Editor’s Note: If you are part of the Freetrail Slack community you are likely familiar with Cody Jett, a Freetrailer with a gear passion that borders on obsession. Welcome to the Gearage, a gear review column and podcast that highlights Cody’s interest in the shoes that carry us over terrain that is so expansive it covers horribly rocky to butter smooth. The Gearage column that will live on the website will be full of hot takes and measured reviews on the latest shoes to hit the market while the podcast will give you a peak behind the curtain as Cody chats with pros who get up close and personal with the products we all love (or hate). You can find the Gearage podcast (shortly) on Youtube and wherever you listen to podcasts.
We praise the fictional Willy Wonka character for his innovation and his willingness to think outside the box. Wonka took an industry like candy and made it exciting – delivering a whole new experience. Like Wonka, Speedland is looking to take an industry like trail shoes and disrupt it. Specifically, by creating limited runs of a single shoe to eliminate waste in the market. Oh, and to bring in a novel approach on how to tie (or not tie) a shoe. The Speedland GS:TAM is the 3rd shoe brought to market by Speedland. The GS:TAM or better known as the Freetrail kick, Dylan Bowman’s signature shoe aims to take the running shoe world by storm by delivering a shoe that cuts no corners and aims to deliver an enjoyable ride for all distances on trails. Did the TAM deliver that out-of-this-world experience, or is it just like Willy Wonka – fictional?
Total Testing Miles: 43
I can honestly say when this shoe came in the mail, I finally understood how Charlie felt when he pulled that Golden Ticket. I was stoked to try it.
- Ride: Before I received this shoe in the mail, I absolutely prejudged this shoe. I know I made some comments to fellow runners; “The stack[height] is too high for the trails” or “Carbon plates on the trails aren’t great” and “Pebax foam is going to be too squishy for trails, and I will probably roll my ankle.” I am happy to say I have eaten my words on two of those three comments! The stack of the shoe on paper seems like a lot; but with a wider base, it is very stable and handles everything from buffed-out trails to very technical rocky and rooty runs. The formulation of the beaded Pebax foam is bouncy and comfortable underfoot. At no point in my runs so far have I felt unbalanced or that the shoe couldn’t handle the trail. However, I still don’t think carbon plates are needed in trail shoes.
- Width of Shoe Base: For me, the width of the midsole is the magic. Because Speedland made this a wider base, you can have a higher stack height and a foam-like Pebax and still feel stable and in control. I am happy to report, no ankles were hurt in the making of this review!
- Lockdown: In this category, the GS:TAM BOA system is a winner. While it looks like a bike shoe, it absolutely is a trail killer! Every run I have gone on in this shoe, I have turned the BOA fit system to a precision fit and forgot the shoe was even on. For me, the double BOA system allowed me to dial in the shoe to fit my foot to my perfect preference- tight near the ankle and loser near the midfoot.
While The Speedland GS:TAM delivers a shoe that is a delight out of the box, it still has a couple things that make you grip the arm of the chair while you zoom through the chocolate factory roof.
- Looks: Like Willy Wonka’s employees, the GS:TAM is very very orange. While the ride was enjoyable and was able to handle everything thrown at it, the bright orange made me feel like I was preparing for hunting season and weirdly start craving Sunny D. While looks do not affect a shoe’s performance and judging a book by its cover might make me vain, I would love to see the GS:TAM dial down the brightness for its next drop.
- Business Model: When you find a shoe you like two things come to mind:
1 – I hope they don’t discontinue to model.
2 – I hope they don’t mess it up with version two.
This is more of a concern about the Speedland business model and not this specific shoe. I hope this is not a one-and-done product drop like the Air Jordan – I would love to see this shoe become a yearly drop. Who wouldn’t love to see their kid rocking the GS:TAM 16 while going on about the good old days of trail running shoes?
- Cost: $275 is a lot for a shoe. Even though I think the shoe can get you 500-plus miles, and it is one of my favorite trail shoes of 2023, it will also hurt the wallet. While your feet scream with excitement, your wallet could be screaming with pain.
From the Pro:
“For me, it’s a long-distance trail slayer. I’ve used it in three 100+ mile races and will be my shoe for the upcoming Cocodona 250. I love how smooth it rides and how secure the fit is; giving it the perfect mix for super long days out on dirt.” Speedland Pro Runner Don Reichelt
“I think with both models (SL & GS), the biggest positive is the fit and lockdown feel. Part of this is the dual BOA, and part of this is the wide (but not ultra-wide) toe box. Once you get your size in this shoe perfectly dialed in, there is no slop or movement in any downhill, technical (or both) running. I was pretty amazed at how much faster I’ve run my local trail descents in Telluride in both models. That leads to one of the other big benefits of the TAM, which is the similarity to the SL platform. If I’m running mostly on the road, or looking to run more recovery, I’ll opt for the TAM.” Speedland Pro Runner Ryan Becker
“I’m not a fan of max cushions shoes and never have been but the Tam is a first-ever exception for me. The ground control and stable feel on technical terrain is unmatched and allows me to run with confidence that in the past I wouldn’t have been able to run within other max cushion shoes. Also, without the carbon fiber plate, they have more flex through the midsole and forefoot than most trail max cushion shoes. Giving the TAMs a nice natural feel while still providing the protection against pounding that max cushion shoes give.” Speedland Pro Runner Avery Collins
While I don’t foresee Speedland or Freetrail coming out with a line of chocolate anytime soon, and while I may have leaned a little too heavy with the Wonka analogies, this shoe is a buy if you have the funds.
Want to put your feet in your own pair of GS:TAMs? Check out Speedland today.