In 2000, Saucony released the Grid Azura cushioned running shoe. For a supposed neutral shoe, the Grid Azura was a pretty stable runner due to its low profile stance, almost straight last, and durable rubber in the forefoot. It was a lightweight and airy shoe for its time, and I was warned that it might hold up for only 200 miles. Now, 12 years later, it’s a running shoe that I still use a few times each month, and there’s little indication that it’s nearing the end of its useful days.
I had high expectations that Saucony’s fifth iteration of the ProGrid Ride would be a current day version of the Grid Azura. They appear to have a few things in common. The Ride is a low profile shoe with a lowered heel height and a close-to-straight last that’s unique for a neutral, cushioned running shoe. Appearance wise, it almost looks like a descendant of the Azura, even down to the triangular lugs in the front of the shoe. However, the Ride 5 has ultra-soft blown rubber in its forefoot. Surprisingly, the Ride 5 seems to be not just as stable as the old Azura, but even more so which can present issues for some runners.
Let me point out a few accolades for this shoe. The new Ride looks to be beautifully constructed, has a nice, comfortable feel (size up a half-size), and brings with it some very functional flat shoelaces that stay tied. Unfortunately, this is about it for the positives. I expected that with the lowered profile – somewhere in between that of a standard racing shoe and a minimalist runner – the Ride would feel like a racing flat. No such luck.
I quickly found the Ride’s ride to be overly stable perhaps due to the hard support device found underneath the arch (the Azura had no such mid-foot support device). I felt as if my feet were being pushed outward on every step, something that would surely result in some fast wearing down of the heels. And the ride seemed indistinct, as if I could feel neither my heel planting nor the soft rubber up front. This was so surprising that I found myself constantly looking down – had I mistakenly put on an ancient pair of New Balance cross-trainers?
If I were to attempt to describe the feel of the Ride in one word, I would have to use the dreaded technical term, “mushy,” generally not a word used in the laudatory sense.
Saucony has made much of the fact that the Ride 5 is an ounce lighter than the Ride 4 due to less cushioning in the midsole and less rubber on the sole. I’m not sure this is such a good thing, as both my feet and ankles were sore even before the end of my first test run in this version.
Perhaps there are ultra-efficient, blessed runners who’ll run on their toes in the Ride 5 and find it to be an exceptional lightweight trainer. For this runner, it’s an experiment that didn’t work. On to the Nike Zoom Elite+ 5?