Thursday, February 27, 2020

Saucony Endorphin Speed Review: Super Light, Lively and Softer Cushioned, Uptempo Long Cruiser/Racer

Article by Sam Winebaum

Saucony Endorphin Speed ($160)


Official Weight: 7.8 oz / 221g men's US 9
Sample Weight: 7.8 oz / 221g men's US 9 (spot on official!)
Stack Height: 35.5mm heel / 27.5mm forefoot (all in including sockliner), 8mm drop
Available July 1,  2020. $160.


Top: Endorphin Pro, Bottom Left: Endorphin Speed, Bottom Right: Endorphin Shift 
Saucony joins the super foams game with two super cushioned, very light plated shoes: The Endorphin Pro ($200) a graphite polymer plated racer (initial video review here)  and the Endorphin Speed ($160) tested here which relaxes the ride a bit with a nylon plate. Both shoes otherwise share identical stack heights of 35.5mm heel / 27.5mm forefoot with both having midsoles made of Saucony's new PWRUN PB a light high energy "return" PeBa foam (similar to Nike Zoom X) with identical outsoles and different light engineered mesh uppers  spec to weigh 0.3 oz less than the Speed.  

Update: A/B Test, one on each foot Pro to Speed detailed comparison video here 
A PWRUN midsole super cushioned recovery and daily trainer, the Endorphin Shift also joins the family. As PWRUN is a TPU EVA blend. It is considerably heavier with rear support features from an extended heel cup and a lower drop at 4mm yet greater maximal stack at 38mm heel / 34 mm forefoot. It has a plateless version of the Speed Roll technology of the other two created from the relative stiffness of the foam.

Peter Stuart and I show "floor jogged" the Pro and Speed a bit in December at the Running Event and preferred the slightly softer easier feel of the Speed and its nylon plate. Saucony was kind enough to send me one of those show floor runners to test. It may not have a final production propulsion plate with a bit softer not as rigid version as the final. 

Our multi tester reviews of the Pro and Shift will follow shortly as will a multi tester update to this review.

The Speed and Shift will have an July 1 release. The Pro is expected well before July 1st but no date has yet been confirmed by Saucony 

Strong cushion/stack to weight ratio
Pleasant riding, springy softer PEBA foam midsole
Stable, well directed ride from non totally rigid but propulsive nylon plate
Fast ride feel
Rockered effectively but not radically or stiffly so with a distinct toe off sensed, a familiar feel
Soft, secure as well as roomy upper


Heel feel is a bit soft for intended purpose.
Plate could be a touch more rigid, more overtly propulsive
Update: I am now testing a production version and the plate is more rigid and the heel less soft.

Tester Profile
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.

First Impressions and Fit

Love the cheery bold look here. Definitely noticeable and distinct but not overly loud. A clear contrast to the solid neon Next% launch colors.

My sample was half size up from my true to size and I wear thicker socks to test. With the thicker socks the fit is just fine but I would go true to size in a next pair. The fit is soft, generous, and secure everywhere. I particular like the hold at lace up from the mesh strap ( a mini mini 1" wide bootie) connecting to the midsole

The upper is a very soft and pliable engineered mesh. Butter soft I would call it.

A pattern of 3D raised knitting of the same material and softness reaches across the toes, around the soft toe bumper and towards mid foot providing very seamless and effective support while leaving lots of thinner areas for high breathability between.
The mid foot Saucony logos are fairly thick but are also very pliable and part of the support system at mid foot.
The tongue is mostly a dual layer mesh with a netting type open mesh outside and a soft thin inner layer which has many holes through it to the netting.

There is a narrow stretch mesh strap (seen bottom right in the photo above) extending from behind the last 2 lace up holes to the midsole and forward where it ends at an outer elastic strap riding to the other side between tongue and laces. I not sure what its purpose is but it may draw the wings of the midsole strap forward?   The top middle of the tongue has triangle of firmer leatherette also with ventilations holes. 
We have a full stout heel counter with moderately plush if on the thinner side collar padding. 
Tech aside this is a super soft and effective upper. Feels incredibly light on the foot and just disappears while holding the foot solidly to the platform and it should be very accommodating to even somewhat wider feet. While my testing has been in colder weather I would imagine highly breathable as well.

Below the foot we have what looks like Saucony's now standard and I think effective Form Fit which takes into account sockliner, lower raised side walls and footbed to better "mold" seat the foot to the platform. The sock liner is removable and molded.

Clearly the magic leading to the ride and light weight with a substantial stack of 35.5mm heel / 27.5mm forefoot is Saucony's new PWRUN+ PB midsole foam. It is a PeBa type foam so "similar" to Nike Zoom X as in the Vaporfly or Reebok's Floatride Foam. PeBa is known for its resilient spring feel and very light weight.  

The midsole foam here appears to be made of expanded granules of differing fairly large sizes and not via an injection process. I took the picture after some runs and dirt to provide definition! It is softer and bouncier in feel than Zoom X or Floatride Foam from Reebok. 

