Does Salomon’s cross-over shoe have the The X-Factor? TRM steps to the dark side and trials a shoe that takes the dirty secrets of our trail world and transfers them to…(cough)…the road*.
*No roads were actually run in the making of this article. The tester couldn’t bring himself to it. Testing remained on trail and fire ROAD. There, we said it. We did it. This review first appeared in Edition #16 of Trail Run Mag. available for free download (along with all editions) HERE.
Offended or intrigued? I’m not sure which to feel. They sent me a road shoe.
A road shoe goddam it! That’s like sending Kryptonite to Superman, or yellow daisies to the Green Lantern (yellow nullifies his super powers, according to my research). Not that my trail running displays any sign of superhero-ness to be de-powered in the first place, of course. Unless you count someone with all the running prowess of Star Wars’ C3PO as a super trail runner type.
But a road shoe? From a brand at known best for their trail running clobber? Seriously…? Okay I’m curious enough to lace up.
So what have we here in the Salomon SLAB X Series, then? Certainly looks like a trail runner. Or in the least like most of the other Sense series shoes doing the singletrack rounds and indeed Salomon have sucked the DNA from their other Sense line-up to create a shoe that is their first foray into the road market. Why? Because of City Trail, that’s why. This is a new movement, for lack of a better word, that bridges road and trail running by trying to replicate the trail running style in an urban environment: constant gear shifts in effort with more technique involved as you traverse changeable urban surfaces. Think tight and twisty cornering through back alleys and play parks matched to a multitude of surfaces from smooth gravel, paving stones, brick, concrete and road asphalt with plenty of ups and downs entailing stairs and short hillocks found in undulating cityscapes. It’s kind of a hyper road run style or, alternatively viewed, a sedated trail running experience.
So what is the deal with the shoes made to pace us through jungles of concrete?
The signature red paint job, super lightweight construction, string-thin pull-tight lace system, and to be fair, the superior instant comfort that Salomon is rightly known for, all are there in spades.
The main injection of change comes first in the upper featuring a 2-way lycra, which is very stretchy and lets feet spread out as they swell over the longer distance (and a result no doubt of harder pounding). The upper is also super breathable, perfect for combating the fact you’ll likely get hot slabs as you speed over warmed asphalt.
The Endofit construction gives a sock-like feel, wrapping around to hold your foot securely in place. I reckon Salomon have always been good at minimising foot movement inside their shoes while still giving decent room up front for toe splay, a delicate balance.
As a road-marketed shoe, the 19mm heel to 11mm forefoot delivering an 8mm drop gives good stack height for added padding, yet maintains that midrange heel-toe to attempt to keep you on your forefoot with good feedback from what’s happening below.
The mid sole is different to the trail cousins built sans rockplate (or Profeel film equivalent in many Salomons) and with a much softer heel it adds up to what has been described as ‘buttery’ ride.
That butter analogy doesn’t extend to any slip and slide on the outside, however, the Contra-Grip package – Salomon’s own grip solution – featuring multi direction lugs giving more grip that most road shoes. The grip channels underfoot are deeper, while the horseshoe-like heel gip is soft and spongy, ready to combat harder impact running for the heel strikers. Overall, traction on the liquorice allsorts surfaces found in city environments is superb.
Looking back, Salomon actually led the reverse crossover from trail back to road establishing the idea of door-to-trail running, where a shoe was needed to be able to cope with the wide-ranging demands of both dirt and concrete as runners left their suburban front door striking out in search of dirt trail for at least part of their run – the realities of city lifestyles and limited time.
Although this shoe is sold with a story of ‘urban adventuring’, I thought it remiss not to test the to-trail aspect. What I found is that they are actually a versatile shoe, well suited to moderate singletrack and fire trails and any dirt munching that is relatively consistent in terms of being non technical. They fill that gap where the other Sense models with meatier lugs would be uncomfortable on more regular terrain.
When the going is relatively smooth – be it dirty or concrete clean – these shoes come into their own. They feel comfortable enough for long hauls, yet remain light and floaty enough to give your a racer feel.
I did also venture onto more technical (if soft underfoot) trails and they performed as well as any other mid-range trail ranger, handling creek crossings (they drained and dried well), bush carpet and slippery rocks with aplomb.
My only complaint about these shoes (when worn in appropriate context in general – they are no mountain muncher) is that I tended to get hot spots on my outer toes. This, however, would be down to the very personal shape of my own foot versus yours. Most will likely remain comfortable, but do be aware of that zone as a potential problem patch when trying them on in-store.
TAKEOUTS: Salomon SLAB X Series
Great for: door to trail, long training runs on mild terrain, road (cough)
Not-so-great for: mountains and technical terrain|
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track, some fire road and as little actual road as I could do while still getting to grips with their performance on asphalt, 68km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 15-30km range outings.
RRP: AUD $209.99