I spent the morning reading some of the early reviews of the Saucony Zealot (links at bottom of post). Though every reviewer has a slightly different take, some of the commonalities I found among them were that the shoe was a bit firmer than expected, the ISOFIT upper is unique and well-made, and the fit is fairly roomy in the forefoot (overly-so for some). These three characteristics sum up fairly well my own experience with the Zealot, which along with the Breakthru is one of two new models added to the Saucony line so far this year. (Disclosure: the shoes reviewed here were media samples provided free of charge by the manufacturer.)
My pair of the Zealot in size 10 weighs in at just over 9 oz per shoe, and stack heights reported by Running Warehouse are 22mm heel, 18mm forefoot (in a blog preview RW reports stack as 28mm heel, 24mm forefoot – I suspect that the 4mm thick insole explains the difference). With my calipers I measure stack at around 29mm, 25mm with the insole included, though it was a bit of a challenge to get a good forefoot measurement with the upper constructed the way it is.
I have to start this review off by saying that the Zealot is a fantastic looking shoe, and the Viziglo orange colorway that Saucony sent me is bright. Very bright! I wore the Zealots to the hardware store a few weeks ago and the woman at the register commented that she liked my shoes. She said that bright shoes make her happy. I feel much the same way. Big thumbs up for the Zealot in the aesthetics category!
The Zealot is one of three Saucony shoes featuring a new upper construction called ISOFIT (along with the Triumph and Hurricane). I’d heard a lot of positive things about the ISOFIT upper on the Saucony Triumph (released last year), and was excited to check it out. ISOFIT is basically a bootie-type upper that wraps the foot from midfoot forward. It’s kind of like a sock, and the laces do not attach to the bootie. Instead, finger-like projections extend upward on either side of the bootie to form the lace rows (see photos below). It’s a unique approach, and though I can’t say it feels much different from a more traditional lacing system, it seems to work well and does not cause any problems for me.
The tongue of the Zealot is integrated with the ISOFIT bootie via stitching on either side – it has enough padding to prevent pressure from the laces above.
The upper over the forefoot of the Zealot is a soft mesh that has a bit of give – it does not feel like a material that would be prone to tearing at the forefoot flex regions. The ankle collar is well-padded and lined by a soft fabric, and the heel is stiffened by a heel counter that Saucony calls the “Support Frame.” Overall, the upper feels very high quality.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, other reviewers have reported that the Zealot has a fairly wide toebox. This was one of the first things I noticed upon trying the shoe on – the fit was incredible on my foot. I have a medium width foot, but fairly high volume from top to bottom, and the Zealot is pretty much perfect for me. Nice lockdown in the heel and midfoot, and a wide, open toebox. It’s not quite Altra-wide, but compared to other Saucony shoes it feels very roomy (maybe just a tad roomier than the Kinvara 5). People with narrow feet need to be careful however as my friends Thomas and Harold have both had issues with the upper bunching up at the bottom of the lace row when attempting to cinch the upper down on their narrowish feet.
What really struck me about the fit of the Zealot was how different it was from the Saucony Breakthru, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. That shoe was pretty snug up front, so those with narrower feet might want to give the Breakthru a try if the new Saucony releases intrigue you.
So far the Zealot is scoring big points with me – looks great, fit is perfect, upper is nicely done. The sole is where things slip a bit.
One of the things I’ve heard frequently from others who have tried the Zealot is that though it has plenty of cushion, it’s on the firmer side. For me, it’s just a tad too firm. I’d compare the ride to the Saucony Mirage, perhaps just a bit softer, but definitely firmer than the Kinvara. In fairness to Saucony, most of my outdoor miles have been in sub-freezing temperatures, and this can cause EVA foam to firm up. However, I’ve also run several times on the treadmill in them and they are a firmer than average shoe. The combo of firm sole plus treadmill cushion has worked well so I prefer them for that purpose rather than running outside in the cold.
The plus side of a firm sole is that it tends to feel better when picking up the pace, and this is the case with the Zealot for me. My buddy Sam made the same observation – the Zealot is a bit on the harsh side for slow miles on the road, but feels better as you speed up. However, if you like a firm shoe like the Saucony Mirage, the Zealot would be a good one to try. (As an aside, I ran for the first time in the Skechers GoRun Ride 4 yesterday – the fit is remarkably similar to the Zealot, but the ride was a lot softer and a better match for me for easy miles).
In terms of the outsole, there is plenty of rubber on the Zealot and I expect durability should be quite good. I view this as a necessity for a shoe at the $130 price point (something Skechers may run into trouble with for the GoMeb Strada). The X-T900 rubber on the heel is a bit firmer and should be more abrasion resistant than the iBR+ blown rubber that extends from the midfoot forward.
The Saucony Zealot is a great looking shoe that pairs a firm ride with a generous fit in the forefoot. The ISOFIT upper is really nice, and works well on my medium-width foot – those with narrow feet should look elsewhere. At $130 MSRP the shoe is pricy, but I expect durability should be good given the ample amount of outsole rubber present. If your budget allows, you have a medium-to-wide foot, and you like a firmish ride, the Zealot is worth a try.
The Saucony ISOFIT Zealot is available now at Running Warehouse .