For a long time, Puma was a brand for sprinters, not distance runners. That has changed drastically in recent years, and the company is now a favorite of many runners, from 100m specialists up to marathoners and beyond. That switch is thanks to Puma’s tremendous engineering and focus to detail with its latest running shoes, as the company’s design team has addressed the needs and wants of runners everywhere.
And what is a massive need for runners? Cushioning. But not just cushioning. Many companies can make a shoe that’s well-cushioned and comfortable. Fewer companies, but still a rather large pool, can make a fast shoe. Then, there is the elite group of companies that can make a fast, well-cushioned shoe that will carry runners to PBs while providing and maintaining maximum comfort. That’s where Puma falls in the world of running shoes, and it’s no accident. It is largely due to the Puma NITRO foam, the company’s advanced, ultra-light and high-performing cushioning system. NITRO foam is the future of running, and anyone who has yet to test it for themselves is missing out.
The development of NITRO foam
NITRO foam is a constant in all of Puma’s road running shoes. The foam is injected with a nitrogen gas mixture (hence the name NITRO) that increases its spring and bounce. This nitrogen infusion with Puma’s suite of road shoes helps to expand their midsoles, boost comfort and also provide maximum responsiveness and propulsion with each step. All of this is accomplished while keeping Puma’s runners lightweight, which is much easier said than done.
“Puma started rethinking our approach to running in 2018, because technologies in the industry were advancing quickly,” says Todd Falker, head of product line management for run/train footwear. “As the ‘Forever Faster’ brand, we needed to be at the forefront of those innovations and quickly got to work kicking off our long-term NITRO strategy.”
How did the Puma engineers and design team come up with the idea for NITRO foam? The answer might surprise you. “NITRO was an innovation spawned from the packaging industry,” Falker says. He uses the example of shipping a television. “You want to protect it with something soft and comfortable, but still lightweight. Puma utilized this same supercritical foaming technique to make lightweight and cushioned foams, but deliver a better running experience by using high-quality raw materials, so the shoes are bouncy with a lot of rebound.”
The first NITRO shoes hit the market in 2021, which was “the start of a new era at Puma,” Falker says. At that time, there were four Puma NITRO shoes: the Velocity, the Deviate, the Liberate and the Eternity. Not long after those four shoes were initially released, Puma introduced the Deviate NITRO Elite just in time for the Olympics. (American runner Molly Seidel wore the Elite for her bronze-medal-winning performance in the Tokyo Olympic marathon.)
Since then, Puma has added even more shoes to the NITRO lineup while also updating and improving the existing models. The company even has NITRO trail shoes (the Voyage and Fast-Trac) and hiking shoes (the Explore NITRO). “The goal is always to deliver the best running experience for every runner in our shoes, and while that target evolves, our dedication does not waiver,” Falker says.
Puma found so much success with NITRO foam in its suite of running shoes that it has grown within the company’s running lineup and beyond. As already mentioned, when Puma first introduced NITRO foam to the world, it was featured in just four shoes. As of 2023, all of Puma’s “premium running shoes” (meaning any shoes over $100) come with NITRO foam in their midsoles.
It doesn’t stop there, however, as Puma has added NITRO foam to so many other shoe lineups as well, including (but not limited to) basketball shoes, training shoes, track and field spikes, and motorsport footwear. Falker points that there is even a version of the Puma Suede (the company’s decades-old and fan-favorite classic sneaker) that features NITRO foam.
“NITRO is being utilized across the entire Puma brand, which is nice, because consumers will start to recognize it as the backbone of our Forever Faster brand message,” he says.
Shoes with Puma NITRO foam
Puma has come a long way in a relatively short time, with regard to the world of running and NITRO foam, which has found its way into most of the road shoes in Puma’s catalogue. The list of nitrogen-infused shoes from Puma is too long to cover here, but we can take a look at a couple of key models.
First is the Puma Deviate NITRO 2, the second iteration of the company’s wildly successful flagship NITRO shoe. This is the company’s fastest road shoe, and although it’s not designed for Puma-sponsored athletes like Andre DeGrasse or Usain Bolt, you’ll feel like a sprinter when you wear them for your next run. That is thanks largely to the Deviate NITRO 2’s foam midsole. The Deviate NITRO 2, much like its predecessor, is an all-around perfect shoe, and it will serve you well no matter how you use it. You can take it for a long training run, a speed workout or a road race, and it will help you fly.
Another must-try shoe from NITRO foam lineup is the aforementioned Puma Deviate NITRO Elite, although this model has seen some upgrades since it helped carry Seidel onto the Olympic podium in Tokyo. The latest iteration of the Elite is an off-shoot from the original line called the Puma Fast-R NITRO Elite, which hit the market in March 2022.
If Seidel and her fellow Puma runners thought the Deviate NITRO Elite was fast, then this version most certainly blew their minds, because the Fast-R NITRO Elite is one of the best and fastest marathon shoes that Puma has ever released, thanks in large part to the NITRO foam.
Really, any Puma NITRO shoe is a must-try product, but runners beware: anyone who tests the shoe and its unrivaled foam technology is likely to fall for it immediately, meaning no other shoe will ever quite match up to whichever Puma model you try .