Saucony Endorphin Review

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The Endorphin is an ultralight shoe that provides a surprising level of cushioning for its weight. Obviously there's not as much cushioning as many heavier shoes, but you might be surprised by how well it does for itself. Of course, a shoe this light may not provide enough cushioning for everyone, but I'd recommend trying it out if you're a reasonably efficient runner looking for an edge. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Saucony Endorphin top
Saucony Endorphin bottom
Saucony Endorphin inside
Saucony Endorphin outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. If you're after an ultralight, fast shoe, this is a prime candidate.
  • Cushioning . The Endorphin is remarkably well cushioned given its weight of only 4.1oz. There is obviously a lot less cushioning than you'd find in other shoes that would be normally be considered a light weight like the Asics Gel Hyper Speed, but even that shoe weighs half as much again. The Endorphin has enough cushioning for me to consider it an optimal rather than a minimalist shoe. The lack of cushioning in a minimalist shoe reduces Running Economy, but the Endorphin allows me to run with just the same biomechanics as I would in a far more cushioned shoe.
  • Drop. The Endorphin zero drop (in fact, I measure it with 1mm of negative drop), which is nice to see.
  • Structure. The Endorphin uses a single density of foam with no real "arch support" to cause problems. The gaps in the midsole have never been a stone trap for me, and I don't think they should be an issue. These gaps will allow water to drain out more quickly, which is nice for running through puddles (or even stream crossings).
  • Flexibility. The Endorphin is flexible due to the thin midsole combined with gaps in the outsole.
  • Outsole. The Endorphin has lots of small, hard plastic lugs over the forefoot and extreme edge of the heel. These are not the type of lugs you'd find on the trail shoe, but are intended to provide extra grip on asphalt, something they do nicely. For fast running on wet asphalt, these lugs are great.
  • Shape. Like most running shoes, the shape of the Endorphin does not match the human foot, and narrows in the toe box, and I had to cut open the toe box open to prevent toe problems. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is thin, inflexible and seamless with absolutely no padding, but I found it surprisingly comfortable. There upper is nicely breathable, with some holes midway up the material over the midfoot. I was surprised how tough the upper is given the lightness of the shoe.
  • Tongue. The Endorphin tongue is sown to the upper on the inside edge, which helps keep it in place. I found the tongue is so thin I had problems avoiding it rucking up when I put the shoe on, but it never caused an issue during the run, only beforehand.
  • Lacing. The Endorphin has traditional flat laces that are a little thinner than most, probably to save weight. I found that they stayed tied nicely, and there is a small amount of elasticity in the laces, which probably contributes to the comfort of the shoe.
  • Heel Counter. Not surprisingly, there is no real heel counter in this shoe. There is a tiny tab that sticks up from the back of the heel, but nothing else.

2 How Far Can I Run in the Endorphin?

Different runners want different levels of cushioning, so this shoe may not suit everyone. Some runners want a Maximalist shoe when they run a 5K, while others will run a 100 mile race barefoot. Most people find that as the distance increases, they want a little more cushioning to protect their feet from the pounding and to offset a little of the fatigue that sets in over time. You can see from the charts below how the cushioning compares with other shoes I've tested for some comparisons. Remember that a thicker, firmer shoe would have the same cushioning rating as a thinner, softer shoe, but would feel rather different. I've run the marathon distance in less cushioned shoes than the Endorphin, but I'd probably want more cushioning for a road 50 mile race. .

3 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

3.1 Saucony Endorphin and New Balance RC5000

The question you should be asking is if the Endorphin is better than the amazing New Balance RC5000, the fastest shoe I've tested. The simple answer is the RC5000 is lighter and therefore faster. However, there is a slightly more nuanced answer that you should consider. The reason the RC5000 does so well is that it provides roughly the minimum amount of cushioning needed to boost running economy. So while the Endorphin is better cushioned, this doesn't help to improve running economy. However, it's not inconceivable that some people may need slightly more cushioning than the research suggests in order to get the boost in running economy. If that were the case for you, then the extra cushioning could make the Endorphin the faster shoe. The other advantage in the Endorphin has over the RC 5000 is that it is zero drop, which is rather nice.

