The Saucony 8mm Shoe Review of the Guide 5 and Triumph 9
The Saucony Guide 5 and the Saucony Triumph 9 have changed their heel to forefoot drop ratio. That is what all this hype about the 8mm is about. What has happened over the past few years in running is running shoes have went from a standard trainer with about a 12mm difference from the heel to the forefoot to zero difference with the minimalist shoes or simply with running barefoot.
The problem for a lot of runners that want to get a little lower to the ground, but still want a pair of training shoes is there was no in-between ground. You either ran in your trainers or you had to wear racing flats or basically water shoes to get that minimalist feel. Amid all this change was the fact that shoes don't really prevent injury in the first place. Good running form, a gradual increase in mileage and intensity of your runs are the best way to prevent injury.
No pair of shoes can save you from training too hard or running with poor form. Saucony intends to change all of this misinformation by taking some of their "flagship" shoes and reducing the heel size, but still keeping all the support and cushioning runners are used to with training running shoes. They want people who are interested in possibly running with a different stride to have a shoe that can act as a trainer, or as a shoe that helps you transition to running in minimalist shoes.
Saucony Guide 5 and Triumph 9 Features
Look and Feel –I received a pair of Saucony Guide 5. First of all, I loved the color. A royal blue mesh with a neon green Saucony "S" blazing on the side of my new kicks. The inside was soft and smooth. It flexed well and was easy to slide on and lace up. There are several other color choices if bright and bold doesn't suit your tastes.
The Saucony Triumph 9 for my wife are a light grey with pink on the heel as well as on the Saucony "S". She always prefers a shoe that isn't bright white because after some time spent running, a white pair will loose it's luster. The muted grey is a nice look if your running or just for wearing around town. Once again, Saucony offers a few different color choices as well for the Triumph model.
Shoe Type – Both the Guide 5 and the Triumph 9 are still training running shoes. These are definitely not minimalist shoes. I spoke with three of the "shoe dudes" at Saucony and they were making it perfectly clear that these are still a training shoe. They are designed for people who run with a heel strike. Since I had been training consistently in more of a minimalist shoe with the Saucony Kinvara 2 it felt a bit awkward landing heel first intentionally to test the cushioning. It felt fine for running with a forefoot strike pattern, although this area was a bit wider. My wife does run with a heel strike stride pattern on a distance run, and she said she didn't really notice much of a difference in the "heel feel." If anything she noticed a little more padding in the forefoot area of her Triumph 9s.
Foot Type Fit – The Guide 5 shoes are right in the middle as far as pronation control. They aren't really for supinators or severe overpronators. If you don't need a lot of help with your pronation, but you want some moderate cushioning, this shoe is designed for you.
With the Triumph 9, it is designed for people with a neutral or "high arch" in their foot. There is still a lot of support throughout the shoe and my wife noticed that it felt a little wide for her in the forefoot area.
Features – It's time for the shoe "lingo." I can't help but use their terminology in this section because I find it a little humorous. Every shoe company has lots of different ways to say they have different levels of support, and cushioning throughout the shoe. With the Guide 5, there is "ProGride Lite" or midsole foam from the heel to the toes. This feels nice and soft to the touch. The midfoot area has a nice support bridge made of "thermoplastic" to keep the arch stable. The upper is what I though was very nice. The open mesh breathed well but still felt warm enough in the cold weather of Wisconsin.
For the Triumph 9 the lighter weight can be attributed to two factors. First the heel is smaller, and the "PowerGrid" is like a hollow center under your heel for shock absorption. There is a hard plastic midfoot support bridge by the arch. On the top of the shoe, open mesh is visible with a very smooth "comfortride sockliner" underneath. They breathed well and felt nice for walking or running.
Weight – There was one benefit of reducing the heel size, even if it is still a trainer. They are both quite light compared to the typical 12 ounce weight of a running shoe. The Saucony ProGrid Guide 5 weigh in at 10.0 ounces in a men's size nine, and the PowerGrid Triumph 9 in mens tips the scales at a mere 10.7 ounces.
