Sunday, September 09, 2018

Saucony Xodus ISO 3 Review - Because sometimes your feet deserve an armored tank


The Saucony Xodus ISO 3 is a beast of a trail shoe made for every type of terrain. A complete redesign from the Xodus ISO 2, it combines a very comfortable sock-like upper wrapped in Saucony's ISOFIT system, now sitting on top of a new full EVERUN midsole (the big update) and a very burly outsole.
The result is a heavy duty shoe that is marketed toward muddy terrain but which chews up rocky Arizona mountains just as well. If you are looking for the one shoe to take with you everywhere (except the road), the Xodus could be everything you are looking for. Just make sure you aren't too weight conscious, because this may be the heaviest shoe on the market today.

Weight: 14.2 ounces in US M9
Sample Weight: 15.5 ounces in M10.5
Stack Height: 23 forefoot/27 heel
$149.99 Available Now

First Impressions & Fit

I picked up the Xodus from my local running store, Tortoise & Hare Sports in Glendale, AZ. I had been very curious about shoe since its initial launch, but most of the marketing had been geared toward wet or muddy conditions, and those are two things in rare supply in the Phoenix-Metro area. However, Tortoise & Hare only carries shoes that they believe in, and swore up and and down the Xodus would tear up the rocky trails surrounding us. That was all I needed to hear.
The Xodus fits true to size, 10.5 for me, and is deceptively comfortable. While it looks very robust, and it is, the upper is soft and pliable. That said, it is incredibly heavy. My 10.5 is just a hair under a pound per shoe, and while I'm not one to nitpick fractions of an ounce, 15.5 ounces is a lot. However, it feels much heavier in hand than on the foot. The ISOFIT system clamps down over the soft upper, and I had no problem getting a secure, but not punishing fit. This is my first experience with this generation of ISOFIT, and I know a few of the guys had issues with it on the Ride ISO. I could definitely see it taking time to get things locked down just right, especially if you have a low volume foot. I had no problems, and genuinely enjoy wearing these shoes.

The Xodus has a lot going on in the upper. A soft mesh covers the toe box, reinforced with extra overlays covering the big toe with a labeled "Toe Shell", likely to combat the folks who wear out uppers with their toenails or occasional rocks. The soft bootie/sock envelopes the foot, but the outer reinforcement (ISOFIT in the midfoot, and a plastic support frame around the heel) gives it a very secure, trail shoe fit. If you could strip away the outer elements you'd have a shapeless womb of soft - great for a house slipper but not anything you'd want to run in. The toebox is as wide as anything not made by Altra or Topo, and has ample volume overall. The mesh has some stretch to it, and the toe bumper is very unobtrusive.
All of that just contributes to the massive weight of the shoe, but I wouldn't change a thing. The upper is my favorite part of the shoe, which is not an indictment of the midsole or outsole.


Featured prominently in Saucony's Freedom ISO shoes, the Xodus ISO 3 midsole is now 100% EVERUN, Saucony's answer to Adidas Boost. The Xodus ISO 2 had an SSL EVA midsole with thinner EVERUN topsole. While it is painted black in this version, when you pull out the insole, you can see it from the backside. There's no question this is a TPU midsole as is Boost.
While I wasn't a fan of the Freedom's midsole at all, it really works in the Xodus. The shoe has a plush feel, even if it isn't massively cushioned like a Hoka. The stack height is deceptive because it factors in the lugs, but there's still more than ample cushioning. My second run in the Xodus was a ten-mile rocky fire road, and my feet were just fine at the end. Don't count on much flex though, but I would bet that the outsole influences that as well.


So much rubber, so many big 6mm lugs, so much grip. With more and more shoes, even trail shoes, allowing exposed midsole to be part of the outsole, finding a shoe that has 100% rubber coverage feels odd. I did not run in any previous versions of the Xodus, but looking through older models it appears that aggressively lugged with full rubber coverage is the standard for this line. The ISO 3 appears to introduce two different types of rubber in their PWRTRAC outsole, and it works. This shoe is at home on a steep decent covered with little rocks - regardless of your conditions this shoe just digs in. With all the rubber, and the claimed extra long life of the EVERUN midsole, I'm going to assume that the upper of this shoe will die long before the outsole or the midsole. If you look closely you may see that the slightly softer green rubber shows just a little bit of wear on a few of the lugs, but that's just superficial wear. Count on getting hundreds and hundreds of miles before this shoe loses its death grip on the earth. RUN ANYWHERE is carved into the medial side of the midsole, and I don't think it's hyperbole. If I was setting out to travel the world by various trails, this is my shoe, no question.
However, this shoe is awkward on sidewalk or asphalt. I'm lucky enough to live a half mile from a groomed trail that leads to a mountainous single track another mile over - so I do a number of trail runs right from my front door. That first half mile runs to the trail were less than ideal. The massive lugs have a bit of flex in them when you press down on hard man-made surfaces, and the ride suffers for it. While the Hoka EVO Mafate may be better on the road than the trail (yeah, we're all thinking it, I'm just the one with enough guys to say it), the Xodus ISO 3 is garbage on the road. Just don't do it. If you were thinking of using them as a hiking shoe, without any plan on running - have at it. Plenty of support and cushioning to last you hours and hours. I can't speak to their water shedding ability, even when the monsoon storms hit Phoenix the puddles are usually gone pretty quickly.

