Drill Holes, Place Studs in the Saucony Mad River TR

Ice, mud, dirt, concrete: The Saucony Mad River TR tackles it all, no matter the terrain.

Ice does not bode well for trail running shoes. Even with grippy, ice-specific compounds like Vibram Arctic Grip, shoes still slide. And come summertime, winter shoe construction may leave users wanting something a bit more breathable.

Saucony Mad River TR shoe

Enter the Saucony Mad River TR. It’s perhaps the most customizable, versatile, and aggressive shoe out there. But not aggressive in the gnarly trail sense — aggressive because Saucony intends for the shoe to be drilled into.

On the bottom of the Saucony Mad River TR are specially placed “guide” holes for stud or drainage hole placement. The brand actually wants you to drill into your shoe.

It’s pretty wild. We saw the shoe at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show this January. Here’s our take.

Saucony Launches Mad River TR: Shoe With ‘Drainage’ Holes

Saucony dubs the technology on the bottom of the shoe a “mapped outsole.” From heel to the toe, there are guides for both studs and drainage holes.

To place studs into the shoe, simply take a flathead screwdriver and place screws in any of the stud guide holes. You can optimize grip for the front, middle, back, or entirety of your shoe.

Saucony Mad River TR shoe
The circles marked with “X” are for studs, the others for drainage holes

And if the trail or road clears of ice, simply unscrew the studs. What’s left is a tiny puncture in the outsole of the shoe. The shoe then runs like a normal trail runner, with Saucony’s Power Foam Plus midsole and Power Trac grippy outsole.

Here’s where it gets a bit crazy. To add drainage holes, Saucony asks the runner to remove the insole from inside the shoe, then place a wood board into the shoe.

Next, take a drill and drill into the drainage hole guides on the Mad River TR’s mapped outsole. Once you hit wood, you know you’ve gone far enough.

Saucony Mad River TR shoe
The Saucony Mad River TR enable runners to lace up with two separate channels

That leaves a fairly sizeable hole in the shoe, all the way from the outsole and through the midsole. Yet unlike the studs, once you drill into the drainage holes, there’s no going back.

So if the trail is super wet and muddy and you’re in need of some serious drainage, the Mad River TR sets it up perfectly for you.

I can’t say I’ve seen a trail yet that made me wish I had better-draining shoes. But maybe I’m doing it wrong.

While we haven’t tested the shoes, I imagine the drilled holes to feel fairly normal on dry pavement. And while the holes may let moisture out, they will also let moisture in once you have the shoes drilled.

Saucony Mad River TR

  • Weight: 10.9 oz. men’s, 9.7 women’s
  • Drop: 4 mm
  • Saucony PowerTrac outsole
  • Saucony Power Foam Plus midsole
  • Release date: July 1, 2019
  • Cost: $110

Who’s the Mad River For?

Studs and drainage holes are not exactly new to running shoes. Runners have always had the option to add studs or drill into the bottom of the shoe.

The drainage holes may not be for everyone, and you may only use the studs a few times a year. But a shoe that instructs users to drill strikes us as novel.

The Saucony Mad River TR is for runners who want to make the most out of their shoes for nearly every trail condition. If it’s muddy, rainy, icy, or dry, you should be able to throw on the Mad River TRs and stick to the trail.

Saucony will release the Mad River TR on July 1, 2019, for $110.

Nate Mitka

Midwest born, Nate Mitka is based in the GearJunkie Denver office. He is an advocate of all outdoor activities and has developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.