Saucony Zealot ISO 2 Review
Austin: The Saucony Zealot ISO 2 is one of the harder shoe reviews I’ve had to compose as of late. I point this out as the original Zealot by Saucony was the shoe I reached for most in 2015. The four-millimeter drop, ISO fit upper, and soft forefoot made for a solid trainer. I had great zeal for the Zealot. But many days have elapsed, and the Zealot has undergone update number one (gulp). The engineers at Saucony put the beloved Zealot under their scrutiny, and it is now available to runners who are nervously wondering what revisions might spring forth from the lab. This is what emerged.
Thomas: I wasn’t a fan of the first Saucony Zealot. Like Austin, I found this a tough review to write but for different reasons. The number one reason is that I just don’t like running in this shoe.
Austin: The four-millimeter drop, ISO fit upper, and forefoot cushioning in the Zealot 2 are still intact, and for this I am grateful. The Zealot is typically regarded as a lightweight trainer, but I wouldn’t hesitate to complete the mighty marathon in this model. And since the subject of weight has surfaced, I weighed a men’s 9.5 to gauge any notable difference. This one is significant – a full ounce (8.7 for the Zealot and 9.7 for the Zealot 2).
Like other models in the Saucony collection, the Zealot 2 has received the EVERUN application. A layer of EVERUN is underneath the sock liner to “provide smoother landings in the heel and reduced pressure in the forefoot.” PWRGRID+ is still employed in the Zealot 2 as well, but no mention of it is highlighted on the shoe upper. I had to dig around the Saucony website to find it there too. As a point of contrast, the original Zealot was powered by PWRGRID+ exclusively.
Thomas: Saucony makes quality shoes, the Zealot ISO 2 are no exception.
Meaghan: I liked the original Zealot. Quite a bit. The updates are primarily underfoot – Saucony left the ISOFIT (that I raved about in the previous version) intact. I still like the fit through the midfoot. As for the midsole, a layer of EVERUN has been added to this model to provide a smoother transition. And the outer layer is a newly designed TRI-FLEX outsole, which added some nice durability and traction.
Austin: Where to begin? Truth be told, I don’t have any harsh words to lodge against the Zealot 2, but this update is a far cry from the original. I’d say that reinforced is the single best word to describe the second iteration of the Zealot. The ISOFIT upper is a good starting point to unpack my critiques. The fabric feels stiffer across the midfoot, and the mesh across the forefoot feels thicker. Speaking of the forefoot, the toe box in a size 12 felt narrow; a half size increase provided for adequate toe splay for me. The tongue is stiffer too.
What of the ride? Like the first Zealot, I found the cushioning in the Zealot 2 to be to my liking, though I found the update slightly firmer. That extra ounce of weight was noticeable on my first run too. The reinforced (i.e. heavier) qualities of the Zealot 2 made for a more challenging jaunt of 13 miles in western New York. Curious about what other voices had to say, I came across a reviewer of the Zealot 2 on the web who offered up this remark: “There is a lot of shoe without the weight.” I respectfully disagree. There is a lot of shoe this time around – and the weight reflects that.
As to the EVERUN inclusion in the updated Zealot, I didn’t have any great sense of energy return. Adidas Boost models have fared well for me, but this is due to a midsole of some percentage that’s all TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and not just a thin layer below the sock liner. The Triumph – which Thomas likes – has an EVERUN heel insert to complement the top sole. And this brings me to a few final thoughts by way of posing a question.
Thomas: Holy puffy, squishy shoe! The Zealot ISO 2 is a foot couch. The collar of the shoe and the heel counter are created by lots of foam. From my toes to my heel the upper felt like too much material. The squishy theme continues into the top-sole of EVERUN and the midsole. The energy from my foot fall spread out in every direction with no feeling of support. Aesthetically, the shoes are not my bag. The accentuation of the fat collar by reflective material, vinyl ISO fit cage, thick looking toe box, contribute to my distaste for the Zealot 2. I did like the bright blue midsole. This shoe will not make my list for 20 best shoes of 2016.
Meaghan: My main complaint from the first iteration remains. This shoe is too stiff. I actually think the TRI-FLEX outsole made this shoe even firmer than the previous model. I also found the shoes to be too short. My toes were brushed right up against the edge of the forefoot, almost always leaving me with a bloody toe or two.
Austin: As a mid to forefoot striker, how a shoe feels in the heel is null and void to me. In other words, the heel looks the same on day 101 as it did on day 1. That said since the Triumph has an EVERUN heel insert, why not introduce an EVERUN forefoot insert in the Zealot as forefoot cushioning is what provides this shoe with its distinctive sparkle? If EVERUN provides more energy return than traditional EVA (and presumably PWRGRID+), would this addition be a wise change for the Zealot 3 next year?
In summary, this is one of those instances where I favor the prior shoe. The wide toe box, lighter weight, and soft forefoot are distinct and undoubtedly set the Zealot apart from other models in the Saucony lineup. The Zealot 2 carries forth the characteristics of the original in some form, but the changes are not a complete hit for me. They fall more into the miss column. My zeal for the Zealot has diminished for now, but my zeal for slipping them on my feet and running them into the ground by way of many miles remains fully intact. I’ll stand by that.
Thomas: The Zealot ISO 2 is similar enough to a shoe I like, the Saucony Triumph ISO 2, but fell short. The Zealot is a little lighter and has a 4mm drop vs the 8mm drop in the Triumph. The Triumph’s underfoot feel through the stride is so much better. Both shoes lose out to the Saucony Ride 9 one of my top trainers in 2016. I have talked to runners at all levels and I seem to be on the far side of the spectrum, unlike me, most really like the shoe. I ran the minimum I will run in a shoe before a review, 20 miles.
Meaghan: If you’re still reading this review, you’ve probably noticed a trend. My closing thoughts are identical to Austin’s: I favor the previous model. The fit was near perfect, the shoe was lighter, and I never had any issues with rubbing or irritation. I still love Saucony, I just don’t love the Zealot 2.
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Ugh… your reviews confirmed everything I feared after reading the specs on this latest iteration. I really enjoyed the original Zealot as a trainer, and the added cushion was also welcome when racing IM distance after the long bike. I agree with you Austin – why couldn’t they put an EVERUN insert in the forefoot as this shoe is geared toward mid/forefoot strikers? That said, I’m not a big fan of EVERUN in general. I hated the Kinvara 7. Saucony has usually been a hit for me, but lately… it’s all been misses.
Btw guys… are you planning on doing a Clifton 3 review? Hokas have never fit my foot well, but I’m curious about this “new and improved” fit on the Clifton 3 since the Zealot 2 doesn’t appear to be an option anymore at this point.
We are, just received them today. The Clifton are a solid favorite Hoka for me. Meg likes the Tracer, Clayton, and the Clifton.
I so wanted to love this shoe. The Zealot 1 is damn near perfect, the 2, not so much. In fact, I returned them after two runs. The fit is so much tighter, narrower, than the Zealot 1. Way too much padding in the ankle collar, too. Do love tri-flex outsole. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it…
Thanks for the feedback, I thought I was the only one that thought this shoe missed the mark.
Hey Steve – thanks for the thoughts. I agree with your remarks – they are right on target. I found the fit to be a bit tighter and more narrow too. There’s much to be said for making NO revisions to a shoe, but every model goes under the microscope once a year in the presence of engineers. My hope is that the Zealot 3 will be a favorable update for runners.