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Review: Salewa Lite Train Trail Running Shoes

Since sharing my early impressions about the Salewa Lite Train last month, I’ve logged many more miles in them, 140 and counting. For product specs, more photos, shoe comparisons, and less informed insight, refer to my first post. Now, though, it’s time for a full-on review.

The Salewa Lite Train retails for $130. They are available from Amazon (mens, womens) and Backcountry (mens, womens).

With their low-profile platform, secure fit, and moderately aggressive outsole, I have found the Lite Train to excel on:

  • Technical trails and terrain
  • Shorter outings
  • Softer surfaces

At 260 grams (9.2 oz) for men’s size 9, they could certainly be used as a racing shoe. But they are sturdy enough for everyday training runs as well, as I have been using them.

I do not recommend them for pavement or multi-use trails, or trails littered with sharp rocks. And they will not be loved by runners or hikers who generally prefer more than minimal cushion, protection, support, or stiffness.

Due to minimal midsole cushioning, the Lite Train struggles on trails littered with sharp rocks, such as the east ridge of Mt Sanitas. The control and stability is there, but the impact absorption is not.

Due to minimal midsole cushioning, the Lite Train struggles on trails littered with sharp rocks, such as the east ridge of Mt Sanitas. The control and stability is there, but the impact absorption is not.

Let’s move onto the details:

Fit and sizing

The Lite Train is best for low- and mid-volume foots. My size 11.5 is true to size: I’m also size 11.5 in Altra, La Sportiva, and Merrell, and 11 or 11.5 in Salomon. It is a neutral shoe, with no supportive features and little lateral stiffness.

The upper fits snugly and feels very secure, but without pinching or pressure. I would attribute this to the combination of its ergonomic design and non-rigid upper materials (save for the heel cup). The Lite Train feels at least as good as the Salomon Sense Pro, which has been my all-around top pick for two years.

Since the two other models in Salewa’s “Mountain Training” category have quick laces, I was somewhat disappointed to find conventional laces on the Lite Train, as mid-run or mid-race adjustments take substantially more time. However, I haven’t found the need to make such adjustments — the upper stays put, and the laces don’t loosen.

No signs of fraying from normal wear. Light abrasion marks from being snagged on multiple sharp rocks. The toe bumper is beginning to peel away, and will need to be reattached soon.

No signs of fraying from normal wear. Light abrasion marks from being snagged on multiple sharp rocks. The toe bumper is beginning to peel away, and will need to be reattached soon.

Upper

My initial concerns about the upper’s apparent lack of air permeability proved unwarranted. Moisture quickly finds its way in when running through wet grass or puddles, and I have not noticed any excessive buildup of heat or moisture inside the shoe. But I’m not a prolific sweater and I don’t live in the humid East, so YMMV.

When new, the upper material felt boardy. After a long run or two, it became more supple and was taken off my list of concerns.

Long-term durability is not yet clear, but so far so good. These uppers have been snagged on multiple sharp rocks, and I only see light signs of abrasion. There is no fraying from normal wear. The toe bumper is beginning to pull away from the toe guard, and will soon need to be reattached with Aqua Seal.

The upper offers minimal foot protection when, for example, you accidentally kick a rock or jam your foot between two rocks. The toe guard is made only of thin rubber, so it’s more for abrasion than impact. And no rigid exoskeleton protects the remainder of the foot.

Underfoot cushion and protection

When new, the Lite Train’s midsole cushioning is already thin, with forefoot/heel stack heights of 12mm/17mm, which includes the moderately aggressive outsole. Unfortunately, this cushioning gets even thinner with use: EVA foam is not fully resilient, and slowly compresses. The Lite Train features a midsole rock plate, but it’s “very thin” (per Salewa) and its effect is correspondingly small.

The Lite Train is suitable for pea gravel, soft trails (dirt, leaf- or grass-covered), and for rock staircases, but I find that I have to dance through rock beds to avoid direct impact. Of course, that’s unavoidable all the time, and I’ve had several painful landings atop sharp rocks.

