Thursday, November 17, 2011

Saucony Pro Grid Guide 5 Review

You may remember that a few weeks ago I did a giveaway for a pair of Saucony shoes. These shoes were the latest in Saucony’s “new geometry.” Saucony has redesigned three of its most popular shoes, the Guide, Triumph, and Hurricane, reducing their heel-to-toe drop from the standard 12 mm to 8 mm. They did this in response to the increasing popularity of minimalist shoes with heel-to-toe drops of 4 mm or less.

Reducing the heel-to-toe drop is supposed to encourage a mid-foot strike. Moving from a heel to a mid-foot strike is thought to decrease the occurrence of injuries and to encourage proper biomechanics. Traditional running shoes have a thicker/higher heel, and a significant drop from heel to toe. They therefore promote heel striking.

Without getting all technical because I am just not that smart, here is how I understand it. When you land on your heel, your ankles and  knees have absolutely no chance of minimizing shock. As soon as you hit the ground… Bam! No absorbers. Shock waves shoot through your joints. Don’t feel bad. The  majority of runners are heel strikers. All you have to do is look at a pack of recreational runners in a marathon to see that that’s the case.

When you run mid-foot, your foot has a chance of minimizing impact. Your calves act as shock absorbers. Your ankles and knees suffer less impact.

Apparently, mid foot striking can also make you fast. As Joe Friel contends, “Landing on your heels is, essentially, hitting the brakes with every stride. You have to overcome that deceleration by hitting the gas pedal hard at every toe off. And the time it takes to get from heel to toe is just lost time—time spent going no where. Landing with a flat foot  greatly shortens ground contact time and moves you forward more quickly. This is the way fast runners run.”

Before we go on, I have a confession. I am the queen. The queen heel striker. Evidence is all over the place. Call in CSI if you want, but the cat’s out of the bag. I do it everywhere. On my street. In Boston. At the Colorado Marathon.



Knowing that I needed some help, Saucony sent me the Pro Grid Guide 5 to test out and review.


Here are some facts about the shoe:

Cost: $100

New features: Has an 8mm drop from heel to toe, more durable outsole

Weight: Total weight =9.1 oz. 1.4 oz. lighter than its predecessor, the Guide 4

Style of shoe: Stability

I’m going to be honest. I find it tough to review shoes. Unlike a new shirt or a jock strap that you know you like or don’t like from minute one, shoes are very personal. You can’t really understand your relationship to the shoe until you can put in many miles on it. If a shoe is going to contribute to injury, give you blisters, or wear out quickly, you simply won’t know these things for awhile. What you can know immediately about a shoe, however, is how it feels on your foot in terms of comfort, cushioning, fit and stability.

If there is one thing I have learned about trying to switch to more of amid-foot strike, it is that this has to be done very gradually. A reduced heel to toe drop can cause stress on the Achilles tendon, so a cautious change-over to these shoes is recommended.

My review (based on two 3 mile runs and moderate pace, done on treadmill, trail and pavement):

  • These shoes run big and wide.  I wear a size 9 running shoe (8 regular) shoe in Brooks, Mizuno and New Balance. The Saucony’s ran about a half size big for me. The toe box also seemed wider than most, causing these shoes to feel less sleek than some others I’ve worn. If you are considering a pair, I recommend sizing down a half size. Better yet, go try them on instead of ordering on-line.
  • The feel of the shoe is comfortable, light and cushiony.
  • During my recent runs, I have been focusing on trying land on my mid foot. The problem with running is that unless you have someone follow you around with a video-camera or critiquing your form, you never REALLY know what you're doing. I thought for sure the Saucony Pro Grid Guide 5s would help me achieve my mid foot strike. I was wrong. See for yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming the shoe. I have been a chronic heel striker, so it can’t be expected that decreasing my heel to toe drop by 4 mm would cure me. I do believe that because these shoes encourage more of a mid foot strike, it will be easier to achieve that in these shoes versus some of my others that have the traditional 12 mm drop.

