RoadShoe ReviewsSite Feature

Saucony Endorphin Elite Review: The Caged Bird Sings

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 7.2 oz. (205g) for a US M9, 6.5 oz (185g) for a US W8
  • Stack height of 39.5 mm (heel), 31.5 mm forefoot (8 mm drop)
  • Features all-new PWRRUN HG midsole, Saucony’s lightest and bounciest foam to date
  • Slotted carbon-fiber plate pairs with Speedroll rocker for snappy toe-off
  • Lightweight and breathable, cage-like upper
  • Available February 21 for $275 (pre-order available now)

The Intro

MEAGHAN: Not only did Saucony win the “Brand of the Year” award for us in 2022, but the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 was our top pick for race day shoes. Needless to say, we had pretty high hopes for the Endorphin Elite, an all-new shoe created in concert with Saucony’s 125th anniversary. According to Saucony, the shoe starts a new chapter in the brand’s legacy, as “the lightest, fastest, and most energy efficient shoe the brand has ever made.”

We like foam more than a freshman tapping a keg for the first time, and this one has a new one– PWRRUN HG, Saucony’s highest rebound foam yet. Still have no idea what HG stands for, though we’ve heard everything from “hydrogen” to “holy grail.”

But let’s talk about the shoe and why it exists. Similar to the Endorphin Pro 3, the Elite is meant for race day. From the minimal upper to the slotted carbon plate, this shoe feels and looks fast. The upper is designed with a lightweight knit mesh, thin gusseted tongue, and flat stretchy laces. A midfoot lacing structure and thin strap around the heel work to keep the foot secured down, especially when running at faster paces. 

Beneath the foot is that new super foam, PWRRUN HG. Pushing right to the legal limit with 39.5mm in the heel, this shoe provides plenty of cushioning (31.5mm in the forefoot for an 8mm drop). 

The carbon fiber plate forks in the forefoot for a smoother ride and the aggressive Speedroll rocker geometry provides plenty of forward momentum. In keeping with the race day theme, the outsole has a very thin layer of XT-900 to provide traction, without adding extra weight. My women’s 7.5 came in at a mere 6.2 oz (the exact same weight as the Endorphin Pro 3).

saucony endorphin elite - toe

THOMAS: Meaghan, aka Miss 2:47 at the recent Chevron Houston Marathon, just served you up the details on the Endorphin Elite, but she skipped past one of Saucony’s claims highlighted in a YouTube video promoting the release of the shoe.

Saucony claims the PWRRUN HG super foam returns a whopping 95% energy back to the runner. Now, I wasn’t exactly Sir Isaac Newton in boarding school, but I did enjoy a Fig Newton from time to time, and I’m pretty sure that 95% is very close to 100%. Which seems… kind of wild/unbelievable?

From the sources we have, it’s likely that the measurement is taken using the block of foam on a compression machine with a light force of pressure applied, producing optimal energy return. However, once an outsole and upper are applied and a downward force of 150+ pounds is applied, that number goes significantly down. That said, most super foams measured that way are in the mid-80-percent range for energy return, so if Saucony did indeed get it to 95%, then they’re certainly onto something. But we have no way of knowing without knowing the actual testing conditions of the PWRRUN HG foam. Nevertheless, for the sake of this review, let’s take their word for it and go from there. Or don’t, and just keep reading anyway.

I first saw leaked photos of the Endorphin Elite last summer, and the shoe looked radical. The strap, the visually high stack– combined, it all looked like a space sandal. Neil deGrasse Tyson will tell you that you can’t wear sandals in space, but he also can’t run a sub 3-hour marathon, so fact check that.  I was sure the shoe would be over the legal stack height for race day, but I was wrong. It is in fact legal, and in person, the shoe looks much more normal.

