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Saucony Axon Multiple Tester Review


Saucony is continuing to make some waves in the footwear industry for 2021 with the release of the Saucony Axon. The shoe retails for $100 US and features a high stack and rocker platform seen in many higher ticketed shoes. The upper is a little bit stripped down to keep materials down and the midsole is a large rockered piece of PWRRUN. The shoe is far from a budget shoe and one that may shake up the industry in the training category. 

Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 9.3 oz / 264 g (men's size 9), 8.2 oz / 232 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 38 mm / 34 mm
Drop: 4 mm
Classification: Budget Lightweight Trainer



RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: One of the rare max cushion $100 shoes, the Saucony Axon is a high stack and rockered shoe. Inspired by the Endorphin series, the Axon features full length PWRRUN in the midsole for a firmer but responsive ride. The rocker is noticeable, but combined with some sidewalls and other features create a uniquely stable ride. The upper fits snug, with few reinforcements, but opens with time. A great entry level shoe for those who want to experiment with a max stack shoe without breaking the bank, the Saucony Axons delivers a ride above its price point. 

David:
The Saucony Axon is a high stack neutral training shoe that features a rockered sole and a fairly firm ride. There is a little bit reinforcement in the outsole and midsole due to a plastic guiderail on the medial and lateral aspect of the midfoot that creates some inherent rigidity and stability for those that may need some light stability elements. The shoe only comes in at $100 US and for the right runner is probably worth much more than that. 

Nathan: In the world of an increasing amount (thankfully) of quality "budget trainers", Saucony comes in with their own unique option, the higher stack, rockered Axon. The Axon, a component of the nerve that helps transmit electrical signal, is an offshoot of the Endorphin series with clear inspiration from the Endorphin Shift. This shoe lacks some of the glamour of the Endorphin Shift, but still delivers an enjoyable and protective ride and can function for many types of runs. 



FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)


Matt: The Saucony Axon fits me true to size in my normal men's US size 10. The fit width wise is slightly snug, although somewhat unstructured in the midfoot and forefoot. The forefoot in particular tapers, especially on the lateral side. This was noticeable initially, but broke in with some flexibility within a few miles. The mesh is very comfortable and fairly breathable. There is also some flexibility there, so expect the forefoot to stretch with time. The tongue is fairly wide and is gusseted with a strip in the posterior midfoot. This does a decent job of holding the tongue and I had no slippage. There is a mildly flexible heel counter. This did not bother me at all due to the padding at the heel counter and the fact that it only comes up about 1/2 to 3/4 height. The heel is a bit more snug, which combined with the additional padding helps lock my foot in well in the rear. I did not have to lace lock the shoe, but did notice some slippage in the midfoot and forefoot with turns. I have run sockless in the Axon without much issue, but would not do long miles as there is a mild toe guard that may cause some rubbing without socks. Overall the upper is simple, slightly snug with an unstructured front and a secure heel.


David:
The Saucony Axon fits true to size in my normal men's 9.5. The upper is pretty minimal throughout to keep the cost of the shoe down. There are minimal overlays throughout and no additional reinforcement in any specific areas. The fit of the shoe is slightly snug through the midfoot and forefoot. There is a toe guard and sidewall in the midfoot present that might cause a little bit of rubbing for those with wider feet. The mesh is pretty comfortable to me and the gusted tongue does help create a better lockdown throughout. The volume is a little bit lower through the forefoot which may not do great with excessive swelling. Overall though the upper of the shoe is really good for being so simplistic. 

Nathan: The Axon fits true to size for me in my men's size 9. However, there is a noticeable lateral taper in the toe box that initially rubbed my little toe. This went away quickly as the upper is an accommodating mesh that allowed for splay of my toes. In regards to the upper construction, this is a clear area where they cut some costs from the Endorphin Shift. The mesh is rather minimal, basic, and does feel slightly lower quality. There is less of a structured toe guard and my toe guard folded in on itself rather early. Despite being more simplistic and the folding of the toe guard, the upper did a fine job of holding my foot on the platform. 

The tongue is the same that was seen in the Kinvara 12, which I am a big fan of. It has adequate padding to protect the top of the foot, and some of the suede overlay keeps it and the laces stable. The heel consists of a rigid heel counter that is consistent with most Saucony shoes, which means it is slightly narrow to normal width.



