Among Slowtwitchers: HOKA Leads, Saucony Gains For Everyday Trainers

We just ran a poll on run shoe brand preference, as we will do here from time to time (and have done for almost 15 years). Exactly 1300 readers answered this question, and 1320 of you took this poll the last time we asked the question 13 months ago (here's our commentary on our poll from last year).

This year (like last year) we asked what shoe you prefer just for training. No real mystery which brand came out on top; it was HOKA. This brand has reached cruising altitude, with 25.8 percent of users choosing this brand last year and 25.6 percent this year. HOKA has made forward progress in training shoes with the Bondi X (pictured above) and the Mach 4, mid- and light-weight trainers respectively, both big improvements over the standard Bondi and the Mach 3 in my opinion as well as opinions shared by many of our readers (here's our Forum discussion of the Bondi X, and the Mach 4 dominated our recent Recommend a HOKA thread).

But the big mover this year was Saucony. Last year 12 percent said "Saucony" to our training shoe preference question and that jumped to 19 percent in one year, which is pretty astounding. The last time our polling saw a brand jump of this size was when we polled racing shoe preference, and Nike made the jump off the strength of its Vaporfly right after it first came out. But you can only race so often. Race for show, train for dough would be my mantra if I was a run shoe brand, because training shoes need to be replaced much more often. Accordingly, Saucony has made the big move this year and in a more important category (if sales are the metric).

Why the move to Saucony for training? Because of the Endorphin line: The Pro (pictured above), Speed, and Shift. I say this because I asked on our Reader Forum why you moved from something else to Saucony over the past year (and what you moved from and to). So far about 60 of you have replied, and those who moved over to Saucony were in Skechers, Nike Pegasus, Salming, Brooks Hyperion and Launch, Mizuno Wave Inspire, ON CloudFlow, Altra Escalante, Brooks Launch, Newton Kismet, a little of everything. And, from Nike. One reader said he, “was Nike Zoomfly/Vaporfly but switched over to Endorphin Speed/Pro.” Some moved from HOKA (the Bondi and the Clifton primarily).

What surprised me is that very few of you moved to the Shift. I reviewed that shoe last year, and you might have liked the review but almost all of you moved to the lighter Speed, and some to the still-lighter Pro. The Speed is just under 7.8oz in a size 9 and that’s quite light. That shoe is lighter than a HOKA One One Carbon X, which is 8.4oz and the Carbon X is my racing flat. The Endorphin Pro is just a tad lighter yet at 7.5oz.

None of these shoes are for the wallet-challenged. The Saucony’s Endorphin Speed and Pro are $160 and $200 respectively and HOKA’s Carbon X 2 is $180. So, for all the grousing you-all do about price, you’re willing to give until it hurts for your training flats!

While the Endorphin series is Saucony's new fave among so many of you, Ryan Heisler just published a review of the Saucony Freedom 4, and his thesis (if I understand him correctly) is that the tailwind Saucony is riding is about more than just its Endorphin collection. Saucony’s “meat and potatoes line up (Ride, Guide, Triumph, Kinvara) have been crushing it,” he wrote on that Reader Forum thread.

If you look at the results of this poll, no shoe company tanked. Okay, Nike tanked a little, from 15 percent in 2020 to 12 percent this year. Otherwise it’s like Saucony passed a collection offering around and every brand dropped one percent of user preference into the plate.

The brands holding their own or increasing – other than HOKA and Saucony – were New Balance (holding steady at 8 percent), and ASICS, with a modest 1 percent increase from 8 to 9 percent year-over-year. This is a big deal, because after a decade of free-fall (in Slowtwitch User preference), ASICS has moved up a percentage point each of the last 2 years. It held to its traditional narrative for a long time but over the last 2 years has been exploring themes like lower drop and increased forefoot cushion. This has resulted in really interesting shoes like the METASPEED collection which has me very intrigued (like the METASPEED SKY, pictured above). If ASICS can translate some of this new interesting design work to more affordable price points one wonders how that might affect the fortunes of this brand in tech running.