel-to-toe transition of the foot for heel strikers.
All shoe weights are presented in men’s US size 9
To make our data consistent, we measure every shoe’s weight in a men’s US 9. That’s because it is the most common shoe size and brands often provide shoe weight in this particular size.
However, in cases where we cannot get US 9, we buy US 8 or 8½ and use a proprietary formula to calculate for US 9.
Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 3 was measured at 9.4 oz (267g) in a US 8. It corresponds to 10 oz (284g) in a US 9.
The formula we use is based on the weight measurement of 4 different shoes from different brands measured in 10 different sizes.
The measurements were kindly provided to us by Running Warehouse.
Improved toebox measurements
Previously, we only measured the toebox in its widest part (around the metatarsal joints).
But now we also measure the width near the toes (at the top of the shoe).
This allows us to check how much narrower the toebox gets toward the toes. It is possible that two shoes will have the same width in the metatarsal area but one of them would get much tighter around the toes.
1.5 Methodology update: August 2022
All the reviews tagged as Lab reviews consist of 2 things:
- doing lab tests
- field-testing the shoe
We start by taking the initial measurements in our lab, such as weight, width, flexibility, etc. Then we test the shoe properly by going for a run, hike, to the gym, or by doing any other activity that the shoe is intended for. Finally, we come back to the lab and finish up by cutting the shoe in half and doing the rest of the measurements including stack height, midsole softness, and more.
Knowing how the shoe scores in the lab gives us a more in-depth layer of objectivity. By doing the so-called Fact Check, we compare the brand’s statements to the lab results. Our members of the editorial team give an explanation of the comparison and recommendations, thanks to their extraordinary lab and sports background.
Example of a Fact check:
There have been a few changes to our lab testing process as we added more tests to check various characteristics.
Improved breathability test
We now assess how breathable the shoe upper is with the help of a smoke machine. We cover up the shoe mouth entirely and pump smoke inside the shoe. The amount of smoke and the speed at which it’s coming out of the upper demonstrates the shoe’s ventilation potential.
We also enhanced this test with a transparency check. The cut half of the shoe is put against a source of bright light. It allows us to see which areas of the upper are the most transparent and consequently, breathable.
Ditching lace stretch and lace slip tests
We no longer measure how stretchy or slippery the shoe’s laces are. The reason is we do not find them useful enough.
1.4 Methodology update: July 2021
When we test shoes in our lab, we follow a standard testing methodology to ensure that lab data is comparable across all shoe reviews. On this page, you’ll find an explanation of the lab tests and instruments (equipment) we are using. All the shoes that we test in the field and in the lab are tagged as Lab test.
We dissect, cut, and tear shoes apart in our lab tests because minute details are what separates great shoes from the rest, and it’s our mission to help consumers buy the best shoes for their needs which requires us to know the details no matter how small. Why this works: Thanks to both field and lab tests, we're able to experience the shoe in full and write about its fit, performance, and looks covering both personal experience and lab data.
We weigh the whole shoe before any test runs. Most of our visitors are from the US, where ounces are used. However, a portion are from countries that use the metric system, so we report on both the weight in grams and ounces. Our scale is accurate to 1g/0.05ounce.
We measure the width of the base of the shoe at its widest point in the forefoot and the heel. We use an 8’’ outside caliper accurate to .1mm.
We also measure the width of the upper where it attaches to the midsole in both the forefoot and the heel. Again at its widest points.
Stack heights and heel drop
To get the appropriate stack and drop measurements we cut the shoe in half and first measure the internal length of the shoe.
We flatten the shoe out to avoid any rocker or bend and measure from where the stroble board meets the heel and begins to curve upwards into the heel counter, to the inside edge of the toe bumper. We use an electronic digital caliper accurate to .01mm.
From this overall length measurement, we take the stack measurement of the heel at 12% of the total overall length, and the forefoot measurement at 75% of the total length measured again from where the stroble board meets the heel and begins to curve upwards.
This is in accordance with how and where World Athletics measures stack heights in running shoes for eligibility requirements.