Wear and Comfort
I really like the feel when I wear them for both walking and running. My wife feels the same. The shoes don't sacrifice any comfort even with the difference in heel to forefoot ratio. When I was running, a few of the things that I noticed was the Guide 5 is pretty stiff when you turn corners or are up on your toes running fast. The Triumph 9 also were stiff on the runs because of the wide and stable base.
Getting Ready to Run – The "Comfortstride Sockliner" is quite flexible, so there was no issue getting the shoes on or off. The laces were easy to loosen up and tighten, although we did notice one odd factor. The little plastic at the end of the shoelace, or the "aglet" for you shoe gurus, was sticky. I'm not sure if that was how they were supposed to be, or something disturbing happened to our shoes before we got them. I'm probably overthinking this one, but it was fun to share.
Guide 5 and Triumph 9 Stiffness/Flexibility, Stability and Traction
Stiff or Flexible. Both Saucony 8mm models were pretty stiff. We tried to bend and twist the shoe with our hands and the only place where it flexed that much was in the forefoot as you roll your foot and push off for your next stride. Stiffer shoes usually mean they are designed for higher mileage or pace runs and not sprinting.
Stability. Because these shoes are not minimalist shoes, you can expect added stability. Both pairs had a nice wide base in the forefoot and heel.
Traction – The traction is pretty poor on the Triumph 9 and the Guide 5. They are definitely not good for trail runs. One area where I ran was under construction so I had to step off the pavement and trudge through some softer mud and wet grass. It was slippery to say the least. The sole won't wear out fast as it is thick enough for a lot of miles, but it doesn't have a lot of traction.
We approach running performance from three different speeds. First we tested the feel at a slow pace which we define as 10 minutes per mile or slower. At this pace, we ran with a heel strike first. We didn't notice much difference in the feel of these shoes compared to a 12mm drop shoe. They felt very good for a longer slow distance run.
A moderate pace for us is defined as somewhere between seven to ten minute mile pace. This pace is a little different for every individual as far as foot strike pattern. I hit the ground first with my midfoot at this pace, and my wife hits heel first here. For a heel striker the shoes feel fine, but they did feel a bit awkward at this pace as a midfoot striker. It still felt like a full sized trainer.
For a faster pace which we call anything under six minute pace, we tried running "up on our toes." The shoes felt a bit bulky at this speed. Even though they are lighter than a traditional trainer, these aren't racing flats.
Heel Drop - This is what all the hype is about for these shoes in the "middle ground." The Guide 5 the "stack height" or amount of cushioning in the forefoot is at 20mm. The height of the heel is 28mm for a total difference of 8mm. For the Triumph nine, the "stack height" or cushioning in the forefoot is 21mm. The heel stands at 29mm high. Quick math will tell you that 29-21 is a difference of 8mm. Once again, even with a lower heel than a traditional stability trainer, these are still training running shoes.
Summary – I have to admit, this whole process of getting a free pair of shoes from Saucony and then writing up a full review seems a bit surreal. I am gracious that we received two pairs of shoes, but I don't think these shoes are revolutionary. All this hype just means they took off a little padding in the heel, but they still should be fine for runners used to the "typical" running trainer. It's a step in the right direction for runners who want to get closer to the ground, but remember that your running form and the amount of mileage and intensity of your training are the two biggest factors that determine if you will stay healthy or come down with a running related injury.
The Saucony shoes are nice. Go ahead and purchase a pair if you are looking for that middle ground, but you don't want to convert to minimalist running. Recently in the Milwaukee Journal Off the Couch Blog I was reading a study of people that went to a shoe with a zero heel drop and decided to do all their training this way. It turns out that half of these runners couldn't stop themselves from being heel strikers and ended up with injuries. That might be the strongest argument for suiting up with the Saucony Guide 5 or the Saucony Triumph 9.