Conclusion & Performance

With all that grip, it runs deceptively fast on trails. Which is funny to write about a shoe that's within spitting distance of a pound per side. It's heavy, it's cushioned, it's grippy, but it isn't sluggish, and that's a welcome attribute. However, deceptively fast isn't the same as fast. I wouldn't say it's a fast shoe by any means. How could it be? It's the trail shoe version of wearing ankle weights, but if you want grip and protection with a comfortable ride and even more comfortable upper, than the Xodus ISO 3 could be just what you are looking for. The toebox has plenty of room, but you won't think it's an Altra. There isn't a rockplate, but the decent amount of midsole squish and the abundance of rubber lugs keep that from being an issue.

This is one of the few shoes I find fun to run slow in. If you want a speedy trail shoe, keep it moving, but if you want a burly shoe that will take everything you can give it - give it a shot. Sam had made the comparison in the Skechers Go Run Max Trail 5 Ultra (what a name!) review of a race car engine tucked in a luxury sedan, but that's not the Xodus. This is a Toyota Tacoma that's been converted into a rock crawler. Sure, it'll go anywhere, but ultimately it'll last forever too. Just keep it off the road. Seriously.

Score: 9/10
-1 for the substantial weight. 15.5 ounces is off the charts heavy.


Saucony Xodus ISO 3 vs Brooks Caldera 2 (RTR review)
Caldera 2 feels featherlight by comparison, and while they are similar in cushioning, the Xodus upper is far more luxurious and the upper has exponentially more grip. Easy trail run without much in the way of rocks, roots, or treacherous slopes? Caldera is your shoe. Anything more taxing? Xodus all day.

Saucony Xodus ISO 3 vs Salomon Sense Pro Max (RTR review)
My current two favorite trail shoes. The Xodus has a slightly bigger toebox (big thumbs up from me for that) and a ton more traction, but the Pro Max feels just as cushioned, and has plenty of grip - not to mention it weighs 3.5 ounces less in a 9 ! You could tape the hot new Reebok road race flat to the Salmon and it would still weight less than the Xodus (but I can only assume would run poorly and look even worse). I'd give the Salomon the nod unless you're running some really gnarly stuff.

Saucony Xodus ISO 3 vs Hoka EVO Mafate (RTR review)
On paper very similar shoes (well, except for ~4 ounces of weight difference) the EVO is fast and super cushioned shoe that is at home on the road just as much as it is on the trail. Lots of exposed midsole could lead to an early demise, while the Xodus will likely outlast the apocalypse. If only Hoka learned what a slightly wide forefoot looked like. The Xodus upper is incredibly comfortable, while the EVO Mafate's is...serviceable. This one comes down to foot width, and if the Hoka works for you, it is likely to be a great all day shoe.

Reviewer Bio
Jeff Beck is the token slow fat guy runner. Wasting his youth on such endeavors as playing golf and writing, he only started running in his thirties, and has a marathon PR of 4:15 to prove it. A full-time property manager, this part-time author and cold brew coffee maker lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife and daughter. He enjoys running desert trails as well as the road, and is trying to get his 5K time to sub-twenty.
The product reviewed in this article was a personal purchase. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
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Jeff said...


Anonymous said...

To bad you didn't get the chance to test these on wet rock. I have no doubt they work fine in the mud but here in New England we have rocks, lots and lots of rocks and often times wet. If these stick as well as Megagrip or Salomon wet traction Contragrip, or even close, we have a winner. Ideal shoe for our terrain and for hiking as well. REI carries them so I could at least try them and if the rock grip wasn't satisfactory get a refund.
Thanks for the review !

Jeff in MA

Jeff said...

Hi Jeff in MA,

Yeah, there aren't many opportunities to run in the wet in Phoenix. Truly, I'd be shocked if this outsole didn't have great wet grip as well (especially when most of the marketing from Saucony is that it is designed for wet). I haven't taken my Salomon's out in the wet, but the Xodus had much more grip than the Sense Pro Max. With that kind of terrain (and thinking of using it for hiking) I'd think this would be an ideal shoe for you - provided that weight is not your issue. I can't say it enough, it's the heaviest shoe (well, not counting actual hiking boot) I've ever worn. But if you try them on in person you'll be able to tell if the weight is a deal breaker, and if it isn't I think that will be right up your alley.

Thanks for a kind words, and I hope you enjoy 'em!

Gianluca Gaggioli said...

I'm agree with you, and find that this shoes is fantastic for going downhill, the thumb never goes to crush against the tip.