When the conversation about Trail and OCR shoes comes up you can be sure people will mention Inov-8, Salomon and VJ Sport. Swedish brand Salming don’t get much attention but they are hoping to change that with their UK relaunch. Already making waves on the US OCR scene (They are worn by curent Spartan golden boy Veejay Jones), the Elements 3 is the shoe in their lineup that is best suited to the demands of OCR and those trails where an aggressive tread is needed.
Opening the box, the elements 3 are a striking looking shoe, a bright orange / red with black detailing, the trend currently seems to be for bright shoes that stand out on the trail and I for one approve of this. Taking them out I was surprised by how light and flexible they were, feeling much lighter than the X-talon or XTRM. They have an 8mm lug which should be deep enough to deal with most conditions and their Toc-66 sole is a sticky rubber compound that I could hear peeling off the floor when I put them down. Salming have used a welded exo skeleton overlay to increase support and hold the foot securely, the overlays are also used around the toe box to give added protection from rocks and stones and provide added durability to common wear points.
Putting the Elements 3 on for the first time I was pleasantly surprised by the fit, roomy and secure. The upper is a lightweight mesh that is extremely comfortable with no stitching to cause any internal rubbing, it felt like putting on slippers. There is plenty of room in the toe box, one complaint many have with the XTRM and X-talon is that they are too narrow, now such worries here. There is room for the toes to splay and the upper reacts and shapes brilliantly to the foot. A cushioned tongue is held in place by elastic on either side to prevent slippage during the run, the laces are a thin rounded synthetic material that for me could easily be improved by using a flat lace as I always find this style prone to slippage.
So that’s the technicals, how do they perform? I have put close to 100 miles into the Elements now and tested them in a number of different conditions. I am lucky to have some fantastic trails right on my doorstep though it takes about half a mile to get there. Unlike many aggressive trail shoes where sections of road can be uncomfortable the soft rubber outsole absorbs the impact and the lugs do not cause discomfort. Once you hit the trails though they come to life, a low profile 4mm drop combined with the lack of rock plate and flexible midsole gives great ground feel and stability. It gives you great confidence to really attack the trail knowing you will be able to feel and react to anything you feel underfoot. There is a payoff to this though, you do feel every stone rock and root underfoot. If you are not a fan of minimalist shoes and want more cushion these may not be the right choice for you.
On technical terrain the Elements 3 tries to find the balance between flexibility and responsiveness, for me it comes down a little too heavily on the side of flexibility. On some technical descents I found them a little sloppy and this led to me being a little more cautious than I may have been otherwise. The grip though is another strength of the Elements 3 with the 8mm lugs dealing well with most conditions offering secure footing on dusty gravely trails, woodland paths and rocky single track. They even dealt well with the wet and muddy UK conditions of late February and early March, biting into the soft ground and allowing minimal movement apart from in the muddiest of conditions when only a Mudclaw will do. The sticky compound dealt well with wet rock and wood but doesn’t give you the same sense of security as VJ’s butyl rubber with it’s almost suction like adherence to wet rock, you can though be confident that it won’t let you down when needed. The drainage is also fast and the shoe quick drying thanks to the lightweight mesh upper which was an issue in previous models of the shoe but thankfully remedied here.
Salming have produced a great all round trail, it performs fantastically in most conditions though not all will appreciate the minimalist feel of the Elements and will prefer a shoe with a little more under foot protection. For those that love to really feel the ground and have that connection to the trail the Elements would be a fantastic choice. They also offer a very comfortable fit for those who may find other shoes too narrow and want more room. The Elements 3 is perfectly suited rocky rooted trails, single track and grassy muddy conditions and of course being Swedish they deal brilliantly with flat pack (sorry, sorry I couldn’t help it). I would have preferred it to have a little more responsiveness on technical ascents and descents but that is purely personal preference.
If Salming keep producing Shoes of this quality then we may well be seeing them on the feet of more and more runners on the start line in the future.