Saucony PowerGrid Cortana Review
After hearing a lot of praise for the Saucony Powergrid Cortana, I was excited to personally experience this award-winning shoe.
A bit of background to preface this review: for over three years I have been running in minimalist shoes, and have recently progressed even more in the minimalist direction. That is, until this winter, while training for the Boston Marathon. I was noticing some wear and tear on my body from the higher mileage, so I started looking for a shoe with a little more cushion and support, with a heel-toe drop in the range of 4-5mm. While trying various shoes, I had a flare up of Achilles tendonitis and was forced to cut my mileage dramatically for almost four weeks. The Saucony Cortanas landed on my doorstep a few days after I was cleared to resume my normal training mileage, and three weeks before race day.
After just two runs, however, I knew that the Saucony Cortana would be my Boston Marathon shoe.
The Cortana was like no other running shoe I have put on. It felt like I had wrapped my foot securely in a very thin memory foam pillow. Saucony packed a lot of technology into these shoes, and the list of features in the upper includes Sauc-Fit, to lock the midfoot to the platform and keep the heel secure; hydrator collar lining, performance fabric that provides next-to-skin comfort and maximizes wicking; sockliner with open cell foam, antimicrobial and breathable with cushioning; HRC Strobel Board for increased cushioning and comfort; and engineered airmesh.
To be honest, I have a tough time determining exactly which features provide the comfortable fit that I loved, so I will describe my experience in my own terms. There is a relatively thick layer of cushion around the top of the heel and on the tongue, while the front portion of the upper is a lightweight breathable mesh. The rear of the upper is more structured with a durable, plastic heel counter and plastic overlays that stabilize on the sides below the ankle. The insole is quite plush. A memory-foam-like material provides a lot of cushion, which I did not expect to like, but it didn’t detract much from road-feel, and definitely made for a comfortable ride. The lightweight materials dried quickly and wicked moisture well; I discovered this particular feature after 20+ miles of running through various water sources during the record heat of the 2012 Boston Marathon.
My only mildly negative observation is that I had to really yank on the laces to get the shoes to feel tight. For the first few runs, I would put them on, think they were tight enough, and have to stop a few minutes later to tighten them up again. Once I realized this, I had no problem getting them snug from the start. Some higher tech laces would make the Cortana quite perfect.
Just like the uppers, the midsole is packed with technology and special features. The PowerGrid™ with PowerFoam™ provides cushioning while still allowing the shoe to be responsive and lightweight. The Cortana felt borderline ‘too cushy’ on the first couple of short runs, but it seemed like the PowerFoam became more dialed in as I logged more miles in these shoes (or I acclimated to the feeling). They did not become less responsive or springy, they actually felt better the longer I ran in them. The Super Rebound Cushioning Impact Zone and Impact Interface, I am sure added to the cushion and smooth transition throughout my stride, but I cannot pinpoint any time that I really noticed either technology specifically. The 4mm heel-toe offset and flat bottom encourages a mid- to forefoot strike, and promotes natural running form.
Although these shoes are marketed toward the neutral runner, they are still an excellent choice for a mild pronator, as this describes me. Despite my mild pronation, I generally run in neutral shoes; the touch of guidance that the Cortanas provided was especially appreciated as my form began to lapse toward the end of long runs.
The outsole features IBR blown rubber, which is lighter and more responsive, and XT-900™ carbon rubber, which offers exceptional traction and durability. I’ve logged about 120 miles in these shoes so far, including a 20-mile training run and the Boston Marathon, and there is no visible wear. When looking at the bottom of the shoe, the outsole provides a broad crashpad, which means greater surface area for traction and impact absorption.
The Cortana fit true to size, and I only had one problem with small blisters near the base of my big toe after my first couple of runs in them. I attribute that to being overly anxious to try them out, and logged two long runs without first breaking them in.
The Saucony Powergrid Cortana comes in several color combinations:
- women’s: white/blue, green/white/pink, white/yellow/gray, and silver/black/ViZiPro Pink
- men’s: white/red, silver/black/orange, royal/white/citron, and silver/black/red
I tested the ViZiPro Pink (part of Saucony’s ViZiPro collection); not only were they a nice, stylish change from white, but they were highly-visible in low light and dark conditions. So when my long runs went a little longer than expected, I was confident that I was plenty visible to vehicles or cyclists coming at me.
I highly recommend the Saucony PowerGrid Cortana. They are a superb choice for high-mileage, neutral (to mildly pronating) runners, looking to maintain a natural midfoot strike without sacrificing responsive cushioning.
Type: Road running
Heel-Toe Differential (Drop): 4 mm
Weight: 9.6 oz. women’s / 10.7 oz. men’s
Gender Availability: both Men’s and Women’s models