There is certainly no shortage of Nike Vaporfly alternative running shoes, but that's not a bad thing at all. Take, for example, the Saucony Endorphin Pro: it is a very decent long-distance running shoe with a very good heel construction and ample amount of cushioning under the feet. Does the Saucony Endorphin Pro get everything right about the Vaporfly concept? Not really, but these shoes are still among the best running shoes I‘ve tested recently.
Unlike the aforementioned Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, the Saucony Endorphin Pro could be recommended for less experienced runners as the construction of the sole is more forgiving, even if you have slight pronation going on. I saw too many people wearing Vaporfly on races, their feet caving in at each step. Thanks to the wider midfoot platform, it might not happen to wear the Endorphin Pro.
Saucony Endorphin Pro review – Tech
The Saucony Endorphin Pro is choke-full of tech as you'd expect from a high-end running shoe. Naturally, the main showstopper here is the 5-curve carbon fibre plate that functions as a shock-absorber-slash-propulsion plate. The plate also provides some rigidity to the otherwise soft PWRRUN PB foam it's embedded in.
You could definitely feel the presence of the carbon plate in the midsole: you can't roll the Saucony Endorphin Pro into a ball like some ground contact shoes. In fact, the sole is relatively rigid and kicks back as you are about to kick yourself up from the ground. Funnily enough, the Saucony Endorphin Pro has such an efficient roll that it might diminish some of the spring the carbon plate was supposed to provide.
Oversimplifying the process, carbon plates work by springing back to shape after they have been bent and this, in turn, pushes your feet off the ground a bit at each step. Now, if you roll efficiently and toe-off without bending the plate too much, you potentially lose out on some of the propulsion generated by the plate. This seems to be the case with the Endorphin Pro
The PWRRUN PB – a PEBA-based 'superfoam', as Saucony puts it – is super soft, especially right under the heels, so if you happen to be a heel striker, you'll appreciate the extra padding there. The foam gets thinner towards the front of the shoes so the carbon plate can do its magic and help you with toe-offs (again, no trampolining here).
For comparison, the Vaporfly NEXT%'s foam is softer than the Endorphin Pro's, but the Endorphin Pro is softer than some Hoka One One models such as the Mach 3.
Saucony Endorphin Pro review – Ergonomics
The Saucony Endorphin Pro is a high-cushioned road running shoe so you will get a rather nice bounce, but you'll miss out on the sensation of ground contact, which is to be expected, really. The heel area is particularly well constructed: the heel counter is tightly contoured, hugging the rear of the foot nicely. There is plenty of padding behind the heel that tapers away as the collar curves around the ankles. The ankle-side parts of the collar have very little padding, but I haven't experienced any rubbing or discomfort nevertheless.
From around the midfoot area, the Formfit upper gets less rigid, and unfortunately, this means you lose that lovely lockdown feeling you want from a racing shoe. The reinforced part at the front of the toebox keeps the upper away from the toes, creating a bit of empty space between them.
On the plus side, the Speedroll technology works really well, and the transition from heel to toe is smooth AF. There aren't any discernible hard or soft points that you'd expect from a composite sole, and the foam and the carbon plate work harmoniously together. I'd appreciate a bit more propulsion at the toe-off point, but that is just my personal preference and not criticism of the shoe.
Saucony Endorphin Pro review – Aesthetics
I like the look of the Saucony Endorphin Pro, and it definitely looks way better than the Saucony Ride ISO 2, for example. The word that pops into mind when looking at the Saucony Endorphin Pro is 'fluid': the wave pattern seems to be present in a lot of ways throughout the design of the shoe, from the way the sole curves, the Saucony logo flows or the collar curls around the ankle.
There are some random colours mixed in here: you have teal soles, bright orange highlights and a neon green collar, all of which nicely counterbalance the main colour (white). We are not hitting Nike React Infinity Run or Adidas Ultraboost style levels, but it's great to see some effort from other manufacturers too.
Saucony Endorphin Pro review – Verdict
The Saucony Endorphin Pro is an excellent road running shoe. It is not perfect, and even among its direct competitors, I wouldn't place it on top but having said that the market for high-cushioned running shoes with integrated carbon plates is fierce, probably the fiercest one at the moment.
Where the Endorphin Pro stands out is just how well it rolls: the transition from heel to toe is buttery smooth and also very comfortable. The carbon plate helps this transition tremendously, although it might not provide as much propulsion as the integrated plate in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%.
The weakest point of the shoe is the Formfit upper, mainly it is just not tight enough for a running shoe designed for racing. All the best shoes in this category, such as the Hoka One One Carbon X and the aforementioned Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, have very tight uppers which is what you need. The Formfit upper provides a looser fit which might not be ideal in a racing environment.
I'm in a pickle when it comes to recommending the Saucony Endorphin Pro. I can see it being appealing to people who otherwise like the brand and even for those who aren't necessarily familiar with Saucony. But given the price and especially the lack of availability of the Endorphin Pro - it’s sold out already, it seems! - I would say the Hoka Carbon X is still a better choice.