Sunday, June 13, 2021

Saucony Endorphin Shift 2 Multi Tester Review: Still the Best Riding Maximalist Trainer Category Title Holder?

Article by Jeff Beck, Renee Krusemark, and Michael Ellenberger

Endorphin Shift 2 ($140)


Jeff: Saucony knocked it out of the park throughout the entire line in 2019-20, and with the complications of Covid, they’ve been releasing the latest version of shoes with somewhere between an overhaul and a revision to the upper. In every Saucony shoe I’ve reviewed, the upper has been noticeably better, with some shoes making big changes, like the Triumph 19 that lost more than an ounce and overall rides that much better because of it. The Endorphin Shift was only introduced last year as Saucony’s daily trainer option in the Endorphin Line. Unlike it’s brothers Endorphin Speed and Endorphin Pro, the Shift does not have a plate nor does it use Saucony’s top tier midsole material PWRRUN PB, which is a lightweight and explosive Pebax-based material. What it does have is a firm yet high stack of PWRRUN and a very aggressive modern geometry with an exaggerated rocker. Fast forward a year to the Endorphin Shift 2, and very little has changed from the Endorphin Shift 1 (RTR Review). Underfoot it appears that literally nothing has changed, while the upper, which was very good last year, has gotten a slight update/refinement. Is it a step forward? Well, I don’t think it’s a step back.


Jeff/Renee/Michael: Still has one of the most stable platforms for the height among any running shoe.

Jeff/Renee/Michael: One of the cleanest examples of modern running shoe geometries.

Jeff/Renee: Taxi cab enthusiasts/fetishists now have a running shoe to wear to their conventions/meetups.

Jeff: Saucony sent two pairs of laces, black and yellow, and both are the proper length (which is a weird thing to brag about in 2021, but so many others get this wrong).

Renee/Michael: Speed roll encourages a consistent, smooth stride and foot landing

Michael: The fastest-feeling shoe over 10 oz. I can think of 


Jeff/Michael: So little has changed, this really should be the Endorphin Shift 1.1 or 1.2.

Jeff/Michael: We’ve lost the heel pull tab and the tongue pull tab from last year’s shoe.

Renee: A bit heavy

Renee: Limited purpose (long runs on pavement only)


(weigh your sample on a digital scale before running  if you have one in grams and convert to oz, weigh both shoes noting significant differences if any )

Weight: men's 10.4 oz/ 296g (US9)  /  women's 9.07oz / 258g  (US8)

  Samples: men’s 11.04 oz / 313g (US10.5) women’s 9.07oz / 258g (US8)

Endorphin Shift 1 weighed 10.4 oz/ 296g 

Stack Height: 35mm (forefoot) 39mm (heel)

Available June 15th, 2021. $140

Tester Profiles

Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 30 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.

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 has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago and is a patent and intellectual property attorney. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He also has a 2:31 marathon PR from the 2018 Austin Marathon.

First Impressions and Fit

Jeff: I never knew I wanted a running shoe that had more than a passing resemblance to NYC Taxi Cabs from the early 80s, but then I opened this box and everything changed. There’s no getting around it, the aesthetics are certainly polarizing with some folks falling in love and others almost gagging - but luckily that’s purely looks. Turns out once you start running you don’t look at your shoes all that often, and the part that matters, how the shoe runs and feels, is still top notch like last year. Fit is very comparable to the first gen shoe, and I’d say it is spot on true-to-size.The toebox has ample height and width, though it does feel just a little restricted than the ES1. However, the material over the toebox does have a little more stretch than the first shoe, so it ultimately has about the same volume up front.

