Salomon has three new trail running shoes for Spring 2010. Two shoes are updates, the XT Wings 2 and the XT Hawk 2, and the XA Pro 5 is a new introduction. Before we get into the specifics, let’s have a brief review of Salomon trail running footwear. Salomon designs trail running shoes to provide rugged trail performance over a vast variety of terrain. All Salomon shoes incorporate a Sensift upper design for a secure midfoot fit. This design keep your foot well grounded in the shoe and reduces slippage so that the foot and the shoe move as one entity. Another unilateral feature is the Quicklace sytem, which allows for easy-on, easy-off entry and egress of of the shoe. The Quicklace system is also easily stowed under a stretch mesh situated at the top of the tongue. This handy feature prevents the laces from getting caught on wayward branches or other trail debris. Each Salomon shoe uses a specific outsole and midosle combination to meet specific needs and well touch on these specifics as we discuss the new shoes below.
Award winning shoe gets a new midsole material.
When the XT Wings debuted in January 2008, Runner’s World designated the shoe as a Best Debut and for good reason. The XT Wings delivered a superb, snug fit for great control on the trail. Yet as good as this shoes was on the trail, it provided superb comfort for road running. The versatility of the XT Wings is no accident. From the outset, the XT Wings was designed to address the needs of runners who love the trails but live in environments where roads are unavoidable. Instead of having to drive to the trail, Salomon felt you should be able to run to the trail and keep going with just one shoe. Hence, the XT Wings was born.
Built on the concept of a human body analogy, the XT Wings consisted of skeleton, muscle and tendon components. The skeleton is Salomon’s Agile Chasis System (ACS). Structural integrity and stability are afforded by the ACS. Just as muscles contract to initiate or resist movement, the AC midsole flexes to absorb impact. To aid in energy return, the AC Tendon outsole elongates and snaps back to its original shape. The resulting combination of all three components is an enjoyable ride quality that is adaptive to varied terrain.
With the XT Wings 2, little has changed. The upper lines have not changed, so the XT Wings 2 provides the same great fit as its predecessor. A slight modification the to mud guard that reduced weight and increased flexibility without sacrificing protection is the only significant upper change. AC2 replaces the original AC midsole. AC2 provides greater resiliency relative to weight. Thus the XT Wings 2 weighs 0.3 ounces less than the original, but has greater cushioning durability. No changes were made to the outsole.
Lighter is not always better.
The XT Hawk 2 uses the same outsole, midsole material and midsole height (25mm/13mm) as the XT Wings 2, yet it comes in over 2 ounces lighter than the XT Wings 2. How is this possible? Most of the weight reduction is attributed to the difference in “skeletons” used. The XT Wings 2 has a three-quarter length ACS with a filled in heel, where as the XT Hawk 2 utilizes a rear only ACS2lite configuration. The ACS2lite also only provides perimeter structure of support. Hence, the XT Hawk 2 provides a more flexible and faster feel compared to the XT Wings 2. With the loss of weight, there is a small loss of protection, so the XT Hawk 2 is best suited for runners who place a premium on speed or only encounter moderately rugged terrain. If protection is paramount, then go with the XT Wings 2, or better yet the XA Pro 5.
Protection and cushioning above all else.
Salomon’s best selling trail shoe is the XA Pro 3D Ultra. While the XA Pro 3D Ultra excels in many areas, it lacks forefoot protection. So Salomon has taken the shoe, and beefed it up to produce the XA Pro 5. Where as the XA Pro 3D Ultra sits close to the ground (21mm/9mm), the XA Pro 5 rides high at 26mm/14mm. All of this midsole thickness adds weight but with the benefit of great protection. Compared to the 3D Chasis used on the XA Pro 3D Ultra, the 3D+ Advanced Chasis of the XA Pro 5 provides greater forefoot propulsion. One further enhancement to the XA Pro 5 is the new EnergyCell2, which provides greater resiliency and rebound compared to the original EnergyCell used on the XA Pro 3D Ultra. Both shoes use the same outsole, so if you have liked the XA Pro 3D Ultra but feel like you need more protection, then the XA Pro 5 is a good choice. Just beware it is a heavy and slow shoe.
The XT Wings 2 builds on success and is a versatile and agile trail shoe. The XT Hawk 2 offers many of the benefits provided by the XT Wings 2 but in a lighter, faster, less protective package. At the other end of the spectrum, the XA Pro 5 provides ultimate protection in a heavy, durable package.