Barefoot Shoes

Saucony Grid Type A4 Racing Flat Review

A Minimalist AlternativeBack in April, I started running consistently after about, uh, a 30 year layoff. I learned about barefoot running here on Birthday Shoes and I decided to give it a try. I had tried running on and off through the years, but was an old s…

A Minimalist Alternative

Back in April, I started running consistently after about, uh, a 30 year layoff. I learned about barefoot running here on Birthday Shoes and I decided to give it a try. I had tried running on and off through the years, but was an old school heel striker and always gave up due to back and knee pain. These days, when I run “barefoot” in Five Fingers Bikilas I don’t have these problems and running is fun again.

Starting out, I focused on taking it slow and developing a proper forefoot strike. All went well for the first couple of months and my perfectly fitting Bikilas are just great. However, due to either pushing myself too hard lately or perhaps the inherent frailty of my middle aged body, I have developed a mild case of achilles tendonitis.

So, what follows is my search for a shoe that I could alternate with my Bikilas to relieve some of the stress on my achilles tendon…

Saucony Grid Type A4

I looked for something lightweight, with a small heel-to-toe drop and low profile that would allow me to maintain my forefoot strike. Also, I was hoping some very slight cushioning of the heel would help with my achilles problem.

After reading about Edward Edmond’s use of racing flats in his training, I looked at the specs of various racing flats and narrowed it down to a few possibilities. Initially, I was leaning toward the Mizuno Wave Universe 3, but after talking with Greg at DailyMile, who likes alternating runs with his Bikilas and the Saucony Grid Type A4s, I decided to give them a closer look. I found that the Sauconys have a smaller heel-to-toe drop, less cushion, and cost less. So, I decided to give them a try. (Endless carries men’s and women’s here.)

This shoe has a very low profile and a small 4mm heel-to-toe drop making it a great option for forefoot runners.

Overall Engineering of the A4

The A4s have a very low 4mm heel-to-toe drop, run close to the ground with a 13mm heel and a 9mm forefoot and weigh in at just 6.3oz. 4mms is low enough to let me maintain my forefoot strike while also minimizing the impact to my achilles as my heel touches down. However, even at just 4mm, I find that I have to focus on staying on my forefoot. It is very easy to become lazy and let my heel strike first. If the drop was larger, I don’t think I could do it. The overall height being just 13mm is nice too. It doesn’t duplicate the awesome feel for the road you get in Vibram Five Fingers, but there is a definite tactile feedback that I have never felt from cushy running shoes. The weight is comparable to a pair of Bikilas.

The roomy toe box leaves my toes space to do their thing, a loop is on the heel for quick changes, and an orange racing stripe let’s people know you mean business.

The Upper

The A4 has a lightweight white mesh upper with orange and black accents. They are very airy and have a roomy toe box. They don’t have the toe gripping ability that Five Fingers provide, but my toes are free to move around unencumbered. Also, they have some nifty little loops on the tongue and heel for triathletes to quickly slip them on. The holes for the black laces are reinforced by a pressed on plastic strip. The orange/black racing stripe on the side seems a little cheesy to me. The shoe looks good to run in, but as casual wear it is pretty ugly.

The carbon rubber outsole grips the road and has holes for drainage. I had to pry little pebbles out with a screwdriver after running on a rocky path.

The Sole

They have a EVA midsole that Saucony says “maximizes rebound and durability while minimizing weight”. But don’t expect a lot of cushioning here. These are not a marshmallow shoe. The midsole is thin and much firmer feeling than your typical running shoe. The bottom of the sole has cool little carbon rubber triangle shaped grippers. Although this shoe is designed for the road, it handles light trails well. Another interesting feature for long distance runners, who like to dump water on their heads, is the drainage holes built into the soles. They allow water to drain through the shoe. The downside to this is that little rocks can get stuck in the holes when trail running. Also, dirt and water will come up through these holes so they have to be washed and aired out regularly.

The insoles are not glued in and are easily removed. There is also an ultra thin lining, elastic tongue holders and “hydrators” pad the heel.

Under the Hood

Inside the shoe there is a very thin backing to the mesh upper. The A4s don’t have much of an arch support(which I like a lot), just a thin insole that is not glued to the shoe and . It can easily be removed and I tried running without it once. I found the surface under the insole very hard and recommend keeping them in. There are a couple of little padded “hydrators” on each side of the heel pod that give a firm but cushioned fit. I got a blister on my heel the first time I ran in them, but switching from cotton socks to moisture wicking socks fixed that. The tongue has a couple of elastic strips to hold it in place.

