Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saucony Xodus Review

Up to this point, Saucony's overall presence in the trail-running scene has been noticed about as much as the extra who played "Gladiator #299" in the movie 300. Not exactly noteworthy stuff. Previous "Trail" shoes from their collections have amounted to little more than heavier-soled versions of their road shoes with darker coloring. No effort had been made to start from the ground up and really key in on something (anything!) that trail runners really need. Brooks has made this effort with the Cascadia (now in its 4th version), and New Balance has tried multiple angles in this field, most recently with last year's successful (and super-light) 800 and now the new 790. Both the Cascadia and 800/790 have thoughtful and innovative elements that make a trail runner realize these running shoe companies are able to deliver competitive products along side their mountain-running counterparts like Montrail, Vasque, La Sportiva, etc.

.....and now, finally, I'm happy to announce that Saucony is legitimately stepping up to the plate to give trail runners a worthy offering. Here's my review of their shoe that very well may hit a home run with ultra-trail runners all over the country this year: the Saucony Xodus.

Let's talk details. First, don't attempt to take photos of this (or any) shoe on top of a fancy placemat after you've actually worn them outside. You'll find the cushioning in the heel to be a bit lacking while your wife is beating you over the head with it. That said, once it's on your feet, you'll notice one nice carry-over from the Saucony road shoes: a soft and cushioned ride from their Pro-Grid system. It's the availability of this type of mid-sole cushioning that puts the Xodus ahead of most models from "trail only" companies like the Montrails and Vasques of the world. "But Dan," you say, "those companies are waaaay ahead in terms of the outer sole grip and toughness, and that's what really matters on rough terrain." Well, that's an excellent point, and I'm happy to report that the good folks at Saucony completely agree with you. So much so, in fact, that they went out and formed a partnership with the kings of all outer-sole makers: Vibram. Here's what the bottom of the Xodus looks like:
Yes indeed, that's TWO Vibram logos you see...and after your first mile you'll be wondering why they didn't stick on three or four more. They're that good. Most notably because of their traction, but also because they're really really really light too! No one agrues about the quality of Vibrams soles, but the weight they add is usually a detriment to folks who want a faster/lighter trail shoe. Saucony solved this problem by limiting the Vibram portion of the sole to just the outer 1/8" to 1/4". The rest of the bottom is composed of Saucony's super-light mid-sole and Pro-Grid cushioning layers. You can see the 3 layers in the photo above (black, gray, yellow)...and again here in a rear angle:

So now that we know the bottom of the shoe is legit, how about the rest? Well, I've got even more good news on that front. Let's start with the front of the shoe. Saucony has developed their own dirt/debris-impermeable material to keep your little piggies from being covered in grit and mud - Check out the silver fabric that essentially runs around your entire foot:
You can see it continuing through the breathable holes in the black mesh on the side here too. I can't vouch for how well it breathes in the hottest of hot conditions, but early returns prove it to be better than the comparable material in the Vasque Aether Tech SS shoes I've been wearing much of this spring.

Underneath the silver shield lining, the Xodus keeps your foot firmly in place with both an inner sock-liner (which I usually hate, but this one is flat-out excellent) and a reinforced outer support system called "Arch-lock", shown here:
Not to dump on the Aether Tech SS too much, but this extra support (without adding much more weight) is exactly what keeps the Aether limited to a "50 miles or less" shoe in my mind, where the Xodus is better suited to keep your feet from falling apart during 100 milers and beyond.

With all the serious stuff out of the way, now how about some gimmicks?! Saucony stepped up with a couple semi-useful offerings for us in the Xodus...if nothing else, it proves that they really are trying to be innovative in their trail shoes, and I definitely appreciate the effort. The first thing they included was a pocket on top of the tongue for you to tuck your laces into. Sort of like how we all used to stick our milk money in the zippered pouch of our 'ROOs when we were kids, only this pocket is upside down for ease of lace-tucking. The other cool addition to the Xodus is this handy clip sewn in for your gators to latch onto. Not that I ever had a problem looping my gators directly onto the laces, but this is a nice touch...and who knows, maybe it will keep your gators from pulling on the laces and tightening up your toe-box by a centimeter or two. Either way, I applaud the thought, Saucony...well done.
So there you have it: The Saucony Xodus in a 500-word nutshell. I for one am quite impressed. It lists at $100, but you all know better than to pay retail...check out Holabird Sports to get them for $79 with no tax and free shipping. The fit is true-to-size, and the toe-box is roomy enough to fit any swollen piggies in the late stages of a 100 miler. Oh, and they weigh in at about 12oz. for my size 11.5s, and for some reason they feel even lighter than that.

In closing, I highly recommend! ...and no, Saucony doesn't pay me, sponsor me, or even return my love-letters. I just wanted to spread the word on a great shoe I think many of us can benefit from in our trail races this year!

17 comments:

Staci said...

Danners, do you wear diff shoes when running on pavement and treadmill and save these bad boys for trails exclusively?

Dan Rose said...