Renee: Jeff’s not wrong about the Shift’s resemblance to 1980s NYC Taxi Cabs. Perhaps the designers were watching old episodes of the Emmy-winning sitcom Taxi, starring Tony Danza. Or maybe they were watching the 1976 Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver. Or maybe they were watching both! In any event, Saucony has a lot of checkered patterns happening in 2021. I did not run with the Shift 1, but I heard great things about it as an easy, long run shoe. Now that I have the Shift 2, I understand why the Shift 1 made “best of” 2020 lists. Heavier, high-stack shoes are not my favorite type of shoe, but it is hard to argue with the great ride and performance of the Shift 2 for easy runs. The fit is true to size. I wore a women’s size 8, my typical Saucony road or trail shoe size. 

Michael: I distinctly remember my first run in the (original) Shift - a rolling 20-miler with fellow tester Jamie Hershfang, just as the pandemic was really taking shape. This year, the runs were less ceremonious (and shorter - the longest being just over 9 miles), but at least the mood is much brighter! And while my runs have changed (I need to get back with Jamie and her high-mileage ways), the Shift 2 remains very similar to its predecessor (albeit with a newer, funkier look!).   


Jeff: Saucony used an engineered mesh for the upper that they say takes inspiration from their spikes, lightweight and form fitting. That seems accurate, you can see the color of your sock through the upper, and when you look into the shoe there’s plenty of light bleeding through. They went with a thicker material that has a ripstop texture on the sides that give the upper some decent structure.

 The heel counter is a minor refinement from last year, said by Saucony to have a snugger heel fit with a trim heel counter. It still is a large TPU black slab that surrounds the ankles on three sides extending further down on the medial side over the midsole  than the lateral. 

The tongue is gusseted, and I haven’t found it move at all during the run, and while it isn’t a super thick tongue, it is padded enough to prevent any kind of lace bite regardless of how tight you pull the laces. Ultimately I’ve found the biggest change from last year’s upper to this version was the omission of both the tongue pull tab and the heel pull tab. Don’t get me wrong, the shoe is easy enough to put on, but I really liked having the matching pull tabs. Otherwise it’s a slight change, but it doesn’t seem necessarily better or worse, just a little different.

Renee: The upper is comfortable. The toebox is breathable, and it has ample width and height. The sides and heel of the upper can be warm during hot days. The lockdown is good. The tongue provides enough padding for long runs without being overly puffy. I am not a fan of large TPU heel slabs on shoes. The structure can prohibit a natural movement of my foot landing. However, the TPU counter on the Shift 2 provides stability to help with the high stack, and I think it compliments the Speed Roll of the midsole. Elf heels are not my favorite either, but given the stack height and weight of the Shift, I think the high heel counter is necessary. I did not have any irritation from the heel, even when I wore short socks. 

Michael: As with last year, the Shift 2 brings a breathable upper, with the same added wrap-around plastic piece on the medial side. And, as before, I can’t say it particularly bothers me… though I do think it looked better on the first version.

I do miss both the tongue and heel collar pull tabs - it’s not a super tricky shoe to put on, but I did use both of those elements to help put on v1, and I miss 


Jeff: Saucony stuck with its firmer daily midsole, PWRRUN  (an EVA/TPU blend) with a very high 35/39 stack height, and they paired it with a smooth rolling aggressive geometry (Speed Roll as in the Endorphin Speed, Pro, and Trail)  that encourages a very fast turnover. The shoe’s platform is plenty wide as well, which helps keep it very stable despite the height. They don’t have much squish to them, but with this high of a stack, there’s plenty of cushioning and protection. While I tend to favor Saucony’s heavier yet softer PWRRUN+ midsole in most applications, with this much midsole I can’t imagine that PWRRUN+ would work nearly as well. And compared to last year? Virtually zero change. So if you enjoyed the Endorphin Shift 1 it’s very safe to assume you’ll enjoy the 2 just as much. 

Renee: Jeff covered the details. The midsole is not a soft, plush feel but it is not overly firm either. The midsole firmness works well with the Speed Roll. In fact, the combo of the midsole and Speed Roll is my favorite aspect of the shoe. Scroll down to the “Ride” section for my thoughts about that. 

