Our verdict

In our view, the Saucony Axon 3 truly defines "value" in the running shoe world. Priced at just $100, this latest iteration significantly improves upon the Axon 2 with better cushioning, reduced weight, an enhanced fit, and a more durable outsole. We think it serves a wide range of runners brilliantly, from beginners seeking their first versatile shoe to high-mileage runners looking for a dependable daily workhorse. The minor issues we found in the lab, like a bit of excessive stiffness and a narrower forefoot, hardly detract from what is an all-around exceptional shoe.

Pros

  • Incredible value at only $100
  • Significant weight reduction from version 2
  • Impressively cushioned with PWRRUN foam
  • Fantastic durability
  • Suitable for quicker paces
  • Excellent as a daily workhorse
  • Lovely upper
  • Works for short and long runs

Cons

  • Probably too stiff for very relaxed runs
  • Slightly narrower forefoot than before

Audience verdict

86
Good!

Who should buy

We believe the Saucony Axon 3 is an excellent choice for:

  • Any runner seeking a shoe that's easy on the wallet and offers plenty of cushioning and comfort.
  • Beginners in the sport keen to find one of the best bang-for-the-buck shoes in the market.
  • Those that seek a durable trainer, especially for midfoot and forefoot strikers, as it has a lower drop than usual.

Saucony Axon 3

Who should NOT buy

If you're an extreme heel striker, the Axon might not be the best fit, given its low-drop geometry. You'd be better off with the Nike Winflo 10, which offers a higher offset while maintaining many of the Axon's features, including its affordability.

Additionally, the Axon 3 caters more to those with wider feet and may not be suitable for runners with narrow feet. In that's you, we recommend opting for a narrower option like the Brooks Trace 2, which should provide a better fit for your wider foot shape.

Saucony Axon 3

Breathability

Right off the bat, the Axon 3 seemed to have everything needed for optimal breathability—a perforated, thin engineered mesh free from obstructive, TPU overlays. We were eager to see how it would perform in our smoke test.

As expected, it did quite well. While it didn't earn the max score, a 4 out of 5 is still an impressive result for a budget-friendly shoe. And this is especially great for winter use, where top-notch breathability isn't always a plus.

When we placed the cut-in-half shoe under the light, it revealed hundreds of ventilation holes, not just in the toebox. The upper resembled that of a premium shoe in its precision and quality.

To examine the mesh even more closely, we headed to our microscope in the lab. 

Saucony Axon 3 microscope

Under the microscope, the upper looked stunning, featuring a double-layer mesh that masterfully balances comfort with ventilation.

Saucony Axon 3 microscope

In our final manual assessment of the upper, we noted it's not as padded and stretchy as some other shoes, but we never felt discomfort. However, this is something to keep in mind if you prefer knitted, Ultraboost-like uppers.

Test results
Axon 3 4
Average 3.8
Compared to 234 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

With so many ventilation holes, we think durability might be compromised. After all, each hole is a potential ripping point. But a lot depends on the strength of the mesh.

Luckily, the engineered mesh Saucony uses is quite tough based on our Dremel test. So, despite the numerous holes, it managed to score an average 2 out of 5 for durability.

Saucony Axon 3 Toebox durability
Test results
Axon 3 2
Average 2.4
Compared to 168 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

The heel area boasts a rougher fabric, which, on paper, suggests enhanced durability and a reduced risk of heel slippage, as it firmly holds the feet in place.

Moreover, after conducting our Dremel test, we found barely any damage, earning it an outstanding maximum score of 5 out of 5 for durability!

Saucony Axon 3 Heel padding durability
Test results
Axon 3 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 164 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Encouraged by the last positive result, we were eager to test the outsole. Our first step was to determine the hardness value of the Carbon Rubber outsole.

Saucony Axon 3 outsole

The outsole boasts considerable coverage, with strategically placed rubber (red) in the heel and forefoot areas to enhance traction.

Measuring 82.5 HC on our Shore C durometer, it earned a standard score—exactly what you'd anticipate in a daily trainer. This represents a balanced mix of durability and grip, aligning well with the shoe's overall performance.

