I always appreciate low drop shoes on the trail and until recently low heel differentials came only in minimal packages, which aren’t always protective and well cushioned enough for me over ultra distances. I often talk to runners who are conflicted about running in heavier shoes with more protection or trying to stretch the limits of their feet/joints by running ultra distances in minimalist shoes. Often times I find myself reaching for the lighter-weight shoes just to have that lower heel drop and feeling of agility I think it provides on the trail.
This fall I’ve been experimenting a lot with heavier shoes that are more protective after a chat with ultrarunner Zeke Tiernan prior to the Run Rabbit Run 50 miler. Zeke told me that while other elites might poke fun of the weight of his shoes during ultras, he appreciates the extra protection and does not experience foot issues. (Zeke has raced recently in the Brooks Cascadia 7 (iRF review) which weighs 12.2 ounces.). Obviously, Zeke’s summer of results speak for themselves and I began to ponder the reasons for my own minimalist choices. Zeke’s philosophy challenged my practice of going as minimal as possible for the distance. To be completely honest, sometimes my old practice left me with feet battered for days regretting I hadn’t worn more shoe.
So, I bring you the Saucony Xodus 3.0 ($110), a versatile, all around trail shoe weighing in at 11.2 ounces with a 4mm heel drop. Often overshadowed by the more popular Peregrine 2 (iRF review), the Xodus has its place in the Saucony trail line as it’s a bit burlier, able to handle tough terrain, and provides a little more cushioning.
To me, the Xodus fit felt a bit like the Peregrine’s upper with a bit more padding and support. The fit is moderate throughout the shoe with a wide toe box and no issues with rubbing or chaffing from seams. Open mesh covers most of the shoe with heavy reinforcement provided by sewn-on overlays. Though the upper retains flexibility, I can’t ever imagine wearing out this shoe as durable non-mesh materials are placed in all of the usual high-wear areas.
My favorite part of the upper was Saucony’s use of their Pro Lock, which is an external welded-on rubber webbing that really locks down the midfoot. The Xodus 3.0 also uses flat laces with some elastic stretch to them previously only found on the Saucony Triumph 9. I love these laces as they lock the fit in nicely without placing any pressure on the top of the foot aided by a well-cushioned tongue. Plus, I’ve never had them come untied on me.
ProGrid Lite foam is used throughout the midsole of the Xodus 3.0, which provides a fairly soft cushioning feel that enabled me to comfortably run on the road in these shoes. A higher density EVA foam is layered underneath the ProGrid Lite foam and some support is added through dual-density midsole material in the midfoot on both the medial and lateral sides. Though Saucony markets the Xodus 3.0 as a neutral shoe, an overpronator could definitely get away with this shoe as there is plenty of medial support.
As mentioned previously, the heel drop of the Xodus 3.0 is 4mm, and with an overall stack height only 2mm higher than the Peregrine, it doesn’t feel as built up as many of the heavier neutral trail shoes on the market.
A very durable Vibram outsole with a multi-directional lug pattern covers the entire length of the shoe. Rectangular lugs flare out on all edges of the outsole which offer great traction on cambered surfaces or while running on deeply rutted trail. The interior of the outsole contains triangular lugs aimed in all directions to handle any surface and proves to be a great all around outsole. A full-length rockplate runs just underneath the outsole and provides as much protection as any trail shoe I’ve ever run in.
If you are a trail runner who normally values protection over low weight, the Xodus 3.0 deserves a look. I admit, I totally overlooked this shoe until I put it on out of the box and ran a 26-mile training run over a mixture of smooth singletrack, sharp sandstone, and roads. No problems with my feet as the fit was already dialed in and felt like there was enough room for my feet to swell. My only complaint about the Xodus 3.0 is the lack of flexibility, which is noticed less while running then when you try to curl the shoe in your hands. But, what was lost in flexibility was appreciated in cushioning and protection.
I plan on challenging my views on minimalism this winter by training in a variety of shoes that will all likely include lower (0-8 mm) heel drops, but will vary a great deal in protection and amount of cushioning. Either way, the Xodus 3.0 will remain a great shoe for recovery days on the trail and long runs.
Ps. These do not come in a wide version.