Jeff V: The GS:PGH is the latest commission from Speedland, paying homage to bow hunter/ultra runner Cameron Hanes. At first glance, the PGH looks like a GS:TAM with a color/graphics makeover, however there are some key differences that make the PGH a nice improvement over the TAM. The key differences are as follows:
- New HTPU midsole compound that is lighter, softer and stronger
- Weight drop
Trim line in forefoot- meaning you can trim the front of the “midsole/insole” to make a bit more room if needed, complete with instructions how/where to cut
Integrated plate mounting plug material vs.a separate glued in plug as in the previous 3 versions
Lower lateral collar height (5mm lower)
Lower heel wrap
Updated collar lining- added foam in collar to buffer between foot and BOA dial)
Please read on to see how the changes added up in our tesingt and how the GS:PGH compares to 10 other comparable trail running shoes.
Jeff V, Mike P: Cushion, comfort, easy to adjust BOA Li2 fit system, durability, traction, modular design and ability to remove/add carbon plate at will, quality/craftsmanship, style/cool factor.
Mike P/Jeff V: Softer foam and lighter weight is noticeable
Mike P: Pressure from BOA dials is much less noticeable
Mike P: Less upper material/volume is better for normal size/width feet
Jeff V: Perhaps not a con depending on your use/preference, but this is a big shoe and not the most agile or adept in technical terrain.
Mike P/Jeff V: Big and wide underfoot, can feel boat-like
Mike P/Jeff V: Still a lot of volume in the upper, not for the narrow-of-foot
Mike P: Lots of extra space around the heel
Mike P/Jeff V: Blood splatter design may definitely be a turn-off for some
Please find the testers full run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.
Official Weight: US men’s Size 9: 10.5oz /298g
Samples: men’s US10: 11oz / 311g (11.6 oz/ 331g with plate)
US 9.5: 10.7 oz / 304g (11.3oz / 320g with plate)
TAM 11.4 oz / 324g w/o plate
Stack Height: men’s 37mm heel / 30mm forefoot (7mm drop)
$275 (+$35 with Carbitex GearFlex Plate)
Available now at Speedland HERE
First Impressions, Fit and Upper
Jeff V: I have tested all 4 Speedland commissions to date and they keep getting better and better. While the PGH looks much like a different color TAM, there are a few key differences that make the PGH a better shoe in my opinion, or at least for my feet and running preferences.
I listed all of the key changes above in the intro, but the key one here for me is the new HTPU midsole compound that makes the PGH feel softer underfoot. This leads to more comfortable foot strikes in part because of the lighter weight and also the nature of the compound itself which has more bounce and spring.. All of the other improvements are minor enough that they were not immediately obvious to me, until I was informed of them, and even then had to go out of my way to search them out. While minor, in their totality they help improve the shoe and make them more comfortable and slightly better fitting.
The fit of the TAM was roomy and I really have to crank and crank the BOA dials to achieve an appropriate lockdown. Overall they felt large enough that I decided to size down a half size for the PGH from my usual size 10, to a 9.5, which may have worked for the TAM, but was way too short for the PGH.
Speedland suggested I trim the midsole/insole using the trim lines, but I was reluctant to start cutting up a $275 shoe and instead opted for a replacement in my usual size 10 and sent the 9.5 to Mike.
Out of the box they feel notably lighter and wow, they are stunning to look at in real life, much much better than photos could convey! Stepping into them, fit is now true to size in regards to length and the fit feels just a little bit better for my low volume foot than the TAM did . I will note however that the fit is in line with the purpose of the shoe, for longer distances and to accommodate a wide range of feet, vs. precision race like fit for technical terrain and skinny feet.
Like the TAM, the PGH 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 heel counter is flexible and secure while the collar is nicely padded. New for the PGH, the lateral side of the collar is 5mm lower than the TAM. I never experienced any issues with the positioning of the collar on the TAM, but either way is comfortable and works well.
Overall, I find the upper to be very good despite the slightly voluminous fit, but for me is a little better than the TAM. 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. With some additional snugging of the BOA dials, I can achieve adequate foothold for semi technical descents, but when really trying to push on more technical steep, off camber terrain, I long for a bit more precision fit. Again though, these are not really intended to be a shoe specific for any one use (not tech terrain), but a great long distance and all rounder shoe.
