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Saucony Freedom 4 Multiple Tester Review

The Saucony Freedom 4 is a unique lightweight trainer in that it features Saucony's premier PEBA foam PWRRUN PB. The PWRRUN PB midsole was seen in the Endorphin Pro and Endorphin Speed. The midsole now makes its way into a training shoe and provides a highly cushioned and responsive ride for such a low stack height daily training shoe. 



Specifications (per Saucony)
Weight:  8.4 oz/213g (men's size 9) 7.8 oz/184g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 27.5 mm / 23.5 mm
Drop: 4 mm
Classification: Lightweight Trainer




RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The Saucony Freedom 4 is a unique lightweight trainer featuring Saucony's PWRUN PB midsole. Featuring a soft and bouncy midsole, the Freedom has the versatility to handle medium to longer runs as well as picking up the pace. Featuring an extremely comfortable, very slightly snug upper that feels great both with and without socks, the Freedom combines comfort with a little speed. The midsole is closer to the ground, but does not bottom out even as the pace picks up. One of the few PEBA based trainers, this is a fun lower stack shoe for those looking for a lighter shoe with plenty of cushion.

David:
The Saucony Freedom 4 is a lightweight neutral training shoe that features their PEBA based midsole known as PWRUN PB. The shoe is incredibly responsive and durable for the weight and shoe classification. The Freedom 4 is incredibly versatile and can do a little bit of everything thanks to the responsiveness from the midsole. 

Nathan: The Freedom 4 is the first in the Freedom line that I've been able to try out, and I was not disappointed. This is the first non-plated shoe from Saucony to feature the PWRUN PB midsole (which was a hit in the Endorphin Speed and Pro) and functions really well as a daily trainer and performance trainer. PWRUN PB in a lower stack and non-plated shoe created a pleasurable, and distinct, running experience.




FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

David: The upper for the Freedom 4 is very pleasing. The dimensions run normal width throughout through the heel and midfoot while being slightly wide in the forefoot to allow for some toe splay. In the toe box there is a suede toe guard (rather than plastic) that helps reinforce the structure in the forefoot while also remaining really comfortable and avoiding any irritation or hot spots. The tongue is lightly padded and a little thick but normal for a training shoe. The laces are stretchy and help further lock the shoe down. I did not need to tighten my laces too much however since the shoe already locks down really well on its own throughout. The overlays are minimal but still comfortable where they are present due to the suede. The upper is definitely a little thicker than some other performance trainers, but the Freedom does lean a little bit more towards daily training in construction. It is still really lightweight and breathable, but not as minimalistic as say the Kinvara 12. The upper is impressive but I think they could potentially make the tongue a little bit more comfortable and less slippy (only happened my first couple runs however). 

Nathan:  The Freedom 4 fits very well in my typical size 9 and is quite comfortable on step in. The upper is a layered mesh material that is both light and robust (I don't see this wearing out anytime soon). It has a mild stretch to it to accommodate foot types, but still maintains a very secure and more snug fit throughout. There are some nice touches with the suede toe guard (which reinforces the toe box well without being intrusive) and the suede tongue and lacing system, which keeps the laces/tongue secure. There is mild padding around the tongue and heel, and I experienced no slippage with this shoe and had no need to lace lock. The tongue is gusseted which kept it very stable throughout both slower and faster runs. Overall a slightly more snug fit from heel to toe, but there is enough room for toe splay for training miles and longer runs. Wonderfully comfortable shoe.


PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

David: The Saucony Freedom 4 is a really fun shoe. The PWRRUN PB midsole is definitely noticeable and gives the shoe a surprising amount of cushion and responsiveness for how low the stack height is. The outsole is pretty thick however and firms up the softness to some degree. The outsole also creates some more rigidity in the shoe especially in the forefoot region, where the flex grooves are not as deep as some other Saucony models. The shoe has a slight bevel to it but not as pronounced as the Triumph or Hurricane. There is a lot more outsole coverage to the Freedom than the Endorphin series in the heel and I think this also helps with some stability. The midline of the shoe is exposed midsole up until reaching the forefoot and helps create a little bit of a guidance pathway for the shoe to follow. For me at easier paces I had a little bit of instability through the heel, but this cleared up through the midfoot and forefoot. The instability would go away completely when the pace would pick up a little bit however. The shoe felt great at slight uptempo to slower tempo/workout type paces. I did an 18.5 mile run at 6:25 pace progressively cutting down into the high 5 minute range and the shoe did great for that pacing. During a fartlek however the shoe did start to bottom out at sub 4:55/5:00 mile pace, but did pretty well at workout paces being that this is a daily trainer. Relatively speaking daily training miles and uptempo miles will do great in this shoe, however I had some instability with recovery easy paces and some difficulty pushing at workout and racing type paces. 

