Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Saucony Mad River TR 2 Multi Tester Review: A Steal at $110! Versatile, Comfortable, Customizable

Article by Jeff Valliere, John Tribbia, and Canice Harte

Saucony Mad River TR 2 ($110)


 Official Weight: men 10.5oz (298g) | women 9.5oz (269g)    

  Samples: men’s US9: 10.5 oz / 298g, US10: 11oz/313g

Stack Height: (28.5mm/24.5mm) 4mm 

Available now. $110

Mad River TR 2 Available at Now HERE icon


The Mad River is an all around trail runner with notable customization options: two rows of lace eyelets for a customized fit and marked placement locations for drilling drainage holes and placing traction screws. 

The Mad River 2 retains those features but sees a brand new upper, 5,5mm more stack height so more cushion, and a new PWRN TPU/EVA midsole foam shared with the Peregrine 10 and Canyon TR while its outsole remains the same.


John: Smooth ride, comfortable cushion, comfortable fit, customizable lacing and traction

Jeff V:  Secure upper, cushion, protection, comfort, customizable lacing/outsole, traction, versatility

Canice: Great cushioning, protection and a comfortable fit at an incredible price


John: minimal added protection in midsole and upper

Jeff V:  upper perhaps a bit warm

Canice: The ride is a bit dense

Tester Profiles

Jeff V. runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 

John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva , Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.

Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100, Western States 100, and Leadman as well as many other ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as in traditional road races and triathlons.

First Impressions and Fit

Jeff V:  Fit of the MR2 is improved over the first version.  I was happy with the first version to have an extra outer set of eyelets because the inner ones were too close and I had to really choke up on them to get not quite proper snugness.  With the MR2, I have not needed to use the outer set and the upper feels more dialed in and secure.  Fit is true to size with an accommodating toe box, yet no excess movement.  The outsole is identical to the first version with aggressive, well designed and well spaced lugs which have designated spots to retrofit with screws for winter traction or add holes for drainage (neither of which I have tried yet).

John: My immediate thought was to compare the Saucony Mad River 2 to Saucony’s other trail companion, the Peregrine. I tested the Peregrine 10 earlier this year and enjoyed the fit, protection, and weight. The Mad River, in my opinion, is a complement to the Peregrine by offering a responsive, comfortably cushioned, and overall feel-good shoe to put on your foot. I would say the Peregrine is oriented toward those more ambitious days of technical trail running and the MR2 is best for the cruisy, mellow days where your mind can wander as you pop in and out of the forest on a buffed single track. The fit is true to size. My slightly narrow foot feels secure in the first row of lacing, but I like the option to get tighter if needed by taking the laces to the outer row. Speaking of option, the outsole has spots to insert screws or snow spikes, which I’m excited about for winter running!

Canice: I am blown away how well this shoe fits, feels and runs for $110. I wore a size 10 and found the shoe fits true to size. The Mad River TR2 is punching way above its weight class and you’ll enjoy every bit of it. The Mad River TR2 has a somewhat dense feel to the midsole but it provides lots of protection and I was happy to pound away on any trail. Having tested the first generation Mad River TR, I am excited to see the improvements to the Mad River TR2 and that Saucony kept the second set of eyelets and screw and/or ventilation placements on the outsole. Great shoe all around.


Jeff V:  The upper is a huge improvement over the previous version.  I enjoyed the fit and comfort of the first MR, but I found the upper to not provide the most secure and locked down feel, which was most noticeable in technical terrain and the shoe seemed somewhat awkward to me in technical terrain.  The MR2 however completely resolves this with a more refined and secure upper with ample midfoot overlays and an integrated rand/toe bumper further enhancing confidence in technical terrain.  

The well padded integrated booty style tongue is a pleasure to slide into and is very comfortable and secure.

A rare and perhaps unique trait of the Mad River (first and second versions) is the inner and outer sets of lace holes, which assist greatly in either a custom fit or accommodating a wide range of feet.

Fit has improved enough with the Mad River 2 that I no longer need to employ the outer set of lace holes to better secure my low volume foot as I did in the previous version and find foothold to be very good on rough, technical trails, off trail and overall fast running on tricky terrain, with good protection and reasonably good ventilation, though perhaps a touch warm in summer in the black colorway as tested.

John: Hot take: this is one of the most comfortable shoes I have slipped on this year in terms of fit/feel. The Mad River’s soft and padded upper with an integrated tongue provides an enveloping sock-like hug and comfort. I also really appreciate the attention to detail in the lacing system. 

Although I have a slightly narrow foot, the MR2 has multiple lacing options with two rows of eyelets so you can customize your fit fairly easily. In addition, the lacing system in the first row of eyelets is horizontally placed on top of the foot with loopholes and the upper envelopes the foot when you pull the laces tighter. In other shoes, the laces do most of the work through eyelets on the upper, securing the foot by pressing down on the foot. In the MR2, my foot feels secure, comfortable, and free of worry about any pesky “lace bites”.