Overall, this is an attractive shoe (I like the color scheme), that provides stability, cushioning and comfort. The price is average for a good quality running shoe. Historically, Saucony’s are a good quality shoe that lasts. If you are wanting to move to a more minimalist shoe, but want to make the move very gradually, the Saucony Pro Grid 5 might be for you.

What are your thoughts on heel vs. mid-foot vs. forefoot striking? Have you been able to make the switch or do you want to? In my opinion, every one is different. Some people have no history of injuries, have run for years and are heel strikers. While I think it is something to consider, I don’t know if a mid-foot landing is the panacea. For someone like me who is prone to injury, it is likely biomechanics, such as foot strike, that needs to be corrected.

What type of shoes do you typically wear? Would you consider switching to a shoe with less of a heel to toe drop like the Saucony?



  1. I just recently bought a pair of the Saucony Peregrines another 8MM trail shoe for winters here in Maine, plus a little trail running as I loose lardage and get in better shape.

    So far the shoe has done what I want it to. I was a decent midfoot striker for most of my running career and then when I got heavier and the "pros" kept recommending heavier motion control shoes for me to wear, I got lazy and became a heel striker.

    Now I am focusing on my form "a lot" and moving back to midfoot and the Peregrines seem to be easier to do it with than the motion control 12MM shoes were doing.

    So far so good, we will see how it is next spring.


  2. The best way I found to remind me to run mid foot, which is what I mostly do, is to stop during a run and take your shoes off. Run a few dozen steps. See how that feels. Then put your shoes on and try to repeat the feeling.

  3. I'm slowly moving away from a 12mm drop to a 4mm drop. To do so I am using my 4mm Brooks on my shorter days. I think a lower drop is the way to go...just make the transition slowly!
    I feel much faster in my Brooks Grit shoes. They are lighter without the huge heel and in return I go faster (so says my Garmin).
    To tell the truth - my calves are tighter and I'm using massage to combat getting injured during the transition.
    We are all looking for the magic shoe or running style. For you Beth I would consider faster foot strikes and doing some drills to get you off the heel. The longer that stride the more you are going to land on your heels...of course you might jest tell me to Shut Up And Run! I will!

  4. I was having some really awful knee pain early on in my running "career" and immediately made the switch from heel to mid foot. It wasn't that hard since I did it early on. My Achilles was really sore and tight for a few months but eventually came around. Knee pain, gone. I run in the New Balance minmus now, but I know it's not for everybody. As a new runner, a heel strike was just wrong for me.

  5. I was a heel striker as a beginner. Now I land with my feet flat on the ground. I never really worked at changing my form, it just happened after many many miles. There is a lot of research that trying to change your form is going to lead to injury. Your body knows what is the most efficient running form for you, and it will choose that in time. Have you seen Paula R running? She does not look good... Have you also seen the winner of NYC running? She does not look good either. Yes these 2 women are fast. If you are heel striking, just run miles and also do a lot of speed. I bet that if you take a video of you doing 400ms fast, you are going to be mid foot striking.

    1. I'm a heel striker and have had relatively few injuries. Last April was my 20th marathon at one or two per year. My running buddies are fast midfoot strikers, run as much as I do, wear minimalist shoes and stay injured.

  6. I'm pretty sure I'm a heel striker because every morning when I wake up my heels hurt so bad!

    I've never run in Saucony's before, because I'm a lover of Brooks. So far they are working out for me. Not sure I'll ever be able to correct my crazy running style!

  7. Would you ever consider trying a 'barefoot' shoe like the vibrams? Not necessarily to use forever but to try, to feel the difference? I've only been running for just over a year, so I am so far from being an expert it's not funny. But when I put on a pair of these shoes and ran, it was like no other feeling - free, light, right. I think I finally found out what my true running 'form' was, and I grinned from ear to ear. When I put on regular running shoes now (Sauconys, coincidentally), they feel like weights on my feet, bumping into eachother and weighing me down. They are not for everyone, but they do seem to be a useful training tool, at the very least. It could be worth a try, just to feel what it's like.

