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Trail Running Shoes • July 17, 2020

Saucony Canyon TR Performance Review

saucony canyon TR feature

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 11 oz. (312 g) for a US M9.0/ 9.7 oz. (275 g) for a US W7.5
  • All-new shoe designed for road to trail and back again
  • Features responsive PWRRUN cushioning with 8 mm drop (34 heel/26 toe)
  • The extent of our East Coast canyon experience is relegated to amusement park rides

ROBBE: My first experience involving a canyon of any kind was riding the Canyon River Rapids at Hersheypark. A traverse through the wilds of a man-made corridor of cliffs, it was not for the faint of heart. The walls surrounding our circular raft were rocky, high, treacherous. Waterfalls poured out of every crevice, almost like it was a water ride meant to drench the riders. It’s amazing we survived.

Fast forward 30 years to my next experience with a canyon– the all-new Saucony Canyon TR. We first saw this shoe at The Running Event last year and I had been stoked to try it, if only because it’s a damn good-looking shoe. The mutant neons mixed with a muted grey– someone give the design department at Saucony a raise ‘cause they slayed the entire lineup this year, road to trail, top to bottom.

Touted by Saucony as a road to trail and back again shoe, the Canyon TR features PWRRUN cushioning, an engineered mesh upper and– according to them– a grippy PWRTRAC outsole (more on that later). Sounds good to me. I took it out on a road run to break it in, then a long run mixed with a portion of the Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail (literally just rocks and roots) which transitioned down to a rail trail and eventually road. So, pretty much what the shoe was meant for. Or was it? Read on to find out.

DAVE: For many years, the trail shoe industry has in my opinion, been plagued by overthinking. Go to your arsenal/your weaponry stash and snag a pair from a few years back (any company) and take a look at how overbuilt that shoe was. There was a lot going on underfoot, and honestly, probably wasn’t even that fun to run in. Yes, there are the Altras and the Merrells of the world in terms of simplicity, but the majority of trail running shoes out there were overbuilt and clunky even a few years back.

While excess has ruled the trail kingdom for some time now, we are now beginning to see that “road trainer feel” made into a trail shoe. The new Brooks Catamount proves to be a serious contender for hardpack trail shoe of the year. Even this washed-up coach has been hitting some serious time on the dirt with it lately. It can roll and downright is fun.

And now Saucony, already fresh off a 2020 debut of a killer road lineup, brings back some classics in the Mad River and Peregrine, and now the all-new Canyon TR.

The road/trail feel is something very important to me due to the Southern California dirt and vert I train on. I do get back to my roots of Upstate NY every summer (not sure about this one) but the majority of the terrain I run on is hardpack. Just wanted to point that out early in this review.

So, let’s dive into the all-new Canyon TR from a team in Boston who really has been on to something with PWRRUN.

MATT: As an avid cyclist, I have seen the “gravel bikes” trend gain in popularity over the past couple years. Bikes that are light and nimble enough to ride on the roads and as part of your local group rides, but also can accommodate some beefy tires and be taken off-road onto gravel and dirt paths with ease.

I thought the Canyon TR would be an adjacent shoe to that type of bike in the running world, so I was very much excited to get my hands on it.

This mixed-use/do-everything type model was super interesting to me as I often find myself running routes that mix a combination of road and single track. I am often faced with the dilemma when picking my shoe for the day… do I wear my trail shoes and suffer through the first few miles of road to get to the trailhead while slogging away? Or do I sacrifice the traction and support on the trails and wear road shoes so I can cruise through the pavement portions of the run?

I thought that the Canyon TR may be the answer to solve this age-old conundrum. (Arrested Development Narrator Voice): “It wasn’t.”

saucony canyon tr - tongoue

The Good

ROBBE: As I’ve already covered, it’s a good-looking shoe. Honestly, that may have been my main attraction in the first place. I’m not an all-neon guy, but I like some pop, and this certainly has it.

Let’s move on to the midsole. The PWRRUN midsole is the “lower tier” of PWRRUN cushioning used in the performance lines. It’s a slightly firmer ride than you’ll find in PWRRUN+ and certainly not as bouncy as the PWRRUN PB used in the racing shoes, but it’s a trail shoe, so it doesn’t need that. PWRRUN is perfectly fine and overall, I love the feel of it. It’s the right balance between soft and firm, with good energy return. I loved it in the Saucony Ride 13, and I enjoyed it in this shoe as well.

