While 2020 has largely been a year to forget, the opposite can be said of the running shoe world. Before I go further, I’d like to put it out there that I haven’t lost touch with the realities of today. Other than the ultra-rich 1%, I believe that things could be better for the rest of the world. Getting a new pair of shoes would probably be the last thing on the minds of many. To get this pair, I’d to make cuts here and there as well.
Of course, there are those who are still keeping their training miles up and would need replacement shoes but such purchases need to be more informed than ever or risk spending valuable Earth Credits (as EddBud would say it) on an ill-suited pair. We’ve to thank the shoe reviewers for continuing to put their content online, so that we’re able to make sound purchase decisions.
So, on to the Saucony Endorphin Speed (SES).
The last pair of Saucony I owned was the Kinvara 9, back in 2018. That may just be 2 calendar years ago but in reality feels more like 5 in terms of shoe years, what with the advances in tech we’re seeing these days. Much like adidas with Boost, Saucony was stuck with EVERUN while other companies were pushing their brand of super-foams into the market. Nike had moved so far ahead of the competition with the various Zoom-X (and to a lesser extent React) models and even Reebok and NB had their well received Floatride and FuelCell midsoles.
As it turned out, the Saucony engineers weren’t really bumming out on the couch, more like taking a more measured approach to their R&D and 2020 is when the company have been hitting it out of the park with the Triumph, Ride and Endorphin series. The Endorphin series comprises of 3 models – Pro, Speed and Shift. Saucony essentially covers the top tier racing, faster-day training and easy-recovery day spectrum with these 3, similar to the approach adopted by ASICS for their Glidesole trio [GlideRide review here]. Launched July, stocks were and continue to be very limited globally. We can consider ourselves lucky to be able to try out and get the Speed here. The Pro and Shift will not be brought into Malaysia.
The SES fit true to size and weigh in at 8.55oz in my size US10. According to Saucony’s product page, the SES have a 35.5/27.5mm stack height for an overall 8mm drop. The shoes look absolutely stunning with the fluorescent highlights standing out from the white base engineered mesh upper.
While the heel cup is of a stiff variety that works really well in locking my heel in, overlays are kept to a minimum and purposeful elsewhere – example being the large logos doing double duty for branding and securing the upper. I also like how thin strips of plastics are used to provide barely-there structure for the lace eyelet chain. There are 3 knit-like (or thicker weave) strips that run diagonally across the vamp. I doubt more structure are needed around there but the strips do provide some assurance of durability.
The tongue is semi-gusseted, and minimally padded which is an interesting approach to save material and therefore weight while providing non-slip comfort. The stock laces are likewise thin and are just nice in length. No complains either on the collar. All in all, a well executed upper with no bunching even when laced up tightly.
From the photos, you can see that the PWRRUN PB midsole foam bears some similarity to Boost. PB refers to the PeBax polymer material used but you could also be right to assume that PB denotes “Personal Best”. PWRRUN PB is used in the Pro and Speed while the Shift rides on the regular PWRRUN version. Side note: The Triumph 17 and 18 are on the PWRRUN+ (which I quite like).
PWRRUN PB may look like Boost, but they feel anything like. In fact they’re similar to Skechers’ HyperBurst to the touch, almost like pool noodle stuff. In terms of density, Boost feel squishier and a few times heavier compared to HyperBurst with PWRRUN PB somewhere in between both in terms of firmness and weight.
To put into perspective, the SES is just less than an ounce heavier than the Pegasus Turbo 2 yet provides a higher stack height (and thus better protection) and have a nylon plate to boot (and thus better responsiveness). Yup, these babies are plated! Side note: The Pro has a carbon plate.
Flip the SES over and you’ll see that the outsole design cues follow Saucony’s familiar chevron threads in the forefoot. The hard rubber compound goes round the perimeter of the sole (similar to Nike’s Crash Rail config) surrounding the exposed foam. The same rubber is likewise placed at the heel impact area. The whole outsole still looks like new after 50km and will definitely be durable.
Now that I’m done with the specs, let’s get to the wear experience because that’s what its all about. On first wear, the following characteristics were immediately obvious:
- Smooth. They’re very smooth, rolls forward nicely.
