Saucony’s marketing pitch: Work harder. Run faster.
Upper: Perforated engineered mesh, internal gusset.
Midsole: Pwrrun PB (PEBA) foam with a Nylon plate. 8 mm heel drop.
Outsole: Carbon rubber.
Weight: 229 gms/ 8.1 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 9/UK 8/EUR 42.5/CM 27
Widths available: D - regular (reviewed).
Previous model: Saucony Endorphin Speed V2.
Country of origin: Made in China.
In this review:
It sounds easy, but it’s harder than you think.
Let’s say that a brand has an excellent running shoe that’s been well received in the market. Since the brand already knows what makes it good, it shouldn’t be hard to improve the next version, right?
On the surface, the process sounds deceptively simple, because it is. That would entail gathering all the best practices of the previous model, and then applying them to the new model.
But it’s surprising how many brands botch up this seemingly easy process. Instead of making a shoe better, the ‘updates’ make it worse, and send the runners back to the comfort of the previous model.
That is the reason why we love the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.
The top-to-bottom redesign successfully manages to include all the positive traits that made the first two versions successful. At the same time, the Speed 3 also introduces new performance-related improvements that refine the ride quality.
Of course, it’s not perfect. An optional B width would have been nice, and the midsole still lacks rearfoot stability at slow speeds. That being said, the level of support is higher than the Speed V1 and V2.
But if you were hoping to find an improved running shoe, the Endorphin Speed 3 doesn’t disappoint.
Like the previous version, it uses the bouncy Pwrrun PB (PEBA foam), Nylon plate, and rocker geometry to deliver a ride quality that makes long-distance training and races extremely comfortable yet efficient.
The true-to-size upper is very breathable, and its soft material create a secure yet distraction-free fit.
And what we said of the Speed 2 also holds for the Speed 3 – we’d pick it over the more expensive Endorphin Pro 3. Later in this review, we’ll explain why.
THE SAUCONY ENDORPHIN SPEED 3 COMPARED WITH ENDORPHIN SPEED 2
There are numerous changes between the Endorphin Speed 2 and Speed 3, but none of those updates feel forced or unnecessary.
When compared to the V2, the lower base of the redesigned midsole is slightly wider. This time, we even get a peek of the Nylon plate over the midfoot.
A deep transition groove under the heel runs down the center, a feature that was missing on the Speed V1 and V2.
Only a teardown will reveal what the plate actually looks like, but we imagine it’s an S-curved form factor as the last time, but with these midfoot struts extending outwards.
Owing to these changes, the Speed 3 is slightly more supportive than the outgoing model.
According to Saucony’s product description page, the stack heights are higher by 1 mm throughout. Nonetheless, there’s nearly no difference in the weight between the two versions.
While the true-to-size upper fit stays the same, the exterior gets rid of trims like the synthetic tongue overlay and heel pull tab.
The upper gets a new mesh, so the ventilation is an improvement. Not that the Speed V2 was a warm shoe, but the open-pored mesh of the Speed 3 does a better job of air circulation.
Like most running shoes in 2022, the Endorphin Speed 3 gets a $10 price increase.
THE MIDSOLE DESIGN AND RIDE EXPERIENCE
First, here are the basics. The Endorphin Speed 3 has a dual-layer midsole that’s made of two different stacks of Pwrrun PB (PEBA) foam.
Between these layers is a full-length Nylon plate that begins at the lower forefoot base and curves upwards towards the heel, where it is sandwiched between the soft foam layers.
This is what gives the Saucony Endorphin Speed, Pro, and other shoes like the Nike Vaporfly their unique ride signature.
The front curve of the plate gives the forefoot a rocker-like quality, whereas the rear end makes the ride snappy. The suspended end under the heel acts as a springboard for the now-familiar ‘push forward’ sensation.
Of course, not all running shoes with a Carbon plate behave in the same way, but this is how the Endorphin series and Nike Vaporfly work.
The PEBA (PolyEther Block Amide) foam has been a game-changer for the running shoe industry, with parallels to adidas Boost’s success in its early years.
Not only is PEBA soft and bouncy, but it also delivers cushioning comfort and responsiveness without adding weight. A case in point is the Endorphin Speed 3; it weighs a mere 8.1-ounces (229 grams) for the mean size. The Endorphin Pro3 even goes further with a 10% lighter build.
Low weight is hugely beneficial for a running shoe that’s meant to go the distance at speeds, because that’s what the Endorphin Speed 3 does best.