Thumbs Up!

Overall, I give these shoes a thumbs up.. While not giving me a true barefoot feel, they are as close as I can imagine in a running shoe (I haven’t tried the Evo) and they seem to relieve some of the achilles stress. The biggest challenge is maintaining my stride that is so effortless and fun when running in my Bikilas.

Another added detail, the words “GET SOME!” are emblazoned on the outside of the heel. If you decide to get some, please throw us a bone and visit Endless for the Men’s Saucony Grid Type A4 and Women’s Saucony Grid Type A4.

Photos of the Saucony Grid Type A4 (click to zoom):

By Britt

Hailing from College Station, Texas (Home to Texas A&M!), I grew up running cross country. Believe it or not, I gave Justin the name for this site back in early 2009 but I didn't jump on the toe shoes bandwagon until a year later. I am also really into quadcopters and drones and have a blog called

17 replies on “Saucony Grid Type A4 Racing Flat Review”

Great review Britt! Though I have the Mizuno’s, I nearly went for the A4s too. But I decided to try the Nike Streak XC 2 for the hell of it (and ~$48 discounted on RW sealed the deal). They have a little more material than the A4, but the 4mm drop is pretty great and they are super light. All in all, it seems there are a lot of good minimalist options in racing flats. No need to spend $160 on Evos (which I’ve heard are really heavy) when $50-$80 will get you something potentially better.

I LOVE them. I’ve taken them out a handful of times and like them even better than my Mizunos. I think these will be the flats I use this fall instead, just because they do have a little more of a sole/cushion on them which helps save my feet a bit. I’ve had some reoccurring TOFP in my right foot, so after some rest I decided to do most of my running in the Nikes now, and supplement with some more regular barefoot training, and the occasional VFF run (instead of focusing only on VFF running). So far it’s working well. The foot feels great and I’m back up to where I left off mileage wise. Ran a PR for the 1.5 mile in them too a few days ago. I’m pretty satisfied with these.

I think the only thing about the Nikes I don’t like (aside from the color scheme) is the slightly narrower toe box than the Mizunos. It’s not really restrictive, but it’s not as wide as I’d ultimately like. After several months in VFFs, my toes like their space. I just wear thin socks with the Nikes and that seems to help.

Ground feel is ok, not great, but it’s surprisingly easy to keep good form in these. They don’t get in my way like I thought they might. And at 5.4oz, I can’t complain about weight. Overall, I think they’re a great deal for the price, especially if someone needs a little more between their foot and the ground.

hey britt, this is greg. great review! the only comment i’d have is that i actually do wear them casually alot. i had no idea people think they’re ugly! ha

I do the same thing when running, switch between bikilas and my racing flats and can never go back to any other combination. Well maybe move towards barefoot but not the other way around πŸ™‚

I went with the Asics Piranha SP 2. Very roomy toebox and a 4mm drop. Midsole Height: Heel (14mm), Forefoot (10mm) and it only weighs 4.2 oz, amazing shoe.

the sp2 is hard to find and it’s on clearance at most places but the sp3 has replaced it, pretty much the same shoe except it weighs 4.7oz but still that’s pretty light.

so a thumbs up for this shoe if anyone is looking into racing flats.

Nice review I think you’ve sold me! I’ve been interested in VFF running alternatives and didn’t even know what to start looking for. Now I know. and knowing is half the battle.

Seret, I hope I didn’t over sell. It is not barefoot running by any means. Barefoot is best! Also, I ordered some of the Nike Streak XC 2s per Lindsey and Edward Edmonds recommendations. I’ll let you know how those are.

I agree wholeheartedly with Britt. Barefoot is definitely best. Even though I’ve been doing the majority of my running in the Nike Streak XC 2s, I’ve been increasing the frequency of my barefoot running as well. I’m usually doing a few minutes at the end of each run, and I’m really enjoying it more than anything else. I never thought my Sprints would feel clumsy, but after my grass hill workout yesterday (all barefoot, plus some barefoot on concrete) even the Sprints felt oddly cumbersome. Still my favorite VFF though. πŸ™‚

I was seriously looking at the A4, but before I pulled the trigger on those, I saw the price on the Nikes and went for those instead. Not regretting the decision, as they’re working wonderfully for me. But not having tried the A4s, I can’t say if the Nikes have any sort of advantage other than the price. I want to say for sure that they’re higher off the ground than the A4s, but I’m having trouble digging up the numbers.

