Saucony Triumph RFG Introduction
The Saucony Triumph RFG is a premium daily trainer with a twist. Years of advancement in technologies have resulted in shoes with more bounce, softer cushion, and faster times. However, these advancements have sometimes come at the cost of higher carbon output.
Saucony took on the task of trying to develop a premium trainer while lowering the carbon footprint of the shoe. The result?
The Triumph RunForGood.
Due to this work, the main competitor of the RFG is the original Triumph, but it will also go up against the likes of the New Balance 1080, Hoka Clifton, Brooks Glycerin, Nike Vomero, Asics Gel Nimbus, and adidas Boston.
Can it hold up against all these premium models that have a firm track record? That’s what I wanted to find out.
Saucony Triumph RFG First Impressions
When these showed up I was excited to see what a Triumph that is a “step forward” for low-carbon manufacturing would be like.
How would they look different from the original shoe? The answer was, they will look simpler. Gone was the light upper with advanced fabric featuring 3D printed inlays. Instead what arrived was a simple woven upper with embroidered logos.
No frills, nothing flashy, and it was beautiful in its simplicity. I didn’t know how I’d react, but I was very pleasantly surprised and loved them right away.
On the feet, they were great. Maybe a bit heavier, and stiffer than the Triumph 21 straight out of the box, but they were comfortable, and had a lot of cushion. They performed very well during my first run, going 5k with a good amount of bounce.
However, they did feel as though they needed a little break-in time, as they were a bit stiff in both the upper and sole unit.
That said, this shoe made a great first impression to me.
Saucony Triumph RFG Upper
For the upper, Saucony moved away from the thin engineered mesh and 3D printed layers that are on the Triumph 21s, and moved back toward the older knit upper from years ago. This knit upper uses sustainable cotton with plant-based dyes to add color.
Due to these materials, the shoe will not be offered in a variety of colors but instead just the main “coffee” color offered at the moment.
This knit upper gives good support and uses an adaptive lacing system to keep your foot locked in. The combination of the thicker material and lacing system means your foot is always secured during the run without too many overlays.
This upper fit true to size for my size 13, while having the same foot profile as the regular Triumph 21. The heel is fairly narrow, the midfoot is a regular width that then opens into a wider (but not super wide) toe box.
Saucony Triumph RFG Sole Unit
For the Saucony Triumph RFG, the sole unit is the most important piece, as this is where they have spent the most time, energy, and money developing a sustainable material. Partnering with CovationBio PDO to produce PWRRUN BIO+, a midsole featuring 55% Susterra® propanediol. This material is created from regeneratively grown dent corn, so as to cut down on carbon emissions and move toward sustainability.
Saucony put 39mm of this cushion under the heel and 29mm under the toe for a 10mm drop. The cushion itself is very soft, and provides a good bounce. Although not as ready to run as the original Triumph 21 out of the box, once the break-in period is finished, this is a very soft and bouncy ride.
Under the PWRRUN BIO+ the company uses 80% natural gum rubber which offers superior traction while also being a sustainable material. This outsole performed well in a variety of weather conditions, including ice/snow/rain. I was very impressed with the overall grip.
Saucony uses a Tri-Fold outsole design to promote flexibility of the shoe for transition from impact to toe-off. However, this is perhaps the one section of the shoe that I felt let me down. They felt quite stiff for a decent number of miles, and although that improved as I broke them in, the stiffness never fully went away.
Saucony Triumph RFG Conclusions
When I heard about the Saucony Triumph RFG, I wondered if it was a gimmick. I love the idea of being more sustainable and using renewable materials. However, how was this going to be accomplished while still being a Triumph?
Well, Saucony did a great job. This shoe offers the feel of a Triumph–not the same exact feel as the 21s–while using sustainable materials and coming in at the same price point.
Many times, sustainable means higher price, but that is not the case here. However, you’re going to get less performance for the price than if you went with the 21s. The trade off of sustainability or performance is real here.
The sole unit is stiff out of the box, but with plenty of cushion. This cushion breaks in nicely over the span of about 15 miles–although the upper might take a little longer to break in as well–and becomes bouncy and soft. My latest run in these was a great feeling 10-mile where they felt bouncy the entire time.
However, one of the biggest issues I had with this shoe was the long break-in time. I’m so used to shoes being ready to go out of the box, that the fact that it took me 25-30 miles before they were fully broken in–and about half that for the cushion to break in–was a little annoying.
The other things that stuck out to me negatively about these shoes were their weight and breathability. Unfortunately, the shoes weighed in at around 11.7oz (size 13) – which was about an ounce more than the Triumph 21s do. This isn’t a huge deal, but you can feel it as you try to run.
The bigger negative was the breathability of the upper. This was evident during a couple of untimely warm days when I ran in them. When the temps went over 80F (27C), my feet got overly hot on a couple of the runs. However, this turned into a positive during the turn into winter weather and cold runs, as it kept my feet insulated.
How does the RFG compare to the 21s?
Triumph 21: More bounce, more flexible.
Triumph RFG: Less bounce/flexibility, but plenty there for all runs. I think the PWRRUN BIO+ is maybe a little softer.
Triumph 21: XT-900 Carbon Rubber that focuses on being lightweight. Good, but not amazing, grip.
Triumph RFG: Natural gum rubber outsole. Slightly heavier, but better for the environment. Superior grip to the 21s, better shoe on snow/ice/wet surfaces.
Triumph 21: Engineered mesh, 3D overlays, very tuned in and ready for competitive running if needed. Very breathable.
Triumph RFG: More old-school knit upper. Less breathability, but warmer for colder runs. No overlays (embroidered logo), but a great lace locking system.
Triumph 21: A slightly better product for pushing the limits and for running competitively. I found the cushion more conducive to running fast.
Triumph RFG: I enjoyed running my long runs in this pair more than the 21s. I did two long runs consecutively with each shoe and although I was slightly slower with the RFG, I enjoyed the ride a little more and felt less pain in my feet after.
Overall, this shoe was a winner in my mind. The cushion was plush and great as soon as it was broken in, the upper comfortable and warm. If you are eco-conscious, this is a great first foray into friendlier shoes.
The goal of these shoes is admirable, and the execution is great.