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Trail • April 4, 2023

Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 Review: Hold Onto Your Butts

saucony xodus ultra 2 cover

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What You Need To Know


9.6 oz. (272 g) for a US M9,

8.5 oz. (241 g) for a US W7

Stack Height / Drop

32.5 mm in heel, 26.5 mm in toe (6 mm drop)

Best For

Long-haul trail comfort

Key Features

Three-piece PWRTRAC outsole, PWRRUN PB core in a PWRRUN midsole, internal midfoot brace

On The Run

🟢 Revamped upper adds tons of security

🟢 That PWRTRAC’s got claws

🔴 The midsole doesn’t hit the same



The Intro

SAM: Sequels and risk walk hand in hand. That spark of greatness that propels an original to popularity is hard to bottle up and release back to the hungry maw of culture as a new and different yet somehow similar thing. Film, of course, offers us the most potent examples of this. James Cameron’s Aliens may have artfully turned the claustrophobic workplace horror of Ridley Scott’s Alien into a riveting military sci-fi thriller, but Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park simply fails to capitalize on the magic of his original (and this is from a Lost World defender — “Don’t go into the long grass!”). For every masterpiece like Sam Rami’s Spider-Man 2, we have an Iron Man 2, or worse, a Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

But sequels are where the money is. Consumers are more interested in investing in the familiar, which is why when you look at a theater marquee now, you see a number chasing every title, and I’m not talking about the showtimes. Success is bankable — The Lost World opened to almost twice what Jurassic Park did, and while it didn’t gross quite as much ($229M vs. $357M, domestic), it still made a wild profit on its $70 million budget.

But you didn’t come here to read about movies — you came to read about shoes. I’m blathering about sequels because Taylor, Matt, and I have put miles in on the sequel to one of our favorite trail shoes of all of 2022: The Saucony Xodus Ultra. A veritable sleeper hit in a year of great trail shoes (much like last year’s Bollywood action epic RRR was at the movies), the Xodus Ultra was a remake of a flagging Saucony trail stalwart. It featured a brilliant Peba-cradled-in-EVA midsole that managed to be springy, fast, supportive, and fun. We loved it. We still love it. It was so good we reviewed it twice when we picked up the (maybe even better?) Runshield version.

However, the Xodus Ultra didn’t really scream for a quick turnaround for the sequel, so when the Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 showed up at my door a month into 2023, I was a little taken aback. Saucony seems keen to bank on the success of the first Xodus Ultra without letting its shine fade behind the rush of new 2023 trail shoes. Would this be a Toy Story 2? Or did Saucony rush the sequel and push out the shoe equivalent of Quantum of Solace?

MATT: When Saucony came way out of left field to surprise us with a totally revamped Xodus Ultra in 2022, our trail team was caught off guard and thoroughly impressed. We had glowing reviews for the shoe and even classified it as a direct competitor with the Hoka Speedgoat 5, which was super high praise.

As Sam mentioned, I was equally shocked to see the Xodus Ultra 2 show up on my porch in what seemed like mere months after the first version. The quick turnaround was likely enhanced by the fact that the ink was barely dry on our review of the equally (and, in my opinion, superior) impressive Xodus Ultra Runshield edition.

As with anything great, our one wish is that a brand doesn’t mess with a good thing. We too often lose great shoes to the dangers of idle hands. I was feeling confident that wouldn’t be the case here, considering the quick turnaround. Hopefully, the lack of time and opportunity would mean a fresh set of paint and all the good parts left unchanged. Right? Right???

TAYLOR: While it’s clear that Sam gets down on shoes and cinema, he reminded me of one of my lifelong loves — dinosaurs. Thanks to Jurassic Park, every birthday, Christmas, and even Easter came with a deep desire for dinos to be involved. This love was so strong that, to Sam’s point, when The Lost World: Jurassic Park was released, I was totally blind to its outright failure to live up to the original masterpiece. As a kid, aren’t two T-rexes eating a person better than one?

I’ve grown, and my passion for prehistoric critters has been basically replaced by running. But we’re all in agreement that dinosaurs are still freakin’ rad. Anyway, for better or for worse, we have a sequel on our hands.

Last year, the Saucony Xodus Ultra surprised us with a first-bat home run. This was the Xodus series revamp. Not only did the whole package become slimmer, lighter, and more versatile, it gained the ability to go a long way with its dual-density midsole. It’s not the typical sandwich, though. A PWRRUN PB core (the same foam as in their high-end road shoes) was encased in a more durable PWRRUN EVA. Really, the best of comfort and longevity were achieved. Where it lacked was in the general fit.

