Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Shoe Review: Salomon Fellraiser

Two runners walk into a shop...

I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere.  I'll have to think about it.  Normally, though, what happens when I'm one of those runners is that I see something on clearance that I'd like to try out, and end up buying some new kit.  Just before Christmas, I encountered a pair of Salomon Fellraisers on one of these "let's see what they have in here" visits, and somehow found my wallet opening.

To be fair, I've been been looking for a pair ever since I heard about them.  But, my general rule is never pay full price for something unknown just to satisfy my curiosity.  With a reasonable discount available, I bought a pair and waited until it was really nasty out to go and give them a proper test.

My usual test route is fairly local, up, down, and along Bredon Hill.  On the big day, I needed a decent length run, but didn't fancy cycling in the cold and wet.  So, I donned my road shoes, stuffed the Fellraisers in my pack, and jogged off to Elmley Castle, where the mud would be ranging from slippery and sticky to downright sloppy.

Wet, rainy, and muddy - perfect for a shoe trial.

The Shoe

In a nutshell, I view the Fellraiser as a mid-cushion, fairly flat, neutral, all-round off-roader.  It has the standard Salomon elastic lacing system.  The upper is a bit more substantial than the canvas Speedcross 3, and seems to release water very easily.  The tread is close-knit chevrons - much more so than I expected of a fell shoe, with considerably more lugs than you would find on a Speedcross 3.  Weighing in at just under 300g for my UK size 10, with a 6mm drop and reasonable level of cushioning, I would say the nearest comparison to anything else in my collection is the new Inov-8 Roclite 295.

Picture of the Fellraiser from Salomon's website - mine aren't this pretty anymore.

What the tread looks like out of the box...

The Fit

I've tried on Salomons of various types before, and always found the sizing to be out of step with everyone else.  True to form, I ended up with a size 10, compared to 9.5 in all of my other shoes (across 5 brands). EU size is 44 2/3, which tells me they really don't give a rats tail about conventional sizing, and just do their own thing.  That's fair enough, but I'd say you definitely want to try before you buy!

Once I'd found the right size, the fit is excellent.  I'm not a fan of the lacing system, but once I got it sorted out, the tension across the toe box and top of the foot was excellent.  I prefer laces I can re-arrange to help get a little extra tightness in the heel box, and I did struggle to keep the heel in place as well as I'd have liked.  I didn't have any rubbing or friction issues, but on the uphills, I felt like there was more movement than I get with some other shoes.  I may end up relacing with normal laces at some point, but we'll see what the Spring brings before I start to carve things up.



Aside from holding my foot, the next most important job of my shoe is to hold the ground. My usual route up from Elmley Castle is the one I chose for the Evesham Ultra.  At the bottom, it's incredibly muddy at this time of year.  Ranging from shoe-deep to shin-deep, with very little solid ground to connect to, the hill is the perfect place to check grip.  As usual, I slipped and skidded my way up through the filth.  Compared to my 2012 Crosslite XC test, I was practically skating on ice.  If anything solid appeared, I could grip onto it, but I wasn't digging into the mud as well as in my Crosslite XC or even my Roclites.  I stopped to have a look, and found that my tread-depth was minimal, with mud and leaves welded to the shoe.  Once I had 100m or so of grass to cross, the mud did release and I was back to having good grip again.

Mud stayed put longer than I'd have liked.
The wet and rooty trail across the top of the hill was no problem at all.  I felt well connected to the ground throughout, with enough cushion to comfortably handle any lumps and bumps.  Running down the hill on a combination of grass, rocky trail, and mud didn't present any problems.  Perhaps the mud doesn't stick as much when I'm actually running, as opposed to slogging like I did on the way up.  I'd say that, in a line-up against the Roclite and Crosslite XC, the Fellraiser matches grip on rocks and grass, but ranks 3rd of the 3 in proper mud.


I love it. Absolutely love it. If I can get the heel fit a bit tighter, then I would have nothing to complain about in terms of comfort.  The cushion is comfy, but not excessive. I had a few road sections on my route, and the Fellraiser coped nicely.  Compared to my attempts to wear the Speedcross 3, which I felt left me completely disconnected from the ground, the Fellraiser was nicely responsive.


As one expects of Salomon, the Fellraiser is an excellent shoe.  It is comfortable, versatile, fairly light, and has good grip.  It is also, compared to some of their other shoes, quite reasonably priced.  I don't always wear shoes to the end of their natural life - sometimes they just don't tick enough boxes.  These will get worn until they fall apart.

Addendum, Feb 2015:  This pair worked well through the winter and was my shoe of choice for the Eco-Trail de Paris, where it performed well on both the trails and the final 10K-ish of road/paved path.  A second pair made it all the way through the 2015 Rocky Raccoon 100.  The heel box was a little loose when walking (a bigger deal in the longer race), which resulted in a tiny blister on each foot.  I'd love it if they were a bit lighter, but they are comfortable, and that's the key!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2014 in Review

It's that time of year to think about what happened last year and what I hope will happen in the coming 12 months.  This year is a bit different to the previous few, in that I haven't really got a clue what the long-term goal will be - the result of my "A" race and biggest challenge at the Rocky Raccoon 100 taking place in just a few weeks.  Only when that is finished will I have any idea of what my body is willing to do next.

So, how did I get into this situation?  Well, I blame Nic.  We enjoyed our Scottish racing so much in 2012 that it seemed foolish not to have another go in 2013.  For a variety of scheduling reasons, it seemed sensible not to go back and run the River Ayr Way Challenge again, so I had a look at some of the other SUMS ultras and decided the Highland Fling might be fun.  That went well enough that I decided a 24 hour race might be a laugh, and that in turn went so well I decided to look around for something warm in February to shoot for.  Simple, really, until I stupidly raced the Bourton 1mi Challenge in July and tweaked some already tender body parts.  I'd been running quite quickly until then, considering the Spring of ultra training, but had to wind everything back in and let the injuries drop back into niggles.  The racing dried up until cross country season started, where I've been enjoying some mildly competitive speed sessions as I try to get everything back in gear.  Now, with a dodgy 50Km Boxing Day run under my belt, I at least think I can complete the RR100.  But, with no real confidence that I'll be recovering quickly, I've only got a trip to the Eco-trail de Paris in March on the calendar - all other planning is on hold until February.

Racing Highlights of 2013:

Pictures, according to the slogan, are worth 1000 words.  So, here are a few highlights of the year in pictorial shorthand.

The Adventure Hub Exmoor Ultra -the hardest race I've run to date.

The Tewkesbury Half Marathon - friendship is as inspiring as any running achievement.

The Highland Fling - I'm still paying for this one!

Endure 24 - wow!

The Dahlonega Firecracker 10K - first old git!

And first xx-yy age group lady, too!

Running in the mountains in the sunshine.

My first trip to the Peak District

Vicarious racing - Nic & Chris being ultra-awesome

Gear reviews! So much fun to do.

Finding new trails in Andalucia

Sunny running in November

Finish run, open beer, stand in the sea!

Boxing Day wet-fest, at least from the ankle down...