My Ruby Red Shoes

Posted in Rated or Slated by Moire O'Sullivan on Tue 07 Apr '09

© Moire O'Sullivan

Those red slippers...

I opened the box. They were red. Very red. Too red. How could I possibly go running in such bloody obvious shoes? Matt from MST had sent me through some shoes in the post and had asked me to try them out. The S-lab XT Wings from Salomon no less.

My first ever mountain running shoes were Salomon XA Prod 3D, so I’ve admittedly a bit of a soft spot for Salomon’s. Despite this sentimentality, I did move on to Inov-8s in 2007 after my Salomon grips wore out and caused a nasty incident on wet rock on top of a big cliff during the Mourne Mountain Marathon. I’ve been happily wearing Inov-8’s ever since and am now on my third pair of Inov-8 Roclite 315s. Three years on since that little accident, I was however willing to give Salomon another go, just for old time’s sake.

I had hoped that they came in a selection of colours, like a girly blue for the ladies. But no: it was red or dead. Fortunately, it just so happened that I was off work last Monday and figured it would be safe enough to go out into the mountains with them on: I knew the mountains would be empty, with nobody around to be making any smart comments.

I surreptitiously headed for a run around Djouce Mountain, a pleasant route first up forest trails and then along the bog and boardwalks of the Wicklow Way.

© Moire O'Sullivan

The beauty of Djouce

Within the confines of my car, I picked the first shoe out of the box. “Wow, that’s light”, I thought. Later, the kitchen weighing-scales back home would confirm my initial impression: the XT’s registered 50 grams less than my Inov-8 shoes. Slowly, I slipped the shoe on. “Wow, that’s comfy”. Admittedly, Salomon’s have always been the ‘slippers’ equivalent for mountain running, what with their Ortholite Sock liner and well-rounded padding. But the fact that they still managed to provide such comfort without compromising on weight was what was really wowing me.

I pulled the Quicklace function and tucked the laces away. “Wow, that’s neat”. It was definitely a sleaker system than the XA Prod 3A: the cord was easier to pull, the laces were easier to slip away and, as I found out later, the lacing system really stayed in place without any need to stop and tighten them on the run.


Quicklace rules...

By now I was so blown away with the lightness, comfort, and fit that I was even starting to forget all about the colour.

So, off I trotted through the forest to give these shoes a run for their money. Soon I hit a rocky descent and dared the Salomon’s down it. What can I say but the grip was simply gorgeous: I could feel the Contagrip sole curving around the stones giving me full control over my steps. Salomon had obviously heard of my harrowing moment in the Mournes and have radically overhauled the grip system: I don’t understand what they’ve done but it really works, at least in dry loose conditions.

I ran on towards the Wicklow Way and bounced my way up Djouce. An hour into it, I was thoroughly enjoying the ride. However, a niggle of doubt had entered the equation. I do a fair amount of ultra mountain running and so need shoes that won’t cause me blisters four to six hours in. My left sole was starting to warm-up and I was wondering if the compromise on weight had left the sole’s exposed to blisters. Alternatively, perhaps the shoes just needed a bit more wearing-in and for my feet to get used to such executive comfort.

If I’d seen the XT Wings in a shop, I doubt I would have tried them, let alone bought them: their colour and the Salomon brand would have combined to produce a non-runner. My sortie into the mountains last Monday has proved how Salomon has definitely moved on and how they are now producing fast, comfortable, light running shoes that really stick to the trails.


These shoes are very, very, red.

So instead of being “those red running shoes”, my XT wings are now affectionately known my Wizard of Oz “ruby red slippers”: they bring me home (or to the finish line!) in an instance, with a proverbial three clicks of my heels.

Reactions so far
  1. Gwilym Williams Apr 8, 11:13 PM

    It’s amazing that after running through an Irish bog the bright shoes retained their ruby redness!
    My bog standard red/black XT Wings are 9 months old and are used mainly for running trails in the Vienna Woods.
    The Wings are little heavy and clumpy compared to the yellow/grey Saucony trail shoes I alternate with. But I like the Wings’ solid sturdy feel. I find that I like the Salomon lace-system so long as I remember to give the lace toggle an extra tug after 5 or 10 minutes of warm-up to get that snug feel.

  2. Moire O'Sullivan Apr 9, 12:18 AM

    Hi Gwilym, Good point… I actually wanted to immerse the red shoes in some Irish bog to give them more of a brown hue… but unfortunately we’ve had really nice weather lately and all the bogs have dried up!!! Once the rain is back, I’m sure the bogs will be back to their true state and the colour change will definitely be on the cards.

    Thanks too for the tip on the Saucony trail shoes… must try them out sometime.

  3. Gwilym Williams Apr 12, 01:32 PM

    Hi Moire, I have to update you with the news that my Wings’ space-age-technology-lacing-system broke down on yesterday’s run. I was able to get back to civilzation (after a fashion) by discarding the bits of plastic and passing the the rubber coated lace (which I discovered contains nothing more than some kind of flimsy thread-like material) under the arch of the shoe and fastening it to the anchor point on the instep. For the record, the laces lasted about 600 miles. Perhaps running is getting like cycling. Should we carry spares and repair kits?

  4. Moire O'Sullivan Apr 15, 10:01 AM

    Damn… that’s bad luck about the laces.

    I remember having this “should we bring spare laces” debate with team mates before an adventure race. At the end of the day we figured that, if you’re in the middle of a race, it takes too long to change them, especially when you’re tired and your fingers don’t work.

    So personally, I’d bring spare laces on a training run but for racing, forget it. But that’s also because I wouldn’t normally race in Salomons… I think they’re a superb training shoe, but for the type of races I do need (mountain marathons, fell runs, mountain navigational trials) I need more agressive tread like Inov-8 or Walshes give.

  5. Gwilym Williams Apr 17, 12:02 AM

    A good tip. But there’s a snag. I find that “aggressive tread” shoes invariably hurt my feet. There’s always an annoying stud or knobbly bit persistently pressing into my foot. Fortunately most of my racing is uphill, plateau or around lakes (Feuerkogel, Fuschlsee, Postalm etc.) and as I’m in the M60 group I’m not going flat out anyway!

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