Luckily, that’s exactly what this update addressed. A new engineered mesh and attention to the heel collar are the only changes on paper. Just like Ian Malcolm was apprehensive of Ingen’s interest in dinosaur research, I suspect there’s a little more going on than meets the eye.

saucony xodus ultra 2 heel

The Good

SAM: Saucony says it kept the lower half of this shoe mostly the same from version one to version two and that outside of a little more cushion in the heel, the real changes are in the upper. It’s clear as soon as you slip the Xodus Ultra 2 on that Saucony was aiming for vastly improved fit and lockdown. There’s a new mesh upper with a full-length Formfit sleeve inside (really a stretchy glorified tongue gusset), a stiff but perforated underlay for midfoot security, and a slimmed-down toebox. The sidewalls of the shoe have been shortened to maximize what the laces are able to tighten. The heel counter has slightly more structure than in the Xodus Ultra, and it’s comfortable and fits very well.

All of this makes for a secure and tucked-in upper. It handles twisty and rocky sections well and hews close to the performance of Saucony’s classic technical crusher, the Peregrine. Overall the fit is much more reminiscent of the Peregrine than version one, for better or worse. There are plenty of loops and reinforced holes to allow for a myriad of lacing configurations, and the upper hugs the forefoot tightly with little to no lateral slippage.

The PWRRUN PB core and EVA carrier are still good. Really, I think we’ll all have some things to say about this in the bad section, but none of that should hurt the fact that this is still a great trail midsole. It’s stable and can suck up all the pounding you can throw at it.

Underneath, this has the same PWRTRAC outsole Saucony deploys on almost all its trail shoes. It’s good! They keep reusing this because it’s plenty grippy, has enough flex to allow for adaptation on rough terrain, and doesn’t feel unwieldy on the pavement.

MATT: I’d like to frame these next two sections by using two categories: What’s still good/bad and What’s newly good/bad. This is because on the surface (and on paper), there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the Xodus Ultra 2 and its predecessor, but after running some miles, that is not the case.

So let’s start with what’s STILL good about the Xodus Ultra — basically everything below the upper. Saucony did not really change the stack or drop, and the outsole is still a very serviceable three-piece PWRTRAC rubber, complete with 4.5 mm chevron-shaped lugs. This combination is sturdy and secure and can handle most conditions (I’ll talk about where it falls a little short in the next section).

The heart and sole (can’t resist the dad joke, my dad powers are too strong) of the re-imagined Xodus Ultra was the midsole. A combination that encased PWRRUN PB foam within a harder shell of PWRRUN EVA foam was a dream. The two compounds played off each other quite beautifully and resulted in a ride that leveraged the soft cushion and bounce of the PWRRUN PB with the stability and toughness needed on the trail from the Pwrrun EVA shell.

Saucony claims that this killer combo remains intact with version two, but I’m skeptical. I still think the ride is really good, and maybe once I cross the 50-mile mark and emerge from the cold temps of winter, the foam will soften a bit, but it’s not quite as lively.

Let’s pause on this, as I’ll explain in the next section, but without comparison to version one, the midsole ride is still nice, and it feels in synergy with the rest of the shoe.

As far as what Saucony did change, let’s talk about the upper. I really didn’t have a major issue with version one, but there was just a bit more room than I like, which resulted in some heel lift and lateral movement. These issues would often creep up mid-run as the combination of upper fit and elastic lacing would allow the fit to loosen slightly over time. The upper is completely updated, with more breathable and stretchy material, an improved heel counter, and updated lacing that goes back to more traditional material. All of this, combined with a change in footbed/toebox shape that moves to the narrower side, really promotes a locked-in fit and feel.

TAYLOR: What’s more to say? Matt and Sam pretty much covered it. Overall, the experience you’re getting in the Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 is very similar (not the same) as the original. I really like how versatile this package has become.

Attention to the upper makes a world of difference in terms of fit. This is the area that kept me from undoubtedly naming the first Saucony Xodus Ultra the Speedgoat slayer. Sam and Matt mentioned that it does feel slimmer, very much like the Peregrine series. I completely agree. The midfoot and forefoot are much more tucked in than what we experienced in the first version (maybe a negative for some). The fully gusseted neoprene-like tongue, along with the new engineered mesh, creates a more airy and secure feel that will hold over moderate and even some technical terrain.

Lacing also adds a layer of adjustability to find your optimal fit. Three different eyelet holes at the top of the chain make for an easy way to adjust to different feet and terrain needs. I typically used the one closest to the heel collar to get a really secure lockdown without needing to wrench on the lacing system.

