R.A.D. R-1 Running Shoe Review: What We Love & Don’t Love

Having been a runner for nearly a decade, I’ve logged many miles in a lot of different running shoes. The newly-released R.A.D. R-1 — the young brand’s first foray into the running market after seeing remarkable success in its R.A.D. ONE cross trainer — is the newest running shoe to enter my orbit.

Brand founder Benjamin Massey spent three years developing this running shoe. Featuring an innovative, environmentally-forward midsole and designed with industry running footwear veterans from both Nike and adidas. Just the design behind the R-1 got me excited for the shoe’s potential.

Still, in recent years we’ve all seen brands new to the running-shoe game either have great success (hello, Lululemon Blissfeel) or a lackluster delivery (looking at you, Allbirds Treeflyer). 

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to pound the pavement and hit the trails in the R.A.D. R-1s. Here’s what happened when I did.

A Brief History of R.A.D.

Athletic shoe company R.A.D.—which stands for “Rally Against Destruction of the mind, body and planet.” The brand originally made its name in CrossFit, cross training, and weightlifting circles.

Its first shoe, the R.A.D. ONE, debuted in January 2022. It has been reviewed highly for its stability and surefootedness. But, the firmness of the foam keeps it from being ideal for running long distances.

R.A.D. released its first running shoe, R.A.D. R-1, at the end of 2023.

R.A.D. touts itself as being environmentally conscious.

While that isn’t exactly remarkably these days, it does a good job of putting money where its mouth is. The brand releases new shoes in limited quantities to reduce waste production, and it incorporates environmentally-friendly elements into its products, which I’ll get more into below.

A picture of the RAD R-1 running shoes I took for this review.

How I Tested the R.A.D R-1 

I’ve been a runner for nearly a decade. My first favorite shoes were Nike Pegasus. But, my go-to for most of my runs nowadays are the max-cushioned Nike Invincible 2 and Saucony Endorphin. I average 2,000 miles per year of running when training for a marathon or half marathon.

Using my own personal experience, I rate each shoe I test based on the following:

Comfort

The number one indicator of a great running shoe, quite simply, comfort is the experience of putting on a shoe, going for a run, and feeling good with every footfall. When a shoe is not comfortable, it’s obvious. But as for what is considered high on the comfort level, this is very personal to each runner. To me, a shoe is most comfortable if it has:

  • A light weight (with a preference under 9 ounces)
  • A responsive, padded midsole (like you’d find in a Hoka)
  • A thick heel for forgiveness and snugness in ride
  • A breathable, loose upper with durable materials that won’t wear away during long runs

Responsiveness

The springiness of the foam as each foot lands and lifts, exists on a sliding scale. Some, like me (and, usually, heel strikers), prefer the responsiveness of max-cushioned training shoes. They usually have curved soles to nearly catapult you from step to step. Some (usually mid- and forefoot strikers) prefer the ride to be less springy with better “ground feel” underfoot.

Weight

Heavy shoes are, well, heavy—they bog you down with every step. Running shoes range in weight based both on the quantity and quality of materials, with as little as 7 ounces for a minimalist style to up to 11 ounces for a max-cushioned shoe. Though you can certainly find chunky max styles that weigh less than more streamlined shoes. There’s no right or wrong weight for a shoe but most runners have a preference.

Breathability

This comes down to the materials of the upper. Typically a combo of mesh fabric and plastic components. And, it often translates to more comfort in the shoe over long distances when feet are more inclined to sweat. A shoe with a more flexible upper can make the difference in summer and spring half marathons and summer marathons between a personal best and a blistered foot. That said, too much mesh can make feet cold in winter, particularly if they get wet.

I then cross-referenced reviews from other wearers both on our team and externally to see how those compare to my own experience.

Related: The Best Half Marathon Shoes of 2024

What the R.A.D R-1 is Like to Run in 

I tried the R.A.D R-1 on three mid-distance runs. Two runs were conducted on pavement. The other on a dirt trail. The longest run was 8 miles.

The specs of the R.A.D R-1 running shoe next to the side profile of the shoe.

Specifications

  • Weight: 9.7 oz (men’s size 9)
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8 mm  
  • Stack Height: 24 mm forefoot and 32 mm heel 
  • Upper Material: Textile mesh with TPU film
  • Type of Shoe: Neutral, midweight daily trainer
  • Where To Buy: Only from rad-global.com

What I Liked About Running in the R.A.D. R-1

For me, the most exciting aspect of this shoe comes down to the innovative materials R.A.D. uses. The sole of the shoe is made of Swell Foam, a bio-based material made from 50 percent sugar cane and 50 percent fossil composition. The brand says this translates into a sole that’s 20 percent more bio-friendly while still maintaining the performance requirements needed for a good run.

After having the shoe in my hands, the sole feels tall but falls in line with other daily trainers. From first wear and throughout my runs, the R-1 felt stable and supportive

In a men’s size 9/women’s 10.5, the R-1 weighs 9.7 ounces, putting it on par with the Brooks Ghost and making it lighter than the Nike Pegasus 40 by nearly 1 ounce.

The shoe fits well—I wore my usual men’s size 8, which offered plenty of space around my toes and didn’t require me to fuss much with the laces to get good lateral support. I don’t traditionally have any issues with width or tightness, and the R.A.D R-1 was no different. 

The show has a padded heel collar that prevents unwanted slippage and I found the  cushioned, puffy tongue made for better comfort and security of my foot while running. It has standard lacing and, unlike other reviews I read, I didn’t have any issues with the laces coming undone.

The upper is made from a mesh with good breathability and TPU film placed strategically around the heel, toe, and lateral sections of the shoe for both structure and to increase durability. 

Another angle of the RAD r-1 running shoe I took.

What I Didn’t Like About the R.A.D. R-1

The R-1 is designed to offer superior cushioning for long runs. The “nitrogen-infused” midsole has something called “Bubble Tech Energy Return,” which incorporates nitrogen bubbles to supposedly increase responsiveness and energy return without adding a meaningful weight burden. 

While I love the idea of this, I didn’t find the experience of running with these specially-engineered soles to be more enjoyable than any other comparable daily trainer, like the Nike Pegasus or Brooks Ghost. In fact, the R-1 sole feels more dense, rigid, and without the springiness I’d hoped for.

For me, the experience of pushing off from one step to the next felt more stiff and “blocky”,s opposed to the foam welcoming the impact of my footfalls or promoting a transition to the following step like Hoka’s Meta-Rocker technology does. 

Related: The Best Hokas for Half Marathons

After the first five or so miles of long, slow runs, I did begin to appreciate the cushioning underfoot. The stiffness of the sole prevented the R-1 from being a more versatile shoe that could also be worn for faster sessions.

In addition, R.A.D. only makes unisex sizes. For most of us, that’s probably ok. But if you’re a female with  a narrow (or even normal-width) foot, this shoe probably won’t work for you: A medium width men’s shoe is a D, which is considered a wide width for women’s shoes, where medium width is a B.

Should You Buy the R.A.D. R-1 for Running?

Bottom line: The R.A.D. R-1 is a solid initial daily trainer model from a brand making its foray into running, but it’s not a good fit for every runner.

You might consider the R-1 if you’re a runner looking for:

However, because of the lack of responsiveness I felt, it’s not a shoe I recommend for any session where you’re aiming to run faster than an easy, recovery run or weekly long run.

In any review, some factors, like weight, are quantifiable. Other factors, like comfort, are subjective. We do our best to report on our first-person experience so you can determine if we like a shoe, why you might like it, too.

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