Saucony Axon 3 Outsole hardness
Test results
Axon 3 82.8 HC
Average 80.5 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 285 running shoes
Number of shoes
52.1 HC
Outsole hardness
93.0 HC

Outsole durability

Given the outsole's average hardness, we anticipated typical durability from our final Dremel test.

What we discovered in the lab didn't disappoint us at all—a mere 0.7-mm indentation. This result assures solid performance in terms of wear and tear, even if you frequently run on gravel paths or dirt roads.

Saucony Axon 3 Outsole durability
Test results
Axon 3 0.7 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 146 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Adding to the good news, there's even more to be excited about in terms of durability. Despite the shoe feeling incredibly light—we'll weigh it in just a moment—it boasts a substantial rubber thickness of 3.9 mm!

Saucony Axon 3 Outsole thickness
Test results
Axon 3 3.9 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

Most budget-friendly running shoes tip the scales at well over 10 ounces, as brands typically use cheaper, heavier materials.

Saucony, however, took the exact opposite approach and crafted the ultimate lightweight, wallet-friendly shoe, weighing in at just 8.6 oz (244g). Oh, and let's not overlook this—it's 1.3 oz lighter than the Axon 2. Now that's what we'd call going on a proper diet...

Saucony Axon 3 Weight
Test results
Axon 3 8.61 oz (244g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

In the heel, there's a substantial stack height of 33.6 mm. However, it doesn't feel like a max-stacked, maximalist shoe. It's more akin to a really cushioned daily trainer, which everyone seems happy with, as it remains consistent with last year's version.

Saucony Axon 3 Heel stack
Test results
Axon 3 33.6 mm
Average 33.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
45.7 mm

Forefoot stack

In the forefoot, we measured 27.9 mm, which is also above what most daily trainers offer and quite surprising, given the shoe's low weight. We're still amazed at how Saucony managed to create a shoe this cushioned and affordable for just $100.

Saucony Axon 3 forefoot

With such a generous stack in the forefoot area, those who use a forefoot striking technique are well accommodated with the Axon 3. This is particularly important, considering the shoe's low-drop geometry.

Saucony Axon 3 Forefoot stack
Test results
Axon 3 27.9 mm
Average 25.0 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
36.9 mm

Drop

We mentioned just before that this shoe leans toward a low-drop geometry, although it's higher than Saucony's stated figure.

They claim a 4-mm offset, but according to World Athletics standards, we measured it at 5.7 mm. Regardless, this isn't a big deal, and the shoe still feels like it has a lower drop compared to other models and it's ideal for those who favor less steep shoes.

Saucony Axon 3 Drop
Test results
Axon 3 5.7 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The insole is pretty straightforward, and it does its job well. We measured it at 4.7 mm, which is pretty much the standard thickness we find in most shoes.

Saucony Axon 3 Insole thickness
Test results
Axon 3 4.7 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 300 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The trend in running shoe foams leans towards becoming softer each year, and the Axon 3 follows suit.

After assessing the PWRRUN foam with our Durometer, we recorded a softness of 18.3 HA, making it 22% softer than the Axon 2.

In our tests, the midsole felt definitively softer and more plush, marking another step forward in its evolution.

Saucony Axon 3 Midsole softness
Test results
Axon 3 18.3 HA
Average 21.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 232 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Midsole softness in cold

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.
Saucony Axon 3 Midsole softness in cold

Difference in midsole softness in cold

Under cold temperatures, the PWRRUN midsole remained consistent, showing only a 20.2% change in softness. This difference probably won't be noticeable to most runners.

Saucony Axon 3 Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Axon 3 20.2%
Average 25.5%
Compared to 231 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

Now, let's talk about stability. There's no way around it—the shoe, although still reasonably stable for its height, can't be considered as stable as its predecessor because of the softer foam.

Torsional rigidity

Since it's very similar to the previous model, we expected the Axon to be quite rigid, as has been consistent with this line.

We found it scored 4 out of 5 for rigidity. Therefore, we think runners who prefer a more flexible, natural ride should consider other options, like the Brooks Launch 10.

