Boreal Saurus Running Shoe Review

I do some running in the hills, but not a lot in the scheme of things. Most of my runs are closer to home, on a mix of roads, woodland trails, parks and pavements - and I imagine that's true for many of us. An off-road shoe, but one with enough cushioning to soak up the impact on paved surfaces, Boreal's Saurus could have been made with my regular weekday running in mind. Close to home is where I've used it most over the last few months. But this is more than just a souped up road shoe, and I've found it performs well on the hills too, both for running and hill walking.

It's a well-cushioned shoe for long days and hard surfaces  © Dan Bailey
It's a well-cushioned shoe for long days and hard surfaces
© Dan Bailey

In terms of general feel the Saurus is quite reminiscent of La Sportiva's Ultra Raptor, a shoe I've used a lot over the years. Both are at the more supportive and cushioned end of the trail running spectrum, which makes them ideal for long days as well as running on mixed ground... not to mention being well suited to a heavy chap like me. Being quite a chunky shoe, the Saurus feels stable and supportive when carrying a big load on rough ground too. I've used it on one overnight backpacking trip so far, and would certainly do so again.

Ideal for hard-packed forest tracks  © Dan Bailey
Ideal for hard-packed forest tracks
© Dan Bailey

Weight

At 900g/pair (size 12) the Saurus is a fairly hefty shoe, and most rivals are going to be a bit lighter. Much of that weight however must be down to the thick, cushioned sole - and if you like cushioning then this isn't going to put you off. Since I don't race, and I'm generally not serious about counting every last gram of my kit and clothing, I can't say the weight bothers me.

Heavy pack, rough sloppy ground - no problem in the Saurus  © Dan Bailey
Heavy pack, rough sloppy ground - no problem in the Saurus
© Dan Bailey

Fit

With what I'd call a medium-volume fit, there's plenty of depth at the front to wiggle your toes. The Saurus feels broad in the midfoot, but then comes to a pronounced point at the toe. While this will suit some users, it sadly doesn't match well to my broad-toed foot. For a shoe that's suited to long distances, it's a shame that Boreal didn't build a little more width into the toe to accommodate the inevitable foot spread over a big day. Luckily the uppers are soft and giving enough that my wide feet can bulge out the sides a bit, so the narrow toe doesn't overly affect me, and I can wear them for hours without feeling pinched.

Test driving them on Beinn Each  © Dan Bailey
Test driving them on Beinn Each
© Dan Bailey

They come in both men's and women's versions, and in half size increments, though women get a smaller range of sizes (4-8) than men (6-12). Depending on the shoe I take either 11.5 or 12. I've been using these in a size 12, and while they're borderline too long for me the dead space is only in the very point of the toe - not enough to affect the fit or make things clumsy. The mid-foot width is also a bit much for me, but lacing tight sorts this. If I'd gone for a smaller size then they'd have been too narrow at the toe. Overall I'd say they are true to size.

Sole

For support on rough ground there's good lateral stiffness in the sole, coupled with a nice springy forefoot flex. That chunky rounded rear makes for a smooth rolling action, particularly if you tend to strike with your heel.

With a depth of 15mm at the front and a hefty 25mm at the heel this is a thick sole by trail shoe standards, and its dual density EVA layers add up to a lot of cushioning. The resultant 10mm drop is towards the top end for a trail shoe, too. By comparison the Ultra Raptor has a 9mm drop - and that already seemed quite a lot to me. For those who don't know, 'drop' is the difference (or gradient) in the sole between heel height and toe height. Road running shoes tend to have a drop of about 10mm, while minimalist fell shoes can have half that, or less. A shoe with less drop and a lower sole overall may be more nimble on rough ground, but it will tend to be less cushioned for hard surfaces and long distances, so the key is striking the right balance for the sort of running you're doing (and your gait).

The soles soak up plenty of impact  © Dan Bailey
The soles soak up plenty of impact
© Dan Bailey

Compared to many trail shoes the Saurus feels soft and bouncy when you're pounding along hard-packed gravel tracks and pavements - and if you're out on a long day, or regularly run on a mix of surfaces, then this will make a difference. The disadvantage of a thicker sole is that it raises you higher off the ground, dulling your feel for the terrain. Lots of shock absorption might be nice on the road, but can feel spongy and imprecise on more technical ground. There's a bit of that going on with the Saurus, and if I was expecting lots of tricky rocky terrain then I'd probably opt for more of a hill running shoe, with a lower and less cushioned sole. It wouldn't be great for scrambling, for instance. That said, having tried it on the rough stuff a fair bit now the Saurus has actually turned out to be a lot better than I'd first assumed. It's certainly capable as a hill running shoe on proper off-road ground, and comfortably good enough for the easier routes that I would run.

