Saucony’s two most popular running shoe lines are set to return to the shelves this November with some new, innovative and industry leading geometry. Featuring only an 8mm heel to toe offset to encourage a more natural way of running, they are set to bridge the gap between conventional and minimalist running shoes – allowing those runners who want to move to a more natural running shoe the option to, but without as much tendency for calf and lower leg pain (as with 4mm heel shoes)
Leading the way in natural running shoes, Saucony have updated both the Guide 5 and the Triumph 9 with a new 8mm heel to toe offset to encourage mid-foot striking and a more natural gait.
Unlike conventional running shoes that have a 12mm heel (for a reason which no one actually knows) the 8mm heel shifts the geometry of the shoe just enough to encourage a more natural way of running, but without the sore calves and painful feet that barefoot running involves. The geometry of ‘Stong’ is explained in this video:
Saucony were nice enough to arrange a conference call this week so that several of us running shoe bloggers could have all our questions answered about everything from the setup of their company lab, to the more technical aspects of their new shoe lines and everything in between.
I guess before we look at the Guide 5 itself, we should start where the Guide 5 story began; back at Saucony HQ two years ago. Normally, a new shoe takes about eight months to get from design to stores around the world, but the Guide 5 was such a neq concept shoe that it took two years before the testers at Saucony were happy that they had crafted the perfect shoe. The Kinvara was Saucony’s first natural running shoe and although the company wanted this shoe to be a fast racing shoe, people started using it as a lightweight training shoe due to its flexibility and weight. The guys at Saucony spotted the demand for a more natural running shoe and set out to update their most popular lines with features the encourage and facilitate the body and foot’s natural motion.
The Guide 5
Spencer (the head of the Saucony lab) wanted to keep the features of previous Guide models that make the shoe line so popular with runners, but at the same time, completely reworking the shoe so that it encourages natural biomechanics. The Guide 5 was born and contains a whole load of new features that are explained below.
The main update to the shoe is the 8mm heel to toe offset. This encourages midfoot striking and minimises the shock that running in conventional running shoes causes by removing the tendency for heel striking. 8mm seems to be the magic number as the shoe bridges the gap between conventional 12mm heel running shoes and a barefoot ride.
This 8mm hel to to offset has allowed Saucony to remove some of the heel cushioning and replace the old style cushioning with the lighter and more responsive ProGrid cushioning to give a cushioned ride in a more natural running shoe.
The shoes have also been updated with a lighter outsole material called IBR. This is a durable rubber compound that also offers cushioning and flexibility. During the conference call with Saucony the other day, Spencer (the head of the Saucony lab) was keen to reinforce the fact that although there have been some weight savings made with the new shoes, there has been no performance tradeoff at all and the shoes are just as durable as their predecessor.
How Do the Shoes Perform?
Running in the Guide 5′s was a bit of a new experience for me as I have only ver run in 0, 4 and 12 mm heel to toe offsets. The 8mm heel to toe offset is immediately noticeable and if you are used to running in conventional running shoes then you are defintiely going to notice a chance to the way that you run.
The fact that the shoes are more lightweight and offer less support then most conventional running shoes made for pronators may take a while to get used to and you may feel pretty unstable over your first few runs. Don’t be surprised if you find that your knees knock every now and again or you feel like that you are running on your toes as the shoes will take a bit of getting used to.
I am used to running in 4mm heel to toe offset shoes so thought that I might find the Guide 5′s a little heavier and less flexible than what I am used to running in. On the contrary, the Guide 5 is light as well as responsive and as offers a smooth heel to toe transition.
The idea behind the 8mm heel to toe offset is that you shouldn’t suffer from calf or lower leg pain if you make the switch from conventional running shoes. 4mm and no heel shoes take a bit of getting used to as your stability muscles are ‘woken up’ but the 8mm heels of the Guide 5′s should take less time to get used to.
I took my Guide 5′s out for a 7 mile run out of the box just to see if I would suffer from any kind of repercussions and am happy to say that I didn’t suffer from any kind of pain either during or after the run. I make sure to stretch my calves after ever run anyway and I could definitely feel that they had been ‘worked’ during the run but there was no kind of soreness or tender spots in my lower legs the following morning.