Extra cushion/structure throughout the heel is where the fit improves dramatically, though. I really think this type of attention to the first model would have made the first iteration a grand slam!

As for the underfoot feel, it is a little different from the previous model. Upon stepping in, you can tell there’s still a PWRRUN PB core (peba-based foam ), a PPWRRUN+ insole, and a firmer external PWRRUN EVA carrier. To me, it feels like a difference in the ratio (more on that later), and it provides a unique ride that does achieve a lot for runners. You do get true comfort, some semblance of being responsive, and protection while having a lower-to-the-ground feel that’s not typically found in a shoe with this level of the aforementioned comfort and protection. At only 32.5/26.5 mm, it doesn’t quite give the high-stack vibe, but it feels like it’s on its way.

Versatility continues with a PWRTRAC outsole. Rubber covers most of the underfoot surface with 4.5 mm lugs. As per usual, Saucony employs a multidirectional chevron-style lug that really grips in a lot of situations. They are also shallow enough to take on short paved sections and gravel paths/roads when needed.

Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra - Men Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra - Women
saucony xodus ultra 2 outsole

The Bad

SAM: There’s one element of the Xodus Ultra 2 that lands squarely in the bad for me: the new positioning of the lacing eyelets. Pulling the sidewalls of the shoe back for enhanced lockdown is a smart move, but that, mixed with the thin race-style tongue, made the top lacing cross always cut off the circulation to my toes, no matter how I laced the shoe. I put at least 50 test miles in on the Xodus Ultra 2 because I was convinced I was doing something wrong. I’d change the laces up, using different eyelets (really, there are SO many), or not using the top eyelets, or lacing in a runner’s loop, or changing my socks, and without fail right between miles 4 and 5 my toes would get tingly and painful. It doesn’t seem like this was an issue for Taylor or Matt, so it must be something with my high arches or where the veins in my foot run.

The rest of my complaints come because the Xodus Ultra 2 lives so solidly in its predecessor’s shadow. For instance, the narrow toebox really isn’t a problem, especially if you have narrower feet. But for me, it takes this shoe right out of contention as a long miles candidate and places it alongside the Peregrine as a solid technical short mileage shoe. I could be imagining it because of the lacing, but I also think the narrow toebox places the edge of the EVA cradle right underneath the medial and lateral edges of my toes. I swear my toes on those outside edges experienced soreness from slamming against the harder foam through a run.

The real victim in this sequel comparison is the midsole. It looks like all three of us agree that there is nothing specifically wrong with this midsole, but we also all agree that it has absolutely misplaced the magic that made the first version a competitor to such hallowed trail shoes as the Hoka Speedgoat. The forefoot feels dull, with none of that fun pop from the PWRRUN PB core.

Of course, we can’t know exactly what they changed, but side by side with the Xodus Ultra Runshield, the Xodus Ultra 2 feels like it has less forefoot foam and a higher drop (although the spec sheet says otherwise). The EVA carrier is also softer to the touch. Weirdly, this shoe even feels noticeably different from the Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX, which is releasing around the same time and is supposedly built on the same midsole platform.

And while the colorways for this shoe are a bit better than what we got in the Xodus Ultra (but definitely not the Runshield version), I think Saucony missed a chance to create powerful model recognition by making the diagonal slash through the Saucony logo that was so prominent on version one a small line that barely registers where this logo transitions to the heel counter. A full slash could identify a Xodus, like the heel texture on a Speedgoat or the mountain detail on an Altra Lone Peak. Speaking of the heel counter, it and the toe guard overlays look cheap. The toe wrap, in particular, got a used Scotch tape sheen which is disappointing, but the shoe name on the heel counter is basically illegible, almost like Saucony is embarrassed someone might see it.

MATT: Ok, so first, let me try and clarify why I am writing about the midsole in both the good and bad sections. In a vacuum, I think the midsole ride and performance are good, and on paper, one would believe that all those great things we loved in version one would remain selling points in version two. The problem is my feet tell me otherwise, and thankfully both Taylor and Sam shared similar thoughts otherwise would think I was making this all up.

I may be becoming spoiled by the super stacks and foams on many of my road shoes these days (I blame the New Balance SC Trainer, More V4, and Asics Nimbus 25), but I’ve become more drawn to that extra squish and bounce in my stride. Now I wouldn’t want that same exact feel on the trails, and that is where that outer layer of PWRRUN EVA helped keep that stability and ground feel in version one. I just feel like that magic spring is dulled in version two, and that’s a bummer.

