Sometimes being a city-slicker isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Case in point: getting sent shiny, new trail shoes and not getting to properly break them in for a while. Thus was the case when I received the Saucony Peregrine 4, which Jason was kind enough to send me for review this Spring. I have a piece-work trail system at the park across the street, which actually features some short, technical sections if you know how to find them, but the Peregrines mostly sat unused in the box until last month, when I finally got back out to the trails.

In short, the Peregrine 4’s are fairly cushioned trail shoes with a very aggressive tread, excellent rock protection, a 4mm drop, and weigh in at around 9.4 oz. for a size 9.

Saucony Peregrine 4 Review
To get full specs, click on over to Saucony.com: http://www.saucony.com/en/peregrine-4/12350M.html

Fit and Feel:

The Peregrine’s run true to size for me in length and width.  I found them surprisingly spacious, especially in the toe box, which is capped by an excellent toe bumper. The midfoot fit is particularly good: snug, but in a good way, even on my somewhat wide feet. I think this is due to the placement of the thin but effective, bonded overlays, and the engineered mesh which really conforms to the foot. The only issue I had with the fit was that the lacing system seems to loosen up over the duration of the run more than I’m used to, so I found myself stopping to retie the after serious downhill sections. It’s not that they have untoward heel slippage (I was using the lace-lock tying method) but clearly something was going on.

They feel comfortable on the foot, which is a good start; however, they’re definitely stiff, mostly due to the combination of forefoot and midfoot rock plates, and the full-length tread coverage on the outsole. They’re not New Balance Leadville stiff, and on the run they felt more nimble and pliable than the old “bend the shoe in the hand” test would lead you to believe; however, highly flexible they ain’t. I bring this up because my preference tends towards more flexible shoes on the trails, since I feel like I get better traction when my foot can bend to accommodate changes in the terrain. We’re getting into “Function” territory here, so let’s forge ahead…

Saucony Peregrine 4 Review

Function:

On my first few runs through dry trails I felt invincible. The tread is a beast–think tank tread tough. I found myself purposefully seeking out technical features (roots, rocks, mud, etc) and smiling like a fool as I ran rough-shod over each obstacle. They are surprisingly light for having so much rubber and added rock protection, and that made them mostly a joy to run in.

Over time, though, the initial “new shoe” bliss wore off, and I found myself more focusing on the things I felt missing from the shoe, than what it possessed. What do I feel is missing? For starters, flexibility, as noted above. I think the rock plate is a highly over-sold feature on trail shoes and can actually rob you of stability and traction, while giving you a mis-guided sense of invulnerability. I know these are meant for very technical terrain, the kind where a rock plate is warranted; however, on my most technical outing these really didn’t shine.

I recently took these out on some of the gnarlier trails in the Berkshires in Massachusetts (Race Brook Falls: 6.4M out/back with 1900 ft of gain over 3.2 miles, then the same in loss on the return). This is a pretty technical trail that features enough rocks, roots, water crossings, and rock scrambles to make you question if you’re actually following a trail or just bushwhacking. As they had on earlier runs, the Peregrines fared excellently on the earthier single track, and even managed pretty well as the trail got rootier. They fared less well on the really rocky sections of the course, which featured more cambered single track and some water crossings.

I found myself slipping more than I usually do on the rocky and rooty section near the summit, and I actually think it’s the aggressive tread which is part of the problem (I’m man enough to admit that the other part could be me). While the chevron-style lugs are indeed aggressive and numerous, I think the height, placement, and spacing is such that when you start to slip, as happens on bedrock trails, there’s no other height of lug that comes in to help break. The sensation is that you skid over the lugs as opposed to them digging in to break. Conversely, in forgiving terrain, like wet grass or mud, these lugs bit in with abandon, making me feel extremely secure in charging down some of the muddier sections. On wet rocks: forget about it, slip city, man! On the plus side, they drain very well.

The biggest problem for me was the combination of the lack of flexibility caused by the rock plate, with the tread pattern, which really struggles on more cambered trails where you might need your foot to be flexing at an angle to conform to the trail to achieve sufficient grip to keep yourself from tumbling to uncertain doom. Taking sharp corners or slanted trails at speed felt very iffy at best.

Final Thoughts:

I’m conflicted about the Peregrines. On the one hand, they feel very comfortable on my feet, fit perfectly, and are surprisingly light for so much protection. That being said, I find myself reaching for them less and less. The protection is there, but the performance isn’t there for me, at least not relative to the other shoes I find myself reaching for instead (Pearl Izumi Trail N1, Nike Terra Kiger, Scott Kinabalu, Skechers GoRun Ultra, Inov-8 Mudclaw)

Where I’m let down by them, is at their intended purpose: tackling technical terrain of varying surfaces. They’re stellar in the mud (and I’m guessing in the snow) but on my trails out east muddy trails also have rocks and roots. I’m not saying they’re bad shoes, and for those of you out there that like a bomb-proof outsole with lugs that could crush a car, these are probably right up your alley. In the end it might be a case of different strokes for different folks.

Additional Resource: Here’s another review from Nate Sanel over at Runblogger.com

One thought on “Saucony Peregrine 4

  1. This was very well-written. The description of the shoe’s performance and rationale for it come across as honest and thoughtful. Very, very helpful.

Thoughts?