The new for autumn 2016 Saucony Xodus ISO trail running shoe manages to mix serious cushioning and underfoot protection with high levels of underfoot grip, bundles of stability, sofa-like instant comfort thanks to the sock-liner upper and ISOFIT construction and reassuring reinforcement for the uppers. All this and it still retains a reasonable level of trail feel.
The cushioning does deaden trail feel a little and there's not as much forefoot room as Saucony's excellent Peregrine 6, though that cuts both ways. Not cheap either, though the OVERRUN cushioning is claimed to last three times longer than standard EVA. Slightly heavier than some.
Outdoors Grabbit? - Mini Verdict
Trail running shoes tend to be a balancing act between grip, cushioning, stability, comfort and feel. Getting the balance right is very personal, but if you're after a very cushioned shoe, that's comfortable straight from the box - we ran 19km straight off without any complaints - and also gives great grip, but still feels stable and has some connection with the trail, then the new Xodus ISO might just hit the spot. Also great for door to trail stuff taking in pavement or tarmac en route to the hills.
Specification: £115 / 630g (pair size 43) cushioned trail-running shoe / OVERRUN underfoot cushioning / sock fit uppers with ISOFIT technology / PWRTRAC Rubber outsole / Support Frame heel counter / Toe Shell toe protection.
Full review below.
Saucony's background is in road running, but shoes like the excellent Peregrine 6.0 have earned it a reputation for also producing some excellent trail running footwear. Compared to the light, grippy and roomy Peregrine, the new Xodus ISO is unashamedly more cushioned with a visibly thicker sole unit and beefier with, in particular, the area around the heel reinforced with a rigid 'Support Frame'.
All that adds to a weight penalty of around 100g per pair, but the pay off is better comfort and support for longer runs and harder surfaces. The cushioning is courtesy of EVERRUN, which is claimed to be both bouncier than normal EVA and three times as long lasting. There's a layer of it directly under the removable footbed for a softer ride.
Also designed for comfort is the sock-fit upper. It's not dissimilar to the technology used by Scarpa for some its mountaineering and walking boots and eliminates a conventional tongue so the stretchy, seamless upper just wraps around your foot like, well, a sock.
It's a cliche, but we did find the shoe instantly comfortable. The ISOFIT lacing gives great mid-foot hold as it links the laces to the midsole and while the forefoot isn't as roomy as the Peregrine, it does a neat trick of not feeling tight either. Our first run with the shoe, untested and straight of the box, was a cool 19km across the Peak District hills. No aches, blisters or discomfort, just blissful cush.
We were expecting a cushy ride from the Xodus, but what caught us by surprise was that it feels more 'damped' than bouncy underfoot, and you don't get the slightly isolated, running on fluffy clouds feel that we've experienced with some of the full-on Hoka models.
Nor does the Xodus ISO feel tottery or unstable, it's not as planted as a lower, more minimal shoe, but you can still feel the trail reasonably well underfoot even when pushing on a bit. The pay-off for that loss of feel is the cushioning. It's on a par with, say, the Hoka Speed Instinct we recently reviewed, but with a more robust and more damped feel. You pays your money...
The other surprise was just how all-round grippy the outsole turned out to be. Deep vee-shaped lugs dig into anything short of a full-on mud bath and come close to shoes like the Peregrine and Salomon Speed Cross for bite, which was a welcome surprise.
A protective, super-cushioned shoe for longer days and those who prefer a softer ride - as a bonus the shoe copes just fine with tarmac making it an ideal door-to-trail choice. And when you do reach the trails, the surprise is that not only is the shoe super comfortable, it still retains reasonable ground feel and agility and that fat orange sole gives excellent all-round grip.
It dries fast too, we know, we ran up a stream masquerading as a footpath. And even though the forefoot cushioning means you sit higher off the ground, we never had any issues with tottery, teetering instability. Yes, it's at the premium end of the market, but if the EVERRUN foam lives up to its longevity claims, that should help offset the initial purchase price a little. Or you can just use that as a rationalisation...
One of our favourite trail running shoes for longer outings and particularly on harder surfaces and a cracking choice if you find lighter, less plush options a little too punishing.