    I'm so glad your active release therapy is going so well :)

  8. Was gonna suggest the same thing as TR - form drills (high knees, A3's, etc; e.g. They might help in two ways - strengthening the muscles in your legs, ankles, etc & improving your stride / footstrike. Good luck!

  9. Ana Maria: agreed, although I don' think you can say all people who change their form get injured. It depends on how you do it.

    Fe-Lady: if you talked to many people who train all levels of runners, they would tell you very differently.

  10. I like the sound of these. Right now I am (with Ortho blessing) wearing VFFs one run a week to help stretch out my calves and my Guide 4s the rest of my runs. It seems to be a good balance for me, but maybe the 5s will be the answer.

    Much like another commenter, I am too new to be expert. But I think we are all different and some combo should make everyone a happy runner.

    Thanks for the review!

  11. After so much reading and discussing this subject I have decided that I believe it is best to run in a way that feels natural instead of trying to constantly "improve our gait". Don't you think our body naturally does what is most efficient for US? It just seems to me that our bodies don't want to work hard so they do what is most efficient already. I think your heel strike would feel awful if I ran like that but my midfoot strike might throw you completely out of whack. That's my theory and I'm stickin' to it. :)

  12. Fe-Lady is wrong. I taught myself how to not 'run like a girl.' The place where things start reverting is when you are super fatigued or distracted. It takes a ton of concentration and repetition.

    I'm a heel-striker, I think. Working on lessening that. I run in Saucony currently, though I am coveting those "ruby slippers" Mizuno just released.

  13. My knees and hips thank me for moving to a mid-forefoot strike, but my calves get awfully tight sometimes. I'm pretty sure it's good for me. Of course, my mileage is nothing like yours, so I would imagine the transition would be more difficult for you.

  14. I've been happier in Newton Lady Isaacs then my Brooks Adrenalines for midfoot striking. I always heel strike in the Brooks. Always.

  15. i used to be a heel-striker and after developing back problems I have "learned" to go back to mid-foot. Has helped enormously! One doctor told me I shouldn't run ever again - I ran a marathon the following spring! I have learned a TON from Newton running shoes. I do not own a pair (yet) but I am a HUGE fan. All my friends wear them - yes - peer pressure. Their website ( is a plethora of information. It's a hard change to make (heel to mid-foot) and definitely takes patience and practice. Please don't give up on the concept! PS. I think newton is based in Boulder - good op;)

  16. I am a newbie runner and very thankful that I am a midfoot runner from what you are writing. I think it helped that I started to run outside after doing a lot of running inside to the Wii.

    Good luck with your challenge! You will succeed because that's who you are.

  17. I've been transition to a mid-foot stride and have been noticing less knee pain while running. I usually run in New Balance b/c my ankles tend to pronate (NB does a great job of correcting that), but I just got a new pair of La Sportiva trail runners that I'm stoked to try out. I've tried Saucony once, but the brand doesn't suit my foot shape.

  18. Beach Girl: yep, Newtons are a good option, lots of people wear them around here. I would just say that the transition has to be very gradual or you can have other injury issues crop up in your ankles, achilles, calves etc.

  19. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that you put your video to the Chariots of Fire theme. This is saying a lot because that movie came out ten years before I did. Best of luck with becoming a mid-foot striker! :)

  20. I tend to think that unless you have major biomechanical issues you should leave your stride along. I heel strike, too, and I wear pretty light, minimal shoes (Kinvaras and Karhus). The karhus are actually designed to encourage a forefoot strike, but no such luck for me!

  21. I run strictly in minimalist shoes like Vibrams (or some oh so attractive water shoes now that it's winter) or barefoot so mid or forefoot is necessary. Love the feeling when my form is good. Feels so effortless and free. Anytime I try putting normal running shoes on they feel so heavy.

  22. You can only know what works for you and doesn't cause pain or injury. I've always been a natural mid-to-forefoot striker (probably because I started out as a sprinter way back in the day) and I have never really had knee or shin issues. My favorite shoes to date have been the Mizuno Wave Rider 13's. I love my Vibrams, too, but not for serious mileage.