Additionally, Saucony puts all its race day shoes through metabolic testing, and the Elite was its best-tested racer to date. American elite marathoner and Saucony-sponsored athlete Parker Stinson, who recently ran in the shoe on his way to a 2:12, fourth-place finish at the Chevron Houston Marathon, shared the following with me: “I’ve been using the Elite as my weapon of choice in workouts and races over the last 6 months because of the ridiculous launch-forward feeling you get when you put power into the ground. So along with having some of my best workout splits in the Elite, I was also able to do some metabolic testing with Saucony, giving me the confidence to run my best marathon in the Elite.” 

I mean, the dude showed up in Houston on a warm day, staying with the lead pack through mile 24… so there’s gotta be something going on here. Let’s find out more.

Shop Saucony Endorphin Elite – Men Shop Saucony Endorphin Elite – Women

saucony endorphin elite - toe view

The Good

MEAGHAN: It’s like clockwork: fast day shoes always show up right after I race a marathon. In this case, the day before the marathon, but we were already in Houston. So the Endorphin Elite just sat by the door for five days.

But after that short rest period, I was ready and excited to lace up the Endorphin Elite. I mean, as Thomas pointed out, the VP of Engineering at Saucony said this new PWRRUN HG material gives “95% of energy back to the runner” – I don’t even know how that’s possible but it sounds ridiculously great. 

The step-in feel is interesting. It’s reminiscent of the Adidas Prime X, feeling closer to 50mm of stack and a stretchy collar and heel that leave a lot to be desired. However, everything seemed to come together on the roads. The PWRRUN HG feels a bit more dense than the PWWRUN PB found in the Endorphin Pro 3, but it’s still responsive and light. I actually put one shoe on each foot to gauge the difference. The Pro 3 feels squishier, but not quite as poppy. The carbon plate and aggressive rocker geometry of the Elite definitely make this shoe unique; it seemed like the faster I ran, the faster I wanted to run. 

Despite a midsole made from one solid block of foam, the shoe felt decoupled, similar to the design and feel of the Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite. Not a good or bad sensation per say, just something I noticed. While there isn’t much rubber coverage on the outsole, it’s enough to provide really solid traction. I ran on wet roads and wooden docks without issue.

THOMAS: As odd as the Endorphin Elite’s upper appears, it fits well and functions as intended. Think of the cut-outs as a way to eliminate unneeded materials. I have to praise the Saucony team for taking a fresh approach to the upper design. 

It’s funny that Meaghan mentioned the underfoot feel being reminiscent of the Adidas Prime X. I felt the same way for two reasons: 1) the foam reminds me of Lightstrike Pro, and 2) you feel like you’re on a platform with an aggressive toe spring. Meg and I both felt the shoe had a distinctive front half feel and decoupled heel sensation. I have no idea what provides this, but think Puma Fast-R, and you’ll understand. 

The way that I enjoy the Alphafly as a “set it and forget it” racer is similar to how the Endorphin Elite rides. Both shoes cruise once you get them up to race pace. They are also not suited to shifting gears. So find your sweet spot and let the miles fade away. The shoe rewards a forward lean– fall forward and roll off the toe.  

Shop Saucony Endorphin Elite – Men Shop Saucony Endorphin Elite – Women

saucony endorphin elite - wall

The Bad

MEAGHAN: I appreciate the minimal design of the upper, but it lacked structure and support around the collar and heel. This is not a shoe I would lace up for a course with a lot of turns or hills. Great for the flat, straightaways but I lacked confidence running fast on any sharp turns around the harbor.  

Also, I’m just going to say it: I kind of hate the bright green colorway. 

THOMAS: Okay, Meg, noted on the green. I agree with Meg that the heel counter is the weak spot in the upper design. Still, at the same time, I liked the zero interference except when cornering, where I did experience the dreaded heel lift when going aggressively into the bank.

