First Look: Saucony Endorphin pro

Marathons May Be Canceled But We Can’t Resist Running in the Endorphin Pro.

Whenever road racing officially restarts, you can bet some of us will be toeing the line in this Saucony shoe.

The RW Takeaway: The Endorphin Pro has the usual traits of today’s racing shoes, namely Pebax and a carbon-fiber plate. Add in Saucony’s SpeedRoll technology, however, and you just may be in for a surprise.

  • Stiff forefoot geometry promotes quick turnover and efficient toe-off
  • S-curved carbon-fiber plate propels you forward
  • PWRRun midsole provides supportive cushioning

Price: $320
Weight:212 g (M), 178 g (W)

Before March, we anxiously anticipated what the brand had to offer in the racing shoe wars. There was speculation in the wake of the IAAF’s potential ban on performance-enhancing footwear (which didn’t happen) and excitement post-Olympic Trials when Saucony-sponsored Molly Seidel (who was wearing the shoes) placed second after shaking off a sea of runners in Nike’s Alphafly Next%. She finished behind Hoka-wearing Alphine Tuliamuk, no less. However, in the midst of race cancellations, derailed training, and acclimating to the new normal, the Pro’s launch almost got lost.Then, one day at the beginning of May, I decided to go for a lunch run, not really caring which trainers I grabbed in my testing shoe-littered apartment. But the Pro, I would soon find out, demands to be noticed. Standing in the shoes, you feel like you’re falling forward into racing position. I knew I’d have to abandon my planned slow pace the moment I headed out the door. During my run, my legs pummeled through my workout with the kind of zest I missed before the quarantine. As advertised, this trainer delivered on the dopamine.

“Just As Good If Not Better”

Back in 2018, Saucony sent its pro runner Jared Ward three different carbon-fibre-plated shoe prototypes before the New York City Marathon. After a series of VO2 max and biomechanical tests running in the shoes and Kinvara 9, one pair stood above the rest. “It felt different,” he wrote on Saucony’s blog. “It felt easier.” Ward wore these shoes during the race, where he came in sixth place and was the first American to cross the finish line.

“We’re really fortunate to have Jared as a guinea pig,” said Chad Holt, Saucony’s associate product line manager, over Zoom. “A lot of athletes won’t run in just any shoe that you hand them. Jared is just really amicable and has that sort of mindset where he will take any running shoe and just go after it.”

Holt and his team tested 25 to 40 different iterations of foams and uppers for the Endorphin, gathering data from their lab and wear-testing community.

“When we really pushed on the Endorphin Project, we started off wanting to make sure that our athletes had the best opportunity when they’re on the start line,” said Holt. “Being that they obviously can’t run in competitor products, we needed to make sure that we were just as good if not better.”

If you’re wondering just how much better, Saucony won’t slap on a percentage on its shoe, unlike leading competitor Nike. The reasoning is because there’s just too much flux; no two runners are alike, so how could they experience the same returns running in one kind of shoe?

“It’s really specific to that individual’s biomechanics,” said Holt.

Though Saucony is reluctant to make any claims, Ward reported his running economy improved 4.4 percent during lab testing.

Forefoot Geometry

The Endorphin Collection includes the Pro, Speed, and Shift . The Speed is the less aggressive version of the Pro, with a TPU plate instead of carbon fibre. And the Shift is an everyday trainer with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop. In contrast, the Pro and Speed have 8mm offsets.

The Pro was originally set to have a 4mm drop, based off of the geometry of the Kinvara, Saucony’s traditional racing flat. The product team noticed, however, that the shoe required more effort at toe-off when the lower offset was paired with the stiffer forefoot geometry of Saucony’s SpeedRoll technology, i.e., a cambered profile with dense, inflexible foam in the forefoot.

“The roll reduces some of the stress on the plantar fascia,” said Holt, “as well as gets you off the ground a little bit faster and helps you run a bit quicker.”

An 8mm offset, as opposed to 4mm, allows the foot to roll forward and the toe spring to become more efficient.

Tag teamed with the SpeedRoll tech is the S-curved carbon-fibre plate in the midsole and responsive PWRRun PB cushioning. You may recognise PB (aka Peba, aka Pebax) from our coverage on Nike’s quest in building the fastest shoe. In the Pro’s midsole, explained Holt, the Peba has a beaded construction, wherein the jelly bean-like beads are pushed up against each other to create an internal lattice structure that stabilizes the foam, making the shoe more durable and lending that propulsive spring.

Super Aggressive

I’ve yet to know when I can put my Endorphin Pros through the ultimate test: running 42 Km at race pace. However, I can glean how I’d perform based on my many runs in the shoe. The oddest thing about running in the Pro is how it seems to encourage me to land with my midfoot, despite the fact that I’m a heel-striker.

“We found that the shoe aligns your hips a little bit farther forward, and puts you into that go-fast racing position that seems to reduce the stress in certain areas of the body and different muscle groups,” said Holt, who also typically lands on his heels. “It puts you in that position where you’re running more on your midfoot, even if you are a heel-striker.”

This doesn’t mean the Pro is more beneficial for midfoot strikers. Ward, notes Holt, is a self-proclaimed heel-striker as well.

Compared to the other shoes I’ve raced in, the Pro is snugger than the Brooks Hyperion Elite (a heel tab would be much appreciated as the collar folds under every time I put it on), and more cushioned. It’s not as tight as Nike’s Vaporfly, or as bouncy. I’d rate the stability less than the Elite, where I felt more grounded, yet about the same as the Vaporfly, a shoe that made my ankles roll outward. The Pro didn’t cause my feet to overpronate, yet there was an occasional wobble in my ankles, especially turning tight corners.

What this shoe shares with its competitors is its demand that you run fast—aggressively fast. There’s a sudden rush when I take off; my cadence becomes quicker and my steps become peppier, likely due to the elevated cushioning in the heel. Try for an easy day in these shoes and it’s likely you’ll be hard-pressed to slow down once you get going.

Where/When to Buy

The Pro is currently for sale on Saucony’s website—you can find it at other retailers, though sizes are limited. The shoe was released on 20.05.20.

At $320, the Pro retails for slightly less than the Hyperion Elite and Nike Vaporfly Next%, which are $399 and $396. Another fiscal nugget to consider is the Pro’s approximate 320 Km shelf life, twice as long than the recommended 160 Km for its competitors.

Judging by the continued race cancellations, however, I’ll likely need a new pair when road racing returns, whenever that is. Until then, I’ll relish in the rush from that forward roll as I plow down neighbourhood streets.

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