Monday, April 23, 2018

Gear Closet: Salomon XA Elevate Trail Running Shoes

If you're in the market for a new trail running shoe this spring, I just might have exactly what you're looking for. The new XA Elevate from Salomon is a shoe built to take on the toughest of trails and keep your feet well protected for miles, although some might not appreciate its stiff ride on less demanding terrain.

As with pretty much every running shoe from Salomon, the XA Elevate is filled with some interesting and unique features and technology designed to help them perform better in the worst of conditions. In this case, that includes the company's Contagrip outsole for improved traction on a variety of surfaces and its EnergyCell midsole that was built to not only offer runners plenty of cushioning underfoot, but substantial energy return too. These components are paired with Salomon's Advanced Chassis to manage motion control and stability, as well as the Profeel Film that offers enhanced rolling of the shoe during toe off.

What does this all mean for runners? To put it more simply, the XA Elevate was built to grip well on just about any surface, protect your feet from rugged terrain, and keep you moving at a fast pace, even when things get rough. And how does it do in terms of delivering that level of performance? In a word – outstanding.

I've been running in this shoe for several weeks now and have come away very impressed. It is a versatile trail runner that can handle a variety of different terrains with ease, but it is surprisingly adept at keeping your feet comfortable and well protected on rocky ground. But more than that, it also performs well on extremely technical trails, providing plenty of confidence in the roughest environments. And at the end of a run, your legs don't feel quite so beat up, with recovery times feeling shorter too.

I'm a big fan of Salomon's quick-lace system and was happy to find it in this shoe as well. Not only does it allow me to dial in exactly the right fight, it stay in place even when the shoes get wet and soggy. Often times I have issues with this when using shoes with more traditional laces, but here it wasn't an issue at all. This type of lacing system allows the shoes to be a bit lighter too, which is always a plus.

Speaking of fit, I found the XA Elevate to meet my needs perfectly. As I've mentioned before, I prefer my running shoes to be on the snug side, but not so much so that it is restrictive in any way. That's exactly what I found with these shoes, which combined with the rigid sole helped me to feel more connected with the ground, particularly on more demanding trails. That said, if you're someone who prefers a shoe with a bit of extra room, you may want to try these on first before deciding if they're for you.

The XA Elevate is a good shoe for use in a wide variety of weather conditions. I've used it in cold and moderate temperatures, and in rain and snow too. In all cases, my feet were comfortable, dry, and well protected from the elements. How they perform in hot, humid conditions is yet to be seen, but I suspect there will be other sues better suited for those environments. Breathability on this model is good, but not outstanding in my opinion.

As mentioned already, the XA Elevate offers a fairly rigid ride, which can feel a bit uncomfortable at first. I found this especially true when running on paved trails or on routes that weren't especially technical. In fact, at first I wasn't sure how much I truly liked what Salomon had put together here. Compared to some of their other shoes that I've tried in the past, these were stiff and a bit unforgiving, even after they were broken in. But, once I got them onto more challenging and demanding trails, I got a true sense of their performance. This is a shoe that was built for off road and climbing up rugged trails, and if you find yourself on long runs in the backcountry on a regular basis, you're truly going to love what they bring to the table.

Durability doesn't seem to be an issue either. Typically, I wear out the sole and cushioning of a shoe long before it starts to show traditional wear and tear, and that definitely seems to be the case here too. These shoes look practically brand new, even though I'm closing in on 100 miles of running in them. Usually I replace my shoes every 300-400 miles or so, and it looks like the XA Elevate will easily meet this expectations.

If you're in need of a good trail running shoe with plenty of stability and support, the Salomon XA Elevate is a fantastic choice all around. Priced at $130 they feel like a real bargain for serious off-road runners as well. Comfortable, durable, and able to take on the toughest of terrains with ease, this is a great shoe and a great price.

Buy the Salomon XA Elevate at REI.com.

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