Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Saucony AXON 2 Multi Tester Review: A $100 Well Polished Max Cushion Trainer. 9 Comparisons

Article by Renee Krusemark, Alex Tilsley, and Sam Winebaum

Saucony Axon 2 ($100)

Introduction

Sam: Yes you read it right..$100 for a max cushion trainer from a top brand. With a 35mm heel / 31mm forefoot and 4mm drop we are in the max category sitting 4mm front and back lower than the Endorphin Shift and a few tenths of an ounce less in weight at just about 10 oz. A rocker based ride with a rigid profile, the Axon has a final distinct toe off roll as the Shift has but is a touch less aggressive. 


Axon 1 (RTR Review) had a very solid ride but suffered from a thin very pliable mesh upper with minimal reinforcements beyond a gusset tongue and a decent heel counter. My toes tended to rise up and the midfoot was a bit loose and unstructured. Axon 2 gets a more robust while almost as thin mesh upper, strategic toe box and medial overlays and some revisions to the heel collars. No changes to the midsole or geometry are called out. I was most curious to see what the revised more performance oriented upper did for the ride. Uppers can often quite significantly improve the ride. 


Alex: I’m new to the Axon, and to Saucony’s rockered shoes, but I’ve always had a soft spot for PWRRUN and was excited to see whether the Axon could be the long run shoe I’ve been looking for. 

Pros:

Smooth, consistent Speedroll ride: Renee/Sam/Alex

Great value for a very capable versatile daily /max cushion trainer: Renee/Sam/Alex

Energetic deeply cushioned if dense forefoot rebound and final roll: Sam

Consistent feel, no bottoming out at 4mm drop, smooth flow at all paces : Sam/Alex


Cons:

Firmer midsole: Renee/ Sam/Alex

A bit heavy: Renee/ Sam/Alex

A bit short at true to size with non thin socks: Sam

Lace eyelet placement makes it hard to secure the heel: Alex


Tester Profiles


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.


Alex is a displaced trail runner, currently living in DC and finding dirt wherever she can. Alex discovered running in college and was a happy 3-miles-a-day hobby jogger until her mom tricked her into running a 10k and it was all downhill from there. She has since run several marathons (PR 3:38) and dabbled in triathlons, but her true love is the trails, whether running, mountain biking, orienteering, or long-distance backpacking. When she’s not running or riding, Alex works full-time in education policy and part-time putting on trail races with EX2 Adventures


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 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 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.


Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 10.1 oz  / 286g (US9)  /  women's 9.13 oz / 259 g (US8)

  Official:    

  Samples: men’s  9.88 oz  / 280g (left 9.67 oz /273 g, right 10.09 oz)  US8.5 

                 women’s 9.13 oz / 259 g (US8)

Axon 1 men’s 9.51 oz / 269g US9

Stack Height: men’s 35 mm heel / 31vmm forefoot 

Available Apri 15, 2022. $100


First Impressions and Fit

Renee: Gone are the days when $100 quality running shoes were plentiful. Sure, a runner can hunt down deals and watch for last year’s models, but new shoes priced at or below $100 are rare. Saucony is keeping prices real with another round of the $100 Axon. 


Honestly, my first impressions were not great. While walking, I thought the Axon 2 seemed unstable, heavy, hard underfoot, and with a forefoot rocker that felt too polarizing for my preferences (similar to my thoughts about the ASICS Glideride). 


My first run with the Axon 2 felt much different. The shoes take some breaking in, and I think they feel much different while running then they first feel simply walking around. For sizing, I suggest true-to-size, although I think the length runs a touch longer than all of my other Saucony women size 8 shoes.

Sam: Right away I could see and feel that the upper was more supportive front to back than Axon 1’s. The mesh is not quite as soft, no longer a sort of open pliable grid as now we have a denser weave. Not an “highly engineered mesh” per say the pattern of the mesh is variable but does not change based on parts of the shoe (for example denser upfront to create a toe bumper), a cost savings.

Trying them on confirmed the changes. A foot conforming fit sitting somewhere near performance with plenty of heel, arch, midfoot and toe box support. Unlike my Axon 1 at a US9,  I was sent my true to size 8.5. Trying them on side by side, I felt the Axon 1 had the right length but was considerably looser and less secure than Axon 2 which in feel and by pressing feels short, both shoes worn with medium to heavier socks. I think most will be OK at true to size with thinner socks but if you wear thicker socks or have a higher volume foot you might consider sizing up. The toe box is not particularly wide but is adequate.


Alex: I really had no idea what to expect of the Axon, and trying them on I found myself intrigued, if not necessarily excited. The weight is noticeable, and the cushion felt firm. The rocker didn’t seem obtrusive to me, but there wasn’t much bounce or anything else to really get me excited to take these out. Fit-wise, I found my usual women’s 6.5 a little long, though I wouldn’t necessarily go down a size (if you’re usually in between sizes, though, you might consider sizing down. I was happy that the regular width forefoot was just generous enough for my wide feet. 