I have exactly 100 miles on my pair and see barely any wear on the outsole. Although the midsole is firming up with more miles, I expect this shoe to last a very long time, beyond most traditional trainers, thanks to how well the outsole is holding up. - Matt Klein


PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)


Matt: The Saucony may look similar to its Endorphin counterparts, but it rides a little differently. The PWRRUN is a little firmer throughout and the ride is a stiffer at first. The rocker and high stack height are very noticeable at first. Once you figure out the ride of the shoe, it smooths out a great deal. The midfoot's open space in the outsole does give at first, but then when the shoe breaks in the transition goes quick enough that I don't notice. After a few miles, the stiff rockered ride transitions into a smooth and quick transition. The Axon takes 3-5 miles to break in and once it does, this is a smooth rider. The forefoot, although stiff, rolls forward very quickly. It encourages the pace to pick up slightly. The heel is beveled mildly, but features the same sole set up as the Kinvara. The lateral crash pad compresses well and once the shoe breaks in, the heel transition is also quite smooth. The lighter weight is very evident, as it works well on uptempo runs, fartleks and even tempo runs. There is plenty of cushioning underfoot for long runs and daily training as I have taken it +15 miles without issue. The unique part is that the mild lugs in the forefoot have very good traction and I have used this shoe on light dirt and rocky trail without too much issue. The high stack height is protective, but I would not use this on technical trails. The durability on the outsole is outstanding, maybe the best of any I have experienced recently. I have exactly 100 miles on my pair and see barely any wear on the outsole. Although the midsole is firming up with more miles, I expect this shoe to last a very long time, beyond most traditional trainers, thanks to how well the outsole is holding up. Overall, the Saucony Axon has a rockered, slightly firmer, durable and smooth ride that can handle a variety of paces and terrain. I can see this shoe both as a potential marathon shoe for many people or a great first time maximalist shoe for those interested in transitioning to this footwear category.

David:
The Saucony Axon is a firm riding high stack daily trainer. The shoe definitely dabbles in the neutral to light stability category. The ride is firm but protective while the midsole has several elements of stability integrated. There is a prominent rocker design on this shoe present. The transition at the heel is quick and smooth. The midfoot is very stable with plastic guide rails on the medial and lateral aspect of the outsole and bottom of the midsole of the shoe and deep midline groove through the midline of the shoe. The forefoot has a really fast rolling sensation due to the large toe spring and firmer midsole. The transitions are smooth throughout the shoe, but the midfoot was a little too much for me personally. The plastic guide rails definitely made the ride more stable, that hardened an already firm platform. There is also a large sidewall that begins in line with rear part of the guide rail that seems to push into my midfoot a little bit. I was still able to get quality miles in the shoe but I seemed to always have some aching through my medial longitudinal arch from the shoe. For those that like that firm platform and light stability elements though this could be worth looking into. 

Nathan: The midsole is the second area where this shoe deviates from its partner, the Endorphin Shift. Both contain a PWRRUN midsole, but there are a few changes. First, the compound of the Axon is a slightly firmer PWRRUN than the PWRRUN used in the Shift. Confusing that PWRRUN is different than PWRRUN? Maybe, but basically it's the same "sauce" that is "cooked" a little differently and so they get tagged with the same label. So in the Axon you get a little firmer form of PWRRUN. Second major difference is that there is no PWRRUN PB topsole in the Axon like there is in the Shift. This again contributes to a slightly more firm, less bouncy ride than is found in the Shift. Finally the stack heights are slightly different. Although both listed at 38mm/34mm, the Axon gets about 3-4mm of height from the sockliner, whereas the Shift gets it from the PWRRUN PB topsole. 

So to boil it down, the Axon is a high stack (slightly lower than Shift), firmer, and rockered shoe that emphasizes the forefoot aspect of the rocker (toe spring). In my testing experience, the forefoot rocker feels much more pronounced, and a little more abrupt, in the Axon versus the Shift. This is likely due to the overall firmer nature of the shoe, which allows the runner to feel the details of the midsole geometry. Lastly, there is a 4mm drop, but the rocker does make it feel even a little more than that since it rolls nicely onto the toes.  

The Axon is not bouncy or exciting due to the firmer foam, but does roll along very well and has a smooth and propulsive toe off given the rocker. This shoe functions best for daily miles, high mileage, and a little bit of tempo. It wasn't the best option for recovery runs given the firmer nature, lighter weight, and more aggressive rocker. 


STABILITY

Matt: The Saucony Axon is a neutral shoe. However, the rockered sole, stiff ride, mild side walls and guidance line provide good stability. The sidewalls in the midfoot connect to the heel counter, providing gently guidance from the heel to midfoot. The forefoot is very stable thanks to the wider shape and lateral sole flare. There is also very strong medial and lateral sole flare in the heel. The midfoot remains almost the same width as the heel, then opens dramatically into the wider flared forefoot. The guidance line is quite signicant in this shoe, with a narrow line in the heel transitioning to a thicker on in the midfoot. The open space in the midfoot is noticable at first, but this ends up centering the foot during the quick transition to the forefoto as the shoe breaks in. The number of mechanisms for stability in this shoe (minus a post) make this almost a mild stability shoe. In fact, I have found it more stable than a number of mild stability shoes we have tried in the last few years. So like many firmer high stack height shoes, the Axon is fairly stable and I would not hesitate to recommend it to those needed some non-traditional stability.

