Updated: January 13th, 2012
Saucony Powergrid Cortana Running Shoes Review

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Lateral View

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana

Full Name: Saucony Powergrid Cortana
Category: Cushioning / Minimalist
Weight: 10.7 oz. (300 gr.)
Suggested Price: 145 $
Recommended For: Neutral runners, mild overpronators, and minimalist runners looking for great cushioning in a high mileage shoe. Or, larger runners looking to transition into a more minimalist shoe.

Saucony continues its Powergrid line of impressive and minimalist shoes based on the very popular Kinvara model. The hallmark of this series is a minimalist heel-toe drop of 4mm, Powergrid and Powerfoam in the midsole for cushioning, and lightweight breathable uppers that hug the foot. The Powergrid Cortana is no exception to these rules and Saucony continues to hit the mark with an innovative design that combines plush cushioning and a modicum of support with lightweight, low profile minimalism. So, what does this all mean? It means that Saucony has introduced a shoe with incredible cushioning with the feel of the Kinvara model; low to the ground and fast.

  • Saucony Powergrid Cortana First Impressions:

The Cortana continues Saucony’s new design principles of utilizing less overlays, more open mesh, and less plastic on the upper of the shoe in general. Trying the shoe on for the first time I was pleased to feel the “Sauc-fit” design which solves the sloppy upper problem that some runners complained about with the original Kinvara. This shoe locks your foot down and runs true to size.

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Upper View

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Upper View

The Powerfoam is noticeable right away and is an incredibly soft and plush foam cushioning that initially had me worried about whether it is supportive enough for longer runs. The forefoot is roomy, another recent Saucony fit change over the last two years which most wearers are very pleased with and the heel cup and heel collar are supportive yet soft without any spots that could be abrasive.

  • Saucony Powergrid Cortana Upper Design:

Supportive, breathable, and functional. Simple descriptors to define an upper that feels light and airy yet supportive. Air mesh covers the toebox and sides of the shoe, and what initially appears to be a flimsy mesh really holds up to a beating. The open mesh is reinforced by underlays around the sockliner of the shoe made out of moisture wicking fabric. The heel collar is also constructed of wicking anti-microbial fabric and feels soft yet supportive. The heel cup offers some synthetic overlays around the heel which connect to a firm but flexible, highly reflective heel cup. This is the kind of upper construction that will accomodate many different types of feet without feeling restrictive for those runners with higher volume feet.

  • Saucony Powergrid Cortana Midsole Design:

Saucony uses several types of cushioning in their current running shoe line. My initial impression of the Powerfoam, a soft yet responsive EVA pioneered for the Cortana initially felt maybe a bit too cushy for a high mileage running shoe. I quickly realized my initial impression was wrong several miles into my first run in the Cortana. After 12 miles on asphalt I sensed the Powerfoam condense, especially at higher speeds, yet maintained its springy response. This feeling was confirmed on subsequent runs and after 90+ miles in this shoe it keeps feeling better and better. The early notions I had about the Cortana lacking support were also nullified as the shoe holds up well on long runs despite the forgiving cushioning.

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Medial View

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Medial View

Support in the midsole comes by way of a “Midfoot Support Bridge, a thermoplastic unit that extends from the heel through the midfoot for increased torsional rigidity”. Although the shoe is marketed to neutral runners it is adequate for mild or moderate overpronators, especially those who have a mid-foot or forefoot strike and may not need much in the way of motion control in the heel of the shoe. This plastic device is minimal enough that I did not notice it during my runs, yet I did notice that the shoe seemed supportive when my running form turned sloppy towards the end of a long run.

The Cortana has a 4mm heel-toe drop which is really the only feature of this shoe that puts it in line with the minimalist philosophy. What are the advantages of having such a low drop you might ask? Easier transition into racing shoes that have low drops, mid-foot or forefoot striking to reduce impact, and decreased calf and achilles pain if transitioned properly. But a word of caution, runners used to high heel-toe drops will want to transition slowly into this shoe to avoid sore calves and possibly injury.

  • Saucony Powergrid Cortana Outsole:

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Outsole

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Outsole

In the Powergrid series Saucony uses a mostly flat outsole made of tough carbon rubber that doesn’t contain a lot of grooves or cutouts where rocks and mud could get stuck. If you’ve seen the Kinvara or Mirage soles, the Cortana has the same outsole design. This large relatively flat outsole increases surface area contact and improves traction.

  • Saucony Powergrid Final Impression:

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Ride

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana - Ride

Saucony has taken some solid principles from some of their most popular and minimalist shoes and put them together with the kind of plush cushioning and support you’d find in the Asics Nimbus, Nike Vomero, or Brooks Glycerin. All the bells and whistles without feeling like a maximum feature shoe as it weighs in at only 10.7-11.1 oz (depending on size and reference). The only catch with the Cortana is the price tag, which matches or exceeds that of other shoes in it’s class. However, the Powergrid Cortana may out perform them all in responsiveness and feeling race ready when it’s time for a tempo run or hard workout. I was pleasantly surprised by the Cortana during a short but fast track session and the faster I ran the more the cushioning seemed to firm up for me, providing me with just the right amount of responsiveness without feeling squishy. This aspect combined with the Sauc-fit mid-foot support which provides a really locked down feel make the Cortana a shoe that should be on the top of your list this fall.

Review by Tom Caughlan

Let us know what you think of this shoe in the comments!

We thank the great Christina at Saucony for sending us the Cortana for review. This didn’t influence the review of the shoe, written after running more than 90 miles in it.

  • Saucony Powergrid Cortana Price Comparison:

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases

Recommended reviews

Saucony Cohesion 15 Review

The Saucony Cohesion 15 has some serious "Dad Shoe" vibes. I was sent a boring ... (Read expert review)

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v3 Review

The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v3 is a lightweight daily trainer with a ... (Read expert review)

New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 v12 Review

VERDICT: The 880 is a great classic trainer with a modernized ride that ... (Read expert review)

Hoka Mach 5 Review

The Hoka Mach 5 is a lightweight, smooth-riding trainer which can fill a ... (Read expert review)

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 Review

The Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 is a long-distance specialist. Its highly ... (Read expert review)

Reebok Nanoflex TR Review

The Reebok Nanoflex TR is one of the best budget training shoes on the market, ... (Read expert review)