Upper

Renee: I can’t complain much about a comfortable $100 shoe upper. Overall, the mesh construction is well done for the price of the shoe. The feel and security is not as form-fitting as more expensive uppers (for example, the Shift 2), but it does what it needs to. I had some heel slippage during a tempo paced 8 mile run and wished I would have worn crew length socks instead of ankle socks after noticing a good chunk of my heel skin was gone. 


Sam: But for the fact the mesh is not “engineered” with variable zones of density the mesh and upper has nothing to regret compared to far more expensive shoes.


ly Saucony clear solved the front hold issues with 2 thin side overlays. In an engineered mesh upper those areas might be denser weave. Other than these 2 overlays there is a touch of  stiffening below the overlays around the sides to the front.  My problems up front with hold and structure are solved with the new mesh and these overlays.

At midfoot, again to provide structure there is a medial overlay extending to the rear and it is effective in supporting the lower portion of the upper near the arch. The difference in support was clearly felt side by side with the Axon 1 which is quite baggy down low in the same area.

The gusset tongue is lightly padded with some stretch. Effective as are the laces. Everything stays put.

The entire rear of the shoe, collars and heel counter is solidly held, comfortable, and well padded but not super plush in feel. I had no heel slip.

Alex: The upper clearly lacks finesse, though not in a way I noticed on the run. The mesh upper puckers and creases in places, but it’s more an aesthetic problem than a functional problem. The overlays add enough structure that the foot stays in place, and the upper is plenty breathable. 


Like Renee, I’ve also noticed some heel slippage, even with a heel hook lacing. I find myself wishing the last eyelet were just a few centimeters closer to the heel. Thicker laces might also help, though I don’t find the current laces as problematic as some other shoes I’ve tried. 


Midsole

Renee: The Axon 2 features Saucony’s PWRRUN midsole meant to give “plenty of springy cushion with a fast and responsive feel.'' While the ride is good (see the “ride” section of the review), the midsole is not what I call cushiony, springy, fast or responsive. The roll forward is solid, but likely that’s caused by the Speedroll and not the midsole itself. 


The Axon 2 has long-lasting comfort, but I wouldn’t use it for a recovery day when my feet are begging for a soft, plush cushion. I think the Axon 2 midsole works best for steady mid-distance paces (or long runs) rather than slow recovery days. On sore legs, the midsole felt somewhat punishing. 


Alex: This is definitely PWRRUN, though perhaps a little too much of it? The midsole is definitely not soft, but the amount of cushion seems to dampen any rebound you might get from a less cushioned shoe. Saucony uses the tagline “fast meets plush,” but rather than combine the two I think the Axon 2’s midsole is somewhere between fast and plush. The result isn’t bad (more in the “ride” section below), but those looking for fast or plush are probably going to be disappointed. 

Sam: PWRRUN and lots of it at 35 mm heel / 31 mm forefoot stack height. For sure not soft and bouncy but highly protective, quite firm and with response. By my definition response means that instead of compressing far the foam returns quickly and decisively, all of a piece but not dramatically as say Fuel Cell does or with a noted spring feel as say Hyperburst has. 


The heel is stable but not as wide as some highly stacked shoes so there is less mass at the rear and a sensation of the heel moving forward linearly. The firmer foam (and outsole) here keeps the 4mm drop “honest”. There is no sinking at the heel or low feeling at any pace, something I like as a at slow paces heel striker. 

The midfoot is also stable, helped by the very firm wrap up rubber outsole pieces on each side which are more about keeping the foot aligned in transition than any overtly felt stability element in mix although at the road the pieces are felt as "present".  

The forefoot is notably well and deeply cushioned if quite firmly so. This leads to a stable front of the midfoot and a solid deep platform to initiate toe off. The toe off through the final front rocker is quite decisive and easy to find, and at all paces. 


Bottom line both heel strikers and mid to forefoot strikers can run this shoe equally well, not always the case with low drop shoes especially those with softer foams.

Compared to the Axon 1, worn one on each foot, the Axon 2 feels a touch firmer with more response especially off the front where the Axon 1 was more mellow and less decisive. Of course the more secure front of the upper locking me down better up front is also a factor. 


Outsole

Renee: The outsole pattern is similar to other current Saucony road shoes, including the Shift 2 and Freedom 5. The hard outsole rubber works best on pavement and asphalt (or a treadmill). Given the midsole’s firmness, the hard outsole feels the most comfortable with steady, consistent strides. I ran some miles with the Axon 2 on light gravel, but felt like I was slipping on each step. I felt the same slipping with the Freedom 5 and the Shift 2. Overall, the outsole is meant to be durable and should last for several hundred miles of wear, which is great for the price. 


