Sunday, January 29, 2023

Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX Multi Tester Review: Hiking Boot? High Performance Trail Runner? Easily Both and More!

Article by Jeff Beck, Sam Winebaum, and Alex Tilsley

Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX ($190)


Sam: The name.. Ultra Ridge GTX is a bit confusing but it actually spells out exactly what this new entry from Saucony is capable of. The “Ridge GTX” is clearly,  based on appearances, a sleek modern hiking boot. The stats hint at the “Ultra” part and we’ll get to that here. 

It is very, very light at a mere 12.72 oz in US9 for a 32.5 mm heel / 26.5 mm stack height hike collar boot and is on the higher end of what a trail running shoe, with a low or mid height top would weigh. 

How is that possible? Well, Saucony uses a core of its supercritical high rebounding  PWRRUN Pb PEBA foam (same as in is Endorphin Pro and Speed road shoes) surrounded by a frame of firmer PWRRUN EVA/TPU foam (as found in the Peregrine 13-14). 

The undercarriage construction and 4mm lug outsole with woven rock protection for sure looks.. Ultra run worthy and is identical to the Xodus Ultra trail runner but with a ridge running hiking upper! 

Genius yet again from Saucony as we have here what potentially is both a no compromises all seasons hiking boot that is super light and a trail runner, winter run offering that while heavier than many has the ride of a fast trail runner. Let’s see how they performed in our early testing.



Boot? Trail Runner? Both! and with few compromises beyond maybe weight as a trail running shoe:  Sam/Jeff/Alex

-Runs as well as hikes! Smooth flowing 8mm drop, supercritical foam core, very stable, lightly propulsive rock plate: Sam/Jeff/Alex

-Incredibly light for a supportive full pledged boot Sam/Jeff/Alex

-Incredible foot/ankle support - Jeff/Sam

-Light in weight considering everything it brings - Jeff/Sam

-Great option for the ultrarunner with “bad ankles” or very rough terrain racing: Sam/Jeff/Alex

--Flexible lacing: tight down low, looser up top for forward run flex with side support or full on boot snug to the top: Sam

-State of the art trail runner underfoot platform with plenty of run flexiblity (same as Xodus Ultra) in a boot, what a great and fast idea: Sam/Jeff/Alex

-Solid underfoot protection - Jeff/Alex

-Torsionally rigid with high collar makes it stable for carrying decent size loads: Sam

-Excellent grip on hard packed snow: Sam

-Waterproof gusset goes up high enough - Jeff

-Front/rear pull tab helps ingress/egress - Jeff


-Waterproof Gore-Tex upper but outsole struggles in mud - Jeff/Alex

- I wonder if such a high cuff is really needed, may add to weight: Sam

- Weird blue sample color way neither run shoe or boot: Sam

- Ankle collar can create pressure points – Alex


Official Weight: men's 12.6 oz  / 357g (US9)  /  women's 11 oz / 312g (US8)

  Samples: men’s  12.72 oz  /  361g US9, 13.44 oz / 381g US10.5

Stack Height: men’s 32.5 mm heel / 26.5mm forefoot

$190  Available now at Saucony HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jeff: Frequently when brands try to do two things at once you get a miss on both sides - it’s immediately apparent that’s not the case. Saucony merged “hiking boot” and “running shoe” and somehow it works, really really well. While I’m not in love with the baby blue colorway, right out of the box it was clear this is different.

The fit is true-to-size lengthwise, and its width is decent. The toe box isn’t massive, but there’s adequate room up front to let them spread and splay. 

The upper is the most inventive part of the shoe, and that’s a real rarity. The construction is what Saucony calls a “rugged mesh with added film protection”, and that’s an accurate assessment. It sounds like it would be more rough than it is, the upper is very comfortable and borderline plush. 

It’s the massive amount of material in the upper that really sets this one apart - they’ve gone full-on hightop. And the result is so much heel and ankle support, I haven’t felt anything like this since playing high school football (big lineman cleats have pretty good support, and trainers can tape ankles like it’s nobody’s business). There’s so much support, I don’t know if you could roll your ankle if you tried - not that *that* is worth pursuing.