Embedded within the midsole is an nylon S-shaped plate which when combined with the overall geometry and a moderate rocker profile makes for a very stable ride with a distinct but gentle forward roll to toe off which Saucony calls Speed Roll. I was told as I complete the review that the plate in my sample may be softer and a touch less rigid than the final production version. Update: I have now tested a production sample on one foot and this sample on the other and the production plate is clearly stiffer. In our multi tester review we will be evaluating production samples. 

Unlike many plated shoes such as the Vaporfly, FuelCell TC, and new Skechers Speed Elite the Speed is not completely rigid as it has a flex point, if stiffer, at midfoot just about where the outsole ends to the left in the picture above. Further forward there is a touch of springy flex from the nylon plate, nylon not being completely rigid as carbon plates are. It reminds of the flex of the nylon plated Skechers Speed TRL while being stiffer as there is more stack too here. 

Unlike other plated shoes, and more similarly to the new FuelCell TC, the forefoot here is very well cushioned and soft yet propulsive from the plate, geometry, and outsole design. While the Next% is equally if not more cushioned in the forefoot here it is softer with a more natural less flat roll to toe off feel and also a bit less pop given stiff carbon vs. slightly less rigid nylon but due to the Speed Roll a more distinct forward toe off feel.  That's OK as this is more a Speed training ride that can race than a pure race shoe. Pro is the carbon plated race sibling. 

The heel is soft maybe softer than I prefer and particularly at slower paces. I think more rubber at the heel may be in order. Update: the production version plate takes care of any overly soft heel feel. Too much so?

The outsole is a single continuous piece of the same relatively firm but thin rubber. So far it is proving very durable with excellent grip I am a bit surprised given the relatively soft PWRN PB foam that it is not slightly more extensive at the heel to provide a touch more pop off the heel. To date the somewhat soft heel feel at slower to moderate paces is my only only knock on the shoe. This said the landing is plenty cushy as is!

The ride feel is light and lively with plenty of softer cushion and energy.  I emphasize the light part as there is an uncanny sensation that it seems impossible to have this much cushion, support, and get up and go in such a light shoe. Some of the newer, lighter super cushioned shoes for example Carbon X at 5mm drop go with lower drops which can cut weight but that in combination with stiff carbon can feel flat. 

Here with an 8mm drop the ride in combination with the nylon plate's not as rigid, less aggressive feel we get a clear sensation of propulsion from the plate but with more toe off sensation than in carbon plate shoes (except the Pro version where it is similar)  and one that is more natural, traditional, gentler and softer, and is especially noted at the stable very well cushioned forefoot. This makes the Speed a great choice for longer runs and tempo days and a great race choice is you seek a light weight ride with plenty of forgiving cushion. In comparison to the Pro I have found the Speed more forgiving on steep downhills and easier if a bit less springy on uphills.

Recommendations and Conclusions

Saucony is on a roll in 2020 and the Speed ushers in a super light, super cushioned, and lively new option for the brand and part of what I expect will be an awesome threesome with the nearly identical PRO but for its more rigid graphite polymer plate the race shoe and the Shift the easier days option.  The Speed is the faster trainer option of the three, and easily for many as it has been for me, and should be for many, a solid daily training option if you prefer light and well cushioned. The ride is just plain sumptuous in its cushion (especially at the forefoot)  and lively feel with propulsion from the semi rigid plate not awkward, flat or harsh..The Speed Roll effect of the plate, which I sense most distinctly at final toe off, is exactly as named and natural and easy to find and maintain. 

The fairly thin but durable heel outsole rubber raises some concerns in terms of longevity for daily training but  are minor concerns at this point for me.  As I complete the review, I was told by Saucony that my sample pair may have had a softer more flexible plate than the production plate which may have contributed to the heel softness I noticed as well as the more mellow transitions, Update: Confirmed as softer and more flexible by new testing with a production pair which is stiffer. Our multi tester review with fresh pairs will give more insights,  The upper is sensational in its soft yet secure comfort. Given the light weight, premium materials including the full resilient and lively PeBa midsole, integrated plate and that upper at $160 it is also a solid value. 
Sam's Score: 9.2 /10
Ride: 9.2 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)

 I did some short A/B tests with the Speed on one foot and on the other foot left to right below:
New Balance Fuel Cell TC, Hoka Carbon X, and Nike Next%
Saucony Endorphin Pro 

The Pro weighs slightly less at 7.5 oz / 213 g. It has a far stiffer graphite polymer plate which makes the shoe completely rigid whereas the Speed's nylon plate is semi rigid. It's upper is a single layer engineered mesh that is lighter weight than the Speed's similar upper with its knit in 3d support. The Pro fit is somewhat more performance oriented and a bit narrower but is still very comfortable. My pair was a half size up from my normal as was my Speed. In a next pair I would go true to size and use thin socks, especially in the Pro. The midsole foam is the same as is the outsole in both. On my first run it was clear that while the Speed Roll functioned in similar fashion with that nice forward roll to toe off the Pro ride overall is more responsive, directed, snappier and somewhat firmer from heel to toe yet with nice springy cushion. It is considerably faster feeling and running shoe yet in many ways similar to the Speed in its cushion and ride characteristics. 
Update: the stiffer production version of the Speed I have since started testing more closely mirrors the Pro ride than the original sample.
Update: During a hilly 7 mile A/B test with Pro on one foot and Speed on the other while Pro was clearly snappier and faster on the flats the Speed with its less rigid softer nylon plate was more forgiving and cushioned on the downhills, climbed steeps easier, and had an easier flexing softer forefoot feel.  
 Watch My A/B Pro to Speed Comparison Video

