First Look Shoe Review: Salming Trail 5

FIRST LOOK SHOE REVIEW

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For those of us who were lucky enough to live in the no nonsense times of the '70s and '80s, we experienced bread at 20 cents per loaf, petrol was cheap enough to run a V8, newspapers were the chief source of up-to-date news and running shoes were simply called 'sneakers'. These multipurpose athletic shoes were used to play basketball on Friday night, go for a jog on Saturday and mow the grass on Sunday. The mere thought of having multiple athletic shoes for a variety of purposes was wasteful folly.

Alas, times have changed - we now live in an era of $6 loaves of bread filled with a dozen different forms of bird seed, Tesla electric cars, ‘fake news’ and athletic sporting equipment that is as unique as the multitude of sports that we now play. If there is a physical activity that you do, I can guarantee there is a specific shoe that suits its purpose and claims to enhance your performance - from the heavy mileage, uber-cushioned Hoka OneOne Clifton, to the ultra-high performance Nike Vaporfly Elite, designed to break the 2 hour marathon barrier.

Suffice to say shoe companies are spending resources designing high performance running shoes to maximise performance and minimise injury. So it gives me and my aging knees great pleasure to say that the 1970’s canvas clad converse Chuck Taylors have been relegated to the hoofs of the hipsters, as they prop up the counter of their local Starbucks sipping on their cinnamon chai lattes. The ubiquitous ‘Connies’ have well and truly been replaced by the products of some amazing cutting edge research and development. 

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SALMING TRAIL 5

From their previous trail offerings, Salming have completely redesigned the Trail 5 from top to bottom. Winner of the 2017 European ISPO Trail Shoe of the Year, the Trail 5 incorporates Salming Natural Support System that consists of three main areas - the Torsion Guidance System TGS62/75°, the Wrap-Around-Design construction, the Recoil™ and Recoil R™ cushioning properties. The Trail 5 features the Vibram Megagrip™ compound with an exclusively designed outsole, for what Salming tout as 'unparalleled grip on dry and wet slippery surfaces'. The light but rugged trail shoe has a price point of $249 AUD.

Below are the statistics of the men's and women's Salming Trail 5 offerings.

WOMEN'S TRAIL 5

Weight: 235 g (UK 5.5)
Drop: 5 mm
Color: Blue/Fluo Yellow
Lug: 4 mm
Stack: 24.5 mm heel - 19.5 mm center forefoot
Midsole: Recoil™
Outsole: Vibram MegaGrip™
Lining: Mesh
Sizes: UK3.5-8.5, EU36-42 2/3

MEN'S TRAIL 5

Weight: 298 g (UK 9)
Drop: 5 mm
Color: Black/Fluo Green
Lug: 4 mm
Stack: 24.5 mm heel - 19.5 mm center forefoot
Midsole: Recoil™
Outsole: Vibram MegaGrip™
Lining: Mesh
Szes: UK4.5-13.0, EU37 1/3-49 1/3

 Men's Trail 5

Men's Trail 5

 Women's Trail 5

Women's Trail 5

As I see it, there are three main genres of running shoes: the ultra light, stripped back ‘sports car’ racing shoe; the maximum cushioning, high mileage ‘station wagon’ training shoe; and the all terrain ‘4x4’ trail shoe. It is this last pinnacle of high performance trail shoe that Salming is attempting to summit.

What I find most intriguing about the Trail 5 is how Salming have applied an appealing cross over shoe design methodology. Whether being intentional or accidental, they have essentially created an 'SUV' niche in the '4x4' trail shoe genre. Salming collaborated with the market leading Vibram company for their tread pattern and their hard wearing, incredibly ‘grippy’ yet forgiving soles. To this, Salming had to look no further than their incredibly successful EnRoute training shoe to be the cockpit for your foot.

Essentially Salming has created a shoe which is super comfortable and well proven in the marketplace of discerning runners and combined this with the market leading grip and sure footedness of a Vibram Megagrip™sole.

UNBOXING

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When unboxing these shoes I took the time to read the cover of the ‘book’ that I was about to discover. Rather than the flurry of paper and cardboard, I took the time to appreciate the finer points of the company's marketing genius. From the outset you can see the journey that Salming is engaging in - from the striking colour scheme that screams 'look at me!', through to the designer's sketch of the human running form - it is clear that Salming is working to bring a product to the market that is revolutionary.

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It was the Salming Running Wheel graphic on the base of box that impressed me the most about this company's strategy, as it clearly articulates what Salming is attempting to do. Rather than reinventing the wheel it is actually redesigning the wheel to bring the runner a real change, rather than change for change’s sake.

Akin to the EnRoute, the colour scheme of the Trail 5 is quite striking, yet not overdone; heavily black with accents of electric blue and lime green. While writing this it sounds strikingly ugly, the shoe is actually rather attractive. I personally love the placement of the company logo. It is ubiquitous with the brand now to have the bold flash of Salming on one side of the heel cup and the model name on the other side. It is once again Salming yelling from the roof tops that they have a great shoe design and want to be noticed and remembered.

