Saucony Endorphin Cheetah Review: A Big Cat for the Track?
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4.2 oz. (121 g) for a US M9 / 3.6 oz. (105 g) for a US W7.5
Mid-to-long distance on the track
PWRRUN HG midsole, Speedroll technology, Pebax spike plate for all that pop
🟢 Insane pop from the PWRRUN HG midsole
🟢 Excellent pop up to about a mile
🔴 Instable at slower speeds, not that you’d run them in the Cheetah
KALEB: Almost three years ago, amidst the uncertainty and turmoil of 2020, Nike unleashed the dragon. The Nike ZoomX Dragonfly roared into lane one, bringing plated magic to the oval, crushing record after distance record, and birthing a brand-new term: superspike.
Since then, almost every brand has taken its shot at slaying the dragon. Some crafted respectable rivals, others offered jokes made of cardboard and carbon, but no one could wrest Nike’s grip on the oval at any distance over 1,500m. The dragon reigned supreme.
Of course, not all predators roar into battle. Some — like the cheetah — are stealth hunters, creeping up behind their prey and creating a false sense of security. Then, when all is calm, they strike with speed and ferocity. The same year that Nike dominated the track, Saucony was… alright. Sure, the Endorphin series came on strong, but the Boston brand was already steps behind Nike’s road department — literally. It simply had next to no answer for the Dragonfly (I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone wearing the original Saucony Endorphin Spike). The scene was set for Saucony to hang up its hat… or prepare to strike. Saucony watched. And it waited.
After this lull of spike development — a whopping three years — we finally have Saucony’s move. Enter, the Saucony Endorphin Cheetah: a carbon-guilded distance spike with stats to rival the Dragonfly. It’s light, it’s aggressive, it’s bouncy, and it’s hungry for its shot at the dragon. Is there a new apex predator on the track? Let’s find out.
JORDYNN: Can you say Rawr? The happiness the Saucony Endorphin Cheetah brings to me is unmatched. Let’s start with the sleek smooth visual appearance of the bright orange, yellow, and aqua, with the subtle cheetah spots from the arch to the heel, oh boy. The spikes have an overall narrow engineering which I love, it aids in the snugness and feeling of oneness with the shoe. The Pebax plate, along with the carbon fiber and the PWRRUN HG foam midsole, gives the strength, flexibility, and energy return that the fastest animal alive thrives off of to keep it going until it makes its kill.
With this spike, I feel like I’m killing the game every time.
MERCER: Thank you, Kaleb, for the history lesson on track spikes and Nike’s utter dominance over the past couple of years. He’s right, I can’t remember being excited or even knowing that Saucony was dropping a track spike, and until this one landed in my mailbox, I wasn’t sure it existed. I had seen on the glorious websites of Reddit and Letsrun that Saucony was dropping super spikes, but the images and clips of the shoe didn’t look real, and no way a company actually names their spike the cheetah, right?
I’ll eat my words because here it is, the Endorphin Cheetah. No one was really asking for this shoe to come out, but soon people will be wondering why it wasn’t out before.
KALEB: Folks, there’s lots to cover in this section, and I’m feeling long-winded, so buckle in. I’m going to start off by saying that this spike looks absolutely fantastic. I haven’t been a massive fan of Saucony’s colorway offerings in the past — the Bright Future line didn’t do a whole lot for me, and the Mutant colorways still make me want to commit crimes.
MERCER: This is wrong, the OG Mutant colorway is one of the best ever created. Period.
KALEB: Ahem. Please excuse Mercer. He underwent a surgical operation to remove his tongue, so now he’s got no taste. Anyway, regardless of the failures of the past, Saucony’s design team absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one. The graceful Saucony logo curving across the side, the faded-in cheetah print on the heel, the teal details against the savannah yellow and orange, the overall sleek silhouette — I don’t know if they plan to release any more colorways in the future, but frankly, they don’t need to. I’d go so far as to say this is probably the sexiest footwear I’ve ever seen on the track (and I’m including Lightning McQueen Crocs in that assessment).
“Pretty” doesn’t necessarily mean “good” (life lessons from Gaston), so I’ll move along. The upper material is a fairly open, single layer of mesh. As much as that would typically give me nightmares of ripping through the eyelet of a $180 spike during lace-up (yeah, read it and weep), whatever this mesh is made of is strong stuff. Just for safety, Saucony also added light reinforcement to the eyelets.
As trite as this is going to sound, there’s a sense of intentionality with the structure of the upper. I don’t want this review to be a Dragonfly-vs-Cheetah battle all the way through (even though that’s what it will be); the Endorphin Cheetah isn’t just “Dragonfly 2.” It has its own personality and a unique feel, but it’s worthwhile to run a few comparisons since it’s so clear that the Saucony team intentionally put time into improving on the Dragonfly.
