Best Saucony Track and Cross
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Best Saucony Track and Cross

Sep 11, 2023

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We asked college runners on our wear-test team to evaluate the latest “super spikes” during their track season.

Brands used to build racing spikes with one goal—get the shoe as light as possible. Basically, you just needed a way to anchor a handful of steel pins to the sole of your foot. As shoe tech evolves, more pieces come between those pins and your foot to further boost speed, while still keeping these shoes light as a feather. Saucony’s premium models incorporate nitrogen-infused Pebax super foam, called Pwrrun HG (highest grade), carbon fiber, and Pebax spike plates.

But you’ll have to pay top dollar for it. We wanted to see if it’s worth paying triple the price—or more—for a pair of these souped up racers. (After all, you can still get a solid budget Saucony spike like the Kilkenny XC9 for just $65.) To find out, we asked the fastest Division I track and cross-country runners from a local college to rip some laps on the oval. Here’s what they thought of the two priciest options Saucony currently offers.

Major: Chemical engineeringEvents: 400m, 800m, 1600m, and 5000m

“These are among the most aggressive spikes I’ve worn. I tested them on the track for low 4:00- and sub-4:00-pace miles. There was good cushioning and support throughout the spike for middle-distance racing. However, the spikes fit my foot a little strangely—too much room at the front of the shoe, but they cramped my pinky toes around the edges. For the rest of the foot, the fit was comfortably snug and I felt like I had full control pushing off the ground.

“The tongue and laces supported my ankle well and really made my foot feel like it was locked in place. As for durability, they’ve been stepped on and spiked a lot during competition and are holding up great.”

Major: BiologyEvents: 800m, 1600m, 5000m

“I have never before raced in spikes with this much cushioning. These had a lot of forefoot cushioning that pushed me forward and helped me run on my toes. I felt like I was literally bouncing along on the track and I loved it. They were a little too tight on the outsides of my foot and my pinky toes definitely felt crammed. I wondered if a bigger size would be more comfortable, but at the same time, my toes were not close to the front of the shoe.”

Major: Health sciencesEvents: 200m, 400m, and 800m

“These are the most comfortable middle-distance spikes I’ve ever worn to race the 800 meters. The cushioning is softer than other spikes I’ve worn in the past, but not to the point of feeling too soft or slow. The 800 is my longest event, so my other sprinting spikes are stiffer by comparison. These are stiff, but make the 800 race far more comfortable. They had enough support without being too heavy. I most enjoyed the breathable material and how snuggly it fit the front of my foot, though I wish the heel cup was a little narrower.”

Major: Chemical engineeringEvents: 1500m and 3000m

“I loved the nylon upper material with the more elastic tongue, which made it easier for me to get my foot into the shoe. It’s insanely breathable and one of the best parts of the spike. However, it felt a little bit cramped around the knuckle of my pinkie toe and outside of the ball of my foot. The spike seems very oriented for toe-striking—the balls and forefoot of the shoe are very well-cushioned with much less padding in the heel. It felt like a weird combo between road-racing shoes and sprint spikes to me.”

Major: Chemical engineeringEvents: 800m, 1000m, and 1500m

“I loved this spike for racing the 1500 meters, though the combination of cushioning and structure from the harder plastic plate works well for the 5K or even the 10K. Spikes usually are not ‘comfortable,’ but these definitely were. I have very high arches and overpronate, and this shoe had enough support for me while remaining light and speedy.

“Compared to the Nike Air Zoom Victory, these felt much more like a shoe with more support and a better lacing system. In the Nikes, I often feel like I am going to fall out of the spike or have it slide off.”

Major: Environmental scienceEvents: 1600m and 3200m

“I used these spikes for distances from 800s to faster-paced 200s. They were a bit stiff on the longer reps, but the more I used them, the better they felt. The rigidness of the midsole results in a very fast feel due to the fact that you do not sink into the cushioning at all—the foot leaves the ground very quickly after you touch down. But that also means it does not flex with the foot terribly well; I land more towards my heels when I run and I did not experience smooth movement.

“I really noticed the traction during shorter, faster reps when I was running more on my toes. Not once did I feel like I was losing balance or grip, even when making turns around the track at 4:00 pace.”

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