Canice: As Jeff and John have already said the Mad River TR2 has an incredibly comfortable upper that improves nicely on the first generation Mad River TR. The biggest changes are in the tongue and the overall fit. The first Mad River TR had a one piece tongue that was fine but now the Mad River TR2 has a traditional tongue and the fit is better. The Mad River TR2 also effectively uses overlays to provide both protection and fit.


PWRUN TPU/EVA blend as in Peregrine 10 but a 1.5 mm more of it but with no rock plate.

John: I feel like the MR2 midsole provides more of what the Peregrine needed to be a true road-to-trail shoe. Alas, now I understand Saucony’s vision a little more. The MR2 midsole runs much more like a comfortable road trainer with added millimeters of cushion in the heel, midfoot, and forefoot. Although there is some firmness with the PWRRUN TPU/EVA blend of midsole, I found the shoe to be very responsive, bouncy, and comfortably cushioned.

Jeff V:  Agreed with John above and find the MR2 to be surprisingly well cushioned and reasonably lively, more so than the Peregrine 10 which while perhaps the better choice for shorter, faster running in technical terrain, I find the MR2 to be much more forgiving and compliant underfoot.  While no rockplate with the MR2, I never felt as though one was necessary and find protection to be good underfoot.  While the midsole is softer than the Peregrine 10, I don’t find it to be too soft or mushy and is predictable in rocky, rough terrain.

Canice: The midsole of the Mad River TR2 is well cushioned and feels good under foot. You maintain the feel of the trail but do not have to worry about striking rocks and debris. The best part is the midsole is comfortable on trail and road. I agree with Jeff and John here too.



3.5 mm lugs with  no braided rock plate as Peregrine, Canyon TR, and Switchback 2 have.

Mad River TR2 on the left and Mad River TR on the right so changes.

John: The outsole provides pretty good traction over a wide variety of terrain, but mostly dirt, gravel, some larger rocks, snow, and ice. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is the most versatile outsole because of the lack of a rock plate and reduced lug size (3.5mm) compared to the Peregrine. I ran these on rocky trail, road, gravel pack trail, and mud; and I think the traction was sufficient in all conditions, with the exception of technical and rocky sections where the lacking protection from a rock plate gave way to a little too much ground feel. The traction excelled on gravel pack and smooth single track. And, despite the smaller lug size, the tread layout does an excellent job of sticking to those types of terrain. Although I didn’t have a chance to try these on snow and ice, I really like that these (like the Peregrine) can easily accommodate sheet metal screws for ice traction.

Jeff V:  John described the outsole quite well.  I found the 3.5mm lugs to perform surprisingly well on loose terrain, steep off trail and even in the snow.  I think much of this is attributable to the shape, spacing and configuration of the lugs much more so than the effect of sheer lug depth.  I have tested shoes with 5mm lugs with less effective shape and configuration that have not performed nearly as well.  The rubber compound is very sticky in both the wet and dry and durability is above average.

Canice: For my part I ran the Mad River TR2’s on dry rocky Park City, UT trails and had all the traction I needed. I’m not sure what it would be like in the Pacific Northwest but here in the Wasatch Mountains the outsole is great.


John: This shoe rolls and I love it! The Mad River 2 transition from heel-to-toe is very smooth and very soft and has a great rebound. More so than the Peregrine, I can tell there is a greater road shoe influence in this particular model. On trails that are soft and less technical, the MR2 excels by providing the needed cushion and efficiency for the long haul.

Jeff V:  The MR2 is smooth and well cushioned, where the midsole, outsole and upper all integrate for a very well balanced experience.  Response is surprisingly good and the shoe is quick on just about any terrain, though excels at cruising longer distances on varied terrain.

Canice: The Mad River TR2 feels great underfoot and everytime I take them out I can't believe how good the ride is, and then I remind myself the Mad River TR2 only costs $110, and I’m blown away. Bravo Saucony.

Conclusions and Recommendations

John: The Mad River 2 is a great road-to- trail shoe that is technically sound on gentle off-road terrain and very comfortable. It is a perfect option for a more road oriented runner who wanders to soft and less technical trail options . The shoe rolls smoothly, the traction grips well and can accommodate screws for those snowy and icy days of winter. Admittedly, this has been and will be my go-to road/trail shoe because it feels so soft and is extremely comfortable on-foot. Not to mention, it is a versatile bargain at $110!