The lack of cushioning is my single complaint about the Lite Train. I know that some runners want ground feel, but it tends to be a liability for Boulder’s rock-infested trail system, or for long runs more generally. This shortcoming limits the length and duration of runs that I am willing to tackle with this shoe.

Outsole

The Michelin-made custom outsole sticks to rock, and bites well into soft dirt, grass, and leaves. Versus my other everyday trainers, the Sense Pro and Salomon Sense Mantra, the enhanced purchase is actionable, i.e. I can run more aggressively in the Lite Train than I can in the Salomons.

From my house, it’s a little over two miles to the trailheads for Green Mountain and Bear Peak, which are my go-to hills. The Lite Train is not ideal for paved surfaces or multi-use trails, but at least I can run on such surfaces without feeling the outsole lugs through the midsole (unlike the Salomon Fellraiser, for example). I’m uncertain if this is due to the outsole design, the midsole cushioning, or the minimal midsole rock plate.

Overall, the outsole is suitable for a wide range of trail conditions. It’s most at home in moderately technical terrain. But it will still roll well on flat singletrack, and keep an edge in mud and consolidated snow.

Its durability is about what you’d expect given its grippiness. By 200 miles, I think I will have worn completely away the two front-most knobs, where I seem to put a lot of torque when climbing. The remainder of the traction is still largely intact.


Disclosures: This post contains affiliate links. Salewa provided me with the Lite Trains for testing.

28 Responses to Review: Salewa Lite Train Trail Running Shoes

  1. Drew June 21, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    Hey Andrew!

    Just wondering if you can recommend a product or technique to glue down a toe bumper that is coming up like that. I don’t have the same shoes but I have the same flappin’ toe bumper I want to fix.

    Thanks for sharing so much about your outdoors experience, you’re an inspiration for many including myself!

    • Andrew Skurka June 21, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

      Yes, I can. Use Aquaseal Urethane Glue from M Essentials or Gear Aid, which are both McNett brands (good people, Seattle-based). You can probably buy it for less locally, and you might find something similar at a hardware store.

  2. Kody Aigner June 27, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    Mr. Skurka,

    I’m looking for a trail running shoe for summer hiking in wet climates, namely the Superior Hiking Trail. I’ve seen you mention the Fellraiser a few times and I have been considering a pair of those, but can’t seem to find too many quality reviews on them. I’m intrigued by the Sense Pro but am not sure how the outsole would fare on the muddy SHT trails. I’m mainly looking for something that has enough protection for long consecutive days of hiking that dries out quickly and has an aggressive outsole to handle copious amounts of mud. Thoughts?

    As always thank you for the in depth insight!

    -Kody Aigner

    • Andrew Skurka June 27, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

      For long consecutive days of hiking in warm temperatures and mud, I would not use either the Fellraiser or the Lite Train. The Fellraiser, ironically, performs poorly in wet conditions, mostly because the insole absorbs copious amounts of water and then accordions inside the shoe. You can change the insole, but then you’ll notice other issues, like how thin the midsole is.

      The Lite Train is a better shoe. But unless you love ground feel, I think it also would be too thin for long days of hiking. Instead, try:

      * Salewa Ultra Train
      * La Sportiva Bushido
      * La Sportiva Akasha

      These are all good trail running shoes with good traction and wet-weather performance, but not as minimal as the Lite Train or Fellraiser. Of course, there are dozens of shoes that provide more support and protection than these.

      • Gordon August 28, 2016 at 8:25 am #

        You have mentioned several La Sportiva shoes at different times, but never their Wildcats. Is there any reason to prefer, say, the Bushidos to the Wildcats? Except for the cooler name? 😉

        • Andrew Skurka August 28, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

          The Wildcats have an all-mesh upper, which tends to be more breathable but less durable. Also, the mesh is not as secure as an upper with a reinforced exoskeleton or TPU panels.

          • Gordon August 28, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

            OK, so I am learning a lot. Thanks! The description (at REI) for the Bushidos mentions TPU in the shank of the shoe, but looking at pictures of the uppers after your comment, I think I see what you mean.

