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Saucony Xodus Ultra Review: Super Foam for Super Distances
By Chief Editor Matt Klein

The Saucony Xodus has long been a trail running shoe for technical and mountain terrain. Despite being such a long-running series, most runners have never tried it due to not being aware of it or the weight appearing far too heavy. The Xodus Ultra takes that concern and runs straight over it. Coming in at 10.3 oz for men's size 9, the Ultra brings the heavy-duty design to runners in a lighter package for ultra distances. 

Saucony Xodus Ultra
Price: $150 (release: Summer)
Weight: 10.3 oz, 292 g (men's size 9), 9.1 oz, 263 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 32 mm / 26 mm
Drop: 6 mm
Classification: Ultra-Distance Trail Shoe



RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The Saucony Xodus Ultra is a lighter and more runnable version of the Xodus series for those who want a solid trail shoe for ultramarathon/technical terrain training and racing. Featuring a PWRRUN PB core and surrounding PWRRUN, the ride is naturally stable and becomes more responsive as the shoe breaks in. A durable upper with good security and the perfect amount of room sits up top, making for a shoe that can keep feet comfortable over varying mileage. The Xodus Ultra is one of the first trail shoes to feature a super foam and executes extremely well as an ultra-distance racing and long-distance training shoe.



FIT 

The Saucony Xodus Ultra fits me true to size in my normal US men's size 10. The fit is normal throughout the length of the shoe with a slight taper at the forefoot from the mild toe guard. The midfoot features a thin to moderate thickness tongue that is gusseted, wraps the foot well, and has a debris guard that comes 2/3 of the way up. The laces stay secure and the midfoot has a moderate degree of adjustability. The tongue wrap of the foot creates enough security that I did not have to lace lock this shoe at all. Even on tight corners, I had no issues with slippage. The heel features a thick counter that travels farther forward on both the medial and lateral sides of the foot. There is some mild cushioning in front of the counter and while I did not experience any irritation, those with heel sensitivities should approach with caution. This shoe is meant to be worn with socks given the toe guard and internal stitching. The upper is sturdy with a more durable mesh throughout the length of the upper. I have seen no wear after 35 miles in my pair despite aggressive trail use. Overall the upper is secure, has enough room for normal width feet, and is durable/rugged enough to handle anything on the trail.  





PERFORMANCE 

The Saucony Xodus Ultra features a PWRRUN PB core surrounded by PWRRUN. This provides a slightly firm, protective but responsive ride. This shoe feels best at long-run type efforts, although can pick up the pace to uptempo work thanks to the PWRRUN PB. The Xodus Ultra is best for trails of any type from well-groomed to rugged terrain. The extensive outsole lugs provide excellent traction on a variety of dirt and rock. These lugs are durable on trail but not road. I have used the Xodus Ultra for a few miles on asphalt and quickly wore down the lugs in my normal spot on the left posterior-lateral heel. Thus, this shoe should be kept on softer terrain. There is a forefoot rock plate that does a great job of protecting the front of the foot on difficult terrain but does not have the stiffness of a carbon plate. The forefoot has decent flexibility despite the higher stack height, so those looking for that will enjoy this shoe.  There is still some toe spring upfront despite this. Those without adequate toe extension should approach cautiously, but the sole is not super flexible. There is a 6mm drop and it feels exactly like that. The drop does not feel too low or too high.

Despite the 10.3 ounce weight (men's size 9), the Xodus Ultra initially feels a little heavy. As the midsole breaks in, it begins to feel much lighter, but still has a training shoe vibe. That feel changes as you approach longer mileage as it warms up and begins to feel more bouncy. I have been surprised multiple times how far this shoe has carried me on long runs with complete comfort. It is meant for longer efforts, but can also be used for shorter to moderate runs as it breaks in. Durability wise this shoe is great unless you take it on road as alluded to earlier. Other than chewing through the outsole lugs in my normal section during a 14-mile road run, the lugs, upper and midsole have remained consistent over the 35 miles of use. I expect a ton of miles out of this shoe thanks to the addition of the PWRRUN PB and am enjoying the ride.



STABILITY 

The Saucony Xodus Ultra is an excellent example of a stable neutral shoe. While this is technically a neutral shoe, as there are no traditional stability methods, there are multiple components that make this shoe quite stable. Two sidewalls are present on both the medial and lateral sides of the heel. The more prominent anterior sidewalls are noticeable as they provide some resistance to medial or lateral motion. The heel counter travels fairly forward and meets these sidewalls, providing a fair amount of security and guidance for the full length of the rearfoot. The midfoot does narrow, but the medial sidewall does offset this. The forefoot has a small amount of midsole flare, but the rock plate provides far more frontal plane ridigity than I expected. This provides an extremely stable place to push off from especially on even terrain. The major component that adds inherent stability is the softer PWRRUN PB core surrounded by PWRRUN. Having a softer center and a firmer medial/lateral outer side sets the PWRRUN up to act like guiderails. As the PWRRUN PB breaks in, this becomes more subtly noticeable by how well the Xodus Ultra transitions your foot forward. This is not obtrusive but feels as if your foot is naturally gliding straight ahead. Overall, the Xodus Ultra is a stable neutral shoe, but has many different ways it creates inherent stability for those with neutral to potentially moderate stability needs.




THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Guidance Through Design

Not too long ago, dual-density midsoles referred to shoes that had firmer medial posts that made them into stability/support shoes. This definition has changed over the last several years as companies have begun to utilize multiple foam types in shoes for different reasons. Several shoes have begun to use different layers, like the Puma Velocity Nitro 2 or the Adidas Solarglide 5, with a softer foam above or below a firmer foam. Others, like the Saucony Xodus Ultra, have used a softer midsole at the core encapsulated/surrounded by a firmer foam. There are even more companies using internal geometry to mold the two foams together in ways that can facilitate motion. Combining foams creates unique options for changing midsole properties and potentially influencing motions. Many of the newer "superfoams" are often soft and inherently unstable. Recent thinking on many of the super shoe designs is that the plates may help stabilize these foams, rather than individually contributing to economic changes. There are other ways to stabilize these softer foams, including adding another firmer foam to stabilize or provide contrast.

The Saucony Xodus Ultra features a PWRRUN PB core surrounded by a firmer PWRRUN midsole. Given that the body will usually move through the path of least resistance, it makes sense that the runner is most likely to follow the path of PWRRUN PB. The PWRRUN, which will compress less, provides a contrasting firmer and less compressing area. The transition of the foot is less likely to go through the PWRRUN and more likely to stay centered on the PWRRUN PB. As mentioned earlier, the PWRRUN cage essentially becomes guiderails, providing mild resistance to medial or lateral motion. This will become more impactful the harder the runner lands or the more the PWRRUN PB foam compresses but will provide some gentle guidance without a biased post. Thus, without being a stability shoe, the Saucony Xodus Ultra can provide some forward guidance without biasing the runner in a certain direction. Forward facilitation is now the focus, which is all runners are trying to go.

These types of guidance methods are already being explored by several companies. Our recent discussions with several biomechanists suggest that there is a larger focus on providing individual guidance for each runner. We have been discussing this for years and are excited to see it continue to evolve. Whether or not guidance was in mind with the encapsulation of the PWRRUN PB foam is a different discussion, but it is exciting to see companies continue to innovate with midsole geometries. 



RECOMMENDATIONS

I have enjoyed getting miles on the Saucony Xodus Ultra. This shoe was a pleasant surprise for me and I will continue to train in it. However, there are a few things I would recommend modifying. The first is the heel bevel. While softer dirt can sometimes handle a lack of a heel bevel, adding on in on the posterior or posterior-lateral side could make the ride even more efficient over longer miles. The second suggestion is to consider splitting the heel counter. The heel security and stability are fantastic, locking down both the medial and lateral sides. It may be helpful though to transfer more of the stiffness into the medial-lateral panels at the heel and set it up similar to many Adidas designs. This may open up the back a little to take pressure off the Achilles insertion while providing more protection on each side of the heel. While this shoe is stable, for ultra distances I would consider filling in the midfoot more for ground contact. This doesn't need to be extreme, but a little more space would not hurt from a stability and grip perspective. Those suggestions are relatively minor as I have enjoyed this shoe immensely. I would make a comment on chewing through the outsole lugs over road miles, but that is my own fault for using this shoe on an unintended surface.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR 

The Saucony Xodus Ultra is a stable neutral trail/mountain running shoe for long-distance efforts. Those wanting a firmer superfoam will find a core of PWRRUN PB that becomes more responsive as the shoe breaks in. The outsole provides enough traction to handle technical terrain to well-groomed trails, however this shoe should be kept off road surfaces. The fit provides adequate room for normal-width feet with a high level of security from a tough upper. Those with neutral to potentially moderate stability needs may do well in this shoe thanks to the contrasting PWRRUN PB/PWRRUN midsoles and the stable heel due to solid sidewalls and an extended heel counter. The Saucony Xodus Ultra is an excellent ultra-distance training and racing shoe for those wanting a sturdy shoe you can trust over long miles. I am extremely impressed with the geometry and integration of a super foam into a trail shoe. It turned out extremely stable and fun to run in, making me excited for the additional trail options Saucony has coming out soon.


GRADING 

Matt
Fit: A-/B+ (Secure fit with just enough room. Slight taper at toebox from toe guard, although wider forefoot than most trail shoes)
Performance: A-
 (Slightly firmer and responsive ride with solid traction for ultra-distance training and racing)
Stability: A [Stable Neutral] (Dual sidewalls with extended heel counter provides moderate guidance at heel. Narrow midfoot offset by heel sidewall. Rock plate provides frontal plane motion resistance at forefoot for stable toe-off)
DPT/Footwear Science: A (Excellent use of PWRRUN/PWRRUN PB dual design for stabilization of foam and natural guidance/sidewall integration. Sidewalls well placed)
Personal: A- (A surprisingly fun shoe for long runs on trails with excellent integration of PWRRUN PB. Stable for me even over higher mileage)
Overall: A-

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Saucony Xodus Ultra
Price: $150 (release: Summer)

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FURTHER READING

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Stability vs Support: A Conversation with Brooks Running Research
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Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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***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 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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Stability vs Support: A Conversation with Brooks Running Research

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