Saturday, July 11, 2020

Saucony Switchback 2 Multi Tester Review: Thoroughly Modern, Minimal Leaning, Road to Trail Fun


Article by Renee Krusemark, John Tribbia, Jacob Brady, Jeff Valiiere, and Sam Winebaum


Saucony Switchback 2 ($140)

Stats

Official Weight:: men's 8.8 oz(249g) US9)  women's 7.8 oz (221g)   (US8)

US men’s  9: 9.13 oz, 259 g, US men’s 10: 10oz./284g, 

US men’s 12: 10.4oz/294g avg (0.5oz/14g difference between right and left), 

US women’s size 8: Left 7.94oz (225g) Right 7.87 oz (223g)

Stack Height: 22/18, 4mm drop

Available August  $140


Introduction

Sam: The Switchback 2 retains the more minimal stack height and flexibility of the original but gets Saucony’s new PWRUN+ TPU midsole in place of EVERUN, also a TPU but denser and heavier.  Incorporated in the midsole/outsole is the woven rock plate also seen in the Peregrine 10, Xodus 10, and new Canyon TR. The BOA closure moves to the side of the shoe and no longer is the lace like arrangement of the Switchback ISO. 


The combination of updates made the Switchback 2 one of the key shoes I saw introduced at the Running Event last December in Austin. I was eager to see how the liviler PWRN+ TPU midsole would perform in combination with an added rock plate for protection and maybe some propulsion effect. The side lacing BOA also made great sense and I wondered what the foot wrap would be like with such a design. 

Thoroughly and totally modern in materials, tech, and construction the Switchback with its low 22mm /18mm stack and 4mm drop is somewhat a throwback to the more minimal trail shoes of several years ago. I found the Switchback ISO overly firm but with great traction for faster snowy road runs and short trail runs and was curious to see where all the updates would take the second edition.


Pros and Cons

Pros:

Renee: Fun, comfortable, well-balanced

Jeff V/Sam  Light, responsive, easy adjustments with BOA, protective underfoot, accommodating fit.

Sam: Ideal single run and casual shoe for road and trail on a trip. Far more versatile and I think more road worthy than similar road Freedom 3.

Sam/Jacob: BOA closure is very well implemented with a totally secure if a more minimal wrap of the foot. The lack of any lacing over the top of the foot is a refreshing new feeling. 

Sam: PWRUN all TPU midsole is bouncy and fun

Sam: Woven rock plate provides plenty of protection, if of the more ground conforming variety,  in such a low stack shoe

John: Light, fast, low profile, secure fit, no laces!

Jacob: Easy to dial-in, comfortable fit

Jacob: Good road/trail mix shoe when road sections aren’t too long

Jacob: Lightweight and smooth-riding, especially at faster paces


Cons:

Renee: A bit warm (I had the black/charcoal colorway)

Jeff V:  foothold, upper protection, price, minimal ventilation

Sam: Overmolds a bit too much to terrain due its low stack and midsole softness and bounce, would prefer more pop and a touch more underfoot stability

Sam/Jacob: a bit more stack would be welcome. At 22/18 with soft bouncy PWRUN TPU I wished for a bit more substance to extend range. 

Sam: While BOA and PWRUN is a great add, Switchback is a bit pricey for a shoe that is neither “dialed” in short racer or all arounder.

John: minimal use cases and low mileage range

Jacob: Doesn’t drain well

Jacob: Poor mud shedding ability

Jacob: Roomy forefoot + high flexibility makes it sketchy on uneven terrain.


Tester Profiles

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.


Renee is a former U. S. Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She runs a half marathon around 1:40 and hopes to get a full marathon at 3:30(ish) some day. Not today. But some day!


Jacob runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for over two years and averages 50-60 miles per week. Jacob has run several marathons and shorter (≤ 50km) ultras and mountain races in the past two seasons, with a PR of 2:51 in the marathon. In addition to running, he surfs, rides (mountain/gravel/road), and nordic skis. He is 25 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and about 155 lbs / 70 kg.


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


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.


First Impressions and Fit

Renee: You get what you see with the Switchback 2, which for me is positive. This is a lightweight, low drop (4mm), comfortable and fun trail shoe. The upper is a booty-style, sock-like fit that dials in as much as it needs to throughout the midfoot. The toe box is roomy, and the outsole gives just enough to provide protection and traction to be useful on both non-technical and technical trails without being intrusive on pavement. The midsole is difficult to describe; for me, the midsole does not feel firm or hard, but I did not consider it soft or plush by any means. The Switchback 2 worked well for me on hilly country roads (gravel and dirt) and on one technical trail. The shoe is light, fun, and overall a perfect balance of outsole, upper, stack height, drop, and midsole. I will continue to wear this shoe weekly for my short or mid distance runs (anything less than 15 miles). I wore a women’s size 8, my typical size. The length was perfect. 

Jeff V:  The first Switchback was one of my favorites last year and not entirely for running, but more as an everyday shoe to quickly put on as I head out the door, wearing to the office, travel and shorter runs on less technical terrain.  I appreciated the low profile minimal feel of the shoe, versatile tread and ease of the Boa.  With the announcement of the Switchback 2, adding a PWRRUN midsole, rock plate and improved upper with wrap over Boa enclosure, this was one of my most anticipated shoes this year for me.  


At first glance the SB2 is very reminiscent of the first version, but upon closer inspection, the new over wrap upper clearly stands out, as well as the rockplate in the forefoot and more subtle upon initial try on, the PWRRUN midsole.


Fit feels very similar, true to size, yet accommodating for a wide range of feet and for those who prefer a bit more space.  The over wrap feels very snug, yet comforting over the foot and the BOA is easy and a pleasure to use.

John: Out of the box the Switchback 2 has a low profile and sleek look. It is a more minimal shoe that fits comfortably and securely with or without socks. The BOA lacing with the cover wrap is a nice touch and snugly envelopes my foot. My initial impressions are that it is very light, has decent protection with the added rockplate, is a little roomy in the toe box, and maybe a little too minimally cushioned for my preferred terrain.

Jacob: Even in the black/gray colorway I received, the Switchback 2 is a strikingly unique shoe. It looks like a slipper with the seamless inner bootie construction and full wrap-over “lacing” system. The Switchback 2 is the first running shoe I’ve tried with a BOA closure system and in this implementation it looks visually very minimal—a sleek, cool design overall. The Switchback 2 is very flexible throughout and crushable in hand. I expected some flexibility from the PWRRUN+ midsole after experiencing it in the incredibly flexible Freedom 3, but thought the woven rock plate would provide more rigidity than it does.

The Switchback 2 slides on easily and is smooth, comfortable, and well-sized, with perfect length and a roomy but not overly wide toebox. Overall, the shoe feels light and unobtrusive on the foot and is enjoyable to wear; even without tightening the BOA dial, it doesn’t feel sloppy. The feel of the wrap-over foot lockdown system is unique and well-executed. Though the PWRRUN+ midsole foam is soft, due to the medium-low stack height, woven rock plate, and comprehensive outsole, the feel underfoot is not. It’s not firm, there’s even a bit of bounce, but there isn’t a sense of much cushion to sink in to. It’s clear that the Switchback 2 is not designed for long distances.


Overall, the construction quality and fit is fantastic; I couldn’t wait to take the Switchback 2 for a run.

Sam: Low slung, vaguely menacing and fast looking come to mind right away. I was sent a half size up from my normal 8.5 and had no issues getting a secure wrap from the BOA cords and dial but did find them a bit long. It was so cool to press in and twist, pull out and loosen the shoe without worrying about tying laces, adjusting, or lace bite. I particularly noted the very pleasant feel and foot flex in the top of the upper with no laces there yet with security.


Upper

Renee: The side-set BOA lacing provided more security and lockdown than I expected. I don’t need a super-secure, tight upper (even for a trail shoe), so perhaps other runners might disagree about the lockdown. For me, the BOA lacing works. I had zero issues with the fit loosening while running. The booty fit makes the shoe quick to slip on and tighten, and just as easy to switch out shoes if needed when moving from trails to pavement. The upper provides some resistance to water and allows some air through the side where the BOA laces sits. The shoe did feel warm during 95 degrees (Fahrenheit), but I also had the black/charcoal color. There is a rubber toe bumper across the front which is very flexible, providing some protection without compromising the toe box fit. The upper is overall very comfortable, including the toe box width and height. I had some gravel enter the top of the shoe on a muddy day, but during dry conditions, I had no issues with dirt or gravel entering the shoes. The shoe disappears on foot. Initially, I thought the height of the heel collar and front were too high, but they were not uncomfortably hitting my ankle while running. The shoe has a pull tab in the back and on the front, which makes changing shoes very quick. 

Jeff V:  The new wrap over upper is the star of the show here for the updated Switchback 2.  Integrated with the Boa lacing system, the wrap conforms over your foot, giving a comfortable and uniform tight hug with no pressure points.  Snugging up the Boa is quick and accurate with no real need to readjust, however I do find myself on occasion putting them on, taking a few stretchy steps to put some foot tension, then give the Boa another partial turn to complete the snugging process.


The first version Switchback had a tongue, while version 2 now has a booty style design.  While very easy to put on, I found the older version a touch easier to just walk into without having to reach down and pull on the shoe.  

There is a toe bumper integrating with a 360 degree rand, but it is thin and flexible and offers little protection when running through rocky sections of trail.


While I find the new upper to be more secure than the previous version and secure for most running on flatter surfaces, moderate trails and moderate grades, I do notice my foot moving inside the shoe in technical terrain, steeper terrain and at faster speeds (more so when combining any of the aforementioned).


As Renee mentioned, the upper is a bit on the warm side with such a closed mesh and especially in black, but then on the plus side, the closed mesh combined with the wrap upper does a great job at keeping out dirt, debris and light moisture.

John: As mentioned by Jeff and Renee, the notable feature of the Switchback 2 is the BOA + wrapover. I would speculate that the BOA lacing system is a love or hate feature for some. I’m in the love group, especially because I can do it one handed so my free hand can be Instagramming the sunrise while I’m tightening the fit before heading down to the trailhead. It requires a little learning and fine-tuning, but I found this system combined with the upper wrapover provides an adjustable and secure fit with no noticeable pressure points


The booty fit is another added feature that I appreciate. Given the minimalist low profile of the Switchback 2, I felt comfortable and experienced no issues wearing these with and without socks. 


Sam: The upper just works and works well for me but it has its limits . I fuss around lace tightening and with the BOA it is just a twist of the dial even on the go with most times a second twist click a bit into the run to fine tune. And when done just pull the dial out and step out. I particularly like the dense but not totally closed mesh over the top of the foot which with the BOA truly wraps the midfoot yet with no laces over the top of the foot. 

The rear top collars and entire midfoot are essentially a single bootie like material over the top of the midfoot with a bit of stretch closer to what would one find in a thinner padded shoe tongue than an upper as such I found them quite warm. At the toe area that same mesh has less padding and is very pliable.

The BOA is laced through the lateral side of the mesh foot wrap. It is a fairly thick and dense but pliable mesh with minimal stretch. Unlike the bootie below light can be seen through the mesh wrap.

The lower part of the upper, the rand in shoe talk is well protected with overlays without any apparent ventilation or drainage ports.

Jacob: The Switchback 2 is a polished and complete package. This starts with the upper, with its soft and seamless construction and well-implemented BOA closure. The upper uses a static, thin, and plasticy outer layer over a softer, stretchier inner mesh. It is a sock-like fit through the midfoot with a roomy, but not loose forefoot. It has a good balanced structure feel with a bit of heel rigidity and low overlays around the entire upper to help keep the foot on the platform. The fit is secure but soft without any pressure points. It’s not locked-in enough, especially in the forefoot, for technical trails, but with the low lugs and high flexibility, it’s clear the Switchback 2 was designed for smoother terrain overall. 


The upper is not highly breathable, but I haven’t had any issues with my feet getting too warm, even in the hot (80F/27C) and humid Maine summer weather, and the density of the upper helps keep out debris and splashes of water. When the Switchback 2 does get wet though, it doesn’t drain well.


The Switchback 2’s implementation of the BOA system and wrap-over closure is a standout and provides a unique fit by holding the foot tight without as much pressure from the top specifically, as with a traditional laces-on-the-top construction. It is incredibly quick and easy to adjust, even on the fly. On many of my test runs I’ve stopped for just a few seconds (not even long enough to pause my watch) to tighten or loosen when going from smooth to technical trail or trail to road. The comfort and ease-of-use of the Switchback 2 has led me to choose it for most of my trail walks and daily mixed-terrain dog walks.


Midsole

Renee: The Switchback 2 is light and feels light, I’m guessing partly because of the PWRRUN+ midsole. I found the midsole to be a good compliment to the outsole and the upper, but not necessarily flexible or responsive. The midsole provides enough cushion for longer mid-distance runs (for me, that’s 10-15 miles) but is firm enough to allow for faster speeds when needed. The midsole combined with the stack height is not enough for me to wear the shoes for long distances (i.e. I wouldn’t wear the Switchback 2 for a marathon or ultra), but it does work great for shorter distances. 

Jeff V:  The PWRRUN midsole is a marked improvement over the EVERUN midsole, is it is more lively and responsive, while offering better dampening.  I found the first version to be quick and responsive, but I think much of that sensation came more from the lower weight and minimal feel of the shoe than actual responsiveness.  The Switchback 2 however, while feeling quick and responsive for all the same reasons, the PWRRUN definitely adds a bit of pop on toe off.

John: The lightness of this shoe stands out as its most prominent characteristic. Based on my research of previous versions, the added PWRRN midsole and firmer rockplate offer a well performing combination of cushion and firmness compared to last year’s version. It honestly felt easy to pick up the pace in these, because they are quick, responsive, and nimble. Like Renee, the low stack height was an issue for me. I definitely like a shoe with decent ground feel, but I wasn’t really into it with these as much as I had hoped. I think it is because 4mm drop on an already low stack height means a decrease in forefoot cushion. 


Sam: The all TPU PWRN+ midsole here is clearly bouncier and softer than the Everun in the first version which was firmer and especially so on hard surfaces such as pavement.  The cushion is super pleasant but not particularly deep especially at that 22 total stack heel and with a 4mm drop. The midsole, even with the new rock plate in the mix tends to mold to terrain very well, maybe too much so for my tastes, lacking a bit in response and pop and occasionally stability on rougher trails. On road the combination, while yes still low stack and low drop and with a heard and felt trail outsole and with the rock plate was more directed and snappier than its road sibling the Freedom 3.   I wondered what the shoe would feel like with Saucony’s other new foam PWRN+ a somewhat firmer blend of EVA and TPU or in a version with more stack height. 


Jacob: The Switchback 2 uses Saucony’s TPU bead PWRRUN+ midsole, which I am glad to see as I find it to be a great material, providing a fun, bouncy, flexible, and cushioned ride. The PWRRUN+ layer in the Switchback 2 is thin and not as dramatic in ride as it is in the Freedom 3 or Triumph 18, but it integrates very well into the Switchback 2’s overall lightweight, comfortable, and flexible feel. The midsole is highly flexible, but not absurdly so due to the inclusion of the forefoot + medial midfoot woven rock guard. The rock guard is not a rigid plate, but it provides necessary protection in the forefoot by muting sharp rocks and lowering the amount the shoe bends uncomfortably over rougher terrain. The stack height is moderately low, but on trails the cushioning is surprisingly good, ample for 15miles, but a bit low for much longer. On road the Switchback feels firmer and close to harsh at the heel; fine for a couple miles or at a faster pace when I’m less on my heels, but not ideal for long miles on the road. I like the Switchback 2 as is, but a few more millimeters of overall stack could increase the versatility.


Outsole

Renee: The outsole looks cool and it is. I don’t need large lugs for running country roads and I often wear a road shoe just to avoid a heavier trail shoe option. The lug pattern and depth offer just enough for me to get traction on the thick dirt and gravel alongside the road ditches of my typical country-road running. Plus, the balance of the outsole, midsole, and drop allow me to run easily on my toes going uphill, which helps when I want to run faster. The outsole also works great to provide traction going faster downhill without slipping on loose gravel. The outsole is not intrusive on pavement, although to avoid prematurely ruining the lugs, I don’t recommend running miles on pavement. The rock plate wasn’t drastically noticeable, although I think it adds a touch of stability on uneven surfaces. On very soft technical trails, larger lugs would be needed, but the Switchback 2 holds its own for traction. The outsole works on mud as well as it looks. 

As with any smaller lugged trail shoe, mud will cake to the outsole, but the mud easily falls off without any effort to kick or scrape off. 


I do not run mountain terrain, so I can’t speak to how the outsole performs on rock. 

Jeff V:   I was very impressed with the outsole of the first Switchback and the outsole of the Switchback 2 is identical with the low profile and numerous sharp lugs providing great traction on smoother surfaces, both wet and dry.  Even though my reviewing period for the Switchback 2 is dry and summer conditions, when testing the first version last year,  they surprised me a bit in the wet, snow, mud and slush.  Though on sloppy days I’ll gravitate toward a more deeply lugged shoe, there were times while running in the first Switchback that I was sure I was going to skim across mud, frozen surfaces and packed snow, yet they held surprisingly well.  


Grip is also surprisingly good in loose, off trail conditions.  Though I do not slip and slide as one may expect with such minimal lugs, there are times where I long for a bit more bite, though I concede that the Switchback 2 is intended for more moderate terrain.  Either way, the lug shape/configuration is impressively effective for being so low profile.

One difference however is the woven plastic cords forefoot rock plate in the Switchback 2, which provides a significant improvement in underfoot protection.

 

Outsole durability is also excellent, above average with very little wear in the previous version, so expect the same here.

John: The outsole of the Switchback is basically a grid of many sharp miniature lugs that are spaced very close together. It was really grippy on rock surfaces, both wet and dry, and I enjoyed using them as a run to rock scrambling shoe. I also found it to provide confident traction on dry trail, service road, and grass. Overall, I’m impressed with this outsole, especially for such low profile lugs.

Sam: The Switchback has a great 3.5mm lug outsole. The tight grid of angular lugs and sticky rubber provide great grip despite their low height and don’t get in way on hard smooth terrain as more aggressive lugs can. Similar if not the same as version 1’s outsole and now with more forgiving bouncy PWRN+ I can see them, as v1 was for me, as a superb snowy roads shorter distances option.


The new woven rock plate provides solid protection while not eliminating ground feel. My sense is that it also provides a touch of propulsion to the soft and otherwise flexible shoe while stabilizing the forefoot. Without it things would be Freedom sloppy.


Jacob: The Switchback 2, like all of Saucony’s 2020 trail shoes, uses their PWRTRAC rubber. It provides exceptional all-terrain grip, good durability, and a smooth ride on road and trail. It is one of my favorite do-it-all trail outsole materials. In the Switchback 2, the outsole is composed of a multitude of small, low (3 mm) cheveron lugs. In between the lugs, the midsole/rock quard is visible. The outsole also extends up around the midsole, which likely increases stability by taming the flexible PWRRUN+ midsole. Grip on most materials (bridges, rock, dirt, gravel) in dry or wet conditions is decent to outstanding. However, the lug height is inadequate for very soft or technical terrain, and is quite poor at shedding mud.


The outsole provides good response and pop on the trail and road, as Sam noted a bit more snap on toe off than the thinner crystal rubber in the Freedom 3. Though not as nice at slower paces, the feel of the Switchback 2 at speed on the road from the outsole/midsole combination is smooth, bouncy, and fast.


Ride


Renee: The ride is fun, especially going downhill. The shoe is a great balance of all its parts: comfortable upper, low stack height, low drop, and short but useful lugs. I was easily able to run nimbly on a technical woodland trail that had steep inclines, declines, and turns. Unlike a heavier trail shoe (say the Hoka Speedgoat 4), the Switchback 2 allows for running at inclines and declines with quickness, at least for me. I can run on my toes and allow my feet and ankles to be nimble across uneven terrain. Generally, I prefer a low stack, light shoe for my running terrain. The stack height and midsole don’t offer enough cushion or comfort for me to run more than 15 miles in this shoe, but I would not change it: the shoe is perfect for what it should be used for. I ran one, short technical rocky trail with the Switchback 2, and I agree with Jeff V. that the foot swifts around a lot in that terrain when running up and down steep terrain. I like the flexible upper, but sharp rocks can be felt from the sides (not the outsole). 


Jeff V:  The ride is quick and lively, best suited for moderate terrain that is less rocky and perhaps softer underfoot given the somewhat low and comparatively minimal nature of the shoe.


John: On the ascent, the Switchback 2 is a nimble and agile shoe, especially when dodging technical obstacles. On the descent, the low stack height keeps your foot close to the ground at all times, which provides a low center of gravity and a good feel for the terrain. On flat to rolling terrain, I found they run best on the forefoot, so the minimal cushioned midsole reduces the distance and duration I felt comfortable running.

Sam: Echoing John and Jeff the Switchback is a nimble agile ride and very decently stable from the rockplate, outsole, and BOA wrap. This said the softness and bounce does not make it that responsive and snappy as it could be on uphills or as stable on downhills as say the Sense Pro/4 and Brooks Catamount.  It is clearly more fun than those two shoes but I am not sure it is faster.


Jacob: The soft and secure upper, flexible and bouncy midsole with woven rock guard, and responsive and smooth outsole come together nicely to provide a smooth, fun, and free-feeling ride on both trails and road. It runs well at slow and fast paces, with comfortable, lightly-cushioned and bouncy ride at easy paces to a quick, springy, smooth-rolling toe-off at speed. Though it lacks speed-inducing geometry and your foot/form has to work a bit more for the pace, the Switchback 2 runs fast well, including on road, where it has good forefoot bounce. I did a 1.7 mi Strava segment effort on rolling, mostly smooth dirt singletrack in the Switchback 2 and loved it—a great choice for this type of run. It’s not soft enough for very long runs (around 15 mile comfortable max) but it has a relaxed feel, so is ok for just chilling/recovery for me despite the lower cushion.

Conclusions and Recommendations


Renee: I ran 70 miles in the Switchback 2, one 14-mile run on a technical woodland trail, one 1-hour run on rocky terrain, and the rest on gravel/dirt hilly country roads varying from 3 to 14-mile runs. I loved the shoe on country roads and woodland trails. I have zero complaints or recommendations to improve this shoe for the type of running I typically do each week. Is black/charcoal the best-looking option for this shoe? Not really, so go for pine/orange or pine/fuchsia options and look good while you run. For runners who like light trail shoes, this is a must try. For runners who are looking for a maximum cushion ultra-shoe, this is not it, but I think that’s obvious just by looking at it. I will train in this shoe and I would race in this shoe, but not for anything more than 15 miles. Personally, the midsole and stack height aren’t enough for me to run farther, but more experienced ultra runners might disagree. The shoe might be best for the 5k-10k distance, and it might not be the best choice for rocky technical trails. 

Renee’s Score: 9.25/10 

(-.25 for breathability; -.25 for shorter runs only, i.e. less than 15 miles, -.25 cost compared to usage) 


Jeff V:  The Switchback 2 is fun to run in and a nice improvement over the previous version, with a more responsive PWRRUN midsole, snug and comfortable wrap over upper and now a rockplate for added protection underfoot.  The Switchback 2 is perfect for shorter runs on more moderate terrain and on more mellow terrain, is a very fast high performing shoe.  However, despite the rock plate and improved protection underfoot, the Switchback 2 does not perform well in rocky, steep or technical terrain.  The main limitation here is that the shoe provides a low ride, combined with a relatively thin/minimal upper (little protection around the perimeter), a fit that while very good on moderate terrain, is not as secure as need be when rock hopping, side hilling or moving quickly on steep descents.  This is in no way a knock on the Switchback 2, but is just  not what it is intended for.

Jeff V’s score:  8.6/10

Ride: 8.5 - very good on moderate terrain, but struggles a bit on either rough terrain and/or longer distances or hard surfaces underfoot.

Fit:  9  - Fit is excellent, very comfortable, snugly wrapped and the Boa is excellent and will accommodate a wide range of feet.  Low volume feet however will slide in technical terrain and steep descents.

Value:  8.5 - $140 seems like a bit much for this shoe, but the Boa convenience comes at a premium price.

Style:  8 - a unique look, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Traction:  8.5 - good traction all around and especially for such minimal lugs.

Rock Protection: 8.5 - the rock plate helps a lot, but the shoe is still minimal


John: My favorite thing about the Switchback is that it provides excellent ground feel, while also providing decent protection with the embedded rockplate. When I’m out for an easy cruise or picking up the pace for shorter distances or navigating punchy and scrambly terrain, this is something I really appreciate. However, this isn’t my top choice to take long distances because of the minimal cushioning and stability. The other features I really love about the Switchback are the snug and form fitting feel that is assisted by the BOA closure. The BOA is quick and easy to adjust, and I never have to worry about my laces getting snagged or undone in the middle of my flow state.

John’s Score:  8.8/10

Ride: 8 (nimble and excellent ground feel; need more cushion)

Fit: 9.5  (BOA lacing system is excellent)

Value: 9 

Style: 9.5 (low profile and sleek looking)

Traction:  8.5 (excellent traction for minimal lug height)

Rock Protection: 8.5 (rock plate is good, but toe protection not the best)


Sam: Lots of well protected if low stack and low drop nimble ground feel here. Those missing the more minimal trail runners of a few years ago should definitely consider this thoroughly modern take. Personally, I think Switchback 2 could be perfected and have wider range with either Saucony’s slightly firmer more stable PWRN foam or more stack of PWRN+ without going all the way to the Peregrine’s higher stacks. 


Swtichback is an excellent choice for a trip where you might have both trail and road runs as well as for casual use all from a single shoe. It should also prove excellent for shorter snowy road runs and dirt road runs if you prefer a low drop lower stack shoe. On that basis it is a good value at $140 when also considering the super convenient BOA closure. For pure trail running unless you want a minimal approach it is less of a value. I score it maybe higher than I should as it so well polished, modern (bottom to BOA), and so much fun to run where it can shine.

Sam’s Score: 9.1/10 

Ride:8.7 (30%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 8.5(10%) Style:10 (5%) Traction: 9 (15%) Rock Protect: 9 (10%)


Jacob: The Switchback 2 is a uniquely constructed, and polished shoe. On foot is comfortable, seamless, and accommodating with an easy to dial-in and adjust fit given the wrap-over BOA closure design. Underfoot it has a flexible and free-feeling, lightly cushioned, bouncy, and enjoyable ride that is smooth-rolling and best for shorter (<15mi) distances at most paces on smoother trails as well as roads. Foothold, high flexibility, and low lugs limit its use to less technical terrain, but the outsole gives good traction on all surfaces. It’s a good choice for milder terrain, shorter door-to-trail runs, mixed terrain walking, and as a versatile shoe to just wear around.


Most of my trail running here in Maine includes at least a couple miles of road, as the trail sections in the Portland area are mostly 1-3miles long and thus my runs link several of them. Additionally, I rarely do longer than 13-15mi trail runs. Thus the Switchback 2 is well-suited for the running I do, as long as I don’t plan on running any technical sections quickly. It will keep a spot on my shelf for shorter (5-8mi) door-to-trail on milder terrain, longer (10-15mi) relaxed runs, and just wearing around to walk on mixed terrain. As Sam noted, it would be a good choice for a trip where I was only bringing a few shoes.

Jacob’s Score: 8.97

Ride: 8.5 (30%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 9 (10%) Style: 9.5 (5%) Traction: 9 (15%) Rock Protection: 8.5 (10%)


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Comparable nimble feel and the same price, however the SP4 is lighter, better protected upper and under foot, better cushion, much more secure upper, more versatile and competent in a wide variety of terrain.


John: SP4 is all-mountain with a true focus on stability in footing and the ride for ascending and descending steep trails. It also has better cushion and protection compared to the Switchback.


Sam: I agree with John above. More grip, more stability, more upper security and… a more boring dull in feel ride than the Swtichback. And don’t think of taking the Sense Pro/4 much if at all on road something you can easily do with the Switchback. If your runs are mountainous and relatively short and for shorter trail races Sense Pro/4. If your runs are on more mellow terrain and could include some road the Swtichback is the more versatile choice. 


Hoka Torrent 2  (RTR Review)


Brooks Catamount (RTR Review)

Sam: At about 0.5 oz more the Catamount is much more shoe with superior cushion both in stack and feel (dense and springy vs bouncy). It has considerably more pop and response on uphills and greater stability on downhills. While maybe not an all terrains trail shoe due to it airy and more breathable upper it is despite its higher price of $160 a better and faster smooth trails and door to trail option for me with more distance versatility as well.


Saucony Switchback ISO - (RTR Review)

Sam: Coming in at about the same weight as the original the 2 is clearly improved with more dynamic forgiving cushion, an effective rock plate, and better “dialed” BOA upper. 


Nike Terra Kiger 6 (RTR Review)

Jeff: TK6 is better cushioned, better protected and overall more versatile with a more secure fit.


Merrell MTL Skyfire (RTR Review)

Jacob: The MTL Skyfire is nearly identical in weight to the Switchback 2 but is much more versatile as well as $40 cheaper. The MTL Skyfire has deeper, more spaced lugs  with a similarly grippy, smooth riding outsole that performs well on everything from asphalt to mountainous terrain. The MTL Skyfire is an incredible value for a shorter distance racing shoe to a do-it-all road/trail shoe. The value compared to the Switchback 2 is unmatched—standout shoe of 2020 for me. It can do everything the Switchback can but with better security, better performance on technical terrain, similar underfoot comfort but more cushion at the heel. The Switchback wins only in comfort, toebox room, ease-of-use from the BOA system, and potentially durability.


Skechers Speed TRL (RTR Review)

Sam: Lighter yet the Speed TRL is a faster shoe with superior propulsion, stability and protection from its front Pebax plate. The Switchback likely will prove more durable and its BOA is a big plus in terms of convenience and ease of adjustment on the go. 


Jacob: I agree with Sam in all regards: the Speed TRL is faster and more dialed-in as a racer. However, grip and durability of the Speed TRL are significantly worse, it is less comfortable, and not as versatile due to worse technical terrain performance and traction.


Saucony Peregrine 10 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Peregrine has better protection, traction, secure upper, comparable fast and nimble feel with relatively low ride.


Sam: Somewhat more cushioned and clearly firmer (PWRN vs PWRN+), the much heavier Peregrine can be a good mountain terrain complement to the shorter easier trails Switchback.

 

Jacob: The Peregrine is a more powerful shoe with a denser cushioning, firmer and more locked-in feel, and deeper lugs. It is undoubtedly more performant on technical trails. However, these features come at a high weight penalty, and the Peregrine clocks in at 50g / 1.7oz heavier than the Switchback 2 in my US Men’s size 12. In addition to being lighter, the Switchback is also more comfortable and accommodating and has a more relaxed and enjoyable ride.


Saucony Mad River TR2 (RTR Initial Review, Multi Tester Review soon)

Sam: A super value at $110 The Mad River is relatively soft, does not include a rock plate and in most cases doesn’t need it. It has a roomy high volume toe box that was not as secure up front as Switchback or Peregrine for me. It is a better choice as a more cushioned all arounder than the Swtichback, although I did not find it significantly more stable or secure as it too is a relatively flexible shoe with a lower profile outsole and that roomy high volume toe box. If your trail runs are short, fast, and on smoother terrain the Switchback remains a better choice.


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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7 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...

Following

Marcel said...

Thank you for the informative review! How does this shoe compare to the Xodus 10?

Jeff Valliere said...

Marcel, the Xodus 10 is a much more cushioned, protective shoe, but of course not as light or quick on the uphill.

Marcel said...

@Jeff: thanks for the quick reply. then i'll probably go with the Xodus for a 75k coast trail even though the Sense Ride 3 and the good old Sense Ultra Slab also seem suitable.

Aborder said...

Light, 4mm drop, rock plate, low stack, stiff ride, dry terrain.
I think these switchbacks v2 are bringing back that kind of not so minimalist trail shoe concept such as NB mt110 v1 & Inov8 Trailroc 245 & Pearl Izumi EM N1. Isnt't it?

Jeff Valliere said...

Not quite as minimal as I recall.

TrailMagnus said...

How would this shoe compare to Altra Superior 4? Both in regard to cushioning and front width.
I feel the Superior 4 lacks the foot retention to excel in technical terrain and on long downhills. The uppers are just too elastic.

All the best!