They take technical, rocky terrain in their stride  © Dan Bailey
They take technical, rocky terrain in their stride
© Dan Bailey

Underfoot you get a Vibram outsole which uses Megagrip rubber, a grippy compound that seems to provide good traction on a range of surfaces. How will it wear over time? I'll have to report back in a few months. The studs are well spread so they don't clog too badly with mud, and while the studs themselves aren't very big there's a series of deep lateral grooves which help the shoe flex, and must have a bearing on the grip too. Though there isn't really a heel breast I've not found downhill braking too bad at all, so the sole seems to be doing its job well. The Saurus feels secure on mud, grass, steep wet slopes, gravel paths and rock - even wet schist, I've found.

Testing their rock grip on a coastal clamber  © Dan Bailey
Testing their rock grip on a coastal clamber
© Dan Bailey

Uppers

The mesh upper feels light and breezy in warmer conditions, and seems to dry reasonably quickly if you run through wet grass or step in a bog. This happens a lot. Because the mesh comes low to the ground and it's not protected all-round with a water-repelling rand, as some models are, it's easy to flood these shoes on spongy terrain. Were they designed with a drier climate in mind?

The upper is reinforced with a rubbery overlay at the sides and a tough little polyamide fabric rand at the front, which should help give a bit of life to the flex point at the front, often a spot that wears through on running shoes. On rougher ground there's a bit of protection in the form of a little rubber toe cap, and since this is all one piece with the outsole Boreal say it shouldn't delaminate. I can't yet comment on the longevity other than to say that it all feels well made.

There's a close fit across the top of the foot, with a sewn-in stretchy sock-like gusset on top (which helps keep out grit and gravel), and under this an integrated tongue. This is soft, comfy and forgiving on the foot, and though the tongue is thin there's enough padding to stop the laces digging into the bony top of your foot if you tighten them really hard (a complaint I often have with footwear). The tongue is also really breathable; I found these shoes cool and comfy on a hot running day in the southern Highlands recently, and I'll look forward to summer running in them.

Padding holds the heel firmly and snugly in place, but there's not so much of it that the fit feels at all spongy. An external TPU cage at the heel adds support and stability, and overall the fit at the back is close without being too aggressive on the achilles.

The lacing is smooth-running, and gives a nice snug fit around the top of the foot. You do have to double tie the laces, or they soon come undone.

They're comfy, supportive and grip well on a variety of surfaces   © Dan Bailey
They're comfy, supportive and grip well on a variety of surfaces
© Dan Bailey

Footbed

The Ortholite insole that comes with these shoes is thick and spongy, which I guess adds to the overall cushioned feel of the shoe, but as usual with these things it's just a floppy bit of foam with no arch support. For longer runs I might consider adding a more supportive footbed such as a pair of Superfeet. Under the heel is a section of 'bobbled' foam. I've never encountered something like this before, and while you do initially notice its presence I can't say that's a bad thing as such - and you soon forget it's there when you're out. Boreal tell me that its purpose is to "create a 'massaging' type effect under the foot, and help aid cushioning" which I guess makes sense. However on my pair this foam insert is already beginning to detach, and when it goes I'll have to replace the insoles.

Summary

Bar the footbed this is a well-made offering from Boreal, and at a very fair price. The thick and supportive sole makes the Saurus quite a substantial-feeling shoe, and it is the depth of cushioning that really sets it apart. While the Saurus is more than capable on the hills, this a trail shoe that you can also comfortably take onto more urban ground. From rough mountain paths, through hard-packed forest tracks to pavements and tarmac, this is a proper all-rounder. I imagine it would be forgiving on the feet on a long distance day too. If you do a lot of running on mixed lowland terrain, but want something that's also good for real hill running, then the Saurus is well worth a shot. It's a good shoe for hillwalking too, and one I'd happily use on a lightweight summer backpacking trip.

Boreal say:

Saurus is an all new trail running shoe which excels on off-road footpaths and routes which feature a mix of hard paved surfaces and softer off-road terrain.

  • Weight: 740g / pair size UK7
  • Sizes: 6-12 (men) 4-8 (women)
  • Upper: Abrasion resistant mesh with injected PU and microfibre. Integrated tongue in the upper. TPU at the heel for lateral stability
  • Lining: PU Air Net for ventilation and comfort
  • Midsole: Shock absorbing EVA layer for improved comfort
  • Sole: Vibram Trail. Rubber sole with integrated toecap and dual density EVA rand for optimum comfort. TPU piece for support and stability. Megagrip compound for superior grip. Boreal's patented ITR construction system to provide excellent durability prevent delamination at the toe.
  • Usage: Perfect for trail running, orienteering, light approach or street use
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