            I would not have thought the Wildcats were in some way less durable, given that they weigh over six ounces more than the Bushidos. I wonder where that extra weight is coming from (and what it is doing for the shoe)? Maybe its the nylon versus TPU shank? The Raptor also has a nylon shank and also weighs almost as much as the Wildcats.

          • Andrew Skurka August 28, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

            I think the weight in the Wildcasts is largely due to the thickness and density of the outsole, relative to the Brushidos and Ultra Raptors.

  3. Chris Xavier July 30, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    Hey Andrew, great review. Quick question. what trail runner would you recommend for lots of rough on and off trail hiking. I hike it a lot of uneven rocky and rough terrain. At the same time, I like something pretty minimal and snug fitting. I hike barefoot through the high desert whenever I’m going less then 15 miles. As I take on longer and longer hiking challenges, The barefoot thing becomes less and less sustainable (specially on overnighters). I have a pair of sportiva bushido’s that work pretty well in the durability department; yet, I feel a big lack of sensitivity and flexibility when hiking in them—a feeling that I’ve become accustomed to over the past 15 years of doing day hikes with no shoes on. Would the lite trains be a good option? Or do you have any other recommendations. Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka July 30, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

      If the Bushidos are too stiff for you, then, yes, the Lite Train would be a possible option, and the best I know of. Maybe also the Merrell Trail Glove. You are an exception — most readers would never consider the Lite Train as hiking shoes.

      • Chris Xavier July 30, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

        Haha, I guess I am the exceptiom. Thanks for the insight. I’ll give them a look. . I have no problem with blisters or brushing/soreness from stepping on jagged rocks. My needs in a shoe are mostly just protection from heat, skin abrasion, and injury (I have been known to cut open the front ofy toes by kicking rocks while hiking barefoot). My gues is that this type of shoe could satisfy thos needs. As always, the quick response and informative answers are always appreciated. Thanks a lot.

  4. Billy August 11, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    Andrew,

    I live six miles from Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. I just returned from a five-mile bushwacking stroll in the forested areas near the lake. It was raining hard. Lots of swamps. And a major stream crossing. I’ve been using some leather ankle-high boots for my hikes for two years. But the ending is always the same: each boot becomes swamped and won’t drain. I got home and weighed by boots and socks. Seven pounds!

    I am wanting an ankle-high hiker that will drain the water, and provide a rugged sole to protect the bottom of my feet from very rough terrain. Think rocky knolls followed by water-filled potholes. It is absolutely impossible for me to come back from a hike and be dry. I stay off trails at all costs.

    • Andrew Skurka August 11, 2016 at 11:32 am #

      The Lite Train is a stretch for hiking. I would more seriously look at Salewa’s Ultra Train, the Ultra Raptor from La Sportiva, and Scarpa Proton. But you’re going in the right direction to get away from waterproof footwear — it is a scam.

      • Billy August 11, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

        Thanks Andrew. I found a pair of the Ultra Trains on sale for $85. What a deal. Looks like a rugged shoe.

        Incidentally, I have purchased your gear book and have considered the above-ankle boots you recommend in the book. I’m wondering if in the ensuing four years you have found a boot that you’re more fond of now. I can’t wait for your updated version of the gear book.

        • Andrew Skurka August 11, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

          Great deal. From what vendor?

          Can’t remember what boots I mentioned in the book. In any case, most recently I have been wearing the Salomon X-Ultra Mid ($160-ish at Amazon and REI) for hiking in cold temperatures and snow, including snowshoing. They’re comfortable and fairly light. Like all WP/B footwear, eventually the WP/B bootie will fail. For that reason I wonder if long-term you’re better off with a full-grain leather upper that you can restore to near factory-grade waterproofness with Snoseal.

          • Billy August 11, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

            Amazon has or had a great sale today. The water-logged boots I wore today are Vasque Summit. I’m very tough on boots. they’ve held up and well do okay in uplands/dry weather day hikes. Your take on non-WP shoes is about to change my life. The line in your book about “you will have wet feet” is why I’m getting back into backpacking. Until you said that I figured I was doing something wrong, like not having the right equipment, I am a huge fan of your methods/gear recommendations for backpacking. Can’t thank you enough formyour book and blog.

