In the carbon fiber arms race taking over the running industry, the new Saucony Endorphin Pro is Excalibur, Zeus’ mighty thunderbolt, or, perhaps even the Infinity Gauntlet. It is top-tier, a thing of beauty, and an absolute monster on the roads.
There are two necessary questions to answer when assessing the new wave of carbon fiber plated racing shoes. First, what is the shoe like? Very important. Second, how does it stack up compared to the gold standard that the the Nike Vaporfly, and now Alphafly, series has set? Perhaps more important. Let’s dive in.
Out of the box, the Endorphin Pro will make you tear up a little bit. Mostly because the shoe is truly beautifully designed, but also because of a noticeable chemical smell from the shoes (don’t worry, it fades pretty quickly). The shoe is flashy and bold with the mostly white color scheme, but it’s not gaudy. Aesthetically speaking, it hits the sweet spot.
On the foot, the Endorphin Pro immediately stands out in a few ways. First, you just gained a couple inches, but you are not sinking back into that PWRRUNPB foam. Second, the sole of the shoe is a bit wider than expected. Not necessarily the footbed, but your foot can relax onto a foundation that feels stable and accommodating. Third, you just fell forward. The rocker in the Endorphin Pro is legit. Saucony’s SpeedRoll technology comes from both the curvature in the outsole and the curvature of the embedded carbon fiber plate. As soon as your weight shifts to the ball of the foot, the shoe propels you forward in a way that I had never experienced before.
From the first few steps in the Endorphin Pro, it is easy to tell that you have a different beast on your foot. Yes, it is soft. However, it is not pillow-like. The overwhelming feeling is that this shoe is so bouncy! Upon a few more strides, the shoe disappears on the foot, which is unsurprising since it is only 7.5 oz. Running with the Endorphin Pro feels like running on a newly lain track, with each foot really popping off the ground. Except, despite all this bounce, the foot is doing considerably less work than it normally does.
It is easy to get rocking and rolling with the Endorphin Pro at threshold pace, tempo pace, critical velocity, or race pace. The shoe feels smooth even though the design is specialized for faster paces. My conclusions for the shoe were these: super high energy return while protecting the foot, awesome look, and they make running fast easier. I was never thinking about the shoe or my foot strike during my runs in the Pro; I did not have to. The shoe helped me stay fresher and faster for longer, making it the most fun shoe I have ever run in.
Endorphin Pro vs. Vapor/Alphafly Series
Now for the big question: how does it stack up against the reigning champ? Well, they are different animals. Let’s first look at the purposes for each. Where the Vaporfly is endlessly soft, the Pro is snappier. I have recently been using this analogy: the Vaporfly is like a trampoline, while the Endorphin Pro is like a diving board. They have similar purposes, but different feels. To that end, for many runners interested in the Endorphin Pro, it may work best as a 5k-half marathon race shoe because it is slightly firmer. I would argue that the Pro would be better than the Vaporfly at those distances because of the extra responsiveness.
However, the purpose of the design is not a hard and fast rule for comparison. For many runners, the feel of each shoe could be very different 10 miles deep. To that point, the Endorphin Pro definitely has a more accommodating fit. The shape of the footbed and upper of the Vaporfly are unique while the Endorphin Pro will be able to fit more feet comfortably. Similarly, while neither shoe has stability components, the Vaporfly can sometimes feel unsteady for runners without solid biomechanics and a slim, strong foot. Again, the Endorphin Pro, by virtue of the its firmer foam and wider sole, feels more stable and secure than the Vaporfly, which can reduce the mental toll of racing.
Finally, the value of the two shoes are different. The Vapor/Alphafly series has been notorious for not being durable enough for $250 or $275. Although that may change, right now, the incredible ZoomX foam does not have a long shelf life. The Endorphin Pro on the other hand, can withstand more miles at a lower price point ($200), and with more style (except for the Blue Ribbon Sports Vaporfly, that version is elite).
Both the Alphafly and the Endorphin Pro are phenomenal shoes that provide higher energy return than a shoe without a plate. However, the Endorphin Pro is better suited for shorter races and is able to comfortably accommodate more types of feet, which is why I think as soon as races begin to start back up, the legions of pink and green Vaporflys will increasingly be broken up by Endorphin Pros toeing the line.