I recently started hiking and trail running as a way to decompress and unplug after my long, busy weeks. Now that I’m fully engulfed in my Sunday adventures, I eagerly count down the days until I can lace up my sneakers and enjoy the outdoors.Sometimes, though, the weather isn’t always up to par, and I return home with soggy, icky feet. I’ll admit it: I’ve always gravitated mainly toward sneakers that look fly versus functional, weatherproof kicks. That left me in a predicament—I don’t want to skip out on a good hike or beach run, but I also prefer not to have to compromise on style.So when I received a pair of the Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GORE-TEX to test for SELF’s 2023 Sneaker Awards, I was excited to think that I may have finally found a solution to my problem. The trainers contain Nike’s GORE-TEX material, which is supposed to keep your feet dry. And on top of that, they’re really cute. So I was curious: Would this shoe look good with my everyday fits and protect me on my adventures despite gloomy forecasts? I decided to give them a go to see for myself.Who it’s forThe Pegasus Trail 4 GORE-TEX is a shoe for folks who love to hit up trails, whether they’re jogging, hiking, or simply going for a nature walk.They’re also for those who aren’t afraid to get a little bit wet on their outdoorsy adventures, either. Thanks to their GORE-TEX upper, which keeps water out, this sneaker is the type you’d pull out on a rainy day. Basically, if you’re a fan of Nike’s popular and long-standing Pegasus road running sneakers, but plan on taking your shoes on rainy excursion and tricky terrain, these might be an option for you.Out of the boxAlthough the appearance of outdoorsy trainers shouldn’t really matter too much—because chances are you’ll probably ruin them by stepping in mud or dirt—these kicks are very cute. What popped out first to me was their sleek and modern look, mainly because I’m used to trail shoes being super bulky and kinda ugly. I tried out a pair in Barbie pale pink and sophisticated teal, which looked super chic and even garnered a bunch of compliments.I have to say, though, their streamlined look, especially around the toe box, worried me a little bit, since I have wide feet. Still, I laced them up and got to testing.Fit and feelI tried the Pegasus Trail 4 GORE-TEX in my standard size, which doesn’t change when it comes to wearing tennis shoes, casual kicks, or running ones. Upon first wear, they fit snugly with about a half inch at the top of the sneaker to allow room for my feet to breathe and wiggle around a bit. While I was nervous about their narrow width, they still worked out for me because of their stretchy lining. They were also very cushiony, making them feel extra comfy for those longer trails.On the trailLuckily, with all of the rain NYC has been getting this summer, it wasn’t difficult to pinpoint a day to test these Nike trainers. I took these out on muddy terrain for a 20-minute trail jog. On that first run, I was looking for them to have four qualities: a springy cushion, a lightweight feel, enough stability so I didn’t slip, and the ability to keep my feet dry. Not only did they exceed those expectations, but they even provided some extra surprises—like preventing rocks and pebbles from slipping into my sock thanks to the lining on the back of the sneaker.
I started running last fall, and when I say I did so cautiously, casually, and, above all, slowly, I mean I could have had a pretty competitive race against Aesop’s tortoise. I never planned to make running my main form of exercise, so I figured I didn’t need a pair of performance-level shoes to do it.I spent months plodding down the sidewalk in sneakers that lacked adequate cushioning, felt dull instead of springy, and just made my outings a little boring. Then I tested a sample of the Puma’s Deviate Nitro 2 for SELF’s 2023 Sneaker Awards. Not only did this shoe remind me that I can have nice things, it also gave me the footing I needed (heh) to become a more enthusiastic runner.Who it’s forThe first iteration of the Deviate Nitro impressed runners when it came out a couple years ago, and this newer model takes that design and ups the ante: According to Puma’s site, the Deviate Nitro 2 is more responsive and features an updated platform that makes toeing off more seamless. There’s also more padding around the ankle and traction on the outsole for good measure. With these sort of all-around upgrades, it’s intended for runners looking to increase their speed on everyday runs.Out of the boxWhen my Puma package arrived, the box felt nearly empty, to the point that I wondered if they’d forgotten to actually include the shoes. The Deviate Nitro 2 is very lightweight, even though it has a sizable foam sole. The pair I received came in the brand’s Royal Sapphire-Elektro Purple colorway—a pretty inoffensive, if kind of generically sporty, blue and green combination. Colors aside, my first impression of this shoe was akin to that moment in any Batman movie when the Batmobile is revealed for the first time: I couldn’t wait to take it out and see what it could do.Sara CoughlinFit and feelIf I thought the Deviate Nitro 2 was lightweight in my hand, it felt barely-there on my foot. It’s easy to pull on, lace up, and move in it—I took some practice steps and hops around my apartment, and it felt springy yet stable. It fits close against my foot, with a slightly curved shape that matches where my foot narrows at the arch and widens at the toes. I ordered the size I normally wear, and while I probably could have gone up a half size for additional toe-wiggling room, I was comfortable with it.On the runI wore the Deviate Nitro 2 on several brief runs around my neighborhood, and couldn’t believe how good I felt each time. It encourages my steps to roll forward and into the next, and balances its energy return with a nice level of control. It felt like my strides required far less effort than usual, as if I had tapped into a cruise control setting—but I never felt like my legs were running away from the rest of me.Comfort-wise, I was immensely impressed. My shins and ankles can ache and fatigue pretty easily, but they felt great—downright sprightly—by the end of my runs in the Deviate Nitro 2. This was my first time wearing a running shoe that truly felt like an extension of my foot (albeit a better cushioned, bouncier version of it). It made me want to just keep going.Bottom lineI am a big fan of this shoe—it served as a great introduction to performance-level running shoes for me, and I could see it doing the same for others who want to level up their footwear from the beginner’s stage. It is relatively expensive if you only run every so often, but it might be worth it if you find that your occasional outings feel a little blah. I highly recommend the Deviate Nitro 2 to people looking to train and improve their habits as runners, but I also think it’s worth your time if you’re more seasoned, too, because it’s just so fun to wear and put to work.
