Saucony's Freedom 4 Brings Freedom to Run

We are deep into the midst of our run season here at Slowtwitch, what with the Annual 100/100 Run Challenge taking place now. I’m a bit late to the party -- I’ll be starting my own version here this Wednesday, as we had a COVID quarantine here at Slowtwitch’s northern outpost. But that also means it’s time to start diving through the closet of running shoes. (Note: unless otherwise specified, all shoes were procured with my own hard-earned cash.)

I came to triathlon via running. I started working in the specialty run industry while in college. It was during this time that I came to running, too. I’d never been much of an athlete growing up, but in college I first went from going to the gym to falling in love with running. But I can still remember trying on that first pair of legitimate, honest-to-God running shoes at my shop -- narrowed down between the Asics GT-2110, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6, and the Saucony Grid Omni.

That first set of shoes has almost defined the things that I like out of running shoes over the 15 plus years since. I’m yet to find an Asics running shoe that I truly enjoy. Brooks will ebb and flow over time -- for a few years, they would be the main pair in the rotation, from the Pure collection to the Launch. For others, they would be out in the hinterlands, lost. But Saucony has always been there. My first half marathon was run in Saucony’s, as was my first triathlon (a 70.3, because I am a moron), my first and to date only Ironman finish, my one Boston Marathon.

That said, though, almost all of those runs were in different shoes in the Saucony line-up -- from Mirages to Triumphs to Fastwitch and everything in between. It’s been rare for me to stick with one particular model in the line-up from year-to-year as they seemingly keep evolving. The most consistent shoe over the last couple of years, for my foot anyways, has been the Freedom -- the subject of today’s review.

What is It?

The Freedom is another one of Saucony’s neutral shoes -- of which they have a lot, these days! A simple explanation might be that the Freedom is to the Kinvara what the Triumph is to the Ride -- a plusher, more luxurious running experience around and underfoot than the meat and potatoes workhorse. Like a Kinvara, the Freedom features 4 millimeters of heel to toe offset. And like a Kinvara (and most Saucony’s, for that matter), there’s maximum ground contact under foot -- there’s no plastic in the middle part of the shoe. It’s all midsole or outsole. This has been their motif ever since they dropped making 12mm offset shoes nearly ten years ago.

For cushioning, the Freedom features PWRRUN PB midsole. What’s PWRRUN PB? Well, that’s the same PIBA cushioning that you find in the Endorphin Pro and Speed. You wouldn’t be far off to think of this shoe as an Endorphin with slightly less midsole height and no plate in it. Stack heights are 28mm in the heel, and 24mm in the forefoot.

On the upper, Saucony opts for a knit material with minimal overlays. There’s not much of a heel counter to speak of. This is a shoe that rides lower on the foot -- so those with a higher instep won’t be all that happy. The forefoot borders on the slightly narrower side of things, although the knit material offers a lot of give to it and proves more accommodating than it initially appears.

For weight, a men’s size 9 will be 7.5 ounces. Of course, in my size 13s, you’ll need the entire Morton’s container of salt to take it for what it is worth. These scale up faster in terms of weight than, say, a comparable lightweight HOKA model.

How’s the Run?

The best thing that I can say about the Freedom is that you forget that you’re wearing them.

Let me explain.

With a lot of modern shoes, you really feel the technology under the foot. Whether that’s a carbon plate on a pair of Vaporfly’s, or the marshmallow experience that comes with a HOKA, you don’t really forget what pair of shoes are on your feet. That doesn’t mean that the run isn’t enjoyable in that shoe, but it never gets out of your head, either.

The Freedom gives you freedom to run from that. The POWRRUN PB cushioning works. It reminds me of the first generation Boost shoes from adidas in the way that it provides a plush ride without being sloppy. On a variety of terrain, the Freedom excelled, handling steep downgrades with softness while not feeling like they were energy-sapping heading back up them.

Saucony also, in my opinion, nails their sockliners better than anyone else. The arch is in the Goldilocks zone: not too high, not too low. It’s also just substantial enough that if you needed to put an orthotic in here, you should be able to do so without being overcrowded over the top of the foot. Speaking of that upper, it does a very good job holding onto the midfoot and letting your forefoot splay appropriately. My only minor niggle is that the plush material on the heel can cause a little slip, although paired with the right sock (for me, that was a Swiftwick Aspire), that slip disappeared.

On multiple runs, I was able to just clear my head and run without being distracted by what was happening underfoot. That’s a rarity in shoe experiences these days, and worth every penny of the current $150 asking price. You can get them directly from Saucony here.