Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Saucony Freedom ISO 2 Review: Great New Upper. Improved Foot Hold and Stability. Same Ride.

Article by Sally Reiley, Dave Ames, and Sam Winebaum

Saucony Freedom ISO 2

The Saucony Freedom ISO 2 comes to the training table with changes focused on more secure support and stability for what in version 1 was a pretty wild and hard to tame ride for many. A low slung, "natural riding", 4mm drop shoe with an unstructured upper and a midsole made entirely of Everun TPU midsole, the ISO 1 was an intriguing ride (RTR review) capturing many fans but faded here at RTR as newer lighter dynamic midsoles such as Nike’s React, Reebok Floatride, Skechers FlightGen and even Saucony’s own Kinvara 9’s with EVA+ emerged after the Freedom ISO 1 came out. Does Freedom ISO 2 refresh the magic? We tested to find out.

22mm heel/18mm forefoot: 4mm drop
Approx. Weight:  W8 8.6 oz/ 244 g. M9 9.8 oz/287 g
Sample M9 9.34oz/ 265 g
Production Sample ISO 2 M8.5 9.5 oz/270 g
Sample ISO 1 M8.5 9 oz/255 g
$160. Available now.

Freedom ISO 2 has a new ISOKNIT upper with more substantial midfoot support and redesigned ISOFIT foot wrapping bands. The upper is a thing of beauty and has a far more natural, molded fit and now also includes a padded tongue and a more substantial heel wrapping Support Frame in this heel counter free shoe. 

In addition to improved upper support, the midsole has higher sculpted midsole sidewalls to better hold the foot and improve overall stability when transitioning from heel to toe, a big issue for many in version 1. Three flex grooves through the forefoot outsole and a shorter toe rocker smooth toe off the underfoot. Weight increases by approximately 0.5 oz. 

The bottom line, and we’ll get to it right up front, if you liked everything about ISO 1 you should be very pleased with ISO 2, except may be the added weight which we really did not notice in testing one of each version on separate feet. If you liked the ride of ISO 1 but thought the upper and foot needed more support you too should be very pleased with the upper changes as underfoot the ride while a touch smoother is essentially unchanged. If the underfoot feel and ride of the Freedom ISO 1 wasn’t for you then, it is unlikely the ISO 2 will change your mind.

First Impressions and Fit
Sally: Years ago the Saucony Hurricane was my one-shoe quiver, but I have honestly not worn Sauconys in a long time. I was excited to try both both the Ride ISO and the Freedom ISO2. They felt good right out of the box and the W8 was true to size. My Freedom is the White Noise color way, a very cool white with granite looking speckles that my 22 year old daughter was wowed by. Time to wear white after Memorial Day! Perhaps white is the new black - Adidas introduced a new Ultraboost shoe at Coachella this year in the same colorway. On my feet, the Freedom felt incredibly cushioned, soft, and lightweight.

Dave:  As we go up the cushion/higher mileage spectrum in Saucony, it is where I run the brand less and less.  With the already outstanding Kinvara 9 and the brand new Ride ISO (where I struggle with the ISO lacing, but has a great road feel) I was intrigued to see if Freedom ISO 2 would become part of the rotation.  I wasn’t sure if there would be a need for the Freedom ISO 2 but the new ISO knit upper sold me from the get go. Damn, this a fine shoe to slide on your foot! It literally fits like a glove. You know, one of those shoes that your foot falls into and says, yes!  The Crystal Rubber outsole is awesome to look at and during initial “walking around” in the shoe, they felt great. My size 9, my normal size is perfect.  

The colorway in the fire red is sharp and Saucony killed it in aesthetics with this baby. A fine lookin' shoe.

Sam: All black tilting to gray where the engineered mesh is smoother and with same color matching ISOFIT band edge overlays, the ISOKNIT upper has a a lot of subtle depth and class. The blue Crystal Rubber outsole adds a bit of color. 
LEFT: Freedom ISO 2  RIGHT: Freedom ISO 1
The fit was true to my size 8.5 as I was in the ISO 1 with a noticeably more secure fit if still a bit unstructured at the heel. I find a touch more volume in the toe box and given the lighter toe bumper less front pressure, not that there was much in ISO 1 but it did feel a bit short. and low. This is one easy shoe to slip on and lace up with a light, am I actually wearing running shoes sense of nothing much on the foot. Would they hold the foot while actually running was the question.

