If you happen to have followed my ultra-running journey over the last few years, you will know that my shoe choice has varied quite considerably.
At the time I started my ultra journey in 2011, it was the height of the barefoot craze. I found myself running in minimal flats and whilst I never went as far as the running sandal or five fingers foot gloves, I did have a pair of the New Balance barefoot shoes. A shoe I loved, until you stepped on a sharp stone and then instantly hated.
I mostly ran in what you would call ‘standard’ shoes, shoes like the Pearl Izumi Trail N2 or Salomon Sense and then gravitated to the Hoka shoe as my distances grew and I felt cushioning may be the answer.
But, like politics, where people flutter to the left then the right, the most sensible place is often right in the middle. And as I build up to my 2018 season, which includes only 100 and 100 mile + races, I wanted a shoe that was reliable, good on and off trail, suited the wet and the dry and was generally supportive but let you assume natural form. A lot to ask for in one shoe, for sure, but I think I have found it.
Now, Salomon has arguably the best marketing machine of any outdoor brand. You just need to type Salomon into YouTube to know that, but- and this is the clincher, they also make some of the very best products in the market and their development is lead by athletes. This doesn’t mean they only make clothes, shoes and equipment for the best, but designed by the best and usable by everyone.
I should know. I’m not elite but I still have pairs of Salomon shoes in my garage that I haven’t had the heart to throw away, going back as far as 2013. Yes, there were some tearing issues with the early Sense models on the mesh, but these have been drastically improved with feedback over the last few model generations. And I still train in those old models today.
The Wings Pro 3 is the latest ‘general’ trail shoe. It is not the lightest shoe at 295g, but is ruggedly built and designed predominantly for dry trails, but also very adept at mud and wet conditions. It is the shoe I wore for 16 hours at The Arc of Attrition, and took everything that the extremely demanding course could throw at it.
The fit is not low, which I have found annoying on some shoes in the past, that slip off in wet or muddy conditions, but fits high on the ankle and consequently suffers from no slippage. The toe box is roomy and the quicklace system works as well as all previous generations of these shoes, with a little pocket in the tongue to tuck laces and ensure nothing bounces or flaps around.
At 9mm drop, it is at the larger end of spectrum but in all honesty, I have felt very little difference between this and a 4-5mm drop, so don’t let that put you off. In addition, the grip is superb but also doesn’t feel cumbersome on hard surfaces like some trail shoes can.
Finally, the breathability is superb as you would expect from a Salomon shoe, but also drains quickly in wet conditions.
My next two races are flat 100 and 145 mile river/canal races, respectively and these shoes offer a very decent amount of cushioning for such a lightweight shoe. I am very confident that they will have the ability to get through these sorts of distances without me needing to change shoes, something I always dislike doing mid-race. Often just a tiny difference in shoe ‘drop’ or feel can play havoc on the legs, so I look for a shoe that is adaptable to a range of conditions but can go the distance.
At £120, these aren’t cheap, but I have learned from experience that the old adage ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ is painfully true and I really rate these shoes as a highly capable all-rounder, whether you are looking to compete or simply complete.