John’s Score: 9.1 / 10

Ride: 9 (fun shoe with soft and smooth ride)

Fit: 9.5 

Value: 10 (great shoe for the price point)

Style: 9.5 (I love the all black) 

Traction: 8.5 (does well in the terrain it is designed to perform with 3.5mm lugs)

Rock Protection: 8 (lots of ground feel, but soft and thicker midsole give decent protection)

Jeff V:  In agreement with all that John says above.  The shoe is super versatile and runs so well on just about all surfaces, is well cushioned, protected and in my opinion, can really handle quite well just about any terrain I test it on, no matter how technical, steep or any speed.  Comfort is amazing as well, with a recent 6.5+ hour high mountain outing, I not once thought of them on my feet which is the ultimate nod to their comfort.  If spending an entire day on snow and mud, I would look for more traction and deeper lugs, or if a day rock hopping above treeline and off trail, would like something a bit more underfoot, but for 99% of the other trail runs, the MR2 is a really fine pick, especially at $110, it is a steal.

Jeff V’s Score:  9.3/10

Ride: 9.3, Fit: 9.5, Value: 10, Style: 9, Traction: 9, Rock Protection: 9

Canice: I agree with John and Jeff but be careful not to pigeonhole it as a “road” to trail shoe. The Mad River TR2 is solid on most trails and if anything skews more to being a trail shoe than a road shoe. At $130 this would be a great shoe but at $110 and to use Jeff’s words, “it’s a steal”. Give this shoe a try.

Canice 9.5/10 /10






Rock Protection

Overall Score

Percentage of Total


















Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

**All comparisons of equal size for each individual tester, unless otherwise noted**

Peregrine 10: (RTR Review)

From Saucony: As far as the Mad River vs Peregrine, really the main difference is lug height MR is at 3.5mm and Peregrine is 5mm; the Peregrine is a slightly lower stack (about 1.5mm less midsole foam) and has the rock plate- all of which may contribute the Mad River feeling slightly softer. Both have PWRRUN midsole with a layer of PWRRUN+ topsole.

Jeff V:  Mad River 2 is much more forgiving and flexible, not as much rock protection underfoot or as large of lugs, but is a bit more friendly for longer distances on most of the same terrain.  Cushioning is much more plush and noticeably ample.

John: Like Jeff says, the difference is in the cushioning. As I mentioned throughout the review, the Mad River 2 feels softer, bouncier and responsive, and provides a smoother ride.

Mad River TR 1: (RTR Review)

MR2 gets more midsole stack height front and back and a new PWRN TPU EVA midsole vs the prior PWRFOAM as well as of course a new upper.

Jeff V:  The MR2 is a completely different shoe, with only a reminiscent outsole with a far superior, more secure upper, more protective upper, increased protection underfoot, better cushion foam and more of it ,a smoother ride, better response and a more agile feel.

Canice: I liked the Mad River TR but felt it was a little sloppy and didn’t offer much in the way of cushioning. The Mad River 2 has much better cushioning, a better fit which gives it a much more precise feel and a smooth ride which feels great under foot.

Brooks Divide:  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Both are amazing shoes for the $100-$110 range.  The Divide is a bit lighter and more relaxed feeling, but perhaps not as rugged for more technical terrain as the MR2

Saucony Xodus 10: (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Xodus 10 is more expensive, heavier, has overall better traction and is faster and more competent on a wider variety of terrain, but the MR2 is such a bargain and also does a great job on just about any terrain.

Saucony Canyon TR: (RTR Initial Video Review)

Jeff V:  The Canyon TR has more cushioning and I think an even more comfortable upper, however traction is not quite as good, nor is stability and all mountain use.  Canyon TR is better for longer distances on more moderate terrain.

Brooks Caldera 4 : (RTR Review)

Jeff V: The Caldera 4 is more cushioned, with a wider toe box and ideal for longer runs on more moderate terrain, where the MR2 has better traction and security.

John: Both are a solid road-to-trail option, with the Caldera 4 giving more cushion for the longer runs and the MR2 excelling on shorter technical trail. Upper hand in durability goes to Caldera 4’s engineered mesh upper 

Salomon Sense Ride 3 :  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Close in weight and performance, I find the MR2 to be more responsive and a bit more competent in technical terrain.

John: As Jeff mentions, the MR2 is more responsive and I would also add that it is more comfortable on-foot because of the cushioned upper and midsole.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was a provided at no charge. 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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Jon said...

Really appreciate the review. Any thoughts on how this shoe compares to the Pegasus Trail 36?

Jeff Valliere said...

Hey Jon, I find the MR2 to be more secure, better protection and better traction, superior for sure on more technical terrain and an overall more versatile shoe.

Jo said...

Sounds like a great shoe. How would this compare to the Hoka Torrent 2?

Jeff Valliere said...

Torrent 2 is faster, lighter, MR2 a more secure upper and better in rough terrain.

Anonymous said...

Hi, great review!
I saw a video comparison with all Saucony trail shoe lineup 2020, but cant find in on your site, so many great reviews:)
Can you please cross link to that vide in the article above!