Monday, May 04, 2020

Saucony Endorphin Pro Multi Tester Review Updated: Contender!

Article by Derek Li, Jacob Brady, Ryan Eiler, Sally Reiley, Michael Ellenberger, Peter Stuart, Jeff Beck and Sam Winebaum

Saucony Endorphin Pro ($200)
Editor's Note: The review is updated with Derek Li's input

Stats
 Samples:    7.5 oz / 221 g US9, 8.8oz/249g (US 12), 8.35 oz / 237 g (US Men’s 10.5)
                     6.7 oz / 190 g W8 (US), US9.5 7.76oz / 220g
Stack Height: 35.5mm heel / 27.5mm forefoot (8 mm drop)
May 2020.  $200. Pre-Order from Saucony here
Pre-Order Women's from Saucony Here

Introduction

Derek: The Endorphin Pro sits at the top of this trio of Endorphin shoes, and was seen on  the feet of the top American pros like Jared Ward, Molly Seidel, and Parker Stinson at the recent Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta. Like all the cool kids these days, it sports a curved carbon plate, and a PEBA-based foam, coined PWRUN+ PB. Spoiler alert: of all the contenders to challenge Nike’s dominance of the marathon racer market, Saucony comes closest!

Ryan:  This is the crown jewel of Saucony’s latest Endorphin line of shoes -- their fastest, most efficient distance shoe to date.  Releasing a shoe of this caliber, at this point in time, was a monumental task for Saucony. Nike has been eating everyone’s lunch with their Vaporfly/Alphafly, and other big running names find themselves with no choice but to try and parry Nike’s move.  


With expectations so high, there is ample room to fail and perhaps sacrifice some brand credibility as a ‘serious’ running shoe company.  The biggest question surrounding this shoe is: will it feel like a panicked Nike knockoff/replica of the Vaporfly, or will it be a respectable contender, highly engineered by Saucony’s best brains?  Saucony tells a thickly woven story of how this shoe came to be; claiming that their elite athletes have been testing prototypes since at least late-2018. Many in the running world, myself included, are eager to find out if this shoe can bridge the chasm up to Nike’s record-setting offering.

Conceptually, this is very similar to what Nike has done -- sandwich a stiff, lightweight plate between a huge slab of high energy PEBA foam midsole (called PWRUN PB), and witness some remarkable results.  But while theory and practice are the same in theory, they aren’t always in practice. Full disclosure: I’m hoping that Nike has a new competitor here.
Jacob: The Endorphin Pro is Saucony’s highly-anticipated graphite polymer-plated (colloquially “carbon-plated”), top-of-the-line distance racing shoe. Like others in the class, such as the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly, Brooks Hyperion Elite, and Hoka Carbon X, the Endorphin Pro is high-stack with a cushioned ride, energetic foam, and full-length “carbon” plate.  Information about the Endorphin Pro has been available since early December 2019, but its official release date of April 15th as well as the availability for testing is exciting after months of anticipation. I’ve been impressed with all of Saucony’s recent releases, having personally tested the Peregrine 10 and Freedom 3 (both which I kept in my rotation after testing), and as others in the RTR team said great things about the Xodus 10 and Triumph 17.  


The Endorphin Pro is one of three shoes in the new Endorphin series (Pro, Speed, Shift), all high-stack shoes which use Saucony’s new “SpeedRoll” geometry.  According to Saucony SpeedRoll works off two variables: elevated cushioning and a stiff forefoot leading to a responsive forward momentum ride. The Pro is the racer model, sporting a rigid graphite polymer plate, snugger race-fit, and a no-frills lightweight design. 
The Endorphin Speed ($160) only differs from the Pro in having a more flexible  nylon plate vs. the graphite polymer Pro plate a somewhat plusher roomier upper with a full heel counter, the Pro having none. The PWRUN PB PEBA midsole, stack and outsole are the same. Speed weighs a mere 0.3 oz/ 8.5 g more at 7.8 oz and can be thought of as the faster training somewhat more relaxed and softer (less stiff plate) riding companion to the Pro. It releases July 2020. Watch our A/B one on each foot (Speed and Pro) run comparison review here


The Endorphin Shift ($140)  (RTR initial review) is the heavy duty, big daily mileage daily trainer and recovery shoe in the line up. It has a massive 38mm heel /34 mm forefoot full stack with a PWRUN midsole, a TPU/EVA blend so denser and heavier than the PB PEBA midsole. Stable, protective and sharing the Speed Roll and a stiff rocker in its case due to the midsole alone as there is no plate. it weighs a reasonable 10.4 oz / 295g and releases July 2020.


I received the Pro for testing right after the 2020 Olympic trials where Molly Seidel wore the Endorphin Pro to finish second in her first ever marathon. Seidel was among 12 athletes to wear the shoe in the marathon trials, making it the seventh most worn shoe in the event. 


The RTR team has been testing a lot of plated shoes recently and for the marathon, the Vaporfly NEXT% has remained on top. After the too thin for the marathon Skechers Speed Elite Hyper and underwhelmingly firm for me Brooks Hyperion Elite, the Endorphin Pro was one of the last two (the other being the New Balance RC Elite) shoes on the horizon that could contend with the industry-leading NEXT%, so I was eager to see how they performed, especially in comparison to the NEXT%.
Michael: Here we are - Saucony’s flagship, the one many of us have been waiting for. In the wake of Nike’s Vaporfly 4%, Next%, and eventual AlphaFly models, most major running shoe brands rushed to execute their version of a top-of-the-line, carbon-plated racer. Hoka got there early (Carbon Rocket, and soon thereafter, Carbon X), but many of the other big players - Brooks, Saucony, ASICS, New Balance - took their time. 


Finally, the Endorphin Pro (along with its related Speed and Shift brethren) is here. Aesthetically, it stands out from the competition. Materially, Saucony has fine-tuned not only the plate, but the midsole foam for optimum output. In price, it reaches heights only Nike has touched. And in performance? Saucony has done something undoubtedly special. Is it a Nike-killer? A marathon must-have? Let’s break it down in detail. 


And please - check out the Comparisons section at the bottom; as more and more high-end racers come to market (and threaten our collective wallets!) it’s important to know how one stacks against another. 


Sam: I was most curious to see how the Pro compared to the various generations of Vaporfly and the Brooks Hyperion Elite. As I had already run some in the Shift and Speed I also wanted to see how the Speed Roll translated to a carbon plated shoe.


Jeff:
I tend to have a pronounced Saucony bias. Their Triumph 17 was my favorite shoe of last year, the Triumph 11 will always hold a spot in my heart, and the Kinvara reinvigorated (and all but invented) the lightweight but still very runnable trainer. And long last we’ve got their halo model - would it live up to the years of hype? Or more importantly, live up to the gold standard Nike Vaporfly? Yup and...well, keep reading.


Pros:

Derek: dynamic bouncy rockered ride, good cushioning to weight ratio

Jacob/Sally/Hope: Smooth, fluid ride
Jacob/Sam/Hope: Springy and energetic but balanced and not overly soft
Jacob/Sally/Hope: Conducive to running fast
Jacob/Sam/Ryan/Sally: Stable, consistent, and easy to lock in to a pace
Sally/Sam: Stiff but with a very natural forward roll and toe off for smooth ride
Ryan:  High performance, efficient midsole
Ryan:  Reduces muscle fatigue
Michael/Hope: Plate is great - and the midsole is better.
Michael/Hope: The upper construction fit and locked my foot perfectly. 
Peter: Great upper, smooth ride, nice bounce.
Jeff: Fast midsole/plate, solid traction in the wet, upper doesn’t overdo it, more race inspired than competitors.

Cons:

Derek: heel slippage is an issue but can be eliminated with heel lock lacing. 

Jacob/Sam/Sally: Ride isn’t as dramatically effortless or cushioned as competitors (Nike Vaporfly, NB FuelCell TC) 
Michael/Sally/Sam: Slightly too stiff 
Sam/Jacob: not as forgiving and easy as Vaporfly or Next%
Jacob/Sally: Top-of-foot pressure; lace tightness is hard to get right
Michael/Sam: No “trampoline” effect
Jacob: Very stiff, not comfortable
Sam: harsh heel feel from plate on steeper downhills
Peter: No major issues
Jeff/Hope: More race inspired than competitors, upper may be too stripped down.


