Saucony is Hacking Heels Again: Fastwitch 5 is Going to 4mm Drop

Saucony is making news once again on the low-profile shoe front. I’ve received a few messages from readers over the past few days about a video on the Running Warehouse website featuring the upcoming Fastwitch 5 lightweight training/racing shoe. In the video, a representative from Saucony confirms that they have dropped the heel in the Fastwitch 5 by 8mm in the forthcoming version, making it a 4mm drop running shoe. This puts it right in line with the Kinvara and Grid Type A4 in Saucony’s lineup (both of which are 4mm if you remove the insole, which adds a few millimeters to the heel). It’s a fairly major modification to a shoe that has been around for a bit, and I very excited by the implications of the change. Essentially, the Fastwitch is going from being a heel masher that I would no longer consider wearing to a shoe that I can probably run in comfortably on my midfoot (though, to be honest, I much prefer the more aggressive look of the Fastwitch 4 – see below – to the considerably more conservative styling of its sequel – picture also below).

Saucony Fastwitch 4

Saucony Fastwitch 4

Saucony Fastwitch 5

Saucony Fastwitch 5 Image via RunningShoesGuru.com

So what’s the big deal here? Well, while New Balance is set to release it’s 4mm drop Minimus line of shoes with a great degree of excitement and caution (word is they will initially have to be bought in store so that proper transition methods can be discussed), Saucony has had shoes with a similar level of heel to forefoot drop on the market for most of 2010, and nobody would argue with the fact that the Kinvara has been one of the hottest running shoes around in 2010 (my Kinvara review is consistently one of my top three posts in terms of blog traffic). Saucony has likely accumulated a lot of consumer feedback based on the success of the Kinvara, and my suspicion is that if they were receiving a rash of injury reports, this move with the Fastwitch 5 would not have occurred. Rather, I suspect that the success and popularity of both the Kinvara and Grid Type A4 have allowed Saucony to see that lower drop shoes sell, and that it’s a feature that many runners now want. Hence the decision to slice a good chunk off the heel off the Fastwitch 5 and go more aggressively after this section of the market.

I’m excited about this development because it suggests that we are continuing to see a push toward more minimalist style shoes. Saucony was an early adopter in the minimalist market, particularly compared to companies like Asics, Brooks, and Mizuno, who have largely relied on existing racing shoes to appeal to minimalist runners. The benefit of this early movement into the niche is that Saucony now has a one-year jump on much of the competition when it comes to marketing minimalist-style shoes (i.e., they have a lot of market data and consumer feedback to work with), and they are going to be the first of the big players to put out a true zero-drop shoe, the Saucony Hattori, in the not too distant future (other players like shoe giant Merrell and upstart Altra will be jumping in with zero-drop options next year as well). All of these companies deserve some credit for being a bit ahead of the game.

I must also confess to having a soft spot for Saucony shoes. The Fastwitch 2 was my first ever racing shoe, and it is the shoe in which I ran my 5K and half-marathon PR’s. Those PR’s still stand today, mostly because I haven’t raced those distance much lately, but I should honestly point out that the heel didn’t seem to get in my way when it came to running a fast race. However, I have moved away from that type of heel-lifted shoe for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my determination to make my retooled midfoot stride stick and see how it affects my running going into the future – in other words, I’m planning for the long term. My Fastwitch 2′s are still runnable, but they are now collecting dust under a table in my office (they are my backup in case I forget to bring shoes with me on run days at work). My past experience with the shoe is probably part of the reason why I’m excited to try out the new Fastwitch. My other Saucony success story is that my marathon PR came this past Fall in the Saucony Kinvara, a race in which I also qualified for the Boston Marathon. I’m not naive enough to credit my performance in those PR races to my shoes, but PR shoes earn a special place in a runner’s psyche, and Saucony happened to be the brand on my feet on those triumphant days.

I’ve said this before, but 2011 is going to be a very exciting year for minimalist style runners, and news like that about the hacked heel of the Fastwitch 5 makes me ever more confident that variety in shoe design and choice is only going to increase. Minimalism has found a firm place in the running shoe market, and though it might not be for everyone, it’s nice that those of us who are proponents of a less-is-more approach to footwear will have even more options going forward.