Nathan: The Freedom 4 didn't run as I expected. I expected a highly bouncy (and potentially unstable) and fast-feeling shoe that had the "magic" of the Endorphin Pro and Speed. What I got was something different, but also very fun and enjoyable. The PWRUN PB (which feels slightly firmer than the compound in the Endorphin line) in a lower stack shoe gave a different form of magic. It had a bit of pop, was very smooth, and was also very versatile in terms of paces. In addition, despite the lower stack, the PWRUN PB felt very protective over longer miles. Unlike many of the shoes being created right now, there is only a mild (yet effective bevel) and mild toe spring. It seems that the more "traditional" geometry is what gives this shoe more of a daily trainer feel instead of the propulsive feel from the SpeedRoll geometry. What you get is a smooth and consistent ride from heel to toe. What allows the shoe to pick up the pace is the good coverage of the outsole that stiffens up the forefoot a bit to provide a nice lever to drive off of. So although the shaping makes the shoe work well for daily miles, it has the lighter weight, bouncy foam, and stiffer forefoot to pick up the pace.


STABILITY

David: The Saucony Freedom 4 is a lightweight neutral training shoe and therefore does not have many stability components integrated into it. With the midsole being PWRUN PB the ride is definitely softer for the relative stack height which does lower some stability inherently. The shoe however is pretty close to the ground with a firm grippy outsole that is snappy at the forefoot. From the midfoot forward the shoe is really stable throughout. I had a little bit of instability at the heel at easier paces since I found the bevel did not integrate the greatest at recovery paces for me and the soft foam wouldn't feel the greatest at that transition point. However all of those problems would go away once the pace picked up a little bit and the grippy firm outsole took command with the bounce from the midsole. Overall for having such a soft midsole and being a neutral shoe, the shoe actually does have pretty good stability throughout. 

Nathan: I was initially worried about how unstable PWRUN PB would be without a plate to stabilize. However, this shoe is just fine for a neutral shoe. The thicker outsole, including the Y pattern in the heel with medial and lateral "build-up", gives a stable platform for the PB to sit on top of. Additionally, the lower stack and wider outsole coverage and contact helps decrease some of the instability I felt in the Endorphin Speed. Neutral runners will be fine in this shoe.  



THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

This was the first shoe to debut PWRUN PB, a very soft and bouncy foam, in a non-plated shoe. As mentioned above, there was some interest to see how stable, or unstable, this would function. We just wanted to take a quick second to highlight what could have caused stability issues in this shoe and then what Saucony did to combat it.

The main factor that could have led to instability was the PWRUN PB midsole. Imagine standing on one foot and hopping on the ground barefoot -- it isn't so bad. Now imaging hopping on one foot on top of a bean bag chair -- things clearly will get a bit harder. If we have to function on a single limb on softer surfaces, it creates more demand on our foot, ankle, knee, hip, and trunk to keep things stable. Clearly the PWRUN PB is nowhere near as soft as a bean bag chair, but the same rule applies. So what did Saucony do to stabilize this soft, bouncy, and lovely foam? (keep in mind there are much softer foams out there, we know, but this sits on the softer end of the spectrum for most daily trainers)

First, the lower stack helps. With less underfoot, there is less lateral play of the foam and less deformation as you move through the gait cycle. Second is the thicker rubber outsole. Outsole thickness and lack of flex grooves (as seen in the forefoot) will take away degrees of freedom for foam to move and deform, therefore decreasing demand on the foot and increasing stability. Additionally, they created a Y pattern outsole in the heel the couples the medial and lateral components together, which also decreases degrees of freedom. This Y pattern then ends with some build up on the inside and outside of the shoe, which effectively decreases the thickness of the outsole in those regions (meaning less deformation can occur). Finally, the upper is very secure and holds the foot well. Never underestimate how an upper can create stability in a shoe. One of the best examples is the difference between the Skechers GOrun MaxRoad 4 and 4+. If the upper is securing your foot on the platform well, that again decreasing the demand for stability.

