Monday, July 04, 2016

Saucony Xodus ISO Review: Maximal Cushion And Comfort For The Long Haul

Article by Jeff Valliere

The Saucony Xodus ISO is a 10.5 oz/298 gram (US men’s size 9) ultra plush trail trainer with a 4 mm offset (29 mm heel/25 mm forefoot) built for long days on the trail. Improvements over the previous Xodus 6.0 are stunning, dropping about an ounce, adding an ISOFIT upper, Everun topsole and new PWRTRAC outsole make the Xodus ISO a completely different beast.

Though a 1 oz. drop in weight does not sound like a lot, it is nothing short of remarkable in this instance. Considering how beefy and protective this shoe is, the Xodus ISO feels surprisingly feathery in the hand and even lighter on the foot, which I attribute to the lighter, more pliable materials of the ISOFIT upper, EVERUN midsole and replacement of the Vibram outsole with the new PWRTRAC outsole.  Though I appreciated the Xodus 6.0, it felt like more of a sturdy hiking shoe you could run in if you had to, whereas the Xodus ISO feels much more like a dedicated running shoe.

The ISOFIT upper offers an excellent blend of comfort and support, with a stretchy seamless booty integrated with support overlays throughout the midfoot tied in with the lacing.  The ISOFIT upper is remarkably comfortable, with ample wiggle room in the forefoot, good foothold, lateral stability and enough give for foot swell on long runs and/or in hot conditions.

The upper is perfectly suited for warmer runs, with a tightly woven, but very well ventilated mesh that does a great job allowing air flow, yet still keeps dirt and debris out quite well.

Fit is true to size and with the somewhat forgiving upper, primarily in the forefoot, allows for decent toe splay and I think would accommodate a wide variety of feet.

Lacing is excellent, as I am able to achieve proper snugness on the first try (well, it took a few times to dial it in, but after the first run or two, I get it now on my first attempt).
Though the upper is adequately supportive in most circumstances, there is a bit of unsteadiness when pushing the pace in technical terrain.

The tongue is gusseted, which does a great job keeping it in place and adding further protection from dirt and debris. Padding of the tongue is plush, but not overly so.

The heel cup is quite protective and sturdy. Padding is plentiful.
The toe shell is protective yet flexible and offers excellent protection.
The PWRTRAC outsole replaces the Vibram outsole from the previous 6.0.  Dry traction and traction in loose terrain seem to be comparable to the previous version, however wet traction is about average.  The new PWRTRAC outsole has shown very little, if any, over the ~50 or so rough and rocky trail miles and seems quite durable.  Overall performance is superior to the previous Vibram outsole, as it is more flexible and compliant, giving much improved trail feel and torsional flexibility.

The deep tread zigs and zags, offering excellent bite going uphill or down.

If I could come up with one weakness, it is the foam in the forefoot between the tread.  On a hike with my daughters, I stepped on a small blunt stick that made it’s way deep into the shoe through the foam.  Though I never felt it and only noticed it later, I wondered what if it had been a bit longer and a bit sharper?  Could have been a complete fluke though.

I also  noticed that the spacing of the lugs are deep enough and spaced such that they easily pick up and retain rocks that are nearly the size of a marble.  Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind.

The EVERUN midsole (a top sole of TPU material similar to adidas Boost)  to me was simultaneously what I liked most and the least about the shoe.  From a comfort standpoint, the cushion of this shoe can not be beat.  Despite having an average stack height, I would be hard pressed to think of a shoe that feels this pillowy and comfortable.  Perfect for ultra distance or casual recovery days.  This level of cushioning however is a double edged sword, as it impacts performance a bit.  

Whether you land on your heel, mid foot or forefoot, impact is quite soft, welcome and appreciated, but I found the Xodus ISO to have a little too much give at toe off, feeling somewhat squishy and inefficient.  There is very little responsiveness, which is especially apparent when upping the pace a bit or on uphills.
Overall Performance and Recommendations
As I mentioned earlier, I found the Xodus ISO to be a drastic improvement over the previous version. It feels much lighter, more nimble and feels more like a running shoe . Everything about it, from the ISOFIT upper, to the EVERUN midsole, to the PWRTRAC outsole is a leap forward, Saucony may as well have come up with a completely different name for this shoe.

The Xodus ISO performs it's intended purpose perfectly, long miles on varied terrain, full days in the mountains, ultra events. A shoe for those looking for maximal protection, cushion and comfort.

I tend to gravitate toward this shoe for my easier/recovery days regardless of distance, as I really appreciate how cushioned, plush and forgiving it is. Though on average, the stack is less than, say, a Hoka, the cushion and protection are comparable and the ISOFIT upper may work for a wider range of feet.

I did find that the Xodus ISO struggles a bit when pushed because of lack of response at toe off and the upper giving a bit when pushing on technical terrain, but I take that for what it is, as I don't view it as a high performance shoe.

Surprisingly, the Xodus ISO performs reasonably well on pavement, as the tread is not noticeably obtrusive and the ample cushioning eats up the impact.

Brooks Cascadia 11: Though I very much like the Cascadia, the Xodus ISO is lighter, has a more comfortable upper that would fit a wider range of feet, better traction (especially better wet traction) and more plush cushioning. The Cascadia however seems to have a bit more durable upper and the outsole (though that is just an educated guess, as I have not run either throughout a full lifespan).

Montrail Trans Alp: Both fully protected, all day shoes, the Xodus ISO is lighter, has better trail feel and runs more like a running shoe. Cushioning is a bit more plush in the Xodus ISO, however the Trans Alp has better overall traction and durability.

La Sportiva Akasha : Similar weight and plush cushion, similar forgiving upper, both great for long days on the trails. The Akasha however has far superior traction and is much more responsive.

Jeff's Score 4.7 out of 5
All Photos Credit: Jeff Valliere
The Xodus ISO was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Reviewer Bio
Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

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