Britt: thanks for a great review! Had just one quibble, being a bit of a stickler for precision. When you write, “… when I run barefoot in Five Fingers Bikilas …,” did you mean barefoot OR in Five Fingers Bikilas? I suppose I’m a bit of a purist, but running in Five Fingers is not running barefoot. It’s, well, running Five Fingers. πŸ™‚

Again, great review. Thanks.

Michael, You definitely caught me there. How about a compromise? I changed it to have the word barefoot in quotes since it is a figure of speech that seems to be picking up steam. Also, it is a great lead in to another article I am writing about the term, “barefoot running shoes”, which is a total oxymoron, but has seen huge internet search growth. I can see where this is aggravating for a barefoot running purist, but the definition of barefoot running, as a figure of speech, is being stretched. The new “Merrell Barefoot” line of shoes is an example of this.

I haven’t tried the A4 but I had the Saucony Grid Type A3 for a while.

At first it seemed like a great shoe, a good alternative to my completely worn out Asics Piranhas that I loved.

But then the problems came:
The shoe itself is very nice but there is one major problem in my opinion:
The holes though the sole.
You wrote: “drainage holes built into the soles…allow water to drain through the shoe”
That’s correct.
But as you mentioned, water tends to β€œdrain” the wrong way, which is INTO the shoe.
If you’re running on wet ground or in puddles, water will spurt into the shoe for every step you take, making your feet wet in no time.
Getting completely soaked after five steps when planning to go for a 10 miler, isn’t that nice.

Second, as you described, small stones and pebbles will enter the holes during the run.

Sure you can take them out after the run but what about DURING the run?
I want a pair of shoes I can use on a lot of different surfaces.
If I come across a gravel road during my run, I don’t wanna avoid it just because I have shoes with holes in my sole.
And also when running on a asphalt road, gravel at the road side will occur.
Getting small stones into the soles during a run will irritate you in two ways:

Your feet will begin to hurt when you run with thin soles holding a number of stones. You might not notice this the first miles but after a while your feet get really bad.
Or if you’re unlucky (as I was a couple of times) you will step on a very sharp stone with a tip facing upwards. The tip went through the sole and right into my forefoot which hurt like hell.

The option then is to regularly remove the stones from your soles.
Endless stopping will make you crazy, though.

Apart from hurting your feet, the stone collecting will eventually damage your shoes.
After only 3 months and not that much running I noticed my inner soles were already penetrated by the stones stuck in the outer sole. There were a couple of holes in both inner soles where the stones had gnawed, first through the mesh inside the shoe and then through the inner sole. Next are your socks and fragile feet…
The reason for wearing shoes at all is to avoid stepping directly on stones and other hard objects.
Having stones coming into your shoes and starting to scuff your feet is not OK.

The outer soles were also damaged and weakened by having stones making the area around the holes more porous by the endless friction cause by every step took with stones in the sole.

I returned my A3’s to the store and got a refund.
I wouldn’t go as far as blaming my A3’s for a missed Marathon and half the season spoiled, but I got a lot of forefoot problem (pain) during this period and having stones gnawing my already sore feet was for sure not helping me getting any better.

I know some people love their A3’s and A4’s but you should be aware that the holes in the soles can cause more problem then you might first guess…

Nice review. I tried the A4’s a few months ago, but they were too narrow for my feet. They buckled oddly, and didn’t fit right. When I went up a size, they were way too big. I ended up with the Addidas Adizero Rockets instead. I use them on the road and track. New Balance MT100’s for trails. Occasional VFF use for shorter runs. Barefoot typically when I’m running home from the bars. I run in flipflops to the pool.
Well, that’s my catalog of running footwear.

Love Saucony’s A series, but I think they made a major mistake on the outsole of this shoe. Durability has been a huge issue for me — I’m sure my footstrike is part of the problem, but I imagine I’m not the only one with a slightly imperfect stride. The rubber triangles wore off the outsides of the midfoot after 65 miles; by 80 miles, I was running on pure midsole foam. Great shoe until then, but be warned.

Thinking of picking a pair of these up but perhaps I should grab a tube of shoe goo to fill in the drainage holes too?

Awesome light weight flats… Except that the “drainage holes” are filled with small rocks within the first 20 minuets. I wouldnt purchase them again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *