Article by Joost De Raeymaeker and Ryan Eiler
Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 ($225)
Joost: It’s amazing to think that the supershoe is now a fully mature and diverse category, 5 years after most brands scurried to catch up with the amazing Nike Vaporfly 4%. (As a side note, the OG baby blue is in my opinion still the best Vaporfly to date). Not too long afterwards, most brands had some sort of plated shoe out there. Some were better than others, but it would be a while before the playing field was more or less level again. Saucony’s first plated shoe aimed at racing was the Endorphin Pro 1. It had a very aggressive ride and rocker and a modern Pebax-based foam called PWRRUN PB. I for one was a big fan of the shoe and although I didn’t think it was the best choice for my marathon races at the time, I put some 350 miles on my first pair during that training cycle.
In the meanwhile, World Athletics then established the 40mm stack height rule for competition and it’s become clear that most of the advantage of the plated shoes doesn’t really come from the plate, but from the foam and the plate/foam combination. As a result, the current trend seems to be shoes with a stack height just under the allowed maximum and some sort of modern foam, be it supercritical (or not) EVA, TPU or PB.
The first two versions of the Endorphin Pro (version two was nearly identical to version one, except for the upper) used PWRRUN PB in a version that looks like TPU expanded pellet based foams, but is the same process used on Pebax.
In comes the new version of the Endorphin Pro, now following the trend of nearly maximal stack height (39.5mm) adding 4mm front and back yet actually losing about 0.25 oz / 7g with a foam that looks the same, but at least subjectively feels a touch softer. The upper is also a completely reworked thin mesh. The only thing remaining from the earlier versions is the SpeedRoll technology.
So how do all of these changes thrown together affect the Endorphin Pro. Is it still the same shoe, or a different take on a basic formula? Let’s find out.
Lively, bouncy ride Joost/Ryan
Equally good at faster and slower paces Joost/Ryan
Soft and yet stable Joost/Ryan
Best SpeedRoll to date Joost/Ryan
Very secure midfoot hold Joost
Good to go for full marathon Joost
Highly propulsive Ryan
Upper might be narrow for very wide feet Joost
Durability of front of outsole Joost/Ryan
Some reports of achilles rubbing/blisters Joost/Ryan
Steer clear of white socks on you first couple of runs in the pink version Joost
Durability of lateral rear outsole Ryan
A bit of outsole grinding underfoot Ryan
Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results.
Ryan: A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can. He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line. More recently he has solo time trialed the recent super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K and with 10K’s close to 30 minutes and in 2021 set a marathon PR of 2:27 at the Maine Marathon.
Approx. Weight: men’s oz 7.25 oz / 206g (US9) / women’s oz / g (US8)
Samples: men’s (US9.5) 7.51 oz / 213g, 7.65 oz / 217g
Stack Height: men’s 39.5 mm heel / 31.5 mm forefoot, 8 mm drop
Endorphin Pro 2:
7.5 oz / 213g US9
35.5mm/27.5mm, 8mm drop
Available soon at Saucony here $225
First Impressions, Fit and Upper
Joost: I’d seen some photos, but I wasn’t prepared for what was in the box. A shiny purplish pink, gold and white shoe with all sorts of glittery reflection in the upper. It’s definitely been the subject of some comments, mostly positive around here on the streets of Luanda. This shoe definitely makes a statement.
The only part that’s a bit on the tacky side is the very obvious pink paint job on the upper bit of foam at the base of the heel counter. Very minor. I really like bold colorways like this and this one has me smiling whenever I put on the Endorphin Pro 3.
Talking about putting them on. My US M9.5 fits true to size. The midfoot is wide enough, but holds down the foot securely. The front is a little bit on the narrow side and I was afraid I might get some issues with my pinky toes, but running in them never was a problem.
You can feel the extra 4mm of PWRRUN PB underfoot upon walking around in them, and they definitely feel a lot softer than the previous versions. I think this is not only due to the extra 4mm of foam, but also to extra softness in the PWRRUN PB. All this extra stack and softness seems to take away a bit of the aggressiveness of the SpeedRoll rocker technology, something a lot of people will appreciate. You’re not on the tips of your toes the whole time with this version of the shoe.
As far as the upper is concerned, it’s made up of a very light and well ventilated engineered mesh. It felt a little sticky to the touch when I first picked them up out of the box, but this feeling is now mostly gone after 139km (86 miles) on them. The upper reminds me a bit of some track spikes uppers.
The glittery part is made up of the very thin base layer underneath the parallelogram shaped weave.
There’s a strip on the inside in the front providing good toe lift and some reinforcement in the area where shoes are most vulnerable for me: where the upper joins the midsole.
A large Saucony logo is glued to the upper on both sides of the shoe and might help secure the shape of the upper a bit, but doesn’t really offer any extra stability.
The tongue is thin, breathable and gusseted with a slightly elastic strip of fabric of about 1” on both sides.
There are 3 big circular holes in the tongue along a thin plastic strip. The plastic strip adds some structure and protection against lace bite, of which there is none.
The rounded V-shaped eyestay is also reinforced with the same type of thin plastic overlay that goes all the way to the faux-suede heel counter and follows it down to the midsole in the heel.
The heel itself has a bit of a stiffener and is decently padded.
Some people have complained about blisters on their achilles in this area. I took the Endorphin Pro 3 out for a full marathon training run after two short 5 mile runs the days before and there was a very minor blister on my right achilles that I only noticed when I took a bath afterwards, so there’s no problem for me. It’s worth checking out, though.
A final word about the sockliner. It’s glued in and made of the same PWRRUN PB foam as the midsole, offering some extra softness and bounce.
All together, a great light, breathable upper that just works.
Ryan: As Joost attests, the color palette is almost shocking right out of the box. A deep, purplish pink with iridescent finishings is certainly intended to leave nobody wondering whether or not that’s an Endorphin Pro 3 that just flew by.
The feeling when standing up in them is worlds apart from version one of this shoe — much deeper and with more lively rebound. It’s a robust platform that screams ‘propulsion’ and is among the stiffest road shoes out there. The mesh upper immediately feels strong but nicely structured, with traditional overlays on either side performing their usual supporting roles. This material which wraps all the way to the rear will certainly provide tons of ventilation, as I could easily read the text on the top of my socks through its large holes.
The very pliable, gusseted tongue makes for a pleasant and clean slip-on process. Lacing them up and dialing in the desired amount of tension was quick and simple, which I attribute to the minimal number of eyelets and slippery but slightly ridged laces. Despite my initial concerns, the holes in the tongue don’t cause any issues with lace bite, as the flat, tubular laces go easy on the bridge of the foot.
While the comfort factor is about as high as one can expect from a racing shoe, I have to address the one glaring showstopper — the blisters. I’ll spare you the photos, but I experienced moderate but fairly unpleasant blisters on both achilles during my first two runs in this shoe. Mind you, this is coming from someone who never has this problem. There isn’t anything clearly wrong with the shoe’s geometry to the eye, but the fallout was nearly enough to ruin the fun of the joyous midsole under my feet. Luckily, this phenomenon seemed to subside after the third run.
My US9.5 fit true to size, and felt snug but not particularly cramped anywhere.
Joost: The not so secret sauce of most modern supershoes lies in the midsole foam/plate combinations The Endorphin Pro 3 has 4mm of extra stack height, coming to within 0.5mm (which is very little) of the legal limit for official road races. Not that anyone would ever ask the non-pros of us to take in our shoes to be verified before or after a marathon, lest we beat some record, but these are officially on the approved list, so no worries there.
Unlike the previous versions of the shoe, there’s no real indication as to where the plate actually is, until you turn over the shoe and have a look at the bottom. Through 2 big cutouts in the midsole, one triangular in the middle and a longitudinal one in the forefoot, it’s very much visible. We’re talking about an S-shaped carbon fiber plate, meaning that it’s higher up in the midsole in the heel section and curves gently down towards the forefoot, where it’s located more in the bottom of the midsole. Pretty standard in lots of supershoes.
The PWRRUN PB foam feels a little softer to the touch. The extra foam might potentially make the shoe less stable, but Saucony has added about 10 mm of width in the heel (lazily measured on my pair of US M9.5) and an extra 5 mm in the forefoot. This extra foam in the forefoot is mostly in the lateral ball of the foot and helps with stability. The geometry of the plate, together with the added width and the different outsole geometry (more on that in the next section) make the Endorphin Pro 3 very stable for such a high shoe. The foam is also raised a little on both sides of the midfoot and at the bottom of the heel to further add to that stability.
Ryan: I don’t disagree with any of Joost’s thoughts above. I was pleasantly surprised by how stable this midsole turned out to be, given how soft it feels to the touch. There’s clearly a very sizable and robust plate at work throughout most of the PWRRUN PB foam. It’s been providing such a pleasant feeling underfoot that I keep looking for excuses to run this shoe — yes, even on moderate recovery runs. I even laced these up after wearing the Nike Streakfly for a workout, and the Saucony’s stability and propulsive power became even more apparent.
The ‘trampoline’ effect is very obvious here, and the Speed Rolll shape of the forefoot works extremely well to propel one forward. I agree again with Joost that this Speedroll shape is far less harsh than in previous versions of this shoe with lower, firmer stacks. This seems to be the sweet spot for this forefoot shape. Everything is well controlled and highly directed — there’s not a hint of sloppiness to be had.
Perhaps not so surprising was the shoe’s fatigue reduction abilities. I felt a stark difference running 16 miles in these vs a pair of fairly new Asics trainers. The cutouts you can see in both the midfoot and the forefoot of the PWRRUN PB played no perceptible role underfoot.
Saucony seems to love carving its midsoles/outsoles into sections, which often works out well, but in the instances where very soft foam is used in the midsole it can create a dynamic where the outsole splays out in different directions under impact. On asphalt surfaces, it feels like a slight grinding of the rubber at the point of maximum compression, when differing sections of rubber move about in independent directions. I felt this effect slightly in the heel of this shoe, and while it probably doesn’t detract much from performance, it’s not the sure-footed feeling that I prefer.
Joost: The outsole configuration is very different from previous versions. Both forefoot and heel have obvious differences. Let’s start in the back.
The heel has the traditional Saucony cut-out piece of rubber on the medial side, but instead of a more diagonal running separation, the heel is now longitudinally decoupled with a midsole cutout of a couple of millimeters. The lateral side has a diagonally ribbed piece of what Saucony calls XT-900 rubber.
In the forefoot, instead of the usual 3 part longitudinal outsole, there’s now a big slab of the same XT-900 rubber going around most of the cutout and another ribbed piece in the toe-off area, probably for extra traction there.
Both pieces are actually continuous, but there’s a groove between both different areas to help with the SpeedRoll. The fact that the front outsole is now basically a single piece adds to the lateral stability of the forefoot, which might have been compromised with the added 4mm of soft PWRRUN PB if the structure of the previous versions had been maintained.
Traction is great, but wear could be an issue for people who shuffle or overstride. The ribbed front bit of the outsole has begun to visibly wear down after 86 miles. In Saucony’s defense, the toe-off area is always an area of great wear of my shoes.
Ryan: The outsole is modestly textured and provides a smooth and consistent ride with a great amount of traction. I especially love the large, continuous slab of forefoot rubber, which shows no signs of instability. I do share Joost’s concerns about durability, though. After about 65 miles, I’ve seen an amount of wear in the toe and the lateral heel that I wouldn’t have expected for another 60 miles or so.
Joost: So what does this all come down to in terms of ride? The Endorphin Pro 3 has a different ride from previous versions, as is to be expected. It rides a lot softer due to the extra foam, but thanks to the carefully thought out mid- and outsole geometry maintains stability. I’ve used it for everything from track repeats, recovery jogs, to a full coaching/training marathon almost straight out of the box and it’s done very well at all those things.
The SpeedRoll is less aggressive in the Endorphin Pro 3, again due to the extra amount of soft foam, but it’s still there. Instead of being right on the tips of your toes with very little foam underneath in that area as in version 1 and 2, it actually reminds me a fair bit of the feeling I got when I put on my first pair of baby blue VaporFly in 2017 for the Berlin Marathon. It’s got that feeling of falling forward with every stride that was so characteristic of that shoe. I also really appreciate the extra width in the lateral ball of the foot, which is where I land. The Endorphin Pro 3 transitions well, is very bouncy and never gave me the feeling of bottoming out.
Ryan: As much as any shoe in recent memory, the Endo Pro 3 relentlessly urges you forward. Its maximum legal stack height makes for a delightfully bouncy ride, and a wide, slightly rockered geometry creates a buttery smooth transition up onto the toe. The timing of the midsole’s energy release seems to coincide perfectly with toe-off, whereas in earlier versions, one could argue that the toe roll felt a bit forced. When PWRRUN RB is combined with the stiff plate and the Speedroll geometry, it delivers a propulsive feeling that truly saves a couple heartbeats per minute.
I got the feeling that my ground contact time was shorter, and my stride longer, which my various electronic devices seemed to corroborate. One final plaudit for the ride has to do with its pleasantly neutral and balanced stability throughout the entire stride. Neither the lateral nor the medial side ever seem to dominate, and the shoe feels willing to adapt to whatever type of foot strike you throw at it — as long as you keep moving forward. Simply put, it’s the kind of ride which makes you want to tack on a few extra miles, even if you’ll be late for work.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Joost: The Endorphin Pro 3 is a great evolution of the Endorphin Pro line. For me, it’s better in every way than its predecessors. Saucony has found the right formula of balance between all the elements of geometry, midsole foam, plate and rocker in this one.
I had heard of some issues with the heel giving some blisters on their achilles’, so I was a bit reluctant to go almost straight out of the box for a full marathon in them. Then again, it was a training run for me, pacing a group of my athletes at an informal local marathon.
The main aim was to do an easy 3 hour marathon. A couple of my faster guys took off after about 5 miles to finish relaxed in 2:41 and I stayed with the slower bunch up to around the half marathon mark, where I helped them navigate a hilly section. We were going more or less at 2:56 pace and then I just let myself go a little, accelerating gradually to just under 6min/mile pace for the final bit and an easy 2:51 finish. The Endorphin Pro 3 was great all the way and is in my opinion a serious contender as a marathon shoe. The next day, I took them out for my usual recovery spin and they felt equally great at recovery paces.
At $225, they’re also a bit less than most competing supershoes, so that’s another plus. And then there’s of course this wild pink finish of the first version. You just gotta love it!
Joost’s Score: 9.63/10
(Ride 50% – 9.8, Fit 30% – 9.5, Value 15% – 9.2, Style 5% – 10)
Joost’s Smiley Score: 😀😀😀😀😀
New! This score is about how pleasing/fun, or in the case of race type shoe effective the shoe is
Ryan: This is undoubtedly a step forward in the Endorphin Pro line. What’s certain to be a crowd-pleasing midsole with propulsive abilities meets a comfortable but capable upper. The shoe’s midsole stiffness delivers a stable package which is surprisingly versatile, and can handle all but the slowest of runs. I think the price point of $225 is justified relative to its current competitors. Initial blisters out of the way, my other shoes will find some recovery time until I’m able to wear through the rubber on these.
Ryan’s Score: 9.4/10
(Deductions for achilles blisters, outsole grinding underfoot, and outsole durability)
Ryan’s Smiley Score: 😀😀😀😀😀
Watch Joost’s Endorphin Pro 3 Initial Video Review (11:56)
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Endorphin Pro 1 & 2 (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): I was a big fan of the snappy and aggressive Endorphin Pro 1. Version 2 hardly changed anything. This one is a different beast, though. A lot softer, especially in the forefoot, on a considerably wider platform at 10g less weight in my US9.5 and with a ride that’s better suited to all sorts of paces. Unless you can’t live without that aggressive rocker of the first versions, the Pro 3 is definitely an upgrade.
Ryan (M9.5 in both): Agree 100% with Joost. V1 is basically a slimmed down, harsher and more aggressive version of V3. I’ve used V1 for many track workouts given its feeling of being low to the ground. Aside from the outsole durability, which seems to suffer in V3, I prefer almost everything that V3 has to offer over V1. It’s a much more versatile, leg-saving, and enjoyable shoe to work with.