Alex: The outsole is firm and durable, and holds up to wet roads just fine. Much like the upper, it might not be the most exciting, but I have few complaints. 

Sam: More than adequate outsole for lots of miles. The black mid foot pieces are a very hard rubber harder even than the heel areas. They provide a touch of noted support, important given the high stack here. As with Renee I too noticed more slip than some shoes on sea sand over pavement. More I think due to the rigid rocker geometry than the outsole itself.



Ride


Renee: The $100 magic of the Axon 2 is the ride. Although I thought the Axon 2 felt unstable, hard, and polarizing while walking, the Speedroll saves the day during the run. The 4mm drop and roll provide a healthy steady stride. On fresh legs during a mid-distance easy/steady run, I found myself holding a marathon pace without noticing. On tired legs, the firm midsole and heavy weight of the shoe felt punishing. When testing, I had days when I looked forward to wearing the Axon 2 and days when I needed a more flexible, softer, or lighter shoe.


Alex: A theme for me lately has been shoes that change after a run or two. The Axon 2 was no exception. My first run, I found the ride to be stiff and unforgiving, and the rocker to be too pronounced. By run 3, my view had changed significantly. Once these shoes opened up, I actually found the Speedroll geometry to be just enough to keep me rolling forward, and the combination of PWRRUN midsole and Speedroll created a lively feel, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say responsive. The 4mm drop makes the ride feel a little forced if I’m running way back on my heels, but I only tend to heel strike when I’m out for a really easy day, and the Axon 2 is not soft enough to be a really easy shoe. I ran a few strides in the Axon 2, and the firmness helps there, though it’s still too heavy for it to be a real speed work shoe. 


Echoing Renee, I found the ride worked for those mid-distance, moderately paced runs, while being too firm for the easy days and too bulky for the fast days.

Sam: Agreeing with Renee and Alex we have an all purpose moderate to somewhat faster pace ride. Those seeking a rocker based all around daily trainer for all but potentially speed days and easy recovery will find a lot of range here. And for $100, let’s not forget. 


The landings are stable, the 4mm drop honest if not feeling like a touch more compared to others due to the firmer midsole, transitions are easy,  and the front geometry rolls smooth and quite decisively off the front with lots of denser protective cushion all around. A soft and easy ride this is not but a highly functional, stable, and well cushioned work horse at a great price.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Renee: The Axon 2 will appeal to runners who like low drops, high stacks, and firm midsoles. The Speedroll ride of the Axon 2 is smooth at all paces, notably for me at paces held steady for mid to long distances (10-20 miles). I wouldn’t choose the Axon 2 as a recovery or easy day specific shoe necessarily because of the midsole firmness. 

Renee’s score: 8.75/10 

(- .50 weight, -..25 firm midsole, -.50 limited use)


Alex: The Axon 2 might not entirely live up to its “fast meets plush” billing, but it’s a great option for runners looking for an affordable shoe that’s somewhere between fast and plush. The Speedroll geometry creates a smooth ride, and the PWRRUN midsole provides plenty of protection, though not necessarily plenty of cushion. I agree with Renee that runners who like low drops, high stacks, and firm midsoles should look at the Axon 2, and I’d also recommend it to runners looking for one (affordable) shoe that can do most things. I have other shoes in my rotation that are better for easy days or speed work or tempos or races, but I think runners on a budget or beginners who just need something functional but not too soft could do far worse than the Axon 2.

Alex’s Score: 9.04/10 

(Ride: 9, Fit: 8.5, Value: 10, Style: 9.8)


Sam: Very few if any versatile competent trainers from major brands are at $100 anymore and here we have a max cushion rocker based option at a superb value price. 


Quite frankly, the Axon 2 really leaves nothing of big significance out as the Axon 1 did with its shakier upper. We have a solid comfortable upper that matches the big platform, a fine if somewhat firm but very protective and deep PWRRUN midsole, a very effective geometry with enough stability, a smooth flow forward and a quite decisive final roll to toe off and plenty of outsole rubber for many miles. I expect the Axon 2 to prove very durable with outstanding miles per dollar spent.


I might wish for a touch softer PWRRUN as in the new Kinvara 13, Ride and Guide 15 all flexible shoes in contrast to our rocker based approach here, a touch more front length, and a weight below 10 oz. 


I was pleasantly surprised by the Axon 2. It clearly demonstrates that the differences between a $100 trainer and a $130, $140, $150 or even more trainer can in the end mostly be quite minor nice to haves (plusher upper, softer foam, a bit lighter weight) more than essentials if you are looking for a solid all around do just about anything run training option.  

Sam’s Score:  9.07 /10

(Ride 9:, Fit:8.7, Value:10 , Style 9.1:)

I’d give an 11 for value here if I could!


