Salomon S-Lab XA Alpine

Project Ultra gives an initial view of Salomon’s exciting new alpine running boot

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First impressions

We’ve all been there.  There’s a product that does everything you need it to.  Like a watch that just tells the time or a car that just drives.  It’s affordable, functional and clearly the sensible choice.  But there’s also a far more impressive alternative. Like a watch that also tells you when to move, when to sleep and what to have for dinner or a car that has two leather seats, go-faster stripes and is far better than you at parallel parking.  Even if the latter options are not suitable for every occassion and are more expensive, they’re the ones you really want to buy.

Unless you are a serious alpine runner (or at least someone who runs regularly on steep wintry terrain), then there’s a good chance that this all action mountain running boot is not something you absolutely need to add to your footwear collection.  Rather than being designed for everyday use, they’re primarily intended for alpine jaunts and Kilian-esque adventures and are therefore relatively niche.  They also come at a price which, whilst reflective of the innovative and progressive approach that the S-Lab range is well known for, is likely to be too rich for some given that they will not replace an every day running shoe.

However, whilst you might not absolutely need to, there’s a good chance that you will want to run in these. They are a super cool winter ready trail/mountain boot that feel as good to run in as they look and which provide an attractive solution for those who want to keep heading to the hills throughout the winter.

For the sake of full disclosure, these were provided to us for review purposes and this is by no means a full review. We will need the winter to put them properly through their paces. But here’s our initial view.

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Features

Considering their function, these are light but feel strong and robust.  Unzip the boot and there’s a wonderful surprise inside. The waterproof outer is wrapped around an S-Lab Sense shoe which is moulded into a meaty and grippy carbon chassis. The sock-like fit of the Sense is still there and the zipped ankle collar is soft and comfortable.  They are also tightened using the standard quick pull lacing system that Salomon fans will know well.

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Fit

They have the minimalist and narrow fit that you get with the Sense but they are firmer with less give in the sole and the upper feels slightly less forgiving on the toes.  This makes more sense in the mountains, where the reinforced toe box protects your digits and the firmness in the sole gives more push when scrambling and acts as a barrier against sharp pointy rocks.  It means they are slightly less responsive (when compared to the Sense) if you are just using them for running around on lower level trails but will protect your feet far better on rough gnarly terrain.

As they are intentionally firm, we’d recommend you try before you buy, as you may need to go up a half size or more from your normal shoe size.

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Performance

We haven’t yet tested them in full blown mountain conditions – which is what they are obviously intended for – but, after several hilly trail runs on wet, rocky and muddy terrain, we can report back positively.  They feel light and stable on slippery surfaces and, whilst more robust than trainers, they are very much built for running. They have proven to be waterproof in the testing we have done so far, which (like all good thorough product tests) included the almost bombproof ‘wading around in a child’s paddling pool’ test.   We will update the review when we come back from the Lakes in November and again early next year after we have put a few more miles on these.

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Summary

A lightweight alpine/mountain running boot that offers great features but will not replace your everyday running shoe. It’s an innovative and exciting new addition to the S-Lab range and we can’t wait to put them through a more thorough testing this winter.  Watch this space for updates.

RRP: £200

www.salomon.com/s-lab-xa-alpine.html

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