Saucony Blaze TR Review: Budget Trail Done Right
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9.3 oz. (269 g) for a US M9
7.9 oz (224 g) for a US W7.5
35.5 mm in heel, 27.5 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)
Trail running on a budget
Full PwrRun midsole with a grippy XT-900 rubber outsole, well-protected upper with TPU overlays
🟢 Comfortable cushion with just enough trail feel
🟢 Great grip, clearly inspired by the Peregrine
🔴 The upper is more than a bit roomy
MICHAEL: Debuting at $100 MSRP, the all-new Saucony Blaze TR joins an increasingly small class of ‘performance’ trail shoes at close to a Benjamin. The move makes sense for Saucony. As the Peregrine has steadily risen in price over the past few iterations, Saucony needed a shoe to fall into the budget price range, a range we have seen steadily dwindle throughout the market year by year.
For design inspiration for the Blaze TR, Saucony needed to look no further than its award-winning budget trainer option, the Axon. With a similarly understated launch, the Axon sported a durable outsole, a generous helping of Saucony’s standard PWRRUN EVA blend, and a simple, lightweight mesh upper… starting to sound familiar?
For a shoe with expectations rightfully hindered by its price and lack of flashy features, we had some pretty high praise for the Axon 2, and we’ve generally enjoyed recent iterations of the Peregrine. On paper, the Blaze TR has some really high (pun intended) potential to be a great bargain, but does it have what it takes to truly be in the best budget shoes of 2023? Read on to find out.
MICHAEL: From the laces to the outsole, simplicity reigns in the Blaze TR. Let’s start things off at the heart of the shoe, the midsole. The Blaze TR sports a full PWRRUN midsole at a 35.5/27.5 stack height, and honestly it’s the star of the show here. Saucony has a long history with PWRRUN, and it’s provided mixed results for its various applications on the road and trail scene.
In the Axon 2, for instance, our testers found the blend lacked that extra little bit of plushness on the tarmac for long runs. On the trail side, however, PWRRUN shines. For me, the blend strikes a keen balance between soft comfort and firm, protective support. Older iterations of the Peregrine with the same midsole formula featured a Kevlar rock plate, but the full coverage outsole and higher stack in the Blaze keep the pokey rocks at bay without the need for additional features (and weight) for protection. I think this is the perfect midsole choice for this shoe. While it might not be suited for long distances like the Xodus Ultra, it keeps the price low without letting one quality of a good trail-oriented midsole take precedence over another.
At 9.3 oz, the Blaze TR comes in 0.3 ounces lighter than the Xodus Ultra. Add that to the snappy midsole feel, and the Blaze TR felt surprisingly zippy on steep ascents; I even unknowingly ran a few segment PRs in the shoe. Since the Peregrine has struggled with weight in the past, it’s nice to see Saucony’s newest addition coming in under 10 ounces. The Blaze TR’s low weight only furthers the shoe’s versatility, even for racing — I mean, it’s only 0.3 ounces heavier than the top-of-the-line Endorphin Edge. When we talk about a shoe’s value, it’s easy to look straight at the price of a shoe and overlook versatility. The Blaze TR scores high in both.
As I said in the Brooks Divide 3 review, any good trail shoe has to have a good outsole, no matter the price point. In the past, we’ve been fans of Saucony’s classic formula for a good trail outsole: PWRTRAC compound plus a distinct bi-directional chevron outsole pattern. As one might expect, the Blaze TR doesn’t venture far off the (very) well-beaten path. There are chevrons galore here; it honestly looks like a near-carbon copy of the outsole on the new Peregrine 13.
There is one distinction, however, in the compound. For the Blaze TR Saucony elected to use XT-900, an outsole rubber most notably found in the Endorphin Road line, including the Endorphin Pro 3, our race day shoe of the year in 2022. It begs the question, what is an outsole compound from a $225 shoe doing on a $100 budget trail shoe? First (and I have no way of proving this), it must be cheaper to produce than PWRTRAC. Second, I think the XT-900 probably fairs better on durability, which furthers the value of the shoe.
