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Salming Trail 5 Performance Review

By Matthew Imberman

Salming has a motto, “No Nonsense” which seems appropriate for a Swedish company – I don’t think of Sweden. After all, this is the home of Volvo, a very safe, very practical car company, and that’s pretty much my experience with Salming’s shoes thus far. France? A soupçon of nonsense. Mexico? Mucho nonsense. The United States? WE HAVE THE BEST NONSENSE…TRUST ME….

…Anyways, I spent some time in Salming’s Distance 4 and liked how it transitioned, but ultimately didn’t gravitate towards it that much. Over the last year, I’ve clocked more miles in Salming’s En Route–the shoe the Trail 5 (provided by Salming for review) is based on than any other shoe I own, and I own a crazy…uh…never mind my wife might be reading this.

On to the shoe

The Good

The Salming Trail 5 is comfortable out of the box and requires no break-in. The lacing system is simple, the flat laces keep their tightness well, and the foothold from the midfoot on down is decent, with not much adjustment needed. The upper is pretty dang sweet, with three layers: a thin layer of soft, breathable mesh next to the foot, then a lightweight exo-skeleton that connects the lacing system to the midsole for enhanced foot wrap, and finally a fine mesh outer that keeps that does a solid job keeping out debris, enhancing airflow and drainage, and protecting the foot from scrapes. Super-solid upper entirely lacking nonsense. It still looks brand new, and it’s been through a good amount of mud, dirt, and rocks. The toe bumper is also functional as opposed to just aesthetic (*cough* Saucony Peregrine *cough*).

The midsole is similar to the En Route: supportive and comfortable but not too soft, and dependable if not precisely peppy. I never felt any foot fatigue and never really noticed the midsole in any particular positive or negative way. Not much to report here: just some foam, under your foot, lacking in most nonsense.

The outsole is grippy AF, with well-spaced lugs made from Vibram MegaGrip, which handles well in both wet and dry conditions. The lugs are moderately deep, and the pattern reminds me of the outsole on the Pearl Izumi Trail N1, one of my all-time favorite shoes. It clears mud reasonable well, and is overall a versatile outsole: it doesn’t out-do more terrain/weather specific competition but handles everything admirably enough to make it a safe choice regardless of the terrain or climate you expect (barring deep snow or mud).

I like the relative simplicity of the overall design, and even though the men’s colors aren’t as appealing to me as the women’s colors, you can tell this shoe was designed by an adult who doesn’t need to appeal to some inner-bro quality of today’s trail scene. There’s no shitty splatter paint, stupid mountain range name, or gimmicky rear rudder (I’m looking at you, Altra).

I don’t have a ton of miles in these shoes yet, but durability is fantastic so far. I got over 400 miles out of my first pair of EnRoutes, and I’d expect to get easily that many out of the Trail 5, assuming the upper holds up, which it looks like it will. Rock protection is also stellar, despite any additional rock plate.

Salming Trail 5

The Bad

There’s nothing glaringly wrong with the Salming Trail 5, it just feels, perhaps, a bit too safe overall, to go back to the Volvo metaphor. It’s like the design team slapped some lugs on the EnRoute and called it a day. The trouble is that the foot moves differently on the trail than it does on the road, and I feel like the designers phoned it in when adapting the EnRoute for the trails.

The upper of the Trail 5 holds the midfoot well, but I can’t seem to get enough grip on the heel to inspire the kind of confidence I want when tackling very technical ascents or descents. I have a similar feeling of heel lift with my EnRoute’s, which I also took in my standard size 12, and I was hoping they had gotten the fixed when they released the trail version. It’s not a deal breaker, but I do prefer a more secure feeling in the heel. That being said, I saw on the online that some guy ran the Barkley’s Fall Classic in these out of the box, so maybe I’m just a nit-picky asshole/pussy. I’ve been called worse.

The cushioning, while adequate for most distances (probably a 50M or less shoe for me) feels a bit dead sometimes, which I think more has to do with a relative lack of flexibility coupled with a full-coverage rubber outsole than with any inherent problem with the cushioning material itself. The Salming Trail 5 uses the same midsole as the EnRoute, and I love it in that implementation. The outsole also feels noticeably heavy in a way that throws off the balance of the shoe. It’s not that the Trail 5 feels heavy–it doesn’t–but instead of being one of those shoes that feels surprisingly light for its specs, it feels oddly off-balanced since the outsole is noticeably heavier than the upper. Think Saucony Freedom ISO, but not as severely unbalanced.

The full coverage outsole also feels a bit overkill. The protection is excellent, but maybe a flexible rock plate and a more segmented outsole would provide for high flexibility, which would help in technical terrain. It makes the ride feel safe, if not that exciting. Again, think Volvo (how psyched are you, Swedish readers, that I seem terribly versed in Swedish exports… oh wait, there’s Ikea I guess?).

I’m being really picky here, but for a company that touts itself as being no-nonsense, there is definitely marketing nonsense behind this shoe, to wit (from their tech marketing):

Recoil™ is a midsole compound that provides responsive cushioning; Recoil R™ is a heel insert that provides additional cushioning in the heel to soften landings; TGS 62/75 design offers the heel through the ball of the foot with extra stability and ends with a 75° line which promotes greater flexibility. It’s not that the foam isn’t comfortable, or that the way they designed the midsole doesn’t add to greater flexibility.

It’s not that the foam isn’t comfortable, or that the way they designed the midsole doesn’t add to greater flexibility; it’s that this is all marketing gibberish–in other words, nonsense.

Last ding: I almost feel like we should all chip in a few bucks to buy Salming a decent logo. They make some very versatile, enjoyable shoes. Their logo looks like it was designed by an office intern using MS Word in 2002. In fact, all of their shoes feature a grand, big ol’ “SALMING” on the side, which just seems kinda bush-league to me. I get that they’re a new brand and want people to recognize their shoes, but maybe take a page out of Adidas or Nike’s book and realize that sometimes less is more.

Salming Trail 5 Conclusion

In the end, the Salming Trail 5 is very much like the EnRoute: a very versatile, workhorse of a shoe. It’s light enough to move fast when it needs to, has enough cushioning to work for ultra distances, adapts well to a variety of terrain, breaths and drains well, and is built super solidly. I wish it had better heel hold and forefoot height, a bit more flexibility (maybe a more segmented outsole) an evener distribution of weight from upper to lower, and a less shitty logo. That being said, I think this is a competent, well-built, and dependable–if not overly exciting–trail runner that I can see logging more miles in.


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