Mike P: I briefly tested the TAM – my first Speedland shoe, but they didn’t work out for me. I’m typically either a US 9.5 or 10.0, and I usually go with a larger size for longer distances/events. Given the nature of the shoe, I picked a 10 for the TAM, figuring the BOAs would do a good job of securing the fit if they were on the large side. But the upper is really a very high volume upper, and I had to crank the BOAs fully and use very thick socks to get a decent hold, albeit with a lot of BOA pressure.
I found the midsole to be surprisingly firm, making the carbon plates a complete no-go for me. They were also on the heavy side, making them quite cumbersome to run in for me as a lighter runner. I ended up passing them off to Dom for testing.
When Jeff contacted me about having an extra test sample in 9.5 I was somewhat interested. He mentioned that the midsole was softer and that they claimed to have streamlined the upper somehow. I was willing to give them another shot.
Upon first trying them on, I immediately noticed that the PGH was a different shoe. Of course the 9.5 was a much better fit for me, but the midsole felt noticeably softer, and in turn, noticeably flexier. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but the upper did seem to fit way better – more so than the correct sizing would have accounted for.
It’s still a quite roomy upper, but in comparison to the TAM, I don’t have to crank the BOAs to the max in order to get a secure fit. In fact, I can leave them somewhat on the looser side, especially the lower one, and still feel secure. I do like to crank down the upper BOA though – in order to really seat the heel. Speaking of which – the heel cup area is very roomy, just like the TAM. If you have a large heel bone, this will work for you. But if you have a slim heel, this could be an issue.
It seems to me like the ankle collar has been lowered a bit, and I believe that I read or heard somewhere that was the case. The BOAs also feel like they are more padded on the interior. I don’t feel the same pressure from the BOA dials themselves on the top of the foot as I did with the TAM. I still get some bunching of the upper material under the BOA strings, but much less so than the TAM. I don’t think that’s all accountable to the sizing difference – it does seem like it has been tightened up slightly.
In conclusion, I find the PGH upper to run true-to-size, leaning towards a high volume fit. It does seem trimmed down from the TAM and overall fits much better. But still, those with narrow or low volume feet should beware. You might be swimming in these.
Jeff V: The proprietary drop-in (removable) midsole is made of an HTPU compound and is lighter, more responsive and softer than the TAM’s, while very similar in looks and design.
Top: TAM Bottom: PGH
While similar, you can see that the PGH midsole is less sculpted in the heel, whereas the TAM is significantly more bathtub-like.
As with previous models, the PGH is carbon plate compatible, but does not come with the carbon plate as was the case with the PDX and HSV and is a $35 add on, as was also the case with the TAM.
The mounting plug under the heel is now an integrated part of the slide in midsole/insole, unlike previous versions that had a glued-in plug.
LEFT: PGH RIGHT: TAM
I had some issues with the plug falling out of an early model PDX, though I was able to fix that permanently with Gorilla glue. I never had issues with the plug in the HSV or the TAM, but sometimes I felt a sense of awareness and perhaps even some heel sensitivity due to those plugs. Now with the new integrated design however, I am completely unaware of its presence and find that the new design adds to the comfort of the heel landing.
While not a light, nimble speedster, I find the PGH to roll along more quickly and efficiently, than the TAM with the newer compound and lighter weight.
While I tested the TAM with and without the carbon plates, I only used the plates once for testing and found them completely unnecessary. I also tested the PGH with and without the carbon plates and noticed that the softer foam made them less stable in rocky, technical terrain, but when I added the plates, that helped a lot with stability and protection, while maintaining the nice, softer plush feeling of the new foam, so the best of both worlds! If you run in more rocky technical terrain such as I do, I would recommend adding the carbon plate.
Mike P: I no longer have the TAM for comparison, so I was quite surprised to see the difference in insoles from Jeff’s pics. I didn’t quite remember that, but it does look like a significant change. The TAM’s really did bother my ankles in my short test runs. I thought it was primarily due to the firm-ish, thick slab of PEBAX foam, but maybe that deep bathtub-type insole was also restricting foot movement too much.
Underfoot, I find the HTPU foam of the PGH gives a completely different feel than the PEBAX under the TAM. It is much softer, and even bouncy feeling. I hate to say it, but the TAMs really felt brick-ish to me, especially with the deep and wide volume of foam. I’m happy to report that the PGH has a completely different feel. They actually feel as cushioned as they look!
