PUMA Fast-R 2 NITRO Elite review: Bold or Brilliant?

The Fast-R 2 is the next iteration of PUMA's eye catching and unconventional supershoe. Their scientists make some bold claims about them. How do they stack up in the real world?

PUMA Fast-R 2 Nitro Elite – Innovation Everywhere

PUMA’s Fast-R was a shoe designed to stand out from the pack. From the decoupled midsole to the exposed stretch of carbon plate, it was designed to be a stripped back speedster. In the second iteration, there are some similarities. The two part midsole and the exposed PWRPLATE remain. PUMAGRIP keeps you glued to the ground albeit in a slightly modified configuration. Where the changes come, according to PUMA are in the midsole which packs more of a punch. PUMA’s scientist’s claim that the new Nitro Elite midsole can give 46% more energy return than the previous model. Apparently, this equates to a 2 minute 28 second saving for a 3:30 marathoner and 1 minute 23 seconds for a 2:30 marathoner. 

 

Now, all these claims are well and good on paper, but races aren’t run on paper. The Meta Endurance team strapped on the crazy creations from Herzogenaurach to see how they performed on the pavement.

Specs: 

Weight in PUMA’s sample size: 240g (8.5oz)

 

Stack height: 40mm heel and 32mm forefoot for a 8mm drop

 

MSRP: €260/$260

Upper – Psychedelic Rush With a Funky Fit

Andy:

The PUMA ULTRAWEAVE upper, which comes in 20% lighter than the previous version, certainly gives a very snug fit. From the outset, it is the upper and fit of the Fast-R 2 which causes me the biggest issue with the shoe. I don’t have a particularly wide or large volume foot but something about the last of the Fast-R 2 doesn’t work well for me.

 

For me, the heel (on the left foot) and midfoot are fine, lockdown is good, my arch feels no discomfort and there is no danger of any slippage. However, when it comes to the forefoot, the taper and snugness of the upper is an area of discomfort for me. 

Grip in the wrong places

The ULTRAWEAVE upper seems to grab and compress the front of my foot at the joint to my toes. I have tried to alter the lacing and sadly this hasn’t helped. Due to this, I have had to limit my running in the shoe to shorter blasts. When my foot has expanded on longer efforts, the discomfort has become unpleasant.

 

Another quirk of the upper I have found is the rubbing on my right achilles. Where the pull tab connects to the heel cup I have experienced some rubbing and blistering. I don’t know whether this is a general issue or just a problem with my production sample as the left foot is fine. This issue was easier to fix than the general fit as a sticking plaster on the inside of the heel cup fixed the rubbing. The stiff plastic fin on the back of each shoe could be an issue for people with sensitive achilles areas as there is very little give in it.

 

Overall, the upper is soft, breathable and contains the foot well. The new generation of PWRTAPE adds structure and combined with some PUMA graphic overlays ensures that everything stays where it should be. Pull tabs on the tongue and heel allow easier entry into the shoe which is stifled a little by the snugness of fit. The tongue is a fully gusseted sock-like number which helps to hold the foot firm.

 

Between the combination of tongue and lace, there is no real feeling of pressure along the top of the foot. I would imagine with the fit of the Fast-R 2 that it could be used without lacing at all.

Ivan:

I’ve encountered significant difficulty putting on the shoe despite using the pull tabs, and my feet do not have a high volume. Once the shoe is on, the upper securely envelops the mid- and forefoot, creating a tight sensation that may be slightly constrictive for some. Like Andy’s experience, I find the toe-box too snug. Although the upper is reasonably breathable, extended runs make my feet excessively warm due to limited airflow and compression into the midsole.

 

Despite these drawbacks, I actually appreciate a snug fit that gives a racing feel, making me feel faster and urging me to pick up the pace.

 

However, my primary concern lies with the heel cup. Regardless of how tightly I lace up the shoe before my runs, I consistently find the need to re-lace during my runs. It’s not that I experience any heel slip, but rather there’s an unsettling amount of wriggle room in the back part. The lack of structure and minimal padding around the heel collar, combined with stretchy laces, exacerbates this issue. Fortunately, the shoe includes padding on top of the knit tongue, preventing any instances of lace bite.

Not for sensitive heels

Lastly, individuals with sensitivity to achilles and heel pressure may experience discomfort from rubbing, echoing Andy’s concerns. In conclusion, I am convinced that many runners will appreciate the ULTRAWEAVE upper, especially those who prefer a lightweight and snug sensation and appreciate a shoe that doesn’t overly restrict the heel area.

