Never having set foot in a Saucony shoe before, I was pretty curious to see what the strangely named Saucony Jazz X TR was all about. Can there really be any reason to call a running shoe the ‘Jazz?’ Particularly when you consider that most of the Saucony range consists of shoes with far more conventional names, such as the splendidly over-confident ProGrid Triumph.
Saucony also break with tradition a little by making this simply an off-road version of their popular cushioned road shoe of the same name; seemingly in much the same way as car makers now create a 4×4 version of a road car by simply jacking the suspension up a few inches and bolting a fat spare wheel to the hatchback.
So are these things proper off-roaders or girly soft-roaders? Well, while the Jazz looks a bit like the latter, appearances can be deceptive, or to quote Dizzy Gillespie for a moment, ‘it ain’t necessarily so.’ For starters, there is far less underfoot cushioning than the side profile suggests, and while there is a bit of cushioning for your achilles tendon area, there is less padding at the rear of the very stiff heel section than I’ve ever seen in any other running shoe.
Nonetheless, it was time to see what they could do out on a 10 mile road/trail/dune/beach/mud course. And so, as the rain continued to pelt down outside, meticulous professional that I am, I loaded up my iPod with Jazz standards, donned my gaudiest running gear and, muttering “take me to the bridge, daddy-o”, headed out to face the elements.
How do they feel on your feet?
Well, despite the lack of inner heel padding, these felt very comfortable from the off, and despite being a wider fitting than I’d like, as I’d been told to expect from Saucony trainers by those charming people at Fitness Footwear, I was able to get a good fit for my skinny feet with just a few minor tweaks to the laces. I was also pleased to note the gaitered tongue and the serious protection offered by the heel guard and toe box, which seem sturdy enough to protect your feet from stray rocks and other obstacles, without adding weight to what is a very light trail shoe.
Once I hit the road, they were still comfortable, but these aren’t as massively cushioned as the road version of the Jazz, so I was glad after a mile or so to be able to hit the beach, where all of a sudden, the Grid Jazz X TRs started to make a whole heap of sense.
And as the dulcet tones of ‘Hello Central, get me Doctor Jazz’ burst into my earphones, a ray of sunlight appeared through the clouds and the slight lack of road cushioning suddenly ceased to matter, as the stable, sure-footed, neutral ride began to take my feet and ankles to their happy place.
So, are these off-roaders or soft-roaders?
Well, yes. Both. My test trail yesterday included just 2 miles of pavement, on which the Jazz X TRs performed creditably for trail shoes. But then I got to the serious stuff, and while Fats Waller dolefully opined that ‘Your feet’s too big’, the Jazz X TR’s were proving pretty nimble over the short rock and gravel stretch of my run, and also offering up a full measure of protection.
Once I reached the steepest of the dune sections (accompanied by ‘It must be jelly, cause jam don’t shake like that’ if you’re interested) the thick Jazz soles offered all the flex I needed.
While on the endless quagmire that is the ‘Velvet Trail’ after a few days of rain, the slightly wimpy looking soles proved to have grip to spare, yet avoided getting ‘suctioned’ onto the mud, unlike several trail shoes I’ve tried which had much more aggressive looking grip patterns.
And once I reached the blessed relief of the turnaround point, putting the wind at my back and miles of flat sand before me, I was able to enjoy the real benefit of the Jazz X TRs: which is the kind of supportive comfort you get from a good road shoe, but in an off-road setting.
Frankly, my trail test circuit offers up a mixture of surfaces that can put a lot of strain on your feet and ankles when you’re wearing the wrong trail shoes. These plainly aren’t fell running shoes, but what quickly became apparent, and stayed apparent, is that the Jazz X TRs are a very happy, comfortable place for your feet to be on anything but the most gruelling trail, offering up structured support and protection rather than simple cushioning.
So while they may look like tricked-out road shoes, these are actually very competent and above all, very comfortable trail shoes, and pretty good value if you’re spending around the £60 mark.
And that’s why, much as I was tempted to deduct half a mark for the silly name, the Saucony Grid Jazz X TR trail shoes get a well-deserved 5 Jelly Baby Rating. Or as Herbie Hancock put it to me yesterday: ‘This I dig of you.’
– Weight: 350g
– Last: Modified Contour with EAS for biomechanical correction
– Airmesh upper for lightweight breathability
– EVA Midsole for responsive cushioning
– Rearfoot grid for Stable Cushioning
– Rearfoot HRC for responsive impact absorbtion
– Forefoot HRC for dynamic toe-off
– HRC Strobel Board for foot-in comfort
– Midfoot bridge for support
– XT600 rubber compound heelstrike
– XT600 rubber compound rearfoot
– b/c R rubber compound forefoot