I was pretty excited to get stuck into this Saucony Endorphin Elite review. Over the past 12 months, Saucony has added some excellent running shoes to its line-up with the fantastically versatile Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 daily trainer and the racier, pacier Saucony Endorphin Pro 3. Based on that recent track record, I had high hopes for its new carbon racer built to rival the Nike Alphafly 2.
So, can the best Saucony running shoes to date topple Nike’s record-breaking shoe? And how does the Saucony Endorphin Elite stack up against the best running shoes of 2023, including other super shoes, the ASICS Metaspeed SKY+, Nike ZoomX Alphafly NEXT% 2 and the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3? I put it through some rigorous testing to find out.
Saucony Endorphin Elite review: Price and availability
The Saucony Endorphin Elite was launched in January 2023. It's available to buy now at Saucony US and Saucony UK for a recommended retail price of $275/£280 (AU price and availability TBC). In the US, that's the same price as the Nike Alphafly Next% 2, $25 more expensive than the Adidas Adios Pro 3, the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ and the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, and $50 pricier than Saucony's Endorphin Pro 3. In the UK, it's even more expensive. The Endorphin Elite costs £10 more than the Alphafly and a whopping £40 more than the Adidas Prime X Strung. This is not a cheap shoe.
Saucony Endorphin Elite Review: What’s new?
With that now-familiar super shoe combo of a high stack of superfoam, carbon plate and lightweight uppers, the Saucony Endorphin Elite is designed to compete with the fastest marathon race shoes on the market.
And they have a new weapon to lead the fight. The midsole features the new PWRRUN HG foam (HG stands for 'Holy Grail'), which Saucony says is its most energy-efficient yet. It comes with the same race-legal stack as the Nike Alphafly, that’s 40mm in the heel and 32mm in the forefooting, with an 8mm drop. The stack is 5mm higher than the Endorphin Pro 3.
There’s a foot-long carbon plate to deliver stiffness from heel to toe and an aggressive toe spring. The forefoot has a slotted design to also allow for more natural foot flex from the medial to lateral side, too. That’s working with Saucony’s Speedroll geometry in a bid to create an efficient roll-through and lively toe-off.
The upper features a combination of knitted and mesh materials in a unique and somewhat fussy and fiddly design made up of multiple components. The knitted heel collar is soft and pliable with a sort of external sling for heel hold but no plastic heel counter. There are cutaways to the side walls with separate support straps that help with foothold and fit. The perforated mesh is nicely breathable and airy.
To add to that feeling of spring, cushioning and protection, there’s a PWRRUN+ sockliner inside, too. Flip them over, and the outsole is virtually covered with a thin layer of a relatively smooth rubber, a bit reminiscent of the Vaporfly outsole but with more coverage for grip and durability.
This pretty minimal design brings the Saucony Endorphin Elite in at an impressive race weight – just 7.5oz / 211g in a UK men’s size 8.5. That’s lighter than the Nike Alphafly Next% 2 (8.7oz / 248g) and the Adidas Adios Pro 3 (7.6oz / 216g).
Saucony Endorphin Elite: Fit
When it comes to fit, I ran in my regular size, UK 8.5 and I found these ran perfectly fine true to size. Step in comfort is pretty solid with a natural, disappearing feel on the foot. The traditional laces and half gusseted tongue make them much easier to get on than the Alphafly’s booty fit. A real plus if you have a high in-step.
There’s ample room in the toe box and no pinch points across the top of the mid foot like you might get with the Adidas Adios Pro 3. It was easy to get a reliable lace lockdown and good heel hold, despite the uppers having a slightly odd selection of moving parts and the blob-of-cushion heel design.
Saucony Endorphin Elite: Running performance
In testing, I ran north of 70 miles in the Saucony Endorphin Elite. That included a solo marathon (not in a race) at a marathon race pace and an all-out 5k time trial at a sub-19 minute pace. I also did a 10km, some interval sessions and slower plods. All on tarmac and pavement but with one 15 miler on the track.
After all that, I can confidently say that I like this shoe. I like it a lot. I found it nicely balanced. Light and racy without feeling too stripped back and exposed. If Saucony was shooting for a marginally tuned-up alternative to the Endorphin Pro 3, this is it.