Alex:

I can only concur with Andy and Ivan’s takes. The fit is long and narrow, especially in the toebox area. This is to the extent where I’ve encountered numbness in the feet while running, which is a first. Unlike Andy, no Achilles rubbing for me but the heel could definitely be improved in terms of comfort in subsequent versions of the shoe.

 

Long story short, this isn’t by any means a shoe for runners with wide feet. Even runners with an average foot width should be careful when they consider this shoe for distances above the 10k.

Puma Fast-R 2 NITRO Elite-03
Puma Fast-R 2 NITRO Elite-08

Nitro Elite Midsole – Power Packed and Punchy!

Andy:

From initial step in, the Fast-R 2, it is clear that PUMA have made the midsole more aggressive. There is a much clearer feeling of a rocker towards the front of the shoe. The other very obvious change is the protrusion of the carbon PWRPLATE past the toe cap. Designed to create more pop and a faster toe off, this certainly works in combination with the rocker.

 

On my first run, I was a little nervous that I would catch the lip of the plate on a drain or kerb edge and spread myself over the pavement. Thankfully, this didn’t happen. What I did find was an aggressive, responsive and rapid ride. The 8mm drop from the 40mm stack in the heel adds to the joy of the ride. Toe off is very fast and as a forefoot striking, high cadence runner I found this very helpful in working my calves more which marries well with my strengths. 

 

Whilst I have no scientific proof of PUMA’s claims about energy storage and return, the ride is certainly lively. As soon as you push power through the midsole it responds picking up the pace for short reps. Due to the fit issues I mentioned above, it will never become my marathon shoe of choice but I am looking forward to it being a track shoe and 5k racer over the coming months. 

PWRPLATE more carbon for your money

The Fast-R 2 also comes with a noticeably wider and thicker PWRPLATE. Still exposed due to the split midsole construction, the difference when placed next to its older sibling is clear. This does add propulsion and power to the ride. However, it also creates a forefoot with very little flex. This is another reason why the Fast-R 2 will only be a short range shoe for me.

 

After a while, I have found that the stiffness of the PWRPLATE is not offset enough by the softness of the NITROFOAM ELITE. This means that, with a very forefoot strike, the ball of my foot feels a little beaten up after longer times in the shoe. On a track or softer surface, this would probably be mitigated, however, 42 km on concrete would not be enjoyable for my feet.

Ivan:

I’ve always been intrigued by the first iteration of the PUMA FAST-R, but unfortunately, I never had the chance to test it out. The “split” midsole, now also found in some other super shoes, is rarely executed in such an extreme manner, with only the carbon plate connecting the two parts.

 

Surprisingly, I didn’t find the ride as extreme as the shoe’s appearance might suggest. Unlike Andy, I am a pure midfoot striker, which alters the dynamics of the ride. It seems that heel strikers may derive the most benefit from the shoe’s geometry. The heel section is substantial and features significant cushioning. While I don’t utilise this part much, it adds some weight that I personally don’t find advantageous.

Deep and bottom heavy

The new A-TPU midsole compound offers a pleasant depth and some notable energy return. Additionally, it doesn’t seem to alter its structure, even during my sub-zero runs here in Scandinavia. The platform is fairly wide, particularly in the front part, providing a reasonably stable ride despite the thin, unstructured upper. I don’t feel the protrusion of the PWRPLATE at all, but then again, I am more of a midfoot striker with less of a forefoot push.

 

Overall, it seems like the kind of shoe that gives back what you put into it. With my midfoot and high cadence stride, I might not fully capitalise on the shoe’s attributes. While I find the ride quite pleasant, it lacks a bit of snappiness and feels somewhat bottom-heavy during longer runs around marathon pace.

Alex:

Puma came up with super bold claims around the release of this shoe. The new A-TPU (Aliphatic TPU) based NITRO midsole would have a 93% energy return versus 83% in the previous version of this foam. Wow! That must be something, I thought. Their research even showed that rebound was higher than other brands both after 20 miles of racing and 150-200 miles of training in this shoe. 

 

Now when it comes to superfoams in other brands, the most successful ones are balanced among the following criteria: weight, compression, resilience, and durability. The new NITRO Elite foam does a good job at checking the boxes yet it doesn’t feel as extraordinary as those claims made me imagine. I tend to agree with Ivan, this shoe isn’t as good for midfoot strikers as it could be. Heel strikers probably benefit the most out of it.

PUMA Fast-R 2 Outsole – PUMAGRIP Remains Undefeated!