I also liked the lacing structure and laces themselves, even though I thought the upper’s structure took away from their potential.

So… honestly, that’s all I have for “the good.”

DAVE: If you like PWRRUN on some of the new road beauts from Saucony, well it’s in this baby too. Same midsole as the Kinvara and Peregrine.

So why is it good? That midsole is quite smooth. There’s a nice roll through midload and plenty of cush under the forefoot for a nice longer outing in the trails. For my mechanics, I’d definitely survive a 50K in the Canyon TR and could hobble a 50-miler. Anything over that, I’d look for more underfoot. But if you want cush and want it somewhat smooth underfoot, this one will deliver. It’s an enjoyable running experience. Lateral stability is also pretty decent.

The lacing is nothing fancy, but it works with my foot. I like the loop on the top of the “throat” of the shoe, allowing any excess lace to be run up through there. If you prefer lace-locking, it works nicely, or traditional lacing works just fine. Gaiters can also be applied for the winter with the clip towards the toe. Lacing is very important to me in a shoe in general, and something I feel that companies overlook in the midsole wars. Well done by Saucony. And guess what? No more ISO fit! One of the worst ideas ever placed onto a jogging shoe. Glad you listened and fixed it, Saucony. Prost.

Moving on to the outsole– for what I need out here in sunny CA, the PWRTRAC is perfect. Shallow 3 mm lugs grip the dirt like gravy on fries in a Queens diner, both for the uphill climbs and the downhill bombs. Note, anything more sketch, you’d probably want a more aggressive shoe on your foot. I also see the Canyon TR working extremely well for winter runs, both on road and possibly wet sticky snow that grips on well-maintained winter trails.

Lastly, the ground feel is very nice! I love to be able to feel the trail underfoot. I like the proprioception that this shoe tells your brain when cruising through some single track in the trails in and around LA. I feel very “at one” with the dirt.

MATT: In line with the 2020 Saucony line, I can dig the color scheme for these shoes. A nice mix of neon accents (teal, yellow, orange) to contrast with white/gray/silver gives a more muted compliment to the road line-up.

The FormFit upper and insole, cushioned tongue, and PWRRUN midsole combine to provide a very comfortable and snug ride. This shoe definitely fits and feels more like a road shoe.

The tread layout is minimal when compared to most dedicated trail shoes, but it provides enough traction to know it’s there and treads are spaced far enough apart to not accumulate dirt and mud along the way.

I crossed multiple streams and river rocks and did NOT break my arm (*cough cough* Nike Terra Kiger 6).

Shop Saucony Trail – Men Shop Saucony Trail – Women saucony canyon tr -

The Bad

ROBBE: Let’s go top-down. The upper is either too bulky or stiff, but probably both. Too much material, the tongue is incredibly thick, and overall, it’s just not breathable. I also felt that the upper just fit kind of weird. The ankle collar is low so I was getting some heel slippage and definitely had to employ the heel-lock lacing. And then to get a good lockdown, the laces put too much pressure on both sides of the midfoot. It’s also a very narrow shoe, especially in the forefoot.

The weight on this shoe is ridiculous. It’s 10.6 oz. for my M7.5, which puts it over 11 oz. for a standard US M9.0. Which is kind of okay if it’s a legit, rugged trail shoe with a deep lug pattern, a Vibram layer perhaps, and plenty of cushion. But it isn’t, and boy did I feel it. I did a 14-mile run in these and was dying for something lighter about 4 miles in.

I feel bad even moving to the outsole, but I’m gonna rag on that too. The traction is… nonexistent? I mean, it would work fine on your average dirt trail, but pray the running gods are watching over you if you even glance at a wet root or rock. Look, I get it, any shoe will have some slippage on wet or mossy stones. But I was climbing around a creek and it felt like I was on ice skates. (FWIW I went back the next day with HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4 and it was ten times better).

