Monday, June 06, 2022

Speedland SL:HSV Trail Runner Review. 11 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Valliere

Speedland SL:HSV ($375)



As was the case with the SL:PDX, the SL:HSV, at $375 is the most expensive performance running shoe we have ever seen or tested. 


The HSV has received several updates over the PDX:

1. New sticky Michelin compound for wet rock

2. Anodized aluminum Li2 BOA dials

3. Gaiter compatibility 

4. More durable Carbitex plate 

5. New black colorway with Liz Canty specific graphic details


As with the PDX, the HSV upper once again features Dyneema® fiber that is “15x stronger than steel at the same weight, with a tensile strength up to 43 cN/dtex. 

As well as its extraordinary strength, Dyneema® excels in cut and abrasion resistance and has a high resistance to chemicals and UV.”  And Dyneema also floats.

The upper is still secured by a dual BOA system, which are now Anodized aluminum Li2 dials with both cords and reels quite easily replaceable. The dual direction nature of these Boa dials are especially useful as the fit is very easy to adjust (tighten or loosen) on the run, even in micro amounts 

Same as before, we have a removable and now with the HSV, more durable Carbitex carbon fiber plate which is dynamically flexible (harder to flex on the way down then releasing energy with easier flex when unloaded)  which is unlikely to ever lose its performance characteristics Even the less durable first version, with the exception of a very small hairline surface crack, shows no signs of breaking down.

We now have an improved Michelin outsole, still with 6mm lugs as before, but with a more sticky rubber compound. As they wear, or if you choose, you can cut them to 3mm, though the shoe may lose some grip and cushion.  After running in the PDX for 10 months and 150+ miles, I have seen significant tread wear, which reinforces my inclination to NOT cut the lugs.  The new rubber outsole of the HSV, while stickier which can affect durablity, is proving thus far to be slightly more durable than the original outsole.  Please read on to see how they performed!


  • The first trail and really any run shoe brand with highly functional, customizable ride, fit and outsole.
  • Superb upper fit , adaptability to different foot shapes and swelling,  Ease of adjustment on the go from the BOA.
  • PEBA main midsole with 4mm of firm EVA below (without plate) delivers an energetic, softer, agile well protected ride.
  • Adding the carbon plate provides added protection in technical terrain.
  • New Michelin OCX 3 web outsole with deep 6mm lugs is surprisingly smooth on firm surfaces, provides cushion and  grips well in soft dirt, off trail and loose terrain with the new compound much more grippy on rock and especially in the wet.
  • Easy to disassemble at end of life and will be recycled by Speedland.


  • Price at $375
  • Weight increase of 1 oz. in my US Men’s Size 10
  • Carbon plate while highly effective on smooth fast terrain adds to cost and firms up ride. Is it needed? Might plastic do? 
  • The positioning of the BOA dials makes them susceptible to hits when running in rocky terrain such as rock gardens, boulderfields and especially when scrambling.

Tester Profile

Jeff runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 


Advertised Weight: men's 10.7 / 303g US9  (subtract 0.4 oz or 11g by cutting lugs to 3.5mm).

Sample: men’s US10: 12.25 oz/347 g

Weight of Carbitex carbon plate: 18g in size 10

Stack Height: 28/23, 5mm drop

6mm lugs, cuttable to 3mm

$375. Available now from Speedand here 

 Jeff's Highlights Key Features of the Speedland SL: HSV  (4:10)

First Impressions, Fit, and Upper

My first impressions of the SL:HSV are very positive, admiring the classy new black colorway with the trademark Speedland seafoam green accents (which I have really come to love over the last year), the shiny new anodized aluminum Boa dials and am eager to put the new Michelin OCX 3 outsole to the test in wet conditions.  Like the PDX, fit is true to size and the upper is exceptionally locked in with the dual Boa system.


The main upper with its Dyneema fibers is thin, dense and has minimal stretch. Given the characteristics of Dyneema which is “15x stronger than steel at the same weight, with a tensile strength up to 43 cN/dtex, in addition to its extraordinary strength, Dyneema® excels in cut and abrasion resistance and has a high resistance to chemicals and UV.” 


The upper on the PDX has proven to be very durable, as has the HSV thus far and I predict the same long term durability for HSV. Breathability has proven to be excellent as well, though the color black is inherently warmer in direct sunlight.


The heel counter is secure, stable and comfortable.  The dual BOA system is the best I have used and does a great job providing a secure and comfortable lock down with the triple straps that are so thin, compliant and pliable.  This is not the usual sloppy knit collar as it is robustly padded inside around the ankle and achilles for a very solid and comfortable hold.





