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Road Running Shoes • July 5, 2024

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 3: This Cat Wants to Race

puma deviate nitro elite 3 - feature

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What You Need To Know


7.4 oz. (209 g) for a US M10.5/ 5.8 oz. (164 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height / Drop

40 mm in heel, 32 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)

Best For

Race day, up to a marathon distance

Key Features

Aliphatic TPU midsole, carbon-infused PWRPLATE, PUMAGRIP outsole, lightweight and breathable monomesh upper

On The Run
Bouncy and propulsive Incredible outsole grip Slightly unstable
Price / Availability

Available now for $230

puma deviate nitro elite 3 - medial toe landscape

Introduction to the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 3

ROBBE: The big cat is back, though it was never really gone. For several years now, Puma has been slowly gaining traction in the run game, turning this knob here, pulling that lever there, continually improving and innovating its solid running shoe line. 

The result is some seriously competitive shoes across all use case scenarios– from the mutant ooze of the Fast-R Nitro Elite to the incredibly versatile Deviate Nitro 3 to the focus of this review: the carbon-plated, race-ready Deviate Nitro Elite 3. It’s safe to say they followed the Sinatra formula of doing things their way, and it’s really paid off. 

Case in point: Molly Seidel’s bronze medal in the marathon at the Tokyo Games, and Dakotah Lindwurm’s podium at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. 

That’s not to say there hasn’t been some hiccups along the way. Puma fumbled the whole bag during the pandemic; the shoe that Molly ran in wasn’t available for nearly a year, and by that point everyone had moved on. Other shoes, including the original Fast-R, were impossible to come by despite a marketing push promoting the shoes. 

All that to say, things have settled down and it seems that Puma has found its lane and corrected its course. All that’s exciting, because they have shoes that are worth talking about, like the Deviate Nitro Elite 3.

puma deviate nitro elite 3 - lateral side landscape

The shoe is a significant upgrade over the first two versions, which were both good, but never really great when it came to race day shoes for the marathon. In this newest version, we get a midsole with aliphatic TPU– a bouncier, more flexible, yet more resilient midsole compound. Puma says it has an energy return of 93%, compared to 83% in past versions of the Nitro foam. That’s a bold claim and one that we can’t scientifically verify, but it’s definitely more of a super foam. A full-length carbon plate is sandwiched in there, and it’s all topped off with a lightweight monomesh upper. The outsole is the ever reliable PumaGrip, which is perennially the best and tackiest rubber compound on the market. That’s just facts– nobody can compete with PumaGrip.

It all comes together in a surprisingly lightweight package and at a price point that undercuts almost all of its competitors ($230). That’s a good jumping off point as we get into the review. So let’s get into it.

puma deviate nitro elite 3 - tongue
puma deviate nitro elite 3 - two together

MEAGHAN: I first saw the Deviate Nitro Elite 3 at the running event and was pretty excited to hear the team not only added more foam (4 mm) but also made it lighter. That’s music to my ears when we’re talking about race day options. And while the foam is not Peba based like we’ve seen across most other brands, Puma suggests the aliphatic TPU is even better. So let’s see how it felt out of the roads. 

THOMAS: One, two, three strikes– you’re out. An alternative timeline: the first two were strikes, but the third pitch was smacked out of the ballpark. The shoe equivalent of Casey at the Bat is more like Casey and the Cat, the cat being Puma. The first two versions of the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite wouldn’t make it into my first or second-tier race day lineup, but the third version is a different story.

With an increase in stack height while staying essentially the same weight (my size US 10.5 weighed 7.4 oz/209 grams), the ride feels much livelier while providing more comfort over the long run. If we’re comparing, this makes the Deviate Elite lighter than the New Balance SC Elite v4, the Saucony Endorphin Elite, and the Diadora Gara Carbon—all shoes we scored high in our testing this year. Weight alone doesn’t make a great shoe, so let’s get into the other attributes of the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 3.

What we like about the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 3

ROBBE: As always, I’ll start out with what we first notice about the shoe, and that’s the design. I mean, is there a better looking race day shoe? Because this phoenix-from-the-ashes look is giving us all the confidence on race day. Also a huge fan of the big-ass NITRO lettering on the medial side, it makes me feel like I just unlocked a nitrous system in Need for Speed. I mean, you get it– it looks good.

I thought the upper lockdown was pretty solid, especially for a race day shoe. Nice level of support around the ankle collar and a secure wrap around the midfoot. No issues with heel life or movement. I wore this for a couple runs in swampy Florida summer and the breathability is top notch.

puma deviate nitro elite 3 - medial puma
puma deviate nitro elite 3 - insole

The aliphatic TPU midsole with an increased stack height is heads and shoulders better than the previous version of the shoe. It’s bigger and bouncier and gives a lot back at faster paces. The stiff carbon fiber plate gives it an edge on toe-off, providing a propulsive ride throughout the stride. I ran one of my best workouts in a long time in this shoe, a 12-mile long run with a ladder workout in the middle with three reps of marathon to 10K pace. I hit every pace with ease, and this was in 80-degree heat with 90% humidity. The miles absolutely flew by with seemingly little effort. 

Part of that is probably thanks to the pitch perfect weight of this shoe– it’s essentially the same weight as the Nike Vaporfly 3, which is the lightest marathon shoes on the market outside of the $500 Adidas Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 and the Asics Metaspeed Sky/Edge Paris. If you’ve worn that shoe on race day, you know how fleet of feet you’ll feel on the run.

On the outsole, the PumaGrip rubber continues to reign supreme. Outsole tackiness is an often overlooked aspect of a shoe, but it’s a difference maker when picking up the pace as it allows you to dig into the road and harness all the energy from the midsole as you transition to your next step.

