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Saucony Endorphin Pro Review

   First seen on the feet of Jared Ward and Parker Stinson and most recently on the feet of Molly Seidel (2nd place at the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials), the Saucony Endorphin Pro is finally coming to market. The Endorphin Pro is the racing model of the new Endorphin series including the Speed (lightweight trainer) and Shift (trainer). I was lucky enough to grab a pair early at the US Olympic Trials and was able to put a ton of miles on them while spectating, doing workouts while inspired by the competitors and more.



Specifications (per Saucony)
Weight: 7.5 oz (men's size 9)
Measured Weight Men's Size 10: 8.2 oz
Stack Height: (Listed via RoadTrailRun to be 35.5mm / 27.5 mm)
Drop: 8mm
Classification: Marathon Racing Shoe



HIGHLIGHTS

     The Saucony Endorphin Pro features a full PWRRUN PB midsole, an S-shaped carbon fiber plate and super light upper that create a faster and consistent long distance racer. The new Speed Roll will keep you going and fresh after fast and long miles alike. This is a fantastic and efficient racing shoe that excels at half to full marathon distances.  Coming in at 7.5 oz but riding much lighter, the Saucony Endorphin Pro has one of the smoothest rides out there.


FIT

    The Saucony Endorphin Pro fits me true to size in my normal size 10. The upper is very light and comfortable, utilizing a single layer engineered mesh. It easily disappears off the foot when you start running. The mesh is very minimal and breathable, with only mild reinforcements throughout the upper. There is no heel counter, only thicker mesh at the rear of the shoe and the Saucony logo is used at the midfoot for additional lockdown. Combined with the attached tongue, the midfoot is decently secure. The fit overall is normal to even slightly wide. There is plenty of room in the midfoot and forefoot, with the usual slight Saucony taper at the lateral foot.  I had a little pressure on my 5th toe that went away after a few miles.  It should be noted this shoe fits similar to the Kinvara (in my opinion) with the major difference being the Pro having a much lighter and breathable. The tongue is thin but stays in place well. It is connected to the upper and stays in place well. The heel has a surprising amount of room for a racing shoe, so l had to lace lock the shoe as I experienced a little bit of heel slippage.


RIDE

  Smooth is the best word to describe the Endorphin Pro. The PWRRUN PB midsole is made of a beaded Peba material that feels cushioned, slightly soft and very responsive. The Speed Roll (toe spring) and plate provide a very nice, responsive and easy toe off. Even during a long 17 mile run spectating the Olympic Trials, my calves did not fatigue or get sore. The Speed Roll creates a very efficient ride and noticeable forward roll that feels very natural. There is a decent heel bevel, so landings at the rear of the shoe are smooth. The midfoot transitions nicely as the full ground contact outsole provides a stable place to roll through. The PWRRUN PB midsole is bouncy but on the slightly firmer end for Peba midsoles. It is still soft, but not as much as ZoomX or Floatride Foam. It feels cushioned, smooth and efficient combined with the Speed Roll but bouncy enough to pick up the pace easily. There is plenty of midsole underfoot to provide protection over long miles, however even with the amount of sole, the shoe feels lighter than the listed 7.5 oz. Thanks to the full length use of PWRRUN PB, that responsive, smooth and cushioned ride is consistent across the entire length of the shoe. The Saucony Endorphin Pro, more than any other shoe, has left me feeling fresh the next day no matter how much or how fast I hit the ground. This may be due to the shock absorption of the PWRRUN PB combined with the Speed Roll.


STABILITY

    The PWRRUN PB sole is slightly firmer than other Peba soles I have tried, which combined with the plate, full ground contact outsole and flared heel provide stability in the heel and forefoot. The bevel at the heel is centrally located but the sole is flared both laterally and medially, which may help center the foot with rearfoot landings. This creates a stable rearfoot for a shoe with this much stack height. There is no form of posting and the midfoot is slightly narrow, however the plate seems to stabilize this a little. The upper is very minimal and does not provide any additional support outside of the logo for lock down. The Speed Roll (toe spring and heel bevel design) also does a great job of keeping forward momentum rather than lateral motion, so those with stability needs may find this shoe works better for them than other peba/carbon fiber plated shoes.



SPEED

    The Saucony Endorphin Pro is a fun and fast distance racer to run in. It is not the fastest shoe as I personally did not feel like it responded as well as it could at 5k pace. For anything 10k pace and above the Pro really shines. Consistent is the word I would use to describe this shoe. The Endorphin Pro works better for longer repeats, tempo runs, steady states and there is enough cushioning for use as a long run shoe. The cushioning from the PWRRUN PB midsole, the stability from the S plate and the Speed Roll make it very easy to keep the pace consistent. Thanks to the firmer ride, it can handle sprints and faster paces, but again excels more at longer distance events partially thanks to the natural and propulsive toe off from the Speed Roll.