Read  Reviewer Bios and Tester Profiles here



First Impressions and Fit

Derek: The initial step-in feel for this shoe was excellent. The upper is very pliant and comfortable, and the soft, unstructured fit allows the lace tension to do its things and give you a solid wrap around the midfoot. Fit is true to size, and width is just right across the board, neither overly narrow or wide, and should fit a wide range of feet fairly well. The white upper is really sharp looks even better in person than in the photos. Walking around, the underfoot feel is actually pretty indistinguishable from the Endorphin Speed, that is to say, there is a subtle bounce and noticeable forefoot rocker to the shoe. So far so good! 


Jacob: The Endorphin Pro comes in a model-specific box, more understated than the NEXT% (which comes with it’s own bag), but still branded with “Endorphin Pro”. Oddly, the first thing I noticed upon opening the box was a strong chemical smell which dissipated quickly from the shoes but was never entirely gone. The Endorphin Pro comes with white laces installed though a pair of the same laces in neon yellow are included as well (I switched to these for fun). I love the styling of the Endorphin Pro and Endorphin series overall.


In hand, the Pro is rigid (no flex at all) and lightweight (though not exceptionally so ) with a thin, unstructured, race-weight upper, firm outsole, soft and airy midsole. The feel of the midsole to the touch is very reminiscent of Nike ZoomX, which isn’t surprising as they are both made of PEBA. As for the geometry, the outsole is flat and consistent, nothing new going on there, and aside from a bit of toe flare/rocker, the Pro isn’t a rockered shoe overall.
On the foot, the Pro feels lighter than it did in hand. The fit is free-feeling but definitely race-focused with a narrower toe box. On first lace-up, it isn’t comfortable or plush, but the materials are soft and high quality and the sizing is spot on. There isn’t any sort of heel counter or much structure in the upper overall but the sockliner is highly molded and provides good additional support in the heel and arch. The feeling underfoot is firmer than expected given how the PEBA midsole felt in hand (and compared to the 4%/NEXT%). There is plenty of give and I can immediately feel the high stack and how lively (ready to burst) the foam feels just standing around. However, given the PEBA midsole and stack height I expected the Pro to feel softer. Though I wouldn’t immediately describe the midsole feel as soft, it definitely is on the soft side and the slightly less softness makes it feel more controlled and stable, which is another difference with the more extreme 4%/NEXT%.
Sam: Beautiful aesthetics the white upper contrasting with lime green laces and outsole, black and greenish blue midsole, and a mellow neon orange. Says speed and distinctive but in a cheery way.  Even the outsole is color coordinated with the rest of the shoe, a nice touch. And to top it all off all three Endorphin share a similar color plate unifying the collection cohesively.
My test pair was half size up from my normal and with thicker socks fits just right. There is plenty of racing worthy but very comfortable hold from the thin pliable but relatively dense engineered mesh with plenty of ventilation.  


Ryan:  These look sleek and elegant as soon as you open the lid.  Bright white and clearly Saucony, the aesthetics are bold but not overdone -- as if they know that as soon as you step in, you’ll understand.  In the same way that every square inch of a Boeing plane has a deliberate purpose, so too does every bit of this shoe. There isn’t a gram of foam wasted, the sockliner is nicely cut and neatly arranged inside, a single stitch of thread runs up the tongue for structure, and the upper is bolstered very strategically.   The front of the toe sits high enough up to look like the nose of a cigarette boat out of the water, clearly intended to handle aggressive strides. While a thumb press into the soft but sturdy midsole hints at its energy-return capabilities, trying to bend the shoe along its length is very difficult -- the molded-in carbon plate is no joke.  Rubber underfoot is unsurprisingly thin, and compensates by being a touch harder than average. These have a faint chemical scent right out of the box (probably a result of the pelletized PEBA molding process), but it dissipates quicker than that of a bagged memory foam mattress.
As soon as you stand up, you feel what you paid for.  There is a distinctive squish to this high performance foam that isn’t like any traditional foam, and they feel as light as you could realistically expect a marathon shoe to be.  I’ve only sat inside a (stationary) Ferrari once in my life, but the whiff of refined performance was the same in that car as it is with these shoes.


Michael: Largely, I think the major manufacturers - Brooks, Saucony, Hoka - have done a great job making aesthetically pleasing shoes, but the vibrant colors against the stiff white really makes the Endorphin Pro stand out. I tend to be partial to the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit in the “best looking” racer category, but Saucony may have taken the crown here (of course, those rankings also have the AlphaFly in last place, but the results speak for themselves).


Setting aside appearances, the overall composition of the Endorphin Pro (or “Pro” for when I get lazier as this goes on) is extremely impressive. The upper is lightweight but solid, the midsole materials and density just ooze quality (and speed!) and you can’t help but notice that springiness when you try on the shoe. A small note - my review pair was a women’s 10 (compared to my usual men’s 8.5), but it’s my understanding the shoes are identical. You’re going to try this shoe on and immediately want to get out the door and run. So I did just that.
Sally: There are many great shoes coming out in 2020, so it takes a very special shoe to stand out. This. one. stands. out. I was impressed and awed at first sight: Saucony has hit it out of the park with an attractive shoe that suggests no nonsense comfort and speed all in one. I love the white upper with the neon accents, and so did my 20-something daughters - a true test of a shoe’s appeal. 


The shoe fit comfortably right out of the box, with a fairly wide midfoot and toe box that should be able to accommodate wider feet (mine are narrow). I initially thought TTS (US W8), but after 5-6 miles I concluded that they actually seem to run a bit short - I was experiencing a bit of a rub at the front of the big toe. Perhaps more secure lacing at the midfoot can help this? I also struggled to a small degree (nothing like the Nike Infinity React!) with heel lift, so I need to finetune my lacing a bit more. The fit is comfortably firm with just enough cushion underfoot, and the forward roll of the rocker is quite pronounced.


Peter: yup, they look and feel great. I was worried they would feel too stiff. I tried the Speed and the Pro on at The Running Event and preferred the feel, fit and bounce of the Speed. It’s almost as if those shoes were mis-labeled though. These felt springy and, to me, softer and smoother than the Speed. 


Jeff: The name of the colorway is White Mutant, and it’s the best looking one of those since Warren Worthington III (yup, we’re starting off with an X-Men reference from the mid 1980s). The balance of bright bright colors and plain white works - but not nearly as well as midsole/plate combination. While the fit is true-to-size, I was taken aback at how firm, yet cushioned, the midsole felt. I’ve been putting a lot of miles in the New Balance Fuel Cell TC, which also has a carbon plate running through it, but the Endorphin Pro feels completely different. More serious, more single purpose.


Upper

Derek: This upper is very comfortable and practically seamless inside. The material, a thin engineered mesh, is very pliant and breathable, and the only structure you get from it is from the logo overlay, and several strips of laminates mainly around the heel. There is a soft internal toe bumper up front to hold up the toe box, and that’s about it. Very simple, yet efficient, lightweight and effective. The tongue is a gusseted design and works very well, eliminating any chance of tongue movement during runs. 

If there is an Achilles heel to this upper, I would have to go with the heel. They have gone with the rear flare that was popularized by Nike, purportedly to reduce friction on the Achilles tendon. One consequence of this is a tendency to allow heel slippage in people with narrow heels. For me, with traditional lacing, I do notice some heel slippage. With a heel lock lacing method, this issue is eliminated. The stock laces are long enough to support this, so again it’s a minor issue for me. I personally would have preferred a conventional heel counter for this shoe. 

Contrast all this with the Endorphin Speed, which uses a more conventional heel with rigid heel counter, and you have your pick of options depending on what you prefer. I will say this: I would not hesitate to race sockless for shorter distances in the Pro, but I would hesitate to do so in the Speed as there are some firmer elements in the upper that I would want some sock between my skin and the upper. 


