When race day is upon you, your daily training sneakers are probably not your best option for toeing up to the starting line. Sure, these silhouettes can be excellent for providing cushioning and support for your weekly jogs — but when speed is of the essence, you're likely to want a little more under the hood (or rather, foot).
This is why super shoes have seen an uptick in popularity in recent years — and why many brands are trying to cash in with styles explicitly designed for peak performance and velocity.
There have been a slew of impressive super shoe profiles to come out in recent years, with brands like Nike and Adidas routinely keeping racers well-equipped for record-breaking times; another brand that's had plenty of podium appearances, though, has been Saucony. Its Endorphin lineup of running shoes has given athletes plenty of forward-propelling influence...but the brand's latest release may have all other sneakers simply competing for second.
The all-new Endorphin Elite serves as both a celebratory mark to Saucony's quasquicentennial as well as the potential new leader in the super shoe category. Designed to be the "lightest, fastest and most energy efficient shoe the brand has ever made," according to Saucony, this impressive race day profile features "PWRRUN HG" foam for heightened responsiveness and rebound, a fork-shaped carbon plate for improved forward propulsion and a reworked Speedroll geometry to keep your momentum moving in the right direction.
But do all these buzzwords generate real-world results when rubber, foam and mesh meet the pavement? Can this latest profile shake up our current list of best marathon shoes, led by the impressive Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2? To see if this new Saucony offering truly deserves its "elite" status, I laced up these race-ready kicks for a number of runs, taking note of how well these sneakers performed at varying paces and distances. Given the super shoe moniker, I looked heavily at how well this profile returned energy in each stride, as well as how lightweight the overall build was and whether the fit would be just as comfortable on mile 26 as it was on mile one.
Saucony Endorphin Elite: What We Think
If you’re looking for a fun, fast experience on race day, definitely consider the Endorphin Elites. I really enjoyed how energetic these sneakers felt underfoot, and the upper provides excellent, lightweight comfort that’s more accommodating than other marathon sneakers I’ve previously tested. Naturally, the shoe really shows its worth at faster paces, but I also felt it showed some versatility at slower speeds, too, thanks to a wide and stable base.
While I would have preferred a more pronounced heel that could stand up better to turning corners, as well as a little more durability from the outsole, this is still one damn fine racer that’s built with top finishes in mind. Dare I say it, but the Alphafly may have just been out-alpha’d by this impressive Saucony profile.
Saucony Endorphin Elite: Testing Notes
The carbon plate and reworked geometry give the Endorphin Elites unmatched forward momentum.
Upon my first few miles in the Endorphin Elites, it was clear the fork-shaped carbon plate and updated Speedroll geometry worked well together. As I got up to my faster race day pace, the energy return and responsiveness really began to pronounce themselves. This isn’t to say the Endorphin Elites weren’t enjoyable at slower speeds, but like any silhouette designed for high-octane performance, the shoes shined brightest when the tachometer was pushed to the limit.
I also felt the aggressive geometry worked best when adopting a forward lean in my strides. By falling forward and pushing off the toe, I was able to get the most out of the updated geometry. Plus, the PWRRUN HG foam felt a little more rigid compared to the PWRRUN PB foam of Saucony’s previous flagship racer, the Endorphin Pro 3. This lent itself to the more aggressive experience felt in the Elites, as pushing off without fighting through soft underfoot cushioning made keeping the pace more approachable (and enjoyable).
Innovative cutouts along the upper address weight and breathability well.
Athletes looking to put down quick times are always trying to cut weight wherever possible, which is why running shirts and shorts designed for competition are some of the lightest available. Well, there’s no question as to how Saucony kept the Endorphin Elite under 7.3 ounces — there’s literally portions of the upper missing from the shoes.
At first glance, this design had me questioning whether there would be enough support across the middle of the foot, but thankfully, the mesh strap at the medial and lateral portions provided excellent lockdown. The aforementioned cutouts also created excellent breathability when out on the road, keeping my feet plenty cool for running at top speed.
From a fit perspective, I also enjoyed the Endorphin Elites as they provided that next-to-skin feel you want in a racer without the overzealous snugness you see in other profiles. They feel more approachable yet still provides solid security, making these excellent for those just making the switch to super shoes.
Sadly, though, there was one area in particular where I think the brand missed the mark…
The lack of a heel counter can lead to slippage when navigating turns.
Ironically, the Achilles heel of the Endorphin Elite lies at the heel itself. There’s no real structure to the composition, and the knit material easily bends and sways as your approach angles change for upcoming corners. Sure, the heel pad kept things comfortable and blister-free, but this pronounced cushioning did little to eliminate the occasional heel slip when I would abruptly make a turn up my street or down an alleyway.
If you wanted to keep with the racing puns, I’d compare the Endorphin Elites to a dragster — fantastic on straightaways, but a little lacking when hills or corners are involved. To alleviate this issue, I employed a lace lock, which helped during future runs. I’d highly recommend others do the same, especially athletes that suffer from lower-volume feet.
The outsole can begin to wear quickly.
I don’t doubt that runners lacing up in the Endorphin Elites for race day will experience a boost in performance. Unfortunately, though, the outsole construction doesn’t indicate you’ll get a lot of wear outside of these competitions. The thin rubber overlay across the foam midsole is quite thin with no pronounced tread pattern or lugs, indicating a shorter lifespan that other builds. Additionally, there’s no outsole at the medial side of the rear foot, which means the exposed foam could also be susceptible to wear and tear if worn more often than not.
As a precaution to premature blowout, I would recommend keeping the Endorphin Elites for competitions and just a handful of training days leading up to your race. This schedule can allow you to keep everything in tact for optimal performance while still allowing yourself to get used to the responsiveness and energy return underfoot. After all, you need to be comfortable with your gear if you want to reach the finish line, and you’re less likely to achieve that if you don’t know how to run with the technology at play.