saucony xodus ultra runshield cover
Shoe ReviewsTrail

Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield Review: Lovely, Dark, and Deep

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 10.3 oz. (293 g.) for a US M9 / 9.1 oz. (259 g.) for a US W7.5
  • We’re running in a winter wonderland
  • Runshield delivers more than just some weather resistance
  • An Xodus for the rest of us
  • Available now for $160

SAM: There’s not much like a run in newly fallen snow. Sound muffles in the snowfall that dusts fields and tree limbs alike, and in that snow, your footfalls become nearly ethereal as sensation disconnects and familiarity vanishes. Sunlight — especially the beams that filter through the trees in the early morning — becomes fragile and beckoning. It feels as though you could reach out and snap a beam like an icicle if only you could touch it, which, of course, you can’t. Anyway, why would you stop to try? There are beautiful, glimmering miles in front of you.

It was winter runs in fresh snow that convinced me I loved running. And while many of those runs drifted into blissful perfection, they always ended with dripping socks being peeled off wrinkled toes. I honestly don’t mind this much. Good wool socks can work wonders in cold and wet, and trail running shoes, by nature, deal reasonably well with water saturation. Waterproof shoes often make your feet just as wet from sweat and moisture intrusion around the collar, and that wetness will stick around inside that vapor-permeable booty inside the shoe.

With its Runshield line, Saucony tries to find a middle ground between the typical breathable trail upper and a waterproof liner. They say the Runshield uppers are “water resistant,” built to keep your feet dry (or drier) in winter’s cold, dark, and wet. They’ve dressed the line in a wintery colorway to match, and boy is it a stunner. The trail team here at Believe in the Run loved the Xodus Ultra when it dropped earlier this year, so how does it fare when outfitted with Runshield?

MATT: The Saucony Xodus Ultra was a surprise winner in 2022. It was a complete overhaul from the previous Xodus version, which was quite lackluster. The changes implemented elevated the new version to the level of the Hoka Speedgoat as a top-notch trail option, especially for long distances where the added comfort underfoot is paramount.

The Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield offers a new twist to the re-birthed Xodus, adding some extra tech to get through those dark, cold, wet months of training.

If Saucony only layered on its RunShield features and kept all the redeeming qualities of the standard Xodus Ultra intact, this would seem like a no-brainer as an excellent offering.

TAYLOR: I’m going to nod in agreement with Sam and Matt this time. Saucony had an incredible 2022 lineup. The Xodus Ultra was one of my overall favorites in all categories across the industry. Now, the Xodus Ultra Runshield wraps us up for the year, and being that I live in a winter wonderland, I was excited to get more miles in this shoe. The surprise to me is that the Runshield not only made this a nice winter option but had a few more pleasantries in store.

toe and logo

The Good

SAM: The Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield might be my favorite look in a shoe all year, and if that were all we got from this makeover, I wouldn’t be all that upset. It’s that good. The upper is thicker here, with the water-resistant fabric, and is all flat black, with reflective accents (because you’ll be running in the dark most of the winter, of course). The only non-reflective decoration is an oversized Saucony logo in a purplish black. The midsole is the same flat black as the upper and is wrapped underneath by a robin’s egg blue PWRTRAC outsole.

Inside the shoe is a pinecone and conifer branch liner in greyscale, and printed on the underneath of the tongue are lines from Robert Frost: “the woods are lovely, dark and deep/ but I have promises to keep/ and miles to go before I sleep / and miles to go before I sleep.” The title of the poem is printed on the top of the tongue. It’s a striking package, as overused as “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” might be. As someone who loves literature perhaps even more than I love running, it’s like Saucony made a shoe just for me.

The upper itself is thick, and it seems like it’s double-layered, which creates a soft, cozy, and secure feel on foot. Saucony doesn’t advertise this shoe as insulated, but it’s warm. This isn’t the same warmth from something like a Gore-Tex liner. It’s decently breathable and doesn’t feel oppressive — think about how a fleece feels compared to a rain jacket.

However, the main point of all this extra around your foot is water resistance. Here it works impressively well, to a point. My feet stayed dry running through wet grass and puddles and even plunged into a stream for 20-30 seconds. The outer layer of fabric seems to take the water and hold it off your foot, and the heat you generate inside the shoe aids in evaporation. Once you move out of wetter areas, the outer fabric dries visibly within less than a mile.