Jacob: The Endorphin Pro upper is composed of a single piece of a thin, soft, static, single-layer engineered mesh with perforations for ventilation across the whole upper. The mesh itself is quite floppy but the Saucony logo, toe bumper, inner mesh layer in the heel, and heavily molded removable sockliner provide structure and the upper holds its shape well while still being thin and minimal. 
The design is simple but elegant with no unnecessary material and a high-quality feel.
The tongue is also a single piece of thin mesh—softer and stretchier than the upper mesh—but not flimsy. It is attached to the midsole on both sides near the top of the tongue which keeps it from migrating and creates a bootie-like fit around the heel. 


The laces are flat and wide and pull smoothly and lay flat easily due to the well-sized eyelets, but I’ve been having a hard time dialing in the tightness without experiencing uncomfortable pressure on the top of my foot. The very stiff midsole and static upper don’t provide a lot of room for movement and after lacing too tightly on my first run I was left with some unfortunate lasting (for over a week) foot soreness. On subsequent runs I started lacing on the loose side to be safe which doesn’t seem to detrimentally decrease security, but before a race I’d leave time for a few re-laces in warm-up to ensure the precise, snug racing fit the upper can provide.


The feel of the Pro on the foot changed significantly throughout my first 10-20mi in them. On my first two runs they felt too stiff and a bit too narrow, even more so than needed for a secure fit. After a bit, they felt wider with less pressure on the outsides of my feet and softer overall, both around and below the foot.


Ryan:  The bright white engineered mesh is perfect for this shoe -- it has just the right amount of ventilation, but is inelastic enough to hold your foot securely in place.  They’ve included some extra support along the perimeter of the midsole, giving it an impressive amount of structure for such a race-oriented shoe. In contrast to some other gram-shaving racers I’ve used, these don’t tend to collapse down into a puddle as soon as you take your foot out.
The tongue uses a ‘semi-gusseted’ design to wrap around only the sides of the foot, and attaches to the rest of the midsole.  This keeps weight down, ventilation high, and prevents the tongue from wanting to fold or bunch up, as many minimalist racing tongues are wont to do.  The laces (both white and yellow are included) are typical of a thin, light racing lace, but as long as I kept them untwisted over the bridge of my foot, I didn’t experience any issues with pinching or hotspots.


Support around the heel felt great, and I wouldn’t request any more structure than they’ve provided here.  The extra bit of padding around the achilles goes a long way toward keeping the heel quiet.


All in all, this is a very refined and well made upper which went delightfully unnoticed at any speed.


Michael: I’m a big fan of what Saucony’s done here, with some caveats (and I’ll also add, as a non-scoring element, providing 2 different colors of laces is a great touch). Let’s start with the bad, because I think you’ve been reading a lot of good - for one, relatively small point, the laces I had literally started to fray after one use. I don’t know if it was a manufacturing error, or what, but I took a lighter to a couple rough spots and haven’t noticed that to be an issue since - but it’s out there. Another knock? I found the shoe a little narrow - but, because I was in a women’s 10, it may have been a different last (the width, B versus D, was not marked). I’m not talking Hoka One One Mach 3 narrow (who expected that shoe to get a shoutout in this review?), but narrow enough that it caused mild discomfort at the end of a treadmill workout (where my feet tend to get hotter, anyway). The tongue is also (slightly!) too long. Slightly.


There’s the (limited!) bad - let’s get to the good. This upper can breathe! It’s an extremely smart design, I think, with the gusseted tongue and integrated bootie construction that allows Saucony to use such a light and overlay-free mesh without risking any instability that might come from the upper alone. The creation is not only a snug and form-fitting upper, but also one that feels extremely light on-foot. The mesh itself is floppy - you’ll notice that right away - but because of the way all the elements come together, I didn’t find it problematic whatsoever. 
Sally: This upper works really well for me, and looks good in the process. The breathability was very apparent on a cold New England morning, and should be a real bonus for warm weather running (and racing Boston in September!). The tongue stays in place, and the laces (two colors provided!) stay tied. The hold is secure, once one figures out the correct lacing tension for their particular foot. I had some heel lift and upper foot tension at first, but remedied that with lace adjustments.
Peter: I’m the color commentary here--This is a terrific upper. It looks good, it fits well, it does it’s job. The materials are great and I have had no issues with fit whatsoever. 


Jeff: I’m with Peter, no need to reiterate the very comprehensive breakdown above - but I will pile on to say it is incredibly breathable, and surprisingly minimal. There’s no part of this upper that will get in your way. I’d agree with Michael, the second set of lace inclusion is a nice touch. Also, the tongue is as thin as it can get, so you need to be aware of that as you cinch them up. And you may have to really cinch them up. I went back and forth between using a runner’s loop and not in order to really achieve heel lockdown, I felt like I was getting a lot of slip. But it turned out I just needed to crank the laces down some more and they stayed put. Lastly, the toebox. It’s ...fine. Not massive or even oversized, but it isn’t cramped either. Wider than the Hoka Carbon X, narrower than the VF4% or Next%. It reminds me quite a bit of the Kinvara 4 or 5. If you have a wide foot, it could be problematic, but most runners won’t have issues.


Sam: A great race shoe upper. Light, secure, breathable. I only missed the lack of a heel counter walking around and a touch on steep downhills The thin flat laces and completely un padded minimal bootie tongue caused a touch of “anxiety” at lace up by I  learned to just lace them up with moderate tension and on the run everything worked just fine.
As with all new Saucony we have the brand’s Form Fit 3D shaping of footbed, sidewalls, and sockliner with removable sockliner here very light but contoured to the foot and substantial. And as with the rest of the shoe perfectly color coordinated!


Midsole

Derek: PEBA based foams are the gold standard when it comes to energy return. Saucony’s PWRUN+ PB foam does not disappoint, and while it is not as soft as Nike’s ZoomX, there is a definite bounce to the foam that is noticeable even when walking around. In the Endorphin Pro, like the Speed, this is a single density foam, and the geometry of the foam is identical to that seen in the Endorphin Speed. There is a fairly pronounced forefoot rocker to the design, which Saucony calls SpeedRoll, and some inherent stability is incorporated by means of raised midsole sidewalls at mid-foot though this is fairly unobtrusive, as the softer unstructured upper prevents any undue pressure spots from affecting comfort. Contrast this to what I mentioned in the midsole assessment of the Endorphin Speed. 

One might notice that pellet-like appearance of the midsole, which I am sure will remind a lot of people of Boost foam. Compared to the early prototypes spotting on Jared ward and Parker Stinson, this is quite different. It has since been revealed that it was a deliberate move by Saucony, as they found that a pellet structure helped prolong the durability of the midsole to be on par with most conventional foams, while as a continuous slab of foam, PWRUN+ PB tended to lose its bounce relatively quickly. 

Unlike the Endorphin Speed, the Pro sports a carbon plate embedded in the midsole, which is a bit stiffer and more propulsive, and also presumably lighter (the main reason many sports have turned to carbon composites as the material of choice e.g. cycling, sailing, rowing). Unlike in the Speed, I do not notice the flex of the plate at all in the Pro, and the main sensation during fast running, is the forward roll of the shoe coupled with the subtle bounce of the PWRUN+ PB foam.

Overall, I like how this foam performs over fast paces. It is bouncy without bottoming out, and has very good vibration dampening properties. The Speed Roll works well to keep things turning over, and the plate serves to strengthen the long axis rigidity of the shoe and preserve the Speed Roll, while also giving you that extra pop at race paces. The design works very well at fast paces, at slower paces, the shoe feels overly stiff for me, so I would probably not want to use it extensively for easy/medium pace runs as the stiffness makes the ride a bit awkward. 


Jacob: The Endorphin Pro uses Saucony’s PWRUN PB foam, a new PEBA midsole material used only in the Endorphin Pro and Speed, and a full-length graphite polymer (a.k.a. “carbon”) plate. PEBA is a lightweight (up to 20% lighter than TPU midsoles), low-density, flexible, high energy return elastomer.  Commonly known as “Pebax” this foam from various different suppliers is used on a small number of running shoes most notably for the midsole of the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly series and in the Peg Turbo (partially) as well as in the Reebok Floatride Run Fast and Run Fast Pro. 


