I suppose the only place I can start this review is with the price. At RRP £130 these are pretty much the most expensive running shorts that money can buy. During the week, as I run to and from work or out on the hills before work I typically wear shorts that cost 2% of these- my £3 Sports Direct Slazenger beauties. I found it hard to imagine why I would spend 98% more money on the S-Lab shorts and wanted to find out what could possibly justify that price tag.
That said, shorts have been the bugbear of my running since starting ultras. I am not blessed with a fast runners physique and have a build more suited to Rugby than running- especially in my legs. I have very large calves, which make calf guards a no-no, as well as very large thighs which tend to expand a significant amount as the miles go on. Consequently, chafing is the biggest potential derailment to my running long distances over any other potential ailment.
Having winced my way to the finish of my first two ultras in significant pain from chafing between my thighs I started to research alternative options. Working on a budget I opted for the Race Ready compression shorts.
At just £31 these are at the cheaper end of the spectrum for compression shorts and have pockets sewn into the rear to fit gels, headlamp and other small items. These got me through my next four ultras but started to suffer wear and tear and had to be binned earlier this year. Whilst it’s not a fashion show, I was self-conscious always in them as they are, well, tight in all areas. Extremely comfortable but they don’t leave much to the imagination, unless it’s a cold day. Which is maybe even worse…
Having reviewed a few Salomon products in the last year I was very happy to give the Twinskin shorts a whirl and see if they could possibly live up to the price tag.
As soon as I put them on, they felt different to other shorts I have worn. The compression material, known as Exo Muscle Support, is essentially a honeycomb shaped mesh that almost suckers itself to your skin much like a mollusc to a rock. Once in place, it stretches and expands and moves with your movements, but it does not slip. This means once on and adjusted correctly you cannot chafe as the hexagons grip and stay in place. The longest I have run in these so far is seven hours and from start to finish I had no issues with the shorts movement or chafing whatsoever.
Whilst chafing is my key issue, the design of these shorts is to get blood flowing and reduce quad damage over long distances. I cant comment on blood flow as I have no idea how I would measure that, but all I can say is my legs felt supported and comfortable on long downhill stretches and I suffered less in terms of fatigue, too.
In addition, over the compression material is an overlay of a normal short which not only protects modesty, but also make them look really cool. No one got into ultras to look cool, but you can’t help but feel good wearing these. I believe Jez summed it up perfectly when I wore them for the uphill challenge when he (clearly jealously) stated I had “all the gear and no idea”.
Above the mesh and shorts upper is an elasticated waistband which holds true all day long and has a series of pockets which wrap the whole waist. Having pushed them to the limits of capacity they can hold up to 16 Gu gels. In addition they are accessed by pulling on a small tab to open the pocket quickly, but means when not pulled the pocket holds really tight and ensures nothing can slip or drop out.
Sadly, not the author. Ryan Sandes wearing the S-Lab shorts. Pic: TrailrunnerMag.
I am typically a scrimper when it comes to running- one of the main reasons I started running more in the first place is I couldn’t afford the time or money to keep up a gym membership after Monty was born back in 2010. At the same time, whilst running can be done on a budget, there are certain items that are essential to get right for me as an individual. I am not saying that everyone needs to spend £130 on a pair of shorts to have a good experience in an ultra, but for me if it prevents chafing and ensures comfort and deals with a preventable problem so the brain can deal with all the other problems an ultra will inevitably throw up, I am willing to do that.
I only use these shorts on the weekly long run at weekends and use the cheap pairs during the week. So I cannot personally yet confirm the durability of these shorts, but from other reviews I have read and having seen no damage at all to mine so far, it seems they are highly durable- something everyone would demand with a price tag like this.
Running for me is not about speed or rankings, it is primarily about enjoyment and enjoyment stems from comfort and confidence. These will unquestionably be my shorts for the North Downs Way 100 in three weeks-time and whilst they won’t be the reason I will finish this time around, they and the other carefully selected items of kit I will be wearing, will all contribute to giving me the best shot possible. But mostly it will be my physical and mental preparation.
As you would expect from Salomon, these are an excellent bit of kit and I can’t recommend them enough, if you are willing to spend that little bit extra.