It’s not just the design of the upper that excels in the details, but we are treated with some nice extras in the Xodus Ultra Runshield. The tongue is extra padded and features an elastic mesh pocket to hold a key or cash or stow away your laces if you use gaiters. Of course, the shoe is gaiter compatible, but the best touch is in the extra laces included in the box. Don’t like the stretchy set that comes in the shoe? Lace them up with the static second set, featuring reflective thread like the others.

Beneath the upper that I spent way too much time fawning over is the same shoe that Taylor and Matt loved earlier this year, and it shines. The Pebax-based Pwrrun PB cradled in the stiffer EVA Pwrrun foam is springy and feels exciting underfoot. It has almost as much bounce as shoes that are purely built with Pwrrun PB. Saucony landed on a solid balance of Pebax and EVA here, and it’s really something. The EVA foam cradle protects the PWRRUN PB inside and lends some stability. Beneath that, the Pwrtrac outsole has the same characteristically good grip we’ve seen on other Saucony trail shoes.

MATT: So let’s start with the biggest thing Saucony got right with the Xodus Ultra Runshield — they left the amazing overall structure and fit of the shoe unchanged and did not mess with the perfect synergy they created in the midsole. The Pwrrun duo is the key. Saucony uses a Pwrrun PB insert and a Pwrrun frame, all capped off with a grippy and stable Pwrtrac outsole. I won’t go too deep on the midsole again here, as we covered it in detail in our review of the standard Xodus Ultra, plus Sam provided a nice description above.

Great, Saucony didn’t mess with a good thing here. So what is new and unique in this version? Well, that’s all about the upper. This upper material is substantially thicker and warmer than the standard offering’s lighter mesh construction, which makes sense when discussing a winter and wet weather model. It works great too. Warm but still breathable and very comfortable. The exterior features the Runshield weather-resistant technology that gives the shoe its name.

I have to say I was super impressed with how it performed, particularly in draining and drying. I took the shoe out on some cold mornings and hit numerous deep creek and stream crossings. I even stood in the flowing water for a minute or so when crossing one of the deeper sections just to put the shoe to the test. While not waterproof, I was impressed with the shoe’s ability to block out the wetness and keep my feet warm. I didn’t feel any water penetrate the upper, and within steps of running after crossing, any water was shed, and my feet felt just as warm and dry as when I started the run.

My final, and maybe favorite, part of the shoe is the looks and design. I loved the Xodus Ultra, but the colorway left something to be desired with the highlighter yellow look. The Runshield edition is matte black, minus a few logo accents in a midnight purple reflective color. For someone whose running wardrobe is 90% black, it was perfect. To top the design off, the inner lining and tongue featuring the Frost poem lines and the winter pinecone shapes, this shoe has a certain coolness factor.

saucony xodus ultra runshield tongue

TAYLOR: I’m inclined to say read our review of the original Saucony Xodus Ultra. Of course, the Saucony Endorphin Edge was a shoe that caught our attention this past year, but the Xodus Ultra is the one that showed how serious the trail department has become. There is enough goodness to give this shoe as much praise (or more) as the coveted Hoka Speedgoat series.

All of what we loved in the original spills over into the Xodus Ultra Runshield.

Underfoot is where the money is at. I’m not sure if David Blaine was on this assignment, but the amount of stack (32.5mm/26.5mm, 6mm drop) compared to the cushion and protection of the Xodus Ultra feels like an illusion. I suppose the full-length Pwrrun PB core takes some of the mystery out of this. It’s soft and has some highly responsive elements to it. A more traditional Pwrrun EVA blend foam encapsulates the core to give more structure and durability. It might be the most symbiotic relationship of foams in the trail market right now. It just works.

Don’t forget about an extra few millimeters of comfort with the Pwrrun PB sock liner. An improved minimal rock plate does some good in this department, too, but is unnoticeable in the overall ride of the shoe.

Another direct pullover from the original is the outsole. A three-piece Pwrtrac rubber outsole with 4.5mm chevron-shaped lugs gives solid grip on various surfaces. It’s an easy transition from the road to dirt to packed snowy trails.

One of our few complaints about the original was the somewhat loosey-goosey upper in conjunction with stretchy thin laces that gave way to a little bit of shifting in the midfoot. In my opinion, with the addition of the Runshield mesh and a thicker inner liner (which includes more padding/structure in the heel), the fit is improved, making this package even more comfortable and confidence-boosting over the long haul.

Laces are a big deal to me here. The Xodus Ultra Runshield comes with an additional lacing option. These laces are thicker, braided, rounded, and have a trace amount of stretch. I put them in after a couple of runs and found that they provided a better fit that stuck around for the duration of the run over the other laces.