Here the PWRUN PB PEBA foam is in an expanded bead form similar in appearance to TPU based Boost but far lighter and with different ride characteristics..
The Endorphin Pro midsole is largely flat and touches the ground from the heel to the balls of the foot where it then curves up slightly to the toe. As the shoe has no flex due to the plate, the curve at the toe encourages a roll of the toe, though the sensation is different than a classic high-rocker shoe. This effect is part of Saucony’s new “SpeedRoll” geometry, which is subtle but effective in providing a smooth and quick ride and feels fluid and “natural” rather than aggressive. It reminds me of the ASICS EvoRide toe rocker though is less extreme but more enforced by the rigid plate.


The midsole foam feels soft to the touch and is overall quite cushioned with the very high (35.5/27.5mm) stack, but on foot it is initially firmer than expected and not a super-soft, sink-in foam. The carbon plate makes the midsole very rigid and also quite stable—there is absolutely no tippy-ness even in the heel and I surprisingly don’t notice the high stack. The compression when leaning onto the heel or running down steep hills isn’t dramatic unlike in high-stack plated shoes such as the FuelCell TC and Vaporfly 4%/NEXT% where the heel feels super soft. Though stiff, the Endorphin Pro midsole is quite lively, springy, and quick to rebound. It feels fast and balances reactiveness with cushion quite well, being more on the reactive side with a good level of firmness but still soft and protective. I wish the midsole was a bit softer for comfort while descending and to make the ride more forgiving, but it’s a well-done, stable racing midsole and protective enough for any distance.


Ryan:   Let me translate their “SpeedRoll” technology into practical terms: as soon as you begin to lean toward the toe, the midsole highly encourages you to continue to roll all the way to toe-off position.  In other words, these provide the opposite of a ‘flat’ ride, and it’s one of the many things I love about this shoe. With the toe curving up so distinctly, it feels like the midsole/outsole are perfectly situated to propel you forward at the moment of push-off.  To be fair, with a shoe this stiff it probably would have put a lot of strain on the arch of the foot, had they made this a flatter shoe. From the ball of the foot on back, the rest of the midsole has a relatively standard geometry.
The PEBA midsole is very similar to that of Nike’s Vaporfly; formed by blowing small, pelletized beads around the carbon plate, and heating the beads so that they expand into the desired shape.  This is probably a significant factor in driving up the manufacturing cost of these. I definitely noticed the tall stack height at first, but they somehow control their trampolining effect very well and feel stable at all speeds.


At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I’ll say it: coming across this shoe reminded me a bit of the day that I traded in my Blackberry for my first iPhone (largely because of the midsole) -- it’s a leap forward, not a step.  Seldom does the material science world come along and provide us an ‘improved’ compound without it having some sort of significant drawback. But here’s an exception to the norm. Ok, so the foam provides better energy giveback, but is it heavier?  No. Is it harsher? No, actually more forgiving. If companies can figure out how to make reinforced PEBA foam midsoles at an economical price point… EVA might get lonely pretty quickly.


With the caveat that I’ve never worn the Vaporfly, I’m willing to say that this is the most confidence inspiring midsole I’ve ever experienced.


Michael: As noted above, Saucony brought in a novel PWRUN PB foam, which is a PEBA-based material. Visually, it looks like PWRRUN+ from the recent Triumph 17, or (to those who are more familiar with Adidas), largely like Boost. It’s great in a lot of ways - it’s cushioned enough to last 26.2 for most runners, it seems durable (I haven’t taken the shoe to exhaustion, to be sure), and it really does give you some energy return in a way that an “average” (or even above average) midsole does not. What it doesn’t have is that pure “trampoline” sensation that Nike has baked into the ZoomX onboard the Next%. I don’t know that you need that - I’m hesitant to say the Saucony is worse-off because it doesn’t feel that way - but just know that while the midsole here is cushioned and responsive simultaneously, it isn’t quite as springy as ZoomX.
Saucony has also worked in this new “Speed Roll” tech into all 3 of the Endorphin shoes, and it’s basically… just that! You feel a roll (even in the review-forthcoming Endorphin Shift) when you reach the toe-off, and it propels you forward. In the Shift, it’s actually a little jarring, because you expect a heavy, cushion-based trainer to feel flat when toeing off. In the Pro, in combination with the plate design, it’s a really fulfilling sensation. While I have really enjoyed Skechers and Brooks recent offerings, I think the PWRRUN PB + carbon plate + Speedroll equation is the most Vaporflyesque offering on the market. Not to say it’s the best - we’ll discuss more in the Ride and Comparison sections - but it really does mimic that falling-forward sensation that we’ve come to expect from marathon racers.


Peter: I haven’t been a huge fan of PWRUN (as found in the Kinvara 11) or the EVERUN. They are  fine, but haven’t wowed me at all. Lately Saucony shoes have left me feeling a bit flat--and I feel like it’s midsole related. This is dope though. The combination of the softer foam with a plate makes for a great feeling shoe. It doesn’t have the inherent instability of the VaporFly--and it has a lot of bounce and an oh so smooth ride. 


Sally: Peter said it well: this shoe is Dope. The PWRUN+ PB midsole combined with the speedroll makes for a fun, SMOOTH, and upbeat ride! 


Jeff: I’ve been lucky enough to test the PWRUN in the Peregrine 10 and the PWRUN+ in the Triumph 17, and I’ve enjoyed both. This is different though. This midsole looks like Boost, but runs differently than any of the “Super” midsole materials on the market. It has an inherent firmness that the ZoomX in any of the Nike Vaporfly variants stays away from. But, it isn’t firm in a way that beats you up, more just to tell you that you should keep pushing pace. Of the new school carbon plated race shoes, this is the one that feels the most like a racing flat of a couple years ago. None of the super soft and potentially unstable feeling underfoot - just dialed in and springy midsole that’s pretty lightweight. 


Sam: The others have covered the midsole well. The combination of the PB midsole foam, S-Curve shaped graphite polymer plate, and stabilizing outsole design create a very well cushioned, springy, stable,and propulsive platform with a more distinctive final toe off roll impulse than the competition. Pro is neither pillowy and disconnected in feel or overly stiff, firm or dense. The feel is balanced and more natural than the competition while highly propulsive.


Outsole

Derek: Outsole durability as others note, is excellent, despite the large areas of exposed midsole in the shoe. Grip, as in the Speed which has the same outsole, is excellent on both wet and dry surfaces, and is very confidence inspiring when taking corners at race speeds.  

I think compared to the Endorphin Shift, those extra bits of rubber across the forefoot make a lot of difference on wet surfaces. 


Jacob: The outsole is composed of a thin layer of moderately firm carbon rubber. Coverage is fairly comprehensive with rubber covering most of the forefoot, the full perimeter of the shoe, and the high-wear lateral heel. 
There is exposed midsole through the midfoot but it is slightly below the perimeter outsole so all ground-contact areas are covered by the rubber. The compound has superb grip on clean asphalt, packed dirt paths, and sandy streets. It rides smooth with good response and is quick to pop off the ground—not sticky despite the great, almost tacky feeling grip. Though thin, the outsole is abrasion-resistant and does not show significant wear after my first four runs (20-30mi). Durable, great traction, snappy ride—a top-notch outsole.
Ryan:  Racing outsoles have minimal rubber -- there just aren’t two ways about it.  Some inspire confidence by doing their jobs quietly, while others constantly remind you that there have been trade-offs made.  This outsole falls into the former category with its thoughtfully constructed layout.  


While there is a solid expanse of PEBA foam exposed from the middle of the foot back to the rear of the shoe (jury is out on foam abrasion resistance), there is plenty of rubber at the forefoot, and an adequate amount on the lateral side of the heel.  Traction was surprisingly high, even on the loopy stretches of asphalt I use for tempo runs.


Michael: This is pretty much exactly what I want in a marathon racer outsole - it has rubber coverings everywhere you need it (and finally - a racer with some depth to its rubber!) and none where you don’t. I had no slipping concerns whatsoever (and, I quite like the visual element of the forward arrows in the black rubber, which is on the Shift and Speed as well - really sharp).
Peter: The outsole does its job, holds the road and provides plenty of traction. Again, I feel like the folks at Saucony got this just right. 


