Monday, August 21, 2023

Saucony Triumph RFG Multi Tester Review: High Renewables Content, More Sustainable, No Performance Compromises 7 Comparisons

Article by Sam Winebaum and Sally Reiley

Saucony Triumph RFG ($160)

  • Strong sustainability focus based on use of renewable and more natural materials
  • A fun max cushion trainer with no performance compromises compared to regular Triumph


Sam: The Triumph RFG (Run for Good) is a max cushion 37mm heel / 27mm forefoot road trainer built with a strong emphasis on renewable materials yet one that is nearly identical in all respects, including most specs and pricing, to the regular Triumph. 

It is a new take on sustainability to go with the Saucony's strong emphasis on recycled materials in the uppers, often close to 100% in recent shoes. 

Identical in specs but at slightly higher weight than the regular Triumph 21  its upper is 78% cotton / 22% hot melt yarn with plant based dyes, its midsole 55% corn based PWRRUN Bio + foam (substituting for PWRRUN + TPU based)  with the outsole 80% natural rubber. 

Saucony is clearly trying to reduce reliance on petroleum based materials in shoe construction. 

To date more sustainable run shoe designs made with renewable materials and especially at the midsole level have suffered from high weight, not so great performance, and high pricing. 

Not to worry!  You can feel good with no performance or pricing tax for doing better ! The Triumph RFG is priced exactly the same as the regular Triumph 21 at $160. It has a very similar if a touch mellower ride and a more comfort oriented superb upper . Please read on as Sally and I put them to the test.


Very strong use of sustainable, natural, and renewable materials (upper, midsole, outsole): Sam/Sally

No performance compromises-high percentage of sustainable renewable materials: Sam/Sally

Soft, forgiving, energetic yet easy to roll ride: Sam/Sally

Versatile, highly cushioned daily trainer Sam/Sally

Extremely comfortable and roomy yet sufficiently secure upper: Sam / Sally 

A shoe you don’t want to take off: Sam/Sally

All day wearable, walk, run, work Sam/Sally

No sustainability “tax”, same pricing $160 as regular Triumph 21: Sam/Sally


Approx. 0.6 oz / 17g  higher weight than regular Triumph 21, but is not noticed: Sam


Weight: men’s 10.4 oz / 265g (spec US9) ::  women  9.1 oz / 259 g (actual US W8)

  Samples: men’s: 10.28 oz  /  291g US8.5 (10.08 oz left / 10.48 oz right)

                  women’s 9.1 oz / 259 g (US W8)

Stack Height: men’s 37mm heel / 27mm forefoot (10mm drop) 

Triumph 21 with same stack height and different materials:

men's 9.8oz  / 279g (US9)  /  women's 8.8oz / 250g (US8)

$160  Available now including at Saucony HERE and Running Warehouse US HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: My Mist colorway is not white white as many 2023 seem to be but has a subtle gray with a touch of coffee brown in the mix with the branding overlays a blueish green gray and the collars and laces a darker shade of the gray. All in all it is a classy subtle colorway that can “go anywhere” and shows less dirt and grime than this season’s often brilliant whites.  

I was skeptical that cotton as we have here was “adequate” for a performance running shoe hold. I asked Saucony what else was in the mix and they told us the upper is made from 78% cotton and 22% hot melt yarn with the coloring dyes plant based. The feel in hand is soft and friendly, pliable and very foot conforming. They were breathable and comfortable during humid running conditions and absorbed less moisture than I expected given the cotton component.

As in the regular Triumph, we have webbing “A” bands from the 3d lace hold (in the 21 they move up one closer to lace up). One runs to the rear inside and the other vertically down. They assure a secure lace up and hold bringing the heel forward into the lace up mix.  

Inside we have a quite thick mesh gusset on the moderately padded tongue. 

There is a moderately stiff toe bumper, a good move along with the gusset tongue in a soft pliable upper.

The upper hold for my narrower to medium feet is just fine at my usual true to size with a very comfortable roomy fit yet with plenty of hold. 

Compared to my last Triumph, the 20 which I ran on one foot with RFG on the other, the RFG is clearly a more relaxed fitting, more comfort focused upper than the 20’s. 

After my runs I was somewhat “eager” to take off the 20 but not at all the RFG. They stayed on the rest of the day each time I ran them. 

Yet all this comfort comes with only a tiny reduction in performance fast run hold, super fast not really something that the cruiser Triumph is focused on. Not not always the case, the RFG upper (and cushy ride)  can for sure also do double duty as a casual, work, and lifestyle shoe yet one that is a true run shoe.