  23. is this weird but i'm not sure what kind of striker i am...i think i'm a mid foot! i'm actually going to be taking a running clinic here in victoria from an 'older' lady (like 42) who teaches running form. she picked up running later in life and ran a 1:15 half by improving her form and stopping heel striking. i know she's in victoria so you can't do her clinics but here is a link to a talk she did at the Goodlife Victoria expo...

    PS. I love Saucony! I wear the Ride 3s...

  24. I love saucony! I wear the triumph 8 for most of my training and then race in the Kinvara's. I'm stoked to try the new Saucony when my 8's wear out. I am a mild heel striker but I am really trying to land more mid foot. I use Newtons a bit to help with that as well but not to often, they make me a little crazy.

  25. I read Born to Run, asked my family to give me a pair of Luna Sandals for my (54th) birthday, and have painfully completed the transition from heel-banging to midfoot striking. I need to wear compression tights to preserve my calves, but the change has banished long-standing Achilles and plantar fascia problems that I had thought were an inevitable consequence of age, and as a bonus my footwear attracts a lot of attention at races. I've gone as far as 9 miles this way, and have my sights on a couple of half-Ms in the spring and I hope longer distances too. I love the feeling of freedom they give, my feet and lower legs are definitely stronger and my knees like not having to absorb all the shocks.

  26. You know I'm a zealot on this one. 8 mm is still high...I think people need to get down to 4 at the minimum (or max?) to have any real hope of making it a permanent fix. Midfoot striking is not a panacea, but yes, the shockwaves are much, much lower here, as shown by studies on force plates. No matter what, I love seeing people head in this direction and hopefully one day, the big clunky heels will be a thing of the past.

  27. Oh, and guess who commenter fe-lady is?

  28. It's interesting how fitness experts change their views on what's healthy. Ultimately it's good, but just funny, for instance...

    When I was getting physical therapy for a chronic lower body injury (about 7-ish years ago), my physical therapist said that my running form was "biomechanically incorrect".

    He told me that I needed to be landing on my heel and NOT my mid-foot as I had been. But for the life of me, I could not comfortably land on my heels, so I stopped running altogether for years because I was discouraged about not being able to do it "right."

    So I'm hesitant to take advice about form too seriously anymore because it seems like our bodies know what works.

  29. I saw that comment too about how you supposedly can't change your running form. I wondered if that person was unaware of how doing a sport, uhm, works? That's like saying, "You can't fix how you swim/ski/skate/throw a basketball. Your form is your form and you can't do anything to change it."

  30. I am pretty sure I am a mid footer. When I first started I actually tried to run the heel strike way because I thought that was correct form but it felt funky to me. I don't know about all the biomechanics - I just figure go for what feels comfy.

    I am going to check into these Sauconys - I have been thinking about buying some (not so clunky in the heel shoes for a long time. Nike Frees and the V5s were all I really heard people talk about so this was a nice post for me. Thanks! :)

  31. I have been working on the midfoot vs. heel strike. I normally run in stability shoes (Asics 2100 series or Mizuno Inspries), but I switched to the Brooks Ghost. I felt like the lighter shoe and less posting really helped me get in tune with my stride.

    My issue is that I am a slight heel-striker, but I already have a naturally high cadence. Without trying to up my turnover, I still run at about 90 beats/min for each foot. If I exaggerate the forefoot/midfoot strike, I can give myself a pretty ouch-tastic case of extensor tendonitis on my typically non-injured side. Harumph.

    My solution is to work heavily on the midfoot strike during shorter, faster runs and just concentrate on keeping decent form during my long runs. It's a tough change!

  32. I have the best form when I wear really minimal shoes - my fave is the New Balance WT 101s. I also like the low profile Vasque Transistor FS trail shoe and my Inov8 Flyrocs.
    You won't mid/forefoot strike naturally until your foot forces you to do so out of self-preservation.
    Another trick I try is the "Chi" running form where you lean from the ankles as if you're falling forward slightly. This will help you and seems to make running feel easier (I use it in races as much as possible).

