|Posted by Mary Wilkinson on April 24, 2013 at 3:55 AM|
What I got to experience last Thursday was probably most trail runner’s idea of a dream day and it certainly felt that way for me. As part of staff development at Castleberg Outdoors, three members of staff attended the Salomon Trails Test Day at Borrowdale Youth Hostel. Situated near Keswick in the Lake District, the location was ideal; stunning views across Derwent Water and a range of challenging trails to really put the Salomon products through their paces. On arrival, we were greated with a huge range of test shoes laid on the ground rails of jackets all battling to be the first to be tested out....what more could you want...a free run at as many of the top trail shoes and clothing available to the UK consumer!
It was now the challenge to see how many loops of the trails we could do in the time available to get a feel for how the really products perform! From a retail perspective this is vital, It’s all well and good getting the products into the shop, reading about them and having a good look at them but unless you actually use them, you are really still guessing about their pros and cons for different users. At Castleberg we believe strongly in ensuring the customer gets the correct product for their needs so days like the Salomon Trails Test day are crucial to providing the staff with the necessary information and experience. It wasn’t just about running in the products, we also provided feedback about the products which got us to think about the details of each item. It was also an opportunity to speak extensively to not only the highly knowledgeable Salomon Staff, but also attendees from other stores which provided a real insight into the differing capabilities of the gear as everyone has slightly different preferences and requirements. Also in attendance was fellow international trail runner and Salomon Team member, Ricky Lightfoot who gave a very interesting presentation about the development of the Salomon Fellcross which highlighted how much work actually goes into the design and manufacturing of the Salomon products and also the extent of the input from the athletes themselves which I think is crucial for any product to be successful as it is they who really know what a shoe needs to do during activity.
So on to the testing...which shoes to test first? There was a range of off-trail (S-Lab Fellcross, Speedcross & S-Lab Sense Ultra) and trail (Sense Mantra, XR Crossmax, XT S-Lab 5...) and it was doubtful that I would get through them all in the day without running a marathon(!) so I decided to test the widest range possible starting with the Salomon S-Lab Fellcross. “Designed in the Alps, Tested on the Fells” is stitched into the tongue of the Fellcross and this fits the performance of the shoe on the trails perfectly. Best described as fast, agile, grippy and light the Fellcross is certainly ready to race. The fit is snug aided by the Salomon Sensifit upper, but not tight ensuring that the shoe feels part of your foot keeping you well connected with the ground. Being able to ‘feel’ changes on the ground is vital for FAST running and the Fellcross does this perfectly thanks to its low profile (4mm diff.). You feel close to the ground, but there is sufficient protection from the dangers on trails, enabling you to react to the bumps and lumps...its AGILE. The aggressive outsole provides confidence with every step and as the weather gods had opened the rain clouds the previous night, we needed grip on the rocky trails around Keswick. I felt confident descending and traversing, the snug fit certainly aids this, and when climbing there was never a slip...its GRIPPY. My idea of a good shoe is not noticing its on your foot, which is determined by the fit but also the weight, the fit of the Fellcross was great but for such a hard wearing shoe (for the British fells it needs to be hard wearing!) it’s LIGHT, just 262g for a UK size 8.5 perfect for race day when every ounce you can save really helps. All in all a great start to the day and a hard act to follow!
The kit testing that followed was equally as impressive (as was the lunch supplied my Borrwdale Youth Hostel!) but for the rest of my thoughts on the products inc. Salomon Sense Mantra, S-Lab Sense Ultra, S-Lab Light Jacket, Fast Wing Hoodie, EXO Calf Compression Sleeves (which were badly needed & did the job perfectly I'll add now!) and the EXO 3/4 Tight u'll have to check out my review section over the coming weeks....