Saucony Xodus Ultra Review: The Best Kind of Reboot
TAYLOR: Naive. It’s the main word that slaps me in the face when looking back on my transition from being a track athlete to a trail athlete. My mom, wife, and I took the deep dive into the trail world together, and with that came a steep learning curve. One of the key points we realized early on is how big an impact the right trail shoe could have.
Once I decided to ditch my Asics DS Trainers for a real pair of trail shoes, the Xodus was one of those top-shelf items ready to go. Beefy. Gritty. Meant to go the distance. This thing was rad — and seemingly everything you think you want in a trail shoe, but I couldn’t afford it… Mom could, though.
As much as I’ve changed as a trail athlete from our “baptism” to now, so has the Xodus line. What’s new? Well, let’s say the Xodus line had a yard sale. It got rid of darn near everything to make room for upgrades. The only aspects that remain are a partial midsole of Pwrrun and a Pwrtrac outsole. So, that makes the Xodus Ultra and the original Xodus as closely related as the Peregrine. Again, this is basically a brand new shoe, even down to the 6mm heel-toe drop (32.5 to 26.5mm). It ain’t your mom’s trail shoe.
Some may scoff at the idea of such change. We’ve seen this in a couple of popular models already this year. This shoe still fits in the same lane as ever and is deserving of the Xodus crest. By golly, we might have another resurrection on our hands.
MATT: I’ll be completely honest and say that this wasn’t a shoe that I was enthusiastic about getting on my feet. I was underwhelmed with the Xodus 11 last year, and I’d already developed concerns with the Ultra before it ever made it to my door. Heavy, clunky, rigid… Classic trail shoe death sentences.
Let this serve as a reminder to keep an open mind and not judge something until you give it a chance. The Xodus Ultra jumped up and slapped me across the face for that unwarranted disrespect.
TAYLOR: Hoka Speedgoat 5. Altra Timp 4. Topo Athletic Ultraventure. Speedland SL:PDX. These are all shoes that the new Xodus Ultra reminds me of. Quite the list, eh? At the same time, it is its own distinct package. The Saucony Xodus Ultra is a sleeper, friends.
Most of the sensations I get from that previously mentioned lineup come from the midsole. Saucony found a way to blend the new with the tried and true to concoct a unique underfoot vibe. In a simple sense, a dual-density midsole is what we’re talking about here. It’s a similar recipe to what Hoka used with the Tecton X, but Saucony went about it differently.
Let’s pause and mention that this shoe weighs in at 10.5 ounces — only a tenth of an ounce heavier than the Peregrine. Most of the shoes that boast what the Saucony Xodus Ultra does are well over the 11-ounce mark for my US M10.5.
Back to it.
Pwrrun EVA foam, which has been used for a few years now in the trail line, creates an external frame. This foam is denser, adds structure, and is durable. Inside that frame is Saucony’s beautifully formulated Pwrrun PB foam core. Soft, light, and bouncy are all strong characteristics. The frame does a great job protecting the Pwrrun PB foam while letting its positive aspects shine — like adding salt to a dish. Concealing, rather than layering, forces the foam to react in a particular way with each step, and I felt that. It wasn’t a pompous feeling from the Pwrrun PB either. Synergetic is a better word. The unique layering will probably add some life to the shoe’s midsole too.
Another positive of the frame/core approach to the midsole is that the outer Pwrrun frame provides enough structure for the shoe to feel naturally stable. I say naturally in the sense that there’s no particular technology guiding your feet or causing you to strike a certain way, much like you would find in an Altra or Topo Athletic shoe. This touch of stability will pay dividends over the long haul, which the Saucony Xodus Ultra is meant for.
I love a strong sock liner. It’s an underappreciated technology for sure. The Xodus comes with the Pwrrn PB sock liner that adds a noticeable amount of comfort.
The full underfoot recipe is surprisingly dreamy — one that gives the best of a lot of worlds. I felt adequately protected from the elements underfoot, had a true sense of cushion even though the stack is relatively low (32.5 to 26.5mm), and felt some responsiveness to boot.
In general, the shape of the shoe trends more toward an accommodating fit. There’s some extra room throughout the shoe to allow for slightly wider feet, and some natural swelling in those ultra-distance runs. The fit lands wider than the Peregrine, but it’s also not terribly wide. All of your piggies can breathe, but they won’t be floating away.
Just because there is some room to play with, it doesn’t mean this is a sloppy fit by any means. I found the breathable engineered mesh upper to hold its shape while being flexible enough to move with the foot when needed. It’s a wrapping sensation that left me comfortable in the shoe, with minimal limitations. Comfort was certainly a priority here.
Lastly, the Xodus Ultra uses a three-piece Pwrtrac outsole. Segmenting the outsole gives benefits such as a little more flexibility/adaptability underfoot and can save ounces. This outsole has smaller lugs than in the past (4.5mm), but I felt confident on various terrain. I only found the typical slush or clayish mud brought down its performance.
This is bold, but this particular version of the Xodus is up there with the Speedgoat for running performance and versatility, just in a lower profile package.
MATT: So, I’m going to start with a pretty bold recommendation. If you read our review of the Hoka Speedgoat 5 and rushed out to buy a pair but have struggled to find it in your size, you may want to grab the Xodus Ultras as a replacement. I found them to be shockingly close in overall fit and performance.
When you break it all down, the Xodus Ultra is closer to being a brand new model for Saucony than it is to version 12 of the Xodus line. Everything I didn’t like about the Xodus 11 is gone. Did Saucony read my review and build this for me? In the words of Kanye, “No one man should have all that power.”
This is a highly cushioned and comfortable shoe built to go the distance. While doing this, Saucony somehow shaved about 2 oz. off the Xodus 11, giving us a cushy long-hauler that comes in about 10 oz for my US M10. I loved the upper upon first step in. The mesh feels breathable and light and has just the right amount of flex.
