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The decision about what trailrunning shoes buy is a tough’s one, maybe is not that tough when you already have used one model before and you know that them had worked well.
That’s why I opted for the new Salomon XT Slab5 Softground. They are the top shoes of Salomon talking about Trailrunning (without including the Sense).
The shoes I was getting rid of was a Salomon XT Slab3, I had run hundreds of kilometers (until lose count). And because everything was positive with them… Why should I change?
Talking about XT Slab5 we can find two models, one with a normal cleated sole and another one with a SpeedCross cleated sole. The Softground model use this last one.
But let’s go step by step…
First of all what you can see, take it out of the box and… they are gorgeous, a black and red combination that makes a characteristic “racing” look that emphasize the Slab range. Personally I think that the people at Salomon hit it with the main black color on the shoe, the red one on previos Slab model used to finish on a “clayey” brown. Personal obsessions about wearing them always as new.
Time will confirm me if the cloth on the shoe finishes ripping, as occured on my previous Slab3 (after lots of kilometers), or can endure more.
On my opinion the XT Slab5 Softground now are a more narrow-fitting shoes, and with a look that can remember you to another strong shoes from an Italian brand.
The part of the toe now is a bit more elevated, so we can fit pretty well our delicate toes inside. This part is also a bit harder than before and will protect better from any impact comming from rocks, roots or any other obstacle that we will find on the path.
Talking about the sole now it has been improved regarding to they predecessor. In the Softground model there are less cleats but deeper ones, specific for running through damp terrain, mud, snow… only? We will see that no.
My previous Slab3 had died because of the sole, in that model the rubber on the heel was an independent part of the whole sole (on a black colour). In the new Slab5 this heel part is an integral part of the sole, with this solution I expect that this little problem will be resolved. It doesn’t feel good running with sole pieces unstucked.
And this is not everything, not to long ago I saw a video were some Salomon’s pros where “filing” the sides of the sole on the heel part… narrower, lighter.
That’s what Salomon has already done, the heel part is narrower than in the Slab3 and 4, but means that less stability? Keep on reading…
And then became the moment to wear them…
As on every single running shoes that I buy, the first thing to do is to remove the standard insoles and place my running insoles. They fit properly and don’t move at all.
The previous Slab3 where a 9,5 UK. After running Cavalls del Vent last year I finished without some toenails… solution, next pair a 10 UK. Once I have putted on I’m not quite sure if with a 9,5 UK was enough thanks to the plenty of space on the toe’s part.
The very first day of test I trail runned the Puigmal starting from Queralbs. Puigmal is a mountain where the summit is at 2906 m above sea level with a positive slope of 2000 m accumulated. It’s placed on the Vall de Núria, in the Pyrinees bordering France. On the path we find different grounds.
The first sensation at wearing them is a very good one, seems like I’ve been running with them for long, no slight pain, no rubbing, nothing. Just to say something… on the heel zone didn’t had the feeling of having well holded, maybe that’s because of wearing a 1/3 of a size more, but I prefer that than loosing my toenails again!
Uphill they grip well, anywhere you step the sole’s cleats scratch the terrain and avoid you of slipping in a rock or in chipping path.
Once you start accelerating you start feeling the stability of the shoe, where your feet goes there the shoes fix without risk, is just there where you see how with that narrower heel zone doesn’t risks the stability of your feet, avoiding those feared ankle’s sprains for the ones that doesn’t work that much on proprioception.
As more and more kilometers you run, less and less you remember you are wearing a new pair of shoes. It seems like Salomon already made the running-in for you!
About the cushioning, the one on the XT Slab5 Softground is a very good one, keeping in mind my weight (61 kg) and the lighter they are (lighter than the Slab3), they absorb all the obstacles we will find through our run, rocks, roots, little pot holes, etc… Counting on the small experience I have on this specific footwear I guess that for trailrunners heavier (80-85 kg) the cushioning of the XT Slab5 Softground’s sole could be more than good.
Softgrounds means that, soft grounds… but lets don’t make a mistake about that, these new Slab5 grip perfectly on any single ground. During Puigmal’s uphill and downhill we can find paths, rocks, tracks, and… a very funny chipping downhill! This point is where I should kiss those soles… we can assert that them can manage with all, on the downhill where were I decided to test them and make a very agressive downhill (why follow the path when you can downhill straight), and as said before, where you step your feet there the shoes grips and you don’t have any feeling about falling down or sliding.
After that first test I tested them again on the Cavalls del Vent track. Cavalls del Vent is a circular track on the Cadí and Pedraforca mountains. Salomon makes here every year an UltraTrail of 84 km long and with an accumulated uphill of 6000m.
Here you can find damp paths where, as before, the shoes grip perfectly.
In this last test (longer than the one before, 46 km) I had again the same feeling about my heel, like if they don’t hold properly, that’s why I decided to tighten the laces (Quick Lace system) and at this moment is where I found a bad point. The upper part of my feet start hurting, that’s why I have to untighten the laces back. With the laces that loose the first feeling is to twist your ankle in a moment. But contrary to that, the stability of the XT Slab5 Softground keeps on guiding your foot avoiding “unpleaseant surprises”.
So, after 2 trainnings where the accumulated uphill has been 5000 m and 75 km the result is… Did I wear them for the first time? No rubbing, no slight pain, no blisters, nothing about that, just comfort.
Definitively a very good trailrunning shoes, competitive since minute zero and the ones that I will save for competition!