If you’re looking for a cushioned, marathon super shoe with an aggressive toe-spring which provides a forward-tipping sensation, the Endorphin Elite is your shoe. If you find the Endorphin Pro 3 too soft, the Endorphin Elite has a firmer, more stable ride.
If you’re looking for a durable racer that you can use for training, the Endorphin Elite is not your shoe. It is one of the least durable super shoes on the market. It’s also a stiff, maximalist racer so if you like flexible racers with a high ground feel level, it’s also not your shoe.
More and more brands are coming out with their premium super shoe. Nike has the Alphafly Next%, Puma has the Fast R NITRO Elite, Adidas has the Prime X and now Saucony has the Endorphin Elite. These beasts have radical designs, premium technologies and/or premium foams and come with a heavy price tag.
I reviewed the Endorphin Pro 3 earlier this year and while I thought it was a big improvement over its predecessor, I felt that it still needed some tweaking to be considered S-tier. I wished it was more propulsive and that it had a more aggressive toe-spring. It also had a very snug toe box which I wasn’t a fan of.
Now, Saucony has a new flagship marathon racer in the Endorphin Elite which sits above the Endorphin Pro 3 in terms of price. The Endorphin Elite uses Saucony’s brand-new PWRRUN HG foam. It also has a new, stripped-down upper, a new type of outsole rubber, and a new midsole geometry.
The Endorphin Elite weighs 7.2 oz (204 g) which is the exact same weight as the Endorphin Pro 3. It also has an 8 mm drop with 40 mm in the heel and 32 mm in the forefoot. The US price has not been revealed yet but my pair cost 430 SGD which converts to 317 USD. I estimate that it will come in at a price range of 250 – 275 USD in order to be competitively priced.
The first time I saw an image of the Endorphin Elite it looked like a hideous monstrosity, part sandal, part clog. In hand however, it looked a lot more “normal”. The slime colourway which mine came in reminds me of the green Vaporfly Next% 2 launch colourway.
My first run was some short strides the day before the Singapore marathon. I wore thin socks on that run and the foot lockdown felt terrible. The heel felt really loose no matter how tight I tied the laces.
It felt really fast though with the most notable thing being the really aggressive toe-spring which felt like it was tipping me forward. I decided to take a gamble and wear it for the marathon.
During the race, I had no problems with heel lockdown: fit was much better with thick socks. It was raining lightly for the first 2 hours and the grip was decent but not spectacular: painted lines on the road still felt slippery. I was pleasantly surprised how stable it felt for a 40 mm stack height shoe and my foot strikes felt planted the entire time.
The ride felt surprisingly firmer and less bouncy than the Endorphin Pro 3 but still very well cushioned- enough cushioning for a full marathon. What I enjoyed most was the aggressive forefoot which made it feel really propulsive.
The Endorphin Elite’s upper has a lot going on and it was designed with the main objective of being lightweight. It’s a combination of knitted material in the rearfoot and mesh in the midfoot/forefoot.
I found ventilation excellent due to the large holes in the sides of the midfoot. There are also lots of small holes punched into the tongue, while the mesh in the midfoot/forefoot is very porous so it lets through a lot of air. The thin, flat tongue is gusseted and there isn’t excessive tongue slide during runs.
It has a strap that wraps around your midfoot and underneath the carbon plate to secure your midfoot. The heel tab and collar are made from a knitted material and don’t irritate your ankle. The heel tab also has some padding on the inside to prevent blisters.
There’s no heel counter but there is a horizontal strap which is designed to secure your heel. It works fine for me with thick socks but I’m sure there are plenty of runners with low-volume feet who will experience heel slippage no matter how tight they tie the laces.
The forefoot and toe box are accommodating and it fits true to size unlike the Endorphin Pro 3 which I recommended going up a half size due to the narrow toe box. The overall fit is still on the narrow side so I don’t recommend it for wide-footed runners.
The Endorphin Elite feels faster than the Endorphin Pro 3. The main contributing factor is the toe spring and how aggressively it curves upwards. This makes transitions from midfoot to forefoot faster and I find it easier to increase my cadence. It’s this geometry that I was craving when I ran in the Endorphin Pro 3.
The most similar feeling shoe is Vaporfly Next% 2 which also has the forward-tipping sensation however the Endorphin Elite feels even more aggressive because the midsole foam of the Elite is firmer than that of the Vaporfly.
PWRRUN HG is a very different foam to PWRRUN PB and it doesn’t consist of tiny pellets which have been fused together. HG still feels like PEBA but it has a slightly firmer ride than PB. I don’t mind the firmer ride but I prefer PB because it feels more energetic and more bouncy.
