Last time out, I wore my best North Face Gore-Tex Hedgehogs, which, frankly was a mistake; as the last thing you want to wear when wading through a chest-high peat bog is Gore-Tex. I might as well have filled a couple of plastic bags with sludge, stepped in and gaffa-taped them around my ankles…
So imagine my delight when a pair of Salomon Exit Aero rocked up at Jelly Baby Towers this week, just in time for me to start my bad weather training sessions.
Billed by Salomon footwear as ‘multi-sport shoes’, I have to say that they look more like lightweight hikers than bona fide trail running shoes. Or to put it another way, they’re a little more Mars Bar than Aero. However, with so much mud and gravel on my mind, the least I could do was strap them on and take them out for a slow but sludgy 11 miles through the dunes and along the beach.
First Impressions on the Feet
These are pretty sturdy shoes, without quite as much in the way of flexibility as I’d like. But on the upside, the ‘Contagrip’ soles are soft and massively grippy, and there’s a fair bit of cushioning all around the uppers and in the heel area too. Not to mention plenty of breathability.
They’re missing gaiters on the tongues, which I usually insist on for trail shoes, but in all fairness, with Hellrunner in mind, I’m looking for shoes that can let mud out more than keep it out. So that’s alright then.
While these things are also fairly wide, the laces allow for plenty of adjustment, meaning that I was pretty comfortable by the time I took a last bite of my Marathon (calling them Snickers is a modern fad I refuse to have any truck with) and set out for 11 miles of road, gravel, sand and sludge.
Hitting the road
While these things are pretty comfortable for walking in, they really don’t offer the kind of cushioning you need to run in them on Caramac, sorry, tarmac. So by the time I’d done a couple of miles of pavement on the way to the dunes, my knees were really feeling it and my hamstrings were tightening up.
It was with some relief then that I finally hit the trail proper, which mixes soft sand with Crunchie gravel for the next 3 miles or so. And I have to say, these things make great trail shoes for this kind of mixed terrain, as they offer a good balance of grip, protection and underfoot support that was a real Bounty at this stage.
The sole pattern also delivered fabulous grip, which almost made up for the slight lack of flexibility and gave me quite a Boost.
Yet the Salomons also impressed when I got to the beach and the blessed relief of the turnaround. Running on sand, the lack of underfoot cushioning really didn’t matter and they were supremely comfortable over every surface, coping well with the serious sludge too.
The Self-important Summing Up Bit
I’m a big fan of Salomon trainers, with my only complaint being that they don’t always last as long as I’d like them to. However, the Exit Aeros boast a very sturdy construction that leads me to believe I’ll be wearing these things for some time.
What I won’t be doing is wearing them over a paved area again. Ever. As there really isn’t anything underfoot to absorb the pounding that you need when you’re built like a Double Decker.
Having said that, I’ve been looking for a shoe that will be able to live with the unique demands of the Hellrunner series, and I think that in the Salomon Exit Aeros, I may have found them. So despite the fact that my hamstrings are still complaining about the lack of underfoot cushioning, I have to say that these are solid well-built shoes that make great hikers and decent heavy duty trail shoes for when you know there is only going to be gravel or soft stuff underfoot.
So while I don’t exactly love these things, they’re fit for purpose, so I’d have to be a real Flake not to give them a respectable Four Jelly Baby rating.