I appreciate that the BOA system is so easy to use and unlike any BOA lacing I have used in the past,it  can be dialed in both directions to quickly and easily relieve pressure or add more tension in micro increments.  It is really convenient being able to back off a little pressure depending on terrain and conditions without having to completely loosen and start over with tensioning.



The upper, while having a quite closed mesh does  a great job keeping out dirt and sand and is simultaneously breathable.  The toe bumper is just a very thin overlay, but after many miles of rocky terrain, loose scree and talus, I have not yet had a bump, bang or stub of any consequence.


The external straps and BOA laces over the top of the stretch knit tongue are thin and pliable and clearly help with front lockdown in the broad toe box but are not overdone and overly rigid  thus helping make the lowish height work without issue. 

The integral tongue is a stretch knit and is thick enough to prevent any strap bite with the laces (booty style upper), when tightened, lying over the main dense upper and inside a rubbery underlay panel that also protects the foot from the dials which are completely flush. I have never noticed the laces or for that matter straps unless I really really cranked down on the dials. 

The dual BOA dials control 3 straps. Sitting below the top strap is the green strap which along with the front black strap secures the mid foot and forefoot together.  As the two dials function independently it is easy to customize your fit and of course easy to adjust it. The rear strap is controlled by the rear dial which is essentially the final lace up strap.

Also new for the HSV is gaiter compatibility, something that was lacking on the PDX and not easy to overcome given the unconventional retention system.  

This is a great feature to have added, since there was no easy way before.



As is the case with the PDX, the midsole consists of three distinct parts: a removable PEBAX main midsole, a removable and dynamically flexing and now even more beefy Carbitex carbon plate, and directly above the Michelin outsole a 4-5mm very firm layer of EVA for rock protection and stability. The black sidewalls you see above are actually the stitched on (with super strong and abrasion resistant Dyneema thread) wrap up outsole. The main midsole slips in and out very easily but remains locked in place once inside. 

Below the removable insole is a 5mm layer of very firm EVA which can be seen as the white layer below with the hole being where the main midsole glued in green post gently but securely locks top layer to chassis as well as holds the plate in place. The plate has never shifted or felt like it was moving in the shoe.

Essentially one can tune the ride for terrain, pace and distance even during a run. And in our testing with and without plates deliver quite distinctly different rides. 

Rock protection is provided by a combination of the plate (if in), a firm 4mm layer of EVA between the outsole and main PEBA midsole (and plate if in) and the 6mm lugs of what is a softer Michelin outsole. Without the plate you have plenty of rock protection but not quite the bullet proof firm layer of protection with plate in.

The plate itself is from Carbitex and unlike road super shoes it is flexible. Very unusually the DFX plate is also dynamic in its flex. It is stiffer when weighted and more flexible when forces are released. 

The HSV is, like the PDX, more agile and offers better proprioception without the plate and is still remarkably well protected under foot, easily comfortable and adept in rocky terrain without having to carefully pick a line or dance through the rock gardens.  



With the plate in, underfoot protection is further improved, protecting very well from sharp rocks and roots.  I personally find the carbon plate flexible enough to be stable in technical terrain and not have that tippy feeling that I found in other carbon plated shoes like the Flight Vectiv or even other overly stiffened shoes with a hardened foam or plastic rock plate.  



No matter how steep, technical, off camber or how fast I am going though the rocks, the plate is very protective and flexible.

I did notice in the PDX that the PEBA midsole foam does compact a bit over time, which was only evident when I compared side by side with the HSV out of the box.  Though I have not noticed this on the trail and if anything, I like the feel of the more broken in shoe than I do the new one as the worn one feels almost custom molded to my foot.  Basically, the PDX and the HSV just get better over time.  

With the plate, like the PDX, the HSV provides a very nice energy return, in my opinion, not a very distinctive pop, but a smoother, more subtle level of propulsion.  

Without the plate, the PEBA midsole foam on its own, still provides very good energy return, just without that slightly more noticeable propulsion of the plate.  Additionally, the feeling without the plate of less weight and better ground feel in its own right, gives the shoe a different enough feel, that it could be argued that without plate might be a better option and negate the benefits of the plate, depending on the type of terrain under foot, gradient, the runner’s gait, footstrike, weight, preferences or speed.  

The beauty of the SL:HSV is that you can make that decision on your own and even do it easily mid run, taking about a minute to remove or reinstall the plates at a quick, but not too rushed pace.


The new Michelin OCX 3 rubber outsole with its 6mm lugs, is even more sticky than the original and provides fantastic grip on nearly all surfaces and terrain.  I have found this outsole to excel on terrain ranging from rocky, technical trails, talus hopping, scree, loose dirt, scruffy off trail, smooth singletrack, rocky slab, roots, sand, etc….  Grip is also very good on snow and mud.  My previous concerns about wet traction of the PDX have been addressed with the new outsole, as I was able to test on a few truly rain soaked days here in Colorado (very rare) and would say that wet traction is much improved, where I never once had an unexpected slip or slide as I did occasionally have in the PDX, the new rubber is MUCH stickier.

