Saucony Xodus 3.0 Review

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.

The Saucony Xodus 3.0.

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.

Upper

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.

The Saucony Xodus 3.0’s lateral upper.

Midsole

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.

The Saucony Xodus 3.0’s medial upper.

Outsole

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.

The Saucony Xodus 3.0’s outsole.

Overall Impressions

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.

Tom Caughlan: is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

View Comments (51)

  • I definitely like these shoes on paper, and they look good too. I wish I could test drive a pair.

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  • The more shoe you have the harder you pound the ground. You can't realy feel the ground enough to realize it. So in the end your legs pay the price for heavy protection.

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    • Nigel,
      Just the sort of commentary I was hoping to inspire. I've been conducting my own experiment of one spending some days in minimalist shoes (mt110, inov8 190, mt 1010) and other days in shoes over 10 ounces and gauging how I feel afterwards. The jury is still out.

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      • Researchers and the University of Colorado have been looking into this problem. Recently they found that about 10mm of cushioning actually made you more efficient than none or 20mm.
        http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/myths-of...

        I have to admit a bias, since my sister worked in this lab for many years, but Dr. Kram is well-respected in his field.

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  • Curious about wet rock. The Peregrine 2's are terrible, like ice skates on wet rock, and I was curious to see if there was sticky rubber added for these.

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    • They (Xodus 3.0) are pretty horrible on wet rock, you have answered my questions on the Pergrine 2's it seems. They feel more like cleats, especially on mushy stuff. Not my favorites, but they'll get used.
      Thanks for the write up.

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  • The flat, stretchy laces can be found on all of the updated Saucony line-up that features the drop in heel to toe differential from 12 mm to 8 mm. These laces are not exclusive to the Triumph.

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    • Thanks Alex, guess my research was incorrect. I'd only seen them for sure on the Triumph.

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  • Tom, after a year of running in minimalist or 0 drop shoes, My feet cried "enough". While I was recovering from a heel injury, I took a step back and started running in the Peregrine 2 which offers much more protection then a true minimalist shoe. Like you a low heel drop works best for me and after the minimal shoes, the Peregrine felt like a Jeep over the rough stuff. Then I noticed something else. Despite the added weight an stiffness of the Peregrine, I was averaging a minute a mile faster over any distance over a couple of miles! Ok, I'm not an elite runner, but that tells me that low weight is not always best in trail running. Has anyone else experienced this? Minimal running helped me to improve my form but as soon as I'm done here, I'm going to order a pair of Xodus.

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    • Jacques: see the blog post I referenced above.

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      • Thanks Jamie, I've read all the research on the topic. My point is that at some point we need to find what works for us as individuals. In my case, I was just too tenative in the 10mil. footware [foot pain can do that] and I can't afford to lose anymore speed. I don't believe in overbuilt shoes, but I also believe that not all of us can handle the rock bruising of barefoot or near barefoot trail running over long distances. I do envy folks that can do it.

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        • I do agree with the article by the way. Sometimes I need to trade some efficiency for protection if that makes any sense.

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          • Makes a lot of sense to me. I wear an Xodus for rough, longer trail runs, Peregrines for longer, usually smoother trails, and Trailrocs for short or scrambly runs.

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          • Jacques, since you injured your heel while wearing minimalist shoes I can only assume that you were heel striking. The whole point of minimalist shoes is that they, I don't know what word to use here, encourage? demand? that you develop a natural forefoot or midfoot strike. If you're landing on your heels in minimalist shoes you can almost expect to get a heel injury unless you've really got good form and a soft landing.

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        • Definitely. I love love love my MT101s, which other than the 10mm drop, are pretty darn minimal. I find my splits on short or long runs are significantly lower with these than with a more built up shoe. I've run in them with no issues up to 50 miles. And then.... I used them for the last 68 miles of Cascade Crest. Worked great, but more than the foot swelling afterwards, it turns out my arches likely gave out a bit, and I got a bad case of posterior tibial tendonitis/osis which I'm still fighting along with some other lingering ankle issues. I am sure had I run in a more supportive shoe that I would have a) been slower and b) not had the tibial tendonitis issues.

          So my new approach is while my feet are feeling fresh, muscles/tendons/ligaments are all firing, sliding, and operating correctly, I'll use the minimal stuff, and then swap into the more protective (in my case the always awesome Montrail Mountain Masochist) for the latter part of 100, probably from about mile 35(ish).

          I like how the comments all reference what works for you. The above (hopefully) works for me, but clearly wouldn't work for some. You have to determine what your body, joints, muscles like and can handle.

          While I have had no particular desire to try them yet, Karl M's occasional comments about the Hokas is also relevant here: he claims once moving to them, his feet are always recovered and never feel beat up, whereas they weren't with standard shoes he used before. There's something to be said for that! Maybe I should re-evaluate my position on them...