Sally: The upper is a new ISOKNIT, a big change from the previous model which had a less structured more conventional engineered mesh.
BOTTOM: Freedom ISO 2 TOP:  Freedom ISO 1
Pardon the pollen which sticks to the texture of the knit!

It combines a sock like feel from its bootie tongue with ISOFIT bands having a denser 3D knit at mid foot with the ISOFIT bands slightly deeper, broader with the gaps slightly narrower and pointier and the overlays more substantial but still thin and very pliable.
BOTTOM: Freedom ISO 2 TOP:  Freedom ISO 1
The rear upper was also changed from the prior version to be more supportive, with more substantial heel external Support Frame straps.
The intent was to preserve the Freedom’s natural minimal feel and ride. Indeed, I felt like I was wearing nothing on my feet. The cushioned tongue runs the length of the shoe like a sock, and results in a lot of extra fabric for my narrower foot. My issue was trying to play around with the fit of this shoe to get it to provide enough support to hold my foot secure. I struggled with my foot feeling “loose” inside the shoe with too much play.

Dave:  From the get go, the ISOKNIT is so good!  It wraps your foot so well. The ISOFIT, which honestly has ruined some shoes in their line as of late (Ride ISO) is far less of a problem in Freedom 2.  I had no issues lacing it up and in fact, even with my narrow foot, I did quite well in the shoe fit wise. Unfortunately, the good stopPED here when I began to put miles on it.

Sam: I am the only one here to have run the Freedom ISO 1. It’s upper was at best tenuous in hold for me with a wild, mostly unstructured mid foot and especially rear of the foot hold. The ISO 2’s upper is vastly improved all around.
The foot hold is still soft and unstructured in feel but the foot is now far better held.
The heel area hold still could use some work despite the more substantial Support Frame straps but is no longer a wobbly mess when heel striking at slower paces and I also no longer feel I am collapsing to the medial side as I did in the ISO 1.
LEFT: Ride ISO  RIGHT:  Freedom ISO 2
The implementation of ISOfit is certainly better than in the Ride ISO for me where the Ride ISO's softer, more pliable upper and lack of connection of the last ISOfit band to the rear of the shoe was an issue on the medial side for both Dave and me. especially at faster paces.
The front of the shoe is similar in fit with a bit more toe overhead room, maybe to much when combined with the soft tongue for narrow feet as Sally notes. There is also has a touch less metatarsal pressure. As with the Freedom ISO 1, I fit true to my normal size 8.5. Some complained the ISO 1 ran short, and maybe it did a bit, but I think that may have as much to do with poor foot hold and sliding forward as length. Here most should fit better at true to size as long as your foot is not super narrow or you pronate heavily where you might head over to the Liberty ISO.
The thin molded tongue is replaced with a softer, more conventional padded tongue which I found more comfortable and a better overall foot wrap when lacing snugly The achilles and ankle collar are now more padded but with a similar firmness material.
LEFT: Freedom ISO 2       NN RIGHT:  Freedom ISO 1
Sam: The Freedom ISO 2 has a full Everun TPU midsole. Everun is a material similar to adidas Boost’s but here injected instead of expanded from pellets. It is firmer and I find less bouncy and energetic than Boost. As Everun is a TPU it should be long lasting and more resilient than EVA based midsoles. Unlike many adidas Boost shoes, the Freedom has no plastic pieces to stabilize relying on its firmness, the new midsole sidewalls and its sculpting along with the full coverage Crystal Rubber outsole to stabilize the ride.

The midsole geometry sees several changes although the stack height and drop remains unchanged or within a millimeter.
Freedom ISO 2 Mediall Side
There is new more vertical medial sidewall geometry and and along with the ISOKNIT upper the midfoot is now less sloppy and has less collapse to the medial. However, in no way is the Freedom a “support” shoe. Look to its cousin the Liberty for light stability (RTR review).
Freedom ISO 2 Lateral Side

On the lateral side we have higher sidewalls to bed the foot into the midsole again to improve stability,
The midsole also rises higher at the rear heel again to help stabilize the relatively unstructured heel upper area.

