The Saucony Nomad TR caught my eye last winter when I saw some early pictures previewing the shoe. Mostly, I was pretty interested to see if it had a wide toebox similar to Altra or Topo shoes. After getting a pair in myself a couple months ago and getting some miles on them, I can say it is a welcome addition to Saucony’s traditionally more pointy-shaped trail lineup. Whether you like its speckled, neon, retro styling or not is up to you, but I’ll tell you how it runs below.
Price: $110 MSRP
Stack Height: 24mm heel, 20 mm forefoot
Weight: 10.4 oz (294 g), men’s size 9 and 8.7 oz (246 g) women’s size 8
Stats via Running Warehouse
Upper and Fit
The fit of the Nomad TR is the big story for me, especially given Saucony’s generally more pointed last shape. The Nomad departs from this shape dramatically with what they refer to as an oblique, toe-shaped last. I found the fit to be wide in the toebox; maybe not quite Altra width, but very close. The biggest difference for me from an Altra is the Nomad’s slightly closer fitting midfoot and much more secure heel. I still wanted the midfoot volume of the upper to be lower in the Nomad, and the width of the outsole at the midfoot is a little wide I think, but overall the fit is relaxed without being overly sloppy.
The upper has a simple, one-piece design with no significant overlays to speak of other than an internal underlay that ties into a lace eyelet that Saucony calls Pro-Lock. The upper material is a a closed mesh that is very durable, but, like most closed mesh uppers, not that breathable. Other than a few exceptions, I find there is always this tradeoff with upper choices on trail shoes. A closed mesh keeps out dirt, water, mud, snow, etc. and holds up better, but an open mesh is much more breathable and drains better at a cost to debris management and durability. Given that I tested the Nomad mostly in 80+ F weather, I tended to notice how hot it felt. However, one upside was that on the very dry and dusty trails it really did keep out the fine dust which was great. My guess is that the shoe will perform better overall in the cooler temps we are now heading into.
I find the Nomad TR to perform on a nice balance between cushioned and responsive, especially given its more relaxed upper fit. It runs firm enough so as not to feel unstable on semi-technical terrain, but also runs forgivingly on flatter, smooth terrain. With a somewhat relaxed, road shoe-like ride, I think it generally works pretty well for drier and smoother trails and would be a great road-trail option too. Unfortunately, for me the shoe just rides a little heavy overall without really possessing the more protective elements that I would expect in a shoe of its weight. Shoes like the Pearl Izumi Trail N2v2 and Nike Wildhorse, which are in a similar class and weight as the Nomad, both have rock plates and more traction with a similar ride.
I initially thought the outsole on the Nomad was a bad design, mainly because it has a lot of rubber while really not providing much aggressive traction. After more time in the shoe, however, the outsole may be the biggest reason why the ride is more responsive than it otherwise might be. It uses Saucony’s PWRTRAC compound that (I believe) is a springy blown rubber that contributes to the cushioning of the shoe. Blown rubber is usually not that durable, which is its downside, but the Nomad outsole is holding up really well for me so far. I attribute this to the coffin-like lug shape which they created with few sharp edges and to the thickness of the lugs at the base as well; this outsole should last a long time. The shoe has great traction on rock, yet also runs smoothly on hardpack trail without the breaking effect of some other trail shoes with too much lug. The outsole also makes the shoe much more usable on the roads as well.
I’m excited to see Saucony step out and try something new with the Nomad, and I think they generally succeeded in creating a unique fitting and capable trail shoe that will fit a variety of different runner’s needs.
The highlights of the shoe for me are the wide, comfortable fit, well cushioned and smooth ride, and a multi-purpose and durable outsole design. There is plenty of room for improvement, however. Mainly, I think the shoe is too heavy for what it is/does. Like I mentioned above, shoes like the PI N2v2 and Nike Wildhorse 3 offer a similar ride with a more refined fit and more robust protection at the same weight. If Saucony could lighten the shoe up with a more stripped-back, open mesh upper, and snug up the fit a bit in the midfoot, along with potentially decreasing the lug thickness on the outsole, I think the shoe would feel much more nimble and still offer the nice comfortable ride/fit that the Nomad has at a lighter weight. This would give the Nomad TR the most potential to shine where its high points already lie: in its smooth, comfortable and multi-surface ride capabilities.
If you like the wide toebox of Altra or Topo shoes, the Nomad is worth a look as it is probably one of the few similarly wide trail shoes on the market (and the only one I can think of from a company with more significant road history).
Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge for review from the manufacturer. All opinions are of the author’s.