We take all stack measurements with the insole included regardless if the insole is removable or not.
Drop measurements are a simple calculation of heel stack minus forefoot stack.
We remove the insole and measure the thickness in the center of the heel and note if it’s removable or not.
Tongue thickness and gussets
We measure the thickness of the thickest part of the tongue.
We also note if and how it’s gusseted to the shoe. Gusset options include
- 1 side
- Both Sides (fully-gusseted)
- Both sides (semi-gusseted)
The outsole is measured in a few ways. With the shoe cut in half we measure the thickness of the outsole in the forefoot and heel, as well as the thickness of any lugs that may be present (for example on trail shoes).
The measurement of any lug is from the base of the lug to the outermost edge of the lug and does not include the thickness of the base outsole.
We also measure the hardness of the outsole material with an HC durometer at room temperature.
We measure the hardness of the midsole foam with an HA durometer at room temperature in the heel of the shoe, and if there are dual-density foams we measure those hardnesses as well.
We also place the shoe in a 0-degree Fahrenheit freezer for 20 minutes and measure the hardness of the foam a second time to simulate cold-weather performance.
Heel stiffness is measured on a subjective 1-5 scale with 5 being the stiffest by squeezing the sides of the heel counter and pushing from the back of the heel counter.
Using a digital force gauge we measure the resistance it takes for a shoe to bend at its natural bending point starting from 0 degrees and bending it all the way to 90 degrees. Most resistance will typically be found around 20 to 30 degrees.
We clamp the shoes to a workbench with a piece of wood over the natural breaking point where the forefoot is designed to bend naturally. Once clamped down we find the center point under the back heel, 1cm from the edge of the outsole.
The force gauge measures the maximum resistance in Newtons which is the number that we report on.
We make 3-5 measurements unless we find outliers in our data, in which case we make more measurements to get a reasonable finding. We use an average of the measurements.
On top of testing the flex of a shoe in the lab, we also test the shoe for torsional and longitudinal flex on a subjective 1-5 scale with 5 being the stiffest.
Lace stretch and slip
We remove the laces from the shoe to test two factors.
Lace stretch is quantified on a subjective 1-5 scale with 5 being the most stretchy simply by pulling the laces from end to end.
We also test the laces for slippage using our digital force gauge. We tie a loop knot in the lace and hang it vertically. From there we tie a basic “test knot” and tighten it with the forge gauge to 100N. We have another loop knot tied at the bottom end of the lace which we pull downward on until the “test knot” slips untied. We record the max effort taken to untie the knot.
Heel tab type
We note if the shoe has a heel tab. Options include:
- Finger loop
- Pull tab
Breathability is measured on a subjective 1-5 scale with 5 being the most breathable by filling the shoe with smoke created by dry ice and boiling water.
Each shoe is filled with smoke using approximately 1 cup of dry ice chunks in a bowl filled with 2 cups of boiling water. The smoke is pushed through the shoe using a cooling fan.
This is filmed in slow motion at 240fps and analyzed for scoring.
1.1 In-depth review methodology
Note: We’ve stopped using this methodology in January 2022.
We have gathered a team of advanced athletes and shoe experts to create the most authoritative shoe reviews. They put each pair through vigorous field testing and write a review based on personal experience. They also attach photos and videos of the shoes, during their run, hike, gym session, or any other activity they take part in for an in-depth test.
All our testers have backgrounds that are nothing short of impressive. We work only with people who are passionate, enthusiastic, and very geeky about footwear and sports. Most of them compete at recreational or sub-elite level, or cover weekly mileages that are high above the average ones. The author of every in-depth review is shown at the top and their biography is added at the bottom of the review.
Here is a typical track record of our expert from the running category:
- runs at least 30 to 40 miles a week, with some going up to 70 miles a week when training for a marathon
- is a competitive runner on various distances (from 5K to ultra)
- does all types of runs, from easy days and long hauls to fartleks and speed training
- faces various terrains and weather conditions
- sets PRs (some of the examples include 15:57 for a 5K and 3:28 for a marathon)
Learn more about our testers from other categories here.