Gear Review: Salming Trail T1

I have been wanting to post my review of the Salming Trail T1 for a while, but end of the year races and a bit of off-season rest greatly limited the amount of time I have had to review new products, especially shoes (which I don’t like to experiment with too close to races).  After finally getting a few more runs in them recently though, I can go ahead and share my thoughts.

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal affiliation with Salming, however, they did provide me with a demo pair for my review.

Product Description

Salming, hailing from Sweden, is one of the newcomers (relatively speaking) to the US running shoe market.  To date, they offer six different models, with the Trail T1 being their lone trail model.  I have heard great things about their road shoes, so I was interested to see how well their entry into the trail market performed.

Out of the box, the first thing you notice is the rather bold color scheme of the shoe.  Beyond that, you will see a pretty standard shoe that clearly takes a page or two from its road-based siblings.  It has a traditional lacing system and a traditional tongue.  One of the add-ons to the outside of the upper on the T1 is the RocShield, which is a toe guard that wraps around the outside front of the shoe to help protect the toes on those occasions where you catch a rock or root.

SAL_TRAIL_M_032

Specs

  • Weight: 10.2 oz
  • Drop: 5mm
  • Fit: Normal/True to Size

Fit

I would classify the fit of the T1 as true to size.  Its fit and feel feels similar to the Scarpa branded shoes that I have reviewed in the past, if not perhaps a tiny bit more snug.  It does have a bit of a stiffer feel than I expected and the upper doesn’t seem to have much stretch to it, which made me wonder how it would feel in action.  I have narrow feet and the shoes didn’t seem too big/wide, but as I learned in the run, I experienced a bit more slippage that I expected when I first put the shoes on.

In Action

As most of you know by now, I do most of my test runs in and around the varying terrain of Salt Lake City.  Running in the mountains and foothills in the T1s ended up giving me two distinctly different impressions.

In the foothills, where the trails are a bit more groomed and rolling, these shoes performed well.  They were responsive and provided a great amount of traction, allowing me to run with confidence.  I really have no complaints on this type of terrain to call out as they seemed to have been engineered with this in mind.  It was when I took them to the steep, technical trails of the Wasatch where these fell a bit short for me.  For one, I had a bit of slipping in the shoe on the steeper downhills that caused hotspots after only 7-8 miles.  Another cause for concern was the stiffness of the outsole.  They didn’t seem to conform to the terrain as well as I would have liked.  While I had no ankle rolling incidents to speak of, I was not comfortable in the way the shoe flexed when traveling over rocks.  They also didn’t seem to loosen up after about 50 miles on the shoes either, so that is a minor concern for someone like me that has a history of rolled ankles.

My Final Thoughts

Pros

  • The upper seems pretty durable, which I would expect from the nylon material used.  And while I have read other reviews expressing some concerns with the feet getting hot because of this material, I didn’t really experience anything of the sort.
  • The outer provides solid, reliable traction on all conditions that I tested (no snow).
  • Pretty responsive, allowing for fast running, despite a weight that is somewhat on the heavier side.

Cons

  • My biggest complaint was with the stiffness of the outsole, which caused some uneven footing on technical terrain.  If you have a tendency to roll ankles, these might not be your best option.
  • While slippage wasn’t an issue on flatter stuff, it was definitely something I couldn’t seem to fix in the T1 on steeper downhills.  It makes me hesitant to use these shoes for anything over ten or so miles.

Recommendation

Score: 3.6 of 5

Overall, this is a respectable first entrant from Salming into the trail market.  While there is definitely some room for improvement, I think this shoe gives Salming a solid foundation to gather feedback and build their future trail line off of.  I would slate this shoe in for those that prefer the feel of a road shoe and spend most of their time on well-groomed, flatter trails.  I will still continue to use these in my neighboring foothills, but will likely find something else in my closet for the more mountainous destinations.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

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Gear Review: Scarpa Spark

I have been working on this one for some time, but didn’t feel like I could release it until I got a really solid long run of 20+ miles in, which I did this morning.  Some of you may have read the review that I did of the SCARPA Tru last fall (found here), which was not only my first review of a Scarpa shoe, but also my first experience with them.  Since writing the review, I have continued to have success with the Tru, including during my first 100 mile completion and, most recently, a podium finish at the Grand Canyon 50K.  This has made me want to take a closer look at the brand, so I reached out to Scarpa to see if I could take a look at another one of their shoes, the Spark.  They were happy to oblige…let’s take a closer look.

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal affiliation with Scarpa, however, they did provide me with a demo pair for my review.