- Less stiff. Unlike the other plated shoes I’ve worn, these weren’t as stiff. In fact I wouldn’t have known there’s a plate inside.
- Comfortable. Step in feel is great. Soft yet not mushy.
- Secure. Easy to achieve lock-down without resorting to runner’s knot.
- Balanced. The shoes are well designed, weight evenly distributed, not bottom heavy.
My first run in the SES was just a short 4K on a hot and muggy evening. The sort of conditions which make you come up with excuses not to go out unless going out involves testing a new pair of shoes. The shoes were very nice, they felt great – Goldilocks cushioning and protection that isn’t too soft nor too hard. Great fit, breathes well but still there was something off. I wasn’t quite sure what that was but I really liked them and so I let the issue rest.
My second run in the SES was the 1K Virtual Run which was one of my last minute sign-ups. A 4K warm up yielded more or less the same experience as my first run in the shoes but I was in for a surprise when I kicked off the 1K. It was as if these were different shoes I had on! At a much quicker pace, I was able to engage the plate and with each loading, the shoes were able to give something back. They felt instantly more responsive and the harder and quicker I went, the more the shoes gave back.
Then came the 3rd run – the marathon. It was probably a silly decision but I felt confident enough to go all the way in the SES. That said, I was wise enough to have the 4% stand by in the car should things went south.
I paired the Speed with Steigen socks and my feet stayed dry with no hotspots. There was no rubbing either. The Speed’s wider midsole platform felt stable throughout as well, unlike the squishier 4%. There were 2 sharp u-turns in the 6K loop course necessitating us to run 7 loops for the marathon distance. I was conscious in taking the corners the first couple of loops, after which I didn’t think too much of it. At the pace I was going, I couldn’t load the plate as much to benefit from it. If the PWRRUN PB softens up with use, perhaps the feeling would be different. Count me impressed with the shoes! You can read my “race” recap here.
Where the lighter 4% holds superiority is the very accessible bounce. The runner didn’t have to work as hard to engage the midsole and plate, and over the marathon distance, that advantage counts a fair bit. However, that would be an unfair comparison. The Speed is a trainer that can be raced in and is just a little more than half the price of the Next% while the Next% is an outright racer.
The SES is a much more pleasant shoe to run in than the bottom-heavy and significantly bulkier Zoom Fly 3 (ZF3) and offers greater comfort for the longer runs than the Turbo 2. It’s somewhat similar to the Zoom Fly SP but less stiff. That said, the SES is not the one I’d take out for easy, recovery runs – the Nimbus Lite [review] would be that shoe. They won’t be my daily trainers, the Turbo 2 already playing that role. Neither would they be my Half and Full Marathon race shoes, with the Next%’s foothold secure for those distances. For me, the Speed would be very suited to MP sessions, long steady paced training runs, and progressive workouts.
Any negatives, I hear you ask? I’d really be nit-picking here but at my 4:45 MP, I didn’t seem to be able to engage the plate as much. Get going at sub 4:30 pace and the shoes will open up. Your mileage may vary.
The Endorphin Speed is a versatile long distance fast mover. At full retail of RM749 (RSH members enjoy a 10% discount making the RM674 more palatable), they aren’t exactly affordable. In case you haven’t noticed, running shoes are very expensive these days. Regular daily trainers are priced averagely in the region between RM500-650. You can, therefore, say that the discounted price tag for the Speed is fair based on specs (nylon plated, PeBax midsole) and versatility. Initial observations suggest that the shoes to be durable – no signs of creases and compression in the midsole and like-new outsole, so they will at least return you 500km.
If you’re a shoe geek like I am, go give the Endorphin Speed a try out at the stores, if you can find them. The Speed is one heckuva shoe, one of 2020’s best, for sure.
*ASICS have launched the Metaracer (RM779 from ASICS Malaysia), and NB Malaysia have brought in the FuelCell TC (RM900+), choices are aplenty in the premium end of running shoes. Then there’s Nike’s upcoming Tempo Next% Flyknit rumoured to be priced around RM900 as well (apparently legit Taobao site | review by Derek Li). I may have to sell a kidney soon.