Michael: As with 2020’s version, the geometry here is superb, helping facilitate a forward roll even when the trainer is a bit on the heavy side. After wearing out my first pair, and putting a decent number on this set, I do wish the midsole was slightly softer - I think something like Nike’s ZoomX here would really, really zip - but it’s hard to complain too much about an exceptionally good shoe.


Jeff: The Endorphin Shift 2 outsole is an incredible example of using minimal rubber, but making it work. While there is a decent amount of exposed midsole, the rubber lines almost the entire perimeter of the shoe, along with a pair of more central rails that work with Saucony’s “Speed Roll” geometry. The rubber perimeter reinforces the exposed midsole, and while some shoes that have this much exposed midsole can have early failure as a common consequence, I don’t think many runners will see this shoe earn an early death through that exposure - another feather in the cap for the firmer PWRRUN midsole.

Renee: The minimal rubber of the outsole is a good compliment to the high stack geometry. The shoe does not need any more coverage on the outsole, particularly because of the overall weight. Obviously, the Shift 2 is a road shoe and the outsole reflects that usage. Out of curiosity, I ran a few miles on gravel and grass with the Shift. The traction was not good, even on flat gravel. The Shift 2 might be able to handle packed dirt paths or bike paths with a minimal amount of small pea-sized gravel. Otherwise, the ride is much smoother on pavement. I feel I’m stating the obvious with that, but I tried it anyway. 

Michael: I put about 320 miles on my first pair (v1) and abandoned them only in the interest of testing more shoes - not because they were worn out. I have no concerns here about durability or traction. It’s not super flexible - this was a complaint I had last year - but it’s not enough to distract from a quality ride.


Jeff: This is about the best ride around if you like firm, smooth, and tall. More and more shoes are using advanced midsole materials to give an extra bounce on the rebound, and this shoe goes the other way, with the geometry being the driving force on the run. Heel or midfoot strikers can all appreciate the quick turnover, the toe spring is that exaggerated and effective.

Renee: The overall ride of the Shift 2 is the shoe’s best quality. Overall, the Shift 2 is much heavier than I prefer, even for an easy, long run shoe. This said, the ride encourages a smooth, healthy landing and stride. Even at slower speeds, I was landing on my mid/forefoot. Comparatively, when running slowly in other shoes, I tend to become sloppy with my foot landing. The Shift 2 is an excellent choice as a long run shoe for runners training for a marathon. I do not typically like shoes with a pronounced rocker because they tend to take over my natural stride and footlanding.  The Speed Roll geometry is not overbearing and compliments and aids a healthy stride. 

Michael: The Shift 2 maintains its title as the best-riding high-stack (aka “maximalist” aka “heavyweight”) trainer category. Despite coming in at over 10 ounces, the SpeedRoll geometry keeps the Shift rolling along (pun intended), even when paces get faster. For easy runs, medium-prace progressive sessions, and even longer tempo runs, I think the Shift 2 is a great pick. Yes, you can find something lighter and peppier, but I find the Shift to work extremely well when you want a shoe that can roll from warm-up, to workout, to cool-down, without missing a beat.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff: Saucony’s highest stacked daily trainer doesn’t have that much squish to it, but there’s plenty of protection underfoot and the geometry and rocker are the real stars of the show. The slightest upper revision from Saucony this year, the Endorphin Shift 2 is ultimately a very subtle update from last year’s shoe that got very little wrong. That has to be the hardest starting position for Saucony - how do you make an already great shoe that much better? In this case I’m not sure that they did. The shoe didn’t lose any weight (didn’t gain any either), and while it is breathable, last year’s shoe didn’t lack that either. This all may read as a negative, and I don’t mean it to be, more that this is the least updated update I think I’ve ever seen, but it is coming on the heels of a truly incredible shoe. Following up on one of the best ever made has to be tough - imagine being Albert Einstein’s little brother? That is the conundrum of the Endorphin Shift 2.

