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Trail Running Shoes • June 19, 2023

Saucony Endorphin Rift Review: No Plate, No Problem

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What You Need To Know


8.6 oz. (244 g) for a US M9

7.3 oz. (207 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height / Drop

33 mm in heel, 27 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)

Best For

Lightweight trail racing

Key Features

PWRRUN PB midsole, thin rock plate, FormFit upper, PWRTRAC outsole

On The Run
Plenty of bounce PWRTRAC's got claws on all surfaces Careful about kickin' rocks


The Intro

MATT: There’s an old, probably overused saying that love will find you when you least expect it. It’s usually repeated by mothers and best friends in order to console us as we feel like we might never find the right partner. I, however, am going to try my hardest to apply the saying to the quest of finding the perfect running shoe.

In an age where we’re overwhelmed with great options and emerging technologies, we’re sometimes spoiled by the chance to look for the next great thing. It’s just as bad when we lose ourselves trying to recreate the feeling of stepping into our previous favorite shoe.

The Saucony Endorphin Rift is a perfect example of the former. It didn’t even register on my radar if I’m being honest. I’d been underwhelmed (to put it kindly) by the last two trail-focused Endorphin models, the Trail and the Edge, and was mostly just content with Saucony’s more traditional trail offerings like the Xodus Ultra and Peregrine. Instead of looking at the Endorphin Rift, my eyes were more looking ahead to other, sexier arrivals like the Nnormal Kjerag, the Nike UltraFly, or the Hoka Zinal 2.

What pulled me in at first when I opened the box was the amazing look of the Rift. The shoe looked less like a functional trail runner and more like something a hype beast would rock. I actually laced it right up and wore the Rift out the door to the barbershop. The shoe looked awesome, felt amazing underfoot, and I got multiple comments about it while at the shop. Now the Rift had my full attention, and we had a date with the trails the next day.

Before I let you know if this relationship made it past the first date, here’s a little you should know about the Endorphin Rift. Saucony calls the Endorphin Rift a younger sibling to the Edge, but I think that’s primarily due to the Edge’s carbon plate giving it a “higher-end” connotation.

The Rift shares much of what was great about the Edge, namely the great PWRRUN PB midsole foam, grippy and secure PWRTRAC outsole rubber, and an overall light and comfortable construction, but where the Rift separates itself is primarily in its trail-specific upper that’s built like a sock and accented by a midfoot wrap and an extra padded heel counter.

EMILY: “Well, hello there shoe-tiful. Be still my midsole, for never have I seen a set of lugs as grippy or an ankle collar so practical and supple.” I didn’t say that word for word necessarily when the Endorphin Rift arrived on my doorstep, but I could have. Like Matt, I was not expecting to be won over by Sauconey’s newest addition and may even have been the tiniest bit skeptical that I’d last more than three miles on the trail without feeling the familiar hotspots that eventually ended my relationship with the Peregrine line many moons ago. So no, I wasn’t skimming the Want Ads for a mister, “Likes granola bars, black bears, and long runs in the woods; Hates big egos, litter, and tapering.” But with a total weight less than my cell phone and a silhouette to rival a 23-year-old Marlon Brando — I could help but get a little giddy. I may have giggled…

It’s always a special 30 seconds when you first slide into a shoe that is just meant to be on your foot. The initial heel lock gives you that last-piece-of-the-puzzle click, and the well-appointed cushion boasts integrity without extravagance, so you’re supported without being suffocated. I’m not gonna throw around Cinderella analogies, but when it’s right, it’s right.

Plain and simple, the engineers at Saucony made so many phenomenal design choices with the Rift that it’s about as hard not to fall in love as it is to taper.

SAM: I had grand plans for this review. I was going to wax eloquent about plated trail shoes and why this shoe, the Saucony Endorphin Rift, proved them all pointless. I had grand theories and grander disses, and I was pretty proud of myself as I constructed the whole thing in my head during my first run or two. It was a work of art, I tell you, a flawless argument about consumerism and our hunger for new technology masquerading as a review of a trail running shoe.

