Thursday, February 11, 2016

Shoe Review; Saucony Breakthru 2, 50 miles in.

I've been spending a lot of time in performance trainers lately.  I absolutely love to race and do speed workouts in racing flats, and I occasionally reach for more minamalist or lower-drop shoes, so your average performance trainer is more like a cushioned daily trainer in my rotation.  I have close to 300 miles into my Brooks Launch 2 (not sure if I'll get the Launch 3,which is very similar in my opinion), so I picked up a pair of Saucony Breakthru 2.  The Breakthru is a shoe that's geared directly toward the Brooks Launch/Mizuno Wave Sayonara crowd.  It's a daily-to-uptempo trainer that could be called upon for some longer race work.  Here are my thoughts after 50 miles.

Although there's nothing special or fancy about the Breakthru 2's aesthetics, it's a pretty handsome shoe in my opinion.

The shoe looks nice.  Not outstanding or garish, and not plain or drab.  Saucony dropped the sublimated printing from the original Breakthru for a slightly more understated, yet classier look.  I love the ViziOrange colorway too!  My Breakthru 2s look like a tough, older brother to my orange Type A6s.  
A complaint I hear from several trusted sources in the running shoe community was that the original Breakthru was snug with an ill-fitting toe-box.  Saucony's description implied that the Breakthru 2 is slightly roomier.  I ordered my true-to-size men's 9.5 and felt that the fit was right.  The Breakthru 2 is a slightly snug shoe, but I'd call it secure-snug, not tight-snug.  My toes never felt uncomfortable.  There is a hard heel counter, but it's not something I notice while running.  There's nothing special about the sock liner.  It's not the soft, creamy heel-cup you might find in the Brooks Launch 2/3 or in any of the Saucony ISO series, but it doesn't need to be.  It gets the job done.  The overall fit is locked-down and secure for business.
The Breakthru 2 has pretty decent outsole coverage with enough rubber (XT900 and IBR+) to keep it sturdy.

Midsole and Outsole Design
The Breakthru 2's midsole uses SSL (Saucony Super Light) EVA with a full length PowerGrid drop-in.  The Breakthru line has not yet integrated Everun into the midsole like many of the other core trainers, but this may be an update for future models.  The flex-grooved outsole consists of hard XT-900 rubber on high-wear areas (on the heel and under the big toe) and lighter IBR+ over the rest of the covered areas.  The combination of these rubber compounds make up about 70% of the underside of the shoe, with the rest being exposed EVA to save weight and provide some flexibility.  
A comment that circulated about the original Breakthru was that the midsole was firm and stiff.  Compared to most trainers, I would use those words to describe the Breakthru 2 as well.  Remember, this is a trainer, but it's geared toward faster running.  It makes sense that it bites back a little.  Whether or not this is a positive or a negative depends on your preferences.  The 50 miles I've put on the shoe so far has consisted of a couple of easy daily runs, a fast-finish long run, a super-easy recovery run with my 3rd-grade students, an OrangeTheory Fitness class that included a treadmill run, and a tough, hilly, tempo interval workout.  Aside from the OTF class, all of these runs were on the roads.  At easy paces, the Breakthru 2 felt a little more stiff than smooth, but as I picked up the pace, the shoe began to shine.  As I approached marathon pace, stiffness became smoothness with a crisp response.  When doing a fast 5 miles at near 10k pace at the end of a 17-mile fast-finish long run, I didn't feel that I was fighting the shoe at all.  Same goes for my hilly tempo interval workout later in the week.  This shoe may not be the shoe I would reach for when I'm starting an easy run on pre-fatigued legs, but if I'm doing some pace work that includes some substantial mileage--more than I'd like to do in a pair of racing flats--the Breakthru 2 might get the nod.  I would consider it a very viable marathon racer for most runners, although like most shoe geeks with too many shoes, they may not be my first choice to race 26.2.
If I like the Brooks Launch 2 or 3, would I like the Breakthru 2?  Probably.  The Launch is a a little more shoe, and I think it's a little cushier.  The Breakthru is nearly an ounce lighter (at my size), and possibly a tad more efficient at faster paces.  These shoes definitely compete for the same audience, and they are both a very reasonable $100 MSRP. 
If I like the Mizuno Wave Sayonara, would I like the Breakthru 2?  I think so.  I've run in the Sayonara 1 & 2, and I've worn the 3 for short periods of time.  I think the Breakthru has a better overall fit and ride.  It's feels somewhere between the Sayonara and The Wave Rider 18/19 in comfort and response.  For the price and satisfaction, I prefer the Breakthru 2.
If I like the New Balance Vazee Pace, would I like the Breakthru 2?  Maybe, but likely not as much. As far as performance trainers go, I think the Vazee Pace has the Breakthru beat in nearly every category.  The Breakthru is stiffer, a little heavier, and not quite as roomy in the toe-box.  However, it is $10 cheaper.  I've not yet run a full marathon in either the Vazee or the Breakthru, but the extra distance may make a difference in this comparison as far as how the differing amounts of cushion under the feet come into play in the late stages of a long race.
Overall Take:
I like the Breakthru 2.  Like, but not love.  I appears to be a quality update from the original, and it is a truly great value at $100.    I think I'll use it just as much as my Launches, and I won't be disappointed, but it comes just short of having that X-factor that makes me want to show up and run a race in them or enjoy a nice, 22-mile long run in them.  Not bad, Saucony, not bad.