Over the last few years I have diversified in terms of choice of long range hill and trail running shoes. For a long time I was a huge fan of Salomon Speedcross for anything off road that lasted over 90 minutes. They served me very well, and I would estimate that I have had a pair in my regular rotation for about 6 years straight. However, the undeniable grip and comfort does not come without some serious shortcomings. One of the problems that I experienced was ankle rolling which I attributed to a combination of heel to toe drop, and stack height. The straw that broke the camels back was a fairly substantial ankle roll on the first descent of the Galty Crossing a few years back. Another problem I experienced was picking up debris in the shoe in Transvulcania – that said, the trusty Speedcross’ got my feet got home in remarkably good condition after over 11 hours on the go. So far, I have made three attempts to solve the riddle and I’m going to do a quick comparison of the three
The three models that are on trial are Salomon’s XA Enduro, Raidlight’s Ultramax EVO and SpeedGoat 4 by Hoka. Rather than look a the vast range of technical details, (which are on the manufacturers website – along with their promised benefits) this review will focus on how they feel. Although the HOKA’s are new in the photos, I can assure you that all three pairs have been used for plenty of miles, in varied terrain and on long duration runs (Salomon – 5.5 hour run, Raidlight – 6 hour run, HOKA – 7.5 hour run),
In terms of the Salomon XA Enduro I wont go on too long as I have previously written a review which can be seen in the review section using the following link http://gotriadventure.com/?p=183. While these were purchased with 8 – 12 hour events in mind they have become more of a 2 – 4 hour shoe for mixed terrain.
To be fully transparent about this, choosing the Raidlight’s was heavily influenced by a 60% sale on their website. I had no previous experience with their shoes but the value couldn’t be ignored, and any of their other products that I have used (tech tops, running bags, bottles) have been excellent. On arrival, I was gobsmacked by the sheer size of the box, and not to disappoint, Raidlight put a whopper of a shoe in there!! These things are HUGE.
I had been considering the HOKA SpeedGoat’s for quite some time but after the shock of receiving the Raidlights I really wanted to try some on first. Luckily, the very helpful staff (Steve) in Gleesons Sport (https://gleesonsport.ie/) had a number of pairs in stock including version 3, version 4 and the wide version. There is nothing quite like going in and trying on a new pair of shoes before you purchase and its something that I’m no longer accustomed to. To cap off a good day, the price was as good as anything I had seen on line for the 4’s.
So, How do they feel?
An issue that I immediately noticed with both the XA Enduro’s and the Ultramax EVO’s was that they felt very harsh on hard compact or solid surfaces. They really seem to hit the ground with a bit of a slap which makes them sound bad and seems to prevent a quick turnover. It makes you notice them on your feet and as such they, don’t feel light. In reality, I found the XA’s can get going but the Ultramax’s just aren’t build for speed. Thankfully, the SpeedGoats felt much better straight out of the box. The slightly more curved sole, absence of a rock plate and nice Vibram sole ensures a more natural stride, that is at home on a wide variety of surfaces and even provides feedback though all that cushioning. In contrast to the other 2, the HOKA’s also feel light for their size.
Cushioning and turnover are great, but you need to be able to stay on your feet also. With this in mind, I’m happy to report that all three pairs are quite stable and I didn’t experience any ankle issues. This can be attributed to wide soles and relatively low heel to toe drops in all three. The next consideration for any runner is probably grip, and when you consider the Irish climate this becomes a big issue. The three shoes have quite different thread pattern but similar lug depths (4-5mm) so it was interesting to see how they performed.
All three shoes performed reasonably well on the slippery stuff. None of them matches a SpeedCross or and Inov8 X-Talon on mud for example, but over mixed terrain they all get the job done. The one that surprised me the most was the Raidlight – the grip and downhill stability is very good even though there is a lot of flat surface on the thread pattern. I’ve attributed this to the sheer size of the landing pad. It’s like laying a foundation every time you take a step. If I was to rate them for overall grip performance it would be 1. Raidlight, 2. HOKA, 3. Salomon.
In terms of overall comfort for the long hall, there is a clear winner here; HOKA SpeedGoat. The HOKA’s are really built to go all day. One of the problems I experienced with the Raidlight’s was a slightly numb feeling in my feet after a couple of hours. There is plenty of room in them and a good lacing system, so I have no good explanation for the feeling. The Salomon’s fit more like a regular runner that the other 2 types as they are smaller, lower and seem to have less material on the upper. I have always found Salomon’s comfortable but these are not up with their best and they’re not match for the HOKA’s.
The Salomon XA Enduro’s and the Raidlight Ultramax EVO’s won’t be tossed in the bin, they are both decent shoes. As mentioned in a previous review the Salomon’s have been downgraded to mid-distance shoes for me. The Raidlight’s will get plenty of use on long training days and group runs, but I can never imagine myself using them when there is another human or a clock racing against me! The HOKA SpeedGoat’s are a bit of a trail running classic, just like the Speedcross’ which I’m trying to replace. The live up to their billing as a great all rounder for long distance trail running and they will be my choice for an upcoming 24 hour event.