There are new curves to the higher midsole sidewalls upfront. These midsole curves along with new grooves in the outsole seem to contribute to a slightly further forward flex in the ISO 2, although both versions are roughly of the same flexibility and quite stiff likely due to the full coverage front outsole. I assume these curves help deliver the smoother transitions and slightly softer forefoot feel I noticed when running ISO 1 and ISO 2 side by side one on each foot and may help reduce the forefoot pain some felt in the ISO 1 by improving the toe off geometry in moving it further forward.
So we have lots of midsole tuning to tame the Freedom. I found them to be all positive changes. Things are more stable and directed, the transition to toe off is smoother. This said the Everun midsole itself, which as far as I can tell rides the same as Freedom ISO 1 felt firm at the heel especially at slower paces. It is dense, I don't think I am bottoming out and doesn’t provide much sensation of bounce or return. It is not harsh, but for sure is kind of lifeless and labored up front on toes off in comparison to other new midsoles including Saucony’s own in the Kinvara 9 and in the Ride ISO or adidas Boost. It reminds me of a heavier Nike React in its muted feel...and interestingly the Epic React also has a similar translucent outsole material.. I wonder if the combination of this firm Everun and the the Crystal Rubber outsole, which is full coverage, dampen the excitement here.

Dave:  EVERUN powers the Freedom ISO 2 from heel to toe.  I have become quite the fan of EVERUN as of late, especially with the snappy, quick transitioning Kinvara 9, which boasts EVERUN but just in the topsole.  While I don’t like the ISOFIT on Ride ISO, it gets the job done for longer slower marathon training runs and recovery days, keeping mile after mile smooth. Figuring the Freedom 2 was just a beefed up Kinvara 9, I was excited to run it in.  

However, almost immediately with ISO 2 I realize that it just doesn’t pack the punch of the Kinvara. It’s honestly just sloppy. I feel like the durometer (firmness) is way too low here, allowing me to feel quite “sunk” in the shoe, causing poor transitions from heel to toe and far more effort placed in “toeing” off.  I leave a run feeling beat up in the shins, knees and achilles/soleus. Pretty much the way I leave a run in Hoka. I think Saucony missed a key element here.  They dialed it in too aggressively. I have to “work” to run in this shoe and that is always a red flag with me.

Sally: Though I find the Freedom ISO2 incredibly comfortable and cushy on my feet, I can’t get excited about running in them. They feel too soft, and the transition from heel to toe requires more effort than it needs to. I liken them to the Adidas Ultra Boost - a great shoe to wear around, but not to actually run in.

Sam: The Crystal Rubber outsole sees some changes.
We now have 3 deeper longitudinal grooves up front replacing shallower ones and longer outer lugs which I assume improve stablitity.
While I am unclear if it is due to midsole or outsole, the ISO 2 has a shorter toe rocker than ISO 1. I feel and noted running one of each foot that this change may help smooth transitions as more rubber is in contact with the road as one transitions from midfoot to toe off. This said I still find the transitions more labored and not as lively as I prefer. I think the outsole material and its coverage, while cool looking, quiet and super durable, plays a significant role as it does in the similarly labored for me Nike Epic React as it is full coverage, quite stiff and lacks pop, some responsive "slap".

Dave:  Man the Crystal Rubber outsole is pretty cool..  It gives a sharp distinct look that not many running shoe brands, or any...are doing right now.  The outsole grips very well on the roads and even soft cinder rail trail and looks to pack the ability to handle a good amount of wear a tear for your weekly mileage.  Upon initial look, you would think it would be loud upon footfall, but it’s very quiet.
Sally: Neat looking shoe with the pink tinged crystal rubber. I love the silent tread. The outsole has great traction even on wet roads and surfaces. After numerous runs, soild durability is apparent, in contrast to Nike Epic React's translucent similar outsole.

Sally: At first impression soft, quiet, and bouncy, but then more like running with marshmallows underfoot! To soft for my running preferences and not quick enough in transition.

Dave:  Sloppy and overly soft.  I work far too hard in the shoe and leave a run beat up.  It just doesn’t work for me. It’s discouraging to see a shoe with so much promise in the upper department lack the ride it really could have.  With K9 doing so well and Ride ISO being your workhorse trainer, is the Freedom really needed? And at $160? Come on….

Sam: The Freedom ISO 1 was for sure an interesting and intriguing ride, for a while… The Freedom ISO 2 improves on ISO 1 by getting the ride "under control". It remains low slung with its 4mm drop with a “natural” fit and ride. In comparison to many of the new shoes out since ISO 1, while improved up top with identical feel underfoot , the ISO 2 just isn’t all the inspiring or fun. Firm, kind of lifeless and dense, the Freedom rides best at moderate tempo for me. There is no question with the combination of resilient EVERUN midsole and the Crystal Rubber outsole this is a very durable long lasting trainer if the ride suits you.

