As we’ve increased our training shoe coverage here at WearTesters, we’ve reviewed shoes from nearly every brand you know – and some you’ve never heard of before. But despite our love of the big cat styling and Nitro foam, we haven’t tested a Puma training shoe. So when the Puma PWR Nitro Squared showed up right in time for New Year’s fitness resolutions, we were excited to see if Nitro foam works as well in the gym as it does on the roads in shoes like the Deviate Nitro 2.
Is the new Puma PWR Nitro Squared the perfect shoe for post New Year’s gym sessions? Puma sent our reviewers some pairs to let us determine the answer, but they had no involvement in this review, didn’t receive an advance look at it, and have not attempted to influence it.
Puma PWR Nitro Squared
How do the Authors Train?
Arune Singh (age 41, 5’11”, 215lbs): Trains daily with functional fitness programming provided by Deadboys Fitness, founded by Colby “Seth Rollins” Lopez and Josh Gallegos, along with logging 30-40 miles of running per week. He also has a medical history of Sleep Apnea and Myasthenia Gravis, meaning Arune’s focus is on lean muscle mass.
Drew Whitcomb (age 42, 6’6″ 195lbs): Trains daily with a focus on running, strength training, and mobility. He writes the majority of our running shoe reviews and runs a lot of miles due to testing needs and his growing affinity for long-distance races. He regularly competes in marathons, half-marathons, 10k, and 5k races. His strength training and mobility regimen center around maintaining flexibility and lifting heavy to build power as a counterbalance to all the running he’s doing. His number one focus is staying injury-free so he can keep up the sweet gig of reviewing shoes for a living.
What is the Puma PWR Nitro Squared?
Puma describes it as:
Introducing the latest high-performance training shoe from the TRAIN PUMA squad, the PWR NITRO™ Squared. This universal training shoe features our brand-new NITRO™ Squared technology, which is executed with a dual density nitrogen-infused outer to provide enhanced midsole banking during lateral movements. The internal compound is single density NITROFOAM™ to allow for rebounding and cushioning. With PWR NITRO™ Squared, you’ll receive not only world-class comfort and stability during your next high intensity gym session, but it’s also an eye-catching addition to your workout wardrobe.
Arune: So, in our most recent review, Drew made a point to give me a hard time because I want every training shoe to be good for heavy lifting and have a hard time understanding why a shoe wouldn’t excel in that area.
Drew: Music to my ears. Can you say that again?
Arune: Don’t push it, boss.
The Puma PWR Nitro Squared is a shoe not unlike the Nike Air Zoom TR 1 or, even more, like the Saucony Freedom Crossport – shoes meant for HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions. This could be everything from your Barry’s Bootcamp to Orange Theory, though I think there’s a more casual gym-goer in mind here too.
Of course, I still just tested these like any functional fitness shoe to keep my feedback consistent with my past reviews.
Drew: It’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks.
Arune: I’d be insulted if it wasn’t true.
I know, I know, this is NOT a shoe for any kind of heavy lifting in which you need any kind of ground feel or to maintain stability through many compound lifts. But, then again, it isn’t pretending to be good for that either.
And here’s the good news – the Puma PWR Nitro Squared is a very, very fun shoe from the moment you put it on your foot (which we’ll get to later). The Nitro foam has incredible energy return that’s especially rewarding with your high intensity movements from plyometrics to weighted exercises like thrusters.
Normally a squishy, bouncy foam would make weightlifting a complete nightmare but the Nitro setup here is actually pretty darn solid for your average day to day training, AKA the hotel gym test. Stability was great during squats, cleans, and lunges as long as I wasn’t approaching a PR and even overhead movements – where I generally want more ground feel – like shoulder presses were enjoyable. As long as you’re working with a comfortable weight – let’s say no more than you’d find in a hotel gym (hence the name of the test), you’re going to have a really good time in a way I’ve never experienced with this kind of HIIT-focused shoe.
However, there is one big area of concern for me – movements requiring single leg stability like split squats, lunges or pistols…though to be fair, I am terrible at pistols no matter the shoes. The Nitro setup in the Puma PWR Nitro Squared felt incredibly unstable on one leg, something complicated by the absolutely non-existent grip on the outsole.
I know Drew has extolled the virtues of PumaGrip but I constantly felt like I was skating on ice in these movements. Had I really tried to go for a PR in those single leg movements – or something like a snatch where I need to get on my toes, I’m not sure I’d avoid an injury.
How’d this go for you, Drew?
Drew: I didn’t have any trouble with the grip, but my gym’s rubber and turf flooring seldom reveals traction issues. But, I did take them on a basketball court for my son’s practice and didn’t notice any abnormal slippage there either.
As for single leg exercises, yes, the Puma PWR Nitro Squared isn’t ideal. It will get better the more you break it in, but it’s never going to approach the stability of something like the GoRuck Ballistic Trainer.
That said, the Puma PWR Nitro Squared is great for all the jumping exercises. I was happy to do plyometrics, side hops, jump rope and anything else that involved getting in the air and then landing. It has a comfort and bounce that’s rare outside of basketball shoes.
Arune: I put the Puma PWR Nitro Squared through the paces with some sprints, jogging, rowing and time on the air bike too.
And they were absolutely incredible.
That energy return we discussed? As fun as it is with plyometrics, it’s even more fun with a short sprint or really intense rowing sessions when you’re trying to hit that next level of intensity.