Jeff’s Score: 9.45/10

Ride: 9.5 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 10 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)

Renee: The Shift 2 is a great choice for runners who like to have a few shoes in their rotation, particularly a shoe for easy long runs. The Shift 2’s high stack offers protection underfoot for long runs, stability, and a geometry/Speed Roll that encourages a consistent, healthy stride and foot landing for easy paces. For me, the shoe is useful for only one type of run: long, easy days on pavement. I suppose they could be used for recovery days too, although I would prefer a lighter shoe. 

Renee’s Score: 9.0/10 (-.50 weight, .25 pavement-only outsole, -.25 price for usage)

MIchael: The everyday trainer category gets more competitive every month, and while it’s perhaps disappointing at first pass to see the Shift 2 remain almost identical to its predecessor, I can’t say the category has moved past it. That is, the Shift 2 is a terrific option for many, many runners - and one of the most dynamic options available. Usually I say that for shoes built for speed that can go backwards (think Xtep 160X or ASICS Magic Speed, for example), but it’s great to have a heavyweight trainer that can punch, err, below its weight.

Michael’s Score: 9.5/10


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Saucony Endorphin Shift 1 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Two of the most similar shoes I’ve ever seen with the midsole/outsole being identical and the upper being different, but for me it is unclear if the ES2 upper is actually an improvement. Ultimately I would recommend most runners stick with the first version, as you can get virtually the same shoe for a lower cost - and that’s never a bad thing.

Michael: I’m not sure which colorway I like better - last year’s mutant scheme was a little cleaner, but this year’s finish-line/taxi-cab aesthetic is quite fun. That’s really the choice you’ll have to make, because the Shift and Shift 2 are immensely similar.  

Saucony Triumph 19  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Now this was a recent release that truly benefited from the upper update, the biggest question is how do you take your cushioning? If you prefer a firmer ride, with a higher stack and a fast turnover due to the geometry? Go Endorphin Shift, the Triumph is going to disappoint you. If you don’t want the geometry to be the defining feature and you prefer a more plush ride, it’s all Triumph. Saucony has covered their bases well here, and both are great shoes.

Renee: Everything Jeff wrote. For a firmer ride with guidance, choose the Shift 2. For a softer, traditional ride, choose the Triumph 19. Both shoes are long run shoes, although the Triumph works better for me for recovery or short, slow runs. The Triumph’s outsole has more coverage and works well on pavement or light gravel. The Shift 2’s outsole is pavement-only, in my opinion. The Triumph is slightly lighter. Both are true-to-size. 

Saucony Ride 14  (RTR Review)

Jeff: The Ride 14 uses the same PWRRUN midsole of the Endorphin Shift, but with a more traditional stack height and geometry. If you are a runner who prefers a more “standard” running shoe that doesn’t completely dull out the ground or encourage a fast turnover, then no question the Ride is your shoe. If you like a little more stack height and an aggressive rocker, then look no further than the Shift.

Brooks Glycerin 19  (RTR Review)

Jeff: The 19th Glycerin is easily the best of the model (in my opinion) with a top tier midsole and upper. A/B with the Shift, the Glycerin is noticeably lower in stack height, much softer, and with a much more plush upper. But the Shift’s rocker makes the shoe much more at home uptempo than the Brooks big cushion trainer. Personally I favor the Glycerin for it’s softer ride, but could easily see many runners favor Saucony’s firmer higher stack.

Michael: As Jeff noted, the Glycerin is softer and more flexible. The Brooks upper is also a bit more traditional. All told, though, I prefer the Shift 2 - but runners who want a softer and lower-slung ride shouldn’t hesitate to try the new Glycerin. Both are terrific trainers; I just think SpeedRoll is a scale-tipping benefit for the Saucony. 

Mizuno Wave Sky Neo  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Mizuno’s highest cushioned trainer is noticeably shorter than the Endorphin Shift 2, but is also much bouncier. Both shoes have a firm ride (but neither is harsh) with the Mizuno bringing more bounce and the Saucony bringing more of a smooth roll. The Mizuno upper is both tighter, but with more stretch, and has a far more premium feel to it. The Mizuno has just a bit softer ride to it, and more bounce, and that gives it the edge for me.

