Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Speedland GS:TAM Review: Fun, Happy, Brimming with Character. 10 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Valliere and Dom Layfield

Speedland GS:TAM ($275 + $35 for optional Carbitex Plate)


Jeff V:  The GS: TAM is the 3rd and latest from Speedland, designed in collaboration with Dylan Bowman and named after Dylan’s home peak, Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, CA.  

Since Dylan is originally from Boulder, CO and is a Broncos fan, the colorway subtly pays homage with its orange color and blue accents with the outsole a sea foam green, otherwise known as Speedland green. 

The TAM is a big leap from the previous PDX and HSV models, as the TAM adds a significant amount of midsole stack height, while dropping weight.  The TAM retains the amazing dual BOA Fit System Li2 dials and a superb fitting, versatile upper.

Speedland says:"Ten percent of all GS:TAM profits are given as a direct donation to athletes' chosen outdoor organizations.At the end of its life cycle, GS:TAM owners can return their equipment to us where we'll disassemble and distribute each layer to its respective recycling facility."


Very well cushioned: Jeff V, Dom

Comfort: Jeff V, Dom

Traction: Jeff V, Dom

Impeccable quality and craftsmanship: Jeff V

BOA Fit System: Jeff V, Dom

Price reduction: Jeff V


Weight: Jeff V, Dom

Slightly oversized. Consider dropping down a ½ size: Dom

Heel retention could be improved: Dom


Official Approx. Weight: men's 10.9 oz  / 309g (US9) 

  Samples: men’s US 10: 11.5 oz / 326 g (12 oz  / 340 g with optional carbon plate) 

Stack Height: men’s 37 mm heel / 30 mm forefoot. 7mm drop

$275. Available from Speedland HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jeff V:  I had the pleasure of attending the TAM introduction party back in November at the BOA HQ in Denver with Speedland founders Kevin and Dave, as well as Dylan, where we got to see a video about the deep collaboration between Speedland and BOA, got a tour of the BOA facility and was able to try on a pre production model of the TAM. I used to think companies would just buy BOA dials and slap them on a shoe (and maybe some of them do), but I was in awe at the level of collaborative effort and testing over time to create a very effective integration between the BOA Fit System and the shoe.

The upper is described as “Spacer mesh with strategically placed high tenacity fiber” with a “PerformFit™ Wrap of 2 straps activated by BOA® Fit System featuring multidirectional dual-dial Li2”.

The mesh is thin, flexible and breathable, while simultaneously very durable.  The toe bumper is flexible, but adequately protective.

The dual BOA Li2 dials are exceptionally fine, snugging up the PerformFit wrap (two thin, light and flexible straps over the top of the shoe) to comfortably snug up the mid foot. 

The dials are two way and very handy for micro adjustments on the go depending on foot swelling, terrain or preference.  

The fit of the TAM is true to size in regard to length, but it is a very voluminous shoe, which, for my narrow low volume foot, requires a good bit of snugging to achieve proper foothold on technical terrain. 

I have a tendency to over tighten and on steep downhills feel pressure on the top of my foot in this over tightened state, but I have been able to back off the pressure by reversing the dial a few clicks and can find comfort without sacrificing too much foothold.  

For the technical and steep terrain running that I run, coupled with my slim foot, the fit here is not ideal for this terrain, but I find performance and foothold to be adequate for short bits of technical running.  That said, for all but the most technical steep trails , the fit and comfort is excellent and ideal for those looking for comfort and adjustability over the long haul.

In the photo above, you can see how when I tighten adequately for technical terrain, there is excess material and some bunching.  On steep downhills, this can put some uncomfortable pressure on the top of my foot, but if I back off the tension a few clicks, I can relieve the tension enough to be more comfortable and still maintain a reasonable foothold for all but the steepest, most technical downhills.

The heel counter is flexible and secure while the collar is nicely padded.

On the back of the shoe is Dylan’s Freetrail logo, referring to his trail running culture platform and podcast here.