The midsole flexes just enough to let you plant your foot as needed in all the functions above but propels you into the rest of your motion seamlessly -the same feeling of instability I had in my training is what made cardio such a joy. The Puma PWR Nitro Squared didn’t just make cardio more fun, it made me want to push harder because these shoes felt like a cheat code for picking up speed in every movement.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the shape of the shoe – which we’ll discuss soon – also really accommodates foot swelling from intense cardio sessions. I’m usually complaining about training shoes either crushing my pinky toe or putting pressure on the medial side of my foot.
I genuinely have NO complaints about this shoe in this category.
Drew: I don’t have much to add to Arune’s gushing review of the Puma PWR Nitro Squared’s cardio capabilities except for this, it’s the best training shoe for running. And it’s not particularly close.
I had no problem hopping on the treadmill after a workout and knocking out 3+ miles. If your Metcon or CrossFit setup involves a lot of running, on a treadmill or outside on pavement, the Puma PWR Nitro Squared is your best option.
Oh, and Puma gave us a nice little bonus, the flex groove towards the front end of the shoe really allows for extra toe flexibility which is helpful for pushing off using your big toe. It’s a small detail that will make a big difference for anyone who’s coach assigns them sprints.
Arune: Every shoe company has those videos online where someone in the shoe presses down on the heel to make their cushion set up look incredibly comfortable and cushy. I don’t know about you, but every time I get a shoe I try the same thing and rarely feel the joy I expect to feel from the promotional video.
But Puma might have under-sold the level of comfort they delivered here.
It doesn’t matter if you like the Puma PWR Nitro Squared for training or cardio, you’ll absolutely love the on foot feel the minute you put them on. There is zero break-in period and the Nitro foam made me smile so much that my wife wondered if I just got a raise at work. I never wanted to take them off my feet.
As much as we keep raving about Nitro, the shape of this shoe is equally a revelation – my wide-ish feet have a hard time with most training shoes but these fit my feet like a glove. The toebox allowed for full toe splay and the mid foot was accommodating without being so wide that my foot felt like it would roll in the shoe.
I went TTS (true to size) and experienced zero heel slippage, zero pain, and zero discomfort during 20+ hours of training. Credit to the PWR Tape for absolutely doing the job and I think everyone, especially Nike, could take a lesson from the Puma PWR Nitro Squared on how to shape a training shoe to be inclusive of more foot shapes.
Seriously, Drew, have I been missing out on Puma greatness?
Drew: The short answer is yes, but that’s mainly because this is the first time Puma brought Nitro to the training shoe realm. PWR Tape is featured on several of its running shoes and does a nice job. And after a narrowish first year of running shoes, the toe box there has widened nicely as well.
The Puma PWR Nitro Squared showcases a lot of what Puma is capable of bringing to the table. If you haven’t paid attention to Puma in basketball or running in recent years, this is a good place to start your Puma journey.
Arune: A lot of training shoes just look like…training shoes. Not everyone has that lightning in a bottle of the On design team – the Cloud X 3 being a stand out – and while good looks aren’t essential to a great shoe, it is an important part of the value proposition as the cost of shoes (and well, everything) continues to rise exponentially. Folks want one shoe to do it all and that includes transitioning from the gym to the mall to lunch.
The Puma PWR Nitro Squared may not reach On’s gold standard but it’s probably the best looking training shoe I’ve seen in a long time and one I could see myself wearing all around Los Angeles, from a trip to the gym to a meal at Sugarfish (Editor’s Note: I hope you got paid for that random LA-centric shoutout).
The training shoe elements all blend really well with the silhouette – unlike the rope guard on some competitors – so I think most folks would find this appealing because of the generic, indistinct appearance.
Drew: The design of the Puma PWR Nitro Squared is less plodding and generic than the majority of training shoes. It’s not even the pinnacle of Puma’s street meets function aesthetic but it’s more modern and fun than a lot of shoes in this category.
Arune: I cannot believe a shoe this comfortable and this versatile is only $120 in a market where most training shoes are in the $150 realm.
That’s an absolute incredible value and I applaud Puma for making the Puma PWR Nitro Squared for a general audience that’s actually priced to be accessible to that audience.
I wish other shoe companies made the same choice as Puma. Good health and fitness are increasingly expensive – the food, the supplements, the gear – and giving more folks a chance to become active with affordable footwear (regardless if that was the intention) should be celebrated.
Drew: The $120 price point of the Puma PWR Nitro Squared makes it so easy to recommend it and put it on our various best lists. In today’s crazy inflationary environment, shoes like this that can surprise me with outsized value are few and far between. And whenever I find them, I tell people to buy them because it’s a lot easier to overlook small flaws on a $120 cross trainer than a $150 one.
Puma PWR Nitro Squared Final Verdict
Arune: The Puma PWR Nitro Squared is my favorite HIIT shoe on the market, blowing away the competition from Nike, Saucony, On and others.
This isn’t a shoe for anyone doing CrossFit or serious lifting, but it’s one that will make your workouts fun and your feet very happy.
Drew once told me that the best running shoes were the ones that got me running – and I think for many people, the Puma PWR Nitro Squared will be the best training shoe because it’ll get them moving.
Drew: Wow! Arune remembers some of the good advice I give him…I often wonder if he’s listening. But in all seriousness, this is a perfect time for him to trot out that quote.
The Puma PWR Nitro Squared is the type of shoe that helps get you out the door and to the gym on dark and stormy winter mornings. It’s not ideal for everything you’d do in the gym but handles HIIT, Orange Theory, Solidcore, F45, and various other class-based workouts better than most other shoes on the market.
And sure, maybe you want to take them off when you deadlift or squat, but the Puma PWR Nitro Squared handles everything else at a bargain of a price.