Key differences I noticed in the upper were structure in the heel (where the Dragonfly has an open, matumbo-style heel counter) and an absolutely buttery lockdown thanks to a gusset through the midfoot (while the Dragonfly has a wider tongue, prone to bunching up during the lacing process). Seriously, the fit of this spike is unparalleled once you tighten down those laces. It’s not constricting, but that midfoot hug and extra heel structure banish any fear of sliding around and wasting the energy return the spike gives you.
And hoo boy, does the Cheetah return some energy. Saucony used its shiny new PWRRUN HG foam for this spike — a foam that allegedly returns 95% of energy — and put in a full-length carbon plate with Saucony’s Speedroll geometry. This plate is really what shapes the ride of the spike. While many super-spikes (yes, like the Dragonfly) rely on a Pebax plate to create a snappy feel, the Cheetah’s less flexible carbon plate causes you to roll immediately off to the toe, propelling you forward. This creates a more effortless experience at fast paces: instead of loading a spring, you’re simply always taking the next step.
PRWRN HG isn’t as soft as ZoomX, but it feels springier. As a result, you don’t get the same “cush and pop” that the Dragonfly delivers; instead, you roll forward with a bounce. Like any super-footwear, it takes some getting used to, but the up-on-your-toes feeling is addicting once you properly harness it. Like the wildcat it’s named after, when it’s time to click into the next gear and make a big move, the Cheetah is ready to GO.
With such a nice stack of PWRRUN HG underfoot, it’s hard to believe the Cheetah is as light as it is. At 4.2 ounces, the Cheetah comes in a few tenths of an ounce lighter than the Dragonfly. Obviously, that doesn’t create a noticeable difference between the two, but it shows that the Cheetah isn’t sacrificing weight for tech.
JORDYNN: The Endorphin Cheetah gave me all the endorphins, metaphorically, to compete at my best. Look good, feel good. I love the snugness of the fit from heel to toe. I also love a deep arch to help with fatigue. The laces were just the right length that I could tie and tuck without worrying about getting them caught in my spikes when I’m running or coming undone.
The best feature is the color scheme, not too bright to give a pop, but that’s what a cheetah does, camouflage until it’s time for peak performance, then your colors will shine. The Speedroll design allowed me to have that extra bit of explosion needed off the start and during the finish. I wore the Saucony Endorphin Cheetah during an 800m and a meet, and the results were terrific. I hadn’t run an 800 in a meet in about a year, but my spikes felt so good, and I had all the confidence in myself. Needless to say, I would argue that I have worn a better fitting, feeling, looking, performing mid-distance spike.
MERCER: I know we usually do our comparisons at the end of our reviews, but I need to start it off here because this shoe doesn’t feel like anything you have ever tried. While Kaleb has an infatuation with the Dragonfly, I myself compare this closer to the middle-distance Nike spike, the Air Zoom Victory, and the Adidas Ambition. Both of these spikes have large sections of responsive foam or air in the front and very little in the back to really keep you on your toes. And what Saucony did with that foam and the speedroll design makes this shoe do what the others couldn’t.
With the Air Zoom Victory, you have all of the pop and the cushion underneath the ball of your foot, but take that shoe into an indoor 800, and some people complain about the instability once you get rolling because of how the air bubble would force their feet to pronate or supinate. Adidas’ Ambition filled that forefoot with foam giving users the stability they need, but there isn’t that pop because of the lack of plate. This is what Saucony was able to fix with the glorious PWRRUN HG foam.
To elaborate on the foam, it’s like driving a very expensive sports car. You have these carbon fiber bucket seats that have no cushion whatsoever to lower the weight of the car. These seats aren’t made to go the long haul just like a cheetah, you’re in and out, racing as fast as you can and surviving. This foam isn’t going to carry you to the finish line like ZoomX but instead drag you on your bare ass until you give up on the hunt or get your prey.
While brands have kind of looked at uppers like an afterthought, something to keep your foot in the shoe is kinda essential. Saucony keeps you locked in with a beautiful mesh that’ll keep air flowing right to your toes perfectly, making it so that your dogs don’t feel like sardines.
As we move to the back of the shoe with the heel counter, it reminds me of the Brooks Wire and the New Balance 1080, where you have to wrestle to get your foot into that heel pocket. Just like the 1080, I had some rough heel slippage. The last thing you want is to finish a workout off with your foot trying to escape the shoe. But fear not, just put the laces all the way into the last eyelet and take a couple of minutes to really put your foot in the shoe, and it’s as good as new. Then you’ll have an even harder challenge than the workout: taking the shoe off.Shop Saucony Track - Men Shop Saucony Track - Women
KALEB: In the wild, a cheetah’s main weakness is its lack of endurance: moving so fast means it’s only a matter of seconds until it tires out. During my first runs, I found that the geometry of the Cheetah encouraged me to run almost entirely on my toes, which puts a lot of strain on the lower calves. In the long run, that strain can cause some significant issues. All it took was a simple adjustment to land more midfoot as I got used to the spikes, but the constant forward roll is pretty aggressive and definitely warrants a few test-runs before race day. Take some time to acclimate to the power.
