Saucony Triumph 18 Intro
The Triumph 17 was my shoe of the year last year. It was everything I’ve ever wanted in a long-distance cruiser.
It had a plush, comfortable upper, a soft, responsive midsole that didn’t feel like a brick and a durable outsole that could last for years.
A max-cushioned shoe should be soft. Soft enough to provide cloud-like comfort and protection for distances over 30 kilometres.
Lots of brands market their trainers as max-cushioned and use terms such as “pillowy soft” and “cloud-like” but in reality, the ride isn’t soft at all.
Too often, there isn’t a big enough difference in midsole density between a brand’s daily trainer and its max-cushioned trainer.
For the extra $20-$30 more that you’re paying over the daily trainer, you should get a much plusher ride. The Triumph 17 was the textbook maximum cushioned trainer.
Normally, the new version of a running shoe is released 12 months after the previous version however, the Triumph 18 was released a mere 6 months after the Triumph 17.
We don’t know the real reason why Saucony did this but we can only guess that they now want the Triumph to have a mid-year instead of an end-of-year launch.
It was impossible for Saucony to use the market feedback of the current model to improve the next model due to the long lead times of creating a shoe, about 18 months.
The Triumph 17 was literally flawless and it didn’t need any improvements. So how do you improve the perfect shoe?
Saucony says that the Triumph 18 has been retooled for a faster feel. It has a new midsole design and an upper which is more streamlined and less padded.
On its outsole, gone is the ultra durable crystal rubber and in comes softer, blown rubber.
Have the changes that Saucony made to the Triumph actually improved it and is the Triumph 18 still the king of long-distance, max-cushioned trainers?
Saucony Triumph 18 First Impressions
The first thing that caught my attention when I opened the box was the Triumph 18’s brand new, chiselled Pwrrun+ midsole. It had a rough, dimpled texture compared to the smooth Pwrrun+ midsole of the Triumph 17.
When compressing the midsole with my fingers, it felt firmer than last year’s midsole and reminded me of the Everun foam on previous ISO versions of the Triumph.
The upper looked like it had gone on a 6 month diet. It looked less puffy than the Triumph 17 which had a chunky heel counter and the midfoot synthetic overlays were now gone on the Triumph 18.
Saucony claims that the Triumph 18 is snappier than the Triumph 17 so I flexed the shoe to test it. It still bent in the middle of the shoe but now it snapped back into place much quicker.
When I put the Triumph 18 on for the first time, my foot sank down into the thick insole and the TPU topsole. Step-in comfort in the Triumph series is second to none.
My first run in the Triumph 18’s was a long 32 kilometre run and they were comfortable right out of the box, no break-in required. The lacing required no adjusting and the upper conformed to my feet immediately.
Saucony Triumph 18 Sole Unit
The Triumph series was never a soft shoe but the Triumph 17 was the first Saucony shoe to feature their Pwwrun+ TPU midsole and the ride became much plusher and livelier.
I was relieved to find out that the ride of the Triumph 18 hasn’t changed much.
It’s rare that a shoe lives up to all the marketing claims but the Triumph 18’s Pwrrun+ midsole lives up to all the hype and is one of my favourite super foams.
It’s soft without being mushy, it’s responsive without being firm and it’s not as heavy as older TPU foams.
The TPU topsole which sits directly underneath the insole brings the cushioning system closer to the foot so foot strikes in the Triumph 18 feel even more bouncy.
Pwrrun+ is also unaffected by climate changes so it won’t become firmer in cold temperatures or softer in warm ones. On cold, Johannesburg winter mornings, my runs remained cushioned and springy.
These characteristics make the Triumph 18 the perfect shoe for relaxed long runs over 6 minutes per kilometre.
The difference between The Triumph 18 and other max-cushioned trainers is that it has more “pop” due to the bouncy quality of the Pwrrun+ so my legs feel fresher for longer during runs.
At the end of runs in the Triumph 18, I always feel like I can run a little bit further.