Overall, I find the upper to be very good despite the voluminous fit.  The BOA Fit System does a fantastic job dialing in the upper to accommodate a wide range of feet, but for sure it is more geared toward larger, wider feet and those preferring more room and forgiveness for longer distances.  I sometimes wonder if going down a half size might help, but the length feels about right in my normal size 10, so maybe not.

Dom:  Unlike Jeff, I’ve had no previous experience with Speedland, and I knew nothing at all about the SG:TAM until I put them on.  Apart from the shoes being visually unusual, what was most striking was the sensation of my entire foot being in a bathtub of foam.  I’m very familiar with shoes where your heel sits in a foam bathtub, an innovation of questionable value that I associate most strongly with Hoka.  But the Speedlands are the first shoes where I’ve experienced this construction both fore and aft.

Dom:  The fit of the GS:TAM is very roomy throughout the shoe: front, middle, and rear.  Consequently, if you’re on the fence regarding sizing, I would suggest dropping down.  As a wide-footed toe wiggler, I enjoyed the spacious forefoot.  The excellent strap and BOA Fit System provides plenty of range to cinch down the midfoot.  So it was only the back of the shoe that felt loose around my narrow heels.

Dom: Once in a while, when running on off-camber terrain, landing on the outside of my foot caused the BOA buckles to dig into my foot slightly.  This was not wince-level pain, and would be insignificant in a training run, but if you were planning to run in these shoes for upwards of twelve hours, it’s possible this might become an issue.


Jeff V:  The proprietary drop-in (removable) midsole is made of Pebax elastomer and is lighter, thicker and softer than the previous HSV and PDX but is overall of the same design.

As with previous models, the TAM is carbon plate compatible, but does not come with the carbon plate as was the case with the PDX and HSV.  

This is a great move, as the shoe is now $100 less. You can buy the carbon plates separately for $35 if you so choose, or, if you have a PDX or HSV, you can transfer them over to the TAM presuming the shoe size is the same.

Above: a drawing of Mt. Tam fire tower.

The TAM is a big shoe and has a lot of stack and cushioning.  The Pebax has a very light foamy/airy feel that is not nearly as dense as the PDX or HSV, which I found to be a bit firm. 

The TAM just eats up trail impact and provides excellent underfoot protection.  I prefer running them with the Carbitex plate on board in the PDX and HSV models, not so much for propulsion, but for protection. 

The TAM is so much more cushioned than the previous models, I prefer to not use the plate at all, as I found that the plate stiffens the shoe unnecessarily, adds weight to a shoe that is already creeping up on heavy, dulls the ride and at least for my running gait, does not offer any noticeable propulsion.  

My longest run in the TAM was 17 miles on a variety of surfaces from dirt road, steep technical singletrack, buffed out singletrack and some steep technical off trail and I found the TAM to be energetic and fun to run in.  While not a super fast shoe, the TAM is reasonably responsive and cruises along easily keeping the legs quite fresh.  Downhill performance is very good, as the cushioning feels bottomless without feeling mushy or unstable.

Dom:  I really enjoy the feeling of Pebax foam midsoles.  This material provides a lovely bouncy energetic feel that enlivens a shoe’s ride.  But is there such a thing as too much?  The GS:TAM certainly pushes the limits.   

There is such a prodigious amount of foam in this shoe that the shoe is already pretty stiff in torsion and flexion.  The carbon plate increases the stiffness further, to the point where it definitely feels too much for me, making the shoe feel clumsy and ponderous. Perhaps a heavier runner would disagree.  

Like Jeff, I felt the GS:TAM was a better shoe with the plate removed.  That of course raises the question of whether the shoe would be better: (simpler, lighter and cheaper), without the multi-piece sole that enables the plate to be inserted and removed.


Jeff V: The Michelin Fiber Lite outsole now has 4.5 mm lugs vs.6mm previously and as in the PDX and HSV they can be cut down.  I personally cannot fathom a reason to do this on a trail shoe especially a very expensive trail shoe and one now with more reasonable 4.5mm ones  unless you are primarily running on roads, but then why not just get a road shoe?  Either way, the option is there if you so choose.  

There are some cut outs of various shapes and sizes to segment the outsole rubber and aid in flexibility. 

As was the case with previous models, there is a nub that can be cut for drainage (there were two on the PDX and HSV), but this is another modification option that I have not had the need to consider.

Overall I find traction to be very good on a wide variety of terrain, be it steep and loose off trail, some snow and frozen snow, rocky slab, in the wet, hard packed dirt, a little mud, etc…  Durability so far is proving to be very good, with very little wear thus far, so I would say the TAM has above average durability.

Dom:  As Jeff describes above, the outsole grips well across a wide range of conditions. In particular, on the gritty loose surfaces that are common around Los Angeles, traction was excellent and predictable.  In fact, as good as I’ve ever tested.

My concern is durability.  Even though the GS:TAM is less expensive than previous Speedland shoes, $275 is still a lot of money to pay for a pair of shoes, and I would find this a lot easier to swallow if I knew the shoe is expected to last, e.g. 1000 miles.  Hopefully that Michelin rubber outsole has tremendous durability to match the tremendous price tag!


Jeff V:  The ride of the GS:TAM is amazing, very smooth, well cushioned, steady and stable with enough response and energy to run efficiently for long miles over just about any terrain.  I find the ride to be much better without the plate, as the shoe feels lighter and more flexible. At least for my running style, the addition of the plate takes away from my enjoyment of the shoe and does not seem to be an asset here.  Maybe larger, more powerful runners could find some benefit in adding the plate.

Dom:  Mirroring Jeff’s experience, I liked the shoe far more without the Carbitex carbon plate, so my advice would be to save your money.  With the plate inserted, the shoe felt uncomfortably stiff, less stable on rough ground, and didn’t provide any obvious upside.  

Even without the plate, this is a big, heavily cushioned shoe.  Due to the Pebax midsole, however, it feels lighter and more nimble than one would expect, with a pleasingly energetic ride.  Despite the very roomy fit of the upper, foothold was also better than expected.  Notably, on steep descents in which my foot would typically slide forward in the shoe, the contoured forefoot depression held my foot in place and minimized toebang.

Dom:  For me the obvious downside in the ride relates to the 7mm heel-to-toe drop.  I’m not a zero-drop zealot, but I don’t like shoes with a lot of drop.  I find a large drop makes a shoe hard to toe-strike in, makes the shoe heavier than it needs to be, and makes the shoe torsionally stiffer than it should be.  37 mm of stack at the heel is just more foam than I could ever imagine wanting.  The 30 mm at the forefoot already provides plenty of rock protection.  The GS:TAM would be a better shoe if Speedland were to decrease the heel to toe drop.  This would make the shoe lighter, less stiff, and more agile-feeling.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Dom:  Not having tested any Speedland shoes previously, the GS:TAM came out of nowhere, and surprised me.  I was skeptical that I would enjoy a shoe this big and heavy, but I found I really liked it. It’s a fun, bouncy, happy shoe that feels much lighter and more nimble than I expected.  I liked the BOA lacing system, and particularly the bidirectional dials that have been lacking from previous BOA shoes I’ve tested.  I was also happily surprised by the excellent grip provided by the Michelin outsole: on sandy, gritty, loose surfaces, the traction is as good as I’ve ever experienced.

I’m psyched to see boutique brands like Speedland emerge that are trying new approaches to making trail shoes.  Kudos to Speedland.  That said, I do see room for improvement in the GS:TAM.  The 7mm of heel-to-toe drop feels like too much for me, particularly in a shoe with this much cushioning.  And given that the removable carbon plate is superfluous, why not skip it altogether and simplify the construction?

Dom’s Score:  9/10 😊😊😊😊😊

Summary: Don’t judge by the numbers alone: the GS:TAM is fun, different, and brimming with character.  An alternative choice for those who prefer the road less traveled.