Along with the bold statement of ‘who’ this shoe is, there is also subtle hints at the technology that goes into this shoe; from the bright orange Vibram on the sole, to the Rocshield on the reinforced toe cap. However, I feel they have maxed out advertising space on the shoe. Any more would give the appearance of one of those sponsor boards that pops up behind athletes during press conferences.

My overall impression is that this is an attractive shoe but, as noted in my last shoe review, that my taste is questionable. I have been known to wear a patterned shirt with a patterned tie, so take my style advice with a pinch of salt.

FIT

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The initial fit felt like I was slipping into my Salming EnRoute. The ExoSkeleton™, upper and the gentle yet firm support of the  Recoil™ midsole gave me confidence that my foot was going to be in good hands when I hit the trails.

With many of the initial iterations of trail specific running shoes it could be said that most were simply hiking boots masquerading as running shoes. This can be attributed to the heavy duty army boots being the birthplace of the hiking shoe. While very durable and hard wearing, their fit and comfort were at the expense of maximising their usable life. This heavy leather, vulcanised rubber and little-to-no padding was the standard formula inherited by the early evolution of the trail running shoe.

Thankfully, Salming and many other high-end shoe manufacturers have thrown the army boot template out the window. This is obvious when you put the Trail 5 on for the first time - they are for every intent and purpose a running shoe. It is only when you note that they are slightly heavier at 298 grams, 40 grams above the EnRoute, that you realize they have substance to their trail shoe of the year award.

Similar to the EnRoute, the fit is comfortable, but not plush like I have come to expect with the Hoka OneOne 'station wagon' that I do most of my high mileage training for Ultraman in. However, armed with very positive experience with my EnRoute, the first impression of the fit was very positive. I had a high level of trust in the shoes from the time that I slid my feet in and laced them up.

The only criticism I could possibly have would be the initial feel of the heel cup. I felt that my heel slipped around a little at first wear, but was hopeful that my feet and the shoe would settle in after a few kilometers to find some common ground.

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FIRST RUN

I initially judged the Trail 5 as a little bit of a soft-roader. Holding them in my hand I felt that the shoe was the equivalent of a top end Range Rover, that only ever sees action in the car park of the local shopping mall. I decided to go for a run around the streets of my neighbourhood to confirm my suspicions.

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As I ran down the street, my wife commented that the noise of the shoe was distinctive. Rather than the gentle 'tap tap tap' of my other running shoes, the Trail 5 had the distinct 'squirrely' sound of those large 4x4 wheels found on monster trucks. The shoes also came across as very slappy as the stiffness of the soles were initially unforgiving. I persisted to give them a chance to loosen up.

The next point I noted was the constriction of the Rocshield element at the front of the shoe. This reinforced toe box section is intended to protect the toe against the elements as you hit the trails. Unfortunately, at the point where the Rocshield finishes and the softer mesh begins, there is a rub point. I am sure it will soften and give over time but on first wear it lets you know it is there. 

Halfway through the run I must be honest and say that I was not really enjoying them. They had loosened a little, but they were not stating a good case for me to fall in love with them. They were still stiff and I was turning the heads of my neighbours as they looked around to see what was creating so much noise. As they are a trail specific shoe I decided to take them offroad to give them a fair trial on their intended medium. Once I hit uneven ground, the stiffness of the sole came to the fore to help me ride over the changing terrain and make the ground that little bit flatter.

Rather than the grass and dirt slowing me down, as it would in my road shoes, the studs of the Vibram sole lifted above the softer terrain - working together with the surface to lift me up and propel me forward. It was Jekyll and Hyde as I alternated between trail and the road. I was amazed how good they performed on the rough stuff, to the point where I was searching out the trails to avoid running on the road. It finally hit me - this is a genuine trail shoe. I was initially beguiled and fooled by the comfort of the shoe and automatically pigeon-holed them as a soft-roader, a mere SUV in the world of special built 4x4s. I was wrong by misjudging the Trail 5, I can honestly tell you that these are a serious off-road shoe that give strength and purpose to your off-road runs.

SUMMARY

Comfort: 5/5
A master stroke to pair the EnRoute upper with Vibram sole.

Off road ability: 5/5
Without parallel.

Stiffness: 4/5
A little bone jarring once you get on the hard bitumen.

Value for money: 3.5/5
An RRP of $249 put them at the upper end of the spectrum.

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VERDICT: 9.5/10

Overall the Trail 5 gave excellent support, if not a little on the stiff side. However, this can be explained away quite easily based on my previous comments about the ability of the shoe to interface between rough surfaces and the body's own proprioception. The comfort of the shoe is excellent from the initial lace up and the first wear. While not recommended for long distance pavement training due to the unforgiving sole and stiffer board last of the shoe's chassis, this is irrelevant as you are purchasing these shoes to TRAIL run, explore and be one with nature. The Trail 5 begs to be taken off road and once they are in the rough stuff they are a completely different beast.

I am looking forward to running some more truly off-road miles in these shoes to see if my initial positive impression of them as a genuine trail shoe holds up. Based on this initial look and first road/trail run I would give them 9.5/10 as a trail shoe. While I do not rate them as a road running shoe, it is not fair to judge them on a medium that they were not designed to perform.