Sally: I was eager to see what Saucony would do with the next level sustainability shoe that I had heard rumored, and was admittedly skeptical that a shoe with such lofty sustainability goals could actually be a decent performance shoe. Saucony calls it the Triumph RFG , or “Run For Good.” Right out of the box this shoe impressed. 

My mauve women’s colorway is classic and subdued, attractive and neutral enough for street wear. The fit is true to size and immediately comfortable, well cushioned and roomy without being sloppy. 

The toe box is plenty spacious for a higher volume foot, yet holds my narrow woman’s foot securely and comfortably. 

The Triumph lacing system with straps locks the heel down especially well. 

The renewable cotton knit upper is super soft to the touch, but does leave me a little bit concerned about durability - the miles will tell. The subtle colors (mauve in my pair) are achieved with plant-based dyes, another move to sustainability. The gusseted tongue is padded with just enough cushioning.  And the total package is much lighter than I would expect from a shoe made with such a sustainability focus, and feels even lighter on the foot than the scale would indicate (259g in my W8). This is a shoe that I can comfortably wear for a lot more than just running.


Sam: The midsole is 55% corn-based PWRRUN BIO+ foam and I was really worried about performance going in. We have the same big 37/27 stack height and 10mm drop as the regular Triumph with the drop welcome and effective given the soft and bouncy foam to prevent the dread "mushy heel" of low stack max cushion shoes on heel striking, and the same midsole geometry.  The RFG is a flexible (long flex) shoe despite the big forefoot stack and something I appreciate at slower paces.

So identical midsole, new Bio+ foam. The ride is plush, highly cushioned and energetic . No over soft mush or difficulty moving it along and at any pace although fast paces are not its speciality. In part the move along is due to a relatively narrow 85mm heel and 65 mm midfoot platform, so while stable for this neutral runner not as stable as some other max cushion shoes. In big Saucony trainers the plated Kinvara Pro, Ride 16, and Endorphin Speed 3 serve that faster daily training purposes with the Endorphin Shift with its the lower 4mm drop yet higher stack a shoe I find slow paces much more ponderous than here.

And how does this new foam differ from TPU petro based PWRRUN + on the run?  Not much at all. A touch softer riding with the mostly natural rubber outsole I think playing a role.  It’s an ideal platform and feel for all kinds of daily training but for the faster stuff at any pace or distance if you are seeking lots of forgiving cushion and a geometry that no matter the pace doesn’t ever let you feel bogged down.

Sally: Sam highlighted the features and components of the midsole that make it so sustainable, notably the PWRRUN BIO+ foam cushioning based on corn, a renewable resource. Saucony is to be applauded for this effort to limit the dependence on plastic. I can concur that this foam is pleasantly soft and cushioned without being too much so, and contributes to a smooth easy to transition controlled bounce. This is not the quick firm responsive spring of Saucony’s uptempo trainers and race day shoes, but that is not its niche. This is a wonderfully comfortable daily trainer for all of your other miles.


Sam: The outsole is 80% natural rubber and has the “gum rubber” gym or casual shoe look. Usually for me such outsole rubber deliver a not particularly pleasant ride especially if the midsole above is firmer as they seemingly deflect laterally given firmer foam above. Not so here as this soft riding outsole is nearly perfectly matched to the midsole.  

Compared one on each foot to the Triumph 20 this outsole delivers a bit less pop or response off the road than the T20 again reflecting a slightly more mellow shoe overall (upper, midsole, outsole) and offering some clear if subtle differences top to bottom compared to the T20 and T21.

Sally: The soft 80% natural rubber outsole does indeed complement the softer midsole very nicely, making a nice consistent relaxed package. I had no issues at all with grip on wet surfaces, and this outsole is delightfully quiet underfoot. 

Ride & Conclusions 

Sam: The ride is plush, deeply cushioned and energetic. This is a shoe made for comfortable miles at pretty much any pace or distance but fast and up tempo. Saucony has plenty of other targeted choices for faster. It is a very solid choice for the runner logging big miles, heavier neutral runners, and for walking, work and travel uses.

It is of course differentiated in materials from its Triumph sibling but also by a slightly more comfort focused upper and very slightly more mellow and less responsive ride. It is a bit heavier but not so much that the difference is noticed. We will continue to run them to determine their durability ( upper, midsole, outsole) given the “new” more renewable materials but Saucony has assured us they have gone through all their usual rigorous testing.

