For the past couple of seasons, we have heard much about "barefoot", "minimalist", and "zero drop" running shoes. For this spring season, a new buzzword appears to be emerging: "energy return". Although hardly a new concept, brands such as Newton, Adidas, Pearl Izumi, and ON Running are making energy return relevant again by designing shoes they claim will ultimately have you running farther and faster with less effort.
Energy return refers to the ability of the running shoe midsole, or a combination of both the midsole and outsole, to compress (absorbing the impact shock) and expand back in a short amount of time. If the midsole foam compresses for too long, it may very well do a great job of absorbing impact forces, but it also wastes a ton of your forward stride energy in the process.
The new Energy running shoes from Newton ($119-available July 2013) feature the company's signature Action/Reaction technology in the forefoot, with five low-profile lugs to provide trampoline like cushioning at the impact-zone and a smooth, stable ride. The lightweight, breathable mesh upper has a roomy toebox that provides ample room for toes to splay, while midfoot overlays ensure a secure fit.
The Adidas Energy Boost ($150) running shoes claim to redirect energy back into your runs. The Boost midsole provides a soft yet springy cushioning for better running efficiency and comfort. The Torsion System and Techfit upper work together to give you plenty of midfoot support.
The new Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion
collection ($115-$130) is made up of smooth, quick transitioning running shoes with a dynamic offset midsole at their core. Instead of a fixed heel to toe drop, the midsole height differential is continually changing as your foot moves throughout your stride, moving the forward spring further back from your toe to your midfoot for a quicker take off.
Finally, Swiss company ON Running ($119-$139) took a unique design approach to energy return. When you hit the ground, the highly adaptive rubber elements cushion both vertical and horizontal forces for a soft landing. These rubber elements, or Clouds, the lock firm and spring back to provide a natural and powerful takeoff.