May 30, 2012

Salomon XR Mission review

Thanks to and Salomon shoes who sent me these XR Missions to review, I'm feeling like a legit trail runner these days. In case you were wondering, legit means that you have shoes that are sold under the subheading for your sport. So instead of just running trails in Running Shoes, I now have official, with a capital TRS, Trail Running Shoes. Too legit to quit (with the finger motions that all you children of the 90s will remember).

The best part of this news is that now my road shoes are not taking a major beating whenever I run trails these days. The mesh on my road shoes is way too delicate for trails, so the first thing I noticed and loved about the Salomon XR Mission is that the exterior is tough, like jagged rocks and sticks resistant tough. This comes from a frequent tripper, so if there is an opportunity to rip my shoes on some junk, it will happen. The toe and heel caps also offer extra protection.

Since wearing these shoes, I've tripped about 124 times of which 0 times resulted in a rip of the shoe uppers. Here's to 32,503 more ripless trips. Those numbers are just averages -- specific-looking averages. And the tripping didn't increase once I got the shoes. Those trips are just generated from my clumsy feet, but actually in my recent trail race, out of many trips, my hands only hit the ground twice. So maybe the shoes are starting to work some magic on my propensity to face plant. Lessening the number of times I eat dirt would be a great change.

And these shoes are built light enough AND tough enough to take you from street to trails. So you don't have to worry about which one you should use if you are in mixed terrain. The XTERRA 21K that I ran in these included some road amongst the trails of the race, and the transition from street to dirt and vice versa was smooth and easy. While I'm most comfortable with road racing, I wasn't sure if these shoes would allow me to perform my best on those road segments so I was pleasantly surprised that the ride was smooth, and the lightness of the shoes allowed me to pick up my pace to pass people on the road section.

My number one task upon the Salomon XR Mission arrival was to sniff the new shoe smell completely out of these. Done. Second, I had to figure out how to work the Quicklace system. For something that should be self explanatory, it was surprisingly difficult to figure out. There were no directions that I could find in the packaging, but with some trial and error, I figured out that you push up with your thumb on the hard plastic piece to loosen or tighten the string. The extra string and plastic cincher fit easily into the pocket at the top of the shoe tongue, but make sure that the tongue of the shoe is pulled up enough that tightening the laces doesn't cover the opening. After a few trials and errors, I remembered the steps. Basically, once you get it, you're good, but it might take a minute. 

Once I got the shoes on and cinched to perfection, I noticed that they were extra roomy in the toe box. I wear a size 7 in everyday shoes and 7.5 in running shoes. These 7.5s felt like 8s. I don't mind extra room in the toe box, so I liked the 7.5. But if you want a snugger fit, try out your true size instead of going up a half size like you might do in other running shoes. For some runner-nerd facts, these weigh 270 g (299 g for the men's) or 9.52 oz. My current everyday trainers are 8.1 oz, so for an extra ounce and a half, I am getting a lot tougher outer skin and a lot better grip underfoot for the trails. They have a 10 mm drop from heel to forefoot. 

The underfoot features Contagrip LT (black rubber) which gives you super grip with a lightweight material, and Contagrip HA (pink rubber) is impact resistant and made of tougher material in the most common high-wear areas. I noticed the awesome grip most especially on my way up hilly trails. The Contagrip LT kept my foot locked to the trail on my way up so that I didn't lose traction. On the way down, my steps felt less slippage as well. The underfoot also includes the OS Tendon (yellow rubber) which is designed to help snap the shoe back into place after it is flexed to help save you energy. The XR Missions also include a molded and compressed EVA midsole. They do the compressing for you so you don't have to watch your shoes deflate as you pack miles onto them. They get the compression without adding too much weight by using Light Weight Muscle (LT). It's either invented by fairies or Einsteins in lab coats, but either way, I like how it keeps my feet unbogged while running. 

Another feature that is unique to the XR Missions is the OrthoLite insole. It cups your heel with more EVA and provides extra support under the arch. These are the first shoes I've ever worn without purchasing an additional insole. I have medium-high arches, and I need the extra support that the OrthoLites offered. When I was running the 21K, I felt a hot spot on my left arch. It didn't turn into anything, but it made me more aware of their advice that these are for short to medium distances. All of my other test runs were 10 miles and under, and I never felt the hot spot on those. 

Oh, and those last few pictures were taken after about 30 miles of shoe wearing. 

Although there is a men's version as well, they made this Salomon women's shoe based on specific feedback from female athletes. The shape of the collar, sole hardness, and last were all based on the feedback they received. I love the way the shoe hugs my foot from the heel to mid foot. Sense they have a special name for every feature of the shoe, it's no surprise that there's a word for how awesome the shoes feel from heel to mid foot. It's called SensiFlex, with wrapped layers hugging the foot and making it easier to adapt to flex in the foot as you run. 

And huge bonus, I already had a tank top that matched them perfectly. Say what?

Comfortable for on and off road, but what about on and off fence?

Most definitely. Probably should add that to the list of features, Salomon. 

And because you always need to wrap-up with bullet points in case you e-people are too tired or ADD (like me) to read paragraphs, here are the highlights.

The good:
  • The speed of the cinching and stow away of the Quicklaces
  • OrthoLite insoles that actually fit the shape of my foot and feel comfy for my arches
  • Tough exterior and an underfoot grip on trails like my three-year-old twins' hands on cookies
  • Ability to transition from road to trail
  • Not just a smaller version of the dude's shoe, made based on women's feet and feedback

The could-be-better:
  • The insoles may create hot spots under the arches on longer distances
  • Quicklace system is initially awkward 
  • Shoe sizes run a bit large

And on an unrelated-to-performance note, these shoes come in the rockin'-est colors. Mine are the Very Purple, and I absolutely love the color, even better in-person than in the online pics. If I'm paying top dollar for shoes, there is no reason that it shouldn't perform and look great too. These Salomons fit both categories. They retail for $109.95 on, who offer free shipping and free exchanges -- both things I love almost as much as new shoes provided these shoes for review. I didn't receive any additional compensation for my review, and the thoughts and opinions expressed are all from my noggin.