In the past I have often rushed a shoe review, but I really wanted to be 100% on these shoes before publishing my thoughts. First off, I wanted to make clear that I will only ever publish a positive review if I genuinely believe in a product. I’ve been trying to find the right shoe for a while now and have worn several this year, that for one reason or another, haven’t performed as I would have expected or desired.
I am also trying to move back away from more cushioned shoes such as my Hoka Speedgoats and Pearl Izumi M2’s, back towards something more lightweight and that helps support and reflect natural form.
2017 was always intended to be a confident boosting year, with some big plans for 2018. Its been that and more and I have a good feeling for next year. I only intend to run three races in 2018, and all three will be 100 milers. Lottery season will dictate which 100 milers they will be but the only certainty I have in the calendar at present is the Arc of Attrition in February and for this I needed a shoe capable of having everything including the kitchen sink thrown at it. Mud, slick rock, road and very uneven terrain.
Looking back (and it feels a long time ago now), my PB year in all distances was 2014 and for all of these PB’s, aside from the 100 mile PB, I ran in shoes that supported my natural running style and my go to brand back then was Salomon- namely the 2014 Sense range.
I am no Kilian, so running a Cornish coast path 100 miler in the depths of the UK winter would require more than a minimalist Sense shoe could offer, but what else would work between an overly cushioned shoe that didn’t allow the nimbleness this route requires, and a sense-style slipper?
Well, I think I have found it in the S-Lab Wings 8 shoe.
First impressions out of the box were that this shoe was on the heavy side. At 275g that is not necessarily the case, but they just felt a bit cumbersome. That aside, they were everything I loved about the sense range, but beefed up a bit. The mesh has been strengthened, which was always the weakest point on the Sense, tearing before any other damage on both my pairs. The inner lining is thicker and means it can genuinely be worn sockless, not just as a marketing ploy. And the contragrip has been seriously strengthened making the lugs less prone to wear but also much grippier on wet rock (note- no shoe will stop slipping completely, but these are the best I have experienced on wet tree roots and rock).
The shoe is designed for testing mountain terrain and warm weather, being highly breathable. But this also equally applies to wet UK winters where I require a shoe that lets out all of the water the UK winter takes in. No shoe I have used drains like this one and on a recent Gran Canaria holiday I regularly got the shoe soaked and my socks were dry again very soon afterwards. The same applies to puddles back home and this will be essential for the Arc of Attrition.
I have probably put about 300 miles on these shoes so far and a lot of that has been a mixture of trail and pavement without any wearing down of the lugs, so these are definitely stronger than other Salomon shoes I have used before.
The shoe has a 9mm drop, which is at the heftier end of things in the modern world of shoes like Altra, marketing themselves as solely zero drop, but I have started to move away from very low drops and this shoe suits my form perfectly and its nice to see such a variety of shoes emerge to cater to all forms. Even when I started ultras in the relatively recent 2012, there was nowhere near this range of shoes available.
The quicklace system is simple and strong, meaning the laces once pulled taught can be tucked into a little flat on the tongue and there is no slipping.
The shoe feels very supportive, without feeling like you are disconnected to the ground, but you also know that stray sharp rocks aren’t going to suddenly come through your foot- it is a very well built shoe.
Finally, it has a feeling of comfort but doesn’t lose any of the fast-feel you get from the Sense range. Running 100 miles in this shoe may be a little far, but for the terrain I will be using it on, this is the best shoe I have found in a while. Furthermore, there is also a soft ground version for those looking for even more lugginess.
You can buy it here: https://www.salomon.com/uk/product/s-lab-wings-8.html