Test results
Axon 3 4
Average 3.2
Compared to 283 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

In the heel counter, there are subtle changes aimed at reducing stiffness, which was previously uncomfortable for some runners, resembling a stability trainer rather than a daily running shoe.

This time we've clocked it at 3 out of 5 for stiffness, striking a good balance. We found it to be really comfortable, a notable improvement that enhances the overall running experience especially when tackling long runs.

Test results
Axon 3 3
Average 2.8
Compared to 267 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Shifting to the midsole's dimensions, we measured the forefoot at just 108.8 mm, narrower than what we typically see in the lab.

This design choice aligns with the goal of reducing weight, but it could raise concerns for runners with mild stability needs who have a forefoot striking technique.

Saucony Axon 3 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Axon 3 108.8 mm
Average 113.7 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

In the heel, we found exactly the opposite situation—the shoe has grown by 9%, which is significant in this test. In fact, it could now be considered a wide shoe in the heel area, and we have an idea why these changes occurred.

Basically, the Axon 3 is primarily aimed at beginners due to its low MSRP. With a less steep drop than most daily trainers, there's a higher likelihood of runners landing on their heels. So, Saucony widened the heel area—dead simple!

Saucony Axon 3 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Axon 3 95.7 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Another concern with the Axon 2 was its incredible stiffness. In fact, in our 90-degree bend test, we had to apply 39.9N of force, whereas this year's model required only 30.4N.

This result aligns more with our expectations for this kind of shoe, but the Axon 3 still tends toward being stiff, both torsionally and longitudinally, as our lab tests have demonstrated.

Test results
Axon 3 30.4N
Average 29.2N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

We conducted the 20-minute freezer test again to gauge the shoe's stiffness in harsh winter conditions. After the test, we found a need to make 17.6% more force to bend the shoe. This subtle change highlights once more the solid performance of the PWRRUN compound, even under challenging winter conditions.

Test results
Axon 3 17.6%
Average 35.9%
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

In the widest part of the toebox, we measured a generous 100.4 mm. This makes the shoe particularly suitable for those with wide feet.

This wider upper is especially crucial since Saucony doesn't produce this shoe in a 2E width, leaving the standard width as the only option.

Saucony Axon 3 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Axon 3 100.4 mm
Average 98.4 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

If there was one major drawback of the Axon 2, it was its tapered toebox, which made the shoe quite uncomfortable for many runners, especially in the big toe area.

This time, they've made it 10 mm wider than before (77.7 mm), a change that significantly enhances comfort.

Saucony Axon 3 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Axon 3 77.7 mm
Average 78.2 mm
Compared to 179 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

For just 100 bucks, you get features often reserved for pricier shoes, and one of them is the semi-gusseted tongue.

It's amazing, offering a solid, comfortable lockdown that's usually found in more expensive models.

Saucony Axon 3 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Axon 3 Both sides (semi)

Comfort

Tongue padding

The tongue features average padding at 5.0 mm, which we think is a smart approach. Considering the shoe's signature low weight, opting for thicker padding would have been counterproductive.

Saucony Axon 3 tongue

This thoughtful balance adds just enough comfort without compromising the Axon's lightweight appeal.

Saucony Axon 3 Tongue padding
Test results
Axon 3 5.0 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 302 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

In the heel, there's a horizontal finger-loop heel tab. In our humble opinion, it doesn't look quite as good as the classic vertical ones, but it's definitely better than having none at all!

Saucony Axon 3 Heel tab
Test results
Axon 3 Finger loop

Removable insole

The insole is fully removable since it's not glued in place. As an added bonus, it's printed with the shoe's 4-mm heel-to-toe offset. However, our measurements indicated a different one as we explained before...

Saucony Axon 3 Removable insole
Test results
Axon 3 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

For just $100, we got a really good shoe with the Axon 3, so we're okay with Saucony saving reflective elements for their higher-end models. If they have to cut costs somewhere, this is the place.

Saucony Axon 3 Reflective elements
Test results
Axon 3 No