Shoe of the Week: Saucony Freedom ISO

The Freedom ISO is the first shoe to feature a midsole made entirely of Saucony's Everun expanded thermoplastic polyurethane. Photo: Brian Metzler

“Wow, this shoe is all about fluidity, flexibility and fun!”

So said one of our wear-testers after running his first 6-miler in a pair of Saucony’s new Freedom ISO shoe, and for good reason.

In recent years, midsole cushioning compounds have been reinvented and, as a result, running shoes are getting better and more dynamic in their construction and ability. In other words, shoe designers have found better materials to use for midsole cushioning instead of some sort of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam that dominated the industry for the past 40 years. Saucony is getting lots of love for its Everun midsole compound, a new expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (e-TPU) material that it unveiled late last year. From our experiences wear-testing the Freedom ISO, it’s clear that Everun offers a good amount of energy return and responsiveness as soft, reliable cushioning. (Saucony placed segments of Everun cushioning in several of its Spring 2016 shoes, but the new Freedom ISO is the first shoe with a midsole made entirely from Everun and the first chance to really feel how it performs.) It debuted at stores on Dec. 1, but our wear-testers have been loving it for the past several months.

Like any material in a shoe, it’s less about the specific characteristics on its own and more telling when experienced as part of a shoe in motion on the run. The combination of the Everun midsole and another thin layer on top of the strobel board under the footbed—along with the snug and secure but “barely there” feeling of the lightweight engineered mesh upper and near-custom fit it provides—makes for a delightful experience. With a 4mm heel-toe offset and a modest amount of foam and rubber under the foot (19mm in the heel, 15mm in the forefoot), the Freedom feels close to the ground but not in a minimalist kind of way.

Everun seems to be about 10 percent firmer than adidas’ Boost midsole foam and the difference is evident in the first few strides. (That’s not a crack against Boost, but it is a definitive statement about Everun.) While heel impacts are dampening and accommodating, the roll-through to the toe-off phase feels sublime and extremely fluid and natural. There’s no inherent support in this shoe (except for what your foot provides), but Everun midsole isn’t unstable or wobbly. There’s also no frenzied bounciness the moment after footstrike and nothing to get in the way of your foot’s natural movement, and that results in a soft and smooth-rolling transition to the forefoot. From there, the shoe’s toe spring design and Everun’s energetic demeanor unleash a microburst of coiled energy that launches the foot on the start of the next stride. The bottom line is that it just feels smoother and more lively than most shoes.

The Freedom ISO is not quite as light as Saucony’s popular Kinvara model (the 2016 Kinvara 7 does have Everun foam in certain places), but it’s slightly lower to the ground and its definitely more inherently energetic—and that’s saying a lot. For all of those reasons, the Freedom ISO is a great do-everything shoe, one our testers deemed worthy of long runs, recovery runs, tempo runs, mile repeats and just about everything with maybe the exception of short and fast intervals. A few testers said they’d definitely use it in their next half marathon, while others said it was their go-to shoe for long runs.

This is the shoe for you if … you’re looking for a modern jack-of-all-trades training shoe with a natural feel and energetic ride.

Price: $160
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm; 19mm (heel), 15mm (forefoot)
Weights: 9.0 oz. (men’s size 9), 8.1 oz. (women’s size 7.0)

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