In Praise Of Salomon, The Trail Sneaker Taking Over Street Style

Photo: Courtesy of Jinnie Lee.
The global outdoor gear company Salomon has been around for a while now — since 1947, in fact — but in more recent years, you may have noticed that the brand's trail Sportstyle sneakers have quietly taken over as the must-have shoes for gorpheads (or for those who simply aspire to look like one). As the name suggests, the Sportstyle category — which was launched in 2016 — is where shoppers can find the brand's classic silhouettes and features, like the highly-dense Contagrip sole and ultra-supportive Ortholite insole, but reimagined through a fashion lens. What begets is a super functional, very comfy everyday shoe that stylish city folks in particular have gravitated towards.
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And aesthetically, these sneakers become unmistakable once you clock their trademark details: They've got the signature zig-zag on the sides, a fitted silhouette, and many of the shoes are held together with a corded lacing system known as the "Quicklace" (there are sneakers with regular laces, too). Salomons also come in an array of unabashed colorways — think: plums, teals, crimsons, butter yellows, even tie-dyed rainbows — that defy the neutral or earthy palettes you might expect from other outdoorsy clothing brands. When it comes to street-style trailblazers, it's no surprise that Salomons are worn by the likes of Rihanna, Bella Hadid, and Ashley Olsen.
While Salomons have been buzzing on the men's fashion scene for years — for instance, GQ named Salomon the "Sneaker of the Year" back in 2019 — it was only a matter of time till these trail sneakers started catching the eyes, and snatching the feet, of women. "We've been seeing a ton of support from women especially this last year and we've even onboarded some women's-specific accounts," says Bryan Diaz, the Sportstyle Marketing Specialist for Salomon North America, during our call. "It's definitely a lane we wanted to claim and we're supporting it as much as we can." To that end, nearly every Sportstyle model and colorway offered is unisex, with sizes ranging from 4 to 13 men's, which equates to 5.5 to 14.5 women's. Aside from the sporadic celeb footwear sightings, Diaz also mentions that the brand's organic link-ups have helped build cred with fashion people, as well: "We make an effort to put it on women and work with [women's] brands. We partnered with Sandy Liang for her New York Fashion Week show last fall and all of her models on the runway wore Salomons," says Diaz.
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For Geraldine Chung, founder and buyer of the Venice, CA shop LCD, recently stocking Salomon Sportstyle sneakers at her finger-on-the-pulse boutique was a no-brainer. "I bought my first pair of Salomons from The Broken Arm in Paris during Fashion Week in March 2020 and wore them almost daily during the pandemic. At first, I was noticing that a lot of guys were complimenting me on them," she recalls. (Diaz also credits The Broken Arm as the shop that put Salomon on the fashion map as Sportstyle's first major collaborator.) "[But when LCD] reopened in the summer of 2021, I noticed that every single girl in our office was wearing Salomon XT-6s!" says Chung. Starting an account with Salomon came about soon thereafter. "The amazing thing about Salomons is the slimmer form that really works with a variety of outfits," says Chung of the shoe's appeal. "I wear them with huge dresses, graphic pleated pants, joggers, anything. I'm currently obsessed with the Speedcross 3s that we carry — the tread on these shoes makes you feel like you're gliding on jelly clouds." Chung's shop isn't the only one aboard the Salomon train — you can find these shoes at a variety of both smaller boutiques and larger retailers like SSENSE, Nordstrom, and Zappos.
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I myself have been a wearer of Salomons since the pandemic, but I admit that I knew very little about the brand's vast offerings — so I enlisted Diaz to "walk" me through the Sportstyle category. (Those who are interested in the super technical stuff ought to check out the brand's Sports category which further buckets products into subgroups based on activity, like trail running, road running, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing.)
Under the Sportstyle umbrella, you'll find three subcategories: Sneakers, Advanced, and Intersections. "The Sneakers category is the majority of our season range — you'll find our most popular models like the XT-6, the XT-Wings, the Speedcross," says Diaz. "Advanced is for the crowd who's into not having what everyone else has — the styles are more exclusive and in fewer quantities that you can only find at tier zero boutiques." (Diaz tells me that tier zero refers to higher-end shops that have access to more exclusive products.) "And then Intersections is where we put our collaborations under, so any time we do a special project with a brand or an account or an individual," says Diaz. The boundary-pushing silhouettes from the Comme des Garçons x Salomon collab, for example, would be filed under Intersections.
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Photo: Courtesy of Jinnie Lee.
On left: The Quicklace weaved under the laces. On right: The Quicklace tucked into the tongue pouch.
Ahead of this article's publication, Salomon sent over a pair of the XT-6 for me to test drive, which is also the best-selling Sportstyle shoe by far. ("It's our classic. It’s become our icon," says Diaz. "The XT-6 isn't going anywhere.") The main differences I feel when I wear these shoes (as opposed to other sneakers) are the snug fit and the sole's firmness. At first, I was worried that these were going to be too narrow for my flat feet — but I was pleasantly surprised that the shoes actually cradle my feet all the way around rather than squeezing them. Next, the dense bottom sole, which Salomon refers to as the Contagrip, makes me feel in total control whether on mud or ice, or any uneven, loosey-goosey surfaces. (The next time I go on an outdoor trip, these will be the only shoes I'll need.) And, finally, I gotta mention the Quicklace system, which makes on-off wear impossibly easy. Every shoe comes with a "lace pocket" located at the top of the tongue where wearers can stuff the extra slack. You can also let the laces hang out (it's what Diaz says he does). While I'll always have a squishy spot in my heart for chunky sneakers, I can see why people are so drawn to the sleek, non-fussiness of Salomons — they're firm, grippy, and the perfect antidote if you dislike big bouncy shoes.
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When I ask Diaz what's coming down the pipeline for Salomon Sportstyle, he says people should keep an eye out for exciting developments, including unexpected collabs, new models, and restocks of frequently sold-out styles — all of which are coming from "a lot of passionate people on the team globally" (the Salomon HQ is in France, the North American group is based in Utah, and the showroom is in Paris). "We understand that we're hot right now because it's a trend, like technical footwear and outdoor gear, that trend. How do we push past that and become a part of the culture? We're really focused on doing just that," says Diaz. With the way things are headed stylistically (and with props to the brand's deep roots in the outdoor gear space), it's safe to say Salomon isn't a passing fad — the lifestyle brand will be treading around for a very long time.
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