Product Description

From the SCARPA website:
“Somehow the Spark feels weightless on your feet, but offers substantial support and protection, too. We use a slightly shallower lug profile and less drop (6mm) to give the Spark a minimalist feel underfoot. Same grippy HDR rubber as the Ignite. A high-tensile fabric, protective layer in the forefoot armors your feet’s most vulnerable area. The Spark delivers a slightly more nimble feel, but even so–we’ve had some of our athletes complete ultras in them. If you prefer a more minimal, less-structured shoe, then the Spark might be the perfect solution to your run. ”

Out of the box, you can definitely tell that these are related of the Tru.  They share the same outsole lug pattern and have a similar feel underfoot.  The main difference aside from a bit more cushioning is in the upper, which definitely has a heavier/sturdier look to it.  Despite that, the shoe only have ad added weight of 0.7 oz compared to the Tru.

2145904-p-MULTIVIEW

Specs

  • Weight: 9.2 oz
  • Drop: 5mm
  • Fit: Normal/True to Size

Fit

The Spark fits very similarly to the Tru, which is to say, it is not too snug and not too loose on the foot.  It holds the heel fairly well in most scenarios and fits the foot well from back to front.  It does feel a bit softer in the upper than the Tru, especially in the heel where there is a bit more padding.  A couple observations on the fit…it does seem to slip a bit on steep downhills.  However, unlike the Tru, it has an upper lace eyelet that allows you to tie a heel lock that helps to alleviate this a bit.  I also noticed that after running on side-sloped trails for a longer period, I got a little sore on the ball of my foot (although had no blisters).  This, of course, is a problem I have had with most shoes and may not be completely avoidable.

In Action

As I mentioned, the outsole is identical to that found on the Tru, so my experience was basically the same.  The shoe performs well on varied terrain.  No blisters or hot spots and no slipping around.  One thing I will note here about this outsole that I didn’t cover in my Tru review is how well it sheds mud.  I wore the Tru through some severely muddy conditions at the Grand Canyon 50K (after my initial review) and had ZERO issues.  I mention it here because, as I said, the outsole is the same and therefore I would expect it to perform similarly..  Lastly, the shoe has a very stable platform, which is of high importance with me as I have a tendency to roll my ankles from time to time.  I try to test all of the shoes I review on technical terrain for this reason (sometimes to my own peril) and I didn’t have a single incident with the Spark.  Here are details and Strava links for a few of my main runs with the Spark.

Test Run #1 – 7.0 Mile technical trail, damp/wet trail conditions (Strava Link)

Test Run #2 – 11.25 Mile rolling terrain trail, dry trail conditions (Strava Link)

My Final Thoughts

Pros

  • The upper is definitely more sturdy than the Tru.  If you are looking at Scarpa and don’t know which one to get, I would recommend this one if you are looking for a slightly heavier trainer or you have a history with wearing out uppers quickly.  This one will last longer.
  • The outer works well on just about every surface, giving you the confidence to run to your fullest without worrying too much about losing your footing.
  • The one thing that this has that this shoe has that the Tru doesn’t is an upper lace eyelet, which is a big deal for me.  I like having the ability to tie the laces further up my foot or tying in a heel lock if needed.
  • Solid, yet flexible platform.  I had no issues with ankle stability at any point in this shoe.

Cons

  • I know this is personal preference, but they feel a bit too soft and bulky for my taste.  Even though they aren’t technically that much heavier than the Tru…they feel like it.  I prefer a lighter feel.
  • Still seems too have a problem with slipping forward into the toe box on steeper declines.

Recommendation

Score: 4.3 of 5 (Recommend)

While I like the addition of the upper eyelet as I have already mentioned, I definitely like the lighter feel of the Tru, so I am going to give it a slighter lower score in comparison.  I think there are ways in which they could offer a sturdier upper without having a bulky feel to it, and I hope that they do that in future iterations.  Still, this is a solid shoe from Scarpa and worth trying if you are feeling on branching out.

One additional note as I am posting this the weekend after the Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 show.  I got a chance to see the new trail shoe line from Scarpa.  Now I have been impressed with what I have seen so far from them overall, but the new line looks AWESOME.  They are due out next Spring and I am not sure what this means for the current line (they couldn’t say), but I would guess they may move away from it.  That being said, would I hesitate to buy another pair of these?  Nope.  They are a good shoe and worth getting some use out of while waiting to see what else Scarpa brings to market.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

Gear Review: La Sportiva Helios SR

I love the original Helios.  Since its release, it has been one of my go-to shoes on just about any trail surface.  So you might understand my excitement when the Helios SR was announced.  Basically, one of my favorite shoes upgraded with a rock plate for added protection…AWESOME!  I had high expectations for this shoe (as I generally do for the La Sportiva brand) and wanted to fall in love with it, but while it is a solid shoe I found that it fell short of my expectations.  Let’s take a look why…

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal affiliation with La Sportiva, however, they did provide me with a demo pair for my review.

