Tag Archives: Trail shoe review

Ecco Biom Trail FL Review

Just so you know…

Being a running guide in Iceland has a lot of advantages. The obvious one being the privilege to run in such beautiful nature and actually getting paid for it. But there can be other advantages as well. Last fall, while guiding some Danish people, I discovered that one of them was working for Ecco. He was trying out the newest version of their trail shoe, the Ecco Biom Trail FL that will hit the stores now in February or March I believe. He offered to send me a pair so that I could try them out in the Icelandic mountains. However, I already had an extensive experience of their trail shoes and even though I got the shoes I’m about to review for free, I did buy the Ecco Biom Trail 1.1 with my own money and my review is in no way affected by the fact that the newer pair was a gift.

Ecco Biom Trail FL


Ecco Running Shoes

“We make running shoes not because we have to, but because we believe we have something to offer to runners.”

Is this just another slogan or does Ecco truly have something unique to offer runners?

Well, one thing is for sure. Ecco sure doesn’t  have to make running shoes. They are the third largest casual shoe producer in the world with 18,500 employees worldwide. Their shoes are known for their quality, comfort and style. So why should a company so successful at making casual shoes and dress shoes start making running shoes?

Ecco runs their own research center and before designing  running shoes, they did a whole lot of research. The result was the biom line which now encompasses everything from sandals and casual shoes to hiking shoes, golf shoes and running shoes. Biom stands for Biomechanical Optimization. The idea is to let the foot do what it does best and enhance it´s natural motion rather than work against it.

The Ecco Biom Trail FL, however, is far from being a barefoot shoe. It´s minimal but not radically so. It´s flexible in the forefoot where the foot flexes in running and is fairly low to the ground with a 7 mm heel to forefoot drop.


What Makes them Unique

So what´s the difference between these shoes and countless other running shoes with similar specs?  The defining factor of Ecco running shoes, besides superior construction, is the midsole.IMG_0122 This is where it get´s interesting. No other running shoes in the world (that I know of) uses injected PU in the midsole. Typically, midsoles in running shoes consist  of EVA foam, gel or some kind of combination of the two. The only midsole used in running shoes that comes close to the one Ecco uses is Adidas´ Energy Boost, even though it´s not quite the same.

The result is a cushioning that´s not as soft as in a typical running shoe, yet substantial. Because of the solidness of PU, it also means Ecco is able to shape the last without it getting distorted. They´ve made full use of this advantage by scanning the feet of more than 1000 athletes to come up with an anatomical last that suites most types of feet.  The density of the material also works great as protection from pointy rocks. So while the material isn’t the most flexible, it removes the need of an inflexible protection plate. Finally, it means the cushioning will last much longer than in other running shoes and won´t be as affected by temperature changes.


At 379 grams, weight is the downside of PU

The downside? If you like your running shoe very soft and cushy, these shoes are probably not for you. Also, the stiffness of of the material makes the shoe less flexible even though Ecco has managed to make it flexible where it counts. PU is also heavier than Eva foam and gel which makes the Ecco Biom Trail FL heavier than most other comparable running shoes.

Tested and Tried

In 2012, I bought the Ecco Biom Trail 1.1. The shoe has evolved since then into the Trail FL, but at core it´s the same shoe. I put more milage on those shoes than any other shoes I´ve run in. IMG_0132Yet even today, the cushioning feels the same as in the beginning. In fact, the only reason I stopped using them was because the upper finally started to fall apart and the grip was not quite as good any more.

I ran in the Ecco Biom Trail 1.1. in the woods, mountains, mud, snow, lava, rock, moss and grass. I did the Hengilshlaup in them 2012 (a 50 mile or 86 km mountain ultra). In 2013 I used them in Iceland´s most popular ultra race  (55 km) which is also one of the countries most popular hiking trails.

My Impressions with the Trail 1.1

So after taking  the shoe through fire and ice, what are my thoughts? First of all, it´s unlike any IMG_0129 IMG_0130
other running shoe I´ve worn. Because of the solid midsole, it feels like its a partly casual shoe, partly running shoe. When you start running, however, there is no question the shoe was designed to do just that.

The cushioning has a hard feel to it but if protection is the objective, it does the job superbly. If I want to spare my feet, these are the shoes of choice.  Some people might not like the hard feel but I really do. Nothing annoys me more than super soft cushioning that drains my energy. It´s not ideal for road running, however, so if your looking for a hybrid that you can use for roads and trails, this is not the right choice, but on the trail I really like the feel of the cushioning.