Nike Alphafly 2 (RTR Initial Video Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): Both at the limit of what’s allowed in terms of stack height by World Athletics, they are quite different shoes. The Alphafly 2 is a lot bulkier underfoot than the Endorphin Pro 3 and that also shows in the weight difference. 1 oz more for the Alphafly 2 adds up to quite a bit at the tail end of a marathon. The ride of both shoes is very different. The Endorphin Pro 3 feels a lot less “present” while running. There’s no ignoring the loud Alphafly 2 that requires you to run the way it wants to get the most out of it. The Saucony is the better shoe if you have a course with lots of bends and turns. If you want to plod forward endlessly, the Alphafly 2 is the better choice. For sheer speed, again the Saucony is the better shoe.
Watch Joost’s Alphafly 2 to Endorphin Pro 3 Comparison Review (10:00)
Nike Alphafly 1 (RTR Review)
Joost (M10 in the Alphafly 1 and M9.5 in the Endorphin Pro 3): I had to size up in the original Alphafly because of a bad big toe blood blister problem. The bigger version never felt really 100% comfortable. I felt there was just too much shoe on my feet and didn’t really enjoy the lack of stability and the mechanical vertical energy I had to put into the shoe to get something back. Endorphin 3 for the win.
ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): I’ve just started to test the Metaspeed Sky+, so I haven’t yet developed a firm opinion of it yet. It reminds me a bit of the Alphafly 2, sans Airpods, but there is also definitely a part of the ball of the foot that has to be “overcome” to get the most out of them. If you’re a physically very strong runner with a good stride, the Metaspeed Sky+ will probably serve you better than the Endorphin Pro 3. Otherwise, go with the Endorphin.
New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): The softness of the RC Elite 2 is unmatched. That also makes it a bit more unstable and potentially less energetic. For long training runs, I might go with the RC. For races, definitely the Endorphin.
Nike Vaporfly 4% (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): Ahhhh, the original baby blue Vaporfly 4%. I don’t know if it is one of those memories that are stronger than the actual facts because of the impact and difference between it and what I was usually wearing in 2017 (Streak 6) before the VF, but to me, it remains to the present day the best of all the supershoes. The Endorphin Pro 3 reminded me a bit of the original Vaporfly because of that softness and the forward falling feeling. If I could have one more of those original pairs of Vaporfly, I would definitely use them in my next race, but as things stand: Endorphin Pro 3 it is.
Nike Streakfly (RTR Review)
Ryan (M9.5): The Streakfly is billed as Nike’s 5k/10k racer, although I felt it to be a bit underpowered due to its lack of stiffness and toe-off power. By contrast, this new Endo Pro V3 has boatloads of propulsion, is far stiffer and more stable than the Nike. The Nike wins on weight and price, coming in around 1.4 oz lighter and $65 cheaper. It’s also more suitable to casual running, as it is far, far more flexible and natural feeling at slower paces. Both shoes’ uppers are equally impressive, and are capable of comfortable but confident lockdown. However, for moderate-fast running, I strongly prefer the Endorphin. It’s a far more stable shoe, with gobs of power thanks to its explosive PWRRUN PB midsole and Speedroll shape. The Saucony also wins on cushioning and fatigue prevention. Both shoes fit true to size.
Brooks Hyperion Elite 3 (RTR Review)
Ryan (M9.5): The Saucony wins this duel, hands down. While the Brooks is also stiff and bouncy, the Endorphin Pro 3 is more refined, forgiving, comfortable, and propulsive. It’s also a few bucks cheaper. On the Brooks, the DNA Flash foam doesn’t seem as lively, and comes across as a simple slab of bouncy foam, rather than the soft cradle of control that the EP3 offers. The HE3 is definitely firmer/harsher, and its overall design doesn’t feel as welcoming. The mesh uppers on the shoes are equally strong, but the EP3’s seems more ergonomically friendly – aside from the achilles issues I mentioned above. A much softer, more fluid ride also makes the Saucony a more versatile choice. The Brooks ran quite long, and felt at least a half size bigger than the EP3.
Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes by Saucony. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’
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