Sally: In my book, a shoe’s outsole is a success if it fails to get my attention. This one excels: it is quiet, grippy, and doesn’t collect stones. Plus it looks cool. Perfection!
Jeff: Rubber where you need it, none where you don’t, the outsole does exactly what it needs to. My first run in this shoe was 7 miles during a storm that couldn’t decide if it wanted to lightly mist or just dump - and the outsole never gave me a second of uncertainty. Tons of wet grip, so if the weather turns nasty on your goal marathon (when goal marathons come back) you don’t need to second guess what you’ll be wearing.


Sam: Plenty of rubber in all the right places here. The rubber is thin and quite firm. Durability so far has been excellent. 
By rimming the entire midsole with rubber it seems clear the outsole design also contributes to the shoe’s very good stability given the high stack


Ride

Derek: I mainly used this shoe for speed work and hard tempo efforts. So far, it has just blown me away and I  have enjoyed a small warm weather 10km PB (35:53) in the shoe during a solo time trial, which surprised me; before the run, I would have been happy with anything under 37 minutes, and I didn’t dare to look at my watch until after the 2 mile mark and was pleasantly surprised to see 5:50 mile pace.

So with that in mind, my verdict of the ride of the shoe is nothing short of amazing. You really want to lean into the pace with this shoe and it really has you rolling forward and trying to get as much propulsion out of each stride as possible. The underfoot feel is not soft, but you definitely don’t feel the harshness of the ground, and you really are just bouncing along at a very efficient smooth clip. As mentioned above, the ride tends to be a bit awkward at slower paces as the shoe just does not flex through the toe area at all, but that’s fine. This shoe is designed to go fast, with the upper just disappearing on you when you are racing. I’d say Saucony hit it out of the park with this one.  


Jacob: Many of my most-enjoyed and most-run shoes of recent years (Nike Zoom Fly FK, New Balance FuelCell TC, Nike Vaporfly 4% FK) have been high-stack carbon-plated shoes. This category of shoe has the potential to be cushioned, smooth and effortless-feeling, and easy to run fast in. For the most part, the Endorphin Pro fits all these descriptions, however its feel is closer to a traditional (firm, low-stack) racer and less dramatic than expected and than others in that realm.
The Endorphin Pro is very stiff and thus feels a bit unforgiving and firm, though the cushion is ample and bottomless, so it’s an interesting combination. The midsole rebound characteristics are awesome—definitely high energy, springy and fast rather than sinky and bouncy, and quick to pop off the ground and roll into the next stride. Since the shoe is so rigid it is very stable and controlled, feeling much lower to the ground than it is. The SpeedRoll toe flare is not dramatic and though notable in encouraging a quick and efficient toe-off, it doesn’t feel like the shoe is bouncing me forward or “running for me” as much as the NB TC or Vaporfly. This has the positive of feeling more natural and requiring less thought and altered form to run in the shoe, but it doesn’t make it feel as epic. I think it feels more reactive and connected to the ground than all other shoes of this stack height and relatedly feels like a better choice for shorter (10k, 5k) races than other carbon-plated marathon-ready shoes. 


Overall, the ride is unique: protected and smooth from the high stack of soft foam, but very energetic and quick from the PEBA rebound characteristics and rigid plate. It’s rigidity along with the snug fit puts the ride on the less forgiving side and it is not enjoyable at slower paces. The ride is a bit uncomfortable on descents as well, it’s not a good downhill bomber like the TC and Vaporfly (and many high-stack shoes, with or without a plate), but the stiffness makes it feel locked-in and easy to run on uphills (I really like it for ascending) and flats at speed. I think it feels the best from just slower than marathon pace to anything faster where it is pleasantly springy, reactive, and easy to run fast in.


Ryan:  The ride on these rockets is efficiency at its finest.  While the foam dampens the effect of asphalt reverberating up through your muscles, it manages to return seemingly every ounce of energy you put into it.  The ‘trampolining’ effect that people speak of is not a hoax, and is definitely the best way to describe the predominant sensation in these. Compressing the midsole feels the way that bungee jumping looks: you are elastically brought to a halt, only to be launched back upward with nearly the same amount of vigor that you came down with.  And it’s all done in a controlled way, so as to avoid tearing your body to pieces. Despite my awareness of others claiming that this midsole lessens muscle fatigue, I’m confident that this is indeed the case, and not some placebo effect, after my experience wearing these for 13 miles at marathon pace.


I’m in agreement with Jacob’s observation that these still manage to feel connected to the ground, despite the abundance of foam underfoot.  There are other tall-stacked shoes out there (like the Asics NovaBlast we reviewed) which also provide an uber-forgiving foot strike, but they aren’t as well behaved as these Endorphin Pros.  I think the stability plate deserves a lot of the credit as the component which chaperones the endless energy of the foam surrounding it.  Less apparent, but still worth mentioning, it felt like the plate may have minimized strain on smaller stabilizer muscles in the foot by solidifying the shape of the footbed.  Several other shoes I’ve worn with similarly-low density foam, but which lacked a stability plate, have given me a minor feeling that my mid and forefoot was working a bit extra to handle the additional bounce.


As a package, it all fits together seamlessly -- the heel strike is so hospitable, midfoot transition is stiff and energetic, and Speedroll works its magic to see you off with powerful propulsion.  Once again, I find it hard to nitpick.


Michael: Let’s get to it. The Endorphin Pro can rip. It’s such a shame that spring races are cancelled (and summer races are in doubt), because this is a shoe I would absolutely love to race over 13.1 or 26.2. It isn’t quite as aggressive as the Speed Elite from Skechers (which I think slots well into the 10 mile/HM category well), but I think that, in turn, makes it a slightly better overall shoe, because I feel more comfortable breaking it out for 15 or 20 mile marathon workouts (whereas I’m a little protective of my calves and hesitate to do the same in the Skechers). Relative to the Hyperion Elite, it’s a softer, dampened ride, with a little less noticeable carbon plate/roll, but probably similar in terms of use case. I’ve worn the Hyperion Elite on 15+ mile runs without issue, and think the Endorphin Pro can do the same. Especially without races in the immediate forecast, I think the Saucony looks like a good buy for those “get after it” workouts that will be increasingly common if the race calendar stays clear.


The ride itself is, as described above, a clean one. The midsole, when compressed, is reactive back and you get some definite “pop” upwards. Coupled with a carbon-plate and Speedroll momentum (and an upper that locks you in place), you’re going to want to move fast in these. In fact, the first time I took them out of the box and did strides (which I detest, owing to lack of leg speed), I did extra strides because of how much I enjoyed the sensation. It’s a fun and engaging ride. It is, though slightly fatiguing - those not used to a forefoot strike but now Speedrolling their way into that form may experience some new soreness (as with many of the carbon plate racers). In this case, I think I can unequivocally say it’s worth it.


Peter: The ride is as close to the Nike shoes as I’ve gotten, without some of the instability that’s been problematic for me in those shoes. It’s really fun to run fast in. I’ve done a bunch of fast workouts in them and have had a lot of fun going fast. And while they feel better going fast they feel just fine to me on warmups and cool downs. I haven’t found them to be overly firm (but then again I recently reviewed the Hyperion Elite and THAT IS FIRM!!!). My experience with the Endorphin Pro is that they are fast and efficient while also giving a very cushioned ride. One of my favorite shoes right now for sure. 
Sally: I won’t mince my words: the ride of the Endorphin Pro is fast, fun, smooth, and efficient. The combination of the amazing midsole that absorbs the impact and yet returns all the energy you put in, and the smooth speed roll forward momentum that encourages a natural toe spring makes for a confidence boosting shoe that is sure to put a smile on a runner’s face. I will visualize a start line and a finish line on my spring and summer runs, because these shoes want to race.