New Balance Fuel Cell Lerato  (RTR Review)

Jeff: New Balance’s awkward “Is it a trainer? Is it a casual shoe?” plated borderline-super shoe is heavier, softer, much more expensive, and mostly unclear what its ideal purpose is - while the Endorphin Shift can fill almost any slot on your rotation. I enjoy the softness of the Fuel Cell midsole, but overall see far more purpose to the Endorphin Shift. If you are looking for a pure casual shoe, the Lerato might be the better answer, but if you plan on running, get the Saucony.

Renee: The Lerato is tough to categorize. The Shift 2 is clear with its purpose: long run shoe. The Lerato weighs almost 10oz in my women’s size 8, compared to 9.07oz for the Shift 2. Both are heavy. I enjoy the softness of the Lerato’s midsole coupled with the carbon plate, but the weight and high heel counter/collar became cumbersome. For running, the Shift 2 wins. For having a confusing purpose, the Lerato wins. 

MIchael: Close call! Both shoes are good, and despite the (in my opinion) ugly look of the Lerato, it ended up being a shoe I ran in long past its test period. Both are heavy options that have a speedy upside, and both are fun - I prefer the Saucony!

ASICS Nimbus 23  (RTR Review)

Jeff: ASICS big mileage trainer feels like it was released a decade before the Endorphin, with a decidedly old school feel and design. There’s nothing wrong with the GEL infused midsole, but the updated geometry of the Shift is a game changer. The ASICS upper has more room (but less stretch) up front, but the midsole/ride of the Endorphin Shift is such a massive step forward.

ASICS Glideride (RTR Review)

Jeff: I only tested the first iteration of the Glideride, but it matches up very well with the Endorphin Shift. While the Shift uses a lot of PWRRUN midsole material, the Glideride has an embedded hardened EVA frame that gives the shoe a little more stiffness and structure. While both have a very aggressive toe off from the geometry, the Glideride seems to take it to the next level - standing still is hard in that shoe, it really wants you to move forward constantly. The ASICS is ultimately a little more plush, but also much more stiff, while the Saucony has a little bit firmer ride that feels just a little more natural. I think the Glideride is more fun to run in, but I think that the Endorphin Shift is the better shoe.

Renee: I too tested only the first version of the Glideride. The rocker was too polarizing for me and I found it cumbersome and chunky. The ride of the Shift 2 is more natural. Both are high stack, heavy shoes weighing about the same. The toebox fit was better for me in the Shift 2. I found the Glideride toebox to be short and narrow. I wore a women’s size 8 for both shoes. Overwhelmingly, the Shift 2 is my pick between these two shoes. 

Nike ZoomX Invincible  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Two big modern shoes at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Nike is super soft with more bounce than just about any shoe on the planet, while the Saucony is firm and planted with the shape of the outsole doing the work. Both are cutting edge and very polarizing, so I’d suggest runners on the fence spend some time with each on foot to get a feel for what you like. Personally I like the squish of the Invincible more, but for the $40 price difference and truly some fun rocker, I’d recommend more runners try the Endorphin Shift.

Skechers Performance GoRun Ride 9  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Another shoe that’s changing the game, the Ride 9 is easily Skechers Performance best use of its Hyperburst midsole, with a firm yet bouncy (and still lightweight and also $10 less than the Shift) ride. The bounce is almost equal to the Invincible, but it has far more structure, making it line up very nicely to the Shift. While it has a decent toe spring, it doesn’t nearly match the Endorphin Shift’s exaggerated rocker, though its inherent bounce from the midsole is the deciding factor for me. Save the money (and literally two full ounces), and get the Ride 9.

The Endorphin Shift 2 releases June 15th, 2021. 

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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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Endorphin Shit 1 weighed 10.4 oz/ 296g" Best typo ever LOL