Speedland made a high-profile debut on the trail running scene last summer, grabbing attention for its debut model, SL:PDX, that featured the best materials available, numerous functional innovations… and a jaw-dropping price point. The Portland-based company also had an innovative approach to sales. The debut model was made in limited numbers and once they sold out, they were gone forever. It was clear that the shoe was made for a niche market of highly dedicated trail runners with sufficient disposable income to spend top dollar for an extra margin of performance.
Another part of the company’s vision was to collaborate with top ultrarunners to make specific shoe models suited to their particular demands, and the new SL:HSV is the first of those partnerships. The HSV is short for Huntsville, AL, hometown of Speedland-sponsored runner Liz Canty. In a similar fashion as the debut model, the SL:HSV was crafted in a limited production run that will be available only while inventory lasts. (Last time around, the production run was approximately 1,200, but specific numbers for the HSV are not being released.)
The general build of the SL:HSV, including the stack heights and adjustable component system, is very similar to the original model, but there are a few key updates that make the shoe well suited for Canty’s home terrain in the southeastern United States, particularly the rooty, rocky, gnarly ground and frequent water exposure encountered on the trails. It’s designed specifically to move quickly and confidently over technical terrain, and we had opportunities to test them in rocky scree and spring runoff conditions on an outing in the Sierras – these weren’t identical conditions to the southeast, but challenging, nevertheless.
Once again, the uppers of the SL:HSV use a PerformFit wrap system with a dual BOA dial lacing system, but a primary update is that the dials are made from anodized aluminum, which has a bit more durability and resistance to scraping against rocky terrain. Functionally, the dials operate the same as the previous BOA Li2 dials, providing dual-direction micro-adjustments for a precise fit. One very nice functional upgrade with these aluminum dials is the etching around the perimeter that improves your grip on them in wet or muddy conditions. In our experience with this Speedland shoe, as well as the previous PDX model, there is no better system for achieving the perfect fit around your foot, but they don’t hold their tension exceptionally well and have to be re-adjusted from time to time.
Another update to the uppers is the inclusion of gaiter attachment points at the heel and toe loop. In our testing, the sock-like fit of the ankle collar plus the secure wrapping mechanism of the upper do a pretty solid job of keeping grit out of the shoe, but for extremely sloppy conditions it’s nice to have this option. Otherwise, the uppers consist of Dyneema-reinforced mesh that is thin and flexible, breathes well and maintains impressive tensile strength and abrasion resistance; it’s an ideal material for resisting frequent impacts and intrusions, and for maintaining its integrity over the shoe’s lifespan.
The midsole of the SL:HSV is identical to that found on the PDX shoe, consisting of three separate components that can be removed or adjusted if you want to tinker with the ride quality, but as with the PDX, we found the pre-assembled arrangement the most satisfying. The lowest layer is soft lightweight EVA for a cushioned landing, and above that is a thick layer of highly responsive Pebax foam with excellent energy return and durability. In between these layers is a Carbitex DFX carbon fiber plate that is dynamically flexible, meaning it increases stiffness when it bends; this provides more power as you go faster but remains highly flexible at slower speeds. Thanks to its flexibility, the DFX moves with the foot’s natural running gait much better than a typical carbon plate, and it also doubles as a rock plate for impact resistance. The 28/23mm stack heights plus carbon plate protection make these a compelling option for ultra-distance running, but this will vary based on the individual runner.
The other key update to the SL:HSV is a new Michelin OCX3 outsole rubber compound that gives improved traction on wet surfaces compared to the original PDX shoe. This was a specific requirement by Canty, who needed a compound that can maintain its grip on wet limestone surfaces that are prevalent on her home trails. Its grip proved very secure on all the stream crossings we subjected it to, and we also felt highly confident on loose scree and steep descents. As with the previous outsole, the lugs are built standard at 7mm, but you can clip off the top 3mm if you run primarily on dry or less technical surfaces. There are also two small drainage ports on the arch of each shoe that can be punctured for more rapid water displacement if necessary. We kept the original lugging in place, which compromises the ride quality somewhat on road-to-trail starts, but it’s definitely worth it once we pass the trailhead.
Another carryover from the original Speedland shoe is the high price tag, which we addressed in our PDX review. Our ultimate life span for that shoe was about 400 miles before breakdown in the outsole and midsole affected ride quality, so we anticipate a similar life span out of the new HSV. During that time, you’ll enjoy a highly durable shoe with a customized fit, high performance midsole, and unmatched traction that allows you to run fast on the most challenging terrain, which for some users is enough to justify the cost.
The Speedland SL:HSV shoe is available in unisex sizing from www.runspeedland.com.
Features and Specs:
- Weight (size 9): 10.7oz
- Unisex sizing
- Stack height (fully assembled): 28/23mm
- Heel-toe drop: 5mm
- Upper: PerformFit wrap with Dyneema knit reinforcement and gaiter attachments
- Dyneema moccasin stitching of uppers onto midsole platform
- BOA Li2 Fit system with dual anodized aluminum control dials
- Midsole: Dual layer construction with lightweight EVA and Pebax foam
- Removable Carbitex DFX carbon plate
- Outsole: Michelin OCX3 rubber with 7mm lugs; customizable to 4mm height
- MSRP: $375