The spike absolutely shines up through the middle and intermediate distances — I would say up to two-miles potentially, though the furthest I test ran was a mile — but some runners might start eyeing up the Dragonfly for 5k and 10k races to go easier on the legs. I can’t say for sure, but I think, ultimately, it will come down to runner preference and even race-by-race decisions.
I also noticed a little bit of instability in the heel of the Cheetah at slower paces (such as in between workout reps), where the tear-shaped carbon plate tapers away and leaves less support for the bouncy PWRRUN HG. However, this is a racing spike. At top speeds, this problem isn’t going to pop up. Besides, there aren’t many sharp turns on the track to cause stability issues…
JORDYNN: Nothing negative, in my opinion, about this spike. I’m in cat heaven.
MERCER: I love some color in my shoes but holy shit, this shoe went back in time to the 90s and got into a Spice Girls concert (Mel B for context). It’s really leaning into that cheetah name. Although with Saucony’s name choices, I’m surprised that they didn’t call this shoe the Endorphin Track+ Pro Elite 3. But just like wearing sunglasses or a hat in a race, you better not come in anything other than first while wearing something that stands out this much.
That spoon shape I talked about earlier and what makes this spike pretty great is also what brings it down pretty low. Take a look at other brands’ mid-distance spikes — people will take Nike’s Air Zoom Victory all the way up to 5k and beyond, but with just how aggressive and stiff the Endorphin Cheetah is, I can’t see taking it past a 1k or a heavy stretch into the mile. Because of everything going on in the toe and the very little in the heel, if you have one misstep and your heel touches the ground, all of the rhythm this shoe creates gets thrown out of the window.Shop Saucony Track - Men Shop Saucony Track - Women
KALEB: Like it’s bestial counterpart, the Saucony Endorphin Cheetah has aggressively clawed its way into competition with the mighty Dragonfly. Is it blatantly, blanket-ly superior? Not necessarily, and that might be a good thing. We don’t need another one-spike monopoly in the distance world. What we have now is balance: Nike has to share its oval mountaintop with wise old Saucony.
Knowing Nike, I think it’s safe to say that they’ll be wracking their brains to come up with an even better piece of foot-gold to conquer the track again. Saucony has reignited the race that generates better and better tools for our trade as runners (shout-out to shoe capitalism, I guess). Innovations will continue to come, but in the meantime, the Dragon has indeed found itself a worthy, wily opponent in the Cheetah.
JORDYNN: Hands down, one of the best overall spikes around. Having tested it, the Cheetah is definitely worth the price tag of $180. I will morph into a cheetah whenever my track life is on the line with this spike on my foot. Start off in the hunt, keep the endurance, go for the kill, and finish with a big purr. Bottom line, with the Saucony Endorphin Cheetahs, you won’t lose. You’ll be in it and look good, feel good, and perform like a beast.
MERCER: I applaud Saucony for making a shoe that is trying to be its own thing and to try and break away from being a copy of what is already out there. If you are a true mid-distance runner, this is an option, and don’t be afraid to pick it up while you can. Everyone is getting lost in Nike-this-Nike-that culture and the Endorphin Cheetah is a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants something different but is great enough to fight with the big boys.
You can pick up the Saucony Endorphin Cheetah for $180 on April 1 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.Shop Saucony Track - Men Shop Saucony Track - Women
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Kaleb is one of the younger, “both of my knees still work” reviewers on the BITR team. As a high school cross country, track and field, and road racing athlete in Pennsylvania, Kaleb loves hearing about the latest endurance-athletics studies and seeing how everything out there can fit into a well-rounded training program. If you don’t see him drinking a weird health concoction or doing some strange warmup technique, he’s probably already started the race.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Ride 14, Nike ZoomX DragonflyMore from Kaleb
Mercer is a collegiate athlete at the University Of Lynchburg, majoring in being awesome. He’s also extremely talented at folding shirts during GRIT packing at the Believe in the Run HQ.
All-time favorite shoes: Asics Gel-Kayano Lite, Hoka Clifton 6, On CloudmonsterMore from Mercer
Jordy is a 16-year-old high school track/XC and running shoe reviewer, competing in events from the 200m and up to the 5k races. She’s starting to settle down into the mid-distance race range with her favorite being 800m/1600m. Also, enjoy trying the latest shoes in my strength, plyometrics and agility training.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Zoom Victory, Nike Zoom Pegasus, New Balance FuelCell MD-XMore from Jordy
Definitely the best review on the site.