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          • Ken Z I'm right with you on that one. I ran in Fivefingers almost exclusively this past summer but since I've got some Fall races coming up I'm running more in regular shoes. I used to be very dismissive of the Hokas but ay this point my thinking is if they make one part of my body hurt a little less during a hundred miler maybe I'll give them a shot. Then go back to my Fivefingers and spikeless cross country shoes.

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  • Jamie, thanks for the link.

    I think the lesson here is do what works for you, and don't try to force something that doesn't because it's trendy. I think the next big book to hit the running world ("Born to Heel Strike: Tales from the Foot Coffin Tribe") can't be too far in the future....

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    • +50! :-)

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  • Tom: Thanks for the great review. I tried these shoes earlier this year and really wanted to like them. Unfortunately, the stiffness and clunkiness of them was a deal breaker for me. The fit and traction were excellent though.

    I personally like having a variety of shoes for ultra training--95% of my running is done on dirt. Most of my shorter runs are done in NB Minimus series; longer runs are done in Scarpa Sparks and Hokas. I really believe that the minimal shoes help strengthen feet, ankles and legs, so I use them regularly. But I will stick with moRE cushioned shoes for long runs and adventures.

    Happy Trails!

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    • Kim,

      They are stiff, and its difficult to transition between the Xodus and a flexible pair of shoes.

      Great point about foot strengthening which is how I prefer to use shoes like the NB MT10. I still cringe when I see somebody wearing them, or a shoe with similar features, in an ultra!

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  • Here's an option that works really well for me: I use a minimal-ish shoe, such as the Inov-8 F-lite 195 or Trailroc 245, and add a 3 mm Spenco pad. The Spenco pad is completely flexible but very cushy for being so thin. My feet feel great and the extra 3 mm doesn't seem to affect my form at all.

    Just sayin.

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  • What astroyam said about using insoles is what I've always wondered about. If you have a shoe that otherwise fits great, but you need a little more cushion for long runs. Couldn't you just throw in a neutral insole? Or if a great fitting shoe has a 4 mm offset, but you are more use to a 7-8 mm offset, couldn't you just throw in a heel pad or something?

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  • Thanks for the review Tom, I was wondering if these shoes were ever going to get some respect! IMO, they are a first class shoe that should be on the short list for anyone looking for a shoe in the Cascadia/Hoka/etc... ("battleship") class.

    My experience: Although I've now run two hundreds (Bear 2011, HR 2012), I don't really consider myself an "ultra runner" per se, "runner" is more like it. Ergo, I enjoy the local fast and furious 5K as much as an ultra, it's all just running to me. As such, I have a wide array a shoes in my stable, from featherweight racers to battleships like the Exodus. Each serve their purpose. At 6'2" 165# I'm a bit larger than the elites, but I still prefer the least amount of shoe I can get away with for the job at hand. I have both the Peregrine and Exodus in my fleet, and the Peregrine is by far the go to shoe for every day trail running. But ultras are a different story altogether. I showed up at the starting line at Bear and Hardrock with both on hand, hoping I could talk myself into the Peregrines for the lighter more nimble feel, but ultimately lacing up the Exodus instead. Subsequently, in both events I tried a mid race switch out to the Peregrines, both times immediately switching back to the Exodus at the next aid station. I honestly couldn't feel the weight savings/flexibility improvement I was expecting to, the only thing I could feel was the dramatic increase in pounding. I'm surprised to learn the Exodus is only 2mm more midsole, the feeling on foot is more like twice the cushioning, without feeling like marshmallows. In other words, perfect for long distances on rough trail. They handled those events with aplomb, at the finish looking like I'd just been out on a 5K trot thru the park. Solid. And judging by how bad my legs were beat up at the finishes, I can't even imagine how bad it would have been had I used the Peregrine instead.

    Take these observations for what they are, and nothing more. For example, I would choose the Peregrines for "shorter" ultras (maybe up to 100k), and perhaps "easier" ultras (Leadville), but for the rough stuff, I found the Exodus to be the bomb. I think of them as my mini Hokas (I can't get Hokas to fit anyway).

    Other notes: Of course it was the Exodus 2 I had for Bear, and the 3's are a nice improvement, most notable being going from big drop to 4mm drop, which was very good and matches the Peregrine. Last of all, no shoe is perfect and the one and only issue I had with the new Exodus is the the "cuff" of the shoe up at the final lace eyelets dug into the crease of my ankle a bit late in the game at HR. Nothing more than a little aggravation and possibly something that could be avoided with a different lace pattern, but sometimes minor tweaks become major improvements over time. It is the only tweak I can think of for future models.

