A Different Kind of Super Shoe

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 7 oz. (206 g.) for a US M9 / 6.53 oz. (185 g.) for a US W8
  • This funky design is loaded with Big Cat Energy
  • The two-piece midsole shines at race pace
  • It’s gonna be HARD to get your hands on ’em
  • Coming in March for $220

MEAGHAN: Puma is in the driver’s seat right now. The American women’s marathon segment is on fire at the moment, and Puma is stoking the flames with its recent signings of elite runners. Every week it seems like a new elite is joining the Puma ranks, and so far they’ve racked up an impressive roster between Molly Seidel, Sara Vaughn, Dakotah Lindwurm, and Annie Frisbie. Capitalizing on Seidel’s successes in 2021, Puma has initiated the distance launch sequence for an exciting future in running. Of course, every distance runner needs an elite race shoe, and no company wants its athletes in a pair of blacked-out Alphafly on the start line. So it was only appropriate that Puma developed a shoe to complement these amazing women. Enter the Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite.

If it’s called Fast-R, it must be, right? I’ll admit that I have a love/hate relationship with the name of this shoe. Sure it’s a fun name, but remember when Hilaria Baldwin pretended to be Spanish? Just because you keep saying it doesn’t always make it accurate. Sometimes, trying too hard can backfire. Luckily for Puma, the performance lives up to the name.

The Good

MEAGHAN: I have to start with the aesthetics here because the Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite looks and feels unlike any other super shoe. The main difference is the decoupled construction — the only other shoe with a similar design is the Brooks Aurora-BL (honestly, one of the better shoes from Brooks). While it looks like it would feel disjointed, it’s surprisingly smooth out on the run.

The decoupled construction is made up of two different foams. Puma used a less responsive EVA foam under the heel and the Nitro Elite, a bio-based Pebax foam, in the forefoot. The EVA absorbs energy and creates a more stable platform on landing, while the Nitro Elite propels the foot forward on toe-off. Of course, sandwiched between the two is a full-length carbon plate (Pwrplate) that gives you that propulsive pop feeling you’d expect in a super shoe. It’s not a soft, bouncy ride like you get with the ASICS Metaspeed Sky or New Balance RC Elite 2. In terms of firmness, it feels closest to the Saucony Endorphin Pro, but with a more evident plate. I found this shoe really comes alive when you’re pushing the pace.

The upper is a single-layer mono mesh that’s simple and sleek. I received a half size larger than my traditional (W8 vs W7.5), so I didn’t quite get the “sock-like fit,” but that’s what’s intended. My wide feet like a little extra room, so I was happy with the overall fit. The tongue, heel, and collar are designed with a very stretchy knit material. I’m a big fan of the tongue — it reminds me of the Asics Gel Nimbus Lite 3, which is an absolute treat. Also, there appears to be a small padded tongue grip, complete with a rocket design on the inside. It’s kinda weird, and I kinda love it.

The last thing to note about the upper is the pointy chunk of hard plastic on the heel, aptly named the heel spoiler. If I’m being honest, this feels a little extra (I mean that in the way the cool kids use it), but it also adds some stability to the heel and overall fit. I guess if you’re going to go crazy with a decoupled design, you might as well add a spoiler. It’s also well suited for a self-defense class.

And, of course, the outsole is covered in PumaGrip, my favorite grippy rubber.

All this fancy stuff comes in a really light package — my W8 came in at 6.5 ounces. While it’s not the thickest of the thicc bois, there’s some decent stack: 37.5mm in the heel, 30mm in the forefoot, for a 7.5mm drop.

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puma fast r midsole and plate

The Bad

MEAGHAN: This shoe is obviously intended for racing, but I was surprised by how different it felt for “easy” running. Unlike the Nike Alphafly, which feels like a fun trampoline at just about any pace, the Fast-R lost its spark at easy miles. I know Puma considers this a marathon shoe, but I think it’s better suited for the half marathon distance and below. The stable platform, which provides a bit more confidence at those fast paces, paired with the substantial full-length carbon plate, really pops when you’re running all-out.

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puma fast r outsole

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite Conclusion

MEAGHAN: The Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite is absolutely a contender in the super shoe world. I personally didn’t love the original Nitro Elite, so this addition to the lineup was a warm welcome. I should also note that Puma has made some updates to the production model of this shoe (I received an early sample). Most notably: shortened PwrTape (overlays) on the upper, an altered texture to the outsole, and some new heel slits (to slow down and stabilize the heel further).

I’ve put about 50 miles on my pair of Fast-R, and they’re holding up well. This is one of those shoes that will stay in my rotation for workout days, even after writing up the review. And I may even lace them up for race day next month. That is a rarity.

You can pick up the Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite for $220 soon at the buy button below.

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puma fast r pwrtape

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