“ Brand: Saucony / Type: Everyday stability road running shoe „
After 14 years of pounding the roads I had worn my way through most reputable brands of running shoes, with one notable exception. I had heard of Saucony shoes as their Jazz model was for many years the most popular running shoe on the market. For some reason I had resisted the brand until late last year when I spotted a bargain in the Sportsshoes catalogue, who were offering them for £39.95 instead of the RRP of £74.99. Granted, the Guide 2 has recently been superseded by the Guide 3 but the outgoing model is often only different in colour with maybe just one or two tweaks here and there. I had worn, and been impressed by, Saucony technical vests, shirts and shorts before, so I had high expectations.
The shoe is quite neat, if unspectacular, looking. The men's version is principally white flashed with navy blue and reflective silver trim. A search of the ladies' version revealed a choice of 3 colourways: all predominantly white with pale blue, pink or orange trim. The upper looks very airy and 'breathable', overlaid as it is with white meshed webbing. The sides are adorned with Saucony's dynamic logo in blue plastic. More practically, the same coloured material is used to cap and guard the toe box.
The most important part of the shoe, the midsole, is quite substantial with what seems to be a reassuring amount of stability on the medial (inner) side.
The outsole seems fairly standard but please note my comments below, under 'Performance'.
These shoes are a terrific, snug fit with a capacious toe box to guard against the runner's occupational hazard of banged,blackened and bruised nails. My pair are size 10.5 and, unlike some other brands, Saucony have got the size spot on. The disparity between some brands sizing beggars belief and I have often had to go up or down half, even a full, size. Conventional wisdom says that you should be able to feel a thumb's width clearance at the front of the shoe, which is the case with the Pro-Grid Guide 2.
The laces are a good sensible length and mercifully flattish with a tiny double seam. This design keeps the knot/s fastened far better than round laces, which can have about as much purchase as spaghetti in olive oil. I always double-knot the bow on my shoes as an extra precaution, but even a single knot leaves no trace of residual lace trailing on the ground as a potential trip hazard.
On the upside
I've worn these now for over 8 weeks and have run well over 300 miles in them. Despite this, they have maintained their bounce very nicely. This impresses me as I often run to work and back - a round trip of about 12 miles. This doesn't give much time for the midsole to de-contract which makes their bouncebackability even more remarkable. This feat is further enhanced when you factor in the added welter of my pretty hefty rucksack that I frequently run with.
My first impression was that they were maybe a little heavy to do much serious speedwork in, but this is offset by their surprisingly responsive feel. Unless you are of a large build, and/or have lower limb issues, I would not really recommend them for interval training on the track or for races. For such eventualities I would certainly recommend racing flats or a racer/trainer under 300 grams. Nevertheless, I have got a very nice tune out of them on longer tempo or lactate threshold runs. In my experience it's quite rare to have such a well-cushioned shoe that is also responsive, with a clean, zippy toe-off. The cushioning seems fine all round, but is particularly plush and roomy in the forefoot. I can testify to this as I had long been suffering from a niggly metatarsal in my right foot. Since using these shoes however, it has vanished. Maybe it's a coincidence but, even so, the fact that the complaint has been reversed and not degenerated into a chronic overuse injury is reassuring to say the least.
The support is terrific in guarding against overpronation (over-rotation of the ankles). This is achieved by a tangible shoring-up of the inner midsole to prevent the feet turning inwards too much. This helps to alleviate stress on my lower limbs, particularly guarding against shin-splints and worse. Please read more about the importance of choosing the right type of shoe below under 'If you do just one thing, do this'!