The ride is lively, energetic and propulsive, everything you want in a super shoe. It offers noticeably more bounce than the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, particularly when you're running in good form. But it also maintains a pretty good level of stability compared to other super shoes. I found the midsole running platform more protective and stable than shoes like the Adidas Adios Pro 3, with a decent, reliable base to run off at most paces.
In the latter stages of my 3:15 solo marathon test, I had some foot fatigue with a little more ground coming up through the bottom than perhaps is ideal. That's something I've noticed less in the Alphafly Next% 2 or the Adidas Prime X Strung, or even ASICS Metaspeed Sky+. There were also a few occasions when I felt some unhappy pressure under my toes. It's tempting to put this down the way the midsole and carbon plate flexed underfoot. But it came and went. And overall, the Elite were just about protective enough to soak up the road even when my form got ragged towards the end of my marathon test. However, I'm not sure they'd offer enough protection over 4-5 hours.
My marathon test also took in some seriously wet, windy and miserable conditions, but the grip held up well. I'd say these will do ok in city marathon conditions without too many sharp twists and turns. Those open mesh uppers also did ok. They let water in, but the shoes never felt heavy or bogged down, even in pretty torrential conditions.
Saucony Endorphin Elite: Durability
The Elite’s thin layer of outsole rubber covers the majority of the base of the shoe, so there’s little midsole foam exposed – something that can damage other carbon race shoes. And after 70 miles, there weren’t any worrying signs of wear and tear. At least not for this 80kg mid-to-forefoot striker.
However, I have question marks over the durability of those fiddly, fussy multi-component uppers. There are a lot of moving parts here, and I worry that the separate heel cushion and the medial and lateral support straps might collapse over time. Or just not hold their shape and fit over time.
Saucony Endorphin Elite: Value
I also have questions about the price. These come in right at the very top whack for a set of carbon-plated race shoes. And I think Saucony may have overcooked it here. Are they that much better than the Endorphin Pro 3? I'm not convinced there's a big enough difference here to warrant the extra outlay. Are they better than the Adidas Prime X Strung? Not in my book. The value here is definitely up for debate.
Saucony Endorphin Elite review: Verdict
This is an odd one. I've enjoyed running in these shoes. They offer a really good balance of propulsion, energy and response with a decent amount of stability compared to some of the other carbon shoes out there. Based on the speed, ride and comfort, Saucony has a shoe that is up there with the top-tier racers like the Nike Alphafly Next%2. Even if it's not quite as punchy. This is a shoe lots of people will enjoy for faster efforts and all-out races.
But here comes the but. And it’s a big but. That hefty price tag, particularly if you’re buying them in the UK, makes them harder to recommend. While it’s a good shoe, the Saucony Endorphin Elite isn’t quite as good as the Alphafly or the Adidas Prime X Strung. And if you already own the Endorphin Pro 3, it’s hard to recommend spending the best part of £300 adding these to your rotation.
Even when you consider how cheap you can get the Vaporfly, this looks like a big outlay by comparison, particularly for comfort and efficiency gains that aren’t necessarily that big. These are a very capable race shoe but if Saucony had been a little more aggressive on the price, I think these would be a much easier shoe to recommend.
Saucony Endorphin Elite review: Also consider
When it comes to the best carbon race shoes, there are now plenty of choices. But the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2 still tops the pile as the best, most responsive race shoe going – particularly for distances like the half and full marathon. They’re punchier and more protective with a simpler race fit upper than the Elite (if you like a snug booty fit), and when it comes to all-out efficiency, they’re still No.1.
The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is cheaper, marginally more stable, slightly more comfortable and a touch more protective over longer miles. You’ll sacrifice some punch and response for that long-haul comfort, but if you’re looking for a more versatile shoe that works for faster training sessions and chasing PBs – at a more wallet-friendly price – they’re worth considering.
If you like a more direct, lighter, minimal race feel, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 is still an excellent choice for racing across pretty much all distances. Look around the start line of any marathon and half marathon, and you’ll see just how popular they still are. The original combination of that smaller stack of ZoomX foam and the footlong carbon plate is still plenty poppy, the over a lightweight racing feel, and you can now find some excellent bargains on these.