David:
The Saucony Axon is very stable for a neutral high stack shoe. For me personally it is too stable... but that is just me. The PWRRUN rides firm in the Saucony Axon and forms a great transition with the rocker design they have implemented. Despite the upper not having much reinforcement, the sidewalls keep the shoes structure intact in uneven terrain. The midsole has hardly any torsional instability due to the plastic guide rails on both the medial and lateral aspect of the midfoot. The shoe also has a midline groove from the heel through the midfoot that becomes a full contact outsole forefoot. This shoe provides the fast transition and grippy toe off pretty well. Even in some trails I felt pretty secure with the Axon on for me. Just because of the firmness of the plastic guide rail and sidewall I actually preferred softer surfaces, which is good because most high stack shoes can be less than ideal in trails or grass. 

Nathan: For a high stack neutral shoe, the Axon is quite stable. Again comparing to it's partner, the Shift, it is slightly less stable given the lack of heel counter that dips into the midsole and no build-up of the outsole along the inside of the shoe. However, since it is a bit more firm, has some side walls, is a wider overall base, and has smooth transitions, it is still quite stable throughout for a high stack neutral shoe. If you have stability needs, jump over to the Shift. 


THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Matt: The Saucony Axon has a unique place in current running shoe offerings as a $100 maximalist shoe. Most shoes with the amount of midsole, rockered design and foam type featured are usually much more expensive. With a price that doesn't break the bank and is quite accessible, the Axon may serve as a great introductory or transition shoe into rockered maximalist shoes. This maximalist shoe footwear type has become dramatically more popular and frequent in the last several years. We have discussed the many positives and negatives regarding this shoe type on this website, but regardless, it is still different from what many people have experienced previously.

The stack height is extremely high, almost twice as high as more traditional shoes. The rocker is very significant, which is required given the high stack and stiff midsole. These features are very different from the average shoe, thus anyone trying this on for the first time needs to transition slowly. No matter how good a shoe is, a quick change to something very different can mean injury if the body is not allowed time to adapt. We know from the evidence that rockered shoes shift the load and work away from the ankle. We know they reduce force on the forefoot and redistribute elsewhere. We know the rocker requires less work from the calf (usually) and different work from other lower extremity muscles. It may require more work from muscles around the hip and knee based on where the work shifts. This isn't bad, it is different. The body needs time to adapt to different forces, work and movements. Thus like any footwear type, it is suggested that people transition slowly to allow that adaptation to occur. If you transition too fast without giving your body time to adapt, injury may occur.

We don't have enough evidence right now to know for sure which shoes will work for some people and not for others over the long run. Thus the Saucony Axon, at $100, is a great test shoe to see if your body likes this footwear type or not. If it does, then when you get used to this shoe you will have no trouble transitioning into other, more expensive versions. If it doesn't, at least you didn't spend over $150 like most shoes in this category cost.


RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: For a $100 shoe, I am very impressed by the Saucony Axon. My major suggestions are to add a little more room to the forefoot and more security to the midfoot. The heel is done very well, but the security in the midfoot and forefoot is a bit lacking. The forefoot is a tad snug, although it does open with time. However, more room cannot be added unless there are some additional security measures in the midfoot.

David:
This shoe was not a bad shoe by any means. This just wasn't the shoe for me. For my own personal tastes I think the plastic guide rails in the outsole and lower midsole could be converted into another piece of rubber outsole following the same distribution. This would be similar to the Freedom 4. That would still keep some stability and rigidity to the shoe, but allow for a little bit of a softer sensation in the region. The forefoot can also be widened a little to free up some room and prevent excessive rubbing. Overall the Axon is a really solid shoe.

Nathan: I'm thankful for another $100 shoe to hit the market with a quality midsole foam. Plus, this $100 option is unique to the other offerings out there (FFE 3.0, Launch, Revel, Propel etc.) as you get a high stack and rocker design. The main refinement I'd like is on the upper. It would be nice to see the toe guard reinforced a bit and the lateral toe box just slightly less tapered. 


WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt:  The Saucony Axon is a daily training / uptempo shoe for those looking for an entry level high stack, rockered shoe with a performance fit. The transition is extremely smooth through the length of the shoe once it breaks in. The toe off is quite fast, which combined with the slightly lighter weight and even lighter feel makes for a shoe that can handle mileage and uptempo work. The upper has a more flexible but performance fit. There is good breathability in a simple package. The stability is very high without being posted, so those that need mild stability will do very well here. This shoe is a great choice for those new to maximalist shoes or the entry level runner wanting a rockered, max stack height shoe for both training and an introduction to faster running. Overall, the Saucony Axon will serve as an entry level, cushioned, rockered maximalist shoe for people to try to see if they like this category or those who want a great budget shoe with features similar to more expensive models.

