Salomon Synapse Hiking Shoes review
Don’t call the new Salomon Synapse a hiking boot. Hell, don’t even call it a hiking shoe. For all the comfort I felt the first time I put these guys on my feet, I’d rate them something more akin to a hiking slipper. But that was at home. Judging by the light weight, ultra cushy feelings these shoes imparted, I had to wonder how they would perform on rocky trails compared to your typical hiking boot model. My fears were quickly put to rest as soon as I took them outside for testing.
Salomon says that the Synapse are the world’s first “natural motion hiking shoe,” meaning that the shoes work with the foot’s anatomical mechanics, rather than forcing your feet to conform to the shoe. The Synapse accomplishes this with its beefy midsole that allows the foot to roll through every stride, rather than stomping around like typical hiking fare. The result is that the Synapse effectively lets you cruise the trails faster. In fact, their motto literally is, “Run Your Hike!”
For proof, all you’d have to do is look at Salomon athlete Jennifer Pharr Davis, who broke the Appalachian Trail speed record, logging 2,181 trail miles in just over 46 days, all while wearing the Synapse. With that in mind, I took to the mighty Salt Lake City foothills with my own pair and made like a world-class Salomon stud muffin…. Okay, so the trails above downtown SLC aren’t exactly the same testing-grounds as the Appalachian Trail, but early spring hiking limited my options. However, the steep, rocky singletrack on hikes like Mount Wire and the Living Room still threw some challenging terrain at the Synapse.
Considering the slipper comfort, I figured that rocks would be easily felt underfoot, but no. The Salomon Synapse shoes felt amazing. In fact, traveling over anything rough made me wonder what sort of witches brew Salomon put into these things. The feeling was almost like the foam in the soles were magic – supernatually hardening into a protective shell with every pebble strike or roll over sharp fins of rock, then softening back into cushy comfort on flat dirt. I may have looked like I was hiking in sneakers, but I felt like my feet were pounding through rock gardens like they were encased in the burliest of backpacking stompers. They also had a propelling instinct that began with the OS Muscle Heel that rolls the foot into mid-stride then rebounds the stride at the end with the OS Tendon… kind of like a spring underfoot!
Along with the magic soles, traction is top notch. Many trails in the Salt Lake Foothills are as steep as hell with nary a switchback to be found. The Synapse made quick work of any loose, steep terrain, both up and down. In addition, the tops of the shoes are highly breathable and wrap around the foot like a huggy bear courtesy of textile uppers and Ortholite EVA sock liners cinched down by Salomon’s Quick-lace system with Sensifit.
Since the slogan of these shoes is “Run Your Hike,” I of course had to get a few trail runs in them as well. While the cushion underfoot makes the Synapse a bit less reactive than actual running shoes while rock hopping or cornering on singletrack, they definitely stepped up and made the miles pass by quickly and efficiently. I was especially impressed with how well they handled loose rocks on gnarly downhills.
If I had only one knock against the Salomon Synapse shoes, it’s that waterproofiness (or even resistance) is nil. The mesh-style uppers will get your feet wet quicker than a puppy going for a new bone. This generally isn’t an issue here in Utah where it never rains, but on the off chance that a storm is brewing on the horizon, you’ll be fleet-footed enough in these kicks to run back to the car lickety split. I went ahead and got them wet by splashing through some puddles, and found that they dried quickly thanks to that excellent breathability. So if you take them out for a long hike, just bring along an extra pair of socks and you’ll be right as rain.
Overall, I think that Salomon has invented a new breed of hiking shoe with the Synapse. They look and feel more like a sneaker or trail runner, but perform as well, if not better than, a standard hiking boot. With uber-traction, uppers that breathe, and a rolling-motion in every step, the Salomon Synapse are the perfect choice for hiking to the top of a mountain, then running back down.
For more, visit Salomon online.