My Ruby Red Shoes
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.
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.
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.
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.