I tried the removable carbon plates, but similar to the TAM, I did not find them effective for me. I’m a lighter runner (138 lbs), and with this amount of stack (37/30mm), I feel like the carbon plates only make them harder to flex. Perhaps heavier runners would have less of an issue flexing such a big slab of foam (30mm upfront), and maybe would like the carbon plates to add a bit of stiffness.
But for me they seemed to work against the added softness and flex which was gained by in the PGH in comparison to the TAM. With the Carbitex plates being added directly underneath the insole, I also felt them under the balls of my feet – more so than in standard carbon plate design where they are embedded in the midsole. Overall, they feel a bit harsh and unnecessary to me.
Jeff mentions the carbon plates adding some stability in technical terrain, and I could see that being a factor. But again I come back to the fact that my being a lighter runner, the carbon plates just add another layer on top of the very high stack, further reducing ground feel. I don’t consider the TAM or PGH to be well-suited for technical running (at least when moving fast).
Jeff V: As with the TAM, the PGH features the same Michelin Fiber Lite outsole with 4.5 mm lugs. As I said for the TAM (RTR Review), 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 of the TAM outsole has proven to be good and I expect the same from the PGH. Also, as has been the case with previous versions, the lugs can be cut down, though I would not recommend that and instead just let them wear naturally.
Mike P: The PGH’s Michelin outsole feels soft and flexible. There’s a lot of rubber coverage, and it grips well – especially since the midsole foam is now softer, allowing for a bit more contouring over uneven surfaces. I think the rubber segmentation is an effective design choice – especially the horizontal separation under the midfoot. The foam slab is thick enough, so there is no need to add additional stiffness from a fully connected slab of rubber. I’m sure this was taken into consideration during the design process. I’ve noticed minimal wear in my test pair so far. Given that it’s the same outsole as the TAM, I’d go with Jeff’s assessment regarding good long term durability.
[Drainage port under the arch (need to trim red lug on the outsole – see pic above)]
Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations
Jeff V: The ride of the GS:PGH is excellent. It is much improved over the TAM and is very smooth, better cushioned, soft, steady and stable, and with enough response and energy to run efficiently for long miles over just about any terrain. Unlike the TAM, I find the ride of the PGH to be much better with the plate on board due to the softer foam, adding stability and support in technical terrain. Because of the new foam, I find the ride to be a bit more lively and responsive, but I think some of that is a result of the weight reduction as well.
With so much stack/cushion, a very adjustable upper to accommodate a wide variety of feet/preferences and a lighter, softer, more energetic feel, the GS:PGH 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 is much more reasonable.
Jeff V’s Score: 9.6/10
Ride: 10 – these are a joy to run in, well cushioned, stable and responsive
Fit: 9.3 – still a bit roomy 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 the PGH are quite durable and I believe will last longer than the average shoe, plus the BOA is amazing and you are getting cutting edge tech.
Style: 10 – The PGH is eye-catching and the colors really pop, much better in person than in photos (despite the fact that the red is intended as blood spatter).
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.
Mike P: I find the ride of the GS:PGH to be a night-and-day improvement over the GS:TAM. Don’t let anyone tell you that these two shoes are the same shoe in different colors.
As mentioned earlier, the HTPU midsole is markedly softer underfoot than the TAM’s firmer PEBAX. The lower weight is also noticeable. My PGH’s in US 9.5, without the Carbitex plates, clock in at 10.7 oz (304g), which is now respectable, especially for having 37/30mm of foam underfoot. In comparison, my TAM’s (in US 10.0) and fitting equivalently, without plates, were 11.4 oz (324g) whichwas a bit beyond the tipping point for me weight-wise, since I’m a lighter runner.
So, the combination of more responsive and lighter foam, makes the PGH quite enjoyable to knock out long miles in. They feel quite energetic on the flats, and a pure joy on moderate-light graded descents. The HTPU midsole just soaks up impact whether you land around the midfoot or if you’re mashing the heel on descents.
The platform width on the ground is, for me, still on the large side. That’s the primary limiting factor for me in terms of taking them into technical terrain. They just feel a bit unwieldy when trying to place my foot around rocks and such. They fall into the class of shoes which I refer to as having to “manage” or “steer” through technical sections. But, if you’re a larger or heavier runner, this would be less of an issue.
