Monday, May 6, 2019

Salming Elements 2 Review

 Guest Review by Mark Sharafinski Jr

This review of the Salming Elements 2 is written after approximately 65 miles of rocky and rooty Midwestern trail running, in dry and wet conditions. Comments by "part" of the shoe are below, followed by comments reflecting how this shoe addresses each component of the Salming "Rule of Five."

Upper: You know a Salming when you see it, and the Elements 2 is no exception. The green and blue men’s colorway is bold without being loud. The upper is constructed of a breathable mesh, similar to but softer than that of the OT Comp. It drains just as well, which will suit the obstacle course racers in the crowd. Well positioned Exo-skeleton overlays ensure durability in high-wear areas and provide confident foothold. The Rocshield toe cap is protective, but flexible and allows ample "headroom" in the toe box. I was bothered at times by an intrusive folding of the upper at the forefoot flex point, near the base of my toes; this never caused any blisters or abrasion and was likely exacerbated by my preference for running sockless. The forefoot is fairly roomy, especially for a technical trail
shoe, but could be a bit rounder laterally. The tongue is thin and soft with a welcome pull tab, emblazoned as usual by the Swedish flag. Like the rest of the upper, the tongue is adequately but not overly padded. I was initially concerned that the relatively high and firm heel counter would be uncomfortable, but I have yet to experience any issues. Lock down of my narrow heel is excellent on uphills and off-camber sections.

                                              "emblazoned as usual by the Swedish flag"

Insole: The removable 5mm insole was another source of apprehension before my first run in the shoe. Perhaps it was just my pair, but the insoles were slightly short along the lateral forefoot leaving a small gap between their edge and the upper. In practice, this never became an issue as the insole stayed in place and never rubbed the tips of my sockless toes. I found that running without the insole enhanced the shoe’s character, making it feel even lighter, lower, and more aggressive.

Midsole: Stack heights are listed as 18/14mm on the Salming website, which I personally find to be the sweet spot for a technical trail shoe. The offset feels like a true 4mm, with the slight drop allowing you to dig your heels in on loose, sketchy descents. Salming’s classic RunLite midsole is a perfect choice here, offering superb flexibility and ground feel as in the OT Comp. The lack of a rockplate has not been a problem, as the outsole lugs provide another margin of protection from trail hazards.

Outsole: A proprietary TOC66 outsole lines the under surface of the Elements 2. The rubber is best described as soft, which makes the prominent 8mm lugs very pliable. This gives the sensation of true grip, where the outsole feels like an extension of the foot by molding itself to the terrain. The lugs are not squarely, however, and dig aggressively into soft ground. Traction on mud, wet grass, and snow is excellent. It’s not all positive, however. The aggressive lugs come at a cost, specifically decreased contact surface area on wet hard surfaces. This was very noticeable and, at
times scary, on wet rocks and wood. For an otherwise confidence-inspiring shoe, this was a disappointing discovery.

                                                          Salming Rule of Five...
Image result for "salming rule of five"
1. LIGHT: Stated weight of the Elements 2 is 9 oz in US size 10. It feels light, even when saturated with mud and water.

2. FLEXIBLE: Highly flexible throughout, naturally more so at the forefoot “Ballet Line.”

3. FLAT: With a 4mm drop and very little arch support (especially sans insole), the Elements 2 has a very natural-feeling platform.

4. THIN: Low stack height and excellent ground feel make for an intimate, yet protected dialogue with the trail.

5. COMFORTABLE ANATOMIC FIT: As noted above, the Elements 2 is fairly roomy up front (for my E/2E width foot) but could use a touch more room laterally. Midfoot width is comfortable and the heel is secure, if a bit too structured.

In conclusion, the Elements 2 is a "nononsense" shoe that is outstanding for fast running or racing on technical trail. It will fit a variety of foot shapes and durability thus far is excellent. If the outsole compound can be adjusted to improve grip on wet surfaces, this will be a brilliant all-surface shoe that truly lives up to its name.

