Heard on the Trail: Salomon May Offer “Custom” Shoe Program

After hearing continued rumblings since last fall from both Europe and State Side, the vibe is building that Salomon will likely offer a “custom” shoe program which treats the customer like one of their elite athletes- i.e. you tell them what you want and they build it.

Salomon’s elite athletes have gushed for many years how the company’s R&D department (or S Lab) in Annecy can rapidly (in days or weeks) turn out shoe prototypes for testing. This includes minor tweaks like a different outsole on an otherwise unchanged model (e.g. putting a SpeedCross outsole on a Sense Ultra for example) to totally unique examples with different midsoles, uppers, lacing, etc. Well, based on the rumor-mill it looks like some version of this might be offered to the paying public.

With no details on the specifics of the rumored program one might speculate that the program might include a number of uppers, midsoles, and outsoles  in the Salomon line-up (presumably from the S Lab line) from which one can mix-and-match to design a shoe specifically to one’s liking. The shoes would likely be made in Annecy and therefore will be very limited in total number produced. Also given the difficulties associated with production of custom shoes, only a small number of Salomon dealers worldwide (perhaps 50 total) and a few (perhaps 5) in the US would be the exclusive source for this service. Who knows what the pricing might be, but I would not be surprised to see pricing exceed $250 US per pair.

Kilian shoes Zegama 2016

Kilian’s prototype “monster” shoes with integrated gaiter and traditional lacing at Zegama 2016… what would you design? Photo credit: carrerasdemontana.com (link). My take on these shoes is that Kilian is going in a direction away from trail running races and fully into extreme adventure runs (or very difficult/technical trail races like Kima and Zegama). These shoes appear to be more fit for that type of use. I think we will see an increasing number of runners venturing into more extreme, off trail, efforts. And, therefore, a proportionate increase in the number of back country rescues and predator encounters!

Kilian clean prototype Zegama 2016

Kilian’s “monster” shoes early on (and clean) at Zegama 2016. Photo credit: trailrunning review.com (link). Emilie is also wearing this shoe, as shown in a recent (18 June)  twitter post.

Such a program represents potential for shoes with outstanding performance for specific purposes and running style, but also for production of some of the worst shoes ever produced by man. Given a combination of what little science there is on efficacious shoe design, the whims and reckless ideas of individual runners, and the importance of uniqueness to certain types, we may see some, let’s say, “very interesting” shoes coming out of a Salomon “custom” project. Perhaps Salomon will keep the combinations strategically limited to ensure that no obviously “bad” shoes are produced.

If this program does come to fruition, and if you think you have some tweaks you would like to see in your Salomon shoes, this may be a program for you.

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4 thoughts on “Heard on the Trail: Salomon May Offer “Custom” Shoe Program

  1. I would love to see that happen, but I wonder if the cost would be prohibitive.
    On the other hand, they could settle on what Adidas and Nike have been doing for a while…that would be easier, but not as revolutionary.

    • Hi Laurent,

      Hope you are well!

      I think that the price may not be an issue for the small number of customers wanting to “design” their own shoes- it would be a limited group. And, just for reference, Salomon introduced a carbon fiber cross country ski boot in 2015 after using it with elite skiers in the 2014 World Cups. The carbon boot body is made in the same factory that makes body and mechanical parts for Lambo. Price: $1200 US and they were sold out for the entire production even though the price was almost 3 times that of the most expensive competing boot. In 2016 they are still hard to source due to limited production. Perhaps the same will hold for this “rumored” program. But then again cross country skiers are winning and losing by fractions of a second and every last advantage is critical, whereas trail runners seldom have such close racing and ultra running competitions are even less contested. Just as in skiing the real market for such “custom” products is the masters age groups- older competitors who have plenty of disposable income and are not the least bit shy of spending it. Just look around at the starting line of a trail race or trail ultra.

  2. This does not surprise me, given that sister company Suunto has been offering a similar program for some time now.

    Selfishly I hope they do offer this, in some limited capacity, as I believe that there are some tweaks that I would like to better form a chosen shoe to my running style and typical running terrain.
    However, I wonder if this program would dilute the brand’s image, particularly the S-LAB line, and be damaging in the long run.
    A case could be made that the desire to tweak some shoes to be more suitable is because Salomon has too many shoes for too many specific roles…

    • Hi Aaron,

      Although I have no details, I expect that Salomon will limit the number combinations and substitutions, but who knows.

      As far as too many shoe types, I think that running is going the way of many other sports where it will be common for a serious runner to have a quiver of shoes to match the specific task at hand- some competitors already do this but not to a detailed level. This is certainly the case in cross country skiing. I am a serious masters competitor in skiing and I currently have 15 different pairs of skis. This type of thing is much more critical in skiing where the speeds are higher and the conditions more variable but, between classic (8 pairs) and skating (7 pairs), I actually must have this available selection to be competitive, in fact, my quiver, at the international masters level, is quite “thin”. The top World Cup skiers have over 100 pairs and some have a full time technician to take care of them and prep them for races. While running will likely never reach this ridiculous, detailed, level, I can see, for instance, having a number of pairs of “mud” shoes to pick from given the high variability of the types of mud that one might face and to actually try them out to pick one prior to a race (just as we do in skiing).

      I know there are those who will scoff at this notion for running, but I will just note the situation in cross country skiing when my Olympian wife competed in 88 and 92- she had two classic ski pairs (hard wax and klister) and one skate pair for racing and a few training skis. At the international and Olympic level now, you could not possibly be reliably competitive if you did not have at least 30 pairs of skis (15 classic, 15 skate) and a technician to prepare them. Running is clearly less intensive with the conditions not varying as much, and with slower speeds, but having a dozen pairs of different shoes with you as a professional trail runner (say three for different types of mud, three for different types of technical trail, three for varied buffed trails, and three for “mixed” condition trails) does not seem out of the question. Sounds ridiculous, but so did having 100 pairs of cross country skis as an international level racer 25 years ago! It is a totally different, and very expensive. world now.

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