Designed for maximum performance with no corners cut, Speedland's GS:TAM make their mark on the trails and your wallet.
Speedland – Ultra Boutique Ultra Shoes
Crashing into the consciousness of the running world with the release of the Speedland SL:PDX, the company announced themselves with a bang. Coming with a dual BOA lacing system, a Carbitex carbon plate, customisable and trimmable lugs, Speedland had created a trail super shoe for the longest distances in the world. A wonderful piece of engineering and a price tag to match. The release price of $375 was as breathtaking as some of the views its owners took in on their races. However, making only 1,200 pairs, research and development costs are harder to swallow in an economy of such small scale.
Fast forward a couple of years and Speedland have more models under their belt. Along with the increase in models and sales has come a drop in price. I was lucky enough to receive their GS:TAM. The bright orange behemoth is part of their self-described hyper-performance trail equipment range. Designed with an uncompromising eye for detail and a refusal to cut any corners, the shoes promised a lot. Did I float across the trails like a bullet with butterfly wings or did they score a big zero?
Weight in Speedland’s sample size: 309g (10.9 oz)
Stack height: 37mm heel and 30mm forefoot for a 7mm drop
GS:TAM Upper – Dual dialled tangerine dream
The upper is unmissable. Initially, the orange spacer mesh stands out from miles away through raindrops and sunshowers. Atop this orange mesh are a pair of BOA Li2 dials which pull the PerformFit Wrap foot hugging close. Toe protection comes from cap of firmer vinyl like material. Aside from the look of the upper, how does it feel?
Slipping the foot into the GS:TAM for the first time is a real pleasure. The shoe is a breeze to get on foot thanks to the easily opened BOA system. Once inside, the shoe opens to a very generous toe-box which is part of a very wide platform (on which, more later). Furthermore, the foot rests upon Speedland’s proprietary drop in midsole. This is a very thick layer of Pebax blended material to which it is possible to attach a Carbitex plate for additional propulsion. Sadly, I was unable to get hold of the additional plate in time for the review. Moving forward, I would like to see the difference it makes to the ride.
Moreover, lockdown is achieved with speed and simplicity thanks to the dual-dial BOA system. I have never used a shoe with the BOA system before. However, I hope that this will not be the last. One dial creates a lockdown on the upper and midfoot. Here, the thick straps of the PerformFit Wrap ensure that there is no pressure on the top of the foot. Added to this, the wires of the BOA system are positioned cleverly to avoid any discomfort.
As we move down the shoe, the second dial tightens the forefoot of the shoe. Again, it is easy to micro-adjust until the fit is just right.
On the run, the BOA system makes adjustments simple. A quick pull to loosen the shoe if the feet swell. A quick turn to tighten things up if the going gets more technical.
The only issue I faced with the fit and lacing was during one of my early runs in the shoe. On this run, I had tightened the forefoot too much. Unfortunately, this caused some irritation on the inside of my foot where the insole has a slight indentation removed.
However, this lesson learned, I managed to dial the fit in from then on and have suffered no issue since. During runs, the sock-like mesh of the upper contours well to the foot and the padding around the heel-collar keeps everything where it should be.
Comfort has been no issue during any of the miles. Whilst not very repellent to water or mud, the upper drains and dries quickly. Despite running through all manner of undergrowth, the upper has proven resistant to pulls or tears.
GS:TAM Midsole – Unconventionally transformative
This is where the shoe becomes even more interesting. Whilst most shoes have their carbon plate sandwiched between two layers of an external midsole, the Speedland GS:TAM shuns this conventionality.
Instead, we have the drop in midsole, mentioned above, which is a second layer of Pebax infused material to which the Carbitex carbon plate can be attached. This means that the experience of the shoe can be customised on the fly. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to test the shoe with the plate. However, I did get to experience the 100% beaded Pebax outer midsole. This is a huge, thick chunk of sole which keeps you marchin’ on for all your distance needs. With a 37mm heel which drops to a 30mm forefoot, the geometry helps to push faster through whatever the terrain holds in store.
When I got the GS:TAM out of the box, I was expecting the midsole to be softer than it feels. More akin to the original feel of a Saucony Endorphin Speed, it has a firmness to it which is not unpleasant, especially on softer ground. I have found that the GS:TAM gives good energy return, whilst I haven’t run any ultramarathons in it, I have run several longer runs in it, the longest being about 25 km on mixed terrain.
Whilst not as fast as some other options out there, speed is not an issue here. I found myself ploughing across fields at close to my road marathon pace without much effort being expended. This surefooted speed was also assisted by the width of the platform. The forefoot is very substantial and enables the pace to be picked up without any worries about a small rut or divot causing ankle injuries.
I have used the GS:TAM for both more rapid tempo style sessions on the trails as well as more socially paced plods through the fields. In each case, I found that the midsole delivered what I was looking for. When I wanted to push the pace, the midsole gave me bounce and energy return. When I wanted to have an easy jog, the ride was comfortable and supportive.
The only issue I found with the ride of the shoe was during a run where the mud was as thick as mayonnaise. This combined with the weight of the shoe (10.9oz in Speedland’s sample size) made for some quite heavy going. That being said, the width of the midsole did mean that where others slipped and stuck, I was able to keep on like a rocket.
During my testing, I have found that the midsole has started to break in some making it more comfortable on road sections of the run. I will be interested to see how this develops through the life of the GS:TAM.
GS:TAM Outsole – Bringing Bibendum to the trails
Once again, a tyre company takes the reins on outsole duty. This time round, French manufacturer Michelin is in charge. Two large slabs of Michelin Fiber Lite cover almost the entire outsole of the GS:TAM. There are a couple of areas of exposed outsole but the vast majority has the green rubber coverage.
A good selection of 4.5mm lugs do a good job of holding firm on every terrain which I have put the GS:TAM through. During our recent weather shenanigans, I have had the pleasure of deep, boggy fields, bone dry hard packed trails and everything in between. At no stage have I felt let down by the outsole. The only time where the shoe felt a little skittish was coming onto a very steep concrete decline when covered in mud and finding a very wet surface. There were a couple of shaky steps but once the mud cleared the shoe, I was back to being able to crush the rest of the descent.
Also included on the outsole are a couple of nubs which can be trimmed for extra drainage from the shoe. I have not yet taken advantage of this. Quite frankly, when the shoe has become wet, the drainage present has been plentiful.
GS:TAM – Versatility at a cost.
During my time so far in the GS:TAM, I have adored each run. I have wanted to take them out again, again, again. After my initial reticence to take them through the muck as they are such a striking shoe, they have become a staple of my weekly running rotation. I’ve found myself wanting to take to the trails more and more. Capable on both road and trail, there is speed and energy return there when it is needed along with comfort and cushioning when it isn’t.
I would love to try these with the Carbitex plate installed but sadly Speedland do not ship those overseas. Whilst this probably wouldn’t be my number one choice for a very fast trail race where I would probably favour the Nike Ultrafly, it would be a fine choice for long distance cruising and all day wear. That being said, these have become and will remain my go to trail shoe. The versatility and comfort makes it a simple choice for me.
The elephant in the room is the price. $275 isn’t cheap. This combined with the shipping restrictions means that they will probably not end up in most people’s rotations. This is a shame as they are an excellent all round trail shoe which has provided me with a lot of fun. I hope that Speedland are able to keep on growing their brand, reach and producing excellent shoes which become more affordable and available. This kind of quality should be tried by everyone.