On the downs(l)ide
Despite all the ringing positives cited above it is with great frustration that I have to report a quite serious flaw. My issue is with the grip of the outsole, which has caused me to slip a few times during the cold snap. They also, very occasionally, have yielded ever so slightly on slick wet surfaces. Now, if I had attempted to run on ice or compacted snow then I would deserve to slip for being a fool. But one potentially dangerous incident took place on a coldish morning on my way to work. The pavement housed a very light covering of frost in places and was quite wet from an earlier shower. I had run in far slippier circumstances than this before, without incident. On this day, however,I was approaching a junction in a small village and thus applied my manual brakes a good distance before the kerb. However, the shoes turned Teflon as I nearly careered into the road. Only a wild flailing of arms and hybrid disco-dancing helped me to keep my balance. I'm sure the residents thought John Travolta had come to town! The section of pavement wasn't icy, just rather wet. I have also found the shoes to be lacking in traction on a couple of occasions when walking my dog. One particular morning was cold, but seemed fairly innocous underfoot. Again, I started to slide around. Now, I know that the shoes were at fault because other people walked past me with calm, vertical bemusement at this dog-walking freestyler! I went back to change into another pair of old running shoes, re-traced my steps and hey presto! - I had joined the ranks of normal, upright citizens. From an indoor perspective, I have found that they can slide around on certain tiled surfaces, so treadmill users at the gym should tread carefully in the changing rooms.
As the weather has warmed slightly the slipping has ceased, although I have occasionally noticed a very occasional slight shunt when running on damp, smooth surfaces. This is a serious problem, which needs to be rectified as, joking aside, it could prove to be fatal. Road running shoes obviously aren't made to grip in the way that trail shoes are, but they shouldn't react to and repel surfaces in this way. I have never encountered this problem in such conditions with any other model. As an American company, maybe Saucony don't have Brit-centric runners in mind. I have emailed them regarding this problem and will edit the review accordingly if and when I get a response.
Another more minor drawback is that the front of the shoe is like an open door for rain to enter. On one run I was caught in a sudden downpour and my insteps were soaked almost instantaneously. It felt like my feet had been hosed with a mega-bar pressure washer.
Come on Saucony, we don't all live in LA LA land!
If you do just one thing, do this!
You may have noticed that I have referred to the 'stability' features in the Progrid Guide 2. I can not stress enough the importance of choosing the correct type of shoe to suit your own biomechanic profile. At the risk of alienating all with runners geekspeak, I would just like to illustrate the importance of this by alerting you to a valuable life-lesson that I learned from painful personal experience. This may be of most use for beginners, although I am constantly surprised by how many seasoned runners are ignorant about choosing the right shoe for their individual needs.
I entered my first running race in August 1997 at the age of 29 after being forced to give up football due to continually dislocating my knee cap.
I chugged round the 10k route in around 46 minutes, which I was pleased with bearing in mind the previous night's preparation in the pub! After a half-marathon in September that I was cajoled into, and that nearly killed me, I entered my second 10k in October breaking the coveted 40-minute barrier. I was overjoyed with this as my enthusiasm gathered pace. I joined a friendly informal local running club and absolutely loved it. I was knocking lumps out of my personal best times for fun and couldn't wait until the next race day. Injury never crossed my mind, but even so I trained quite sensibly and allowed for recovery. By the following May I had run 10 miles in 58.30, in June a half-marathon in 1 hour 18 minutes and in July my 10k had plummeted to 34 minutes. I was pleasantly astonished by my rapid progress, as were many of my clubmates who now only saw the back of me! I then decided to enter the New York Marathon in early Novermber 1998. In September the jaunty soundtrack to my little biopic screeched to a sickening stop! First I felt a dull ache on the outside of my ankle. I later felt extreme tenderness in my shins and it became increasingly painful to run at even a moderate pace. I travelled to New York with a heavy heart, more out of hope than expectation. A short foray into Central Park confirmed my worst fears - there was no way I could run, or even jog, the marathon. My leg splayed out weirdly with each footstrike, to the extent that I expected people to start throwing dollars at me out of pity. I watched the race and had a good time in the Big Apple, but spectating ain't the same as participating. I was sickened, not just at the ignomy of 'Did Not Start' by my name but by the untimely arrest made to my general progress.
When I got back home I had fruitless x-rays but was eventually diagnosed by bone scan as having a stress fracture in each tibia. No wonder it bloody hurt! I am convinced that this was caused by me wearing the wrong shoes. This was nothing to do with cushioning but more to do with the biomechanics. In runspeak I was an 'overpronator' which meant I needed a 'stability'and not a 'neutral' shoe.