Like the PDX, I would still rate the outsole durability of the HSV the new outsole as average.  I am seeing a similar wear rate of wear as the PDX, but fear not, as the deep 6mm of lug height leaves plenty of substance there to wear through.

Because of this, I would strongly urge anyone who buys this shoe, to not cut the lugs down which is an option here.  Instead, let them wear over time, as even at the full 6mm out of the box, I never found them to be bothersome or overly noticeable, running smoothly even on roads, rock and hard packed surfaces.



You can also drill drainage holes if you choose.


The ride of the SL:HSV varies, depending on whether or not you leave the plate in or remove it.

Plate In

I find the ride to be very responsive , smooth and compliant, with some noticeable energy return.  With the plate, there is added firmness and of course also more protection.  I think the quality of the ride with the plate in could be considered generally better depending on the terrain underfoot and runner preference.  I found the plate to be an advantage in just about every situation, providing added energy return when running fast on less technical terrain, as well as offering more protection on technical terrain without anything more than a slight weight penalty.

Plate Out  

The SL:HSV is not quite as responsive as with plate in, but still responsive, quick feeling and provides a wonderfully smooth ride with improved proprioception.  I think going with or without the plate will be a personal decision depending and I appreciate the option to choose. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

The SL:HSV is much like the PDX  in that the upper is so soft, flexible, comfortable, secure, breathable, durable, while the dual BOA dials are a joy to use.  The upper feels amazing out of the box and only gets better with time.  The modular design is an amazing idea and I appreciate the versatility here.


The improvements to the HSV are minor and incremental and the benefit much depends on whether or not you run in wet conditions or want to use a gaiter, the rest is mostly aesthetic.  


My only real concern here is that the HSV has mysteriously gained a full ounce in weight in my US Men’s size 10 over the PDX (new, out of the box weight), which I believe comes from the new outsole, as the Carbitex plate has only gained 1 gram and the midsole is the same weight.  I found the weight of the PDX to be about as much as could be justified for this shoe, acceptably good for all that it offers and running lighter than the scale implied.  I found the added ounce in my size 10 to be noticeable and the HSV not quite as lively as the PDX.  It is not a deal breaker and if you have not run in the PDX, you will not know the difference, or you can of course remove the carbon plate to reduce weight a bit.


Then of course there is the price.  $375 is a lot of money to spend on a pair of running shoes, even if you look at it as you would a piece of “equipment” vs. just another pair of shoes.  I have chatted at length with Kevin and Dave over coffee about all that goes into making Speedlands and their passion for the design, creation, choice of materials. Their no holds barred approach is unparalleled.  There are a lot of factors at play to make a shoe with the most premium materials and featuring a Dyneema upper, dual BOA and carbon in the mix, it is not cheap and no short cuts were taken.


Are they worth $375?  As I stated before, I’ll let you be the judge, but I can say that if you do pull the trigger, you will not be at all disappointed and I can almost guarantee,you will be delighted.

Jeff’s Score: 9.3/10

Ride: 9.5(30%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 6(10%) Style:9 (5%) Traction:10(15%) Rock Protection: 10(10%)

11 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Speedland SL:PDX (RTR Review)

Compared throughout, but in relation to the PDX, the HSV has much better wet traction, a more durable plate and gaiter compatibility.  Of course the HSV weighs a bit more and is not quite as lively in my opinion because of that.  Otherwise performance is overall very similar.  Of course you can no longer buy the PDX, so that is that!


North Face Vectiv Flight (RTR Review) and Enduris (RTR Review)

The Speedland exceeds the performance of the Flight and Enduris shoes, with much better fit, versatility, response, flexibility, stability, security and traction.

Craft CTM Carbon Ultra (RTR Review)

(Sam’s comparison from last year, but all still applies) The CTM Carbon Ultra leans more heavily towards dirt roads and non technical trails. For racing and training on that kind of terrain and especially for longer distances it is a more appropriate choice while firmer in ride and less responsive overall.  It certainly is less appropriate, agile and dynamic than the Speedland on everything else. Its upper is adequate  but can’t compare to the comfort and adjustability of the Speedland SL:PDX’s.

The Speedland ride actually reminds more of the plateless CTM Ultra (RTR Review) which uses a PEBA (same class of material as SL:PDX central insert but its minimal upper and higher stack make it mostly a road shoe.

Hoka Speedgoat (RTR Review) and EVO Speedgoat (RTR Review)

The Speedgoats have better cushioning and a longer lasting proven outsole, while the Speedland has a more accommodating fit, are more flexible and have  much better trail feel and agility.