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. I think that we will continue to see more dialed down racing shoes in the future because these large shoe companies want to appear to a wider audience for their shoes.

  2. This is awesome news. I’ve been wearing the Fastwitch’s for about 4-5 months now and this will give me a good reason to continue towards increased minimalism. It can be hard when you’re running 9-10 miles a day, but a transition like this is a good first step.

  3. Niki Lacoste says:

    I bought a pair of Kinvaras based on your positive review. Altough the low heel drop did feel super nice I didn’t like the pointy toebox. Wow they are super syper narrow around the toes. I can’t see how the toes can splay at all in these shoes I am looking for a shoe for my long runs as an alternative to my 5Finger Bikilas. Are all Saucony shoes narrow and pointy?

    • Rich Casto says:

      I’ve only run in Saucony’s for the past 25 years because of the wide toe box compared to other popular brands (e.g. Nike). But there are exceptions; the A4′s are also narrower in the front, but I chalk that up to them being ‘race’ shoes.

  4. Seems like good news but why so catious design of the new Fastwitch 5? I like the look of the fastwitch 4, in general I like a more distinguished, colourful look on racer shoes differing them from the normal white/silver/blue colouring of other running shoes.

    thanks again for great blog. I follow it very regularly!

    My blog although you wont get very much out of it (in Swedish…)

    Kind regards,
    Staffan Dahlgren
    Sweden

  5. I own a pair of Fastwitch 3′s that need be replaced soon…I’m liking the updates to the 5!!!

  6. I like the Fastwitch but what is the difference between it and the Kinvara? They both seem to be nearly the same weight.

  7. ChicagoDan says:

    I liked the FT3′s and absolutely LOVE the 4′s. Haven’t tried the 5s yet, but based on reviews / specs seems like they added a small post to the kinvara and changed the name. Some how the 5s got 0.8oz heavier than the 4s? Seems like this shoe competes w/ the kinvara whilst potentially losing market share in those who liked the light-weight 10+mm drop shoe. I was hoping that Saucony wouldn’t go the way of Nike (i.e. marketing trendy shoes to back-of-the-packers) but it appears so though that’s where they’re heading. Off to hunt down as many pairs of the 4s i can find in a size 12.

  8. Just wondering how the Saucony Mirage compare to this, same heel drop but I like my shoes flexible.

  9. I hate this new trend!
    Im a super big fan of the Fastwitch and I love my Fastwitch 3 and 4.
    Im also a midfoot striker but I do prefer the heel drop 10mm.
    The fastwitch is my no 1 shoe for short and long races. I use them in 3k’s and full maratons. Im a runner on the heavy side, and no problem using the fastwitch during a 3:03 maraton for me.

    I also own the Saucony Tangent (superb shoe!) kinvara and Grid a4. Last two with low heel to toe like new fastwitch. Kinvara i dont like. A4 is light so i use it now and then – would never use it in a race though.

    Bottom line. Im ditching my favourite brand Saucony because of two reasons. 1) Because they no longer export shoes outside USA (cant buy from runningwarehouse no more) and 2) because of heel-to-toe.

    Im switching over to Adidas and I find the Adidas Adizero Adios a good replacement for the fastwitch 3/4. Same profil and better sole :)

  10. Pete,

    I agree that Saucony is smartly jumping out to the forefront of the natrual running movement with their low profile shoes. BTW, yesterday at my local running shop I heard they’re coming out with a 4 mm drop shoe with a touch of posting called the Saucony Mirage. I think this is an important niche that needs to be addressed — low profile shoes that are still flexible and that support good running form but have a little guidance:
    link to video.competitor.com

  11. This is a great trend for minimalist runners everywhere. Just wanted to say I enjoy reading your blog. You are doing a nice job of reporting on running–especially the barefoot/minimalist side of things. You have a natural writing style and keen eye for seeing the implications of recent developments in the running arena. Keep up the excellent writing!