All that to say, if you combine the leaden weight of the shoe with a not very breathable upper and an insecure outsole, you have a shoe that I don’t want to run in, on either roads or trails. Honestly, this is just a heavier version of a daily trainer like a Nike Pegasus 37, marketed as a trail shoe. I mean, if you love Saucony, seriously just take the Ride 13 on rail trails, you’ll fare no worse than the Canyon TR.

DAVE: Here I go again talking about tongues. I know what you’re thinking– this dude Dave must have slipped tongue all day back in HS, but actually I was pretty much afraid of girls and weighed 128 lbs soaking wet (but damn I could fly!). So there you have it.

Ok, about that tongue on the Saucony Canyon TR. Did Saucony take a lesson in fat tongues from New Balance? There is absolutely no need for a tongue this thick. It’s all excess material and it gets in the way when lacing. Yes, I mentioned the lacing is decent above, and it is, but the last few eyelets would definitely sit much better if the tongue was thinner and wrapped the top of your foot (laid across) easier.

While the midsole is quite nice, I think I am looking for a bit more pop off the toe. I really got wowed by the Brooks Catamount recently, and while these both feel somewhat smooth in the transitional phase, the Catamount packs more punch up top. I want that toe-off to scream speed in the trails. So if Saucony is listening: You did almost all of this right! But give me more explosiveness from the toe-off, because when cranked up, this Canyon TR can still fly. Give me a little more help up front.

Lastly, the weight. At 11.3oz/317g, for a US M9.5, it’s too heavy for my liking. Bring me in around 9 oz or below. I’m thinking a lot of this excess weight can be cured by less tongue and less compound in the midfoot on the shoe. Maybe a bit more flex through the midsole.

MATT: As a likely byproduct of the cushy ride, the upper on this shoe just felt hot. Granted my test runs took place during Maryland summer humidity, but my feet were noticeably warm and they did not breathe well.

The toe box felt extra narrow. I typically do not have issue with narrow shoes, but for some reason, I felt a rub on the outside of my pinky toe.

My confidence in anything other than dry single track was lacking. It felt like a road shoe and I have my doubts that there was enough protection in the toe when kicking a rock or root, or enough beef and tackiness to the lugs when faced with slippery, sloppy conditions.

My overarching issue with the Canyon TR is that instead of it bridging the road and trail markets to create a new hybrid niche, it essentially created a shoe that is mediocre at best in each respective use. In the words of Art Alexis of the 90’s band EverClear “You try to be everything to everyone.”

In doing so, you end up with a shoe that is too hot and heavy for the pavement, while also lacking the aggressive traction and support needed on the trails.

Shop Saucony Trail – Men Shop Saucony Trail – Women saucony canyon tr - outsole

Saucony Canyon TR Conclusion

ROBBE: I truly wanted to love the Saucony Canyon TR. On paper, it seemed right in my wheelhouse. On dirt, the wheelhouse collapsed. I hope some improvements are made in the future in regards to weight, most notably. While it seems to have worked for Dave on that West Coast dirt, it’s a no-go out here on the Beast Coast. Any tiny gentlemen out there in California looking for a size 7.5 trail shoe? Hmu.

MATT: I commend Saucony for identifying the need for this type of shoe, and I do think that, just like in the cycling industry, we will start to see growth in this niche that will hopefully improve and deliver us with an “all-arounder.”

The shoe is cushy and comfortable, and I think it has a home on a very specific trail type for now (think crushed stone, recreational paths, or flat, hard-packed fire roads). Then again, you could just wear a daily trainer.

DAVE: Door to trail to gravel road. Winter appropriate. Smooth, reliable, priced fairly, and as stated earlier, a pleasurable running experience. Is it the Catamount I’m geeked about? No. But it definitely is and will be getting pulled from the war room weekly. A fine shoe from Saucony.

The Saucony Canyon TR releases 8/1 for $120. Shop Saucony road and trail at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

You can pick up the at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Saucony Trail – Men Shop Saucony Trail – Women

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Sean Murray says:

    One of my favorite road/trail hybrid shoes is the Saucony Koa TR (even though I feel like it was a pretty obscure shoe). I was hoping to read that this shoe might be a “spiritual successor” to the Koa TR. It sounds like it’s substantially heavier, though, which makes me pretty leary.

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