Natural Running

In general I like minimal shoes. I like them neutral, light, very flexible , low to the ground, preferably with a 4 mm drop and as much ground feel as possible.  That´s the kind of shoes I IMG_0108
enjoy the most running in because I feel they enhance rather than hinder the flow in my running. The Ecco Trail is a little bulkier and stiffer than such a shoe. But they are also sturdier and offer more protection. In long runs, my feet and calves don´t get as beat up when I use the Ecco Trail. The tradeoff lies in less ground feel and a bit heavier shoes but amazingly, I don´t feel they have a negative affect on my running form and flow. I love running in the Ecco Trail shoes and in my opinion Ecco succeeded in creating a shoe that enhances natural running in spite of being rather sturdy for a minimal shoe.

When I asked if they would not like to make an even more minimal shoe in addition to this one, Ecco´s representative replied that they might indeed do so in the future but that it required more research on their part. From now on, Ecco has decided to move away from road running shoes and focus solely on trail running shoes since it rhymes better with their focus on outdoors activities. All the more reason to be optimistic that we will see a lighter, more nimble trail running shoe in addition to this one from Ecco in the future.

What Has Changed?IMG_0124

The Ecco Biom Trail FL is considerably different from my old faithful Ecco Trail 1.1 But has Ecco succeed in evolving the shoe for the better? Have in mind theret one version in between these two shoes (Ecco Biom Trail 1.2) so some of the changes have already occurred .

Less PU in UpperIMG_0129

In the new shoe, the injected PU does not interfere with the upper as much. In the Ecco Trail 1.1
the heal and sides, especially the medial side, was given added stability by letting the PU from the midsole invade the upper so to speak. While it made the shoe visually unique, in my opinion it was not adding anything IMG_0118aesthetically. Neither was the added stability necessary. In fact, I like the heal much better in the Ecco Biom Trail FL. Even though the hard heel of the Trail 1.1 never caused me any troubles, I like the soft,
hugging feel of the new heal much better. I also feel the shoe looks better without the spacy PU that made them look bulky and weird.

The Outer Soul

The biggest change between the two shoes is without question the outer sole. One of the IMG_0136 IMG_0121unique features of the Eccom Biom Trail when it originally came out was an outer sole supposedly mimicked the plantar fascia which is the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. It connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. As a physical therapist, I find the idea interesting. I would even say it makes sense. But whether such an idea translates into a practical, functional feature is another story. It seem like Ecco decided it did not because they have dropped their innovative outsole for a more traditional looking. I quite liked plantar fascia feature and haven´t made up my mind if the change was a good move or not.

They also changed the shape and the pattern of the outsole. According to Ecco, the outsole is now more versatile. In addition to being ideal on soft ground, it’s supposed to handle Mountain running better with changing terrain like flat rocks.  I find this to be true, the shoes have a good general grip and this change is definitely for better.

Craftsmanship and Quality


Seems opened, a problem that has been fixed with the FL

Ecco is known for quality at a good price. And this is no exception. They use quality material,
and their craftsmanship is superb. In my old shoes, the upper was starting to fall apart (after extensive use, mind you). In the new ones, they seem to have fixed the problem. The more rubbery, protective material in the toes has been better integrated with the softer, more breathable material in the upper now. So I expect these shoes to last even longer!

The trail shoe comes in three versions. The standard one, which is the one I have, has an upper made of synthetics. Then there is a watertight Gore-tex version. And finally one made out of Ecco’s signature yak leather. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried the Yak leather but reviews are very promising implying great comfort and amazingly good breathability.

Closing Thoughts

As I mentioned before, the Ecco Biom FL is at the core still the same shoe as the first version and the feel of it when running is very similar. Which is a good thing because it´s a great shoe and quite unique. In general, I´d say the changes have made the shoe even better than it was, IMG_0120
which is not always the case with running shoes.

The Ecco Biom Trail FL is a quality Trail shoe that is bound to outlast any shoe you compare it to. So even though it seems a little pricey, with this in mind it´s really not expensive.

It´s a good choice if you´re looking for shoes that are kind to your feet and yet promotes a natural running style and a responsive ride. I would especially recommend them for long runs and races. For shorter races and tempo runs, I like a lighter, more nimble shoe with more ground feel. But that’s just my preference. If you´re used to traditional shoes with more protection and a 12 mm. drop, the Ecco Biom Trail FL just might spell out freedom for you and be a safe step towards minimalism.

