There are a few brands that are synonymous with outdoor activities. Salomon happens to be one of the few. Born in 1947 in the heart of French Alps, Francois Salomon and his son George designed and perfected many of the first modern ski bindings. During the next 65 years, the brand’s passion for mountain sports resulted in many innovative solutions in boots, skiis, trail running shoes, hiking, mountaineering and adventure sports equipment. When Salomon extended their expertise in crafting running shoes, they brought in a host of patented technology that not only created a new segment in outdoor footwear, but also justified how this technology assisted sportsmen in realising their true potential.
I reviewed this shoe while I was taking part in a bicycle race called MTB Himalaya, a 7-day multi-stage race that takes place in the Himalayas. Although I spent most of my time on the bicycle, there were a lot of times when I had to do intense hiking up and down with the bicycle on gravel, single tracks, jeep tracks, slush and loose mud. Salomon shoes are well known for the generous amount of engineering and technology they employ. At first, you might think it’s all high-end jargon. But the shoe can really save your life. On tricky trail sections, the shoe’s traction control kicks in to grip the soil or loose gravel to help you stay in control. The Contagrip technology employs a rubber that is soft and somewhat sticky giving a good amount of hold on wet rocks. This shoe is ideally suited for hard-packed trails and is durable enough for the odd stretch of tarmac. The heel is perhaps among the most cushioned, so it felt great for heel striking on downhills especially when I had to walk on some steep sections. Also, don’t worry about getting your feet wet and dirty because the shoe has a protective mud guard running around its base.
One of the biggest advantage of this shoe is the protective hard rubber toe bumper.
This prevents not only toe-knocking when hiking downhills, it also reduces the impact of rocks hitting your toe. The layer right after the toe bumper is a solid mesh with thick and protective overlays, which if you run into a rock, absorbs most of the impact. While the toe cap actually creates an extension in the forefront, I think it’s a tradeoff for great side protection. There’s however, a little extra space in the toe area that can be disconcerting for people with narrow feet.
Although the outer fabric is not entirely waterproof, it dries up pretty quickly thereof. The Wings Pro is crafted with moderate outdoor activity in mind so the need for a strong upper was necessary. Since it was crafted to face mud, snow and rain, it has an open mesh layer that’s specifically designed to keep the foot dry and cool.
This is where the technology kicks in. Salomon’s patent Contagrip technology has two aspects: High Abrasion and High Traction. The dark grey section on the shoe sole is fitted with High Abrasion technology, used in areas that contact the ground most. The light grey section of the sole uses High Traction tech for more traction and stability.
Rightly so, this was perhaps one of the biggest reasons why I did not twist my ankles. The dynamics of the shoe were such that it prevented ankle twists and more than compensated for poor feet landing. It’s not foolproof, but it greatly minimizes chances of ankle sprain. It’s lower heel to toe height makes it ideal for trails and any outdoor hiking. The idea here is that the heel to toe offset needs to be low for aggressive trails and racing and high for training and less aggressive trails.
The outsole has large arrow shaped lugs widely spaced so that small rocks don’t creep in to minimize control. Also, on periodic checking, I noticed that the lugs helped in quickly releasing dirt and mud to improve grip and stability. At all times, I felt confident wearing this shoe be it on the cycle or off it. Of course, reading up a little bit about what the shoe technology offers helped me understand the real potential of the shoe on trails.
The Salomon Sensifit technology gives an adequate amount of cushioning and comfort. It’s not too tight, not too loose. But because the fit is so adaptable, people with wider or narrow feet can easily fit in. However, some may even feel there’s too much space in the toe area though. What secures the foot firmly is the thin internal sleeve called Endofit technology. As far as my experience goes, the shoe fit was spot on because you need a firm fit to be able to navigate trails and off road.
No amount of tightening shoe laces can get you there. Here, you don’t have the concept of a cumbersome traditional lace system. So that takes most of the stress out of the game. You have something called as a Quicklace system, which is made from military-grade Kevlar fibre. It’s basically a string that is fed through friction-free eyelets. All you need to do is fasten the string and stow it away inside a small pouch-like compartment. It won’t come out, ever.
However, I noticed some amount of friction creeping in while loosening and tightening the string after a long day of wading through mud and slush. If you don’t clean it right after the race, chances are you will face the same issue.
The shoe chassis is very stable and I would recommend it for runners who are prone to moderate pronation. The mid sole is perfect for stability, while the outsole has the right mix of surplus rubber and cushioning for that perfect trail experience. You don’t feel the impact of rocks hitting the base of your feet. But if you are a heavy user, you might need to check the comfort factor periodically to feel if the shoe base is hard enough for trails.
Unlike other shoes in the market today, the Salomon Wings Pro is equipped with the Agile Chassis System (ACS, as written on the shoe). This gives great cushioning for trail running and also supports the outsole and midsole for a better energy return upon impact. Since I had to cover almost 100 km of cycling and hiking per day for 7 days, wearing the shoe for longer duration did not make me feel uncomfortable at all. In fact, my calves actually felt a lot less stiffer had I used cleats for cycling/hiking. Although by no means should you consider this as a replacement to cleats when it comes to serious cycling.
A point to remember is that if you’re wearing the shoe for the first time, you might feel stiffness and slight pain on your calves and shins. But that goes away in three to four days when you get used to it. Eventually, it does reduce fatigue probably because of a more efficient heel to toe roll.
Salomon employs a technology called Ortholite that keeps she interiors healthy, cool and adour-free.
It’s fitted with a higher density foam in the midsole that adds an adequate amount of stiffness and bulk. But while I did feel a slight heaviness, it also helped to improve stability and motion control. It offers extra support to runners vulnerable to pronation. Besides, the AC Skeleton technology in the midsole reduces lateral movement and gives a seamless heel-to-toe transition.
-Durable and stable
-Glove-like fit, comfortable for long distance trail running and hiking
Wide space in the toe box area, can be a misfit for people with narrow feet
If you are an outdoor person performing an array of activities, this shoe is custom made for you. The engineering and technology that has gone behind the shoe justifies its price tag. Besides, there are numerous run-of-the-mill shoes in the market that don’t have any technology to speak of and still command a hefty price. On the whole, this is a multi-purpose shoe that offers durability, stability, comfort, versatility and sleek aesthetics. It’s a top contender in the hiking and trail running area. Best part is you can even cycle longer distances off road with ease wearing this shoe.
Price: Rs 9,199