I would love it if the foam was softer with more of a bounce off the toes, but for that preference, Saucony already has the Endorphin Pro 3. Would I go with the Endorphin Elite or the Endorphin Pro 3? The answer won’t leave you satisfied: I want them both for different reasons. The Endorphine Pro 3 is softer and has more pop, but the Endorphin Elite feels meaner and more aggressive. It comes down to my mood and fitness level. I have heard from a researcher that at my marathon race pace in the high 7s, I am evening the playing field and that the efficiency benefits between super shoes is similar until you get under 6-minute miles. Then an athlete can eke out an extra percentage between the top shoes.

That would go a long way in explaining who the Elite is designed for, and maybe the mystery is given away in the name: Elites. 

Saucony says this shoe is meant for everyone to feel like an Elite, but at the end of the day, if you wanna be elite, you gotta be elite.

Shop Saucony Endorphin Elite – Men Shop Saucony Endorphin Elite – Women

Saucony Endorphin Elite Conclusion

MEAGHAN: The Saucony Endorphin Elite delivered on its race day promise – it’s light, fast and fun. The new foam and carbon plate construction definitely rivals our top race day picks. The $275 price tag also competes with the top shoes in the wallet department – only to be matched by the Nike Alphafly 2. Which is probably the last question we need to answer here: Alphafly Next% 2 or Endorphin Elite? Between the two, I’m lacing up the Endorphin Elite. BUT WAIT: does this shoe reign supreme over the original Alphafly? Not quite. I have yet to find a shoe that provides that perfect blend of soft cushioning and propulsive pop quite like the OG. 

Saucony suggests this is a race day shoe for all paces, and while I tend to agree, I found it livened up at faster speeds. I think anyone who enjoyed the Endorphin Pro 3 will be happy with this new race day option, but this shoe is a one-trick pony– or stallion. One that only comes out of the stable when it’s looking to run its hardest.

I’ll be keeping this shoe in my rotation for fast days and probably a race or two this spring. You can snag your own pair on February 21. 

THOMAS: I wasn’t sold on my first run in the Endorphin Elite. It felt less exciting underfoot than I was hoping for. However, on the second run, I went out with the Faster Bastards on the weekly 10-mile run, a flat and fast run along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Coming off an injury, I’m still in the building phase of my fitness, but once I got in a groove, the Endorphin Elite began to sing. 

With little effort, I was cruising and having fun keeping up with my friends, including Wide Foot Jarrett. The Endorphin Elite is a shoe for fast runs only, it feels choppy at slower paces and smooths out as you stretch out the stride and speed up your turnover. If I were forced to give direct comparisons, I would say it falls into the same bucket as the Adidas Adios Pro 3 and Puma Fast-R.

My size 10.5 fits true to size and weighs 8.1 ounces/230 grams. Finally, Meg mentioned the price: $275. Is it worth it? It’s hard to say. The shoe definitely gives me confidence that I can hit and hold my goal paces. There are only a few shoes out there that make me feel race ready; of course, all of them are priced over the $200 mark. 

The Alphafly 2 is $275. If you read our review of the Alphafly 2, you already know we were disappointed with the update and purchased some back-up pairs of the original Alphafly. If you’re lucky, you can still snatch some of those up at a discount.

I would choose the Saucony Endorphin Elite over the Alphafly 2. It is lighter, just as stable, and doesn’t interfere with my natural stride the way Alphafly 2 does. Like the Alphafly, the Endorphin Elite rewards you when you punch off the ball of your foot. 

If you’re looking for a punchier version of the Endorphin Pro 3 (i.e. a shoe that sings while you sizzle) then the Endorphin Elite may be your next race day shoe. 

I feel compelled to mention that if I only spend around $300 dollars on one shoe this year, I would hold out for the Adidas Prime X 2. Elites may want to skip it, though. It won’t be legal for the pros.

You can pre-order the Saucony Endorphin Elite now for $275 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) prior to its February 21 release by using the shop link below.

Shop Saucony Endorphin Elite – Men Shop Saucony Endorphin Elite – Women

saucony endorphin elite - white

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