Saucony Endorphin Elite vs Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2
Saucony’s new carbon shoe is a top-tier racer, but can it match the all-conquering Vaporfly?
The Nike Vaporfly is the shoe that changed the face of road racing and the latest version – the Vaporfly NEXT% 2 – is still one of the best carbon plate running shoes you can buy. However, other brands have closed the gap on Nike, and the new Saucony Endorphin Elite does rival the Vaporfly on performance, even if the Elite’s price is off-putting.
The Vaporfly is still the go-to option for many runners no matter what distance they’re racing. It’s hard to argue that other, newer shoes are better, especially for shorter events.
- Cheaper than the Elite
- ZoomX midsole is softer
- Great for races of any distance
- Less propulsive than the Elite
The Elite’s PWRRUN HG midsole packs a powerful punch, and the carbon plate and tweaked Speedroll rocker combine for a firm and highly efficient ride. It’s a little harsh over long distances, though, and the price is a major drawback.
- Fast, efficient ride
- Bouncy PWRRUN HG midsole
- Firmer than the Vaporfly
- Very expensive
Saucony Endorphin Elite vs Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2: Price And Availability
The Saucony Endorphin Elite launched in January 2023 and will be available to buy from 21st February for £280 in the UK and $275 in the US.
The Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 came out in early 2021 and costs $250/£225, though it’s now frequently in sales for a lot less than that.
Design And Fit
Both the Vaporfly and the Endorphin Elite follow the carbon super-shoe blueprint, with a lightweight upper, minimal outsole and large midsole stack of bouncy foam containing a full-length carbon plate.
In the case of the Vaporfly, the foam is the PEBA-based ZoomX, while Saucony uses an entirely new material called PWRRUN HG, which is firmer and bouncier than the PWRRUN PB used in its other carbon shoe, the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3. Saucony has also redesigned the plate on the Elite with slots in the forefoot to make it more flexible.
The Elite’s upper is made from a knit mesh with several unusual cut-outs, while the Vaporfly has a more standard mesh upper. Both shoes fit me well in my normal size, although I do have to heel-lock the Vaporfly 2’s laces to avoid it rubbing my heel during long runs.
Both have good rubber coverage on the forefoot of the outsole, and then a lot of exposed foam through the midfoot with more minimal rubber at the heel. Longevity is not the name of the game here – keeping the weight down is – but both grip fine in normal conditions on the road.
The Elite has a 39.5mm stack height at the heel, with 31.5mm at the forefoot for an 8mm drop. The Vaporfly also has an 8mm drop but Nike doesn’t give the official stack height of the shoe, which seems to be a little lower than the Elite. The Vaporfly is the lighter shoe at 7.3oz/206g in my UK size 9, whereas the Elite is 7.7oz/219g in the same size.
I have tested every version of the Vaporfly and logged many races in the Vaporfly NEXT% 2, including my marathon PB of 2hr 28min and 5K PB of 15min 30sec, which shows how versatile it is for racing all distances.
The ride is more grounded than many carbon shoes, with a fast transition from heel to toe and a snappy ride that feels agile on shorter races. There is still enough comfort for marathons of course, though shoes like the Nike Alphafly NEXT% 2 and Adidas Adios Pro 3 do provide more cushioning and a softer feel for the long haul.
I expected the Endorphin Elite to follow that trend too, given that it looks much more cushioned than the Vaporfly. However, it actually has a very firm and direct ride, rolling you onto your forefoot rapidly and then propelling you on your way.
It feels bouncier than the Vaporfly, but not softer. The Elite has a fantastic ride for running fast especially in shorter events, and I’ve performed well in 5K and 10K races in the shoe, but it’s a bit harsher than the Vaporfly and I’m not sure I’d enjoy wearing it for a marathon.
It’s hard to separate the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 and Saucony Endorphin Elite on pure performance. They are both firmer than many other carbon shoes, and both are extremely fast racers for any distance, if a little harder on the legs for the marathon than softer options.
The Vaporfly is a proven performer and I’d rather use it for the marathon, but I do think the Elite will serve many runners just as well, and it does have a more propulsive feel.
The obstacle for the Elite is the price. The Vaporfly NEXT% 2 is considerably cheaper on RRP and is usually available for well under $200/£200, especially with the launch of the Vaporfly 3 expected later in 2023. Unless the Elite drops in price quickly there’s no contest here – paying much less for the Vaporfly is the obvious choice.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.