And then I put more miles into the Endorphin Rift. Slowly, mile by mile and climb by climb, I realized that those grand plans were built entirely in comparison to Saucony’s carbon-plated trail racer from last year, the Endorphin Edge. There’s plenty to compare — they have the same midsole material with similar dimensions and durometers, they have similar outsoles, and they’re both trail racers. But with more miles on the Endorphin Rift, I realized that talking about this shoe solely in comparison to the Endorphin Edge, or perhaps more correctly, mainly in relation to the carbon fiber plate the Rift is made without, was doing both shoes an injustice.

Like Matt and Emily, the Saucony Endorphin Rift wasn’t much more than an obscure curio in trail shoe releases this year for me. I have a soft spot for the Endorphin Edge (despite its best efforts to kill me on downhills), and when we found out about the Endorphin Rift, its plateless (I know, I know, there’s a rock plate) construction sounded like mainly a way for Saucony to hedge its bets. Like they wanted a tamer (read: boring) shoe to appeal to runners who thought the Edge was a little too wild. A cat without the claws, so to speak.

With more time in the Rift, I realized that there was so much more to talk about than just whether or not it had a carbon fiber plate. Matt touched on this above, but Saucony has landed on something special with this shoe. It’s not the tamer sibling to the Edge, but its own unique beast that builds on its predecessor to make something special.

RYAN: Alright, so every time the Olympics roll around, there’s always a crowd clamoring to have a normal person compete against the earthbound gods and goddesses who are actually vying for the medals. Ya’ know, for the sake of perspective. Well, when it comes to our team of trail reviewers, that normal person is me. Hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.

However, my relatively limited trail running perspective might be just what you need if you’re hoping to start a life on the trails. After all, I only get to run through the wilderness once or twice a week, and usually not for more than Jon Ober’s prescribed 6.66 miles.

Honestly, I’m not even sure that I was meant to receive the Saucony Endorphin Rift. I’ve run in plenty of the brand’s road shoes but never come close to testing its speedy trail offerings — no matter how much I drooled over the hot pink of the Endorphin Edge.

Anyway, excuses aside, I was beyond excited to open a mysterious box from Saucony and find this blue, white, and brown beauty inside. I’m sure my fellow reviewers have peppered you with the technical specs by now, so let’s just get to the good stuff.

The Good

MATT: As I mentioned in the opening, the Rift was one of those shoes that you just know you love the fit and feel as soon as you step in, so I’ll lead off with that. The upper fits like a glove and is padded exactly in the places where you need some extra material. Knit, sock-like uppers have really been polarizing lately — they either seem to work great, like in the Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2 or the Hoka Zinal 2, or they turn out sloppy, like the Hoka Carbon X 3. Saucony nailed the formula for this upper. The added mid-foot overlays and padded heel counter provide just enough extra support to feel locked in without adding a bunch of additional material and weight.

The midsole and outsole are proven winners from the Endorphin Edge. Saucony’s PWRRUN PB foam is soft and cushioned but also feels lively enough that you spring through your stride without feeling like you have no ground feel. The PWRTRAC outsole is tried and true pretty much across all Saucony trail models, and I rarely have any complaints with the grip and security of the rubber. This time, the Rift is rockin’ 4.5 mm lugs instead of the 4 mm claws of the Edge. On paper, this may seem marginal, but the extra material really gives the Rift a more aggressive profile, and it feels more than capable across a variety of terrain, spanning from groomed single track to rocky, rooty technical terrain.

The swap of a carbon plate for a thin rock plate in the Rift feels like a win to me. The plate, while providing a buffer for protection on the trails, also combines with the PWRRUN PB foam to generate a nice propulsion. For lack of a better description, running in the Rift is just FUN. That fun is really due to how nimble and fast the shoe feels. My US M10 weighed less than 9 oz., which is crazy light for a trail shoe, especially one with 4.5 mm lugs.