Product Description

From La Sportiva’s website, they promote the shoe as a “Sticky soled, neutral trail shoe with a rock guard ideal for trail running on technical training.”

HeliosSR

Specs

  • Weight: 8.1 oz
  • Drop: Heel: 21mm / Toe: 19mm / Drop: 2mm
  • Fit: Extremely Small (size up a full Euro size from the original Helios or a half size from the Bushido)

Out of the Box

One of the first impressions of this shoe is the look, which is a bit more slick than the original Helios.  Though it currently only comes in one color, the shiny black and yellow combo looks fantastic.  The laces were a good length as well; I didn’t find myself stepping on them or running out of lace with different lacing configurations.

Fit

The fit through the back- and mid-foot falls in line with other La Sportiva shoes.  It is snug and really wraps the foot nicely.  This is one of the things I love about their shoes; I don’t have to worry about heel slipping at all.  You come to expect a snug, narrow fit with La Sportiva shoes, but it was in the forefoot that I experienced problems with the Helios SR.  With the addition of the rock plate, they didn’t seem to adjust the height in the toe box.  So what is normally a comfortably snug forefoot now feels really cramped (even after sizing up 1/2 size from what I wear with the original Helios).  I also noticed that at the bend of the upper near the base of my big toes I was experiencing some discomfort/bruising after a few miles.  This may have been exacerbated by the fact that they already fit rather tight.  It did seem to loosen up after putting some mileage on the shoe, but never totally went away.

In Action

Fit and comfort aside, these performed exceptionally well in regards to traction and responsiveness.  The shoe felt light and fast and the rock plate provided some nice added protection over the original Helios.  The outsole, which uses La Sportiva’s high grip “sticky” rubber, handled well on just about any surface.  Here are some observations from a couple of my runs:

Test Run #1 – 6.25 Miles: non-technical, mixed trail conditions (Strava Link)
This run was a relatively flat out and back with a short steep climb at the beginning and descent back down at the end.  This run had some muddy spots off and on, allowing me to test the traction.  The one thing I like about the “banana groove” design on the Helios outsole is that they provide great grip and flexibility while also shedding mud nicely.  I didn’t really have any issues through the few muddy patches and was able to maintain my speed for the most part.  It was on the uphill and downhill that I really noticed the restrictiveness in the toe box.  While it wasn’t overbearing to deal with, it didn’t really make me fall in love with the fit either.

Test Run #2 – 14.25 Miles: semi-technical, dry trail conditions (Strava Link)
For this run, I wanted to add a bit more distance with a couple minor obstacles thrown in.  The good thing is that even though the fit was snug it resulted in very little friction from shoe movement and, as a result, I had no signs of blisters.  That being said, my opinion didn’t really improve about the fit.  Traveling over a few small sections of rock allowed me to confirm that the outsoles do indeed handle exceptionally well like most other La Sportiva models.  The rock plate also resulted in a smoother ride.

My Final Thoughts

Pros

  • The outsole did not really change from the original Helios, which means that this shoe is super grippy.  I love the Helios platform on any surface, from wet, bare rock to dry, loose gravel…it just eats that stuff up and creates a great sense of confidence while running.
  • The addition of the rock plate did in fact provide an ample amount of underfoot protection.

Cons

  • The toe box is way too shallow.  La Sportiva’s are already known for their snug fit.  It feels like when they added the 3mm rock plate in the front of this shoe, they failed to adjust the toe box.  My feet felt cramped immediately…can’t imagine what it would feel like with a little bit of swelling.
  • The area on the upper where the toes bend seems to cause some minor bruising/irritation.  With a little bit of break-in time, they loosened up a little, but it never fully fixed itself.

Recommendation

Score: 3.8 of 5

I hate being overly harsh, especially because my opinion is only one in a sea of different personal experiences, but I do feel that even with the improvements the Helios SR took a step back from the original Helios.  I have run in La Sportiva shoes far more than any other trail shoe brand and therefore have come to expect near perfection from them.  Perhaps this is unfair and I have become spoiled, but it is what it is.  I will still wear this shoe, but I anticipate limiting it to runs of under 10 miles.  Beyond that they start to become too uncomfortable for my taste.  I would prefer not to size up a full size to adjust for the narrow toe box because I would worry about losing the trademark La Sportiva fit in the rest of the shoe, but this might be the best option for this model.  I would rather see La Sportiva open up the toe box a little more in the next iteration and hope they do so.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!