  33. I really want to try the new hurricanes. I'm actually not sure if I'm a heel striker, although the shoe store people have commented that the wear on my shoe is more midfoot indicative. I should get someone to watch me or video me. Having said that, I've been pretty injury free so far, so I'm not stressing it too much.

  34. This shoe thing opened a can of worms!!! Haha.. however, it goes to show how right you are about the shoe being very personal and differnt for each individual runner. That being said, I have fallen in love with the Nike Frees... on my second pair. They take some getting used to, but I have run up to 18 miles in them and plan on running a marathon in them next Spring. I am not a trend follower, but after all the injury issues I had, I was willing to try anything. It was the magic solution for me. .. stride modification required.

  35. I love the Saucony Pergrines because I have such a wide foot (matches my ass) and so many other running shoes that are sleek, end up pinching off my blood supply to my feet. Which then makes them numb and then I quit. no good!

  36. I apparently have a weird stride. I look like I'm going to have a massive healstrike, but magically end up as a midfoot striker.

    As for shoes, right now I'm rocking the New Balance 890s and 1400s, and Saucony Fast twitch. I think I have a pair of the New Balance 1080s too. But since I'm a mid-foot striker anyway, I'm not sure if I'm going to change my everyday trainers (1080s and 890s) for something with a smaller heel-toe drop.

  37. Honestly your heel strike isn't as violent as you think in that video. Just prior to contact you shift a bit forward from the heel. What I would say is a bigger problem and a possible contributor to some of your injuries is over striding. Rather than worrying about changing you foot strike, focus on landing more under your body than way out in front.

    A shoe isn't going to magically change your foot strike overnight. People switch to vibrams or other similar shoes thinking it will but some still land on the back of their heel. Many people just naturally have a heel strike and may never be able to adapt fully to midfoot. There are even some elites who heel strike.

  38. I was a huge heel striker as well, unnntttillll I switched to the 5 fingers. I did one run in them and that was it. I haven't been a heel stricker since. I didn't even have to think about it, it just happened. Now when I do run in running shoes, I continue to have the mid-foot strike. It has helped me running. I feel like I'm getting more out of my runs. My legs feel stronger. They aren't the sexiest shoe I wear (I do own 7 pairs of them). But I don't want to look sexy when I run, only after.

  39. I do believe that each runner is different and has to deal with their own health, I'll say my opinions are based on me alone.

    I love Saucony. And I'd love a "flater" shoe from them. I have not look into minimual shoes because I simply take my shoes off. With this year being trail and distance focused I have done little to experiment with shoes. Although after this weekend my shoes will need replacing so looking at a shorter raise would be something I could be interested in. Just tell them to send them my way, any color will do! ;-)

  40. I used to run in traditional, padded Nike and Adidas running shoes and my shin splints were horrible by Friday on just four days of running less than a 5K per day, so I was probably a heel striker. But I thought that was what I was supposed to be going for, a padded shoe that "helped" my high arches and "preserved" my knees by absorbing the shock.

    Then I listened to Born to Run and what he said about weakening an arch by supporting it too much made a lot of sense. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I first started focusing on running more "mid-foot to forefoot, upright, foot landing under my body" and found this helped a great deal, but it was still pretty easy to forget and pound down on my heels in padded shoes. For a long while, I practically forced myself to run (much more slowly than usual) on tiptoes, to sort of drive it home. Yes, my calves were more tired for some time, but I adjusted.

    Eventually, I bought a pair of Nike Frees and wore them once a week, then twice a week, then every other run, and finally worked up to wearing them all the time. When I finally wore the soles off, I had to revert to wearing some old running shoes until I could swing by the local sporting goods store and buy new ones. By this time, I had transitioned from a four day a week runner to a five day a week runner and from 15 mile weeks to 22 to 26 mile weeks.

    A single run in the old padded Nikes felt awkward, like running in high heels, they felt oddly heavy and gave me a blister in a spot where I "never" get blisters, and my shins were angry at me. And these were shoes I loved running in less than a year before.