Now in saying all of this, I'm not saying that we need to create shoes that stabilize everything for us. No, it is good for our feet and kinetic chain to stabilize dynamically -- and we should train this through strengthening and neuromuscular training. That said, it is nice to have shoes that can aid our running and not create a more difficult platform to function on, and I think that is what the Freedom 4 achieved.

-Nathan Brown PT, DPT 



RECOMMENDATIONS

David: I really enjoyed the Saucony Freedom 4 but do have a couple of recommendations. The tongue had some slippage for me initially and I feel they could make a slightly more performance ready tongue to match the rest of the shoe as well. The heel was also a little unstable for me and I think they could redesign the bevel to integrate the initial contact better. I liked that they extended the outsole in that region which helps, but I think better integration of the counter could make recovery paces more enjoyable in this shoe. 

Nathan: This shoe was really enjoyable. Two hopes for me. First would be that they would open the toe box just a bit. Yes, there was enough for toe splay, but overall could use a bit more room for higher milage runs. Second is to do this similar thing with the Ride for all of us who like 8mm drop!




WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

David: The Saucony Freedom 4 is for the runner looking to have a neutral lightweight performance type trainer that still has a softer and responsive platform to run on. The shoe can do a little bit of everything but really shines in uptempo efforts and daily training paces. If you like the feel of the super shoes like the Endorphin Pro but do not want the plate or want something much less "aggressive" and daily training like the Freedom will be a choice definitely worth looking into!

Nathan: For people who are looking for a trainer and performance trainer with a crossover feel of bouncy yet traditional, this could be a great option. This shoe is not what I would go for if you want that "magic" feel of some of the super shoes, but it is a very fun and protective trainer that will likely last a long time and can be taken on many different kinds of runs. 




GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)  


David

Fit: A- (Overall nice comfortable upper that is reinforced well. The tongue can be improved to suite the rest of the shoe though)                    
Performance:  
A- (For being a daily training option this shoe can MOVE. I just wish it felt a little smoother at recovery easy paces as well.) 
Stability: 
B+ (Softer foam already brings up a challenge, but the heel mechanics were a little unstable for me throughout. The midfoot and forefoot were great though.) 
DPT/Footwear Science:  
A- (The path of least resistance and forefoot rigidity concepts were incorporated and integrated well with this shoe. I think the geometry in the heel could be reconsidered however to smoothen out initial contact) 
Personal:  
A- (Phenomenal long run and uptempo shoe. Some daily training miles will be ok. I'm just bummed out I can't really run slow on my recovery days in this shoe comfortably.) 
Overall:  A- (Incredibly fun shoe. Responsive, lightweight, soft for its stack height, but firm at the right places. Overall an enjoyable and versatile ride that I use for long runs frequently)         


Nathan
Fit: A- (Slightly snug in the toe box, but otherwise is very comfortable and high quality)                     
Performance:  A- (Very enjoyable daily trainer with PB midsole) 
Stability: A- (Well-integrated stability for a softer foam) 
DPT/Footwear Science: (Took a fun foam and made it very functional) 
Personal: B+ (I have a preference towards slightly higher drop, so I was limited in distance until I accommodate more)     
Overall:  A- (Versatile, protective, and fun shoe that will work well for a lot of people)       


Thanks for reading!

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PODCAST AND Q&A



YouTube | Apple 

We further dissect our testing experience of the new Saucony Freedom 4 and talk about comparisons with Saucony's other lightweight trainer releasing in 2021, the Kinvara 12.

Additionally contributor David Salas jumped on to answer your social media questions on the Freedom 4! Check out his full video here.

FURTHER READING

Compare Trainers
ASICS Hyper Speed - Lightweight, low cost racer
Reebok Floatride Energy 3.0 - Responsive trainer at a low cost
Saucony Endorphin Speed - Compare with the plated partner

Saucony Kinvara 12 - Compare with Saucony's classic lightweight trainer

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TESTER PROFILES:
Dr. Matthew Klein is a 140 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k 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

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, IG handle: @docsofrundavid

Dr. Brown is a 155 lb male with notable PRs of 18:18 5K, 39:25 10K, 1:29:01 half marathon, and 3:54 marathon. He typically runs between 20-40 miles per week at a variety of paces from 7:30-8:30 min/mile for recovery runs to 6-6:45 min/mile for tempo runs. He typically prefers shoes that provide some cushioning underfoot but still maintain a more firm and responsive feel. Current goals for 2020 are to break the 1.5 hour half marathon and 3:30 marathon. IG handle: @nate.docsofrunning

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 provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Saucony for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our 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.

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