Update 4/2013: This is a discontinued model, read my Saucony Fastwitch 6 review here.
Over the past few months I’ve been putting miles on several new reduced-heel shoe offerings from Saucony. Among these are the Fastwitch 5, Mirage, Peregrine, and most recently the Hattori. The Fastwitch 5 is unique among these in that it is the only one that is not an entirely new shoe – it’s the 5th incarnation of a popular lightweight trainer/racing shoe. I actually have a personal history with the Fastwitch as the Fastwitch 2 was my first racing shoe, and it was the shoe I wore for 2 of my first 4 marathons. I was therefore rather excited when I first heard that Saucony would be reducing the heel height of the Fastwitch in this newest model (making it a 5mm drop shoe). Saucony has been a bit of a trend setter in this sense – they have a wider variety of reduced heel options than most of their major competitors, and for this I give them a lot of credit.
On with the review:
The initial release of the Fastwitch 5 included to colorways – a fairly conservative white version with black and green overlays, and a flashier green version with black overlays. Unfortunately, the media sample that Saucony sent me was the white version (disclaimer: this shoe was provided free of charge by Saucony), and though it is certainly not an ugly shoe, I’m not a huge fan of excessively white shoes. The green version is pretty slick (see photo below), and much better suits my taste. In most respects, the Fastwtich 5 is a pretty standard looking running shoe – not much more to say than that.
Though it shares a similar heel-forefoot-drop to the Saucony Kinvara (see my Kinvara review here), the Fastwitch 5 is a very different shoe. First and foremost, whereas the Kinvara is a neutral cushioned shoe, the Fastwitch is a stability shoe with a medial post (see gray area on the midsole in the photo above). Thus, the Fastwitch 5 will appeal to those who might be afraid to try a neutral shoe like the Kinvara. Personally, I’m not a big believer that pronation control should be a major criterion in shoe selection, but I know some people fear deviating from their assigned category, so this is a low drop shoe that might strike a bit less fear into the stability crowd.
In addition to the medial post, the Fastwitch also has a very firm midsole – much firmer than the Kinvara. The reported specs are 18mm lift in the heel, 13 mm in the forefoot (I measure 14 mm – close enough I guess), and the included insole adds 2 mm to the heel lift (as is the case with most of the other Saucony shoes I have). I have taken to using my Nike Free insoles in all of my Saucony shoes since they are flat and thus don’t add additional heel height. There is also noticeable arch support built into the shoe, so swapping insoles doesn’t correct for that.
One of the biggest complaints that I’ve heard about the Kinvara is that it lacks durability due to its minimal outsole. The Fastwtich 5 has a much more prominent outsole that covers the entire bottom of the shoe. As such, I expect that it will be a lot more durable for those who have had issues with the Kinvara (my one and only pair of Kinvaras has held up quite well even after having run two marathons in them). The tradeoff to the added rubber on the sole is that it’s a bit heavier than the Kinvara – it’s listed at 8 oz in size 9.
Finally, in terms of fit, these shoes run true to size for me and the forefoot is snug but comfortable. It’s by no means a wide shoe – very similar to the Kinvara actually, which works OK for my foot (though I’d prefer a bit more width).
I’ve come to the realization over the past few months that I don’t like firm shoes unless they sit extremely close to the ground (e.g., an XC flat or less). This is a problem I had with the New Balance Minimus Road, and I’m having similar feelings about the Fastwitch. While running in the Fastwitch 5, I find that the firmness seems to cause me to rapidly pronate upon initial ground impact, but then stop rapidly once the medial border of the shoe hits the ground. It feels kind of like a jerky motion as opposed to the more fluid landing I feel in a softer shoe or one that hugs the ground. This is probably just a personal thing, but because of it, this shoe will not likely earn a regular spot in my rotation. For those who dislike the Kinvara because of its slightly squishy sole, the Fastwitch might be a better choice.
Aside from the firmness of the sole, this is a pretty solid shoe. Because of the low heel, I’m capable of running comfortably in them and can easily find my midfoot (easier once I’m warmed up a bit). They are quite comfortable on the run, and I haven’t experienced any abrasion or hotspots.
The Fastwitch 5 is a decent addition to Saucony’s crop of lightweight training/racing shoes. I’m personally not a big fan of the firmness of the midsole, but if you don’t like the Kinvara because of its softness, this shoe might be a better option. Furthermore, if you’ve been hesitant to try a low drop shoe because most lack stability features, the Fastwitch 5 might be a “safer” option (as is the Mirage, which I will be reviewing soon).
For an alternative viewpoint, check out this review of the Saucony Fastwitch 5 by my buddy Thomas Neuberger over at the Believe in the Run blog.
The Saucony Fastwitch 5 is currently available at Running Warehouse.