The upper is lined with GORE-TEX to keep your feet dry, and they smartly gusseted the tongue to the top of the instep. Denver’s currently seeing some really weird weather patterns (not going to hit 60 degrees in January for the first time in a few decades) so we uncharacteristically have lots of snow and very few puddles around - so I haven’t been able to dunk them and see how they hold up. That said, a few miles in the snow and my feet didn’t get any extra moisture.

They equipped the shoe with a heel and tongue pull tab, and while it’s not nearly as fun to put on as the ASICS Nimbus 25, having two spots to grab helps, which is good and essentially required. I’ve never had a shoe or boot hold my foot the way these do. It isn’t too much, ever, but this thing does not want to leave your foot. I recruited my wife to see if she could pull one off of my foot, while unlaced mind you - she nearly pulled me off of the kitchen counter before the shoe slid off my foot. These things are *planted* in a way that really seems like you could take them anywhere.

Sam: I will start by saying Jeff is totally right in saying the Ultra Ridge GTX is totally planted. Pull them on with some difficulty and then with a resounding thud your foot is planted in a highly supportive cocoon with plenty of room and total support top to bottom, front to back. The fit feel blends a heavy duty trail runner lower foot hold with a boot’s ankle support. The darker green collar is actually quite soft and pliable but it is narrow so wraps tightly around the ankle. The heavier duty support starts at the stitched and bonded darker green overlay so the top collar is more a wrap than a stout boot like thing yet delivers all the support one could wish for.

The mesh upper is more supportive for sure than the v1 Xodus Ultra regular mesh and reminds me of the RunShield version of the Xodus Ultra in being denser, not as stretchy but very smoothly and securely foot wrapping but with more toe box height and volume here.

And best of all the lacing system allows you to decide what today’s mission will be. 

The lower lace loops are quite hard to pull through and allow a very precise hole by hole tightening there, reminiscent of adizero road race shoes in that sense. 

Then we have a webbing loop that acts as the transition between lower “trail shoe” and boot fit. Lace them snug and tightly wrapping around the ankle for boot duty, or as I found out looser for more front flex while running. 

And…even laced looser up top I experienced an uncanny sense of forward alignment in the direction of travel from the high “boot”  collars on uneven terrain. Heck you could even tie them off at the webbing loop and get total lower support. It’s a very neat sensation that, with the superb underfoot platform made them shockingly fast for a boot on the run.

Of course the high collars in boot mode make for great hiking support. I also note that the metal hooks are quite well padded on the inside and not exposed there as some light hikers are. 

So far no pressures there and with such high collars (not mid height) and the upper support down low one can keep the top lacing a bit looser than on say a mid height boot. And note again referring to the low low weight these are high collars and not mid height. 

As far as fit my sample is a half size up from my normal US8.5. I have been wearing them for snow running with a hiking weight CEP sock and have a totally secure foothold. I especially note the lower “shoe” height support as really really solid. Given the GTX and the high collar and even for winter I would go true to size here. The wide toe box has plenty of height and volume for toe splay. 

A last thought. Given the high collars’ support I think those with knee and ankle issues may benefit from trying the Ultra for both trail running and even pavement running.  Essentially we have a smoother implementation of the various “rails” used at the top of midsoles to support and guide the knee. 

I have no such issues but did run them on a hard firm indoor track with sharp corners and found as I rounded corners more knee and ankle stability than other shoes, and I have run many. 


The question “trail runner or hiking shoe” has been a theme of several of my reviews over the last year, but the Ultra Ridge GTX is the first time I have genuinely thought a shoe might be both. 

