Enduro. It conjures many thoughts of off road motorbikes and stage mountain bike races, testing the rider against a variety of terrain. The tools at their disposal need to be versatile, able to take on a variety of challenges and ultimately come out on top of the podium. So where does that leave us with shoes? As things stand, this is a category which is taking on several forms. Some Race Directors are choosing a set time period with a short course, basing it on laps achieved, whereas others like Run Coed Y Brenin are pioneering the sport into a multi stage day race with neutral transitions.
So with this vagueness in mind, what would be a suitable shoe include?
Grip – Enough for mixed conditions, but no need for a gnarly outsole.
Cushion – You’re going to need some, but a balance between comfort and speed.
Weight – Light enough you can blast your chosen ascent/descent, but nothing flimsy. Remember its an all out assault over a day or more.Salomon say the XA Enduro is designed to “run off the beaten track. The XA Enduro shoe is designed to hug and stabilize your feet on hard-core mountain terrain. It keeps the grit out. Who needs trails? The mountain is all yours, play with it, run all over it.”
As we know mountains come in all shapes and forms, from bogs to rocky outcrops, sheer to rolling. With that in mind how did the XA Enduro hold up to a variety of terrain?
From the outset I should let you know the majority of my runs have been at night. It’s winter, day light hours are short and I have a 9-5 like I imagine the vast majority of people reading this do. Given the limitations of visibility, despite a good head torch, having faith in your shoes is paramount to night running off road.
The outsole isn’t an aggressive beast like a SpeedCross Pro nor is it aimed at hard pack like the Sense 5 Ultra, it’s very much an in-between. The lugs are widely spaced, providing a good level of shedding/self cleaning and they are relatively firm, meaning when you are on hard pack or tarmac, you don’t feel your feet twisting like on a SpeedCross 3. But, as is becoming more well known, good tread patterns are useless without a great compound. Salomon have a blend of Contagrip™ with their premium Wet Traction compound over the entire outsole, which has performed well on everything from sand and tarmac, to mud and roots. It’s not the softest rubber durometer out there, and could be grippier, but I have yet to slip some 6o miles in and on the flip side this has provided good durability. The shots in this review were taken after a couple of short runs, but I can verify they still look new. If I was going into full on bog, fell mode, I would opt for something more aggressive as that little extra lug length can really make a difference when things get greasy and sloppy. That said, for me personally, my preference would be running a mixture of mountain trails, rocky outcrops and compact ground. If you removed the bog which I mistakenly ran through on the Clif Bar 10 Peaks Long Course, I feel they could handle most of what’s on offer in the lakes, outside of the less well used areas.
One of the trickier areas of the XA Enduro to test was the Profeel Film. The aim is to engage during the transition phase to support the foot and improve the overall rolling of the shoe during toe off. In all honesty, the only way to test this would be to have another pair of XA Enduro without the film, and this would provide a head to head test. Safe to say, I really don’t know.
One thing recent Salomon’s have been known for is cushion. Unlike the likes of Hoka, their cushion is firm and responsive, and in many respects I prefer this, as I find it is more predictable and you get more bang for your buck with each footstep energy wise. The combination of a dual density EVA takes out any harsh shocks, whilst provided a soft, but firm base to work off. The moulded EVA in turn provides support in key areas. I found the dual density, together with the full outsole, left the shoe stiffer than expected and given I’ve been running mostly in MudClaw’s and S-Lab Sonics (review coming soon) lately, it took a fresh mind to adjust. XA Enduro’s aren’t rigid, but I personally would like the sole to have greater dexterity, given a lot of off trail movements have a habit of becoming dynamic, when you stumble across the unknown at full tilt.As can be viewed above, the XA Enduro features Salomon’s Advanced Chassis. The idea is to hold the shoe true and offer support when twisting down switchbacks, or cutting new trail. The chassis is part of the reason for the stiffer ride, but the heel cup does remain glued to your foot regardless of what you throw at it. There is always a compromise to be had and given this is only really of benefit when descending, its a choice you have to make. As mentioned earlier, I would like greater dexterity…. you can’t please everyone or have everything.The toe box is wider than some Salomon shoes I’ve previously tested, notably the SpeedCross 3 and this is excellent. I found the 3 was narrow and on descents, it could pinch slightly. The Enduro’s box is wide enough to allow your feet freedom, without leaving you floating in space. The open mesh is very breathable, and winter always provides a perfect test given the air is cold and often you’re wrapped up in several layers elsewhere. With temperatures warming up, I’ve yet to find them too warm and it has also shown to be durable. The rubber rand and welded overlays which protect the front keeping it in check.As found across Salomon’s range, the Sensifit™ and Quicklace™ provide a dependable, reliable and secure fit along the length of your foot and I’ve yet to have an issue with any shoe I’ve used.
But, the glaring difference, the elephant in the room is the integrated gaitor! If you wondered what that excess of blue material was, well finally I shall reveal all. Salomon, like many of their competitors offer an optional gaitor, designed to work with your trail shoes. These come into play when running on sandy or loose rocks, where there is a high possibility of ingress, hot spots and ultimately blisters, abrasions or cuts. With winter shoes, such as the S-LAB XA ALPINE coming to market, demonstrates a change in design and consumer habits, whereby a specialist shoe is perceived to be worth developing. Given the range of shoes most of us have to run on road, hard pack and mud…. then you take into account 5k to 100 miles, I have more than my girlfriend does in general use!My local trails are a blend of sand and mud. Take the Sense 5 Ultra on them and I come back with sandy feat every time. This changed with the XA Enduro. The integrated gaitor is an extension of the gusseted tongue, a closer weave then the main mesh fabric and it locks onto your ankle without compressing it. At the front, the QuickLace™ garage is located as expected, but you will also find a tab for your finger, as with the back. Without these, getting the shoe on and off would be a nightmare. The tabs allow you to open the elasticated gaitor and navigate your foot into the shoe, without loosing half of it under the tongue or your heel. Once your foots in, use the QuickLace™ as you normally would and you are secure. Now I’ve run in the XA Enduro wearing ankle, mid and high socks and found the gaitor does not cause any irritation regardless of what I have or haven’t worn underneath. Would I want this on every shoe, no. Does it lend itself to the enduro philosophy? Yes.
Boasting a 9mm heel drop and weighing in at 300 grams, its a middle of the road for the stat inclined and in practice, form a great overall package.
The Enduro needs to be a shoe that is a little bit of everything, can conquer mountains, ascents, descents, mixed terrain and everything in between. Beyond the sole, this really is what sets is apart from the range and of all the Salomon shoes in my current rotation, this is the one I find myself slipping on more than the others. It’s comfy, supportive, wide and can let you get away with most trail options.
Colourise, there is a black top and lime yellow outsole or the blue and orange I have here. I won’t lie, I was hoping for this pair. Like mtb enduro, I like my shoes to be out there when I’m running and personally I love the colours. At £130, they are steep, after all, that price point is normally reserved for their S-Lab division. So at this point you may be thinking, how can they stick them this high? Trail running gaitors retail from £20-30, take this off and you have a pair of trail shoe with a durable outsole, with comfy mid for £100. All weighed up, they are fairly priced.
So the XA Enduro, a little bit of this, combined with a little bit of that has created probably Salomon’s most versatile trail shoe to date. At the extreme’s of the spectrum, you may want to look at other options, but for 80% of your running needs the XA Enduro could be the Swiss Army knife of the trail running world.
Available at Ellis Brigham