The new PUMA L.I.F.T. Racer is the lightest workout shoe I've ever worn—and I've worn a lot of them. It's made of a combo of mesh and a foam material (L.I.F.T. stands for "Lite Injected Foam Technology") that reminds me of an even lighter-weight version of the stuff used to make my Crocs. Definitely worth a test run, if for no other reason.
First, though, I have to point out that despite its speedy name, the L.I.F.T. Racer is actually part of PUMA's "active" category, not one of their technical running shoes. The company says it's meant for walking, light jogging, cross-training, and just bumming around on the weekends. So that's what I did.
I tested the shoes out during a strength-training session, then took them for a stroll around the neighborhood. They kept my feet really cool, thanks to a combo of the aforementioned mesh and numerous air holes around the heel area, plus they boasted surprisingly good arch support. For good measure, I wore them around the office for day, garnering a slew of "cute shoes!" compliments. (PUMA is known for their stylish kicks, and these are no exception.)
Then, since my knees don't let me run anymore, I loaned them to my colleague and Assistant Editor, Susan Hall, to check out the "light jogging" part the PUMA folks had mentioned. Here's what she had to say after a couple miles on the treadmill (thanks, Susan!):
"They were surprisingly cushy on my run—incredibly light, good arch support, very stable. The bottoms of the shoes look deceptively slick and ungrippy, but I never came close to losing my footing. I also tried them on the elliptical trainer and my bike, and they worked great. But I would not wear them without socks, thanks to the stitching that joins the foam to the mesh right where the laces start ... not comfy!"
That stitching she mentions is the one thing that will keep me from making these shoes my go-to pair. Susan's got a pretty narrow foot, and the stitching bugged her a little. I, on the other hand, have a somewhat wide forefoot, and that stitching (even with socks) started to feel uncomfortable after just a minute or two—and was downright painful after about 30 minutes. (That day at the office? I had to keep taking them off to give my feet a break.)
The bottom line: Spring for these cool-looking shoes if you have narrow feet and want a featherweight shoe for light workouts; they'd be great for travel, too. If you're looking for a hard-core running or walking shoe, you'll probably want to pass them by. Ditto if you've got a wider forefoot. Which, I'll admit, makes me sad: I want to wear these shoes! Hey PUMA, how about a wide version, or at least a smoother seam?
Product: PUMA L.I.F.T. Racer
Pros: Extremely lightweight with good arch support, these shoes will keep your feet cool and stable during short walks and runs, or while biking, on the elliptical trainer, or just hanging around. Plus, they look really cool.
Cons: The forefoot stitching can be uncomfortable, especially if your feet aren't narrow.
Cost: $75 at store.PUMA.com
Extra tip: Don't wear them outside on a rainy day: Your feet will get soaked!