EMILY: I skipped the barbershop and went straight to the trails — though in a perfect world, I could run to the salon and check all the boxes. After 8 miles of semi-technical knolls and descents with roots and rocks aplenty, my legs felt fresh, and my trust was secured. This was my first experience with a plated shoe, and I attribute the noticeable reduction in effort on climbs to Sauconey’s PWRRUN PB foam and rock plate combo that Matt referenced earlier. Thanks to a particularly thirsty start to the east coast summer, I also put the knit wraparound upper to the test with a barrage of debris and shale. Almost no grit made it past the collar, which always makes for smoother sailing on race day and time-sensitive training where stopping to get rid of blister and chafing threats can eat up minutes.

The midsole reminded me a good deal of the Scarpa Spin Planet and offered some much-appreciated propulsion and protection when pushing into the later hours of a long run without compromising your foot’s anatomical flexion.

After about 3 hours on the trail, I have to say that the novelty has not worn off.

SAM: Saucony has made a habit of extending a seamless gusset from the top of the tongue all the way through the toebox on several of its recent models. It calls the design FormFit, and on some shoes, like the Peregrine 13, it enhances the fit and comfort while the stiffer outer layer provides the structure. On other shoes like the Xodus Ultra 2, the FormFit gusset is in charge of most of the structure, while lighter materials work with the laces to provide support.

I remember thinking when I first pulled on the Xodus Ultra 2 that I’d really rather have the FormFit sleeve, and Saucony could have just slapped overlays on that. It seems like Saucony was listening because the upper on the Endorphin Rift is exactly that.

Through the toe and midfoot is a stretchy, comfortable sock-style upper that gets its structure from some light overlays and a stiff mesh heel wrap and counter that works almost like an exoskeleton. Matt and Emily have already gushed over how good this combination is, and I share the sentiment. The upper feels light, breathable, and so comfortable, but also manages to nail down some spectacular lockdown and support because of the heel construction. In all honesty, this is probably one of the top three best heel counters I’ve seen in a shoe in terms of comfort and security.

There’s no real tongue here, just a single patch of thicker mesh with a finger loop adhered to the front of the elastic cuff of the upper. Cuffs like these are so hit-or-miss, but I’m happy to say that this one is three feet inside the left field pole for a solid home run. It’s sleek and doesn’t pinch or bind, and keeps dirt and debris from sneaking into your shoe and causing a ruckus.

The star of this shoe is the light, super-responsive PWRUN PB midsole. It’s crazy that I’d even say that with such a good upper, but Saucony kept all that was good with the midsole of the Endorphin Edge, and without the plate, it’s just perfect for trails. With 33 mm of stack in the heel, there’s plenty of protection, but somehow a little trail feel peeks through to boost your confidence in your foot placement. It’s springy and nimble, and the Speedroll geometry makes driving through your stride feel more effortless than it should.

Another small departure from the Endorphin Edge is a one-piece, full-length PWRTRAC outsole with 4.5 mm lugs. Along with the rock plate, this outsole adds a little extra structure to the Pebax of the midsole. As Matt said, PWRTRAC is always good. It grips well, and the aggressive lugs bite well on softer surfaces.

RYAN: I’m not about to make this comparison lightly, but the Endorphin Rift feels much like an Endorphin Speed for the trails. No, there’s no full-length plate wedged in the PWRRUN PB midsole (only a rock plate), but I don’t think there needs to be. The shape of the midsole is identical to that of the Rift’s road-ready counterpart, and the SpeedRoll design keeps you cruising through the trails — at least in my experience. I’m an Endorphin Speed truther — it’s often the only shoe I bring on a trip — and the Endorphin Rift might have to take up that mantle when I’m camping.

Moving on from ridiculously high praise, let’s add some more. The Saucony Endorphin Rift is absolutely gorgeous. I know I probably shouldn’t praise a mostly white (or white-ish) upper, but it just pairs so perfectly with the brown and blue hits scattered throughout the shoe. When you inevitably get the white mesh dirty, it’ll still probably blend in with the rest of the colorway pretty nicely. Everyone else touched on pretty much all the things, so let’s (speed)roll on.