Whenever I slip on my running shoes, I skip the pavement and hit the dirt instead. I’ve always leaned toward minimal cushioning for my trail shoes, which I believe helps me better feel the ground under my feet and stay balanced.So when I received a max-cushion shoe to test for SELF’s 2023 Sneaker Awards, I was a bit hesitant: Too much cushion tends to feel unsteady and sloppy to me. But as soon as I took a few steps in Salomon’s Ultra Glide 2, I knew this trail shoe was different: It’s soft but responsive, supportive but not too bulky, and—most importantly—cushioned but still stable. Read on for my full experience with these trail runners.Who it’s forSalomon started as a mountain apparel and equipment company, originating in the French Alps. While it’s known for its streetwear-worthy Sportstyle and XT-6 sneakers, the brand has popular trail running shoes, too. The Ultra Glide is a warm welcome for people looking for a bit more padding than other options, and its second edition is just as cushy, but offers greater stability. Thanks to its wider toe box, it’s designed for long distances and comfortable daily training, making it a solid pick for both pro or beginner trail runners.Out of the boxAs soon as I opened the box’s lid, I was impressed by the shoe’s earthy colors and ombre design. The red fades into yellow and beige, and reminds me of a desert sunset—a refreshing look compared to the bright colors or dull neutrals of other running shoes. When I picked them up, I noticed they had a surprising amount of padding along the ankle cuff, tongue, and upper, but still felt pretty lightweight on my hands. The moderate rocker sole also caught my eye, and I barely noticed the claw-shaped lugs (the rubber knobs that help with traction) on the outsole. Basically, the Ultra Glide 2 almost looks more like a road shoe than a trail shoe.Fit and feelAs soon as I slipped on the Ultra Glide 2, it felt like a perfect fit—no rubbing or points of discomfort. The padded upper feels like a lot of material at first, but during my runs, it created a softness that I haven’t experienced with many other trail runners, and my ankle bone felt nicely cradled. I also loved the roomy toe box; it’s wide enough that my toes could splay out naturally, but not too much so that it felt clunky when I was running over roots and rocks.On the runI tried these shoes after a long running break and anticipated a rough reintroduction. Usually, no matter how slowly I ease into the miles, I get shin splints on my first few sessions. But after a four-mile run on a narrow trail, my entire body felt surprisingly fresh—no aches or pains afterward. From there, I upped the ante and took these shoes on a mix of surfaces: gravel roads, trails, and boulder-strewn paths. Each time, I nearly bounced off the ground with each step, and my toes had plenty of room to breathe in the summer heat. And thanks to the pull-tab laces, I never once had to worry about tying my shoes. What a relief.I’ve now racked up at least 40 miles in them, including in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and on a sandy trail near San Diego, and found that moderate paths and trails are where they really shine. The traction on the soles sticks well to loose dirt, and they’re light and agile enough to tackle some steep hills and rocks. While the cushioning creates a soft landing pad that I didn’t love on super tricky portions of the trail, it was a much needed relief everywhere else.Bottom lineI’m happy to report that I’m now a cushion convert: The Ultra Glide 2 has become my go-to trail runner for all but the most technical mountain terrain where I need the extra grip and agility. So if you’re anything like me and need all the help you can get to increase comfort and enjoyment on a run, I would highly recommend this pair.Beyond that, I’m impressed by how truly versatile this runner is: The cushioning, traction, and fit all strike the perfect balance to feel good in most scenarios, and I’m rarely left wanting more out of any one feature. Anyone from an ultra runner to someone just starting out on trails could appreciate the comfort-oriented cushion and fit. And while the Ultra Glide 2 is super fun on dirt, it’s also a rare breed that looks cool enough to dress up for a day out, too.