Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Saucony Endorphin Elite Review (December 2022)

Article by Derek Li

Saucony Endorphin Elite 

Update: See RoadTrailRun's updated multi tester review HERE including my content below. (updated there). My review of my purchased pair was originally published in December 2022.

The Endorphin Elite was a personal purchase from a Saucony Distributor in Vietnam (Key Power Sports Vietnam), where the shoe launched on 15th Nov 2022.

The US MSRP will be $275 with a February 21st, 2023 release date.

Saucony was the first brand to truly challenge Nike in the super shoe game back in the Spring of 2020, with the launch of the Endorphin Pro 1. The shoe was impressive and a huge step forward for them, but it didn’t quite match the Vaporfly and Alphafly. Since then, the Endorphin Pro has undergone 2 revisions, while still maintaining more or less the same “principle of assistance”, in that it utilizes the carbon plate to reinforce the forefoot rocker to aid transition.

In parallel with this widely accepted method of using the carbon plate, another approach has been gradually gaining traction. This approach relies on a lower heel-toe drop, and maximizing the amount of foam under the forefoot, while concurrently using a plate that is able to absorb a high forefoot loading force and rebound in a way that propels you forward. Examples of this approach include the Nike Alphafly 1, ASICS Metaspeed Sky and Sky+, the Xtep 160x 3.0 Pro and the upcoming Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro. 

Now it seems the Endorphin Elite has joined those ranks and it will classed alongside the Endorphin 3 as Saucony’s flagship super shoes, sort of like what Nike are doing with the Vaporfly and Alphafly and what ASICS are doing with the Edge and Sky.


Weight: 211g / 7.5oz Men’s US9.5

Stack Height: Forefoot: 34mm, Heel: 40mm


  • Good heel lockdown – Derek

  • Roomy forefoot, should fit most foot shapes well – Derek

  • Excellent stability – Derek

  • Good outsole durability – Derek


  • Firmer forefoot than Endorphin Pro 3 - Derek

  • Transitions feel awkward at slower paces – Derek

  • Could use more lace eyelets – Derek

Tester Profile

Derek is in his 40’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.

First Impressions, Upper, and Fit 

Derek: Over the past 2 years, I have become a big fan of lower drop super shoes and even a lot of my moderate pace long runs are done in high stack, low drop shoes. My most used trainers have been the Nike Tempo Next% (4mm drop) and the Xtep 160x Pro v1 (6mm drop), while my main racing shoes were the Nike Alphafly v1 (4mm) and the ASICS Metaspeed Sky (measured 5mm drop). The Saucony Endorphin Elite photos have popped up on social media on and off for some time now, and so when I saw that it was launching in Vietnam, I jumped at the chance to get a pair. 

The upper is all sorts of radical with straps and holes all over the place, reminiscent of the old Nike Huarache shoes, and I think with a silhouette like this, it is appropriate to keep the color schemes relatively simple. 

Fit is the primary concern with such an apparently unstructured upper. Will the lockdown be good enough? The shoe feels more like a working prototype with an unfinished upper, compared to the much more refined finish of the Endorphin Pros. The fits is on the slightly longer side of true-to-size, and the toebox is even more rounded and roomy than on the Endorphin Pro 3. That said, I would not size down for this one. Not for a marathon race anyway. (In terms of fit comparison, I wear true to size in all the Endorphin shoes as well as in the Vaporfly range.  size down a half size in Alphafly 1 and 2.

The upper is composed of a single layer nylon mesh. 

There is an internal laminate forming a toe guard up front, giving it quite good volume over the toes.

The tongue is composed of a thin perforated suede layer attached to elastic fabric bands on both sides in a gusseted manner.

At midfoot, there is a single nylon strap that attaches to the lace eyelet section of the upper on both sides, running externally to the primary upper layer and under the embedded carbon plate. 

It is one continuous strap that serves to reinforce the hold of the midfoot. You don’t really notice it until you lace up the shoe and the resultant hold comes into effect.

The rear of the upper is completely unstructured with no heel cup. Instead of the commonly used cushions on either side of the Achilles, Saucony has opted to use a single thick pillow to lock onto the heel. 

The other piece of the puzzle is how much the upper slants forward into the Achilles by design. 

I think without this aggressive forward angle of the heel collar, we would be seeing massive heel slippage. Instead, we have excellent heel lockdown, which has become somewhat of a rarity with racing uppers of late.