Tell me

Have you tried the Ecco trail shoes? What is your opinion of them? Do you have any further questions about the version that’s coming out this spring?

La Sportiva Helios and Salomon Sense Ultra Showdown 

The showdown

The showdown

The La Sportiva Helios and Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra are similar shoes, yet with different approaches. The are both neutral, low to the ground (4 mm stack height), flexible and versatile. They are minimal, yet with just enough cushioning, protection and all-around grip to handle most  anything.

If you are choosing between these shoes, which one should you buy?  Instead of giving an in depth review of each shoe, my intent is to compare the Salomon Sense Pro with the La Sportiva Helios and help you make that decision.

I have both shoes and in order to compare them perfectly, I went for a run wearing one on each foot. I ran through various terrain such as rocks, gravel, sand, mud and grass. Yes, even lava and in the picture above you can see the two shoes where I stand on lava covered with moss–something you see a lot of in Iceland.

So what is the main differences between the Helios and the Sense?

The Upper

The Sense has a semi-sock called Endofit built into the upper that envelops your foot and keeps it tight. Add a curved shoe shape (last) which enables the sock to envelop your foot even further, and you have an unbelievably nice fit. The Salomon asymmetrical quick-lace is the cherry on the cake to enhance the fit and feel even more. As a result, the Salomon Sense feels like an extension of the foot.

The Helios has a more traditional upper and they do a good job of securing the foot and providing a comfortable fit. A gusseted tongue  keeps out trail debris. But with a straighter shoe shape (yet also rather curved)  and lacking Endofit, the Helios don´t provide the sock-like, hugging fit of the Salomon Sense. Both uppers work well but the Sense  outshines the Helios in this area. That´s not to the discredit of the Helios upper, but to the credit of the Sense upper which is exceptionally innovative and well performing.

The Shoe Shape

The Outsoles

The Outsoles

Inner Soles

Inner Soles

As mentioned, the Salomon Sense has a more curved last  than the  La Sportiva Helios. The curved last gives more freedom and flexibility. It provides a more natural feel, it feels less like you are wearing a shoe. But the straighter last of the Helios adds stability and for those who have flat feet and/or use orthosis, the Helios would probably be a better choice.



Both shoes are rather narrow. If you have wide feet, I would recommend trying them on before buying either shoe but normal and narrow feet should be fine. Both shoes also run a little small, so you should size up at least half a size, perhaps a full size even.


The cushioning is perhaps where the shoes differ the most. The Sense midsole is on the firm spectrum while the Helios has a more cushioned feel. Personally I don´t like too soft cushioning since it becomes less responsive. But the Helios does an excellent job of providing a fairly soft feel yet without being too soft and loosing responsiveness. They are more forgiving on hard-pack, going downhill and running longer distances than the Sense. The Sense, on the other hand, feels a bit faster and more responsive.


Medial vulnerability

Medial vulnerability

The Sense is medially exposed to rocks

The Sense is medially exposed to rocks

The Salomon Sense and the La Sportiva Helios have similar protection in the upper. It´s the underfoot protection that sets the shoes a part. The Salomon Sense has a thin plate, while the Helios counts on its more substantial cushioning to protect from pointy stones. The end result is similar, yet the Sense with its minimal plate offers a slightly more consistent protection than the waffle shaped Helios outsole.

The weakness of the Sense, however, in terms of protection, is the  medial part of the shoe. The curved outsole comes with a price. It leaves the medial part of the plantar fascia exposed to pointy rocks. When running in such conditions, I have repeatedly discovered this weakness. It has never caused any damage though, only slight discomfort.

The Verdict

The La Sportiva Helios and the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra are both awesome shoes. Neither one is likely to disappoint.  Both are fast and performance orientated, but the Salomon Sense is more so. So if you are looking for a fast trail shoe to race in, the slightly lighter Sense with its tight fit and responsive cushioning may be a better choice. But If you are going for an all around shoe to train and race in, the Helios with its more forgiving cushioning may be the  the way to go. However, both shoes work in both scenarios, so if you have a chance, try them on, run a bit in the store and see which one feels more like what you are looking for.

 Tell Me

Have you tried either or both shoes? What is your opinion? Which ones do you like the most?