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Saucony Grid Type A6: First Run Review

I loved the Saucony Grid Type A5. Loved it. I might go so far as to say it’s the best shoe I’ve ever run in. I’m not exaggerating.

As I wrote in my review of the A5, what I loved about the shoe was its simplicity. I like shoes that aren’t stuffed to the gills with dubious “technology.” Give me a wedge of foam, an upper that doesn’t cause blisters or fall apart, and a toebox that fits just right and I’m happy. And if you can do all of that for under $100, all the better.

About a year ago I was down at Saucony headquarters in Massachusetts for a visit, and at lunch they brought out some of their next generation shoes. The Saucony Grid Type A6 was one of them. And it looked a lot different.

Saucony Grid Type A6

One of the biggest sources of angst for a runner is the update that kills the shoe they love. I was wary of the changes made to the A6. In particular, Saucony had added a much more substantial rubber outsole. Would this change the ride for the worse? Would the shoe be heavier as a result?

I’ve waited a year to find out, and yesterday the A6 arrived on my doorstep (Disclosure: these shoes were media samples provided free of charge by Saucony). I did a little happy dance when I opened the box, but I had just gotten back from a killer Taekwondo workout (sparring = rubber legs), and no way was a run gonna happen last night.

I woke up this morning with a decision. I could take the Brooks Connect 3 out for a final pre-review run, or skip that and try out the A6. No contest. It’s not that the Connect is a bad shoe (I’m actually liking it a lot even given its funky fit), it’s just not the A6. The A series holds a special place in my heart. It’s OK for an almost 40-year-old guy to publicly admit feelings like this about a shoe, right?

My plan was to just run 5 easy, but that didn’t happen. The A6 is not a shoe built for casual jogging. It begs to go fast. And in that sense, yes, it does feel a bit different than the A5. I need a refresher run in the A5 for a more thorough comparison (will do that soon!), but the A6 feels a bit more like a rocket to me. Maybe a bit firmer with the added rubber, maybe a bit stiffer. Maybe a bit more like a Japanese racing flat in the vein of the adidas Takumi Sen or Mizuno Ekiden.

2014-01-29 15.40.29Needless to say, I wound up running just over 7 miles at a much faster pace than I’ve been running of late (starting to get back in shape after a tough second half of 2013!) – see splits at left via iSmoothRun.

As I mentioned above, the A6 is a firm shoe, and as is typical of racing flats it has a low stack height of 16mm heel, 12mm forefoot. The heel is not soft, and it’s not a shoe that is going to tolerate a heavy heel strike (well, the shoe might tolerate it, your body however might not). I have a mild heel to midfoot striking gait and it was fine, but I’d probably opt for something a bit cushier for distances beyond the half marathon (e.g., NB 1400v2 or adidas Adios Boost).

Saucony Grid Type A6

Once you start to pick up the pace a bit, this shoe flies. The added rubber on the outsole gives the shoe a very stable feel underfoot, and the sole has no cutouts (a full-contact sole as John Schrup would say). It’s not as stiff as the adidas Hagio or Takumi Sen since it doesn’t appear to have any type of shank to increase sole rigidity (the little plastic truss under the arch in the A5 is gone) – I might prefer a more rigid sole for a 5K (though these might be my choice for my next 5K, just because), but the added flexibility of the A6 should make it suitable for me up to the half marathon. It’s similar to the A5 in that sense, I ran my half marathon PR in the A5.

A point to note about the sole is that it retains the drain holes found in previous iterations – in fact, they’ve grown larger (but smaller in number). These can collect pebbles and provide easy access for water to enter from puddles, but honestly the holes have never bothered me too much. A friend (thanks for the tip Stefan!) suggested to just fill them in with a bit of shoe goo if they cause you trouble.

Saucony Grid Type A6 Top

The upper of the A6 is composed of two layers of mesh welded together into one layer. The inner layer is a soft mesh with big holes, and the outer layer is a finer mesh that actually has a bit of give to it. It feels great, not plasticy and restrictive like the mesh on the Kinvara 5. I ran with socks, but I stuck my bare foot in and it feels pretty nice against the skin. The ankle collar is nicely padded and lined with a really soft fabric. Heel counter is similar to the A5 – small and extends only about halfway up the heel. The upper did seem to break in a bit even over the course of my first seven miles in them, no issues as far as comfort goes.

2014-01-29 12.47.02One small but significant change to the upper is worth mentioning – in my review of the A5 one of the only complaints I had was that the pull string on the back of the heel was secured inside the upper by what felt like knots. Those knots created hot spots when I ran sockless in the A5. The A6 trades the string for a flat, stretchy band in this area. The little knots are no longer perceptible so I’m hoping that takes care of that problem.

In terms of fit, the width of the A6 is similar to the A5 – not a wide shoe by any means, but it’s a racing flat so that’s to be expected. It does seem to run a tad longer than the A5. Saucony sent me a 10.5, which is what I wore in the A5, but I asked them to send a second pair in size 10 as I think these might be just a tad large. I’ll report back on how the sizing feels when the second pair arrives (Update – wrote a post on sizing for the Saucony A6 here). My gut right now is telling me that wearing a half size smaller than the A5 or Kinvara 4 is the way to go. We’ll see.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the A6 is that Saucony added a bunch of rubber to the sole, but the shoe actually got lighter. My A6’s in size 10.5 weigh in at 6.1 oz. Running Warehouse reports 5.4 oz for the A6 in men’s size 9, vs. 5.8 oz for the A5 in the same size. Not sure how they managed to add outsole material and reduce weight, but I’m not complaining! (I’d weigh my A5’s in size 10.5 for comparison, but they’re at the office…). The added rubber should improve durability for those who had the habit of ripping off the little rubber nubs on the forefoot of previous iterations of the A series. Never happened to me with the A5, but I’m not opposed to more rubber if it doesn’t incur a significant weight penalty.

One thing I will say about the new outsole is that it handles poorly on snow and ice. But hey, it’s a racing flat so I didn’t expect much in that area!

Conclusion

My initial impression is that I’m going to like this shoe a lot. It’s a go-fast shoe built for runners, not a shoe you’ll find on the wall at your local shopping mall.  It’s a bit different from the A5, but not in a bad way. I need more runs to dial in my thoughts (as well as a refresher run in the A5), and I’m looking forward to trying them in a size 10 to see how the fit compares. You can expect a follow up post soon!

The A6 is available for pre-order now at Running Warehouse, and it’s estimated to ship mid-February.

Saucony Grid Type A6Saucony Grid Type A6

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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. Chris Spaulding says:

    Any idea how these fit compared to the kilkenney xc shoes?

    • Been years since I’ve had a pair of Kilkenny on my feet. No idea compared to current models, but the only pair I ever had was crazy narrow and didn’t work for me.

      • Chris Spaulding says:

        Thanks for the quick response. I have the kilkenney xc4 spike, and they might be the most comfortable shoes I own. I may just have to buck up and find a store where I can go try the type A6 on.

  2. So I was an 11 in the A5 and a 10.5 kinvara. You think a 10.5 in the A6?

    • Won’t know for sure till I try the 10s. I was a 10 in Kinvara 3, 10.5 in Kinvara 4, 10.5 in A5. My feeling is the A6 is a tad long, but want to make sure the 10 still has enough room.

      • James Byrne says:

        Have you had a chance to see if the A6′s US size 10 are bigger than the A5′s. Out of interest how big in cm are your feet – about 28cm!!

        I use a 10 (UK9) for the Kinvara 4 (never tried the older versions but love them as I moved away from heavy stability nikes in Aug 13. I recently had to send the A5 size 10 (UK9) back due to being way to tight. Didn’t change size as the stock / sale ended so A6 will be my first type A shoe.

  3. Pete, Pete, Pete…putting aside the PureConnect for the new kicks on the block that aren’t even the right size. You’re going to break my heart. ;) Curious to see how your thoughts on the PC3 compare to my own.

    College buddy of mine uses the Type A series for ultras on fairly technical trails. I know she’s been through various other shoes…couple of the NB trail shoes, whatever the women’s Trail Glove was called, PureGrit, Jana Star Waffle, FujiRacer, KSO, etc, but as far as I know, she keeps going back to the Type A. Probably wouldn’t be my first choice for trail ultras, but hey, whatever works. Haven’t tried them yet myself. I have more flats than I can justify owning right now, and the last Saucony shoe that I liked was the Static back in ’00 (neither the Ride nor Kinvara fit quite right…unfortunate, because I really wanted to like the Kinvara, but the upper needed just a little more more give at my fifth met head).

  4. Trail Running Dad says:

    Pete, just noticed that the image of the top of the shoe(3rd photo in, I think the only one you didn’t take) has “0 mm” highlighted on the footbed for zero heel-toe drop. Same story on the images I looked at on RunningWarehouse. I’m guessing that this is just a mistake in the images that Saucony put out? All the specs I’ve seen indicate it’s 4mm drop.

  5. I’ve had the opportunity to wear these for a while now, and have gotten in a few races. Durability is great, and while I was a little hesitant to wear the A4/A5 for the marathon, I wore the A6s at CIM and loved them.

    My review: link to goo.gl

  6. How does A6 compare to the Road-X-Tream 178 that you purchased?

    I’m guessing they fit in a similar category as they are similar weight, drop, but last, grip and feel will be different. I have a road marathon at the end of next month and am wonder what to wear. Might just wear my F-Lite 232′s if I’m not tempted by the A6 or X-Tream 178.

    • The 178′s are a bit roomier, but I actually haven’t run in them yet. They have about the worst snow-ice traction of any shoe I’ve ever owned. Not worth the risk until my full routes are completely bare asphalt.

      • Thanks for the advice on sizing, sounds like the 178 might be a better bet for my wide feet.

        It’s a bit frustrating that inov-8′s road shoes as so surface specific, great for clear roads and pavements whether wet or dry, but provide zero grip on mud or ice thanks to the sole being so flat.

        My F-Lite’s work well on roads and trails, but one pays a two ounze penalty over the 178 for the privileged of it’s multi-purpose sole.

        How does the cushion level compare on the A6 vs 178 vs F-Lite’s?

        • I’d say comparable cushion between the two shoes. Both low and firm.

          • Thanks for the feedback. I’ve just bought a pair of the 178′s, they fit well so it’s very likely that the A6′s would have been too tight for me. Haven’t yet taken them out for a run as I’m taking a rest day after a week of big mileage.

            The 178′s are advertised as 3mm drop but the sole looks pretty flat all the way to the forefoot, then a small thinning towards the toes. I suspect many manufactures would claim such as shoe was zero drop.

            The upper is pretty impressive, they’ve dealt with the seams really well, the whole interior is smooth and soft. Less good is that the top of the heel is pretty high and puts a little pressure on my Achilles with detracts from what otherwise would be very good shoe for sockless running. Perhaps this will soften with a few miles in them.

            The sole is shouts road only, I expect the exposed EVA will get torn up by running on stony trails. The A6′s look to have slightly more trail friendly sole.

  7. “Give me a wedge of foam, an upper that doesn’t cause blisters or fall apart, and a toebox that fits just right and I’m happy”

    +1 and Amen to that.

    Simple, innovative designs are almost always better than gimmicky ones, that’s for sure

  8. Great review. Looking for a quick trainer. In related news, the A5 can be had right now at RW for around $58. Bingo

  9. follow-up post please? i read your review of the a5s and i feel absolutely the same way. i don’t really feel them on unless i think about it consciously. i also read your review of the new balance m/wrc1600, of which i have a pair, and how the shoe is a good, light shoe but the sole doesn’t feel quite right.

    what i’d love to hear mostly in a follow-up is whether the shoe/sole on the a6… feels right. thanks, and love your posts! :)

  10. While the Virrata looks a bit like it actually wasn’t a zero drop shoe, the A6 looks pretty flat (probably due to its reduced toe spring compared to the former). How does it feel compared to the Virrata drop-wise? The A6 are a lot firmer, aren’t they?
    After having run in Brooks’ Green Silence for a long time (used them for speed work as well), I don’t like the soft feel (for me, they absorb too much energy), 8mm drop and big toe spring of those any more.
    I got a great deal on the Mizuno Wave Evo Levitas (they can be found quite cheap now) and want to give them a try. I do, however, really love my sprint spikes from Saucony, so I’m looking for other options in case I don’t like the Levitas.
    Cheers,
    William

  11. Nathaniel says:

    My old A5 and my new A6 both weigh 5.8oz, size10. The old A5 may have lost weight from running for 400miles, probably due to losing rubber from accumulated wear on the road. So the A6 should indeed be lighter.

  12. Hi Pete – this is a bit of a late post, but how does this compare to the Inov8 Road-x 155? I absolutely love this shoe, particularly the light weight ground feel, but durability might be a bit of a problem. Thanks.

    • A6 will be much narrower than the 155, but sole feel not too different.

      • Thanks Peter – the narrow fit might not be a problem, so I’ll probably check them out at some point if the ground feel is similar.

        I got the 155′s dirt cheap, so it’s a case of finding out how much mileage I can get out of them and then deciding to stick with them or try something new.

        Or I can just get the A6′s anyway …. just because. :-)

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