Watch My Initial Run Pro Video Review (11:00)

New Balance Fuel Cell TC (RTR Review)

TC is heavier by about 1.3 oz / 37 g. It is bouncier, not as soft but quicker off the heel due to carbon plate in the mix back there as well as more copious rubber which curves around the back of the heel. The rocker feel is more concentrated just ahead of midfoot and is less of a final toe feel propulsion as in Speed. TC is snappier, more decisive in ride actually a touch and more fun but slightly firmer overall especially upfront where the Speed is oh so sweet in its combination of great springy cushion and easy toe off.  TC has a narrower more performance oriented fit of lighter less structured materials that are not quite as soft and pleasant feeling materials as Speed's and which makes its toe box both not quite as secure, comfortable or as roomy as the Speed's which is strange as the Speed in the end is a much lighter shoe. The difference in weight between FuelCell foam and lighter PWRUN PB is difficult to overcome.  A real tough call between these two. I would say the FuelCell is more exciting and dynamic, the Speed considerably lighter, more evenly and softly cushioned and in the end may be more practical as super light, versatile up tempo daily trainer

Hoka One One Carbon X (RTR Review)

The Speed clearly has a softer more cushioned bouncier forefoot with more toe off roll effect which is very pleasant and quick feeling at the same time, The heel of the Carbon X is slightly more stable as is the midfoot and not as soft although the Speed is plenty stable too.  Overall the Carbon X is firmer, its carbon plate playing a role in that with a less springy feeling midsole foam with somewhat more shock being transmitted but  also better response.  The Carbon X upper has no heel counter and that is noticed in not quite as good a hold for me, Up front despite my half size up in Speed, the hold is just as good with less pressure than the Carbon X on the big toe,a win for the Speed upper. If you are looking for a super light, super cushioned long run ride the Speed just edges the Carbon X out unless you need more pronounced stability from the Carbon X

Nike Vaporfly Next % (RTR Review)

The Next% has clearly a more race ready yet super comfortable fit, The rear hold is superior even without a heel counter although the toe box is pointier. The PeBa foam in both feels quite similar in its springiness but it seems, even accounting for the carbon plate in the Next, that the Speed's midsole is softer. The Next lands and transitions through the mid foot more decisively and quickly as the heel is firmer and not as wide while the sculpted mid foot side walls really give a sense of getting forward. The Speed is more stable by a bit at the rear while softer. Upfront, the Speed is clearly softer feeling with a much more distinctly felt roll to toe off. If you like the PeBa foam feel of the Next  the Speed can be a be great, let's just say more natural and gentle option, as it has some flex and its nylon plate is more forgiving in feel particularly up front.

Nike Zoom Fly 3 (RTR Review)
At the same price, almost identical stack height but weighing 1.1 oz more the Zoom Fly has React foam with a carbon plate. It is more awkward running and not nearly as pleasant for me from upper to ride. Hands down Speed.

Nike Pegasus Turbo 2 (RTR Review)
The Turbo weighs 0.6 oz less and has a combination of React and Nike's Zoom X flavor of PeBa. It is a lower stack shoe at 28mm /18mm vs the all in 35.5mm / 27.5mm  of the Speed which is clearly more and more softly cushioned.  The Peg Turbo is somewhat more responsive than Speed with a distinct forward flex point whereas the Speed is a more rolling toe off due to combination of Speed Roll geometry, relatively flexible nylon plate and outsole compared to the Peg's stiffer React and outsole combination. The Peg Turbo 2 ride is more "taut" and sharp edged overall closer in feel to the Pro actuallyl vs. a softer more flowing ride of the Speed. The Peg Turbo 2 and Speed have equally superb uppers with the Speed leaning a touch softer and more comfortable for me. My preference is for the more mellow softer smoother ride of the Speed.

The Speed and Shift will have a July 1 release. 
The Pro is expected before but no date has yet been confirmed by Saucony 
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Unknown said...

As someone with a wide foot who will be in the market for a marathon race shoe next spring do you have any recommendations of one so far?

Andy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy said...

A long wait till July

geomaz said...

Hello Sam! Thank you very much for your wonderful review once again!

With a such a high stack-high the endorphin speed, is it a better choise than the triumph 17 due to the softer feeling and higher stack high of its midsole?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi geomaz,
Thanks for kind words!
Yes Speed is on the softer side but is much more oriented to up tempo daily training with the Triumph 17 somewhat more cushioned, bouncier, somewhat more stable considerably heavier and a very fine daily trainer but not as much fun for me as Speed.
Sam, Editor