Peregrine 12 vs. Xodus Ultra
It all started in Chamonix… I spent over six months training there last year and quickly realised that even my beloved Kinvaras weren’t going to last very long on the valley trails. So SAUCONY kindly sent me two very different trail running shoes to see me through: the Peregrine 12 and the Xodus Ultra.
I’ve been running with both for over six months. Bear in mind I’m a triathlete, my technical skills are debatable and I certainly didn’t push the shoes to the limit in the higher mountains. But they got a decent test on gravel, grass, rocks, forest trails, mud, snow and most things in between. So after a good few hilly kilometres, here’s a short comparison between the two models including what I loved and what I didn’t about each.
(*Yes these are sponsored shoes but it’s also an honest take. If something doesn’t work for me, I say so.)
SAUCONY Peregrine 12
Let’s start with the Peregrine 12, which was the first pair I got. Pulling them out of the box, it was instantly obvious that the original Peregrine I wore a few years ago had received a full revamp. These lightweight, sleek rock crunchers looked nothing like the “trekking” shoes I used to own. According to my Swiss Saucony contact, these are in fact the first-generation of the race-oriented Peregrine revolution.
They weighed nothing in hand (officially 230g/shoe – I didn’t check) and that was reflected when I put them on. Incredibly agile even to my non-expert feet, they made quick work of dodging rocks (I caught one and ended up on my face, but that was clearly a lack of motor skills rather than a shoe fail). I found the sole really hard and grippy, with vicious-looking lugs and good traction no matter how wet the ground. This comes a little at the expense of flexibility, but again that is perhaps my soft inner roadrunner talking. There is very little in the way of cushioning : with a 4mm drop and not a lot of rubber between your feet and the floor, there is definitely plenty of feedback. That suits me down to the ground (excuse the pun); I like feeling where I’m putting my feet, which is also why I’d rather run in Kinvaras than Endorphins on the tarmac. It’s very personal but if you’re looking for a softer feel with a bit of shock absorption, these probably aren’t your best option.
Tough on the ground, tough on my feet
Moving on… To the fit. Even though these are sponsored shoes, I’m going to be completely honest: I struggled massively with the Peregrines. The front wasn’t an issue. The shoe wraps closely around the forefoot but as mine isn’t particularly wide, I had sufficient wiggle room without feeling like I was wearing a boat. This combined with the firm grip helped a lot with stability.
The heel on the other hand was a bit more trouble. It comes up very high on the Achilles and ankle bones, for starters, which irritated at the back and bothered me laterally in rocky ground and off-camber sections where my foot wasn’t level. I also got severe blistering on both my heels. This usually only happens when I’m going uphill for over thirty minutes (I do admit I have disagreeable heels, with a bit of a bump due to years of training), but it was almost instant with the Peregrines, even on a flat run. The structure of the back of the shoe is unyielding and despite my best attempts at breaking it in, I still haven’t succeeded.
The answer came in plaster-form. Because I actually really like the shoes despite the difficulties, I decided I was going to wear them for my 32km trail race last October. I applied strips of thick plaster to each heel and added a generous helping of medical adhesive tape to make sure it stayed put. A good pair of socks, a serious lace-up and the tapes stayed put. The shoes ended up brown instead of yellow but my heels and socks didn’t go red. Success!
- Super light and agile – a real trail racing shoe
- Close to the foot and the floor, great stability and ground feedback.
- Good grip
- Stingy on the cushioning
- Fit can be tricky, rear of the shoe quite inflexible and harsh
NOTE: I’m a little late writing this so the Peregrine 13 is already out and I’m very curious not know if there have been any updates.
SAUCONY Xodus Ultra
Following my “difficulties” with the Peregrine, Saucony suggested I give the Xodus Ultra a go. Another neutral design, it is geared more towards long-distance comfort. The box suggests less sharpness and more squishiness than the Peregrines and to a certain extent, that is exactly what they are.
BUT I also got immediate comfort. With their supple sock-like construction, they slid onto my feet like slippers and that’s the way they’ve stayed since. A little like my go-to Kinvaras, they were an instant match. No blisters, even on day 1 and steeper, longer climbs.
The comfort also comes through a wider fit, especially at the front, and for me that results in my foot “floating” around a bit when things get uneven. I do find it affects stability and confidence a little (again, that’s perhaps my complete lack of technical ability… ) and I tend to think twice about where I’ve just put my foot. That said, it clearly doesn’t stop me from choosing them for any run that isn’t on tarmac. The cushioning isn’t excessive but is comfortable when I’m out for longer runs, and the 6mm drop gives my calves that little extra respite when I’ve had a long week. The sole feels quite soft and flexible, much more so than the Peregrine, and in fact the lugs are wearing quicker.
As for grip, it isn’t as aggressive but is sufficient for what I’m doing with them for now. The specs say the shoe is slightly heavier than the Peregrine (260g) but I haven’t really felt the difference underfoot through the entire soggy winter.
- Instant fit thanks to a sock-like construction that just feels great
- Softer, more flexible sole and more cushioning than the Peregrine
- Wide fit at the front that is comfortable but also a little floaty on uneven sections
- Lack of agility compensated by ultimate, no-nonsense comfort
So which shoe would I choose?
Shoe brands aren’t silly and if they design a particular shoe, there’s a reason. Both the Saucony Peregrine 12 and the Xodus obviously have their own unique strengths and choosing one or the other depends entirely on what you are going to do with it. If you’re looking for a lightweight, nimble shoe for racing, the Peregrine could be a great option. If you have sensitive heels like me you might have to put in some work to get the fit right, or be prepared to get creative with tape and plasters. On the other hand, if you prioritize comfort and need a shoe that can handle long distances and see you through tough conditions, the Xodus would be my #1 recommendation.
In training there has been absolutely no hesitation for me. I’ve reached for the Xodus again and again simply because they’re so comfortable. That said, there is no doubt I will wear wearing the Peregrine for some of the faster sessions and my 31k trail race next June. I’m willing to strap up my heels and take the blister risk for the agility, speed and ground feedback they provide, which is simply on another level to the Xodus.
The decision is still out for the 76k ultra I have planned in July…