A comfortable pair of carbon-plate racers like the Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 can take your running to the next level. Steve Wright puts them to the test preparing for the Boston Marathon.

The Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 is designed for speed training and race days alike, and is up there with the best running shoes. While the lighter Elite model features the same PWRRUN HG foam and a slotted rather than full-carbon plate, the Pro 4 still offers plenty of long-distance racing potential.

Men’s Fitness verdict

The Pro 4 is an ideal first carbon marathon shoe. It gives you something few carbon shoes offer – great comfort and speed over a range of distances. Only the Elite model pips it to the post.
  • Soft and comfortable upper
  • Impressive energy return
  • Good value entry-level carbon shoe
  • Blend of comfort and speed makes an ideal first marathon shoe
  • There are faster and lighter options available
  • Not ideal for shorter races

How we test the best running shoes

Our testers put each shoe through their paces over a mixture of distances and paces to see where they excel, and clocked up significant distances in each one to examine how they wear over time. Each reviewer focused on speed, stability and comfort during test runs, while also assessing the effectiveness of any high-tech features on offer. Their detailed reviews are sure to help you choose the right running shoe for you.

The Pro 4 features a mix of PWRRUN HG and PB foam, but is a little less cushioned than the Elite

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 performance

For my first race in the Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 I chose the Hastings Half Marathon, one of the most popular races in the South-East of England. It was hilly, too, so good preparation for Boston. There’s actually more hill climb in the Hastings Half that over the whole of the Boston Marathon. As this race was less than a month away from Boston, and I needed more distance, I did a five-mile warm-up run before the race started. This was at a decent pace, and I just got back to start line a couple of minutes before the gun was fired to set us off.

Despite having the extra five miles in my legs, I found I was able to work my way through the runners ahead of me, in the uphill sections, the flats and the downhills. I felt strong and confident in these shoes. While this was a hilly course, I wanted to finish the race in 1:25, to give me the confidence I needed to look for sub-3-hour time at Boston. In the end, despite a challenging headwind over the last two miles, I finished the Hastings Half in 1:24:04, and was third in my age group.

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 vs Elite

While I’d have been happy to go with the Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 for Boston, if the Endorphin Elites proved to be just as comfortable, they would most likely be quicker. I was running out of time with Boston getting closer, and I didn’t want to race quite so far. As luck would have it, I found a 10K race I could run at Regents Park in London, on my 55th birthday, and just eight days before Boston.

The course was three laps, and I started from the front, and settled into third place early on. With limited speedwork training to develop strength in my legs needed for shorter-distance racing, the responsiveness of these shoes, with the strong toe-off, really helped me maintain a decent pace.

In the end I managed to maintain my third place throughout the race to finish on the podium. That was a great result for my birthday and not something I’m used to these days. The Endorphin Elites were definitely quicker for me than the Pro 4, and just as comfortable. I knew they’d be my best option for Boston.

The Pro 4 has a lightweight, breathable upper and integrated tongue

Racing in the Saucony Endorphin Elite

Having run London and Berlin in under three hours the previous year, and also New York (in 1997), I was determined to try for a sub-3 at Boston, my fourth World Major Marathon. In baking heat, I eventually scraped over the finished line in 2:59:32. I don’t think this was my best race, but I also know the shoes played a big part in me achieving my goal. I only found out much later that I was the third British runner to finish in my age group. So I had that to think about as I struggled to walk and cope with the stairs for several days.

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 summary

The Endorphin Pro 4 is a neutral carbon-plate shoe with an 8mm drop, weighing 210g (7.4oz). The shoes have a lightweight feel and are light on padding but still have a comfortable fit. The PWRRUN HG foam wasn’t used in earlier versions of the Endorphin Pro (but is used in the Endorphin Elite). With gas injected into the foam, it helps to reduce weight and delivers increased response. Coupled with the rocker action, it gives an impressive energy return.

MaterialsFull carbon plate, PWRRUN PB/HG foam
ColoursBlack and white, vizi-orange
Heel-toe drop8mm (39.5mm/31.5mm)
Weight7.5oz / 212g

If you’ve used Saucony carbon-plate shoes before, you’ll not be disappointed with the Endorphin Elite. With its minimum yet comfortable upper it weighs just 204g (7.2oz). The toe-off energy return is noticeably stronger than the Endorphin Pro 4s, making them a fast option for any racing distance. It delivers a firmer ride than the Endorphin Pro 4, too, but that’s probably where you get the increased speed. With the options on the market at the moment, I think you’d struggle to find another shoe with a better balance of comfort and speed. Though the Pro 4 comes close.

Are carbon plates right for you?

Carbon plate racing shoes are not necessarily the right shoe for everyone. I’ve been road racing for just over 40 years, but in carbon plate shoes for just the past three years. I use them simply because, after road racing for some 40 years, I still want to be as competitive as I can be. I’m happy to put the hard work in with my training, but who would say no to a decent pair of carbon plates that can take ten or more seconds per mile off your time?

My personal view with all carbon plate racing shoes is that you should train in them just once, and then only use them for racing. So don’t buy a pair for general training. And only buy a pair to race in if the most important thing for you is to improve your time. If you want a good pair of shoes to get you around your first marathon, you could go for carbon plates. But you’d need to find a pair that gives you enough of a comfortable ride for the distance.

If you just want to get round and enjoy your first marathon, you could opt for the most comfortable pair of well-cushioned long-distance training shoes you can find. I’d recommend the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v13 or the Hoka Clifton 9. I’ve not found more comfortable shoes.

Steve Wright has been competitively racing on the road, track and cross-country for more than 40 years. In 2023, at the age of 54 he set a new PB, completing the London Marathon in 2:50 and then five months later he ran the Berlin Marathon in 2:48. He also won the M50-54 age group trophy in the seven-race 2022/23 Kent county cross-country fitness league.