Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ultrarunning Gear Review: Salomon XA PRO 3D ULTRA Running Shoes

The New Salomon's After Their 33-mile Break-in Run

On Saturday, I used my REI dividend and an additional 20% coupon to buy a new pair of Salomon XA PRO 3D ULTRA trail running shoes. I decided to test them out toady on a nice long run and went to Bullards Bar Reservoir. Bullards Bar Dam (one of the largest dams in the U.S.) is located on the border of the Tahoe National forest, about 15 minutes from our house.

The Bullards Trail is a great trail that is mostly shaded, with many trailheads. You can mountain bike, hike, and run there. It has something for everyone: you can go for a 2-mile hike as well as a 50K run. The entire trail is single track and follows the edge of the massive reservoir, but is by no means flat -- it is constantly changing elevation and there is a tough, gradual 800' climb to get to the final trailhead. The trail is about 14.5 miles long and ends up in Camptonville on Highway 49. I added another 1.5 miles by running on the road from the top of the dam to the nearest trailhead (the Sunset trailhead). This would be a great place for a 50K; one day I'll organize a race there...

It was a gorgeous day for a run, so I took my Camelbak Rim Runner and packed about 3/4 gallon of water, some Greens+ bars as well as some PB&Js and I was off. Note to all the hibernating people out there: get out and use the beautiful trails! In my entire run (6.40 hours) I did not see ANYONE out on the trail. Overall I ran for about 6 1/2 hours and had a great time.

Bullards Bar Dam

Back to the new shoes. I am still looking for the perfect 165-mile ultra shoe for this summer's TRT run (please, let me know if you have any suggestions). I tried out the Montrail Hardrocks, but found them too heavy, stiff, and bulky. Previous Salomons were always a little bit too soft, but with the ULTRA I think Salomon has made a great new ultra trail shoe.

This new pair is defintely a candidate for TRT165. A nice balance of comfort, flexibility, and toughness. One great feature on all Salomons is the patented lacing system. It laces up very evenly and you can tuck the lacing strap away so it does not get caught.

Here is my summary:

Summary of the Salomon XA PRO 3D ULTRA experience
  • Fit: Excellent. The shoe fit me very well and feels very smooth. It has good breathability. The shoe also does not have a very high heel, which I like.
  • Toughness: Very Good. The toes and the bottom of the shoe are well protected.
  • Flexibility: Excellent. I am a firm believer in flexibility to aid natural running style. Not all the Salomons I tried out were this flexible though.
  • Side-to-side Stability: Excellent. I really liked the side-to-side stability of these shoes and never had a problem with rolling. This probably adds a little weight, but it is something that is lacking on some of the more minimal shoes like the Inov-8s. Their website claims "Salomon's 3D advanced-chassis system pairs with close-to-the-ground construction for ultimate stability. This system stabilizes your feet over uneven terrain, without losing energy from your stride" and I have to agree with that.
  • Grip: Very good. Even though the tread does not look overly aggressive. I ran on a lot of soft terrain and never slipped on piles of pine needles, but they also handled good on hard surfaces and on the road.
  • Switchback Handling: Excellent. I bombed down a mile of switchbacks reaching top speeds of 5:30 and thanks to the great lacing system and my gaiters, the shoes never gave me any problems.
  • Weight: OK. They are a bit heavy compared to my road shoes (Nike Vomero), but not nearly as heavy as the Montrail Hardrocks. I think they are actually not that heavy as far as trailshoes go; in fact, they claim to be super light, but everything gets a bit heavy at size 13 :)
  • Price: OK. At $110, I was happy to have all the discounts!
  • Overall: This is a great shoe for almost all trail conditions. I look forward to taking them out on the TRT.
Details of the run:

Next up: Rucky Chucky 50K.


Turi said...

I used last year's version of this shoe while trail running the trt in sections. Agree pretty much completely with your take on them - excellent shoe. They're pretty thrashed now, though; the soles show some serious wear.

Norma Bastidas said...

do they make them for women too? I am looking for trail shoes for my 100 mile race, as for size, how much will my feet swell?,on my 74 mile race last year my feet where a size larger.

Peter Lubbers said...

Hi Norma,
Yes, they make the Ultra for women too:

I guess it is different for everybody, but it is not unusual to swell a full size during a 100-miler.
Having an extra pair of shoes handy is a good idea, especially if there is a chance your shoes will get wet or full of dirt (always wear gaiters) on the trails.
I doubt that the swelling will get worse during the last 26 miles -- just don't sit down to take your shoes off :)
Take care,

Catherine said...

Hey Peter,
Great to see you out enjoying the trails. This spring weather has been wonderful. Can't wait to get back out there myself. See you at Rucky Chucky. If I'm not running I'll be volunteering.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I ran in these shoes in the Saab Salomon Turbo - X 10 mile trail run last Saturday. It was pouring with rain, the course was on gravel trails, through muddy tracks in woods, throught steams and in bogs. I got incredible blisters in both my insteps which are an inch in diameter. Nevertheless, the grip was superb. Are these shoes know for having high support and hence damaging your insteps?

Peter Lubbers said...

Not particularly, but that said, I have not taken them out in such extreme conditions. Hope your feet heal up soon.

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