Jeff: Bouncy? A little. Springy? Some. Cushioned? Yup. Soft? Not even a little. Saucony made their elite race shoe exactly that - a race shoe. It borrows some design principles from others, but doesn’t go all the way with it. Instead you get a shoe that provides enough protection and gives you just a little bit of pop in a package that feels better the faster you can push. This is the only of the high-stack carbon-plated race shoes I’d consider for something as short as a 5K - the firm-but-cushioned ride makes me think it’d excel there as much as they would a half-to-full marathon. Unlike Peter, I didn’t review the Hyperion Elite, so my firm callout may be different than his - but please don’t take this to mean I’m calling the Endorphin Pro a brick. There’s plenty of cushioning, just no slop.
Sam: The Pro is definitely a race ride but one that doesn’t skimp on cushion, midsole and plate spring, or the sensation that you have a running shoe on, and that somewhere below, all the cushion there is an actual road to run. SpeedRoll plays a big role in making a plated shoe actually roll to toe off instead of bounce straight up and away (Next%)  or drop in at midfoot all the way to the plate and push off (OG Vaporfly or feel flat (Hoka and Brooks). They climb steeper grades better than any other super shoe. Steep downhills are plentifully cushioned and stable enough but the high stack is felt there and occasionally on more uneven terrain and cambered roads but nothing like the wild hang on to your hat feel of the original Vaporfly.  There is a sweet spot or groove to engaging them but a more mellow one than the Vaporfly. I found that if I didn’t lean into them on downhills I had an initial slight vertical spring up at midfoot to overcome before finding the front Speed Roll. Flats were no issues but expect when really tired it might reappear if back on the heels.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Derek They may have actually trounced the Next% with this one, at least for me. The forward roll of the shoe is better than in the Next% with the minor drawback being slight heel slippage with conventional lacing for me. Everything else has been on point, from looks, to ride and durability, to price point. I expect this one to really fly off the shelves. I think especially for people who find ZoomX a bit too unstable, PWRUN+ PB is their answer. 

Derek’s Score 9.67 / 10

Ride 40% 10 Fit 40% 9.2 Looks 10% 9.9 Value 10% 10


Jacob: The Endorphin Pro is not without issues, but overall, it’s a great, decisively fast shoe and a top-tier race-day option. The biggest negative for me is the overly stiff feel and static upper which leads to top-of-foot pressure, a bit more roughness than desired on downhills, and a less forgiving and effortless feel. However, it is a pure racing shoe and the snug upper, though not slipper-like, has great foothold and the rigid plate likely leads to a more stable ride as well as higher efficiency and better-directed rebound, the latter two conducive to running faster and keeping the legs fresh. Also, I want to clarify that the ride isn’t “unforgiving” or “harsh”, it’s just less forgiving than other shoes of a similar stack height or intended purpose (marathon racing). 


For those who prefer a less dramatic, firmer, springy, and stable ride over a softer, sink-in bounce, the Endorphin Pro may be the top choice for an any-distance racer, even over the Vaporfly NEXT%. I think this is especially true on a flatter course or for shorter races. The Endorphin Pro is a capable, modern racer with a consistent cruising ride, high energy return, and fatigue-reducing capabilities. However, my feeling is that the Vaporfly is still ahead in at least the apparent fatigue reduction, effortless speed, and comfort. My test runs have confirmed the Endorphin Pro’s ability to run fast easily and smoothly, but they have not proven the shoe enough overall for me to pick it over the NEXT% for the marathon or half where leg fatigue is a bigger factor. However, I’m planning on racing in the Pro for my next race of 10 miles or shorter just to give them a shot—I have a feeling I’ll like them even more after. Sometimes it takes a hard run and a good result to truly believe in the power of a racing shoe, but the Endorphin Pro has what it takes to be one of the best.
Jacob’s Score: 9/10
Ride: 9.5 (50%) Fit: 8 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style 10 (5%)


Ryan:  The way I see it, this is a package that provides both physical and psychological advantages on race day.  Most folks (including me) can’t afford to burn through $200 racing shoes for their regular runs, but for the occasions when you want to turn the dial to the right, I would argue that these are worth the price.  These are not simply a Vaporfly knockoff -- this is Saucony’s strong, thoroughly engineered message that they won’t be left behind. Their energy conservation inspires longer strides, while the midsole does everything possible to reduce muscle fatigue.


Perhaps these don’t quite have the dramatic level of cushioning that the Vaporfly provides, and some folks may prefer that be willing to spend the extra ~$50 for it.  Personally, I prefer a relatively stiff, stable shoe for hard efforts. For that reason, the intensity of PWRRUN PB foam and its embedded carbon plate leaves me struggling to find criticisms.


I rarely give unadulterated praise like this, but there isn’t a person I wouldn’t recommend this to.  Without question, I will be wearing these for my next marathon. I think Nike has met a legitimate competitor in the distance ‘super shoe’ category.
Ryan’s Score: 9.8/10
Small detraction for attention required during lace-up to avoid uneven pressure points.


Michael: The biggest letdown of the Endorphin Pro, as I alluded to earlier, is that there’s nowhere to test them officially. Indeed, this is a shoe that’s made to go fast, and does so with ease. You’ll feel more comfortable running marathon pace in these than recovery pace, and that’s the point - it’s a darn fast shoe!
Michael’s Score: 9.6/10


Sally: Saucony has succeeded here in producing a shoe that will be on the feet of some of the lead packers in the major marathons (actually, already has been: Molly Seidel, 2nd place in the recent US Olympic Trials Marathon was wearing the Endorphin Pro). It is a joy to push the pace in, as it cushions your foot, absorbs the shock, rebounds with a return of the energy, propels you forward with its SpeedRoll to a natural toe off, and basically encourages speed. The wind had been taken out of my sails after all the recent cancellations of upcoming marathons and races, but this shoe has thankfully given me back a reason to run fast. They like fast; so do I. Let’s go for a run!
Sally’s score:   9.7/10  
A few fractions off for lacing/fit challenges)


Peter: I’m a big fan. I like them better than the Endorphin Speed and I’d definitely consider racing in them--if there were any races. 
Peter’s Score: 9.5/10  
They’re great--but not perfect!--can get a little unstable due to stack height on sharp turns. 


Jeff: The Nike Vaporfly has been the de facto winner since its release, mostly due to a lack of competition. As more companies are releasing their first iteration of high-stack carbon-plated race shoes, we’re seeing a wide variety of angles - do you try to emulate everything Nike has done, or take it a different place? The original Vaporfly 4% was incredible, with a number of caveats. You needed to be okay with a super narrow midfoot and heel, and you needed to be okay with an incredibly soft midsole that might make your ankle turn with any step.


I’m not going to say that the Endorphin Pro dethrones the king, but it does come with less caveats. The narrowest part of the midfoot is nearly 15mm wider than the 4%, and the midsole material isn’t nearly as squishy soft as ZoomX. The result is a shoe that has a little pop to it, maybe a little more muted that  its competitors that have more of a spring in their step, but subtlety can be a good thing. There’s a fluidity with the Endorphin Pro (especially once you get the pace down to sub 7 minutes per mile) that I find better than any of the competitors. This would likely be my choice if I had any upcoming road races - from 5K to 26.2. The lower and firmer ride might leave me a little more beat up in the days after the race, but the inherent stability in the platform would likely yield faster results for me during the race. While the cost is less than other premium race shoes, it’s hard for me to say any shoe with a $200 price tag has 10/10 value.
Jeff’s Score 9.7/10 
Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 10 (30%) Value: 8 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)


Sam: Saucony is for sure in the super shoe podium chase pack and was there with Molly!  This is the first real, “real” also meaning non elite suitable competitor, to the Nike Vaporfly. It is plenty light, plenty cushioned, and plenty dynamic. Saucony talks about a more “natural” feeling gait cycle due to Speed Roll which provides a distinct final toe off impulse to cap off all the PEBA and carbon goodness before and below. And that is what I feel. They look spectacular and fit just as magnificently. I agree with Ryan that the thin laces and thin tongue are a bit anxiety producing at lace up but on the run that part of the upper and the upper itself disappears. 


I have not taken them far enough to determine if they are less “leg saving” than the Nike but believe they will be just as leg saving as the original Vaporfly and maybe a touch less than the Next. These differences, if any, likely only come into play, if they do, at the marathon distance.


The weight difference to the Nike Next is not huge but it is there, close to an ounce or 25g as is what is felt as a touch less midsole softness and silky bounce, I assume the plentiful stabilizing outsole and the more conventional on the ground midsole geometry or maybe the beaded PEBA foam of the Pro contribute to the weight differences.  