I mentioned the more narrow footbed above as it factored into a better lockdown for me. I think this could be problematic for others as it is a noticeable change from the first version. If you have wider feet and version one worked for you, I would not assume that version two will.

Finally, while the PWRTRAC outsole is solid and secure, it’s just not aggressive enough when dealing with super soft and muddy conditions.

TAYLOR: The guys and I are really in sync on this shoe. As much as I appreciate the updates, they do come with some warning signs.

As much as this shoe needed a more secure fit through the midfoot and heel in the first version, the Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 extended the security through the forefoot by slimming it out a bit too much. It does feel a lot like the Peregrine 13 now — which is a great shoe. To go those long distances, which the Xodus Ultra 2 is slated for, there needs to be a little extra wiggle room like there was in the first version. Not a lot. Just a little more would be much appreciated.

The bigger issue with this sequel is the difference in the midsole. Saucony doesn’t mention any change. One would like to believe that means it is unchanged. Overall, it feels like the ratio between PWRRUN PB inner foam and PWRRUN EVA carrier is different. This time, it leans more on the carrier side. Comparatively, the first model is much softer and more comfortable underfoot because of that. Sadly, it feels like a cheapo move under the table to save a little extra cash in production.

And for the outsole, simply put, it doesn’t have the bite for sloppy or wet conditions. To its credit, I think a toothier outsole would take away from the overall package, but I did have some issues in less-than-ideal conditions.

Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra - Men Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra - Women
saucony xodus ultra 2 laces

Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 Conclusion

SAM: Sequels, man. You can’t help but be excited for the follow-up to something you love. Sometimes you’re rewarded with an Aliens or a Toy Story 2 kind of masterpiece that takes the bones of what came before and grows them into something new and maybe even better. Sometimes, you get a rushed and slapdash failure. And sometimes, perhaps more often than we’d like to admit, you get a perfectly serviceable part two that is probably worth the price of admission but just misses on the magic that made the original so great. The Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 is a pretty good analog to The Lost World: Jurassic Park in that way. You’ll have a good time, but the heart is missing.

I’m with Matt — use this release to grab version one at a discount, and definitely snatch up the spectacular Xodus Ultra Runshield before it’s extinct.

MATT: The Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 is a really solid all-around trail trainer that can handle most all terrain and distances. I would still put the Xodus Ultra in the same category as shoes like the Speedgoat 5 or the Salomon Ultraglide as models that can go the distance and keep your legs happy.

My issue is that I don’t think the upper improvements are worth the sacrifice of the midsole ride that we got from version 1. The slippage from version 1 was mild enough that with a change in laces and some thicker socks, you could eliminate that issue.

If it was me, I would likely use the release of version two to hopefully pick up some discounts on the original, or even better, pick up the Xodus Ultra Runshield edition, which is one of my favorite models to have been released over the past year or so.

TAYLOR: We raved about the Saucony Xodus Ultra’s debut. As Sam has clearly pointed out, not every sequel can pick up right where the original left off. It is a tall task, but Saucony went for it.

The highly focused updates seemed to improve one area while unintentionally taking away from others. Overall, the new upper materials and attention to security make a better-fitting shoe. A better-fitting shoe means more confidence and performance. The one issue is that the slimming of the toe box will limit how long you can extract that performance.

The same story goes for underfoot. A PWRRUN PB and PWRRUN carrier is a great recipe. It’s unanimous that it has been altered, though. For most, it will still feel great. If you have been in the first model, though, it will likely be a downgrade in experience from the first.

Don’t get us wrong, the Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 is a darn solid trail shoe. It just doesn’t quite have the charm of the first.

You can pick up the Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 for $150 on April 11, 2023, at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below

Shop The Shoe


Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra Men
Shop Saucony Xodus Ultra Women

Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.

saucony xodus ultra 2 upper

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. nater kane says:

    the insole/sockliner of v1 looks a lot like pwrrunpb to me and a couple mm thick at that, and not pwrrun+, that difference may explain the change in midsole feel you guys were talking about.

  2. Elizabeth M says:

    I have a question and wondering your opinion on this issue- as a trail runner with exceptionally narrow feet, fit and lockdown is so difficult for me. I want a distance runner with good cushion, for runs 20+ miles- is it worth what will be a sloppy fit for V1 on sale, but a better ride, or as a novice to the Xodus line, just pick up the V2 knowing that I’ll have much better lockdown?

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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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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.

All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Atreyu The Artist, Speedland SL:PDX

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Taylor Bodin
Lead Trail Reviewer
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Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.

All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Tecton X, Speedland SL:PDX, Merrell MTL Long Sky 2.

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  • 27:03

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