    I picked up a newer pair of Frees *and* a pair of the New Balance Minimus that afternoon and I alternate days in them. Love them both. Both shoes are light, durable and extremely comfortable. Frees are a pretty good transition shoe thanks to the soft padding. The Minimus is slightly more rigid and less padded, so I'm guessing they'll probably last longer than the Frees, with their very, very soft outsole. They almost feel more like a foam-padded slipper.

    I'm never going to go Vibram or barefoot, (I run outside. I want actual shoes between me and the pavement. And what might be on the pavement. The shoes I have are minimal enough for me.) but I'm pretty happy with these minimalist shoes. My transition was sensible and gradual enough that it wasn't really painful.

    Another great benefit besides the banished "wrecked shins" feeling? Fabulously toned calves.

  41. I heard one of the ways to learn how it should "feel" is to run barefoot on a track (since it's still soft and you won't be damaging much). Bc of the impact, your heel will not be able to handle heel-strike, so you automatically change to a more mid-foot/forefoot strike. Do a couple of laps like that, then put the shoes back on and see if you can mimic your form, then back to barefoot and so on. Or get the Vibram Five Fingers, and incorporate some runs with them (transition VERY VERY VERY slowly, even if you feel fine, don't do more than a quarter mile the first few times). They also help you feel the impact on the heel, changing your form.

  42. I am in Saucony Pro Grid Guide 4's. When I was trying on shoes at the very reputable running store in town, I think I tried 10 more minimal shoes before the guy said, "you might like these" - they look BEHEMOTH next to those other minimal shoes but they felt so much better. Maybe I am just needy for the feel of motion stabilization or something but they get two thumbs up (toes?) from me.

  43. Just purchased a pair of Saucony progrid guide 5 s and definitely feel my foot striking mid sole. However, my achilles is aching. Anyone else have this problem? I have always depended on a shoe with a slight heel to alleviate this pain and am wondering if the twelve to eight millimeter transition is unadvisable for someone like me with chronic achilles issues.

  44. I have been heel striking ever since I can remember. Someone commented on a race photo and told me I should go to a good form class. So I did. They videotaped us running in our shoes (my extra support Asics) and then barefoot. I went home and tried it out using the techniques given. For the first time, my knee HURT. My jaw even felt jarred. My rolling heel to toe gait became a landed gait. The next day hurt so bad I went to sports doc. He said my IT band and knee tendons were the culprit and to not try changing anything at this time.

    Three months later I still have these knee/band issues so I am guessing that their appearing the day I tried midsole was a coincidence.

    I do try to midsole on occassion and know I do during my 100% strides on track nights.

    But, lately I have been having arch pain like what you get after wearing high stiletto heels for too many hours.

    I went to the local running store and they did a gait analysis/video and said I was in a shoe MUCH to supportive and built in the arch for my foot. I only needed "mid" support. Not max support.

    After trying on every model, the Saucony Progrid 5's were the ones I took home. Compared to my former shoes, the Progrid 5's felt like bedroom slippers. So comfie!!!!

    These shoes cured my painful arch woes. I am still heel striking, but I am also getting more midsole striking in. Taking it slow as changing things up has made me more aware of my lower legs. My knee/IT band issue is still here, but even with my increasing miles it isn't as bad as it was before I switched shoes.

    I LOVE my Progrid 5's.

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  52. I returned to running after a 10 year gap i run 6 days a week and rotate 5 different pairs off shoes Accis New Balance mizuno and i recently bought a pair off off Saucony ride 6 which i have had major problems with in both Achilles tendons and heel pain the fact that i am rotating my shoes has help me work out its down to this shoe The heel tab is higher on one side than the other having spent 100 pounds and bought from a speacilist shop i am somewhat disappointed

  53. According to the main shoe tester and biomechanist over at runners world, we are all heel strikers, even it we don't realize it. We are optimized for heel striking. Heel striking is correct. Most of the assumptions about midfoot striking are turning out to be dead wrong according to his real world research, and the latest research.