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.
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.
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.
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.
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.