FIRST LOOK SHOE REVIEW
This review will read more like a reflective blog article, so feel free to scroll to the end for my verdict on the Salming Speed6. Otherwise, read on for a more scenic route discussing speed in the endurance athlete.
Firstly, let me put myself and this article in context by stating I am an endurance athlete and as such I have always loved the long run, all day rides and the allure of 100 x 100 in the pool. I have also been guilty over the years of picking the products that would support me best through these endurance sessions rather than siding with speed based products.
It came somewhat as a personal surprise that I chose to step away from endurance triathlons and pursue a life of speed in the splash and dash world of Olympic triathlons, just for something different. So while I am an experienced triathlete, I would consider myself a novice in terms of sprint triathlon. This makes me perfectly suited to give an honest appraisal on this speed based racing shoe, as I am living this challenge for speed.
In choosing this challenge, the biggest impediment that I am facing is finding my inner turbo to supercharge my old diesel engine. I have started the process by getting a coach to break my entrenched endurance habits and dutifully adopted speed specific training. To support this, I have done what all generation X triathletes do: buy speed!
Speed, as I am finding out, is a different beast to the experiences I've had in the endurance world. Endurance pain constantly sits over your shoulder like the morning sun on your back, warm at first but as it rises it burns and blisters your skin. On the other hand, speed is a sharp burning pain like the splatter of bacon fat on your hand. It shocks you with the speed in which it hurts, to get through this pain you simply have to grit your teeth and work toward the end point.
This pain can be minimized by pushing your limits until gradually your performance improves. Then by 'buying speed' you can minimize energy output, so that the performance increases that you gained through your blood, sweat and tears can be converted to improved times. Both have a place in performance, but remember that hard work can’t be neglected in place of purchasing success. If you have your heart set on buying speed, let’s have a look at what your money can buy you.
Consider firstly that an average runner has a cadence of 90 strides per minute. With a 10 km race lasting around 40 minutes for a good age group Olympic triathlete, that equals approximately 3,600 strides for the length of the race.
The Salming Speed6 weighs 230 grams, while my long distance ‘daily driver’, the Hoka One One Clifton 4 weighs 265 grams. The combined saving over those 3,600 strides of a 10 km race equates to a savings of 126,000 grams or 126 kg of less weight that an athlete has to lift!
Even this simple napkin maths shows us that by not lifting 126 kg you will be more efficient, and therefore faster. But weight is not the whole story to these shoes. Let's delve into Salming Speed6 in more detail to see if these are the shoes for your next race.
The successor of the Speed3 and Speed5 - Salming say the Speed6 has all the DNA of its predecessors and then some. The development process of the Speed6 was based on a light version of Salming's Natural Running Support System™ which Salming say allows every runner to find and stay in their natural running stride.
Below are the statistics of the men's and women's Salming Speed6 offerings. The shoe has a price point of $219 AUD.
Weight: 170 g (UK 5.5)
Drop: 6 mm
Color: Fluo Pink/Fluo Yellow
Stack: 22 mm center of heel + 16 mm ball of foot
Midsole: Recoil™ + RecoilR™
Outsole: Lite rubber
Sizes: UK 3.5-8.0, EU 36-42
Weight: 230 g (UK 9)
Drop: 6 mm
Color: Fluo Yellow/Black
Stack: 22 mm center of heel + 16 mm ball of foot
Midsole: Recoil™ + RecoilR™
Outsole: Lite rubber
Sizes: UK 6.5-12.0, EU 40 2/3-48
The unboxing experience is a reflection of the underpinning ethos of Salming as they continue to expand their wings in the running shoe fiefdom. You are invited into their world through their ‘running wheel’ which is emblazoned on the box. The wheel shows you how this shoe, which you are about to take out of this box, is only part of the story which will make you a great runner. You get the very real impression that the company believes in you, the athlete, and is designing and building its range of shoes for you, with its pure intent of making you faster through efficiency of your body and through its design and technology. It is a big call to get that out of a box, but just as you judge a book by its cover, Salming has certainly nailed their first impression, which enables you to get swept up in the romance of the run as you hold you new shoe in your hands.
The colour of the shoe is eye searing. This is not a shy shoe, it is bold and screams look at me. I am a pretty conservative person and am developing a reputation of turning up to races in button down collared shirts and tailored shorts and tri-suit underneath. Portraying a very poor impersonation of superman!
So when I say that these shoes are ‘edgy’ I would take this with a grain of salt, but I am sure we can all agree that these shoes capture your attention when you peel back the tissue paper. Isn’t that what we really want when we lace up a pair of racing shoes. We want our rivals to fear us and the spectators to revel in our audacious talent, even if that talent is simply choosing a striking pair of shoes.