Another significant component in fit is that the forefoot is rather accommodating, in a good way.

You’re probably here to know if this shoe can run in the cold any better than the original. Yes. Absolutely. The Runshield upper is listed as water-resistant but don’t let that deter you. Its strong weather resistance kept my feet warm and dry over my runs here in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve run plenty of snowy and slushy miles to give it a proper test. I didn’t go as far as fording a river, but if you keep out of puddles, keeping your feet comfortable should be no issue. This is also a package where I’m excited about the gaiter attachment if you venture into softer or deeper snow that might spill over the ankle collar. Even in sub-zero temps, my feet were comfortable while I was moving.

It would be a slap in the face to the designers if I didn’t mention the design elements. Jack Frost’s poem stitched on the tongue, beautiful color choices that reflect the season well, and winter foliage inside are subtle but gorgeous additions. I love being able to see these shoes be a canvas for creativity.

Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield – Men Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield – Women

pinecone liner

The Bad

SAM: Keep in mind that water resistant doesn’t mean waterproof. I took the Xodus Ultra Runshield on a very wet and rainy run through fields and plenty of puddles, and once the upper is saturated, you get plenty of intrusion.

Pwrtrac does lots of things well, but it’s treacherous on wet wood. Wet east coast boardwalks might as well have been sheets of ice. The 4.5 mm lugs didn’t hold incredibly well when the trail got particularly sloppy.

MATT: There’s not much about this shoe not to like, so I’ll pick on a few items that should be considered when making the overall evaluation.

As both Taylor and Sam mentioned, given a chance to market this shoe as a bad-weather version of the Xodus Ultra, it would have seemed wise to ramp up the aggressiveness of the lugs. However, the Runshield and standard editions essentially share the same outsole.

I know that Saucony provided two styles of laces here, but I wouldn’t say I liked the wider elastic ones that come laced up out of the box. They have just enough elasticity to make it a challenge to keep a tight and secure knot without things loosening up over the course of the run.

I know I should swap them out then, and I will, but if Saucony knew that the elastic laces might be problematic, they might have included them as the bonus set and had the shoe come equipped with the more standard set.

TAYLOR: As with the original, there are few tallies in this department. This shoe lives up to all of its claims.

My job is to be picky, though. For a winter shoe, these lugs won’t dig too deep. In some ways, that’s fine because it makes for a great multi-terrain outsole. When it comes to ice or digging into softer snow, these won’t give you much of an edge. Just know the outsole won’t give you the feeling of having crampons, of course.

Even though I like the added structure around the heel and collar compared to the original, I did have a little lateral rubbing near the shoe’s tongue. I felt it most on uphills when the angle of my ankle was more extreme. The collar is quite firm on the anterior side and abrasive over longer runs and runs with more elevation gain.

Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield – Men Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield – Women

saucony xodus ultra runshield outsole

Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield Conclusion

SAM: Look, I’m a fairly basic guy — if you’re going to put lines from a Frost poem on a shoe meant for winter and wash it in a black-on-black colorway with a pinecone print inner liner, you’re damn close to becoming my running shoe company, Lloyd Dobler. Hold that shoe up like a boombox outside my window, Saucony. I don’t need “In Your Eyes” and Peter Gabriel’s wavering croon; just repeat, “but I have promises to keep/ and miles to go before I sleep,” over and over. I’m yours.

You don’t have to entertain disturbingly recreating Say Anything with a shoe company to appreciate this shoe. This is for you if you’re the runner who loves crunching over snowpack at any distance, the feeling of cold air in your nostrils, and iambic pentameter.

MATT: Overall, just like the Xodus Ultra received glowing remarks this past Summer, I think the Runshield version is equally impressive for handling all those same distances and terrains, but now with the added protection and warmth to face the cold and wet Winter months.

TAYLOR: This cat has been out of the bag for a while. There’s no surprise that the Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield is a top-notch performer for the trails. It boasts a nice combination of cushion, protection, comfort, and even a little responsiveness. It’s one of the best all-rounders available and is primed for ultra-distanced endeavors, as its name suggests.

The added Runshield upper does enough in all departments to keep your feet comfortable in the winter months of stacking miles. Having such assurance is sometimes all you need to get out the door in this dark season.

You can pick up the Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield for $160 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield – Men Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra Runshield – Women

saucony xodus ultra runshield upper

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