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. This review is of the original Saucony Endorphin, which has been replaced by version 2. Sadly the second version is nowhere near as good as this original, and you can read my review of the updated shoe at Saucony Endorphin. (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 is 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

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

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

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 1

File:Saucony Endorphin 1 RFCushPenalty.png
How Saucony Endorphin 1 compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
File:Saucony Endorphin 1 FFCushPenalty.png
How Saucony Endorphin 1 compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
File:Saucony Endorphin 1 PriceBenefit.png
How Saucony Endorphin 1 compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
File:Saucony Endorphin 1 DropBenefit.png
How Saucony Endorphin 1 compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes


If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT is my top pick. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills. The Streak LT doesn't have the best cushioning-to-weight ratio, but it has a shape that's closer to the human foot than most running shoes and it's one of the longest lasting shoes I've found. It's not as comfy as the Escalante above, but it's faster.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. I don't generally review trail running shoes, but check out the Hoka Mafate if you're after a shoe with remarkable abilities on a wide range of surfaces. If you want a Hiking Boot, then I love the Hoka Tor Ultra.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running 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

Brand Name Rating Recommended
Benefit Weight
Loaded Drop
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A Review Saucony A/A7 Recommended $100 6.0 6.7 12.1 19 22 1 4.1 7
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 7.7 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 4.7 7
Saucony Type A8 Saucony A8 Highly Recommended $90 7.1 6.2 9.7 19 20 -1 4.4 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.4 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 3.8 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 5.7 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 6.7 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 8.6 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.1 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.2 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 6.7 3
ON Cloudflash Review On Cloud Cloudflash Worth considering $180 4.2 8.3 14.6 19 26 7 3.5 6
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.4 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.4 7
ON Cloud X On Cloud CloudX Review Pending $140 4.3 8.3 16.3 21 27 7 3.6 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.3 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.7 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.1 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.4 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 7.8 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.4 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.3 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.0 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 7.5 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 3.8 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 6.8 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 6.8 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 8.6 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.5 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.0 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.4 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.4 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 5.8 5
Reebok Floatride Run Review Reebok Floatride Worth considering $150 7.2 9.6 14.9 28 34 10 7.0 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.1 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.4 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 5.7 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.3 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.1 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.1 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.5 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.1 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.1 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 4.9 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 5.7 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.1 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.2 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.4 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 5.7 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.6 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 9.4 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.4 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 8.8 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 7.5 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.5 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.3 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.1 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 8.5 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.5 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 4.9 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.1 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.3 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.0 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 7.5 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 5.8 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.1 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 9.5 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.0 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 5.7 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.5 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.5 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.2 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.3 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.6 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 13.4 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.4 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.6 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 4.7 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Worth considering $120 7.6 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.0 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 4.9 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 3.9 8
Salomon Sense Ride Salomon Sense Worth considering $120 8.0 10.0 15.6 24 29 3 8.0 3
Altra Solstice Altra Solstice Review Pending $90 6.6 8.1 12.5 23 25 1 5.3 6
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 7.7 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 5.7 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 6.9 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.0 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.3 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.5 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.3 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 4.8 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.4 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.2 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 6.8 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.0 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.2 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.7 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.6 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.1 6
Altra TIMP Altra TRIMP Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.6 18.1 28 31 2 6.2 3
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.1 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.1 9
Altra Vanish-R Altra Vanish-R Review Pending $100 9.7 5.3 8.2 19 21 0 5.1 8
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.0 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.2 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 9.8 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.1 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 5.6 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 4.9 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.3 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.4 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.4 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.0 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 7.8 8.7 13.5 29 36 8 6.8 3

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
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, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.