If you have been hitting the trails for some running recently you will probably have noticed how much mud there is around. For some of you there will be a lot more than usual.
Even in dry conditions trail running benefits from different shoes to those you wear on the roads or even in the park. And when the going gets tough, the shoes need to be up to the challenge. As an orienteer I know this all too well, and I’ve been using fell running shoes and the most robust of trail shoes in rough, tough terrain for many years.
As trail running has become more popular, shoe makers have either entered the area for the first time or refined their products to meet the needs of an audience that used to be niche but is now becoming mainstream. Salomon has long been a popular shoe maker among orienteers, its wares being sold to the converted in competition car parks. And Solomon’s trail shoes are increasingly popular among the more mainstream audience too.
Cotswold Outdoor has recently launched a two month exclusive on the new Salomon XA Pro 3D. I’ve been testing this shoe in some very wet conditions indeed over the last couple of weeks.
One of the advantages of being able to manufacture a shoe in significant numbers is the ability to offer different colour schemes. Now, I know from experience, that the first run out in pristine new shoes sees them covered in mud, and whatever colour you might ponder over in store, that’s the least important aspect of a shoe. Still, Costwold is selling a range of colour options which should keep most people happy. That the womens’ range of colours is smaller than the mens’ and that the two differ is an irritation, but at least the women can avoid pink. In fact, there’s not a pink or purple shade in sight.
The Salomon XA Pro 3D is an evolution from earlier models with an improved chassis to help not only with a secure fit, but also with better all round performance. Salomon has developed a new fit technology which it calls Sensifit and it certainly worked for me. I’ve got very narrow feet, and one foot is half a size smaller than the other. In combination these features can make it difficult for me to find shoes that fit both feet equally well, but I found the XA Pro 3D to be a snug fit on both feet.
The tongue is connected to the fabric of the upper, which means it can’t move around much. As a serious pronator I can find that when orienteering on rough ground my foot hits the ground at some very odd angles, and when the shoe is wet the tongue can slip around. Not so here. The tongue stays in place very nicely indeed.
I’m not always a fan of Salomon’s Quicklace system, but here it seems to work a treat. I have not had the dubious pleasure of dealing with it with wet, cold, muddy fingers yet, but can’t imagine it is any more difficult to handle in those circumstances than traditional laces, and it has the advantage over them of not tightening up when they get wet.
There’s plenty of cushioning underfoot and that helps make this an efficient shoe in terms of harnessing forward propulsion. The lugs (the parts that stand proud on the sole), are quite deep and angled to help with grip on even quite wet mud. The lug design is new for 2014, and Salomon calls it ‘Contragrip’ I certainly felt stable when wearing this shoe.
Trail runners and orienteers will know that their toes can be quite vulnerable. I’ve stubbed toes on tree roots, brashings and even rocks countless times. The front of the Salomon XA Pro 3D has a solid toecap that should help anyone who ventures off tracks in this respect. For all that, this is a really lightweight shoe. I hardly noticed the 350g on my feet.
It’s really important that a trail shoe dries out quickly and the Salomon XA Pro 3D seems to meet that expectation. After some very muddy activity the shoes get a quick hose down, and then get left in my porch to dry out. Some squished up newspaper pushed into the toe to absorb some of the moisture is a help. 24 hours later, in my experience the shoes were dry for using again. As putting on wet running shoes is a pretty nasty experience, this is a good thing!
Staying dry during a session is another matter, and I did not manage that with this shoe. Going through water that almost raised up over the heel is a challenge for any shoe, though. To be honest I never expect to come home from any run, or walk on trails for that matter, with dry feet. I certainly don’t avoid puddles – in fact I head for them. That’s all part of the fun, after all.
In the short time I had the Salomon XA Pro 3D to try I became quite a fan. The shoe is comfortable to wear while delivering on robustness and it certainly has the grip required of a trail shoe. It is currently on the list for next time I need to get new orienteering shoes.
- Good fit
- Excellent grip
- Quick drying
- I’m not a huge fan of Quicklace
Supplier: Cotswold Outdoor