Saucony Zealot ISO 3 – 50 Mile Review

Have you ever had a shoe that you bought, loved the initial step-in fit and feel that you decided that your first run in them was going to be your weekly long run. After about 3-4 miles in you go to yourself “you really are stoopid aren’t you!” Then you suffer more than you want for the rest of the run.

That is pretty much how I introduced myself to the Saucony Zealot 3’s a few weeks ago and since then I have been struggling to find that happy place of being able to run in these shoes without forefoot discomfort. Now to be honest, some of my discomfort with the Zealot’s is a function of how I run and how the Z3’s reward a slightly different running style – probably not really a bad thing.

However, there is just something that is “right” about the Zealot’s that I want to keep tweaking things to help me run more comfortably in the shoes.

Disclosure: These are a personal purchase through Amazon, all opinions and observations are definitely my own.What kind of runs have don in the Z3’s?

My first run was that 10 miler on the roads, that turned into a bit of a foot suffer-fest at the end and the second run was a 4.0 miler where the last mile was not too much fun either. I experimented with different insoles on the next couple of runs. I ran a trail race at UMA and a 4.0 miler down-back mostly on dirt. A longer slow-paced run on the roads where I had no issues with my forefoot bothering. Finally, a hilly road course where I had to transition multiple times from the road to a dirt road shoulder.

Pretty much all the kind of stuff that I would use the Zealot 3 for, except for time on the treadmill when the weather is crappy.

What do I like?

I love the feel that Z3’s have for the first 3-4 miles – now to get that same feeling on longer runs consistently.

Light at 8.4 ounces for a daily trainer style of running shoe.

Well cushioned – for stack height of 27 rear and 23 forefoot they have a nicely cushioned feel that I prefer for my recovery and long runs, which is the primary spot in my rotation that I got the Zealot’s for.

Multipurpose outsole that doesn’t collect rocks/pebbles/grit too much. For me having an outsole that is not a rock collector is just common sense. I run on the dirt roads down-back, end up on the dirt road shoulders to avoid vehicles quite often when running in the rural area where I live and love the ability to suddenly decide to take them off-road without worrying about how they will do on the trails in the area. No, I wouldn’t take them on technical trails, but would be they would do fine in snow.

I can pickup the speed pretty easily if I want to. Deciding to wear these at the UMA Trail 5K was a great choice, they did well on the groomed trail and allowed me to pick up the pace when I did hit tar, flatter trail and down-hill sections.

The heel-to-toe transition works smoothly and I don’t seem to sink into the heels like on some shoes. It is not squishy feeling, but a nice cushioned feel that still has enough pop to notice.

When I keep my feet straight and toe-off, the Z3’s reward that style of running for me and let me know when I do not keep my feet straight by increasing the discomfort level in my right foot. Kind of a like/dislike thing, but they do remind me to run more efficiently, which is a good thing.

What don’t I like?

They are in the words of another running shoe geek – “finicky”. I usually really dislike finicky shoes.

For me the ISO fit style upper of Zealot 3 ISO is not a put the shoe on, tie it up and go run, then repeat kind of running shoe.

However, I am finding that running shoes with lace loops versus lace holes are very difficult to get a consistent fit run-after-run and is not just an issue with Saucony’s ISO Fit, although the bootie construction does have a drawback for me.

For me, I have to work to get the Zealot or other running shoe with lace loops “just right” every time, for a run. They tend to do well for that run, but when I get ready for the next run in them, it seems that due to how easily the laces slide through the loops the laces get a little too snug lower on the toe box each time you pull on the laces and the process repeats itself again.

I guess I am often not all that observant sometimes and/or am in too much of a hurry to get going, usually I just loosen the laces on my shoes enough to get my feet in and then pull the laces tight to tie them and get going. Then I wonder why my forefoot feels uncomfortable and the shoes are starting to bother my Tailor’s Bunionette or I get that wonderful burning sensation on the ball of my feet. Also about the same time the tops of my feet start to experience some discomfort from the now too tight laces.

I now realize that can’t do that with the Zealot 3’s or other shoes that have lace loops.

Well unless I double-loop the last lace loop.

Since I have done that on my Zealot 3’s, Liberty ISO’s and a couple of other pair of shoes, I have had a much more consistent fit from run to run, without frig, farting around to get the fit just right again and a lot less forefoot discomfort.

I wonder how many running shoes with the lace loop style that I gave up on, that would have been fine if I had double-looped the last lace loop? I will never know, but it would be interesting to go back and read some of my older reviews and see what kind of lacing system the shoes had.

The forefoot, while not tight is always snug due to the bootie construction. There is just enough of the always “there” snugness to continually push my metatarsals together, which in turn eventually causes that wonderful burning sensation in my forefoot that distracts the hell out of me (something probably called metatsaglia), when I am running and then stops when stop running. Although it is much better, now that I have double-looped the last lace loop.

You may have noticed that I also changed out the laces. I don’t know why, but I am not a big fan of flat elastic laces (plus I do not like extra long laces), so I usually replace them after a couple of runs. Lots of runners love them, just not something I prefer.

The stock insole seemed to be part of my issue with the shoes and I replaced it with an old Pearl Izumi pair I had in my spare parts box.

Getting back to the Zealot ISO 3.

If all of this negative stuff is going on with the Zealot 3’s, why in the world are you continuing to keep running in them.

I still like the Zealot 3 – a lot.

The issues that I am/have had with the Zealot ISO 3’s are ones that seem to be resolving, well at least I hope they are. I think that a better picture of how the Z3’s work for me will be played out over the next 50-100 miles. I would love to see them become one of my go to daily trainers, especially since on that imaginary Unicorn shoe checklist that I made up a few weeks ago, the Saucony Zealot ISO 3’s seems to check off almost all the boxes.

Yeah, I like them enough to keep trying to get them to work for me – that in and of itself says something.

Photo courtesy of Sam Winebaum – Road, Trail, Run

This is one of those shoes, that I need more time to figure out if they will work for me or not

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