    -Chris

  12. I’m curious how this will differ from the Kinvara…thoughts?

  13. When I came back to running I also purchased a pair of old school fast twitches as a ‘prize’ for training for my first race back, and losing the first 20 pounds, and they really have served me well. 5k back in 2007, all the way to 26.2 this past February. I recently purchased a pair of FT4s and love the ride, and can’t wait to race in them soon. I am also glad to see they are moving toward a more minimalist incarnation, because I have held for quite a while that back in my first life as a runner my Nike Zoom Country XC spikes were the best mostly because they were so minimalist. Go figure.

  14. Jamieofthenorth says:

    I’m a converted Saucony fan because of the Kinvaras, so this is excellent news. Low profile is the way to go. Glad Saucony thinks so as well. Their shoes are awesome.

    • Can someone tell me if the Fastwitch is the same as the Kinvara in the ankle region? I bought a pair of the Kinvaras but they cut into my ankle bone. I’m hoping the Fastwitch is cut a little lower, or at least a little more padding in that area.
      Can anyone tell me?

      • Pete Larson says:

        Don’t know yet – don’t think the Fastwitch is available.

        Pete

        • Pete,

          Thanks for your prompt reply. No wonder this is a successful site.
          You certainly are on top of it.
          You may remember a post I made on your Kinvara review. I wanted to like that shoe but it just didn’t fit me in the ankle area; very uncomfortable (seemed to be cut high and cut into my ankle). I was trying to see if anyone else had the same problem.
          Now I’m hoping the Fastwitch will be more comfortable for me.
          I’m now running in New Balance MT101′s on the trail (love them), and the retro Saucony Jazz Low Pro on the street. But I need some more padding for the pavement. I looked at your review on the Mizuno shoes. They sound good.
          But I’m drawn to the Sauconys. Can you advise me?
          Thanks,
          Paul

          • Pete Larson says:

            Hard to say – Saucony also has a shoe called the Mirage coming soon that you
            may want to look at. It’s like the Kinvara with a bit more structure. The
            Mizuno Ronin is a nice shoe with a simlar heel height to the MT101.

            Pete

  15. East River Runner says:

    I am a big fan of the Fastwitch 2. The FT2 had a great ride and are very comfortable for long distance races. When I bought the Fastwitch 3, I was extremely disappointed. The FT3 hurt my feet and felt stiff. The FT3 have very little cushioning in the front sole area. Is it because of the change in the rubber compound used? Anyway. It would be great if Saucony could recapture the feel of the Fastwitch 2 with the 5th version.

  16. That’s good news, not only because of the shoe itself, but also because it means that there is market for more minimalist shoes.

  17. I like the look of the Fastwitch but what are the differences between it and the Kinvara? The both seem to be the same weight. What distinguishes one from the other?

  18. I received a pair of the Fastwitch 5′s a couple of weeks ago after showing a Saucony Rep a pair of my Fastwitch 4′s that I chopped the mosot of the midsole off of and put about 500 miles on. The 5 is indeed a 4mm drop but it is MUCH firmer than the 4′s and the great flexibility of the 4′s is non-existent in the 5′s. That said, the 4mm drop is a big plus but I am going to make the Kinvara my next high milage trainer to go with my chopped Fastwitsch 4′s.

    • I love the 4s, ran IM Wisconsin in them.  Just got the 5s and I don’t like them at all.  Toebox is smaller and the overall fit is different.  Trying to find someone who has old 4s in stock size 11.  Still have some A2s with low mileage.  Using them in the meantime. 

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks for the report – looking forward to trying the Fastwitch 5 myself!

      Pete

  19. Oops, didn’t see the below post. Sorry!

  20. AshwynGray says:

    Interesting! And, kudos to Saucony for being confident in their approach to altering the heel-toe drop ratio. The image of the Fastwitch 5 looks as though there is more cushioning in the forefoot area relative to the Fastwitch 4. Of course, that could be due to minor perceptual inconsistencies between the two pictures. I wish Mizuno would take a cue for Saucony in this regard. Thanks for the info, Pete!

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