Sam and Jeff are right that the shoe feels planted. What is fascinating is how it manages to feel secure, but not too secure, no matter how you lace it. Like Sam, I experimented with lacing only the light-colored, running shoe portion and with lacing it all the way up like a boot. Even entirely unlaced, this shoe feels secure around your foot, with no side-to-side motion. Laced just to the darker portion, the Ultra Ridge GTX feels like a trail runner. Laced all the way up, it feels like a boot, but with enough flex to still run comfortably. How the Ultra Ridge GTX manages to be both supportive and flexible around the ankle is mystifying but welcome – it genuinely feels like a shoe that can be both a hiker and a runner. 

Fit-wise, I wore my usual women’s 6.5 with thin socks and that felt about the right size. I had a little bit of forward foot slide on steep downhills at the end of a long day, but it’s rare to find a shoe that is totally locked down consistently.. The forefoot is a little tight on my wide foot but it wasn’t intrusive after a 10 hour day of hiking/running. If I were doing a multi-day event in these shoes, I might go up half a size. Otherwise, true-to-size seems right. 

My one quibble with thefit is the occasional pressure from the ankle collar. By the end of that 10 hour day, I was feeling quite a bit of pain from the heel collar putting pressure on my ankle bone. Some lacing adjustments made it tenable, but I chose to take a different pair of shoes out the next day to avoid recreating the same pressure. 

Oh, and the upper itself is great. Smooth but secure. Absolutely no complaints.


Jeff: Don’t let all my raving about the upper confuse you, the midsole is really good. But, for all intents and purposes we’ve seen it before - it’s the Xodus Ultra midsole all over again. Which is great, because it’s a fantastic midsole using their upgraded supercritical PEBA PWRRUN PB foam with a PWRRUN EVA/TPU blend frame or carrier for stability. And just like the Xodus Ultra, they included their woven and flexible rock guard which works really well. 

I can’t tell if it’s because I’ve put a lot of miles on my pair of the XU and they’ve softened up or if Saucony changed the blend every so slightly, the Ultra Ridge midsole feels just a bit firmer than the XU. But in both cases, it’s perfect for runners who like a lot of cushioning without crossing the barrier to MAXIMUM cushion. There’s enough underfoot protection to let you put lots of miles, but it’s not one of those trail cruisers that let you land on every rock and you’ll never feel it. In this case, you’ll feel the rock, it just won’t be the worst part of your day.

Sam: We have a 32.5 mm heel / 26.5 full stack height here and plenty of it but not so much to make the shoe unstable or wobbly. Unlike your typical hiking boot the forefoot develops some long  flex yet is torsionally rigid for stability. 

The combination of supercritical PWRRUN Pb foam and outer PWRRUN will not remind you of any boot that is for sure and is essentially the same as  the Xodus Ultra trail runner, one of my favorite trail shoe rides of 2022. The inner core of Pb provides a soft feel with noticeable return while the outer carrier of PWRRUN the stability and is firmer to pressing than either the Peregrine 13 or 14’s foam, those shoes having no core of Pb. 

The foam combination along with the flex and light propulsion of the woven rock plate for sure give this boot some might underfoot pep and flow. I noticed this clearly on firm packed snow, especially climbing. And as there is no dirt for miles around me in Park City I took them to the indoor track where they were as smooth and forgiving as any on that firm firm surface for a recovery run.

Alex: I  had a brand new Xodus Ultra 2 to test alongside the Ultra Ridge GTX, and even straight out of the box I agree with Jeff’s assessment that the Ultra Ridge GTX feels firmer. That’s not to say the midsole is firm, but it’s not just cushion. The PWRRUN PB and the PWRRUN combine for a soft but stable ride that responds to the terrain while still protecting you from the worst of it.


Jeff: Second verse, same as the first, the outsole is again what Saucony used on the Xodus Ultra, with lots of grippy 4.5mm lugs and their PWRTRAC rubber with a woven rock plate up front..

 And for the most part, it works very well. Sam and I both have already spent some time in the Ultra Ridge on hard packed snow, and the lugs gave plenty of grip. My local trail also had some other conditions: ice (not ideal), some dried out dirt (exceptional grip), and sloppy mud (not great). The grip on the dirt was no surprise, Saucony’s outsoles use a grippy rubber to go along with the lugs. 