Conclusions and Recommendations
At a high price point and a failure to deliver a smooth, responsive ride, I would really not recommend it to a runner when there are so many better options in Saucony’s line, at a far lower price point!  Buy the Kinvara for those speedier days and get the Ride ISO for the longer stuff and recovery days. Yes, ISOFIT in Ride wasn’t the greatest for me, but the shoe pops and that is way more important than the upper you’re paying for in Freedom ISO 2.  
Dave’s Score: 7.5/10
-5 for ISOFIT- - It’s not the best for my narrower foot type
-1 for a sloppy unresponsive ride that makes me work harder than I should
-1 for price point

Great looking shoe, especially in the women’s white colorway. I love the minimal feel, but honestly, the ride is just too soft for me. It requires more work than it should to run an even pace.
Sally’s score: 8.0/10
-.5 for unstructured upper that can’t quite secure my foot
-1 for overly soft sinking feeling ride
-.5 for high price point

Gaining in weight, greatly improving in upper hold and stability, the pricey ISO 2 is super comfortable, looks great with jeans, runs just fine, and is also a good option for the gym. Our samples' red, dark and white stark looks in a way match the Freedom's serious, to serious, dense feeling not very springy and fairly stiff ride which lacks smile inducing bounce or life for me.when compared to recently emerging competitors including in the Saucony line. If you liked Freedom ISO 1, and many did, you will like this update which effectively tames some of the first version’s wild loose ends in the areas of upper hold and stability.
Sam’s Score 8.0/10
-0.25 for still some work needed on heel hold. A real heel counter please.
-1.25 for dense, fairly stiff and not very lively ride. Everun and the Crystal Rubber outsole may need some tuning
-0.25 for weight gain my sample vs. my ISO 1 sample, likely from increased side walls. Lose some Crystal Rubber?
-0.25 for lofty price.


Dave:  More shoe, more pop and a better road feel with Ride.  Will you get a better upper and a better fit with your foot in the Freedom, yes….but it won’t deliver on the roads.  Ride ISO for the W.
Sam: While Freedom ISO 2 has a superior ISOFIT upper, the Ride just rides way better with a more responsive dynamic feel, livelier cushion and even weighs the same.

Saucony Freedom ISO 2 vs. Saucony Kinvara 9 (RTR review)
Dave:  K9 is one of the best shoes of 2018!  And it will remain that way even with Fall releases coming down the pike.  I just rarely even notice the K9 on my feet. They are smooth, transition well and work really well with my gait.  It’s not even close here! K9 for the major W in a landslide.
Sam: Totally with Dave on the K9. Put the Freedom ISO 2 upper on the K9 and add a heel counter and that would be one heck of a shoe,

Saucony Freedom ISO 2 vs. Brooks Launch 5 (RTR review)
Dave:  I kinda associate these 2 trainers as being in the same wheelhouse.-the medium cushioned daily trainer category also advertised as flashing a bit of speed when you need it.  Unfortunately, Freedom ISO 2 is just slow to transition and a bit too soft underfoot. The Launch 5, while I did not like the narrowness of the mid foot platform delivers a much more enjoyable running experience.  The BioMogo DNA feels much more lively than EVERUN in Freedom 2 and I leave a run feeling far less fatigued. Launch 5 wins.
Sam: I can’t get past Launch 5’s very unstructured mid foot upper combined with narrow on the ground platform at mid foot with its the upper reminding me of Freedom ISO 1 and all its issues. Nod to the Freedom ISO 2.

Saucony Freedom ISO 2 vs. New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon (RTR review)
Dave:  Beacon is the new kid on the block.  Freedom ISO 2 isn’t allowed on the block.  There’s just so much more you get out of the Beacon and it is very versatile.  It works well with your stride and gives you the much needed feedback you want, especially at higher speeds.
Sam: Way lighter and way more fun to run at all paces with a superior decently cushioned, responsive and fast feel when pushed and decently mellow when slow, the Beacon is the clear winner although given its minimal outsole rubber it most likely won’t last as long.

Saucony Freedom ISO 2 vs. Adidas Boston Boost (RTR review)
Sally: I much prefer the Adidas Boston Boost as a daily trainer or even race shoe: more solid underfoot with better transition from heel to toe. Freedom is just too soft a ride for me. I liken the Freedom more to the Ultra Boost, both soft and forgiving and not ideal for speed runs. UltraBoost is likewise fun to wear at leisure and comfortable for easy runs. Boston for the clear win.