Shop Saucony Endorphin Rift - Men Shop Saucony Endorphin Rift - Women

The Bad

MATT: While the Rift may be a shoe that I fell in love with, everyone has their flaws. The primary thing I experienced was that due to the minimal design of the upper, there really isn’t much of anything to protect the toes and foot from up top and the sides. The thin rock plate actually seemed more than adequate protection underfoot, but I can attest that any rocks that you kick will be felt.

I opted to use the Rift as my race shoe for the Laurel Highlands 70 miler earlier this June. The course is littered by rocks of all sizes and its share of roots as well. The Rift performed amazingly on the technical terrain, but as I tired and started booting more debris, I definitely ended up with some painful moments that likely would have been softened by a shoe with a more substantial toe guard.

PWRRUN PB foam has made a name for itself across Saucony’s Endorphin road series, but its application to trails may face some different challenges. One of those may be the longevity or durability of the foam. The trails will put a much bigger beating on the midsole, and for a foam with such a soft durometer, there has to be a concern that it may break down quickly or that one incidental puncture or scrape could really tear up the material. This is more of a caution than a testimonial, but something to consider.

I would also note that Saucony targets the Rift as a racing option. If you want a workhorse shoe, while it can handle the miles, you will likely wear it out quickly. If you don’t have the budget or desire for multiple pairs of trail shoes, then the Rift might not be for you.

EMILY: As my five-year-old reminds me about all people, places, and things, “We’re all only human, Mom. Noffing’s perfect.” Wise beyond his years. And so the Rift had one flaw that I could find worth squeaking about. While the elastic cuffed upper lovingly embraced my lower ankle and provided Guardians of the Galaxy-worthy defense against grit and aliens, I still needed to wear socks above my ankles to prevent Achilles chafing. As with the Hoka Zinal 2, the ankle cuffs are functional and foxy, but until you have toughened your skin, higher socks should tag along on your trail dates.

At $170, I agree with Matt that the Enorphon Rift isn’t a cheap date, but it’s so bad-ass and polite with its tenacious lugs, debris defense, and uphill boost capability, I’d be willing to spring for another pair.

SAM: While the performance of the PWRTRAC outsole is top-notch, I noticeable wear on the lugs after only four miles on almost exclusively dirt trails. With the extended lug height, this probably isn’t going to cause anyone serious issues, but I can see this outsole wearing fast if you throw a lot of pavement into your trail runs.

My big toes also really dislike the medial inside of the toe guard if I don’t have the lacing just right. It rubs badly on downsteps for the first two or so miles, and I sometimes struggle to keep from painfully mashing into the inside front of the shoe on fast downhills. Weirdly, this usually fades farther into a run, but I’d rather not have any pain there at all.

RYAN: I know that a big part of the Endorphin Rift’s identity is that it only has a plate in the midsole. Usually, the PWRRUN PB offers enough protection that I wouldn’t ask for one anyway. However, running on the East Coast means running on rocks all day long, and for that, I’d kinda like a little more protection from the ground. I came down on a few rather uncomfortable reminders that even the ground wants to kill us, reminders that wouldn’t have been as bad with some protection. The Endorphin Rift certainly doesn’t need a carbon fiber or Carbitex plate, just a little more beef to the rock plate. Having read everyone else’s thoughts, maybe I’m just a wimp and the existing plate is fine.

Shop Saucony Endorphin Rift - Men Shop Saucony Endorphin Rift - Women

Saucony Endorphin Rift Conclusion

MATT: I think the third time’s a charm for Saucony with the arrival of the Rift in the Endorphin Trail line. This shoe is a delight underfoot and provides that perfect combination of speed, comfort, and security on the trails. The Rift was nowhere near my short list of race day shoes for Laurel Highlands, but after a handful of runs, I made the decision that I would be lacing up the Rifts for race day.

As a testament to the quality of the shoes, I was able to traverse a super hilly and technical course without issues for over 70 miles and close to 18 hours and woke up the next morning with all my toenails and zero blisters. I think those runners who really liked the Endorphin Edge but couldn’t get past some of the lack of stability issues will love the Endorphin Rift.

