The Saucony Freedom ISO has a full-volume TPU Everun midsole that provides excellent energy return, responsiveness and ground feel. The upper fit is snug but not overly narrow. The combination of low stack, good cushioning and 4mm offset resulting in a fairly unique shoe. The price is high, but justified by a versatile shoe, packed with the latest technologies.
Saucony recently released a totally new model in their lineup – the Freedom ISO. It is the first shoe with a full-volume Everun midsole, Saucony’s TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) material. Similar to Adidas Boost, it promises better energy return and durability than standard EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam found in most other running shoes. It is also more temperature-stable, retaining more elasticity in colder temps. Previous Saucony models used Everun in the heel pad and as a thin top sole under the sock liner. The Freedom is the first shoe where the entire cushioning system is Everun. The shoe retails at $160 USD / $200 CDN. My shoe weighed in at 265g / 9.5oz for men’s size US 9.0 (one shoe).
The upper is centred around Saucony’s second generation ISOfit system, which is essentially a support cage wrapped around a bootie that comprises the rest of the upper. The laces are attached to the cage, which itself has segmented “fingers” that allow it to flex during the gait cycle. The cage is made of fabric, rather than the plastic of the first-gen ISOfit. The majority of the lacing also now runs through fabric loops, rather than traditional eyelets. Only the topmost lace hole is an eyelet. This allows the lacing to slide a bit between the eyelets and the tension to balance up and down the foot. The shoes come with the slightly elastic flat laces also found on other Sauconys. Two sets of laces are provided – one that matches the upper colour and a bright colour to match the outsole, for the peacock runners out there.
The upper is made of engineered mesh, meaning it has variable weave and layering in different areas. The overall fit of the upper is snug around the fore and mid foot and a bit looser at the heel. My initial impression was that the upper is rather tight, but I found that goes away while running. The lack of structured overlays allows the mesh to stretch to accommodate wider feet. The overall fit is very good for my D to E width feet.
The tongue is minimally padded, which I like, since I don’t see the purpose of a thickly padded tongue if the lace tension is correct to begin with. The tongue is gusseted to the sock upper, which prevents it from falling to one side and also eliminates the need for a stay-loop on the top of the tongue to lace through.
The heel fit is somewhat loose for me and this is consistent with my fit into other current Sauconys. My heels and ankles are somewhat narrow, so I need to ensure the lacing is snug on the last eyelet for a good fit. I suspect the fit will work for most runners with normal width heels.
The heel itself is only minimally supportive. There is not much stiffness to the heel counter and it’s wrapped by a flexible hoop of plastic that connects to the midsole. Based on that, and the medium-width rear midsole platform, I consider this to be a very neutral shoe. It doesn’t offer much lateral support, as opposed to other max-feature neutral shoes with very stiff heel counters and flared, wide base rear platforms.
The midsole is where the story is. As previously mentioned, it is full-length and full stack Everun material, with another Everun top sole and then a conventional foam insole / sock liner. I found the Everun to be very cushioned – comparable to their max-cushion Triumph line. However, there is better energy return and ground feel. One notable property of Everun is it provides more cushioning for a given volume of material. As a result, the stack height of the shoe is only 15mm high forefoot and 19mm at the rear foot, which is much lower than the Triumph or other max-cushion shoes. By being lower to the ground, it improves the responsiveness and ground feel. It’s easier to be more agile with a lower stack shoe, since the ankles feel less cantilevered off the ground.
The Freedom has a 4mm heel-toe offset, which is unusual for a shoe with max cushioning. Most are 8mm or more. This does make it a good companion high-mileage shoe for those who run their shorter runs and speedwork in a low-drop shoe like the Kinvara.
The Freedom has a conventional EVA foam insole (sock liner) with a pronounced arch.
The outsole is unique in terms of looks, if not form. It has the Tri-Flex outsole with chevron patterned lugs, as seen in other shoes in Saucony’s current lineup. However, the “crystal rubber” material is translucent, allowing the painted colours on the bottom midsole to show through. I assume it is a form of high-abrasion rubber. There is a cutout in the heel that exposes some of the Everun material and allow for a bit of flex and impact absorption. The lateral heel corner is slightly beveled to allow for a smoother landing and transition. The chevron pattern allows the sole to easily flex. The full coverage outsole suggests the Freedom will have good durability, compared to shoes with some ground contact EVA, like the Kinvara. However, since the crystal rubber is a new material, wear testing is pending.
One disadvantage of the clear material is that it will be hard to see fine details of tread wear. Examining this is helpful to assess the wear of the shoe and also for gait and form forensics.
I ran the Freedom in dry, wet and snowy pavement, as well as snowy groomed trail. The grip is excellent in dry and wet pavement. The lugs are shallow, providing okay grip on snow, but not as good as a dedicated deep lugged trail shoe.
The elephant in the room is cost. The Freedom hits the magic $200 CDN mark – there are very few shoes at this price point. There are a couple of ways to consider this.
On one hand, it very much is a do-it-all shoe. Cushioned, responsive, flexible and low to the ground and reasonably light for the level of cushioning. It features the latest advanced materials and construction. It can certainly be used for a variety of workouts and is an excellent choice for single-shoe runners. The use of Everun and full coverage outsole suggests it will be very durable as well.
The flip size is, at 9.5 oz, it’s heavier than what a lot of runners might want for track or 5-10k racing. For multiple shoe runners, it might make more sense to have multiple functionally-specific (and cheaper) shoes. While the upfront cost is higher, it would be cheaper on a cost-per-mile basis. An example, staying with the Saucony brand, would be a Kinvara + Ride combo.
Another way to look at it is, the Freedom is $10-20 more than a Triumph or Zealot. But, in return, you get a better shoe – one with equivalent cushioning, lower height, better energy return, more ground feel and marginally lighter (vs. Triumph). It is also the ideal companion for runners already using a low-offset (0-4mm) short run shoe that want the same configuration for their high-mileage shoe. It depends on your needs and perspective.
With the first use of a full-volume Everun midsole, Saucony has put together a unique combination of cushion, response and low-stack height in a snug, close-fitting package. There is a lot to like with the Freedom. The key drawback is price.
We are seeing a move towards advanced materials in running shoes. From welded or 3-d printed overlays, to new cushioning materials like Everun. I hope Saucony continues this trend and introduces more full-length Everun models. In particular, a version of the Kinvara – 7-8 oz weight class, less cushioning and great ground feel with a super-low stack, I think would be a real winner.
- Forefoot strikers with narrow to medium width feet.
- Saucony Zealot runners.
- Runners using a 0-4mm offset shoe for short runs, that want the same configuration for their high-mileage shoe.
- Those that want 8mm or more offset.
- Runners looking for a super lightweight shoe.
- Runners that need a more stable-neutral shoe.