Andy:

Testing the Fast-R 2 through the winter has given me opportunities to run through wet, leaf strewn and generally fairly slimy roads. At no stage has the PUMAGRIP ever come close to letting me down. On my usual workout loop, there is quite a sharp corner which has given me some worrisome moments when pushing power through other supershoes. However, the outsole of the Fast-R 2 bites into the ground and turns the power into forward motion with ease. 

 

The Fast-R 2 has a full coverage of PUMAGRIP on the forefoot (except for the cutaway). Whilst the rear of the shoe sees a small pod of rubber on either side of the heel. As ever, I would expect the rubber to last for a long time and hold firm throughout its lifespan.

Ivan:

Once again, PUMAGRIP proves its effectiveness on wet pavement. Running in slushy and even icy winter conditions, the grip has been one of the best out there. However, given that the FAST-R 2 is on the heavier side among supershoes, I believe shedding some weight could have been achieved by reducing the almost full and quite thick outsole coverage. While it undoubtedly contributes to durability, the extensive use of rubber on a racing shoe might be a bit excessive.

Alex:

All is said above. In PUMAGRIP we trust. Seriously, this is one of the best – if not THE best – grip compound in the industry.

Puma Fast-R 2 NITRO Elite-10
Puma Fast-R 2 NITRO Elite-07

Fast-R 2 – Conclusion – Right Shoe Wrong Foot?

Andy:

I really wanted to love the Fast-R 2. The innovation and design really excite me. Last year, the Fast-FWD was one of the most fun shoes I have ever run in. I hope we see a second version of that this year. However, the fit issues I had with the Fast-R 2 really stunted my enjoyment. Going up a half size would leave me too much length at the front and cause me extra tripping hazard with the elongated PWRPLATE, staying the same size leads to too much compression in my forefoot. The Fast-R 2 will remain in my rotation for fast reps and short sessions as it really excels here. The rapid toe off and leverage provided by the plate suit my running style well although lacking forgiveness for longer efforts. 

 

I will always applaud PUMA for their efforts in pushing the boundaries of science and technology to give the best to runners, although I wish they would change the last for this shoe to enable me to enjoy its doubtless quality over a longer distance. Experimentation is good for everyone and after another year in the lab for the Fast-R, the tinkering may become even more fruitful.

 

Bring on the rest of the range and I will hopefully be able to channel my Big Cat Energy for the remainder of 2024 and beyond.

Ivan:

The design of the FAST-R 2 is bold in many aspects, and that led me to anticipate an equally wild running experience. Similar to Andy, I appreciate PUMA’s exploration of innovative features, such as the utilisation of a completely new midsole compound in this case. However, given my biomechanics, the shoe lacks a bit of lightness and snappiness, failing to fully exploit the features it offers. Despite its bold appearance, this PUMA feels somewhat like a tamed wild cat. Although it might not be my top choice for racing, I do find the ride enjoyable, providing a sense of protection, and I anticipate using it for many key workouts.

 

My primary concern lies with the upper, particularly the tight toe-box and the challenges in achieving a secure heel lockdown. While I can tolerate these issues for workouts, as a top-tier race shoe, there appears to still be room for improvement.

Alex:

There is the theory and then there is the reality. This sums up the story of the new Puma Fast-R 2 NITRO Elite. The test numbers look great. The shoe is supposedly designed for a runner like myself (stride runner). But in reality the fit is a real barrier to entry (pun intended, read “drawback”). And it partially kills the chances for this shoe to become a top contender.

 

Then there is the reality of the foam. You can have the best numbers in the lab, it eventually comes down to whether the feel is more outstanding than in other foams. And the new NITRO Elite foam doesn’t feel better than other superfoams. It matches some of them, but isn’t a game changer in my book. All in all, this simply isn’t my next racing shoe. I’ll probably take it up to 100km in 2024 because it feels like the perfect choice for faster paces in wet conditions. 

 

Who would I recommend this shoe to? Average weighted up to heavier runners with narrow feet that land somewhere around that heel to midfoot area (more towards the heel). Niche market for sure but if you’re one of them, then you may have a solid shoe for your upcoming races.

Ivan

Ivan

48 years old

180cm (5’9″) – 63kg (138lbs)

Midfoot striker – Cadence runner

Mild pronator

@runnersgrit

Andy

Andy

45 years old

173cm (5’8″) – 66kg (145lbs)

Forefoot striker – (Very) high cadence runner

@discobob

Alex Filitti Meta Circle

Alex

29 years old

183cm (6′) – 68kg (148lbs)

Mid/Forefoot striker – Stride runner

Moderate pronator

@alexfilitti

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