Overall, when you hold this shoe in your hand you are struck with the lightness, the detail in the striking design and the care and attention to detail in the engineering and manufacturing.
Continuing on the scenic route, allow me to once again digress to talk about the nature of many triathletes as a lead in to the beauty of this shoe.
Having already established that I label myself an endurance athlete, I also must point out that I am comfortable with being labelled a type A personality. I am comfortable with many of the idiosyncrasies that are par for the course for our ‘breed’ and also embrace a little known quirk which is personification of material possessions. For example I name all of my shoes.
While being slightly embarrassed to admit it, I actually have conversations with my shoes when times get tough and I try to extract the last few drops out of my body. By personifying my shoes I can actually redirect effort and ask them to work harder. Strange I know, but the mind is an amazing place that once understood you can extract so much more from your body, but that is a story for another article.
The naming of my shoes usually comes about from the first unboxing. With my Hoka One One shoes I have always been struck with the sheer ugliness of them and reflect back on the days of the Spice Girls with their striking platform shoes. So I have named all of the four models of Hoka that I have used and abused over the years as my 'spice' shoes.
My training Hoka’s for Ultraman were Ultra Spice, my first pair were Iron Spice as I trained for Ironman. My current pair are Speedy Spice as I work speed into my legs for my attempt on short distance triathlon. Needless to say you can see the trend there and from this trend you can see how my shoes adopt a personality of their own over time.
In naming the Salming Speed6 shoes I already had a name selected as soon as I saw the promotional photo of the Speed6’s reflective pattern. When I saw their eye searingly bright geometric patterns being reflected out of the darkness, I thought back to the movie Tron from the 80’s. The futuristic colours, combined with the angular patterns and the emphasis on the speed matrix inside the computer game was an instant touchstone for me. While not being disparaging, the movie upon reflection, was terrible. Yet that very real sensation of speed even today is a very strong resonating theme to me and so too the shoes when I saw them. So with this in mind, I welcomed Tron into my shoe family and took them out for their first run around the testing track (my block) and then onto their maiden race a few days later for some surprising results.
When you are onto a winner stick with it! All shoe companies re-purpose winning formulas and let's face it we are all guilty of it as well, my epic Dad jokes are a case in point. Therefore, it is no surprise that the three models of Salming shoes that I own have been built around the same company specific chassis design. Armed with this sameness in mind, and to aid in my frame of reference, I wrote this section walking around the house with my well worn Salming Enroute (bought 6 months ago) on my left foot and my new Speed6 on my right. While this is not strictly a fair comparison, it is a great way to see how the stripped down chassis of the Enroute transfers into the Speed6 model.
Firstly, when you pull on the shoe you can feel what was stripped down from the Enroute to manage the weight saving - this is not a bad thing. I personally like to feel the road when I run.
With the Hoka Cliftons you feel nothing. It is like driving a Rolls Royce. No road noise, only the trees as the frame of reference that you are moving. Conversely, the Salming Enroute lets you feel the road but in a protective way like your parent's station wagon. You feel and hear the road and you are confident that you will get there with safety and purpose. At the other end of the spectrum sits the Speed6, idling like a low slung performance car at the lights. In the Speed6 standing still going nowhere still looks and feels fast.
The Speed6 feel firm, they are responsive but in the back of your mind you have a certain amount of fear, can I handle this speed, are my legs hard enough to handle the firmness. This is the fine line that Salming must walk in order to balance weight, comfort and ultimately runner recovery against firmness, responsiveness and speed. You can buy a sports car which is fast or you can take a bigger risk and buy a supercharged 1000cc motorbike and tempt fate with certain death.
I am pleased to say that Salming has nailed the balance. They have produced a shoe which is light, responsive and gives confidence that it will give enough support if your form falls apart in the final kilometers of the race.
I really shouldn’t do the first run segment of these shoe reviews as I invariably hate the shoe and unfairly judge them on first run. A bit like a first date, as your new shoes and feet are awkwardly attempting to find the balance between forced conversation and silent paralysis through over analysis. Is there food in my teeth, did I take too long to order, my goodness is that her fourth glass of wine. So with this poor rendition of my dating career behind us, I am unhappy to say that the first run in the shoes around the block was not earth shattering.
They felt hard, I slapped the road and my bones rattled at my joints, but I could not deny that they were quick. When I pushed off the road there was no sponginess. When I punched the diesel equivalent of my accelerator I got value for money. The take off was instant and certainly not lost in the safe marshmallow world I have grown to love with my Hoka Cliftons.