DURABILITY

     I have 30 miles on my pair at this time and have not observed any major wear on the outsole or on the upper. I was concerned about durability at both points, but the additional rubber on the outsole has held up well.  There is just the beginning bit of wear at the posterior lateral heel (only on the left side) but overall I expect to get far more miles out of the Endorphin Pro than other peba/carbon racers as it runs similar to a lightweight trainer (+300-400 miles for me). I was initially worried about the upper, but the light reinforcements around the lateral and medial forefoot seem to and will likely hold up well. The midsole and ride have not changed at all with the hard miles I have put on them. The Saucony Endorphin Pro is just as smooth at mile 30 as it was at mile 1. I again expect this to be one of the more durable carbon fiber/Peba shoes on the market.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

    One of the challenges for highly cushioned shoes is that the sole is so thick, it is difficult to have enough flexibility allow a normal forward transition.  This is particularly challenging in the forefoot, where most of the sagittal plane (front/back) motion occurs in the foot (ie the toes). Toe spring is something that has been used to combat this, but it is often not done well and feels artificial. Saucony has done a great job creating a very natural toe spring that combined with the plate and Peba midsole have a shoe that although pushes you forward, feels natural and doesn't get in the way. That is no easy feat. I suspect this comes from perfectly situating the toe spring as well as the S-plate being stiff but not aggressive.

   The PWRRUN PB midsole is one of my favorite midsole foams. It is light, cushioned, very responsive but not too soft (like ZoomX). This is the first time I have tried it and look forward to trying other Saucony shoes with that material. Although everyone is excited about the S shaped carbon fiber plate in the Endorphin Pro, the research demonstrates that the magic really happens from the midsole foam. Hoogkamer et al (2019) demonstrated that the Peba midsoles have the greatest influence on running economy and is what is most responsible for the +4% improvement seen in the Vaporfly. However, while an improvement is seen from the plates, it is only in the realm of 1% (Roy & Stefanyshn, 2006). So while the plates may help, the majority comes from the special foams. There is further speculation that a majority of the performance enhancements come not from making runners faster, but in helping reduce fatigue via extra shock absorption. Hence why so many people report feeling fresher after running in these types of shoes either after hard workouts or races or at the end of them. This is only further emphasized with the Speed Roll in the Saucony Endorphin Pro, as good toe spring has been demonstrated to decrease load into the ankle and foot, which may decrease lower extremity fatigue (Ogsten, 2019). Research is still coming out on why these types of shoes help, why certain runners respond to them and how to make them better. Just know that there are many components, but at this time, the midsole foam seems to be the most significant influence. So kudos to Saucony on a great foam!


RECOMMENDATIONS

   I have really enjoyed the ride of the Saucony Endorphin Pro and only have a few suggestions. If possible, I would like to see a little more security around the heel, but without the use of a heel counter. There is just a little heel slippage, although lace locking the shoe easily fixes the problem.  I would also suggest beveling the heel just slightly to the lateral side as this is where a majority of people land. I have not tried the Endorphin Speed yet, but since there is only a .5 oz listed different, the Endorphin Pro as the racing shoe could lose a little more weight from the midsole just to differentiate more between the two models.


CONCLUSION

   The Saucony Endorphin Pro is a smooth, comfortable and consistent long distance racer. There is plenty of PWRRUN PB cushioning for long runs, long workouts and long races. The Speed Roll creates a nice roll forward that will keep you going for miles. The thin and breathable upper creates a very comfortable and slightly wider fit for a distance racing shoe that should accommodate any foot swelling. One of the most unique things about this shoe is that it does leave my legs fresher the next day no matter what the workout. From long hilly runs (watching the Trials) to tempo runs and hill repeats, the Speed Roll, plate and PWRRUN PB foam help create a cushioned, fast and protective distance shoe. For those who want a comfortable, cushioned distance racer for 10k upward, the Saucony Endorphin Pro should be on your list to try.


GRADING

Fit/Upper       9.5 /10 (Very light and comfortable, -.5 for mild heel slippage)
Ride/Midsole  10 /10 (super smooth and consistent)
Stability          9 /10 (Firmer + Speed Roll + Flare helps stability, -1 for narrow midfoot)
Speed              9.5 /10 (Fast and consistent shoe, -.5 for bias toward longer miles)
Durability       9 /10 (Consistent sole, -1 for slight but normal outsole wear)

TOTAL (%):  94%

TESTER PROFILES

Dr. Klein is a 140 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k, 1:11:11 for the half marathon and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  He is particular to less cushioned shoes and close to the ground shoes, but can handle a little cushion when he gets beat up.  IG handle: @kleinrunsdpt

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists


Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

***Disclaimer: These shoes were purchased for their full US retail price ($200).  We thank the  people at Big Peach Running Company for helping us a pair early.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 35-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 30 miles on my pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.


References
1. Hoogkamer, W., Kipp, S. & Kram, R. (2019). The biomechanics of competitive male runners in three marathon racing shoes: a randomized crossover study. Sports Medicine, 49(1), 133-143.

2. Ogston, J. (2019). Comparison of in-shoe plantar loading forces between minimalist and maximalist cushion running shoes. Footwear Science, 11(1), 55-61.

3. Roy, J. & Stefanyshyn, D. (2006). Shoe midsole longitudinal bending stiffness and running economy, joint energy and EMG. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: 38(3), 562-569.



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