At $230, it’s a solid value for what you’re getting in return.

puma deviate nitro elite 3 - lateral side landscape

MEAGHAN: As Robbe noted, this is a good looking shoe. While I typically gravitate towards a simple all-white colorway, something about this fluorescent orange colorway and bold NITRO lettering across the side just feels right. It feels like you’re lacing up to go fast. 

The step-in feel of this shoe is great. The lightly padded tongue is the exact same structure you found in version 2, but there’s a more seamless fit and feel around the collar and heel. I don’t know if it’s the new formulation of foam or the additional 4 mm, but the underfoot feel is much bouncier and responsive. I found the faster I was running, the more this shoe came to life. I did some 800’s and 400’s in this shoe, and I was very happy with how they felt throughout the workouts. 

And of course, we have to talk about the PumaGrip. Just walking around the house, you hear a distinctive gripping sound as it firmly connects with the floor. And out on the roads it gives you the confidence to take turns and run across all kinds of surfaces without slowing the pace. 

Lastly, but importantly, my W7.5 came in at 5.8 oz. That’s very, very light.

THOMAS: What’s left to talk about after Robbe’s summary? I agree with him on the look of the shoe; it has fast-day vibes. Speedwork begins in the mind. When I lace up the Elite 3, my brain starts making engine-revving sounds. The colors and shape of the shoe combine to get your blood pumping. Once you slide your foot in the foam has that soft and bouncy feel that encourages you to push the pace.

The carbon fiber plate is positioned away from the palm of your foot so you get the squish before you feel the stiffness on the toe-off. While the upper material is rough to the fingers, on foot the upper not only looks good, but it locks the foot in nicely. My 10.5 fit true to size if not a little long. It is one of the better race day uppers with nearly no gapping around the collar. 

Although the foam isn’t PEBA, the experience is very similar. When I pick up the pace in the shoe, I naturally get up on the forefoot. Where the fulcrum of the toe spring hits is near perfect for my stride. The transition hits before you get to your toes. Looking at the dirt on the outsole, I can see I still have ground contact through my big toe. The Puma Grip helps the runner get the most out of their stride.

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puma deviate nitro elite 3 - outsole wide

What we don’t like about the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 3

ROBBE: I’m not sure what it was, but the bottoms of my feet felt sore after a hard workout in the shoe. I wear carbon-plated shoes for workouts and long runs all the time, but I felt like this was different. Not sure why, may have to do with the stiffness of the carbon fiber plate.

The foam, especially in the heel, is pretty unstable, and my already-weak ankles were feeling it after a long run. That worries me a little bit if I were planning on taking this to the marathon distance. I almost rolled my ankle a couple times as my form broke down. If you have stronger support muscles then you’ll probably be fine.

This shoe felt like it fit perfectly everywhere except the toes. The toe box seemed to run a bit long, something I’ve had issues with in the past with Puma. It didn’t ruin the shoe, but if it could be tied together with the rest of the upper then it would be the bow on top.

puma deviate nitro elite 3 - midsole
puma deviate nitro elite 3 - outsole

MEAGHAN: Interestingly, I had a similar experience as Robbe. The latter part of my workouts (miles 10-12) my feet started to feel uncomfortable. I also run in plated shoes all the time, so I’m not sure what it is exactly, but there is definitely a harshness that I only noticed after an hour-plus of running. 

THOMAS: To Meaghan and Robbe’s thoughts on the comfort breakdown in later miles, I didn’t notice it as much; however, I did get some heat build-up under the fat pad of my foot. Perhaps the shoe favors faster pacing and good form.

This is not a wide platform. In my unpopular opinion, this shoe is more foot-shaped than an Altra, I don’t mean it looks like a Birkenstock, it has a narrow heel, thin throat, and a wider forefoot that comes to a point. With the stack height, your foot is lifted up on the stack making it less stable than some competitors with much wider forefoot ground contact. 

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puma deviate nitro elite 3 - underfoot
puma deviate nitro elite 3 - tongue logo

Final thoughts on the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 3

ROBBE: If you’re not gonna use PEBA, then you should definitely get on the aliphatic TPU train. The midsole in the Deviate Nitro Elite 3 is bouncy and propulsive and will get the job done at faster paces. It’s crazy how far we’ve come with race day shoes, and it’s exciting to see how almost every brand has a knockout winner that will work for almost anyone. If you’re looking for something that will stand out on race day, then you should definitely snag the Deviate Nitro Elite 3.

MEAGHAN: The Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 3 is a really solid update. It’s got more foam, a more responsive ride, a more comfortable upper– all in a lighter package. Whether or not you were a fan of the previous version, I think everyone will enjoy these updates.

puma deviate nitro elite 3 - toe
puma deviate nitro elite 3 - two vertical

THOMAS: Puma hit the brief with this shoe. They made it light, responsive, and fun. The team gets extra points for making it look good. In fact, the one-two punch of the Deviate Nitro 3 and the Deviate Nitro Elite 3 is a home run. If you haven’t tried Puma’s running shoes, now is the time. If you have enjoyed Puma in the past, you will love the updates.

You can pick up the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 3 for $230 from Running Warehouse (featuring free shipping and 90-day returns) by using the buttons below.

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Robbe Reddinger
Senior Editor
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Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.

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Meaghan Murray
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Meaghan signed up for her first marathon three weeks before the race, because it was $10 more than the half she planned to run. She learned everything in running the hard way. Now a USATF & UESCA certified run coach, she loves encouraging friends to go for big goals as she continues to chase faster times. She enjoys a hot cup of coffee, a cold martini, and making bagels for friends and family.

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As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’s goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be. 

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