Jeff V:  The GS:TAM in my opinion is a big step forward for Speedland with a lighter, more forgiving midsole foam,  higher stack and lighter weight combined which greatly improves the ride, cushioning, comfort and usability for longer distances.  

With so much stack/cushion, a very adjustable upper to accommodate a wide variety of feet/preferences and a light, and an energetic feel for the weight, the GS:TAM is ideally suited for long distance ultra races or all day adventures on just about any terrain, or as just a solid daily trainer.  While $275 is still a lot to spend on a shoe, when you consider the performance, technology (specifically the dual Li2 BOA fit system) and the expected durable longevity of the shoe, the price seems much more acceptable.

Jeff V’s Score: 9.5/10

Ride: 10 - these are a joy to run in, well cushioned, stable and responsive

Fit: 9 - a bit of a struggle for my narrow feet in technical terrain, but is very good for all but the most tech terrain. Those with larger volume feet will rejoice.

Value: 9 - $275 is still a lot, but a significant drop in price from previous models with the TAM offering much more.  Plus, they are quite durable and I believe will last longer than the average shoe.

Style: 10 - They are eye-catching and stylish, I love the color combo here with the orange dominating, blue accents and Speedland green outsole/accents.

Traction: 9.5 - traction is excellent for the intended purpose of this shoe.

Rock Protection: 10 - even without the plate, I have not felt any rocks underfoot yet no matter how rocky.


10 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Speedland HSV (RTR Review)  Speedland PDX (RTR Review

Jeff V:  Compared throughout, the TAM has much more stack/cushioning (37/30 vs. 28/23), is lighter (12 oz with plate vs. 12.25 of the HSV with plate) and is softer and more lively.  The fit is more generous with clearly a wide ultra focused fit.  The lugs in the TAM are 4.5mm vs. 6mm previously, so not quite as good on loose technical terrain, but the TAM still has very good and should now have more smoother terrain versatile traction.  The TAM is also less expensive and a far superior shoe for most circumstances.

Brooks Caldera 6 (RTR Review

Jeff V:  A very close comparison, comparable weight, close in stack (2mm less than the Speedland), both are wide and very similar in overall (large) mass.  The Caldera has an accommodating fit, but the TAM is even a bit wider.  The dual BOA on the TAM is a real advantage with dialing precise fit quickly on the go.  Both shoes are great options for ultra distances or just a comfortable daily trainer.  Of course the Caldera is almost half the price.

Hoka Speedgoat 5 (RTR Review

Jeff V:  The Speedgoat is lighter, more responsive, more agile and superior in more technical terrain, with better traction and precise foothold.  The TAM though is better for longer miles with a more forgiving accommodating fit.

Dom:  Both big shoes with tons of cushion.  The Speedgoat is slightly lower stack at 32/29 mm, compared to 37/30 in GS:TAM.  Speedgoat is lighter, softer, with traditional construction and feel and is considerably less expensive.  GS:TAM is bouncier and has sexy BOA dials.  Speedgoat is the obvious choice on paper, but why be boring?

Asics Trabuco Max 2 (RTR Review

Jeff V: Another very close comparison, comparable weight, close in stack (6mm more than the Speedland in the heel), both are wide and very similar in overall (large) mass.  The Trabuco has an accommodating fit, but the TAM is even a bit wider.  The dual BOA on the TAM is a real advantage with dialing precise fit quickly on the go.  Both shoes are great options for ultra distances or just a comfortable daily trainer.  As with the Caldera, the Trabuco is almost half the price.

NB MoreTrail v3 (RTR Review

Jeff V:  The NB has 7 more mm of stack in the heel and is a bit lighter even.  While the NB is deeply cushioned and plush, foothold and stability for me are iffy, where the TAM feels much more stable and planted.  

Salomon Glide Max TR (RTR Review soon)

Jeff V:  The Glide Max is lighter, faster and more responsive, with a very energetic feel with plush deep, stable cushioning.  The TAM upper is more secure and adjustable, where the Glide Max can feel a bit unstable in technical terrain, where the TAM can just steamroll through.