It feels most at home at paces quicker than 4:30 min/km (7 min/mile) rather than slow speeds. At higher paces, the efficient ride behavior makes it easy to fall into a rhythm.
Easy paces aren’t the Speed’s forte. So what happens if you drop below a certain speed? Even if you usually run fast, there are days or workout routines (like interval training) when you want to run slow. To be specific, how does the shoe feel at recovery speeds of 5:30 min/km (or 8:50 min/mile) and slower?
The Endorphin Speed 3 feels ‘ordinary’ at relaxed paces. While you benefit from the ride comfort from the PEBA midsole, a slow running speed doesn’t extract the full performance of the plate, foam, and rocker ‘Speedroll’. It just feels like any soft and lightweight running shoe.
Also, even with the improved rearfoot stability and new transition groove, there’s some lateral bias at slow and near-walking speeds.
Naturally, a longer loading period over the heel will lead to a higher level of compression. So this is NOT a walking or casual shoe – if you’re looking for one, we recommend you try the Nike Invincible Run 2 instead.
On both the Speed and Pro 3, the foot sits on top of the midsole instead of being cupped with raised sidewalls.
At higher speeds (and running cadence), the foot doesn’t spend a lot of time loading the heel, so the stability limitations are not detrimental. In comparison, the flared forefoot and inflexible rocker make the front more stable, so the Endorphin Speed 3 is ideal for forefoot/midfoot landings.
And you don’t have to worry about the 8 mm heel drop getting in the way. The beveled heel and slim midsole base favor full-contact landings.
From a use-case point of view, the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 does three things very well. It’s ideal for marathons, and the pre-race training that comes with it. As for the third use case, we’ll get there in a bit.
The soft and bouncy Pwrrun PB midsole is sufficiently comfortable for high-mileage runs, and it meshes well with the speed-friendly Nylon plate and forefoot.
The removable insole adds the obligatory layer of step-in softness. It is an EVA foam footbed with an arch flare that complements the midsole sidewall design.
This is unlike the Endorphin Pro 3’s Pwrrun+ (E-TPU) insole that is glued to the lasting, and a nod to the Endorphin Speed 3’s attempt to appeal to a larger market of runners.
Saucony’s ‘Speedroll’ forefoot delivers on its stated performance claims. The forefoot isn’t very flexible, and has a high toe spring – a design that leaves a greater distance between the tip of the outsole and the road.
As a result, picking up speed feels quite natural. The plate and the rocker profile work together for a ‘push upwards’ and ‘roll forward’ effect, and then the responsive foam and outsole design do the rest.
The deep channel from the heel edge to the midfoot helps center the weight, and the thin rubber lugs make contact in all the landing and transition zones. Though the traction is satisfactory under most circumstances – including the occasional damp patch, it doesn’t have the superlative traction of the adidas adios Pro and Asics Metaracer.
We highlighted the low levels of grip on the V1 and V2, and the Endorphin Speed 3 remedies that. It grips better than the Speed 1 and 2 due to its reconfigured outsole geometry and thinner/softer lugs.
For a very long time, we’ve usually recommended low-profile speed shoes (like the adidas adios or Saucony Type A9) for short-distance races, of say , 5K.
Our thinking has evolved after spending a considerable amount of time with cushioned (and plate-fitted) racers. For example, we ran multiple 20-minute 5K (4:00 min/km, 6:30 min/mile) while testing the Endorphin Speed 3 and Pro 3.
Sure, the soft midsole doesn’t have the touch-and-go feel of firm racers. However, the rocker midsole and Nylon plate (or Carbon, as in the Pro 3’s case) compensate for the softness.
So if the Endorphin Speed 3 works well as a 5K racer, then what should an ideal rotation look like?
Given the lack of versatility at slower speeds and rearfoot striking, having a more supportive daily trainer adds rotational value. The Saucony Ride 15 complements the Endorphin Speed 3 well, and the Nike Pegasus 39 is an excellent choice should you prefer a softer ride.
The third shoe is entirely optional, since these are off-road shoes. We rated the Saucony Peregrine 12 highly in our review because of its versatile ride character.
On the other hand, a road-trail hybrid like the New Balance Hierro V7 is good for switching up surfaces without sacrificing the road-oriented ride comfort.
IS THE SAUCONY ENDORPHIN SPEED 3 DURABLE?
The jury is out on the overall durability, but 400 – 450 miles should be doable. However, there are a couple of changes that could potentially affect durability.
When compared to the Speed 2, the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 uses an outsole with thinner rubber strips. In theory, since the thin strips are soft and bend with the midsole, they should not be a problem from a durability standpoint.
The new Speed 3 also uses an upper mesh with more open pores than the Speed 2, so we don’t know how that affects long-term durability.
THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT
The Endorphin Speed 3 has the same fit profile as the Speed 1 and 2; the interior fits true to size. The toe box is broad at the front, with sufficient clearance over the toes.
Its standard ‘D’ width delivers a secure fit for most foot profiles, but just know that larger widths are unavailable.
The main exterior uses a single piece of mesh with synthetic overlays, so the insides are smooth and lack hot spots. The mesh has larger vents than before, and looks less plasticky.
Thus, the ventilation levels are excellent. There’s a gusset attached to the tongue, but that too, is made of a breathable mesh.
Though the tongue contains only the bare minimum of padding, the lacing top-down pressure isn’t felt. The soft laces are also slightly elastic, so that helps distribute the lacing cinch.
Unlike the E-Speed 2, the flap of the updated tongue doesn’t have a folded edge, but uses a scooped flap with soft binding.
We like this design better, since its curved design locks naturally over the instep. If there’s a downside, it’s that the tongue runs out of length should you deploy the last lacing row for a runner’s loop.
On a whole, the new upper tones down the layering. For example, the tongue no longer has the synthetic suede strip as well as the thick pull tab over the heel.
We loved the heel collar design of the last two versions, and this one’s no different. There’s just enough padding to make the heel fit comfortable; nothing more, nothing less. An internal counter adds a tangible element of support. On a related note, the Pro 3 doesn’t have a stiff heel counter.
The rearfoot reflectivity is excellent, as it was on the last model.
PROS AND CONS
The Speed 3’s only true drawback is its low versatility, since it delivers its best performance within a certain pace range. It’s not optimal for relaxed paces, and certainly not an ultra-slow run or brisk walking shoe – even with the recent improvement in rearfoot stability.
Other than that (and the lack of widths), there’re so many things to love about this product.
The cushioning comfort of the bouncy PEBA foam midsole is easily accessible for long runs, and the Nylon plate infuses the ride with its characteristic snap and forward roll. The end product is a running shoe that’s comfortable enough to run a marathon, yet allows you to build speed while doing so.
The well-ventilated and true-to-size upper does an excellent job at melding a secure fit with interior comfort.
COMPARISON: THE SAUCONY ENDORPHIN SPEED 3 VERSUS ENDORPHIN SPEED PRO 3
Besides the obvious price difference and plate material (Nylon vs. Carbon), there’s more than meets the eye.
Dig deeper, and we find that the Endorphin Pro 3 uses a single-density midsole without the winged plate design. The fabric lasting/strobel under the insole is thinner, and the footbed doesn’t have molded edges. And unlike the Speed 3’s EVA foam footbed, the Pro uses a Pwrrun+ (E-TPU) foam.
The Pro 3’s upper also has notable areas of difference. The heel lacks a stiff counter, so that makes it collapsible. There’s no reflective trim either.
While the fit profile is nearly identical, the Pro 3 breathes much better than the Speed due to the giant vents on the tongue and lighter mesh. The Endorphin Pro 3’s deconstructed design approach translates into marginal weight savings; it is just over 10% lighter.
Any shoe comparison leads to the inevitable question – if we had to choose just one, which Endorphin should we get?
At the time of writing this review, the odds are stacked in the Speed 3’s favor. For a $55 lower price, the Speed 3 delivers a similar ride experience and better versatility. The Pro 3 may be lighter and softer, but we have to ask – is the minor performance upside worth the extra cash?
Both Endorphin models are based on the same midsole foam, so the levels of comfort are closely matched. The winged Nylon plate and heel counter add versatility by increasing the level of stability.
However, as noted in our review, the Pro 3 rewards good form during a long run. It may not be as supportive as the Speed 3, but the midsole is 3.5 mm taller.
That’s a lot of extra foam under the foot, and which leads to a higher level of ride comfort. As long as you’re going fast and midfoot striking, the more comfortable Endorphin Pro 3 goes easier on your feet during a long-distance race.
SHOES SIMILAR TO THE SAUCONY ENDORPHIN SPEED 3
In our opinion, the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 offers the best value within its peer group.
Despite the rapid proliferation of plated racers, only a few running shoes have a form factor that’s comparable with the Speed 3. By which, we refer to the S-curved plate within a soft midsole made of either PEBA or similar super-foam.
While these are all great shoes, it’s worth bearing in mind that they cost $50-80 more than the Speed. That’s a healthy pricing distance, and the law of diminishing returns kicks in.