Shoe review: Saucony Peregrine ISO

Much of my trail running happens in one of two different shoe models, the Brooks Cascadia and the Saucony Peregrine. For years these have been my go-to shoes, racking up 1,147 miles in various Cascadia models, and 525 miles in Peregrines. Despite having a slight issue with one of my last pairs of Peregines (the insole slipped a bit after 300 miles), I still loved the shoe and racked up a ton of miles on it. I also gave the Peregrine ICE shoes a try this last winter, and I’ve still got enough life in them to use them again this season.

My daily road runner is the Saucony Guide ISO, and I LOVE the ISO platform in those shoes, so when I saw that Saucony was bringing the ISO platform to the Peregrine I had to give it a shot. I picked up a pair about 50 miles ago and have been putting them through my standard trails that I train on, including Afton State Park. If you’re looking for the TL;DR… I have never worn a more comfortable trail shoe than the Peregrine ISO. Period. Stop.

When I first slipped in to the Peregrines there was familiarity. It felt like a Guide ISO in many ways, but also like the old Peregrine. However, the Peregrine ISO felt more soft and supple, and my foot felt like it was sliding into a comfortable slipper. The gusseted tongue was soft and comfortable, and because of the way that the lacing overlays are separated, it still felt light and free. The overall fit was great for my foot and I’ve had zero issue with it on any of my runs.

The outsole is nice and aggressive, and after a misstep with removing the strike plate from the last (pre-ISO) model, they brought it back giving solid protection underfoot. There’s a lot of padding on the back of the heel, which might not appeal to some people, but for me it works well. I still feel like I get a solid lock, though perhaps in time it could break down more than I want.

The shoe is also very breathable, due in part to the way the overlays are separate, and not one big piece. The overlays on the toe box are sparse, and it reminds me of an Altra in this area. I do wonder if the sides of the toe box will eventually wear prematurely (similar to what I’ve heard about Altra), but so far they seem to be solid. As for laces, they are the standard Peregrine laces from years past, which work just fine.

Where this shoe really shines for me is in the comfort department. All of Saucony’s ISO shoes have “EVERUN” foam as the topsole, which provides an incredible amount of comfort. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with their Guide ISO road shoes a few years ago. In a trail shoe, with a soft protective outsole, this comfort shines. I noticed this on one of my first runs in the shoe. I was out for a 20 mile run around Elm Creek with a friend, and I never felt any discomfort in my feet until mile 16. I even remarked about it to my running partner, and how wild it was that it took that long to really feel the miles.

I find this even more impressive because all of this cushioning doesn’t come at the cost of extra weight. Here’s a comparison to a couple of other shoes in size 9.5.

  • 11.05oz Peregrine ISO
  • 12.3oz Books Cascadia 12
  • 10.6oz Saucony Guide ISO

The fact that the Peregrine is over a full ounce less than the Cascadia means a lot on really long runs. Two ounces (one for each foot) might not sound like much, but when you’re running 18+ miles, with 40,000+ footfalls, it adds up fast. One might suggest that the Brooks Caldera could be a better comparison to the Peregrine, so I might give that a shot once my Cascadias are done.

It’s this comfort over the long run that really makes me love this shoe. I’ve taken it out on multiple runs of 18-20 mile distance, and despite any other issues I might have with my body, my feet have never been one. Coming from a traditional shoe like the Cascadia, this was a refreshing change. Saucony really hit a home run, for me, with this shoe, and I highly recommend people give it a try.

The shoes that didn’t work

img_3448When I put on my shoes to go pace my friend at the Superior 100 trail race, I noticed something a bit more “air conditioned” about them. After 275 miles of hard trail work they had developed some blow-out holes on the upper. Those 13 miles at Superior were the final journey for those old Brooks Cascadias, but thankfully I had recently returned from TC Running company with something new.

Although the Brooks Cascadias have worked for me, I wanted to branch out. I was disappointed in their traction on wet surfaces, and they’re a bit of a bulkier/heavier shoe. After about 45 minutes of sampling different shoes I settled on the New Balance Hierro v3. They felt really comfortable running around the store, and I loved the bootie like construction that acts like you always have a gaiter. My wife has these shoes and they work well for her, so I took the plunge.

I took them out for a short 3 miler last week and things seemed OK, but I was immediately struck with how HOT the shoes are. The rubberized upper means that the shoe holds in a lot of heat, which I see as a benefit in the winter, but during the summer it was very noticeable. I decided to give them another shot with a 14 mile run this past weekend on my regular Elm Creek horse trail loop. This is where things took a turn for the worse.

img_3351On my first 7 mile loop I started to notice how much my foot was sliding off the footbed. I had heard that this could happen with this shoe from time to time, but my wife found it to not be a big deal (she has wider feet that are more snug in the shoe). However, I was finding myself feeling like I was sliding around a lot, despite being the proper size for my foot. Every downhill or piece of slanted trail gave me the sensation that my foot was leaving the shoe and entirely sliding off the footbed. I felt the edge of the midsole on multiple occasions, and I knew this wasn’t going to work for me. I adjusted the lacing three different times in that first loop, which helped somewhat, but not enough to get rid of the sliding sensation.

A little bit in to my second loop I started to really notice that something wasn’t right. I’m not sure if the unsteady feel of the shoes was causing me to tense my foot, but about 2 miles in to my second loop I was starting to feel a great deal of pain. When I finished the loop and arrived back at my car I was in tremendous discomfort, specifically along the outside-bottom of my right foot. I crawled in to the car and let my wife drive me home. I took off the shoe and immediately felt some relief, although not as much as I hoped for.

Once I was home and cleaned up, I took some pain killers, and laid down to get pressure off my foot. The pain had become very intense and I didn’t want to put any more weight on it than I had to. After an hour or so of lying around things seemed to settle down, and I was able to move more normally. I still felt like I had a large lump under my skin on that portion of my foot, but the pain had ebbed enough to get on with my day.

I was scheduled to sweep the O’Brien 10 Mile Trail Race on Sunday morning, and I was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do much more than stand at the finish line in my condition. I messaged the RD, and he said to show up and we’ll play it by ear, depending on how my foot was feeling. I went to bed that night feeling OK, and by morning things had seemed to return to about 85% of normal. I headed to the race, this time wearing my regular road shoes, and decided to give sweeping a go.

Myself, and two other sweepers (John and Rick) headed out and I was immediately convinced that the issue had been the New Balance shoes. I was able to power hike, and occasionally jog, the entirety of the 10 mile course with none of the discomfort I had experienced just the day before. After three hours on my feet I wasn’t any worse for wear than I would expect after 6 hours of total trail movement over two days. I’m still a bit stiff and sore today, but the acute issue is no more.

I’m not totally sure what the issue with these shoes are, but it’s obvious that they don’t work for me. Last night I went online and ordered some Cascadias and Peregrines, in models that I know both work for me. I’m sad that the New Balance experiment didn’t work, but when push comes to shove, I need my feet to feel good. Hours and hours of trail time requires feet that are functional, and despite all the other cool features of the Hierro, I can’t risk doing damage to myself.

That’s my shoe story for today. I know that the Hierro’s work great for other people, so perhaps this whole blog entry is a long-winded For Sale advertisement for a pair of 9.5 mens NB Hierro’s. However, for myself, it’s back to things that I know are tried and true.