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Go big: More max-cushion shoes are hitting the market — are they right for you?

Go big: More max-cushion shoes are hitting the market — are they right for you?

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Maximalist shoes are the new minimalist shoes this year, but does it mean you need to shell out up to $170?

In spite of their towering stack heights, these kicks do take a page from their cut-down minimalist sole mates: They weigh less and have a lower heel-to-toe drop than traditional shoes. This gives these marshmallow-like shoes some of the pros of the minimalist trend without the tender-footed cons.

So besides the added height advantage, why switch?

“I felt like the minimal movement was idiocy,” says Army Reserve Capt. Greg Loomis, 40, a physical therapist in Virginia. “[But] I did like the idea of less of a heel and less plastic.”

Loomis says that in the past he wore traditional Asics shoes and had been dealing with Achilles tendinitis and Plantar fasciitis. He says he’s been wearing three models from Hoka One One for the past year and has been able to put in his biggest mileage month in a decade.

Former Army Sgt. Matthew Lancaster, 40, also switched because of a nagging injury.

“I switched after wearing minimal shoes and developing Cuboid Syndrome,” he says. Now an ultrarunner and CrossFitter, Lancaster says his doctor recommended trying a shoe with more cushion. He said he has noticed less joint pain and fewer rolled ankles since switching to Hoka One One’s Stinson trail shoes.

In years past, the biggest deterrent to max-cushion shoes was the price — and the laughable look — of certain styles. But now, with the addition of three max-cushion models from Altra Zero Drop, prices are down in the range of a traditional shoe.

We looked at six models on the market now. Here’s how they stacked up:

OFF PT365 max cushion shoes

ALTRA ZERO DROP OLYMPUS

Style: Trail

Support: Neutral

Stack height (heel): 36mm

Offset: Zero drop

Weight: 11 oz.

Price: $130

Get it: www.altrarunning.com

With a 36mm stack height, Altra Zero Drop’s Olympus tops out as the max of the max-cushion shoes on our list. The Olympus features the company’s standard zero-drop platform and its popular foot-shaped — and extra roomy — toe box. The shoe’s aggresive rocker toe took a little getting used to, though. Sizes run small. We had to order a full size up.

Read the full review, here.

OFF PT365 max cushion shoes

HOKA ONE ONE BONDI 3

Style: Road 

Support: Neutral

Stack height (heel): 33mm

Offset: 4.5mm

Weight: 10.8 oz.

Price: $150

Get it: www.hokaoneone.com

Hoka One One’s update to the popular Bondi gives it a gender-specific design, which has greatly improved the fit for women. These shoes are built in a pyramid shape — the base of the shoe is wider than the footbed — which reduces ankle rolls on uneven footing. This model has Hoka’s widest toe box but still leaves some wearers complaining of a tight fit.

Read the review, here.

OFF PT365 max cushion shoes

ALTRA ZERO DROP REPETITION 

Style: Road 

Support: Stability

Stack height (heel): 30mm

Offset: Zero drop

Weight: 11.1 oz.

Price: $125

Get it: www.altrarunning.com

The Repetition has Altra’s StabiliPod outsole technology, which “acts as a stabilizing tripod by enhancing the three natural stability zones in your foot,” reps say. The shoes also come with a removable varsus stability wedge, which provides support without pushing up the arch. Don’t want this much support? Check out the neutral-cushioned Torin 1.5 ($120).

OFF PT365 max cushion shoes

BROOKS TRANSCEND

Style: Road 

Support: Stability

Stack height (heel): 30mm

Offset: 8mm

Weight: 12.2 oz.

Price: $160

Get it: www.brooksrunning.com

Brooks says it wants to “maximize the float experience,” and the Transcend is how they’re doing it. Super DNA midsole foam has 25 percent more cushion than Brooks’ BioMoGo DNA cushioning, making these kicks extra soft. Lateral guide rails provide stability without a traditional post.

OFF PT365 max cushion shoes

HOKA ONE ONE CONQUEST

Style: Road

Support: Neutral

Stack height (heel): 29mm

Offset: 4mm

Weight: 11.8 oz.

Price: $170

Get it: www.hokaoneone.com

Hoka’s Conquest features the company’s RMAT midsole, a material designed to improve the weight-to-resilience ratio and lengthen the shoe’s lifespan. If the price tag is too steep for you, consider waiting until fall for Hoka to release the Huaka ($150) and Clifton ($130) styles.

OFF PT365 max cushion shoes

NEW BALANCE 980 FRESH FOAM

Style: Road

Support: Neutral

Stack height (heel): 25mm

Offset: 4mm

Weight: 8.8 oz.

Price: $110

Get it: www.newbalance.com

While these aren’t exactly a max-cushion shoe, they offer significantly more cushion than New Balance’s popular Minimus line. Created with 3-D printing technology, Fresh Foam is made from a series of concave and convex hexagons, making the soles extra plush. And at just 8.8 ounces, you’ll get a lot of cushion for not a lot of weight.

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and our resident women’s gear destroyer.

Photos by Rob Curtis/Staff

Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 32 ultramarathons -- including her first 100-miler. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .