Article by Jacob Brady, Joost de Raeymaeker and Ivan Luca Corda
Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 ($200)
Jacob: The Endorphin Pro is Saucony’s top of the line carbon-plated racing shoe. The first version was released in early 2020 and was one of the first true competitors to the industry-leading Nike Vaporfly NEXT%. The Endorphin Pro was a successful shoe with its own unique ride style, different from the Vaporfly and many other plated racers which followed. It has less of the “classic” carbon-plated soft feel and trampoline bounce, being firmer with a smoother rolling rocker. Several of the RTR team and I thought the Endorphin Pro was a bit harsh and not as effortlessly fast or leg saving as many of the carbon-plated racer options. For me as well, I thought the stiffness of the plate along with the snug and narrow upper led to a moderately uncomfortable shoe, not what I wanted for long racing.
The Endorphin Pro 2 is at first glance a relatively unexciting update as it appears to change only the upper. The midsole and outsole and as far as we know the carbon plate remain unchanged. In addition, though very slight, the new upper adds 0.1 oz / 3 g in my US Men’s 12. However, given the issues I had with discomfort due to narrowness and lace pressure in the original, for those who like the ride of version 1, this could be a great change.
Joost: The Endorphin Pro was one of those much expected shoes that had people waiting at their computer for the drop, trying to order their pair before they got scooped up by someone else. I was one of those and failed to get a pair on my first two attempts, so I also didn’t take part in the initial review for RoadTrailRun, but I tried to make up for it afterwards with a running action video showing off the Endorphin Pro while running in my part of Africa, something people seemed interested in finding out about.
The shoe was definitely a completely different take on the carbon plate/exciting new foams theme. As Jacob mentioned, it is decidedly firmer. The main sensation that stayed with me from my runs in the original Endorphin Pro is that incredibly pronounced rocker feel Saucony calls Speedroll and that wants you to keep on going fast. I never had any issues with the upper, in spite of my wide feet. As a forefoot striker, there’s not a lot of cushioning in that area, so it’s not the shoe that will keep my legs fresh over a marathon.
My pair has 516km (320 miles) on them and they feel and look fine enough to take at least another couple of hundred, so for a racer, that’s pretty impressive.
Version 2 is a minor update officially sporting only changes in the upper with Saucony calling out a snugger heel fit, new anti slip laces, and an updated mesh pattern with perforations for breathability..
I could see a minor increase (1mm) in foam thickness on the lateral side as compared with the original, but that could also be down to some compression from the many km I already put on them.
Ivan: I only tried the first version of the Endorphin Pro a few times as I borrowed it from a friend and I’m more familiar with the Endorphin Speed which has been a versatile workhorse for me this past year. However, I believe that I did get a useful first impression of it and I’ve been eager to discover what has improved since then. Like the others have mentioned it’s not the typical very soft midsole found in other so-called supershoes, but I really like to see different specs and materials suited for different types of runners. The fierce competition in this category these days just creates more opportunities which I think is great.
Smooth, bouncy ride - Joost
Great rocker feel - Joost
Made to effortlessly go fast - Joost
Stable - Joost, Ivan, Jacob
Good traction - Joost, Ivan
Breathable - Ivan
Upper is more comfortable and secure than the original - Jacob
Basically the same shoe as v1 - Joost, Ivan
Not as leg saving as comparable shoes - Joost, Ivan, Jacob
Starting to show its age (the competition has caught up and moved beyond) - Joost, Jacob
Plate feeling harsh on longer runs, Ivan, Jacob
Jacob Brady is a runner and general endurance sports enthusiast. He runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for two and a half years and averages around 50 miles per week. Jacob races on road and trail at a variety of distances. In the past two race seasons has done several marathons and shorter (≤ 50km) ultras and mountain races. He has a PR of 2:51 in the marathon and a recent half TT PR of 1:18. In addition to running, he does hiking, biking (mountain/gravel/road), surfing, and nordic skiing. He is 25 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and 155 lbs / 70 kg. You can check out Jacob’s recent activities on Strava here.
Ivan Luca Corda:
Copenhagen, Denmark. Current age group: 45+. Height: 5’11 Weight: 140 lbs
Began running in 2012 (age 36). Weekly mileage: 50-80 miles (mostly roads and light paths/trails) Favorite distance: Marathon. Memorable running experiences: Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon ‘17 (above Arctic Circle starting at midnight in full daylight), Valencia Marathon PB in 2019 in 2:39:28, First Ultramarathon in 2020 (100 km) and 3rd at Danish National Championship
Passionate about analyzing all sorts of data by using every possible gadget. This also includes comparing running shoes by measuring running mechanics.
Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results.
Official Weight: men's 7.5 oz/ 213g women's 6.3 oz / 179g
Samples: men’s US9.5: 223g/ 7.87 oz, US Men’s 12: 8.9 oz / 252 g
Stack Height: 35.5mm heel, 27.5mm forefoot, 8mm drop
Available now. $200
First Impressions and Fit
Ivan: My first impression of the shoe was a bit mixed. I was happy to see that the shoe was looking as light and breathable as the first version. Also the heel area looked a bit more substantial and supportive. The checkered black and white design is not really my cup of tea, but it’s starting to grow a bit on me. Due to the colorway the upper also blends fairly well with most apparel out there and I’m also happy to report that other styles and color options are coming up. Like this one, they seem also to keep some sort of ‘racing and speed’ design language, but in a more simplistic way.
When stepping into the shoe, it did reminds me quite a lot about the first version, but I definitely felt that extra bit of padding in the heel for a better lockdown.
Also, I noticed that a new bordeaux colored external lace hole/strap was creating a more secure wrap around the midfoot section.
Joost: Having thoroughly enjoyed running in the OG of the Endorphin Pro, I was really looking forward to version 2.
When they arrived on my doorstep and I took them out the box, there were of course the obvious differences in colorway (also not a big fan of the checkerboard aesthetics), but I had to get my original pair out to look for any significant differences apart from the visually obvious purple straps for midfoot lockdown. This is obviously a case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. If they put me on one of each version in a blind test, I would be hard pressed to actually feel the difference, but I also didn’t have any issues with heel slippage in the first version, something that some considered one of the cons of the first version. They continue to fit true to size in racer fashion.
Jacob: I was not expecting to receive the Endorphin Pro 2 and was excited when I first opened the box and saw the unique checkered style. It was the first shoe from the 2021 Endorphin line I saw and thus my introduction to the checkered design which is used on the Speed 2, Shift 2, and Trail as well. I don’t love the checkers but it has grown on me throughout testing. I appreciate the uniqueness and am glad that Saucony went for it.
It was immediately apparent that this update to the Endorphin Pro was only to the upper; the midsole and outsole look and feel identical to version one. Given the continued innovation in the industry and exciting second versions such as New Balance’s RC Elite v2, just an upper change in a flagship plated racer is disappointing. However, I had issues with the Endorphin Pro 1 fit—smallest toe pressure and lace bite—so it is an update that will likely improve the shoe for me and others with similar gripes about version 1.
On initial try-on, I was re-excited to run the shoe, as the fit was vastly improved with more space in the toe box and absolutely no lace bite largely due to the laces threading through straps (red in the checkered colorway) which extend down to the midsole. Saucony’s 2020 and 2021 shoes have fit me generally very well with the exception of the Endorphin Pro 1 and the changes for version 2 appear to have made the fit both very comfortable as well as secure.
Ivan: The upper of the Endorphin Pro is still made of a soft, thin but still strong one piece engineered mesh. Also, we get those nice perforations all over allowing great breathability.
As already mentioned the heel area has definitely been improved. I no longer experience heel slippage to the same degree, which was the main reason why I didn’t get the first version. The heel cap is thicker and more structured now, but I would mind if it was narrowed even more.
Despite not having a rear flare like so many others I didn’t experience any irritation around my achilles.
I really like the semi-gusseted tongue attached to the midsole in this shoe. It wraps the midfoot really well and is very soft and stretchable.
Combined with the Saucony logo on the sides and the extra “lace loop”, it creates structure and provides a secure midfoot wrap.
The toebox runs a bit narrow around my pinky toe with added space on the medial side. The mesh is not super stretchable, but has some give to it. The toe box doesn't fit my foot type perfectly but I didn’t get any blisters or had any issues with hotspots. Personally I also prefer a tighter fit than a sloppy one when it comes to race shoes. The toe bumper is well executed. Just the right height and rigidity to ensure some good structure.
Joost: On to the part that changed. According to Saucony, the new upper has an enhanced fit and upgraded mesh for more breathability. To the touch, it feels very similar to the original version, with lots of perforations in slightly different places.
The main difference is the lacing area. It is less wide towards the forefoot, but not in the instep area, leaving a bit more of the upper available for perforations and potentially holding down the midfoot better. To aid with this, there are now also two loops with straps connecting the laces directly to the midsole. The tongue is basically the same gusseted one as in the OG. It stretches a bit and is soft enough to avoid lace bite. The only difference is that the top of the tongue now has a partially loose tab to make it easier to pull on. A small detail that can make it easier to put them on.
The heel is slightly more sturdy, but not by much. The collar is a little more rounded at the back, making it come up just a little bit higher and there is some external reinforcement in the same area. The padding feels exactly the same to me.
In the forefoot, the toe bumper seems to be marginally higher as well, but the difference could also be due to the many miles I’ve put on version 1. They fit great, but then again, I didn’t have any problems with the first version to start off with.
Jacob: The upper of the Endorphin Pro 2 is in many ways similar to its predecessor. It features a relatively thin single piece engineered mesh, a soft bootie tongue, and light structure around the heel without a rigid heel counter. The mesh is a bit thicker and softer in the Pro 2, which increases comfort, but the key difference is in the lacing: the placement of the lace area, the fabric strap eyelets, and the lace material.
The Pro 2 eyestay is narrower and slightly offset towards the medial side—subtly asymmetrical in comparison with the Pro 1’s clearly centered lace area. The Pro 2 laces are wider, stretchier, and softer than in the Pro 1, which decreases lace bite and makes the foothold softer, the lace tightness easier to get right, and the fit less stiff. Lastly, the key lacing feature for both less lace bite and security are the fabric straps at midfoot that the laces thread through. These straps provide a wide space in lacing at the instep, removing lace pressure in this key area completely. The straps are rigid and extend to the midsole where they are anchored, providing functionally excellent foothold while feeling soft and unrestricted.
Overall, the upper changes have a dramatic impact on security and comfort and it is a great update. I have had no issues with discomfort or foothold and have not had to stop a run to re-lace or to consider re-lacing. It is easy to get the lace tension right and the Pro 2 is very comfortable for a racer. The upper dramatically improves my enjoyment of the Endorphin Pro 2 over the original.
Ivan: Saucony has kept the exact same PWRUN PB midsole (PEBA based) in this second version. Still with a full-length carbon plate embedded and the so-called ‘Speedroll’ geometry. The plate feels quite rigid to me and the PEBA midsole is not among the softest.
The stack height is in the higher end of the spectrum with 35.5mm in the heel and 27.5mm in the forefoot, so despite not being a squishy soft super shoe I don’t feel like it’s bottoming out either.
The midsole is by no means harsh, but the characteristics of the PEBA in an expanded bead form doesn’t give the same sink-in feeling as in certain other supershoes. For better or worse.
The shape of the plate and the aggressive rocker is designed to give a speedy roll from heel to toe.
Joost: The midsole is exactly the same as in the first version, the excellent PWRUN PB coupled with a carbon fiber plate and the aggressive rocker called Speedroll. Ivan pretty much summed up the details. The Endorphin Pro is quite a different take on the super shoe recipe than some of the others out there, mostly due to that rocker. I like it because of its tendency to keep you going and turning over your legs as fast as you want to go. It doesn’t have the leg-saving properties of the Next% or similar shoes, though, so at the end of a marathon, you’re definitely going to feel less fresh.
Jacob: The Endorphin Pro 2 midsole is composed of two slabs of Saucony’s PWRRUN PB beaded PEBA material with a curved carbon plate sandwiched in between, the same configuration as the original. Some form of PEBA has been used in many super shoes as it is lightweight, resilient, and high energy. Saucony’s PWRRUN PB debuted in the original Endorphin Pro last year and is now used on the Endorphin Speed 1 & 2, Endorphin Trail, and Freedom 4.
PWRRUN PB in all its deployments is unique for a super foam and especially a plated racer as it is relatively firm and unforgiving. It is intensely energetic with high rebound and low density, but not soft or silky. Coupled with the stiff carbon plate and distinctive rocker in the Endorphin Pro 2, the midsole leads to an underfoot feel that is not plush or forgiving as I’d expect from a plated distance racer, a bit harsh even at slower paces. It is however very springy and energetic and the Speedroll geometry directs motion forward, so it feels quick and fun. However, it doesn’t feel effortlessly fast like some of its competitors.
Ivan: The carbon rubber outsole also remains unchanged. It is the same as in my Endorphin Speeds and it has been really durable and has had a good grip on most surfaces. For most runners I think the lateral edge of the heel will be the area that will wear down the fastest and probably around 400-500 miles for most. The comprehensive layer in the forefoot area seems almost indestructible. I’ve had no issues on wet asphalt and traction is also good on dirt and even gravel paths. Being a racer though, I would mind a thinner layer of rubber in the forefoot to shave off a bit of weight.
Joost: Unchanged from the original version. Great traction and durability. There’s very little wear on my pair after 516km (320 miles) of the OG.
Jacob: As Ivan and Joost note, the outsole material and pattern of the Pro 2 are the same as the original. I was initially a big fan of the thin but firm and durable outsole that has inspiring traction on dry and even debris-covered surfaces. Wet traction, however, is a bit problematic. It is not a liability but I feel some slipping on toe off especially on painted asphalt. It isn’t bad enough to have me not choose the shoe for general rain running, but for a rainy day race, I would prefer more decisive grip, even if mostly for mental benefit.
Ivan: With my biomechanics and gait cycle the ride does not feel as natural and smooth as I was hoping for. It definitely works better for me around 5K and 10K race pace than at half marathon pace or slower. Also, I could see this a good option for track intervals. Especially being a fairly stable shoe. Those softer supershoes can feel a bit too wobbly on the track. However, I don’t get the same fluid ride as in the Endorphin Speed no matter the pace. I’m a fairly light, high cadence runner with a slight lateral heel tap and most weight distributed flat in the midfoot section of my stride. Somehow I don’t really engage the plate fully and it creates a somewhat clunky experience. While a bit more comfortable at faster paces it still doesn’t feel quite as fluid as I prefer going through the gate cycle. I’m confident though that runners with more powerful and longer strides will enjoy the ride in this shoe so much more. I have been taking the shoe on a few longer runs at various paces, but think there are better alternatives for that, including the Endorphin Speed. I don’t feel like it is bottoming out, but it’s definitely on the firmer side and I do feel the rigidity of the plate in the forefoot. Despite stack height not exactly being low, there is more of a ground contact feel in the Endorphin Pro than in other super shoes which can be nice for a change.
Joost: The ride is unchanged from the original Endorphin Pro, meaning it’s fun, bouncy, responsive, firm and conducive to fast running. Definitely a racer. In spite of its tendency to make you want to go fast, it feels less clunky at slower paces than some of the other super shoes out there. I’m probably one of those runners with longer strides Ivan is referring to. The relative firmness makes the Endorphin Pro 2 a more stable option among its peers. For me, it just keeps my legs turning over at whatever pace I throw at it.
Jacob: Despite the new upper, the ride is not notably changed from the original Endorphin Pro. The ride is characterized by being springy and energetic. The rigid plate and smooth rocker geometry cause the shoe to constantly move forward—there is no hang up point and the motion from strike to toe off feels consistent. The Endorphin Pro does not feel plush or highly cushioned despite having a high stack height. The rigid plate which is closest to the foot at the heel makes the heel feel close to harsh, most noticed on downhills. The big toe can really feel the plate firmness on toe off as well. It is not my favorite plated racer ride as it is fast and fun but missing the effortless feel that I expect from a modern distance racer.
I thought with the Endorphin Pro 1 that it would be a good racer for short distances and noted this in my review of the original—Ivan noted this above as well. However, I more recently gave the Pro 1 a shot for a 5k TT and even at the end of that short distance felt I was having to work too hard to keep the shoes turning over and feeling smooth. I was confident if I had worn the VF NEXT% I would have run faster and felt better.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Joost: The Endorphin Pro 2 continues to be a fast and fun racer which is also suitable for track work and tempo runs. I would definitely trust it up to marathon distance. It is basically unchanged from version 1, though.
Other brands have caught up and put forward their take on the super shoe and the Pro 2 starts to feel a bit dated compared to all the exciting new models that have been coming out at comparable or lower price points. I feel the new upper doesn’t really warrant a new version, but then again, I had no issues with the old one. That being said, if you were a fan of the OG, you can trust this version will bring you exactly the same joy and running pleasure. If you’re new to the Endorphin Pro and like a firmer shoe that still benefits from having a carbon fiber plate and has a great rocker, fits well and will last for many hundred miles, this might be the shoe for you.
Ride 9/10 (50%), Fit 9.6/10 (30%), Value 8/10 (15%), Style 9/10 (5%)
Ivan: I was happy to discover the changes in the upper of the Endorphin Pro 2. The lockdown in the heel area has definitely been improved with some extra padding and the tuned geometry. Also, the midfoot wrap feels more secure with a better lacing system. Overall I really like the thin and breathable upper, but I would still prefer a wider toe box. Especially on the lateral side.
I’m convinced that for a certain type of runner this shoe will be a great option for races, intervals and even tempo runs. Especially those with a more powerful strike and toe-off who can really benefit from the stiff and snappy plate for an efficient ride. For someone like myself it will be best suited for the shorter distances while others, such as Joost, will have no issues taking it up to the full marathon distance.
Ride 8.0/10 (50%), Fit 8.5/10 (30%), Value 8.5/10 (15%), Style 7.5/10 (5%)
Jacob: The Endorphin Pro 2 is a minor update to a now classic carbon-plated racer that resolves the fit and comfort issues many runners including myself faced with the original. Despite still not being a true fan of the stiffer ride, I am surprised how much the excellent fit of the new upper increased my enjoyment of the Endorphin Pro 2. For fans of the original, I think that there is no need to upgrade—if you can find the Pro 1 for less, go that route. I don’t believe there is a performance benefit to Pro 2. However, if the Pro 1 was a bit narrow or uncomfortably stiff but you liked the ride, the Pro 2 will be a dream.
Though I really appreciate the upper of the Pro 2, for my form and pace (heel to midfoot strike, 175-180 cadence, “stride type”, 2:51 marathon) it is not as leg-saving or effortlessly fast as several other racing shoes such as the Nike Vaporfly NEXT%, Adidas Adizero Adios Pro, and New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 1 and 2, so I would not choose it over those shoes for any distance race. However I agree with Joost and Ivan that it is a fun track shoe, and I will continue to use it for that as well as shorter interval workouts on road.
Jacob’s Score: 8.75 / 10
Ride: 8.5 (50%), Fit: 9.5 (30%), Value: 8 (15%), Style: 9 (5%)
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Saucony Endorphin Pro 1 (RTR Review)
Joost: M9.5 in both. They are basically the same shoe, with a few changes to the upper. If you had heel slippage issues with version 1, this new version should be better. Otherwise, you might want to go for version 1 on discount.
Ivan: M8.5 in both. As mentioned earlier I’ve only tried the v1 a few times. However, I did notice the improved fit in the heel and midfoot area with a more secure lockdown. Get the new version if you had issues with the v1 or maybe if you just like this new style better.
Nike Vaporfly Next%
Joost: M9.5 in both. Both shoes offer a different take on the pebax foam/carbon fiber plate combination, with the Next% being a lot softer and the Endorphin Pro 2 more responsive. The Endorphin Pro 2 has the better upper, but the Next% is still the shoe to beat for the marathon, in this case mainly for its leg saving properties.
Ivan: M8.5 in both. Two very different shoes despite both being suited for racing and having a PEBA and carbon based midsole. The Next% is softer, bouncier and saves legs on the longest runs. Toe-off is firmer and snappier in the Endorphin Pro and many will prefer this for especially shorter races and intervals.
adidas adizero adios Pro (RTR Review)
Joost: M9.5 in both. The Adios Pro is also one of the more firm super shoes out there. It feels less stable than the Endorphin Pro and has a very different ride quality due to its higher stack height, the carbon rods in the forefoot instead of a full length plate in the Endorphin. The latter also has a more aggressive rocker. For shorter distances, I might go with the Endorphin, but for anything from a half marathon upwards, my choice could be the Adios Pro.
Ivan: M8.5 in both. I have to disagree with Joost on this one. The Adios Pro doesn’t feel firm to me at all. To me the Lightstrike Pro midsole is soft and dampening while not as springy as the PWRUN PB. I did feel though that the very aggressive rocker does take some getting used to and might not be suitable for all. However, when cruising fast over longer distances, I personally did find the Adios Pro more enjoyable.
New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 (RTR Review)
Joost: M9.5 in both. New Balance went the complete opposite way from Saucony with their latest version of their super shoe. The RC Elite 2 is marshmallowy soft and has a higher stack height. I prefer the upper of the Endorphin Pro, which holds down my midfoot with greater security. In the RC, I sometimes feel like I might slide off the platform in tight bends. Ride quality is also completely different, with the Elite 2 reminding me more of the original Vaporfly and the Endorphin Pro being a firm, bouncy rocker. My choice would depend on the length of the race and the number of tight bends in the course. Shorter races and more bends would definitely tip the scales in favor of the Endorphin Pro.
Ivan: M8.5 in both. Also two very different shoes. Upper is very roomy in the RC Elite 2 for a a racer, too roomy for my taste. You will find a much deeper cushion than in the Endorphin Pro and the ride is softer and bouncier. However, it’s not that snappy and efficient and it tends to feel a bit too mushy and sloppy in the long run for my liking.
Brooks Hyperion Elite v2 (RTR Review)
Ivan: These are two of the more similar feeling shoes to me despite the Hyperion Elite 2 being more stable with it’s very broad platform. Both provide an efficient and snappy roll through the gait cycle and have fairly rigid plates for a springy toe off. I find the Endorphin more cushioned in the heel and a fit firmer up front. Both have very thin and breathable uppers, but the upper of the Hyperion Elite is roomier, stretchier and has less of a race fit.
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Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review beyond potential commissions from the shopping links in the article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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