That Saucony brought their super shoe in at $200, less than the competition which is commendable but still up there. For less than a marathon (maybe), and certainly a half, and for sure on a hilly course, their dynamic super well cushioned ride, the increased sense of connection to the road, their superior climbing ability, natural feeling roll and decent stability will have them on my feet. An outstanding race shoe and for sure a contender!
Sam’s Score: 9.6/10
Ride: 9.7 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style:10 (5%)


Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review & A/B run comparison video review to Pro)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. This is a really tough comparison. I think both shoes have similar underfoot feels at slower paces, but the Pro has a bit extra snap to it when you get to race efforts and hard tempos. The Speed fit is easier to dial in as the upper is overall more structured, while the Pro with its unstructured fit reminds me a little bit of a Nike Vaporfly OG / Skechers Speed Elite, and you need to find that right balance of lace tension and sock volume to get things just right to shine. I like the Endorphin Speed’s easy fit and overall versatility, but for racing I would definitely lean more towards the Pro. If I could only have one shoe, I would go with the Speed for sure. 

Sam: The Endorphin Speed only really differs in having a less rigid nylon plate vs the stiffer graphite polymer of the Pro. It weighs an insignificant 0.3 oz more at 7.8 oz and has for me a slightly roomier and plusher upper with a real heel counter, something the Pro lacks. It terms of ride the Speed is slightly easier on the legs if less snappy and not the total high cush rocket the Pro is. It climbs steeps better (although Pro has been about the best of carbon super shoes for that for me just behind the FuelCell) , due to its slight flex and is less harsh at the heel on steeper downhills. Intended as the elite uptempo trainer companion to the Pro, it is a little more forgiving. For the rest of us it offers a more versatile choice especially if your budget can only afford one as it can both train and race.
Sally: I am loving both the Endorphin Pro and the Speed, both are smooth and fast. As Sam points out, the Speed has a bit more cushion and is less rigid, and has less of a race shoe fit, as it is designed to be a training shoe. That translates to a more versatile and useful shoe for the average runner - particularly in this unprecedented period of no races. 

Watch Sam's Pro vs Speed A/B Run Comparison Video Review 

Nike Vaporfly Next % (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. I would choose the Endorphin Pro over the Next% for anything 30km and below. For the full marathon, I am sitting right on the fence. On the one hand, psychologically I prefer the softer feel of the Next%, but the Pro actually rolls through more easily for me, and so it feels easier to go fast in the Pro compared to the Next%. If the conditions are technical or wet, no question I would go with the Endorphin Pro. If there are a lot of downhill sections, I might go with the Next% to save my quads a bit more. If it’s a flat course like Berlin, I would probably go with the Endorphin Pro. There I said it! Endorphin Pro > Next%!!

Jacob: Both are top-notch carbon-plated racers with high-stack PEBA midsoles. The NEXT% is softer and bouncier and has a more pronounced forefoot rocker especially off of the toe. The NEXT% has a far more dramatic and higher energy feel overall. The fit of the NEXT% is better for me with a wider toe box though still precise and race ready, and the heel really locks my foot in place. The Endorphin Pro has a softer upper but the shoe feels more rigid and is narrower so I feel more pressure on the top of my foot and outside of my smallest toe. Both are true to size overall. The level of cushioning in the forefoot and general feeling of lightweight springiness is similar in both shoes (likely the PEBA) but the NEXT% definitely has more bounce and the heel is much softer. There is something appealing about the more connected and stable ride of the Endorphin Pro and I will try racing them over the NEXT% for shorter races, 10k and below, but the NEXT% has a better fit, feels faster, more forgiving/easier to run in, and is lighter, so if I had to choose one I’d definitely pick the NEXT%.


Sam: I agree with Jacob the Pro is more connected with Pro for me having stronger sensations of drive and toe off but I am not convinced they would take me as nicely and easily to the marathon distance as the Next could. No question for many it could, especially if you want to feel more connected to the road, in a good way and want that toe off sensation lacking in Next.  For a half or below the Pro is more in order for me than Next due to its snappier ride and feel and plentiful cushion.


Jeff: The Next% feels like the shoe that finally said “screw it, we’re done making it look normal, just make it work” and they did. It has more cushioning, and much more pop (even my pair with 120 miles compared to brand new Endorphin Pro), but there’s still the inherent instability that comes with the ultra cushy ZoomX midsole. I have no doubt I’d take the Endorphin Pro for any shorter distance races, but for the full marathon the Next% is the only other shoe I’d consider. If the course had a number of turns, I’d stick with the Endorphin without hesitation, otherwise I’d consider the Next%.


Sally: As the others have noted, the Next % is a softer bouncier ride, and proven to be easy on the legs at marathon distance. The EP is smooth, fast, and fun, and I can’t wait to race in it in a 10K or half, but I will stick to my proven PR race day shoe, the Next %, for marathons (wait, what marathons… let’s be optimistic).


Nike Vaporfly 4% (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. Here is where things get interesting. The 4% OG is the one that has the most dynamic ride of any racer I have ever tried, and has the best forward tipping motion as well. The softness may work against it for shorter distances though. I think for half marathon and below, I would be tempted to stick to the Pro for its added responsiveness at faster paces. For a full marathon, I would want to go with the 4% OG. 


Sam: The underfoot feel of the Pro reminds me more of the original VF than the Next in that I can feel the plate in the mix, especially at the heel whereas I sense it less in the Next%. The ride feel is somewhere between the two: not as flat feeling as next and not as plunging forward from midfoot as the very original VF but less so later ones rode but with a more distinct toe off pop than the Next%. In terms of cushion the Pro is close to the VF with about the same heel but more stable and more forefoot cushion. I think I still prefer the very original VF, the baby blue but would pick the Pro over subsequent versions which were firmer and with rougher and tighter Flyknit uppers.


Michael: With Sam, I think of all Nike’s carbon offerings, the Endorphin Pro is most reminiscent of the original Vaporfly 4%. And while you can’t buy the 4% anymore (at least, not without the Flyknit upper), I don’t think you’re missing much - the Endorphin is an extremely competitive offering. In fact, I think Saucony’s midsole goes toe-to-toe with Nike’s original ZoomX composition without issue; whereas the ZoomX is slightly softer underfoot, the PEBA composition here is actually a little springier. I also (just barely) prefer Saucony’s upper to the original Vaporfly. It’s a close call between two lighting-fast shoes, but I actually might prefer the Pro.


Peter: Totally agree with Sam here on feel. I would pick these over the NEXT % and would be 51/49 on the Vaporfly OG--with a very slight edge going to…..The Endorphin. The Vaporfly gets weird for me on cambered roads and at the end of long races, When my form falls apart the VF’s fall apart for me too. 


Jeff: I too thought that the Endorphine Pro lined up best with the OG Vaporfly 4%. Partly because they are the first offering from a manufacturer, and part because of the upper. Both shoes have a very minimal upper without much extra - no padded tongue or heel counter to speak of. But the Endorphin Pro has a much more traditionally shaped platform that makes it worth it for all runners to consider - while the VF’s extensive curves made wide foot or low-arched runners out from the get-go. But the biggest difference is the super soft midsole of the VF vs the firm cushioning of the Endorphin. For me? I like the Endorphin.


Brooks Hyperion Elite (RTR Review)
Michael: The Hyperion Elite (err, Hyperion Elite 1, at this point) is an apparently short-lived racer that uses Brooks’s DNA ZERO midsole, which was a firmer, more responsive composition that was built… really just for running fast, only! While I quite liked the Hyperion Elite, I had some issues with its upper (namely, how the tongue and heel collar came together) and while my concerns about durability have largely been resolved now that I’ve topped 75 miles without issue, it was apparently too much for Brooks, who is going to bring a softer v2 to market in the nearish future. So what of the comparison? Even if the Hyperion Elite was to stay in Brook’s lineup for longer, I think the Endorphin Pro is a better racer - it’s bouncier, to be sure, and more forgiving for those who don’t want to feel like they’re only being pushed forward. As noted above, as well, the upper on the Saucony is also markedly better than Brooks (though rumors have that unchanged on the v2). In terms of aggressiveness, I think the Brooks is slightly more aggressive (perhaps owing to a firmer ride), but I don’t know that either of these would be my first pick for a sub-13.1 mile race, relative to the rest of the market.


Peter:  I prefer the Endorphin. The Hyperions is Stiff AF. It’s fun at 5k speed, but punishing on roads. The Endorphin is more enjoyable. 