But the mud rendered turned the shoe into a F1 car in the rain with the wrong tires - full on slippery until I could scrape some of the mud off. After only a couple steps virtually every lug was covered, which makes the waterproof nature of the shoe seem a little out of place since wet conditions that it’s protecting you from are going to turn the terrain into a bad time.

Sam: I am not surprised that sticky Western mud would accumulate on Jeff’s Ridge. Hardly any outsole handles it well especially if the lug pattern is focused on all terrain versus soft ground with more dispersed higher lugs typical there. To date I have only run on snow and the indoor track in mine. In combination with the Ridge’s flex and rock plate, grip has been just fine everywhere.

Compared to the outsole of the Peregrine 13 GTX (review soon) one can see the lugs are slightly lower height (0.5 mm lower) , smaller in individual surface area and a bit more concentrated. Pressing the Ridge’s rubber it appears a bit softer with lug height and rubber contributing to a somewhat more even match to the midsole in feel on firm surfaces than the Peregrine. 

Alex: I walked across an icy log and did not fall so no complaints about the grip as far as I’m concerned. I took the Ultra Ridge GTX off trail through snow and mud and slush, and never felt like the grip was a concern. I would be interested to see how they hold on dry and dusty terrain, but for winter in the mid-Atlantic the PWRTRAC outsole does the job.


Jeff: Never thought I’d be so impressed with how springy a 13 oz shoe runs, and  it doesn’t even feel heavy on the foot since the overall size of the shoe is so big. PWRRUN PB doesn’t give a sluggish ride, ever, and ultimately that’s what you're getting with this boot/shoe amalgamation. And if you’re a hiker who isn’t planning on running much, you’ve still got a treat coming - the Xodus Ultra midsole is much more walking/hiking friendly than its sister shoe Endorphin Edge with Pb foam  - the miles are going to tick by quickly.

Sam: I concur with Jeff! Imagine a boot that runs one that runs super, super well. Its leading low weight for sure for a high top boot and even for mid height boot  and even if it is on the heavy side for a trail runner,  it  runs way way faster than its weight would suggest. This is due to its midsole combining forgiving and energetic supercritical foam with a stout and stabilizing outer carrier.  

I absolutely smoked a trail run on moderately firm snow with plenty of vertical in them averaging 10:27 per mile. I got close to an uphill Strava segment PR done in a much lighter trail shoe several years ago. 

I particularly noted their arrow-like stability on the downhills due to the high upper and due to their un boot-like front flexibility their rapid climbing. Yes, the weight is somewhat noticed on uphills going fast but if your adventures are long and you want impeccable support beyond any trail you will ride smooth, well cushioned and supported here. 

And I tried them for that recovery run on the very firm indoor track and things went smooth as can be with the high upper’s support noticeable, in a good way. When I was in high school my track coach prescribed huge army surplus mountaineering boots for anyone with foot or knee issues. Here we have a dramatically lighter and more energetic riding “boot” very worthy of consideration for  helping  same issues if they plague you.

Alex: I want to be clear: this is not just a hiking boot that you can run in. This is a running shoe and a hiking boot . Even laced like a boot, it runs like a running shoe – soft, flexible, responsive, and fast (at least, fast for an ultra-oriented shoe ). For long, slow efforts (which most ultra-oriented efforts are), the extra weight isn’t noticeable, and the combination of protection and flexibility is a welcome change from many boot/trail runner hybrids .

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff: I’ve been reviewing for RTR for nearly five years, and this is the first time a great midsole has been overshadowed by an even better upper. I was completely skeptical before I put them on, but ever since they showed up, I don’t want to take them off. I don’t even have weak ankles, but the amount of support they give is a comfort I didn’t know that I wanted. 

I’m sure a certain number of runners are going to skip them altogether due to weight, but if you are looking for the shoe version of a mountain bike “All Mountain” option, this is it. You can absolutely run this thing anywhere without hesitation. Technical terrain is a non-event to this shoe, and the midsole’s combination of cushioning and rock protection is fantastic.The grippy and durable outsole is another win, and proven on their other models to last.