Disclaimer: Elements 2 shoes were bought for Marks own money. Review was written after 65 miles and reflects Marks thoughts of the shoe.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Salming Ispike Review

 Guest Review by Mark Sharafinski Jr

I will begin this review of the iSpike by saying that it is a visually striking shoe, with a vibrant
color scheme and bold branding - very Salming. The materials are first rate and befitting of a
shoe in this price range. The following thoughts are the result of approximately 100 miles spent
running in the iSpike over six runs, on a mix of snowy/icy roads and trails in the upper Midwest
of the USA. Comments by "part" of the shoe are below, followed by comments reflecting how
this shoe addresses each component of the Salming "Rule of Five."

Upper: I always run sockless, so a comfortable upper is essential to me. The iSpike upper feels
like a slipper on the skin, but has been protective and water resistant. My feet have remained
warm in temperatures down to -30oF, with wind chills near -50oF during the Midwest Polar
Vortex. The toe box is roomy in all dimensions, more so than the Trail 5 and great for my 2E
wide forefoot. The iceShield toe cap has saved my toenails on multiple occasions, but is
flexible enough to be unnoticeable. The ExoSkeleton lacing system initially put pressure on the
lateral aspect of my fifth metatarsal, but has broken in nicely and provides a secure mid foot fit.
Pull tabs on the tongue and heel are helpful for getting the shoe on/off quickly and should be
standard on every non-racing shoe. The tongue is nicely padded to prevent pressure from the
laces, which stay tied reliably. One potential opportunity for improvement is the ankle/heel
collar, which feels overly padded similar to the Trail 5. Despite this, I have noticed almost no
heel slip on uphills or off-camber.

"I always run sockless"

Midsole: I typically run in minimalist shoes with low stack height and little or no offset. The
iSpike has stack heights of ~25/20mm, which is near the upper limit of "thickness" for me. On
my foot, the shoe actually feels lower to the ground and very connected to the surface. Offset
feels like a true 5mm, or less. This combination of RECOIL+softFOAM feels firmer and more
responsive than in the Trail 5, especially in the forefoot. I predict this midsole will be resilient
and will not flatten out prematurely.

Outsole: The 13 tungsten carbide studs are thoughtfully placed and provide ferocious grip on
packed snow or ice. Even with significant mileage on roads, the studs show little wear and
there is no evidence of loosening. The studs cannot be felt through the midsole, unlike
commercially available traction devices. Vibram Megagrip Litebase is outstanding. In fact, it
feels like an overindulgence on a shoe that has metal studs for grip. On ice and snow, however,
I distinctly feel the rubber engaging the surface and contributing to grip. The Litebase version
of this outsole is clearly lighter than the standard version, saving weight and keeping the iSpike
very balanced.

"Vibram Megagrip Litebase is outstanding."

Salming Rule of Five...
1. LIGHT: Stated weight of the iSpike is 9g in a US Men’s size 10. It feels very light and
balanced on foot, especially for the traction and protection it provides.
2. FLEXIBLE: iSpike is reasonably flexible in the forefoot, but the mid/hind foot is stiff. This is
noticeable in hand, but not as much on foot.
3. FLAT: The stated heel to toe drop of 5mm feels true, although this is slightly more offset than
I prefer. The arch is also more pronounced than I like, but this is because I prefer zero arch
4. THIN: As noted above, the iSpike feels lower to the ground than its stack heights of
25/20mm. I prefer thinner, but in a shoe used for icy/frozen rutted surfaces the protection is

5. COMFORTABLE ANATOMIC FIT: As noted above, the iSpike is roomy in the forefoot.
Midfoot fit can be dialed in nicely with the ExoSkeleton lacing, but the heel is a bit too wide for
my narrow hindfoot. Overall, the proportions are reasonably anatomic.
In conclusion, the iSpike is an exhibit of Salming's "No Nonsense" philosophy - a true runner’s
shoe with premium materials and no gimmicks. It follows the Rule of Five to the greatest extent
possible for a snow/ice shoe. This shoe has allowed me to run safely and confidently outdoors
on days where others are stuck inside. Salming have a winner with the iSpike, and it has a sure
place in my winter kit going forward.

Disclaimer: Ispike shoes were bought for Marks own money. Review was written after 100 miles and reflects Marks thoughts of the shoe.