I like the Triumph 18 for long weekend runs above 25 kilometres and slow recovery runs but it also isn’t energy-sapping so it can also be used as a daily trainer if you prefer a plusher ride for the bulk of your training.
8mm is Saucony’s signature drop and it makes the shoe feel balanced and not heel heavy. It also makes it easier for me to strike towards my midfoot.
Ride transitions are velvety smooth as a result of the uniform, single density Pwrrun+ midsole.
Transitions are smoother than the Triumph 17 as only one type of rubber is used on its outsole compared to the combination of crystal and blown rubber on the Triumph 17.
The outsole of the Triumph 18 is a similar layout to the Triumph 17 but now there are two wide grooves which run vertically in the forefoot.
Traction is much better and the Triumph 18 is now not slippery on wet surfaces due to the absence of crystal rubber.
Stability is good in the Triumph 18. Your foot sits inside the midsole instead of on top of the midsole and your feet sink down into the foam so you get a distinct cupping sensation.
The black part of the midsole is like a rim around the shoe and acts as a guidance rail to keep your feet centred. The base of its midsole is also wide so footstrikes feel very planted.
Durability of the Triumph 18 is high. Its Pwrrun+ midsole is Polyurethane so it won’t get firmer over time.
I’ve also been impressed with the rubber outsole which hasn’t worn down much even though it isn’t crystal rubber anymore.
Saucony Triumph 18 Upper Unit
The Triumph 18’s upper is a luxurious masterpiece and rivals Brooks as one the most comfortable uppers that money can buy.
It has a thick, plush tongue which protects you from lacing pressure and its tongue is attached to an inner sleeve so no tongue slide occurs.
A smooth, silky material lines the insides of the Triumph 18. It has no irritating seams and caused me no hotspots.
The engineered jacquard mesh of the Triumph 18 is more breathable and feels thinner than on the previous version but it’s still one of the warmer shoes on the market and is more suited to cooler climates.
All the thick padding absorbs sweat so it will gain weight during runs.
One of the biggest updates to the upper is the addition of a hard, internal heel counter. There is now more structure and support in the heel area and heel lockdown is noticeably better.
This addition comes at a cost though as the Triumph 18 is heavier than the Triumph 17.
There are now reflective strips on the heel and the tongue while the Saucony logos are also reflective for better night visibility.
The laces of the Triumph 18 are the same as those found on the Triumph 17. They are soft and stretchy and begin to fray and get fluffy over time.
The Triumph 18 is free from midfoot overlays so the upper is more relaxed and comfortable compared to the stiffer midfoot of the Triumph 17. There are also new overlays on the sides of the toe box for extra protection.
My only gripe with the upper is that my pair had a manufacturing defect as the lateral-side overlay on my pair came loose after just one run but it could be that I received a faulty pair.
The Triumph 18’s upper is roomier than the Triumph 17: the main contributor is that its heel counter is not as plump so the foot sits further back in the shoe and frees up space in the forefoot.
Even though the upper of the Triumph 18 is roomier, it still runs true to size. The toe box is spacious and deep, and there is plenty of room for your toes to splay.
Saucony Triumph 18 Conclusion
The upper, midsole and outsole have all changed but the Triumph 18 performs only slightly differently to the Triumph 17. It definitely is an overall improvement but a small one.
Its mesh is more breathable, its heel counter provides a better lockdown and ride transitions are smoother because there is only one type of rubber used on the outsole.
Saucony has kept what worked well on the 17 and changed what didn’t work. It’s a more polished, cooler shoe with slightly softer landings and better traction on wet surfaces due to the absence of hard crystal rubber on the outsole.
If you’re looking for a max-cushioned, long-distance trainer which still manages to feel springy, look no further than the Triumph 18. Saucony has managed to better an already excellent product.
The big difference between the Triumph 18 and other top-tier neutral trainers is that it has the flair of new-age midsole materials.
For me, the Triumph 18 still reigns supreme as the best max-cushioned trainer in its category.
We purchased a pair of Saucony Triumph 18 from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.
Saucony Triumph 18 Price Comparison
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