Between the same midsole construction and the SpeedRoll technology, the lack of the carbon plate is really not even a factor. I would recommend the Rift as a great race day shoe that can also be used on the occasional workout and could excel in a wide range of distances from trail 10ks all the way up to 100K.

I would also consider pairing the Rift with a workhorse like the Xodus Ultra in order to extend the life of the midsole.

EMILY: I had the pleasure of witnessing Matt’s spectacular performance at the Laurel Highlands 70-mile trail of rock and roll. I think credit where credit is due applies, and while the Endorphin Rift is a hell of a shoe, the athlete himself is what brings out the best in its performance.

That being said, the Rift is an absolute joy to run in. The summation of the Rift experience truly is the word “fun.” I think, as their name suggests while wearing them, breaking away from the pack, increasing your lead with uphill speed, and launching out of monotony are not only possible but expected. In fact, after wrapping a 3-hour run — not quite the 18 Matt crushed — I think the Rift kind of glowed a little. Or maybe that was the actual endorphins talking.

SAM: The definitely-not-the-Endorphin-Edge Saucony Endorphin Rift is a winner in Saucony’s already very good stable of trail shoes. It’s nimble and fast and a joy to put miles in. It will push you through race efforts at any distance, but be just as comfortable tackling the trail networks at your local park. Maybe with the next model, they’ll rework the toe guard some, but the issues between protection and fit aren’t significant enough to wait on this one.

$170 isn’t really a daily trainer price point, but this shoe is $10 cheaper than the Hoka Mafate Speed 4 and only $10 more expensive than the Nike ZoomX Zegama. For the performance it delivers, $170 is a pretty lovely point to hit.

RYAN: I probably ran the fewest miles of anyone in the Endorphin Rift (I’m a road boy, sue me), but I can still share the love. It brings a new bounce to the trail line without turning to technology like a carbon fiber plate, reminding all of us that you don’t always need the latest tech in order to shine. I have no qualms about getting the Rift’s white upper dirty as I put it through more paces this summer — in fact, I look forward to seeing how it adopts the reminders of trails less traveled.

You can pick up the Saucony Endorphin Rift for $169 in July 2023 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.

Shop The Shoe


Shop Saucony Endorphin Rift Men
Shop Saucony Endorphin Rift Women

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Matt Kucharski
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer
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Matt is a recovering triathlete who fell in love with running and left the dark side behind. Trail and ultra running are where he is most in his element, but he can still be found routinely running the streets in and around Baltimore with the Faster Bastards. Aside from running, he is a lover of coffee, mezcal, beer, and 90s country music.

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Fav. Distance


  • 15:45

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Sam Edgin
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer
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Sam lives in Baltimore with his wife and two kids and spends his days fixing espresso machines for Ceremony Coffee Roasters. He runs with the Faster Bastards when he can, races ultras, and has been working on completing the AT section by section. He thinks the best days are made of long miles on nasty trails, but that a good surf session, a really stunning book, or a day of board games are pretty all right too.

All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Xodus Ultra, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, Altra Lone Peak

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  • 6:15

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girl running in a red tanktop wearing a hat
Emily Hanson
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer

Born and raised in Smaltimore (Baltimore), Emily relishes running for hours in the woods. It’s where she works out the kinks in her approach to being a mother, partner, writer, and a better human being.

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  • 15:02

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Ryan Haines
Assistant Editor
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Ryan is kind of like Robbe’s Igor behind the scenes. He helps to compile and clean up everyone’s reviews, and finds time to get in a few miles of his own. When he’s not running or editing, Ryan writes and reviews for Android Authority, spending time with the latest tech and complaining when things don’t work quite right. If he’s not doing any of that, maybe you’ll find him nose-deep in a crossword puzzle or trying to catch up on an endless backlog of shows to stream.

All-time favorite shoes: New Balance Rebel v2, Adidas Takumi Sen 8 (or 9), Saucony Endorphin Speed 3

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Fav. Distance


  • 3:54

  • 1:28

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  • 39:09

  • 19:02

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