Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Saucony Zealot ISO: Shoe Review

Saucony Zealot ISO

The Basics

The Saucony Zealot ISO is a new shoe for 2015. Some say it replaced the Cortana, which was discontinued by Saucony after it's 4th iteration. Having ran in both the Cortana 3 and the Zealot, I find the shoes to be very different, though they do share some specifications.

The Zealot is a premium, neutral running shoe with an MSRP of $130. It weighs in at approximately 7.2oz for a women's size 8 (8.3oz for a men's 9) and has an heel/toe offset of 4mm. The ISOFIT mesh upper is supposed to provide a sock-like feel, while the PWRGRID+ cushioning lessens the shock from road impact for a soft landing.

Saucony Zealot side view

The Down and Dirty

I really put these shoes through a test this weekend at the Beach Blast Triathlon and Duathlon, so it's the perfect time for a review. But how do I begin to review my favorite running shoe? I've been thinking about writing this review for a while, trying to think of some negatives to add so it wouldn't just be me gushing over this near-perfect shoe. I have picky feet, yet my first thought when I tried the Zealot on was "I love it." Good thing the staff at my local running store does not work on commission because I was not showing my poker face. The low offset plus premium cushioning, combined with a more spacious forefoot, made the Zealot be a love at first run.

Zealot outsole wear
Unlike the Mirage or Kinvara, the Zealot has a generous amount of blown rubber in the forefoot. I definitely don't understand the shoes with low offset, meant to encourage and mid or forefoot strike, that still keep the majority of the more durable outsole materials in the heel. A forefoot striker, like myself, who sees the most outsole wear on the lateral forefoot gets a lot more wear out of a shoe with blown rubber or carbon rubber in that area. Carbon rubber would make for a durable sole but it would also be less flexible and absorbent, so iBR (injection blown rubber) is the material of choice.

One concern for some over a soft cushioned running shoe is that it can be too cushy, the Zealot does not suffer from this consequence. It is soft and still super responsive. If you've read my review of the Altra Torin, you know that it's also a shoe that provides the combination of low offset (0mm in the case of the Torin), high cushioning, and a spacious forefoot. While runners who like one should try the other, I think the Zealot would appeal to a wider range of running styles and is my definite favorite of the two. The Zealot is more flexible and responsive, with a more comfortable upper, and much better looks. The Torin is great for long runs and recovery runs, while the Zealot excels in whatever situation you throw at it. It's responsive enough for speed work and comfortable enough the long, slow run as well.

Not wearing the Zealot without socks again
The forefoot of the Zealot provides ample room for my toes to spread out, while the PROLOCK system hugs my midfoot and heel for a secure fit. The only issue that I've had with the Zealot was while wearing them without socks during the final run of the Beach Blast Duathlon. I decided to take my socks off since they were soaking wet and sandy and I really don't know if having them on in that condition would have prevented the open blisters on the tops of my toes. My shoes were pretty wet and sandy themselves since I had already completed the first run in them along the beach and they had sat in the rain in the transition area. I realized pretty early into the run that I was going to have some injury to my feet, I could feel several places where the inside of the shoe was pressing into the tops of my toes with each toe-off. It wasn't unbearable though and I was able to finish the run with them. The first thing I did after crossing the finish line though was take my shoes off and assess the damage. I definitely won't be wearing the Zealot without socks again. I also wouldn't recommend them for soft trails, but for everything else they are a great choice.

Saucony Zealot looking down


The Saucony Zealot ISO is my favorite running shoe so far. It's soft, yet very responsive, with a low offset and an awesome fit for my narrow heel and wider forefoot. Plus it looks good too! So far, I've ran over 156 miles in the Zealot, including long runs, speedwork, tempo, and short/easy runs. I've used them on grass trails, road, sidewalk, and even the beach. My pair still has a lot of life left in them and if I were doing a half marathon soon, this would be the shoe I would wear.

Have you tried the Zealot?

What is your favorite running shoe?


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