Inov-8 Terraultra G270  (RTR Review)

The Speedland is far superior to the TUG270  in my opinion, at least for my running style and preferences.  The Speedland has much better fit for me, is more secure, is more responsive, has better protection and is much more enjoyable to run in.  The TUG270 with Graphene grip outsole has the edge in the traction department, both wet and dry.

(Sam’s comparison from last year, but all still applies) Disagree a bit with Jeff here. The G270 is a superior shorter distance fast pace, any terrain shoe for me. It is considerably lighter, more agile and almost as well cushioned. It doesn’t have the carbon and PEBA spring of the SL:PDX but gets close enough with plenty of response. It has superior grip and I believe will have better long term outsole durability. It is zero drop which limits its run range for me but it is a non “low” zero drop . While hiking in the White Mountains I found it more stable and almost as leg friendly as the Speeland if with somewhat less rock protection. Its upper is more than adequate but of course doesn’t have the comfort and BOA adjustability of the Speedland. Add some drop and a touch more cushion to the Terraultra and it would be no contest and at $160 you could get 2 plus pairs to one Speedland. 

Adidas Terrex X King   (RTR Review)

An early pioneer of the modular design, the X King utilized a removable midsole, very similar in concept to the Speedland, though without the plate.  While I liked the X King at the time of my review, I never felt inclined to run in it beyond and in hindsight, it had a pretty harsh and non lively ride, especially when compared to the Speedland.  The only advantage of the X King was the Conti deep lugged outsole, which I think had a bit stickier rubber and was better in the wet.

VJ Ultra (RTR Review)

The VJ Ultra is lighter, more responsive, has superior traction, an even more secure and protective upper and is overall a more nimble shoe.  The Speedland though, with the carbon plate, could potentially be considered a serious rival, or perhaps preferred for more extended outings especially on sharp rocky terrain.

La Sportiva Cyklon (RTR Review)

I think for pure, above treeline, rugged, all mountain rocky terrain, I lean toward the Cyclon, with its slightly better grip, upper protection, stability and a less exposed Boa dial.  


Adidas Terrex Agravic Pro Trail (RTR Review)

At $220, the Terrex Agravic Pro is one of the more expensive trail shoes on the market, but of course is not as much as the Speedland.  Both with a carbon plate, the Agravic Pro Trail has more cushion under foot, but is overly stiff, rigid and clunky.  The Speedland exceeds it  in performance in all regards.

The Speedland SL:HSV is available now at Speedland HERE

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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E said...

I'm curious--why is it that the vast majority of updates (from all brands) seem to result in a heavier shoe? Occasionally we see the opposite, like the Speedgoat 5, but that's only after weight gains in the two previous updates.

Jeff Valliere said...

E, not sure, but it seems to be a familiar pattern, minor improvements and weight gain for a few versions, then a complete revamp as technology and materials improve, then a drop (thinking Speedgoat 5 and Peregrine 12 as recent examples). I still think Speedland can (and should) drop the weight to something even lighter than the PDX without compromise.

Anonymous said...

Amazing review Jeff. These shoes on the other hand are triggering and offensive.

Anonymous said...

I feel like you have to look at a shoe with this price point as stated in the review as " Equipment ". You are receiving a shoe with has premium components and is going to aid you in your chosen objective .A shoe the multifaceted midsole and the use of Pebax and EVA must be a quite enjoyable ride. Would step away from my preferred brand of trail shoes to give this beauty a trot. Great breakdown and incredible review.

Nic said...

USD375 is just totally nuts - bet they will sell like hot-cakes...

Jeff Valliere said...

Thanks Anonymous and Anonymous.

Nic, yeah, $375 is a lot and given our household income and discretionary spending limits, these would for sure be beyond my budget. That said, there are plenty of folks out there with a much higher spending threshold, be it cars, houses, dinner or running shoes and if the Speedland fits your budget, there is no doubt they will be getting the highest quality shoe, the most innovative materials/design and excellent performance. Like the PDX, they will sell out for sure.

Dskid said...

I’d put forth the Saucony Switchback as a highly underrated comparison/alternative. Very similar form fitting design with BOA. Couple years and 100s of miles later in these things and I’m still spreading the word online about how amazing they are, in hopes that we’ll get a Switchback 3.

Other than the lugs being considerably lower, and no Carbon (good protection though) it’s 90% of the shoe as Speedlands at 25% the price.

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Dskid,
Our contributor Jacob Brady agrees with you and had the Switchback 2 as his 2022 trail shoe of the year in our year end recap here: If it does not return you might look at the NNormal Kjerg as an alternative. I this a similar ride is lighter but of course has no BOA.
Sam, Editor