Gear Guy

Saucony Xodus 4.0, now retired.     Photo: Joe Jackson

Q:

What's a Great Trail Runner for Technical, Muddy Singletrack?

An endorsement—and a eulogy—for the Saucony Xodus 4.0.

A:I have a tendency to become overly attached to inanimate objects—especially old, familiar things—which is a terrible trait to have as a gear tester. Tried-and-true items, such as my decade-old Patagonia jacket or my gas-guzzling truck, remain my favorites, despite constantly being surrounded by the latest outdoor apparel and equipment.

My Saucony Xodus 4.0 trail runners fall into this category. But unlike my Patagonia jacket, which is duct taped, or my truck, which sits quietly in my driveway, these shoes are done. They’re retiring this week, never to be worn again.

Which is sad, because they’re my all-time favorite pair of trail running shoes. They are the shoes in which I became a runner, in which I trained for my first marathon and ultra. They are the first shoes that fit my feet, stride, and style—perfectly.

In the gear world, running shoes have it really tough. The Xodus 4.0s were my main defense from sharp objects, constant pounding, and plantar fasciitis for—if my estimates are correct—more than 450 miles.

In those 450 miles, I shaved off almost a quarter of the massive lugs on Vibram XS Trek outsole. This shoe was built for technical trails, and that’s what I ran for most of my Xodus’s life. On November 2, I completed the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon, which ended with six-miles of steep technical downhill, and the Xodus’s lugs held almost like crampons as I rounded steep muddy switchbacks near the finish.

These shoes were also perfect for the steep trails around my home in Ashland, Oregon, not just for their grip, but because they really locked in my feet. A dialed lacing system with an integrated support band attaches the shoe’s sole to the laces at the mid foot.

Although I am not nit-picky about heel to toe drop, I’d like to think that the 4mm drop on these shoes had something to do with how effortlessly they integrated with my running mechanics. And at a respectable 11.2 ounces, they’re light and speedy.

During my training, I cheated on the Xodus 4.0s with a pair of Hoka One Ones as well as the New Balance Leadville 1210s and found them both to be too much shoe. I eagerly went back to the Xodus.

I just put in an order for a replacement pair of Xodus 4.0s, which I plan to wear for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-mile on December 7. I think three weeks will be just enough time to break in the new shoes.

But the replacements pose a problem: What am I going to do with the old shoes? Throw them away? The dumpster feels too ignoble. Maybe I'll store them in my truck.

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