Saucony Endorphin top
Saucony Endorphin bottom
Saucony Endorphin inside
Saucony Endorphin outside
New Balance RC 5000 top
New Balance RC 5000 bottom
New Balance RC 5000 inside
New Balance RC 5000 outside
helping-hand.jpg

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via these links.

3.2 Saucony Endorphin and Mizuno Wave Universe

While the Mizuno Wave Universe seems similar to the Endorphin, they are actually rather different. The difference in cushioning between the two shoes makes a huge impact on Running Economy, so the Universe is a slower shoe. I've also found that the Endorphin lasts much longer than the Universe.

Saucony Endorphin top
Saucony Endorphin bottom
Saucony Endorphin inside
Saucony Endorphin outside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 top
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 bottom
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 inside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 outside
helping-hand.jpg

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via these links.

3.3 Saucony Endorphin and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The Asics Gel Hyper Speed is another favorite shoe, and if I need more cushioning than the Endorphin, the Hyper Speed is my first choice. Don't expect a plush, cushy ride even from the Hyper Speed; it still is stripped down, go faster running shoe. In fact, I'd argue that the difference in comfort in the upper of the two shoes is far less than you'd expect, though the cushioning difference is significant.

Saucony Endorphin top
Saucony Endorphin bottom
Saucony Endorphin inside
Saucony Endorphin outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside
helping-hand.jpg

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via these links.

3.4 Saucony Endorphin and Asics GT 2000

I realize that this is an extreme comparison, as the Endorphin is only about a third the weight of the GT 2000. I like to compare shoes against the Asics GT 2000 as it represents the traditional running shoe, so what do you get for all that extra weight? Mostly you get over engineering, with excessive features that go against The Science of Running Shoes. This is more likely to cause problems than solve them, as well as adding a lot of extra weight. Of course, you also get more cushioning with the GT 2000, with better padding in the upper, especially in the tongue and ankle opening. Running in the GT 2000 after the Endorphin feels like you've put on a wooden clog and ankle weights. This weight difference impacts your Running Economy, and the calculations suggest that an average runner in the Endorphin is around 10 seconds/mile faster than in the GT 2000. (In practice, I feel like it's a bigger difference than that.)

Saucony Endorphin top
Saucony Endorphin bottom
Saucony Endorphin inside
Saucony Endorphin outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

4 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

5 Visualizing the Attributes of the Saucony Endorphin

How Saucony Endorphin compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Saucony Endorphin compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Saucony Endorphin compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Saucony Endorphin compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 6
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 8
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 7
Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review Bionic Highly Recommended $95 6.4 7.0 10.9 15 18 2 4.5 9
Hoka Bondi Review Bondi Highly Recommended $150 8.0 10.9 17.0 41 45 5 8.8 0
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 5
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 6
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 8
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 3
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 5
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 7
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 6
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 6
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin Review Endorphin Highly Recommended $125 11.1 4.1 6.4 14 13 -1 4.5 9
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 9
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 8
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 6
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 6
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 11 11 3 5.8 7
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 5
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 7
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 7
Altra Instinct 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 6
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 7
Saucony Kinvara 7 Review Kinvara Best of the Best $110 7.4 8.2 12.8 23 27 3 6.1 6
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 6
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 7
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 3
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
New Balance 980 Review NB 980 Worth considering $110 4.6 10.1 15.7 21 30 5 4.6 5
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 4
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 4
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 8
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 4
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 8
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 9
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 9
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 2
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 6
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 6
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 5
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 6
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 9
Brooks Transcend 2 Review Transcend Recommended $170 5.1 12.6 19.6 30 36 6 6.5 4
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 7
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 6
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.