This thing is unlike anything else out there, and I’d strongly encourage all trail runners to even just try them on in person before writing them off. It’s a unique experience.

Jeff’s Score 9.58/10

Smiles: 😊😊😊😊😊

Sam: Yup it sure looks like a hiking boot and while I have only run them I have zero doubts it will be a great hiker with plenty of ankle and underfoot support for everything from day hikes, to ridge scrambling, fast packing and backpacking and let’s not forget snowshoeing, shoveling the snow, commuting and dog walking in winter.  Given the light weight for substance and upper room (approaching Altra upfront) and underfoot comfort I have no doubts it will rapidly become a through hiker choice if durability is there.

But, in a stroke of genius Saucony also has a great heavy duty trail runner here and particularly winter running shoes given GTX upper and high collar. It has a superb and fast ride with plenty of state of the art energy efficient friendly cushion and a smooth roll.

It clearly blows away the more specialized winter run shoes for me with their high gaiters,, complicated BOA fit systems with many at about the same weight and here with a more supportive upper and superior running underfoot ride. It also blows away every mid-height or even full height lighter hiker I can think of in ride quality and support.  I say winter uses are its primo focus but for sure if you want a Gore-Tex (waterproof breathable). It can also be a great choice for very rough ultras, all manner of hiking and for those with weak ankles in all seasons.  I would love to see a lighter non GTX version. 

I particularly like the superb highly energetic and smooth run ride here which helps mitigate the weight almost entirely and the lacing system which allows for not only a traditional boot fit and all the high support but a looser top, snugger bottom for running allowing the foot to flex forward more while providing side support which I feel aligns the lower leg like it's on rails in the direction of travel.

Could the special support from the high collar be made lower or lighter and more skeletal as the way long ago Salomon adventure racing boots were? This would reduce weight yet more but the “look” might turn off more traditional hiking consumers. Speaking of looks.. I don’t often ding shoes or boots for colors but the pale blue here.. Maybe it will grow on me when dirty or will be “popular but…what were they thinking of in choosing this color to launch such a spectacular performing shoe?

Value is truly superb (assuming durability is good in longer term testing) for such a versatile piece of equipment that can do so much.  The Ultra Ridge GTX deserves to be in every runner and every hiker’s shoe rack.

Sam’s Score: 9.6 / 10

Ride (30%): 9.7 I only deduct for weight. Otherwise superb.

Fit  (30%):  9.8. Again only deduct for weight of upper, could it be lower lighter materials? 

Value  (10%): 9.8 so versatile

Style (5%): 8.5 while the design is nice.. the blue…really..

Traction (15%): Just fine

Rock Protection (10%) More than sufficient for any running but with a heavy pack a bit more front protection and stability might be called for

😊😊😊😊😊 Huge smiles for this do so much and so lively shoe/boot

Alex: Facing a 10-hour orienteering event, where it’s typical to run the downhills and flats and walk the climbs, I’d usually be facing a tough decision between a supportive boot and a fast running shoe. The Ultra Ridge GTX eliminates that decision (and means I don’t have to worry about running through icy streams). This is truly an all-mountain shoe. Not everyone is going to have a use for an all-mountain shoe, of course, but if you’ve ever sacrificed support for speed or vice versa, the Ultra Ridge GTX is worth a look. 

I do wish the collar were slightly lower to avoid pressure points, and I’d prefer a slightly wider forefoot for ultra-length efforts. But this shoe fills such a unique niche that I’ll keep wearing it for those hybrid events where it’s helpful to have a shoe that is really ready for anything. 

Alex’s score: 9.58/10

😊😊😊😊 Want to give it 5 but I wasn’t so smiley about that ankle pressure around hour 7…


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Saucony Xodus Ultra (RTR Review)

Jeff: Effectively the same shoe under foot with identical midsole, rock plate, and outsole, the XU was one of my favorite trail shoes of last year. While its flexible upper made it less than ideal for technical terrain, it had plenty of cushioning and traction for most trails. The Ultra Ridge took a good thing and made it an even better, albeit different, shoe.