Salomon Ultraglide 2 (RTR Review

Jeff V:  The UG 2 is lighter, but with less stack and firmer foam. It is more of a medium distance shoe with the TAM would be better suited for longer days with a wider, more adjustable fit ( the dual BOA) and more substance underfoot.

Hoka Mafate Speed 4 (RTR Review

Jeff V:  The Mafate is lighter, quicker, more agile shoe, with deep cushioning, although with less stack and is not quite as stable as the TAM.  

Hoka Challenger 7 (RTR Review

Jeff V:  The Challenger 7 is much lighter, impressively light for the stack height, although with not quite as much stack height as the TAM.  The Challenger is not quite as wide and stable, but its performance is impressive on less technical trails, whereas the TAM is more competent when the going gets rough.  The fit of the Challenger, while very good, is not quite as accommodating as the TAM.

Dom:  GS:TAM is more cushioned (37/30 stack vs 31/26 mm), more spacious, has better traction, BOA lacing, and bouncy ride.  But Challenger 7 is far lighter (9.2 oz vs 11.5 oz in US M10).  If you have a narrow foot, Challenger may be a better choice. For me, the Challenger 7 was a near-miss.  What was tantalizing was that Hoka could make a shoe with this much protection at an astonishing weight.  But the shoe felt imbalanced, with a humongous heel.  I remain tempted to take a knife to the Challenger to see how much better they feel with a bit of trimming!

GS:TAM is available from Speedland HERE

Tester Profile

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Dom 51, trains and competes mainly on trails in Southern California.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the 2018 Los Angeles marathon in a time of 2:46.  In 2019, his only notable finish was at the multi-day Dragon’s Back race in the UK.  In 2022 Dom finished 4th in the Angeles Crest 100 and was 10th in his age group at UTMB.

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Anonymous said...

For me, this shoe is disappointing, because of that high-volume upper. To get it to be even remotely locked-down in rocky, off-camber, or steep stuff, I've got to crank the dials down to the point where I feel them digging into my foot, and even then, I have so much mobility in the shoe that it trashes my feet (hot spots and straight-up abrasions in places I never get them). I have a wide, medium volume foot, too. I think the gs:tam would be awesome for mellow trails, but beware otherwise.

Jeff Valliere said...

Yeah, the fit here definitely leans towards those with wider feet and a preference for roomyness over the long haul. I can manage the fit OK, but like you have to crank the dials to run technical terrain and then find myself having to back them off. Definitely not my first pick for ripping steep tech.

Anonymous said...

"The Speedgoat is lighter, more responsive, more agile and superior in more technical terrain, with better traction and precise foothold. "

I fail to see why would anyone spend twice as much money for the GS:TAM when the Speegoat is a superior shoe and certainly more than capable of tackling a 100-miler .Customizable, superior foothold was one of the main selling points of Speedland's previous offerings. It does not seem to be the case anymore.
Just for bragging rights ?

Andreas said...

"Jeff V: The Mafate is lighter, quicker, more agile shoe, with deep cushioning, although with less stack and is not quite as stable as the TAM. "

So I'd chose the (cheaper) Mafate any day over this one...

Mike P said...

I'll be chiming in to the review shortly - I actually had a pair for a short time and passed them on to Dom for testing.

I also couldn't get along with the high volume upper. I felt fine lengthwise, but there's just so much width and overall volume from the front through the midfoot and even the rear. I also had issues with heel hold as Dom did.

The other main issue, and this is more of a personal preference - is that the very large and wide on-the-ground platform just doesn't work for me. Similar to the new Caldera, there's just too much on the ground for me and it really bothers my ankles. I need at least some amount of agility, even in a max cushion shoe.

Anonymous said...

Fit is so individual. Your complaints about the wide fit make me want to try it even though I'd never even half of $275 for running shoes. The wide fit sounds like a dream!

Stjepan said...


I was just wondering - how long did the shoes last, what kind of mileage were you able to get from them?