The Triumph RFG is a more renewable/sustainable trainer with no compromises as to comparative performance to its Triumph 20/21 sibling or any other max cushion trainer. Its strong sustainability profile also does not lead to a higher price point which is fantastic.  This points to the future in that if the materials perform, as they do here and are durable (to be further tested by RTR), Saucony and other brands can increasingly move away from petroleum based materials for run shoes. I would like to know what the overall carbon impact differences, if any, are.

The RFG takes a bold new approach to more sustainable run shoes by focusing on renewable natural materials instead of the now more "usual" recycled materials.  It has a wonderful friendly ride.  It is versatile and has many uses running or otherwise given its ride,  a comfortable yet secure upper, and classy styling. It is priced fairly for a premium big cushion run shoe which also includes a strong sustainability profile. Given these attributes, I score them as one of my favorite big trainers of 2023 focused on more mellow running and overall comfort. 

Sam’s Score: 9.5 /10

Ride 9.4 (50%): Fit (30%): 9.7 Value (15%): 9.4 Style (5%):  9.5


Sally: The RFG has a comfortable, well-cushioned ride with plenty of pep and responsiveness, and yet a relaxed feel overall. As a max cushion trainer not unlike the Triumph 20/21, it is ideal for long miles, easier runs, and pretty much everything but tempo runs. This is an attractive super comfortable shoe that I will continue to wear for everyday casual wear, walking, and whatever, in addition to easygoing running. 

I give it huge points for comfort and versatility, as well as of course for sustainability. It is impressive how Saucony has achieved making a running shoe out of renewable natural materials that thereby addresses our needs for improved sustainability without compromising performance. This could very well be the future of footwear!

Sally’s Score: 9.65 /10

Ride: 9.5 (50%)   Fit: 9.8 (30%)   Value: 9.4 (15%)  Style:  9.5 (5%)


7 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Saucony Endorphin Shift 3  (RTR Review)

Sam: Close to 1 oz lighter at 9.5 oz / 269 g (US9) with a bigger 39/34 stack height and 4mm drop vs 10mm for the RFG, the Shift is more cushioned if less dynamically so. Its PWRUN EVA/TPU blend is denser and firmer than the Triumph’s. Rocker based vs flex based and with 7mm more forefoot cushion they are harder to move along than the RFG at slower paces and for me more awkward and ponderous unless pushed  to harder paces where it is more at home. Fit is similar and true to size with the RFG upper a bit more relaxed and also heavier. I clearly prefer the RFG in this match up of big Saucony trainers and overall I prefer the Kinvara Pro with its 8mm drop and carbon plate.

Sally: (True to size W8 for both). I am unabashedly a huge fan of the Saucony Endorphin Speed and also but just a little less so of the Endorphin Pro, but sadly have never agreed with the Endorphin Shift. The Shift does not work for my running style/gait and sucks the fun out of running for me, whereas the heavier but softer and more comfortable RFG feels like a well-fitting pair of jeans that I want to put on in the morning.

Saucony Kinvara Pro  (RTR Review)

Sam: The Kinvara Pro has a higher stack height at 42/34 and a slightly lower weight at 10 oz  / 283 g (US9). Unlike the Triumph single slab of PWRRUN Bio+ foam, the Pro has a supercritical top Pb layer, ¾ length carbon plate with below a deep layer of EVA/TPU blend PWRRUN which also serves as the outsole. It is not as bouncy and easy going but is yet more deeply cushioned. It is a shoe focused on somewhat faster paced running than the RFG although it also does very well at slower paces. If you like max cushion trainers they make a nice pairing for somewhat different uses. Upper volume and fit are similar with the RFG more relaxed and Pro more performance oriented. Both true to size with RFG having a somewhat broader fitting toe box.

Sally: (True to size W8 in both - Saucony has really nailed the consistent sizing) Both of these shoes have earned a place in my rotation and deserve a place in yours. The Kinvara Pro is a delightful new highly cushioned uptempo daily trainer, whereas the RFG is a fantastic new highly cushioned easy/long run trainer, with incredible sustainability features.

Saucony Triumph 20 and 21 (RTR Review)

Sam: As described in the review, the Triumph 20/21 is slightly more responsive and firmer (due to the outsole materials difference my guess) with a more performance oriented upper with less volume than the RFG’s. As I will run in a lower weight “faster” shoe for quicker runs, for my easier runs I will take the extra overall comfort of the RFG  over the fine regular but if you are seeking a single big cushion shoe for a wider range of runs and paces the Triumph 20/21 is an ever so slightly superior choice although it does not match the RFG in all day wear comfort.