If there is one knock I have on the shoe, it’s the installation of only 5 row of eyelets I would have liked an extra row, just so that lace tension is less obvious on the top of the foot. With such a thin suede tongue, any pressure from the laces will be quite clearly felt on the foot, especially with thinner socks.

All in all, the upper is surprisingly effective for me, and I think people are going to like it more than the upper of the Endorphin Pro 3, an upper where I have incidentally never had heel rub issues.


Derek: The midsole has two distinct colours with the green foam actually firmer than the white foam. Saucony (at Power Sports) lists the foam used as PWRRUN HG foam but it’s not clear if they are referring to the green foam or whether both green and white foams are different versions of the same foam. The HG foam is not made expanded beads of PEBA as PWRRUN PB is. 

It has become clear that PWRRUN PB foam can be tuned to different densities as evidenced by the clear difference in softness between the Endorphin Pro 3 and Pro 1 and 2. Perhaps the same also applies to PWRRUN HG foam. I measured the green foam durometer at 30A, while the white foam durometer was measured at 23A. For reference, the Endorphin Pro 3 midsole durometer was measured at 20A so the foam in the Elite is firmer yet I also found it also more forgiving with less ground feel than the Endorphin Pro 3 or Adios Pro 3. 

Despite the external appearance, my measured heel stack of the Endorphin Elite and Endorphin Pro 3 is almost identical. 

This is because the green foam rises quite high up the sides for most of the heel and midfoot. There are two key features to note here. First, the forefoot rocker is quite far forward, and you don’t really engage it just by landing midfoot a la Endorphin Pro 3; you do need to lean into the forefoot to engage that part of it. If you land more on the heel or midfoot, the shoe actually feels quite flat on initial impact. 

That brings me to the second key feature. The midfoot cutout on the lateral side. 

Compare this with other brands that put the cutout on the medial side, e.g. Adios Pro 2, Puma FAST-FWD Nitro Elite, Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro, if they even put one at all. 

I point this out because the foot’s natural tendency is to pronate. That’s normal. 

Here, instead of a medial cutout that promotes pronation, you have an imbalance of underfoot resistance that tips you more towards supination. At faster paces (6:20/mile down to 5:20/mile) it’s no problem, the natural impact forces and fast transitions will let you breeze right through to the forefoot. At slower paces (8:00/mile or slower) I can feel a sinking in the midfoot where you kind of load in the middle and feel like you have a hill to climb up to get to the forefoot rocker. For context, I am mostly a mid-forefoot striker at most paces. When I first experienced this, I thought I had broken the plate. Of course, fast and slow are all relative so it’s going to be tricky to gauge how you will experience this.

At this point it would be remiss not to talk about the embedded carbon plate. I have seen images showing the Endorphin Elite plate as being forked and quite different from the Endorphin Pro plate, but we will have to wait for official information from Saucony before we can confirm the plate geometry. The plate is still stiff for sure and gives a very solid rebound off the toes. 

In terms of underfoot feel, the vibration dampening in the Endorphin Elite is very, very good. Right up there with Alphafly 1, Xtep 160x 3.0 Pro and the Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro, and noticeably better than the Adios Pro 2/3, Endorphin Pro 3 and Vaporfly Next%. 

The relatively wide heel and forefoot also make the shoe one of the more stable super shoes on the market, and easily the most stable of the max cushion low drop group. This is, I think, the key selling point of this shoe, where you have runners who like the forefoot loading and spring of the Alphafly 1 or Xtep 160x 3.0 Pro, but just can’t handle the instability.


Derek: The outsole surprised me. Usually you look at the compounds and you kind of know what to expect. One of the criticisms of the Endorphin Pro 3 is the relatively weak durability of the forefoot blown rubber. 

Here you have a thin layer of rubber that looks like the sandpaper like stuff of the Adios Pro range, but it has been surprisingly resilient and grippy, making me think it’s some new variant of carbon injected rubber instead.


Derek: The shoe is best run at an uptempo pace, not because it is harsh when it’s run slower but mainly because the transition seems to stall a little at midfoot at slower paces for me. Otherwise, the degree of cushioning makes it easily usable for pretty much any kind of run. The stability and outsole grip are the big selling points for me, and when combined with the excellent upper, make for very confident cornering. 