Sam: Agree with Jeff here! I found the RunShield version approaches the Ridge GTX in support. We are now testing the Xodus Ultra 2 with we expect improved upper support.

Keen Circadia

Jeff: The closest thing I have to the Ultra Ridge in build and intention, the Keen is similarly waterproof, and protective around and below the foot. The Keen win the toebox contest, but it doesn’t have nearly the ankle support of the Saucony, nor does it have the traction or underfoot comfort. Also, the Keen’s tip the scale at 21.8oz/ 618g in the same 10.5, making them 8.2 oz/233g heavier.

Inov8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max (RTR Review)

Jeff: Some of the burliest trail shoes around, the G300 is a standard height running shoe but its build definitely allows it to face just about any obstacle on the trail. There’s a little more cushioning underfoot in the G300, and they get a little better grip in the mud, while the Ultra Ridge takes the foothold win handily.

Sam: The foothold in the Ridge is superior as is the ride. Priced the same with the Ridge having a Gore-Tex upper with the Max a non weather resistant upper, the Inov-8 does have a weight advantage of 1 oz. But for the weight and maybe traction in all other categories the Saucony wins

Inov 8 TrailFly G380 (RTR Review)

Sam: Weighing slightly more and priced at $210, the G380 has the advantage of a more breathable upper (non weather resistant) and potentially better traction and denser forefoot cushion but less flexibility. It is not nearly as runnable as the Saucony.

Topo Trailventure 2 WP (RTR Review)

Sam: Topo’s mid height hiker has more toe box room but overall does not match the foothold of the Ridge. Its midsole is more conventional in feel, less energetic and not really run able when combined with its stout Vibram outsole. 3 ounces heavier it is a fine hiker but no match for the light weight, agility, and support of the Saucony. 

Speedgoat Mid GTX (RTR Review)

Sam: The Ridge clearly challenges the Speedgoat Mid GTX. Weighing about 0.4 oz  in the Mid 2 we tested, the Hoka may be a bit more stable underfoot (but not at the upper level) on technical terrain. It is for sure also run able but less so than the Saucony with its far less dense and more energetic modern midsole. Its mid height foot hold is fine and secure but it lacks the high profile collars and lacing adjustability of the Saucony which ends up a more versatile performer.

Hoka Kaha Low GTX (RTR Review)

Jeff: My previous running shoe/boot hybrid made by a running company, the Kaha definitely leaned hard to the hiking side and its geometry wasn’t ideal for running. They’re nearly 100g heavier than the Saucony, and don’t have nearly the support. If you want a running-based hiking boot to take you anywhere, no question, go Ultra Ridge.

Ultra Ridge GTX is available now 



Tester Profiles

Jeff Beck 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 20 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.

Alex Tilsley 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 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was 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, if he is very lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. A lifelong hiker and snowshoer he also gets out about once a year for a multi day trek. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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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Antoine said...

Very interesting. Thank you for this review.
How do these compare with specialised more mountain-oriented running shoes (La Sportiva Cyklon GTX or Scarpa Ribelle Run Kalibra G) ?
Have you tried traction devices on these? Like the ExoSpikes?
I am concerned about the grip in difficult winter conditions as my experience with Saucony rubber is honestly very bad.
Thanks again!
Greetings from Switzerland. Antoine.

Angela said...

Awesome review guys! I love my Saucony Xodus and was looking for a high top hiker by the same brand and didnt know one existed until I came upon your review! I had tried on several high top hiker/trail running shoes to find a major problem. You mentioned pressure points on your ankle, and my question is: Is there a seam at that point or is the inside totally seamless as with the low top trail runner version? All of the other brands had seams which ran right across the ankle bone, which to me seems like a bad design, as how could that possibly be comfortable when laced up securely? Thanks for your time, I look forward to your feedback! If you would send a copy of your response to my email, it would be greatly appreciated!