Close up of white running shoes
Credit: Mark Jones for UKRunChat

What Salomon say: “A racing shoe that…benefits middle of the pack runners”

“The S/LAB Spectur running shoe, available in May 2024, is a racing shoe that features the same premium materials and technologies used in the shoes of elite runners, but in a design package that benefits middle-of-the-pack runners with a training plan and a performance objective. The S/LAB Spectur is not intended to be another training shoe, but a race-day shoe to help runners set their new personal record.

“The goal of the S/LAB Spectur was to design a running shoe that would help everyday runners be more efficient, much the same way “super shoes” do for elite-level marathoners looking to break world records. When Salomon’s Footwear R&D team dove deep into the topic in 2021, they discovered that modern “super shoe” designs were benefitting only a small segment of the running population—the most elite 4 percent who run at 14k/hr or faster (sub-3hrmarathon pace). They asked themselves how they could deliver a “super shoe” for runners who have different biomechanics than elites.

“Marlene Giandolini, Sports and Consumer Scientist for Salomon, explains: ‘Pace and biomechanics determine what shoe design will be efficient for runners and, as a consequence, most runners do not have the same functional needs as elite runners. Today’s super shoes have rocker shapes, carbon plates and narrow heels, and are built for an extremely exclusive group of elite runners. Our studies in the Salomon Sport and Consumer Sciences Lab found that for those who run slower, these super shoe designs were, in fact, impairing their efficiency.’

“With this research in hand, the Salomon footwear design team set out to build a super shoe for the majority of runners – people who take their running seriously and set goals, but do not have the same form, biomechanics or body types as elite-level runners. ‘We believe that elites do not have a monopoly on performance,’ Giandolini says. ‘Performance is a matter of mindset and commitment rather than pace and time. Therefore, our belief is that everyone who trains to beat his or her personal best deserves a super shoe that can help them do that.’

“Whether your goal is a sub 4hr marathon or a 45m 10K road race, the S/LAB Spectur delivers race-day exclusivity in an inclusive package for everyday runners. It’s lightweight (235 grams / 8.2 ounces) with a specifically engineered carbon plate, dual foam cushioning, and an enhanced midsole geometry to improve stability. The difference is in how those features work together to provide the right balance between propulsion and stability.

“Gatien Airiau, Salomon’s Product Line Manager for Road Running and an elite distance runner himself, said, ‘The question we asked was: How do you make running more efficient? Because that’s what super shoes are doing for elite runners who are chasing world records. We’re not trying to change anyone’s running form; the S/LAB Spectur does not change how you run. We’re trying to leverage your biomechanics and your pace to make the fastest shoe possible for you. We didn’t take an elite athlete’s shoe and then take down it to amateur runners. We started from scratch to make a shoe that gives everyday runners the same access to shoe innovations that elites have.’

“How did they do it? For starters, the patented design of the S/LAB Spectur features two layers of foam in the midsole to help deliver optimized, fluid transitions. The energyFOAM+ top layer is made from premium PEBA material to deliver energy return and unrivalled cushioning and “bouncy” responsiveness. The dual-foam layer works together with the rocker shape of the shoe to ease propulsion and improve the “rocking-chair” effect by moving the pivot point backward from where it would be in an elite runner’s shoe.

“As most everyday runners strike the ground with their heel first, stability and heel-to-toe transition have been major focus points in the S/LAB Spectur design. The carbon Energy Blade plate in the shoe has a unique shape that delivers a balanced transition from heel to toe. The shoe also has a wider heel platform than shoes designed for elite runners to improve stability. Finally, the upper of the S/LAB Spectur features more padding than an elite runner’s racing shoe because most runners spend far more time in their shoes than the fastest runners on the planet, meaning that they are looking for extra comfort. The shoe has an 8 mm drop.

“Airiau continues: ‘We have fast shoes for the elites, like the Salomon S/LAB Phantasm 2, and now, with the S/LAB Spectur, we have a speed shoe for the rest of the running population. For the people who have goals, but winning is not one of them.’

“To create the S/LAB Spectur, sports scientists at the Salomon Sport and Consumer Sciences Lab in Annecy, France, tested more than 200 different runners over more than two years in a project they called “The Democratization of Speed.” The goal: help everyday runners win their own race. The team started the project with a study that has since been published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology ( Chollet et al. 2022). First, they administered various physiological (oxygen consumption/energy expansion), biomechanical (stability and gait analysis) and sensory (assessment of heel stability and heel cushioning) tests to elite and non-elite runners running in popular “super shoes” that are designed for elite runners.

“Airiau explains, ‘Most brands since 2016 were innovating with carbon plated running shoes, but we thought maybe not all the people using them might be benefiting from them, so that was really the starting point. The speeds of elite runners and everyday runners are different, and the needs are completely different as well. Normally, the two groups do not have the same body shape or the same stride, meaning the technical answers that we bring to those sets of runners should be different. And that was the purpose of why we created S/Lab Spectur.’

“With the Sports Science Team, Salomon’s footwear R&D experts developed multiple prototype models of the shoe that would become the S/LAB Spectur, adjusting the shoe’s features along the way and measuring the effects on everyday runners using the same physiological, biomechanical and sensory tests to see what designs aided performance (and which impeded). When everyday runners performed the running test with both the S/LAB Spectur and one of the best-selling shoes on the market, the team discovered that the runners were able to reduce their oxygen consumption while using the S/LAB Spectur. This was a blind study conducted with 50 runners, running alternatively with S/LAB Spectur and one of the best-selling running shoes on the market.

“Giandolini says, ‘If you improve your efficiency, you save more energy and run faster later in the race. Let’s say you are running at 10 km/hour. If you reduce by 4% your oxygen consumption, you may, in theory, increase your running velocity by approximately 4.5%. That could translate to a 7-minute gain in your marathon finishing time.’
(Kipp et al., 2019, Frontiers in Physiology)”

What our reviewer says: “I have noticed an improvement in my timings without the need of applying more effort/energy.”

The super trainer for the average runner. This trainer is definitely super and nothing average about it. Firstly, they look amazing. I normally go for the more ‘out there’ colour scheme but these look brilliant. Along with great looks, they’re also super light. So much so, on a long run you hardly notice you’re wearing trainers!

Legs and feet of a runner wearing black leggings and white running shoes

Despite the lightweight nature of the trainer, they offer great support and gave me the confidence with every step taken. I have suffered with ankle issues in the past, but I need not worry with these.

I have noticed an improvement in my timings without the need of applying more effort/energy. A trainer I would highly recommend!

Reviewed by Mark Jones for UKRunChat, April 2024