So with this in mind I stepped up the pace, pulled up onto my toes and blasted around the block. I am not going to lie and say they were perfect from this point on. To be truthful, it took a lot of effort for me to run at my speed equivalent of a cheetah chasing an antelope. As soon as I lost momentum through lack of speed (and fitness) I slipped back into a clunky heel strike and my bones rattled once more. Similar to the cheetah returning unsuccessful from the hunt, tongue dragging along the ground and claws scraping the dirt. Not particularly attractive.
From this outing I can say that if you want to get the most from these shoes you have to have something to work with. They will take your offering and make you better, but if you haven’t got the speed then you will not get any benefit from the technology in these shoes.
It wasn’t love at first run and I wasn’t sprinting home to unveil to my wife that I had found the secret to my running woes. However, I had discovered something more on this first run - I had potential to run fast and these shoes were the chosen ones to get me there! After this run I decided that I would use them in my first sprint triathlon of the year in a few days time. Risky, yes. Did it pay off? Read on to find out.
It gives me no pleasure at all to tell you that I once got lost in transition at Challenge Melbourne, spending 12 minutes and 59 seconds running around with my bike looking for my running shoes. I am not too proud to share this, as I ultimately learnt from this disaster. I learnt that I suck at transitions!
If I wanted to be moderately successful in my step into the sprint triathlon world I needed to prove myself at my first outing, the Bribie Island Triathlon. In my mind I was going to blow everyone away with my speed in transition and I was going to do it with the Salming Speed6 on my feet.
I did my due diligence to prepare myself by scouring the internet for vital tips. After 5 minutes intensive study at the University of Youtube, I determined that I needed to organize my transition area like pro triathlete Alistair Brownlee. Before the race started I went over my steps for success. Swim hard, jog not run through transition, no socks on the bike, and elastic laces on my Speed6. Simple!
The plan went well, I came out third in the swim, found my bike straight away and motored away sans socks feeling proud of myself for managing to look like a sprint triathlete. From this point on I settled into my weakest leg, fell back to 9th but spent the last few kilometers on focusing on where my racking spot was so I didn’t suffer the embarrassment of hearing my wife yell to me on my exit from transition, “what happened to you?!”
I hit the transition area and found my station straight away, helmet off, hat on, shoes on and I’m away. Ninety seconds after I dismounted I was running through the arch to start the run. The perfect transition, until I feel the sting of a plastic ball hit my ankle and look down to see that I hadn’t tightened my elastic laces.
I make the stupid decision, in the light of the testosterone pumping through my veins, that the 2 seconds it would take for me to bend down and do them up is not worth the time that I would lose. This, combined with the tightness of my hamstrings and the spectators lining the run tunnel, I decided I would save potential embarrassment of snapping a tendon and deal with it later. However, as the run leg progressed, I kept on finding the back of slower runners and just kept on going.
I am surprised to say that with sweaty feet, coated with water from aid stations, the shoes didn’t budge. They stuck to my feet like hand in glove and supported me as I ran the holy grail, a negative run split. The faster that I ran the better they felt and I ended the race 6th in my age group. A great first hit out and most of the success can be put down to two things: a complete failure in Melbourne which prompted me to want to improve my transitions and my Salming Speed6, which were amazing supporting partners in our first outing.
Comfort and Fit: 5/5
Running a triathlon race with no socks, sweaty feet, laces not done up, one run after getting them out of the box - they did not move and I had no blisters at the end of the race. Nothing more to say!
Speed and Responsiveness: 5/5
The shoe supports your efforts as you get up to full speed and helps keep you in that sweet spot. You will need hard and well conditioned legs to hold up for a ½ marathon and marathon distances, but if you are well trained these shoes will support your PB attempt over all race distances.
X Factor: 5/5
It is hard to put into words what the Salming brand has but it is certainly an unknown quality that I can’t put my finger on. From the research and development to the eye searing design, Salming is capturing my attention and it is a difficult to look away from the Salming juggernaut.
Value for Money: 4/5
The recommended retail price is $219 (AUD). Speed6 has competitively priced itself against other lightweight racing/tempo training shoes in the marketplace.
While the colours do not really suit my conservative nature, they scream speed which reminded me of the 80’s movie Tron in their design especially the reflective patterns on the mesh outer. For this they win me over because in my heart I never really left the eighties.
The stripped down chassis of the Speed6 has seen the plastic exoskeleton removed from Salming's successful flagship running shoe (Enroute), but many of the faster elements remain to give the perfect balance between performance and protection.
These shoes are not for the beginner. While the shoe is well engineered for a perfect balance, Salming designers have walked a fine line between protection and performance and consequently this line can be a little blurred depending on the conditioning of your legs. Stray off your toes onto your heels at your peril, as support for a heel striker is not completely there and you will suffer bone jarring consequences. But for those who can ride this fine line the rewards will be reaped.