Saucony might try to put PWRRUN HG in future versions of the Endorphin Pro but I hope they don’t; it’s a step backwards from PWRRUN PB in my opinion. HG feels more similar to the older PWRRUN PB version that was in the Endorphin Pro 1 and 2: denser and less lively than the updated version in the Endorphin Pro 3.
In terms of cushioning softness, the ride of the Endorphin Elite feels firmer than the SC Elite v3, the Metaspeed Sky+, Prime X Strung, Adios Pro 3 and the Endorphin Pro 3. It’s slightly softer than the Alphafly Next% 2.
The midsole of the Endorphin Elite has 2 sections: the uncoloured cream foam at the bottom and the green painted foam above it. It’s deceptive because from the outside, it looks like an extremely tall midsole but your foot doesn’t sit on top of the green section, it sits inside. The green part comes up around your foot to provide lateral rails to guide your feet and improve stability.
Transitions are really smooth even though there is a large midfoot cutout on the lateral side which makes it look like a clog. This is because the medial side is filled in so there is no sinking-in feeling as you transition through the midfoot.
Transitions are not as rockered as in other super shoes such as the Endorphin Pro 3. You really need to lean in and load the forefoot to benefit from the Elite’s midsole geometry so the Elite works your calves much more than the Pro 3 and after long runs in the Elite, I can feel that my calves are a lot stiffer.
I find the Endorphin Elite really pleasant at a variety of paces because of how wide and stable its base is, although at slower paces above 5 minutes per kilometre (8:03 minutes per mile), it feels less special because you aren’t loading the forefoot. This is a super shoe which mid packers as well as elites/sub-elites can use because you don’t need a perfect foot strike to be able to run comfortably in it. It’s firm enough for shorter races like 5K’s and 10K’s and it’s also cushioned enough for marathon distances so I find it really versatile.
The carbon plate in the Endorphin Elite is just as stiff as the one in the Endorphin Pro 3 and I find them to be 2 of the stiffest carbon plates in any of the super shoes. The rigid plate in the Elite combined with its high toe-spring provides a significant snap which results in great springboard-like propulsion. The Endorphin Elite is one of the few, rare super shoes which have this springboard-like, forward-launching assistance.
So far, I’ve raced a marathon in it, done a long run and an interval speed workout in it and I’ve really enjoyed how much speed assistance it provides when I want to pick up the pace. It’s a racer, so naturally, it excels at faster paces. During really fast paces like short-distance intervals, the Endorphin Elite feels surprisingly nimble and agile for such a maximal long-distance racer. It gives you that magical super shoe feeling every time you do an uptempo run in it.
The outsole of the Endorphin Elite looks like a mashup of the ASICS Metaspeed series and the Adidas Adios Pro series. The rubber is thin, with a texture similar to the Adios Pro rubber while the forefoot with circular cutouts bears a striking resemblance to the Metaspeed.
There isn’t any rubber coverage on the medial side of the rearfoot so my pair has been grated down by the road. You can tell that Saucony designed this shoe for midfoot and forefoot strikers.
PWRRUN HG isn’t very abrasion resistant when it comes to scuffing. I don’t think I’ll be able to get a lot of mileage out of the Endorphin Elite because of the lack of rubber coverage and also how thin the rubber is. This shoe is one that you can only use for racing.
If price and durability weren’t issues, I’d pick the Endorphin Elite over the Endorphin Pro 3. It feels more stable because of its wider base and it feels faster because of its super aggressive toe-spring. It’s not perfect though: PWWRUN HG lacks bounce/energy return and heel lockdown is not great.
If you don’t have either shoe and you want a super shoe, I’d recommend the Endorphin Pro 3 over the Elite because it’s more durable and better value for money. It also has an upper with better foot lockdown.
The Endorphin Elite’s biggest weakness is its low durability. If you’re a heel striker, the shoe just won’t last because of its lack of outsole rubber. It can’t be used for training workouts because it’s not durable enough so it has a very short lifespan. It’s definitely not value for money.
If you have deep pockets, The Endorphin Elite would work in a rotation alongside the Endorphin Pro 3 with the more durable Pro 3 for training tempo runs, intervals and any other speed workout. The Elite could then be reserved for races only.
I would definitely race in the Endorphin Elite again. It offers one of the highest levels of speed assistance I’ve felt in a racing shoe and it helps me with support towards the end of the race when my form gets sloppy.
There’s a reason why elite athletes like Parker Stinson are racing and training in the Endorphin Elite now rather than the Endorphin Pro 3: it’s the real deal. With the Endorphin Elite, Saucony finally has an S-tier racing shoe that can compete with the fastest super shoes on the starting line.