David:
The Saucony Axon is a daily training shoe for someone that is looking for a high stack firm riding neutral shoe with a rocker design. The shoe transitions really smooth through the heel and midfoot with a really fast transition at toe off thanks to the toe spring. The shoe is incredibly stable through the midfoot with plastic guide rails on both the medial and lateral aspect of the shoe. For those that like a hard arch or need a light amount of stability this shoe should work well. Also it is $100 US so if you are balling on a budget this is definitely worth a look. 

Nathan: The Axon is an option for someone who wants a high stack daily runner with a forefoot rocker that isn't going to break the bank. For someone looking to dip into the high stack game but isn't sure how their body will respond, this could be a nice transition shoe to work into a rotation to see how your ankles, feet, knees, and hips react to new loading.


GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Matt
Fit: B+ (Breathable, secure in heel, flexible in midfoot/forefoot. Snug throughout, a bit tight initially in forefoot. Opens with time. Slightly insecurity up front with turns. )                     
Performance: A- (A bit firm and stiff at first, but breaks into super smooth, rockered ride. Good for both mileage and uptempo work on road and light trail. Decent traction and fantastic durability with minimal wear at 100 miles) 
Stability: A (Extremely stable for a supposedly neutral shoe. No post, but many components that make this shoe stable from heel to toe) 
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Good natural stability and features for a $100 shoe. Midfoot guidance line may be a bit wide, causing shoe to cave in at this point. May be a bit too much for some people, while it may feel more stable for others as it  breaks in) 
Personal: A- (I really like the simplicity and features of this shoe. I was really surprised how quickly it grew on my and really enjoyed taking the Axon to 100 miles. If I didn't have so many shoes to test I would grab another pair) 
Overall: A- (Very well done $100 max rockered shoe. Extremely durable, worth every penny)       


David
Fit: B (Not bad at all, just narrow in the forefoot and distal midfoot thanks to sidewall and toe guard, minimal overlays or reinforcement, security average)                    
Performance:  
B- (High stack, firm riding, significant rocker feel, really hard through midfoot though with guiderails, daily paces only, not versatile with speed) 
Stability: 
(For 38mm of stack, yeah this shoe is crazy stable. Solid transitions throughout and good traction. Plastic guide rails really lock midfoot in through transitions.) 
DPT/Footwear Science:  
B+ (Saucony incorporated a lot of their top technologies into an affordable model. They bridged the gap between budget and high stack rocker sole running shoe. They did a great job stabilizing the platform but could have got away with much less by dropping the plastic guide rail) 
Personal:  
(Not a bad shoe, its not at all. Just not right for me. It is really firm riding and the plastic guide rail further contributes to it feeling hard. The shoe actually hurts my foot in the navicular region when I run more than 2 or 3 miles in it. Though I have done one 13 miler in it, but it was definitely bugging me a little when I wasn't in grass or dirt.) 
Overall: B-/ B (A decent daily training option for those on a budget looking to integrate the new wave shoe components of high stack and rocker design into a firm riding neutral training shoe)         


Nathan
Fit: (Overall cheaper feeling, lateral taper a little much, nice heel fit and tongue)                     
Performance:  A- (A little abrupt forefoot rocker, but everything else very smooth and easy to turn over) 
Stability: A- (High stack and abrupt rocker take away some stability) 
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Nice to see some rocker technology in a high stack shoe at a cheaper price, the pivot of the toe spring is my only ding, but that may be enough to make the shoe not work for some) 
Personal: (Value is high, enjoyable to run in, I love pulling this out for longer miles and daily miles even though I have a lot of other "more fancy" shoes in the closet)     
Overall:  A- (Solid and unique budget trainer option with a nice ride and can eat up miles)      

Interested in Purchasing the Saucony Axon? Check out Running Warehouse here. Using this link to purchase the Axon helps support Doctors of Running. Thanks so much!

FURTHER READING

Compare with Other Saucony Trainers
Saucony Endorphin Shift
- The shoe that the Axon took inspiration from
Saucony Triumph 18 - Saucony's long running maximum cushioned classic
Saucony Ride 14 - A subtle update to one of last year's best daily trainers
Saucony Hurricane 23 - The stability max cushion trainer, an incredible smooth shoe that blends stability and performance amazingly well

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Thanks for reading!

TESTER PROFILES:

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 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.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. 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

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***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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