Saucony Freedom ISO 2 vs Nike Epic React Flyknit (RTR review)
Sally: I happen to love running in the Epic React. Equally quiet, Epic React fits closer to foot and more secure hold and has a much quicker transition and peppy ride. I could never love running in the Freedom, comfortable as it is, because it makes a respectable pace feel like work. Nike Epic React for the win.
Sam: I must have wider feet than Sally as I really find the Epic React's upper almost painfully snug at mid foot, a rarity for me. The Freedom ISO 2 upper suits me better but could use the great heel lock down of the Epic React. Underfoot while not much of a fan of React I prefer the far lighter weight and decent if overly muted feel of the Epic React, but barely.

Reviewer Bios
Sally Reiley started road racing in her mid 50's. Since then she has run the Boston Marathon five times and Chicago once with a PR of 3:29 in 2017 in Boston, in the heat. Along the way she has also has raised over $160,000 with Team Mass Eye and Ear for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. A mother of five she lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts.
Dave Ames is the Founder and Head Coach of Ame For It Run Coaching, a nationwide run coaching business, training athletes of all ability levels from 5K to Marathon.  A formally competitive runner in High School and College, Dave focuses the majority of his time now on his athletes, but maintains the love for running and racing by keeping sub 3 Marathon, fit. 
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running trails and roads and run shoe and tech geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half as well as 2 days after his 61st birthday a 3:40 marathon.  He also runs trails in rocky rooty New Hampshire and smooth Park City, UT. 
Photo Credits: Dave Ames and Sally Reiley
The Freedom were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Comments & Questions Welcome Below!
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Mark said...

Thanks for the review! How does the underfoot experience of the Freedom 2 compare with the Triumph ISO 4 which also has a full Everun midsole?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Mark,
Thanks for reading and asking. The underfoot feel of the Triumph ISO 4 is similar, fairly dense and not very bouncy compared to Boost for example. Also there is more Everun more cushioned. I also find the Triumph ISO 4 somewhat more responsive, maybe due to the more conventional outsole rubber? This said it is also a considerably heavier shoe more focused on easier pace daily training. ISO 4 review is at the link below.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links to all shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated

Bazza said...

Hi, great read and review!

From your review, it seems that the Freedom ISO 2 is a good everyday "walking" shoe more than a runner, correct? If so, I'm looking for something similar, preferably a low drop and lightweight. Any recommendations?


Anonymous said...

Is it the same mushy, toes sinking feeling of ultraboosts or if it is firmer?

Sam Winebaum said...

Definitely considerably firmer than Ultra Boost and also less bouncy, To me Freedom ISO 2 midsole runs more like a conventional EVA than Boost or some of the other new foams.
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Bazza, certainly could be used as a walking shoe, a stylish and expensive one too! It is of course also a good runner if you favor its type of ride.
Sam, Editor

Unknown said...

I’m curious, in the first freedom, your review pointed out the too-thin midsole, especially in the forefoot. I felt that as well. This review says the stack height hasn’t really changed, but the saucony website lists the freedom 1 stack as 19/15 and the freedom 2 as 22/18. I feel like if it does in fact have more midsole underfoot that the 2 would be making a better impression than this review implies. Any clarification available?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Unknown,
We will double check on stack height. Not sure how Saucony measures. It is clear there is more sidewall height in the ISO 2 which may be part of the calculation. What we felt running them one on each foot is as in the review. I did feel a very slightly softer forefoot feel in ISO 2 and a slightly smoother transition which may be due to the changes in the sidewalls up front and the new deeper grooves or maybe in fact a touch more midsole stack underfoot.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Not sure what to think....2 reviewers say the ride is too soft, one says it’s firm. Could you clarify please. Thanks. Also,thank you so much for the free reviews, as I enjoy them much!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, Thanks for kind words! I find them firm and a bit harsh compared to Boost shoes or Skechers FlightGen Foam for example. What works well for you now so I could try to compare. Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sam. I’ve put a lot of miles on the Saucony Triumph ISO 3 and it has worked well for me. I tried the ISO 4 Triumph and disliked the ride of it. That’s why I’m curious about the Freedom ISO 2, If they are firm or soft. The ride of the ISO 4 Triumph was too firm for me.