These kicks are definitely just for dirt/rocky trails. All that sticky/nubby tread would make for a rough and clunky run on pavement/treadmill. In fact, you'd probably start a fire on the treadmill w/ all the friction from those Vibram soles.
For smooth surfaces, I've been running in Brooks Glycerins for the past 18 months or so...better shock absorption and cleaner landing/release on pavement.

Anonymous said...

Interested to read your article, just bought a pair this weeken for the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, the clincher for me was they actually do a Womens size 9 yippee. Other manufacturers please take note.

Dan Rose said...

Good luck at UTMB...that's one heck of a race. The Xodus seems like a perfect shoe for that route - hope you keep those size 9s flying through the finish!!

bigcog said...

Hi, took a bit of trawling through google to find a review on these shoes. I am interested in hearing how these shoes handle the muddy/grassy conditions. Lots of trail shoes that offer some degree of cushioning are simply not aggressive enough for me. Maybe mud in the UK has unique properties ;-)
So currently I have Mizuno Ascends for where the conditions are dry to damp but not too slippy, and Inov-8 295s for the real mud/bog/forest routes especially as these are steep too. I sized up with the Inov-8's by half a size an have nice room in the toe box. I did not with the Ascends and they are ok but I do get blisters on my first toe, so am going to tape over my toe until I can justify changing shoes, maybe to these Sauconys. I have not had a chance to find these in a shop yet to see how the tread looks but from what I can see these appear to be more cushioned and more aggresive than my Mizunos so should handle a lot of my off road running all year round except for the steep muddy stuff. What do you think?

Dan Rose said...

bigcog,

I find these Saucony's to be well cushioned and nicely aggressive on wet terrain. Haven't run through *very* muddy trails yet, but on wet rocks and trails the Vibram outer soles grip very well (better than my Brooks Cascadias for sure). I find myself running confidently in them on downhill and rocky descents without holding back.
As for the size, they fit true-top-size on my size 11.5s, and the "Arch lock" band inside keeps my toes from jamming in the toe box too much. I highly recommend!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. I've not bought these yet but intend to when the weather gets worse. In the meantime I picked up a pair of Saucony Progrid Jazz WR's cheap, and I mean sheap, £13 brand new on ebay. They are identical to the regular Progrid Jazz (I asked Saucony to confrim this) but are marketed as a walking shoe. They have the road shoe sole and midsole and a rugged but light leather upper. For such a cheap price it has meant I can try out Saucony and see how I like the make. After 5 off road runs I am happy with these, while it is dry. When the weather gets worse I'll be reaching for the credit card and getting a pair of Xodus. I must say I prefer the new colour, black silver and green so might get them.

Anonymous said...

Hey, well I got some, (bigcog here by the way, cannot remember my password) a shop over here in the UK is starting to mark down the price of last years yellow model. Could not resist at £53. Just in time, there has been a lot of rain, and the Inov-8's I keep for proper mud, and the Jazz for dry, and the Mizuno's I have decided to sell on ebay, tired of the blisters!

Ming said...

While these are certainly decent shoes, I contend that these are Saucony's best trail shoes. Unfortunately, they no longer make the Saucony Grid Shadow Trail, which was to the Xodus like riding around in a Cadillac is to a Honda Civic. The Grid Shadow Trail was gore-tex, had a gusseted tongue and polyurethane heel cup. They were definitely more substantial and solid, although they don't win out in the weight department.

The Gittelman family said...

Wow, thanks for the very timely review! I just got the Xodus and Brooks Cascadia and just couldn't decide...liked the feel of the Xodus better but just wasn't sure about traction in the mud and on the rocks at Hemlock and Fountainhead...now I'm all set!

joncar11 said...

Ok, so I googled "Saucony Xodus Review" and your blog was the first thing that came up. I just got the Xodus 2.0 yesterday (in the black and orange) and I have to say....they...are...AWESOME!

joncar11 said...

Oh and I am getting ready to run the Flagstaff Half-marathon on September 25, 2010. It's an awesome all off road course at crazy elevations. These shoes should be perfect for it.

Anonymous said...

I'm bigcog, see above. I've retired my old Xodus, although might keep them for really nasty winter weather. Even so they have done 530 miles and the upper is not in a good state.

Now I have the Xodus 2.0 and they have improved the upper massively. I don't think it will have any of the previous issues at all. I've run 300 miles in them in 2 months already, very good trail shoe. Not grippy enough in proper mud but a great all rounder otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Great off road shoes. I have run in snow, mud, mixed off and on road races. Just bought two more pairs at half price as the upgraded 2 version is on the market now.

Anonymous said...

these are fantastic shoes! and I totally disagree about "just for dirt/rocky trails." I ran a 3:12 NYC marathon in these shoes, a whole season of trail races and lots of walking/running on vacation in Spain, and only after this weekend's super muddy slog did I finally decide to retire that pair. They're terrific and long-lasting!

Dan Rose said...

That's a pretty impressive NYC time w/ that Xodus tread! Although, if your outsoles were worn down a bit, I bet the release was much cleaner on the pavement than what I experienced with them fresh out of the box...either way, well done!

Frank B. said...

I love these shoes, though a disappointment for me was that after just 300+ miles, in both shoes, the seam connecting the arch lock to the upper split.