I had first started out with a pair of stability shoes (Asics Kayano) which was purely a happy accident as they were correct for me. I then moved on to some neutral models, as they were invariably lighter as they don't incorporate the extra materials to support the foot. Big mistake, for me at least!
Overpronation is when the foot strikes the ground and rolls too much inwards to help disperse the shock on impact. People with a neutral footsrike still naturally pronate to disperse the shock, but the rotation is not as extreme. The effect of continued overpronation is that it can pull on the very thin sheath of shin muscle, I suppose a bit like repetitive strain. In my case, prolonged lack of support tenderised and weakened my shins, putting extra stress on my bones.
Since this diagnosis and a permanent switch to support shoes I have never experienced shin pain. My advice would be to go to a specialist running shop that has a gait analysis machine. This monitors and identifies your individual footstrike as you jog or run on a treadmill. These were thin on the ground when I started out, but would be an absolute godsend to anyone starting out today. The terminology used by running shoe manufacturers is unhelpful at best, confusing at worst. For instance a 'cushioned' shoe often means that it is just that with no support features (ie: for neutral runners). This is ridiculous labelling as the vast majority of stability shoes have ample cushioning too. I believe that this blurred distinction is responsible for injured runners the length of the country. It is also a fact that overpronators make up the majority, so another notion of neutral as 'normal' is also grossly misleading.
For a less scientific, but quite effective, prognosis of your footstrike you can try the 'wet footprint' test. A fuller explanation can be found by pasting the following link into your address bar:
In a nutshell:
you will have a neutral footstrike (you need a neutral shoe)
you will overpronate (you will need a stability shoe)
you will seriously overpronate ( you will need a motion control shoe or possibly custom made orthotics after consulting a podiatrist).
So, if you do just one thing do go to a specialist running shop and get a gait analysis done!
Furthermore, forget about brands, colour, latest models (you can pick up previous year models at a fraction of the cost - the only real difference is often just the colourway).
If this helps even one person then it will have been very worthwhile. Here endeth the, painful, lesson -ouch! I think I need therapy now from re-counting my nightmare.
Back to the shoe. The Pro-Grid Guide 2 is such a frustrating animal in that it is a definite 5 star shoe-in-waiting. The fault with the slippy outsole however makes me reluctant to buy any more from this brand. It's probably fine for spring and summer running, but the jury is still out on its ability to master slick surfaces. I would definitely give it a miss in winter, where it could represent a real hazard. I think three stars is more than fair given the traction issues and its flimsy attempt at repelling water. Such a shame.
(Please note: these descriptions are the manufacturers, not my own).
* Arch-Lock®: Provides snug midfoot fit
* Comfortride Sockliner: Helps keep your foot dry
* Lightweight, Breathable Mesh: Ventilation and breathability
* HRC Strobel Board: Increases cushioning and comfort
* Heel ProGrid: Absorbs impact, dissipates shock and provides a seamless transition from heel through forefoot
* Dual Density Impulse EVA: Increased shock absorption, cushioning and stability
* SRC Impact Zone: Provides shock absorption and a smooth transition
* SRC XTRA Forefoot Cushioning: Premier forefoot cushioning system provides smooth toe-off
* Blown Rubber: Lightweight with added cushion
* XT-900: A carbon rubber outsole material that offers exceptional traction properties without sacrificing durability
Because these shoes have now been superseded by the Guide 3, I managed to get them at a massively discounted price. I bought mine from www.sportsshoes.co.uk who are extremely reputable and reliable. What's more, if you sign up free to www.topcashback.co.uk and enter 'sportsshoes' into the merchants searchbox, you can get a nice proportion of cashback from your order (currently 15.15% - but does not include p&p). Furthermore, if you are a previous customer of sportsshoes they will send you limited offers (such as waiving p&p or an extra 15% of your next order). So, if I were to buy these shoes now I could snap them up for a mere £28.81 (£39.95 - 15% - 15.15% cashback). Not bad when the RRP was £74.99!