Price point and durability are fine and dandy and key points of a value-oriented shoe, but as I said a minute ago, it has to perform. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised by the XT-900. It lacks the top-end tackiness present in PWRTRAC, but the 4 mm chevrons did a pretty great job on our standard southeast fair of wet roots and rocks. While the Brooks Divide 3’s TrailTac outsole narrowly outperforms here, I can’t say I really ever found myself holding back from technical sections due to the XT-900, something that I can’t say of competitor shoe’s outsoles at slightly higher price points.
While there were some issues with the upper of the Blaze TR, I want to point out some aspects I enjoyed. Namely, the TPU wrap around the toe bumper provides just the right amount of protection for a lightweight shoe, and the sewn-in name pad thingy on the tongue allowed me to really tighten down the lacing without suffocating the top of my foot. If you prefer very long, roomy uppers, the Blaze TR also will appeal to your tastes.Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women
MICHAEL: What was true for the Divide 3 is unfortunately true for the Blaze TR as well — there are no free lunches. Simply put, the fit of the upper suffers in the Blaze TR. Around the heel collar and tongue, the materials feel solid and the lockdown is secure, but as we move forward in the shoe, we start encountering issues. For one, the shoe ran a half size to a full size too big for me. If that were fixed, however, there would still be copious issues with lateral movement in the forefoot that I could not get locked down. As I said before, the Blaze TR is really a quick shoe; it’s just a shame that that quickness is tamed by a confidence-sapping fit. I never felt like I could really turn it loose in the shoe on technical descents.
For all of the potential for durability in the outsole and midsole of the shoe, I am afraid to say I think one might run into issues with the upper. The engineered mesh stretches substantially in the forefoot (further contributing to the lack of security), and there’s already some delamination of the TPU overlays. Cushioning around the heel collar and tongue is okay, but the laces and gusset are pretty underwhelming.
Of course, it’s a $100 shoe, and we aren’t expecting the thing to be lined with cashmere (or Dyneema for that matter), but it is worth pointing out this is another area the Divide 3 has the Blaze TR beat.Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women
MICHAEL: While the Blaze TR is not without its flaws, I think Saucony has a real winner here. The midsole and outsole are perfect picks for the shoe, and while the upper could use some work, I think Saucony is really on the right track. As far as comparisons to the Divide 3 go, the Blaze TR has a much better midsole for long mileage and lower weight for faster paces, whereas the Divide has a better fit and outsole for when things get technical. With those minor distinctions aside, it’s pretty great when there are two legitimately high-performing trail shoes on the market right now for such an awesome price.
When the Axon launched, we sort of thought it would be like a one-and-done shoe for Saucony, yet here we are, eagerly awaiting version three. In version two of the Axon we got an upper update that was sort of game-changing for that shoe; let’s hope the same is true for the Blaze TR!
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I know it’s $15 more, but how does the Atreyu Base Trail compare? Thanks.
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to run in the Base trail so I can’t quite make a direct comparison, but I hope I can still help here. Both shoes seem to be great (especially for the price) but based off what I know about the base trail I would likely choose the Blaze TR trail if I had a second chance at getting the sizing and fit right. Right now I am running some of my road miles in a pair of sketchers Razor Excess (an exceptional budget tempo shoe btw) and the upper looks to be similar to the base trail. It feels extremely thin, and is on the verge of “blow out” after a little more than 100 miles. The durability of a shoe is only as good as it’s least durable component, and while the base trail could be different, I personally might be skeptical. Additionally, I think this decision should be influenced by your local terrain. The Base Trail will likely be suited better to more mellow trails due to the slimmer stack and 1mm of base outsole. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of protection underfoot or on the sidewalls of the shoe. Not a problem though if you live in socal. In contrast, the Blaze TR will be more protective on gnarly, rocky trails in all departments, upper included. There is one other notable thing, however, and that’s that pesky fit of the Blaze TR. If you decide to go that route, I would make sure returns are easy with Running Warehouse or your local run specialty store in case you need to size up or down depending on how things go in that department. At the end of the day though both shoes are a seriously great value, but I would maybe give the Blaze TR the slight edge just based of what I know about the Base Trail and my own personal preferences and local terrain.
I hope this helps in your decision! Happy trails!