Salomon XT Wings S-Lab 4 Review
March 8, 2012 by Meghan Hicks · 48 Comments
At present, Salomon has three S-Lab models on the market: the XT Wings S-Lab 4 (billed for all-terrain conditions), the XT Wings S-Lab 4 Softground (for muddy, wet trails) (which is sold in the iRunFar Store), and the S-Lab Fellcross (for extreme off-roading and fell running). We all also know that the S-Lab Sense is due into world-wide retail outlets this spring.
The Salomon XT Wings S-Lab 4 ($170), with its robust name, is also a pretty robust shoe.
Over the years, I’ve been a fan of Salomon’s XT Wings and XT Wings 2 models. (A couple years back, I reviewed the XT Wings 2 GTX.) The XT Wings models are Salomon’s super-stable, all-mountain, cush-riding shoe. I’m a utilitarian kind of gal and like them, because I can wear them on most outings. While I’m not going to race in the standard XT Wings, they serve me superbly in training and in other trail play. Ninety minutes on snow-packed trails? Sure. An ultramarathon-distance training run in the high Sierra Nevada? You betcha’. A multi-day fastpacking trip in the backcountry? Holla’. The standard XT Wings have beef, hold up for hundreds of miles in tough terrain, and protect and serve your feet no matter what.
Among the current S-Lab models, I was most intrigued with the XT Wings S-Lab 4, because it was the S-Lab model closest to the XT Wings and XT Wings 2. If the word “S-Lab” rings unfamiliar, let me direct you to this article, which details what Salomon’s S-Lab is all about. Let’s call the XT Wings S-Lab 4 the sleeker, sexier version of the XT Wings 2. If the XT Wings 2 is your mountain play shoe, then the XT Wings S-Lab 4 would be your mountain racer.
Here are the most noticeable differences:
- My XT Wings S-Lab 4 weighed in at 301 grams (UK 8, EUR 42), a full 50 grams lighter than the same size XT Wings 2. Like I said, the shoe is more svelte.
- While the two shoes possess the same heel-toe drop (12 mm), the XT Wings S-Lab 4 has a lower stack height than the XT Wings 2, by a few millimeters. As a result, I can feel the ground in my forefoot more with the XT Wings S-Lab 4 than the XT Wings 2.
- The XT Wings S-Lab 4 upper, while almost identical in concept to that of the XT Wings 2, is effected with entirely different materials and, simply said, less of them.
- Finally, the XT Wings S-Lab 4 inner has far fewer seams than the XT Wings 2, creating less opportunity for friction issues.
The features of the XT Wings S-Lab 4 that make this shoe unique from trail running shoes made by other manufacturers include:
- the Quicklace system, which provides for a fast and even lacing/fitting experience (what Salomon calls their Sensifit) as well as a lace pocket (aka the lace garage) to hold onto that Quicklace;
- a rubber toe cap to prevent those black toenails we all get from stubbing our toes against obstacles;
- a triple-density EVA midsole, which provides a cush ride, as well as added pronation control to keep that ride stable;
- a Contagrip outsole with a chevron pattern designed to shed debris and grooves that provide forefoot flexibility; and
- the Agile Chassis System, which is the sole’s flared skeleton and which creates lots of surface area for the shoe to contact the ground as well as adding to the shoe’s stable ride.
Now that we have all the official details covered, the real question is, do I like running in this shoe? Heck yeah! I’m appreciative that Salomon brought the XT Wings models’ leading features (namely, the stable ride and bulletproof construction) into a lighter version.
You should know that Salomon’s shoes are generally narrow by many folks’ standards. I have long, skinny feet that slide perfectly into all Salomon models. My narrow feet notice and appreciate a wide toe box that allows my toes to splay wide. If you have average to narrow-width feet, you’ll probably find comfort in Salomon shoes.
Ladies, take note that this model is unisex (like all of Salomon’s S-Lab models), so there’s no custom features for us and our feet. The only place I notice a difference I could attribute to a shoe being designed for many kinds of feet is in the toe-box size. My toes love to stretch out, though, I can’t say that I mind that extra room in the toes.
I like the organic, on-the-ground feel that’s achieved through a lower stack height. My feet would poorly tolerate a long fastpacking trip in the XT Wings S-Lab 4 with how much of the ground and its deviations I can feel, but we’re good to go for a 20-mile jaunt.
Since it’s winter in many necks of the woods still, I’ll say that I love the extra surface area afforded by the XT Wings S-Lab 4′s Agile Chassis System for the way it helps me stay afloat in snow.
My only complaint about the XT Wings S-Lab 4 is that, for me, they don’t play on pavement quite as well as standard XT Wings models. Honestly, I have no idea why, but my feet slap the pavement a bit in the XT Wings S-Lab 4 as compared to the XT Wings models. I don’t spend too much time on roads in these shoes, but I do run stretches of pavement to connect trailheads. Trail performance of the XT Wings S-Lab 4 usurps this small road issue, for certain.
If you need me, I’ll be out on the trail with the high-performing XT Wings S-Lab 4.
Call for Comments
If you’ve run in any of the Salomon S-Lab series of shoes, what have you thought about the shoes?