  5. Mike August 19, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

    Hey Andrew,

    I love your stuff. I am trying to nail down an ultralight/light shoe for mainly approaches to mountaineering routes and week long trips in the backcountry. Sometimes even a simple overnighter every now and then.

    Is there any shoe you would recommend?

    Cheers for the thought,

    Mike

    • Andrew Skurka August 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

      Earlier this week I received the Salewa Ultra Train, and it appears to be everything that I had hoped. It’s stiffer and has a more aggressive outer than the Lite Train, which means better underfoot protection and easier edging on side-slopes. But it’s still lightweight (10 oz) and low-to-the-ground. It could be used for running on aggressive trails, too.

      I need to test more, but right now it’s the best hiking shoe I have in my closet.

  6. Mike August 20, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    Thank you legend !! I’ll give that a go.

  7. Andy Cheng October 11, 2016 at 2:14 am #

    Hello Mr Skurca. I’m from Taiwan and I found that it’s hard to buy the shoes brand you recommend(salewa, la sportiva). Have you ever tried merrell, any recommendation for long consecutive days of hiking in warm temperatures and mud?

    I’ve tried kalenji xt6, the cushion and insole absord a lot of water. It’s breathable but need a lot of time to be dried.

    • Andrew Skurka October 11, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

      I have worn a few pairs of Merrells but I don’t know their line intimately. For backpacking I would probably try first the Merrell Capra.

      • Andy Cheng October 12, 2016 at 9:52 am #

        Thank you very much for your reply. I went to Merrell store today and there were lot of Capra, do you mean Capra rapid(https://goo.gl/DZ26IN)? I’m worried about other not waterproof Capra’s tongue and cushion in the heel will absord a lot of water and hard to dry.

        And I have other question about wearing not waterproof shoes. If the weather is cold, will you still wear not waterproof shoes, and how to keep feet warm in the cold or even rainy day?

        • Andrew Skurka October 12, 2016 at 11:46 am #

          I was thinking more of the Captra Bolt and Capra Sport.

          Lightweight shoes with breathable fabrics will dry more much more quickly than “waterproof” shoes will.

          For colder weather footwear, read this post, http://andrewskurka.com/2016/conditions-hiking-waterproof-footwear-winter-system/

          • Andy Cheng October 13, 2016 at 6:06 am #

            How about the cushion in tongue, heel and insole of Lightweight shoes with breathable fabrics?

            These three parts may absorb a lot of water. My Kalenji XT6(https://goo.gl/Fch5Zt)
            has mesh and is not waterproof but it’s hard to dry because these parts. Is that normal for lightweight shoes with breathble fabrics? The Kalenhi XT6’s composition is below, is there any material I need to avoid to pick a quality “Lightweight shoes with breathable fabrics”?

            COMPOSITION
            Outer sole of : 53.0% Rubber – Synthetic, 47.0% Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) Upper of : 55.0% Polyester (PES), 45.0% Polyurethane (PU) Lining and sock of : 85.0% Polyurethane (PU), 15.0% Polyester (PES)

            Thank you very much again.

  8. Peter June 5, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    Do you have any suggestions for trail running that starts along the sandy/rocky coast than up through usually muddy or dirt trails and back down rocky/dirt trail that crosses a Tidal water area. So any show with decent wet traction, dries quickly and doesn’t gain too much weight when wet. Not too many sharp rocks. I was looking at theses and the S lab amphib, but not sure if there’s others I should consider, thanks.

    • Andrew Skurka June 5, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

      These retain more water than the Amphibians, but relatively speaking they’re pretty good because there just isn’t that much to them. The main limiting factor with the Lite Train is that they are thin underfoot. The “ground feel” is really good, but I struggle to spend much more than an hour or two in them before I long for a more forgiving shoe.

      • Peter June 5, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

        Ok thanks, so I guess these won’t work for me. Have you tried any of the la sportiva Helios or the salomon S lab amphib? It’s tough to find any of these shoes at a local shop by me, so any suggestions are great, thanks again.

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