9 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Saucony Axon 1 (RTR Review)

Sam: The new upper clearly provides a more secure lockdown to the high platform due to a denser, more substantial mesh, parallel side overlays, a new overlay on the medial side, and a more substantial heel hold.  We gain about 0.6 oz / 17 g as a result and well worth it I think as the Axon 2 is clearly a higher performing daily max cushion trainer. The 35/31 stack and outsole remains unchanged. I noticed the Axon 2 is a touch firmer and clearly more responsive off the forefoot with the final Speed Roll rocker more noticed and more effective. Both are true to size if a bit short. If you run with thicker socks you may want to consider sizing up a half in Axon 2 compared to 1. 


Saucony Kinvara 13 (RTR Review)

Sam: Saucony’s other more budget oriented ($120) trainer (and racer) couldn’t be more different. Lower stack overall, softer, flexible vs. rocker with a really superb even “premium grade” upper it depends what you are looking for. Kinvara for a more natural, flexible shorter and faster runs ride, Axon for a more cushioned longer run to daily training focus.


Saucony Endorphin Shift 2 (RTR Review

Renee: The Shift 2 is the more pricey version of the Axon 2, although the differences go beyond the price. For sizing, I wore a women’s size 8 in both. The weight is about the same. The Shift 2 is more stable, softer underfoot, with a more plush upper. Both have a similar ride from the Speedroll. For a softer underfoot feel (recovery and true easy runs), I’d choose the Shift 2. If you don’t mind a firmer midsole and need a shoe for steady/easy paces, save some money and choose the Axon 2.


Sam: More stack, 4mm more stack front and back equals more cushioning that’s for sure for the Shift and about 0.3 oz more weight, not much more really as the Shift also includes more stability from its extended heel cup. Its Speed Roll rocker feels a touch more aggressive, its road feel well there is none. A great shoe for long steady faster pace runs it does not have quite the more daily trainer agile feel of the Axon and is $40 more.   


Saucony Ride 15 (RTR Review)  and Guide 15 (RTR Review)

Sam: I tested the Guide and, but for the addition of a medial curved support element, it is identical to the Ride.  The Guide and Ride have some flex so have a more traditional ride than the rocker based Axon but these two also have some rocker in the mix as well. They both have similarly secure locked down uppers as Axon but of more refined mesh and construction. 1.3 oz lighter in the Ride with the same heel height as Axon as it is an 8mm drop shoe vs. 4mm for Axon they have a faster feel, a touch less forefoot cushion and a slightly softer ride. 


Saucony Triumph 19 (RTR Review)

Renee: I wore a women’s size in both. The Triumph 19 is slightly lighter in weight, with a softer/more forgiving midsole. The Triumph has a traditional ride with a 8mm drop, (felt like more to me at times) as opposed to the 4mm drop and Speedroll of the Axon 2. The outsole coverage of the Triumph worked well on pavement and gravel for me, as opposed to the Axon 2, which did not work off hard/even surfaces. For a softer, traditional, and more stable ride, go with the Triumph. 


Brooks Launch 9 (RTR Review)

Sam: The $110 Launch 9  is a flexible 10mm drop more traditional take on the value shoe. It has about the same heel stack height as the Axon 2 but is considerably lower up front with less cushion there but more flex and agility for speedier runs.  Considerably lighter,it is a good value alternative for those seeking a non rockered ride. It’s upper is a bit more polished and softer, not quite as secure and with a similar fit. 


Topo Phantom 2 (RTR Review)

Renee: I wore a women’s 7.5 in the Topo as compared to a size 8 for the Axon 2. The Phantom 2 is slightly lighter in weight with a 5mm drop and more traditional ride. The outsole and ride work better on a variety of surfaces. Neither shoe has the most exciting midsole responsiveness, but both provide a high stack for long miles. The Phantom 2 midsole is more forgiving, while the Axon 2 Speedroll provides a better stride consistency/turnover. 

Sam: Agree with Renee and especially her last comment. Phantom has going for it a superb upper with a clearly more roomy toe box than Axon.


ASICS Glideride (RTR Review)

Renee: I ran only with the first version of the Glideride, and did not like it. The forefoot rocker was too polarizing for my preference and I thought the ride was heavy and cumbersome. The Speedroll of the Axon 2 is much more user-friendly for me, and it still provides enough stack for longer runs. The midsole of the Glideride is more forgiving though. I wore a women’s size 8 in both with a slight amount of more length and room in the Axon 2. 

Sam: Agree with Renee you either like the more prescriptive GuideSole or you don’t while the Axon 2 rocker is much more friendly and adaptable.


The Saucony Axon 2 will be available April 15 at our partners below and at Saucony HERE

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes others were personal purchases. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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