Hoka One One Carbon X (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. The Speed Roll of the Pro feels more natural than the Carbon X, and also has better cushioning and ground vibration dampening. The upper and fit of the Carbon X is better for me (disclaimer: The Carbon X upper is one of my favourites of all time), but in terms of comfort, the Pro upper comes close. For racing and even fast training, no question the Pro is the better shoe here. Sorry but the Carbon X is out-classed.

New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. It is clear when comparing the two that the TC sits squarely in the trainer category. The Pro is noticeably easier to hold fast paces while the TC’s soft ride keeps the legs feeling fresh better. It’s not really a fair comparison for me. I would use the Pro for racing, and the TC for medium/slow pace runs. 

Jacob: Both are top-quality, high-stack carbon-plated shoes, but the TC is intended to be trainer and relatedly is much heavier (60g/2.1oz heavier in my US M12) than the Endorphin Pro. The ride is fairly different given the similar type of shoe, with the TC being softer, bouncier, less rockered, and a more forgiving cruiser. The Endorphin Pro is more stable and snappier. The TC has a much more relaxed fit with a wide toe box and free-feeling upper while still having decent security overall. Both the upper and ride make it an easier and more enjoyable shoe to run in, however, its weight limits its otherwise great potential as a racer. I might race the TC over the Endorphin Pro in a marathon (and longer!) because I love the more apparent cushion and effortless, still fast-feeling ride (it’s my current top trainer of 2020), but for half and shorter would definitely choose the Endorphin Pro for its significantly lighter weight, “go-fast” rigidity, and precise fit. If you’re looking for a trainer/racer, the TC is the better pick, but if you’re looking for a racer only, the Endorphin Pro will better inspire speed and be more conducive to PRs.


Sam: I think most mid packers would be well served to consider the FuelCell TC over the yes lighter Pro for a marathon to half if they also wanted it to serve double duty as a trainer. Bouncier and softer at the heel it has more overt rocker which I find helpful when tired  


Sally: The FuelCell TC is my fav shoe of 2020 so far. I know it is a training shoe, but I did a 20 mile run on the Boston Marathon course (back when I was still training for an April race) in the TC at faster than marathon pace without trying to do so, and felt great. The TC can race. But so can the E Pro. I would love to run a marathon in either shoe, though the Pro is considerably lighter.


Peter: For day in day out running the Fuel Cell is my favorite shoe of the moment. They are heavy to race in though--so for racing I’d go with the Endorphin. There are some real similarities in feel. 


Jeff: How do you pick between two amazing shoes? Process of elimination. Need a wide forefoot? The adequate Endorphin Pro loses out to the TC. Like a firm ride? The soft midsole of the TC is out. Ultimately the TC is a more forgiving shoe, and don’t let the added weight dissuade you, it runs much lighter than the number on the scale. Purely for racing? Give me the Endorphin. If you want something for speedwork and training runs? TC all day.


Skechers GOrun Speed Elite Hyper (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The big thing going for the Skechers Elite is its incredibly light weight for its stack. Its weakness is its outsole grip is not the best. For really short lung bursting races like 5km and below, on road surfaces, I would go with the Speed Elite.  Anything on the track, or longer events, I would go with the Endorphin Pro. Nothing wrong with the Speed Elite. I like it a lot for short intervals, even more than the Pro, but the Pro seems to hold 10km race efforts and slower, better, and the difference in outsole grip performance is substantial. 


Jacob: The Speed Elite is firmer, feels (and is) way lower to the ground, and is notably lighter. The Speed Elite fit is a little bit wider in the middle of the foot but the shoe is shorter and the upper more static with a tighter and less comfortable fit in the toe--a worse fit overall. The Speed Elite doesn’t have the leg-saving softness or the comfort to go the marathon (or maybe even half) distance for me while the Endorphin Pro certainly could. Relatedly the Endorphin Pro is better at slower paces and more cushioned and forgiving. Both shoes have a similar roll off the toe and are otherwise flat through the rear of the shoe. I’ve yet to have the opportunity to race either as all races are cancelled since the COVID-19 pandemic, but based on test runs the Speed Elite would be my pick for 5k for sure and maybe 10k over the Endorphin Pro, anything longer the Endorphin Pro. 

Michael: The Speed Elite, as we discussed in the review, isn’t quite as cushioned (at least, it has a lower stack height of Hyperburst) underfoot, which gives it a leaner feel, more in line with a 10K racer than a marathoner. I think the Skechers does, to its credit, punch above its weight in this regard - I did a 12 mile workout a few weeks ago without any residual soreness - but it still isn’t quite as marathon-ready (at least for most runners) as the Endorphin Pro. Of course, that means I’d likely choose the Skechers for a 5K or 10K, but prefer the Saucony for anything longer. Geometry aside, the upper on the Skechers Speed Elite is better than the Speed 6 or Horizon Vanish, but a ways behind the Saucony. Durability and traction looks slightly better in the Endo Pro, as well. But again - I don’t know that these shoes are quite as squarely competitors as, say, the Next% or Hyperion Elite. The Skechers is a better racer for a 5K, and likely a 10K, too - anything above that, and I think the Saucony is a clear choice.
Endorphin Pro is expected to release April 15, 2020

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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9 comments:

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

Have you heard anything from Saucony about a release date change? I read it might be pushed back.

DH said...

I was not considering the Endorphin until this great review, and am leaning towards the Endorphin speed. I am loving the Fuel Cell Rebel right now, but after some longer runs realize that the it is not enough shoe for a full marathon - at least not for my old legs.

I was waiting for the Fuel Cell RC, but alas I asked New Balance support for a release date update and they said that with Olympics being postponed for a year, the release date for the RC was being put off indefinitely. Seems to me like a mistake by NB because despite the race cancellations due to Covid-19, many runners are nonetheless right now deciding what super shoe they are going to buy for 2020 - Personal Time Trials anyone?

Michael said...

@Tris - Sam may know better than me, but last I heard they were still targeting 7/1. Many supply chains are in flux right now, so I'm not sure if even Saucony knows for sure.

@DH - The Speed is certainly a good all-around choice for a trainer/racer. Will be considerably firmer and faster than the Rebel (which was one of my favorite trainers last year). Regarding the FuelCell RC Elite (or "RC" - don't know what is finalized), I think as I wrote above to Tris, the COVID-19 disruption of manufacturing is more of a barrier than the Olympic push-back, but both may be a factor. I believe NB still intends to get the shoe out in 2020, but we'll see. In the meantime, the Endorphin Pro and Speed are both more than adequate options.

Spiros said...

Greetings from Greece
Vs hoka carbon x?
So as I can understand you prefer them over vaporfly next%?

Anonymous said...

This actually wasn't seen on the feet of Molly Huddle at the Olympic marathon trials. In a pre-race article in the WSJ, she said that it didn't her provide as much of an economy boost as it did for others like Ward, and it bothered her ankles. Here's a post race article:

https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a31057430/molly-huddle-olympic-marathon-trials-results-2020/

Brian said...

Once again, a great article about an exciting series of shoes!

Sam,
Do you have a current affiliate coupon code for Running Warehouse? Thanks so much!

Nate said...

I had spoken with a Saucony sales rep about the Pro about three months ago and he had said the expected lifetime of the shoe was 800 miles, based on wear testing. That completely blew me away, and I don't know whether to trust it. He had said the midsole doesn't break down in the same way as it does with the other PEBA shoes, and it's the upper that wears out first. This was in the context of whether or not the running store I work for will get these in stock (we won't - major bummer).

That's all pretty hard to believe, of course, and I would love a follow up review of the Pro after more miles to learn about real-life durability from an impartial source. If that's true, this shoe is easily the best value running shoe available for racing or training. Although if Saucony has evidence to support that I don't know why they're not making more of a big deal about it.

Anonymous said...

800 would be good if the upper really holds up. There are adidas shoes with midsoles at least as durable, with more durable uppers than this for better training value. I have 1,100 miles in a pair of A16+ Ultraboosts and 800 miles in some Agravic Flows which are essentially new in every important way for me - especially the uppers, which I tend to blow out easily due wide forefoot and large bunions. I can see getting 5,000 miles in these shoes if I wanted.