Sally: (W8 True to size in both). I have not had the pleasure of testing the Triumph 21, but the Triumph 20 was a delight to run in for those longer easy efforts when cushioning means more than peppy toe-off. One key difference with the RFG is its sustainability elements - there is very little compromise of quality and performance and reliance on plastics, which is a win for the future of our planet

Saucony Ride 15 / 16  (RTR Review)

Sam: Saucony’s more traditional daily trainer , the Ride is more versatile yet if not quite as fun and forgiving. It is considerably lighter at 8.8oz / 250g US9 with almost the same stack height at 35/27 so same forefoot, 2mm less at the hee.l If you want a lighter, more responsive, firmer and snappier ride it is a better choice than the more mellow and bouncy RFG. And this applies to the upper as well as the Ride 16 has a very secure, clearly more performance oriented upper with very solid heel hold, a bit too solid and rigid for my tastes.  

Sally: (W8 in both, both true to size)  I have always enjoyed the Ride in all its iterations as a solid daily trainer, but the RFG is more of a max cushion easy run trainer for me. The Ride is more performance oriented for those focused on speed training.

Nike InfinityRN 4  (RTR Review)

Sam: Nike’s new max cushion shoe checks in with a couple more millimeters of stack height than the RFG and with more weight at 11.16 oz / 316g (US9) vs. 10.4 oz / 265g (spec US9) here. It too has a new midsole foam React X which unlike prior React is processed via injection vs. compression molding leading to a big reduction in carbon footprint but.. Injection molding is not exactly new as many shoes are processed that way. 

It is also a soft riding big shoe as is RFG and considerably softer and quite a bit less energetic in rebound comparatively as a result and less stable upfront in. Both have comfort oriented uppers with the Nike’s a Stretch Flyknit which barely keeps up in hold while the Saucony’s is at least equally comfortable and has a more secure fit. 

With RN 4 wider higher volume feet would be wise to size up. I had a half size up and think after some miles to break in would have been fine at true to size with thin socks. RFG is true to size no question about it and very few should feel the need to size up for more volume.

ASICS GEL-Cumulus 25  (RTR Review)

Sam: The ASICS has a slightly higher 37.5 mm heel 29.5 mm stack height and is considerably lighter coming at 9.38 oz  / 266g (US9). Its FlyteFoam Blast + foam is not as pleasingly bouncy but plenty protective and clearly lighter. At $140 it is a great value in a max cushion state of the art trainer. 

The Cumulus leans more faster daily training for me and was for me tougher to roll along at slower paces as its heel and midfoot platform are 25mm and 15mm wider than RFG, which is a lot. This difference in platform width also contributes to them being somewhat more stable as well.  

The upper mesh, despite being different materials, is quite similar in true to size fit upfront and throughout with the Cumulus tongue and  somewhat over-padded for me. While the difference in weight is noticed, the Saucony is smoother running and more pleasant overall. The Cumulus has 90% of its polyester upper materials by weight from recycled materials.

Puma Magnify Nitro 2  (RTR Review)

Sam: This is a very close comparison with the Puma having a 3mm higher 40/30 stack height yet ends up a few tenths of ounce lighter at 10 oz  / 284g (US9)  as its foam is supercritical Nitro. It has similar rebound to RFG's Bio + but one that is quicker and in combination with its more aggressive (light trails ready) outsole more responsive. Its upper is true to size for me, as is RFG’s, with its fit more performance oriented and a bit pointier and lower at the toe box. The Magnify is a better value at $140 but has no sustainability elements called out.

The Triumph RFG is available now

Saucony HERE

Running Warehouse US HERE

Tester Profiles

Sally is a lifelong runner and mother of five who agreed against her better judgment to run her first marathon at age 54; she has since run the past ten Boston Marathons, two NYC Marathons, one Chicago, and one London with the WMM Six Star Medal now in her sights. With a Boston PR of 3:25:55 in 2022 (9th place in AG) and two consecutive 2nd place in Age Group W60 awards in NYC, she competed in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Age Group World Championships at the 2022 London Marathon and ran an all-time PR of 3:24:02, placing 6th in the world in her women’s 60-64 age group.  She also competes in USATF races with the Greater Lowell Road Runners team. To add meaning to her Boston Marathon races she runs with Team Eye and Ear and has raised over $275,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. Sally is 5’2’’ and 105 pounds and lives in Marblehead, MA, training outdoors year round. She blames her love of skiing out West for any and all Boston Marathon training challenges.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 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 gets very very lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. 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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