As much as I loved the upper, the midsole was what had me making Speedgoat 5 comparisons. The stack and drop dimensions are very similar to the SG, and if you look at the midsole’s shape, it even has an almost identical design.
Saucony looks to have come out of the lab with a winner in its latest attempt to create a mid-sole combination of materials. The Pwrrun PB foam that we have come to love on the roads in the Endorphin line is nestled within an outer layer of firmer Pwrrun EVA.
The combo plays off each other brilliantly, resulting in a cushioned yet responsive ride.
The Pwrtrac outsole is solid as always. It feels secure and protective across varying terrains, whether dry or wet.Shop Xodus Ultra – Men Shop Xodus Ultra – Women
TAYLOR: Laces. They’re another underestimated shoe component. There’s a lot more to consider than I ever gave laces credit for. Here, the Xodus has flat (good call) and very elastic (not so good call) laces. The idea behind them is nice. Solid in the comfort department, but they don’t provide the lockdown I would like, especially in the midfoot. As the miles went on, I could feel that the laces had released some tension and needed a retie.
As mentioned before, the Xodus Ultra does have a comfortable and reasonably secure setup. A simple switch of laces could turn that up a notch. That’s all.
Al dente laces give way to my only other complaint, which is midfoot lockdown. It’s the only area of the shoe that has a slightly off feeling. I really do mean slightly, too — it’s not a huge deal. The Xodus Ultra’s midfoot is on the roomy end of the spectrum, so tight turns or more aggressive terrain could cause some apprehension. I never felt any full foot shifting, however, this could cause significant slippage if you have a low-volume foot. I think it’s minuscule enough that wearing socks with a padded midfoot or switching out laces could be enough for the general public to have full confidence.
MATT: I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about the Xodus Ultra, which is a shocking M. Night Shyamalan level twist to where my pre-test thoughts were.
While a personal preference, I’m not a huge fan of the highlighter yellow colorway. It’s not my style and is just a tick above white in being impossible to keep clean.
I did have some issues with keeping that vice grip lockdown that I like in a trail shoe. The slippage wasn’t drastic, but after some miles, I would find my fit loosening to the point that I would get a slight heel lift when picking up the pace and a little lateral movement when snaking my way through the twisty singletrack.
After testing and comparing notes with Taylor, I think this is a by-product of the elastic laces. While the stretchy laces are comfortable, they are counterproductive to achieving that locked-in fit. While I haven’t had the chance to test my theory, I’d wager a switch to a more traditional lace would solve these issues for a couple of bucks.Shop Xodus Ultra – Men Shop Xodus Ultra – Women
TAYLOR: I knew I would probably enjoy the Xodus Ultra on paper. However, I didn’t expect to love it. In a lot of ways, this shoe hits a sweet spot. Given the chance, it will be more beloved than the original Xodus for a few reasons and far more versatile than the Peregrine. The Xodus Ultra has more range, retains foot protection and grit, and adds comfort to an already revered package. Take it long or short, easy or fast, smooth or rugged. It can handle a variety of terrain, conditions, distances, and efforts better than most trail shoes in the industry.
To be honest, it’s probably Saucony’s best value shoe to date. Jeez, I’d go as far to say that this is one of the better-value trail shoes on the market. This could be an incredible option, whether you’re seeking a solid all-arounder for daily miles or a long run/race slayer. Its only real limitation is hammering truly technical terrain, which it can do at a decent level if needed anyways.
I have no hesitation putting this one up on the top shelf with the kings and queens of the trail running world, especially at $150.
MATT: The Saucony Xodus Ultra is a legitimate competitor to the Hoka Speedgoat. That statement in itself is a huge win for Saucony. This is hands down the best overall trail offering I’ve tested from the brand. Our trail team has often said in the past that the Peregrine was one of those classic models that you can always recommend to a new trail runner because it does a lot of things well. I would argue now that the Xodus may be an even better recommendation, as it’s only fractions of an ounce heavier but provides much more cushion without losing ground feel or speed.
You can pick up the Saucony Xodus Ultra for $150 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Xodus Ultra – Men Shop Xodus Ultra – Women
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The shopping link provided goes to the Xodus 11, not the Xodus Ultra
Hi Jesse. This is not available yet. Should be coming in June!
How are them doing on the road to trail ?
They do well in the road to trail department. The lugs are much less aggressive than any previous versions. Also, the toe is rounded up a little and helps with smooth efficient running on road/smooth surfaces.
Thanks for this review. Peregrines are my trail shoe of choice (love the 12s), and I have been using Xodus 10s for longer distances with much longer time on feet. I generally have liked the Xodus- however, I actually have had some issues with the traction of the Xodus. I find my footing slipping, often, on all kinds of terrain that should be pretty secure for any trail runner outsole (this is a nonissue with Peregrines). I’m wondering if you have a sense of how the traction compares between the Xodus 10/11 and the new Ultra? I live in Denver and run often on technical trails in the CO foothills and mountains, running 10-30mi efforts. Thanks!
Just bought Xodus Ultra as a replacement for my old SG4. So, I am returning to Saucony after all. Since my active trail running, I’ve been thru 4 generations of Peregrine, but once I’ve got PF, I had to switch to Brooks Caldera and finally to SG – that have more foam underneath. My issue with Caldera and SG was those patches of Vibram bonded to the foam outsole. After 300-400k on trails with technical downhills (roots, rocks, loose gravel are very common on Vancouver’s North Shore) those patches started peeling off quite dramatically. I glued them back couple times using outdoor glue (helped for a bit), but that can’t be compared with lugs and outsole moulded as a single piece (Peregrine) or two bigger patches as in Xodus.
Really looking forward to test them!