Hi there, this is Kevin Ng, and I’ll be reviewing Speedland’s debut shoe, SL:PDX. If you are unfamiliar with the brand, it’s probably because they are less than a year old but is creating quite the buzz within the trail and ultra-running industry. When looking for a pair of running shoes, I’d like to catch the “F.E.E.L.S”: Fit, Energy, Economics, Longevity, and Stoke. So let’s hop to it!
One of the main features I was excited about is their PerformFit engineered upper with 2 BOA Li2 dials. As any trail runner can relate, the best fit is one you don’t notice. Whether you’re on the flats, slogging up a hill, or bombing down a descent, just want to focus on the trail and nothing else. This is by far the best fit of any shoe that I’ve worn in the eight years I’ve been trail running. The engineered mesh accommodates most runners, certainly for those looking for a snugger/race-like fit. The two dials are strategically located and small enough that it doesn’t get in the way as you move through your gait. Unlike BOA dials on most other shoes, where it only allows you to tighten once clicked in, the Li2 is multidirectional allowing you to tighten and loosen the fit without having to start all over like a rotary phone (if people know what that is). You would find this type of offering on cycling cleats but never seen on a trail runner. Although the 2-way feature is nice, I personally didn’t end up using it as much as I thought. Once I’m locked in at the start, unless I’m ready to bomb downhill, I just leave it and forget it. Still, I hope more shoes will adopt higher-end BOA systems because it allows for a more consistent fit from run to run, whereas traditional laces allow for a certain margin of slop.
I’m going, to be honest, Hoka Speedgoat has been my go-to shoe for the past 2 years, so I’m used to a certain level of plushness in my ride. The Pebax selected in this removable insert is soft relative to its stack height, but it’s definitely slimmer/stiffer than what I’m used to. It’s reminiscent of the original Salomon Sense Ride from 2017-2018. I should also note this is the first carbon fiber shoe I’ve ever owned or run outside of REI. SL:PDX offers a removable carbon plate giving the runner 2 different experiences. As someone who frequently runs in rocky and moderately technical terrain, I leave the plate clipped in. It gives me the responsiveness I need while also providing additional protection from sharp rocks underneath. The carbon plate is just stiff enough that I feel it after toe-off, especially while running on asphalt, but flexible enough where it doesn’t feel intrusive.
Yup, it retails for $375.00. That’s 375, $1 bills, that’s 25 Chipotle burritos with queso AND guacamole, that’s 3 pairs of trainers you can otherwise get. It’s a heavy price tag and the obvious question is whether it’s worth the heavy price tag? That’s really up to the individual consumer. Full disclosure, I did buy this pair of shoes with my own money with a 15% discount code via Dylan Bowman’s podcast, but I’m in no way compensated by Speedland or NWDC. I’m simply like many of you, a trail runner nerding out over the next coolest gear I can get dirty. The practical side of me screams “it’s just marketing”, but the shoe enthusiast in me sees the ingenuity and attention to detail this product has. From the Carbitex Plate, Dyneema knit to the Li2 BOA dials, it uses all premium products, and being this a limited batch production run, I can see they got to this price point. All that being send, this shoe is not meant for everyone. They’re plenty of shoes out there that can provide almost all the same offerings at a fraction of the cost. I do think other brands will take notice and reimagine what’s possible in the future of trail shoes.
As someone who runs primarily on Vibram outsoles, I was a little unsure of how the Michelin traction would fare. Having over 70+ miles of varying terrain, hard-packed, loose gravel, ice/muddy conditions, I wish it was a little tackier. The 3mm lugs are plenty to get there in the sloppiest of conditions. One cool feature is that the lugs are customizable to your needs whether you’re down in Arizona and handle mostly dry gravel/clay conditions, or if you’re like me and can get ice, rock, dirt, and bark all in the same run. For where I live, I choose to leave all my lugs as they are. There are also 2 drainage holes you can clip off with a pair of pliers (not included), but with a pair of synthetic wool socks and how the upper mesh is designed, I’ve found that water drains out fairly quickly, leaving the shoe as it is.
The SL:PDX also differentiate from any trail shoe is the moccasin design, where the outsole fully encapsulates the Pebax midsole insert. This not only protects the more pliable midsole from the abrasive conditions of the elements but also means the midsole could theoretically be replaced with a new pair once the old reaches its end of life which can give the runner as many shoes as long as the outsole holds up; even transition to a road shoe once the tread wears out. I reached out to Speedland, but they haven’t confirmed if a midsole sold separately would be something they would do in the future. If they did, perhaps with different options of softness, it would not only reduce the number of shoes tossed in the landfill but also help justify the high cost of the product.
In closing, as someone who’s lived in the Pacific Northwest most of his life and Portland for the past five years, I was excited and curious about a shoe named after my hometown. That’s one of the reasons why I pulled the trigger. I love their story as two individuals who’ve worked together in the footwear industry for over 20 years, deciding to forge their own paths in a very competitive market. It’s about taking risks, supporting local businesses, and celebrating entrepreneurship. Aside from being cost-prohibitive for many runners, this shoe can do basically anything you throw at it. I can see runners to a vert challenge, fast nearly anything you throw at it. From vert challenges to 100 milers and anything in between, it’s designed to be your go-to shoe. Their next shoe, SL:HSV (Huntsville, Alabama), which will be released by the time this review is published, should be quite interesting and should embody the technical and relentless terrain of east coast trails. I will certainly be interested to see how much carryover there will be in their second commission—cheers for now.
This post may contain affiliate links, for which Northwest Dirt Churners receives a small commission from any sale when clicked from this site. These commissions will provide entry fees for youth runners in Northwest Dirt Churners trail races.