This is a low drop shoe that rewards loading the forefoot with a strong confident rebound. The overall ride is on the firmer side, but it’s definitely more forgiving than say the Adios Pro 3 and Endorphin Pro 3 because there is less ground feel. People should have no problems doing a full marathon in these shoes.


Derek: Saucony has had a string of superb hits this year with the Ride 15, Tempus, Endorphin Speed 3 and Endorphin Pro 3. I’m not sure when the full global release will be, Rumors seem to point to a February 2023 release but you never know these days. I think the Endorphin Elite will be a major hit among the Alphafly 1 faithful, and maybe pull in a whole host of new fans who maybe liked the forefoot ride of the low drop shoes but couldn’t quite handle the heel instability.

Derek’s Score: 9.73/10

Ride 9.8 (50%) Fit 10 (30%) Value 9 (15%) Style 9.5 (5%)

Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊😊 


Saucony Endorphin Elite vs. Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Derek: I am true to size in both shoes at US9.5. The EP3 rides more like a Vaporfly with a geometry that promotes rolling through the shoe, while the Endorphin Elite relies more on the runner leaning into and loading the forefoot. EE appears to have better outsole durability than the EP3, and also has better vibration dampening and less ground feel. I feel like for the marathon distance, the EE would be the better shoe for me.

Saucony Endorphin Elite vs. Nike Alphafly 1

Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Endorphin Elite, and size down to US9.0 in both Alphafly 1 and 2. Alphafly 1 has been my gold standard marathon shoe this year and I ran two of the fastest marathons of my life in the same pair. 

The Endorphin Elite has a better upper for me and seems to hold even pressure for longer periods, while the Atom Knit of the Alphafly tends to lose tension a little after the first 2 hours, especially if the knit gets wet. 

Both shoes have excellent outsole grip and relatively good rubber durability so that’s a wash. 

Endorphin Elite has the better overall stability especially when cornering, but is maybe not as spectacular at slower than race paces. The AF1 is good overall at all paces for me and so has somewhat better versatility. In terms of mechanical assistance, I think the AF1 still has a slight edge, but that edge has become really small.

Saucony Endorphin Elite vs. Nike Vaporfly Next%

Derek: I am true to size in both shoes at US9.5. The Vaporfly is more like the EP3 above. I feel that the Next% lost a bit of transition efficiency when they went with a lower 8mm drop vs the 10mm drop of the 4%, and the softer heel also makes the shoe feel a little flatter than it should be. Overall, the EE provides better cushioning and a more springy and energetic rebound off the toes. I much prefer the ride of the EE at even slower paces. Endorphin Elite for the win.

Saucony Endorphin Elite vs. Xtep 160x 3.0 Pro (RTR Review)

Derek: I am true to size in both shoes at US9.5. Both shoes are great in their own way. The Xtep is a lot softer and more bouncy and springy, but also quite unstable. I think if you need more stability, the EE is the better option, but if you like a softer ride then the Xtep is the better shoe. As of this writing, fellow RTR contributor Matt Crehan just smashed a 2:18 marathon PB in the Xtep 160x 3.0 Pro so there’s nothing wrong with that shoe!

Saucony Endorphin Elite vs. ASICS Metaspeed Sky and Sky+ (RTR Review)

Derek: I am true to size in both shoes at US9.5. The Endorphin Elite has a firmer overall ride than the Sky but is softer than the Sky +. All of them rely on a good solid forefoot load to work well. If you find the Sky to be too little shoe, but Sky + to be too firm, then the Endorphin Elite is definitely worth a try.

Saucony Endorphin Elite vs. Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite (RTR Review)

Derek: I am true to size in both shoes at US9.5. The Fast-R Nitro Elite is by Puma’s own admission, meant for mid- and forefoot strikers, but it rides like a traditional drop shoe! I find it quite tedious to load the forefoot in the Puma because the heel feels quite high. The Endorphin Elite is just as stable and confident around the corners, and is a much more forgiving and springy shoe. Endorphin Elite for the win.

The Endorphin Elite will release February 21, 2023

Update: See RoadTrailRun's updated multi tester review HERE including my content below. (updated). My review of my purchased pair was originally published in November 2022.

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

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Anonymous said...

Thank you, Derek, for this informative, early review! I found the ground feel of the EP3 too jarring, so perhaps this new shoe is for me. Appreciate your testing for us.

Anonymous said...

Great review and what a sacrifice paying so much for the shoe.. 👍🏻