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  • Perfect timing - thank you! I'm now running in a low-drop road shoe (Saucony Kinvara for most runs and Saucony Mirage for longer runs) and I was hoping to find a trail shoe that's also 4mm or less, but with rock protection and some cushioning for long distances/rocky trails. Will definitely give this one a try.

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  • I really enjoyed the Xodus in their first incarnation. However, the 2.0 had some serious problems. After only 200-300 miles, the interior padding of the shoes would wear out. I had deep holes in the inside heel section, which caused hot spots and blisters. I wrote Saucony twice and returned the shoes, which they replaced for free, but I have abandoned the brand. I've been back in Cascadias, which have been doing the job wonderfully. I hope Saucony addressed the issue in the 3.0, but I'm not going to take the chance on them again.

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  • I appreciate low-drop shoes but have been looking for a shoe with more protection for ultra distances. I bought a pair of the Xodus 3.0 to run the Leadville 100 in but the padding inside of the heel rubbed my achilles so I had to return them. I ended up landing on the Merrell Mix Master 2 which is more protection than a true "minimal" shoe. I would rather save my feet than shave off a couple of ounces. My preference for the long-haul is protection over weight. Let's be honest, most shoes are becoming pretty light compared with a few years ago. Train as you fight.

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  • Tom - You say the toebox is wide, but I have never had luck with Sauconys in that department. I wanted to love the Peregrines, but felt they were just too narrow in the toebox. (And the photos above make them look pretty low volume.) Have been happy in Brooks and NB which seem to have more room up front.

    As for the minimalist vs. "battleship" issue, it seems that there are more and more shoes coming out that are somewhere in between, and hope this market continues to grow. I have run most of my training runs and races up to 50 miles in 110s and more recently 1010s, but had my Cascadia 7s out yesterday (nursing a sore foot and thought the extra padding would help) and really enjoyed them. Like others, I think varying the footwear for distance, conditons, and just to keep the feet strong and happy makes a lot of sense.

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    • Andy, Like you I could never find a Saucony shoe that actually felt wide in the toe box. I've tried the Kinvara, Kinvara TR, and the Peregrine and they all were too narrow for my feet. Then came along the Xodus 3.0. I can honestly tell you that these have been my favorite trail shoe that I've put on my foot. The toe box is extremely wide and I've had no issues. I have about 200 miles on them already, and have done some great 20 mile runs in them with no issues. It's worth the try.

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  • Andy - I'm not sure which versions of the Peregrines you are referring to, but I've had both 1.0/2.0, as well as all 3 incarnations of the Xodus. The toeboxes of both shoes seem a little wider in this year's versions than last year. At least for me, they really nailed the fit this year.

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  • Oops, I should also note I have a pair of Brooks True Grits, and would agree they are a little wider up front. Brooks is probably the better choice for those needing a wider fit.

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  • I love these as an all purpose trainer although I prefer the 2's better. Have been using the Exodus line for years though. My biggest complaint though is the already mentioned flexibility. Although I love the shoe for many other features, it is the only shoe (of the four models I alternate between) I have rolled my ankle in, which I have done twice. If ankles aren't an issue though, I would definitely recommend as a trainer or to someone new to trails that hasn't gotten their feet used to the terrain yet.

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  • I love these shoes. Great review. My feet are too flat to run in minimal shoes and the xodus provide just the right amount of width and medial support, without sacrificing the quick, efficient feel you get from a low-drop shoe.

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  • Regarding flexibility, agreed they are noticeably less flexible than Peregrines, which is one of the reasons I spent most of my training time in Peregrines hoping to toughen up my feet sufficiently to handle 100M in them. But ultimately I couldn't, enter the Xodus.

    At the same time, compared to Hokas (store fitting/fondling attempts only = grain of salt) the Xodus feels to me to be vastly more flexible, which seems like the more appropriate comparison (battleship vs battleship). In fact, an inflexible forefoot seems to be part of the engineering of the Hoka models to date, offset by rocker. I'm not particularly well versed in that theory, maybe the speedy goat could weigh in. However, I have noticed my desire for a flexible forefoot diminishes the farther I run, in favor of more cushion. I'm not sure of the exact equation, but I suspect that is part of the engineering theory Hokas are built on.

    In the end, it's a right tool for the right job equation.

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  • Love my exodus. In my 3rd pair (around 1000 miles of training and racing on the first 2 with no excessive wear. I loved the first peregrines but my forefoot blasted through the lateral side of the upper after 400 miles. New peregrines widened toe box on the medial part of the shoe. Exodus fit my wide forefoot much better. Great on rocky CO trails. My favorite shoe ever. I put my orthotics in them and appreciate the low drop in a "real" shoe.

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