[Yes, they are wide.Comparison vs. recently reviewed Cloudventure Peak 3 ]
Aside from the much improved midsole compound, the most distinguishing factor for me is the dual BOA design. I can’t help but wonder if they have considered a burrito-type design for the upper material as opposed to the single layer slipper-style that Speedland employs.
Despite the fact that the fit of the PGH is much improved for me, there is still some inherent bunching of the material once I crank the dials.
I wonder if some type of overlapping upper design might allow a more streamlined, less voluminous, and hence more secure upper.
Price is of course another thing – but at this point, if you’re reading this review, you’re aware of what Speedland is about. You will know you are getting high quality, high performance, and high durability.
Mike P’s Score: 8.45 / 10
Ride: 9 – Very much improved over the TAM – solid for long distances
Fit: 8 – Still A LOT of volume all around, need to crank BOAs too much
Value: 7 – Yes, you can get a lot of miles out of them, but for me they’re purely a long distance shoe and not very versatile
Style: 7 – Blood splatter design is polarizing
Traction: 9 – Very good for such a high stack
Rock Protection: 9.5 – Big foam slab protects, plus you can add the Carbitex plate
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Speedland GS:TAM (RTR Review)
Jeff V: Compared throughout, but the most significant change is the new softer, lighter, more responsive midsole contributing to an overall drop in weight of the shoe.
Mike P (9.5): Agree with Jeff V. Midsole foam update is the big change here. The upper is also more streamlined with a slightly better fit.
Brooks Caldera 6 (RTR Review)
Jeff V: A very close comparison. Comparable weight, close in stack (2mm less than the Speedland), and both are wide and very similar in overall (large) mass. The Caldera has an accommodating fit, but the PGH is even a bit wider. The dual BOA on the PGH is a real advantage for dialing precise fit quickly on the go. Both shoes are great options for ultra distances or just a a comfortable daily trainer. Of course, the Caldera is about half the price.
Mike P (9.5): Yes, more volume in the PGH upper, but also more rounded up front at the toes which is more comfortable. The Caldera does taper slightly in the toe box. I find the PGH flexes better, whereas the Caldera relies more on a rocker up front at the toes. I found the Caldera 6 to be too much shoe underfoot for me and too unwieldy, similar to how I felt about the GS:TAM. But the PGH is softer and for me has a more responsive and pleasing ride.
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 PGH is better for longer miles and has a more forgiving accommodating fit.
Mike P (9.5): For some reason, my feet don’t agree with the Speedgoat upper. I find them too narrow and too squeezy, making them uncomfortable for me to run in. I do prefer the ride and comfort of the PGH. An upper somewhere in the middle of these two shoes would probably be best.
Asics Trabuco Max 2 (RTR Review)
Jeff V: Another very close comparison with comparable weight, somewhat close in stack (6mm more than the Speedland at the heel). Both have wide platforms and are very similar in overall (large) mass. The Trabuco has an accommodating fit, but the PGH is even a bit wider. The dual BOA on the PGH is a real advantage for dialing precise fit quickly on the go. Both shoes are great options for ultra distances or just as a comfortable daily trainer. As with the Caldera, the Trabuco is about 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, whereas the PGH 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 and with plush deep, stable cushioning. The PGH upper is more secure and adjustable. The Glide Max can feel a bit unstable in technical terrain, but the PGH can just steamroll through.
Salomon Ultraglide 2 (RTR Review)
Jeff V: The UG 2 is close in weight, but with less stack and firmer foam. It is more of a medium distance shoe with the PGH better suited for longer days with its wider, more adjustable fit (the dual BOA) and more substance underfoot.
Hoka Mafate Speed 4 (RTR Review)
Jeff V: The Mafate is a lighter, quicker, more agile shoe, with deep cushioning, although with less stack and is not quite as stable as the PGH.
Mike P (9.5): I really like the Mafate Speed line, but perhaps V4 went a little bit too soft for the midsole. Disagreeing with Jeff, I find the MS4 to be more stable, but mainly due to its more secure upper fit. For me, I can manage the unstable softness of the Mafate’s midsole since I feel so secure and confident in the upper. A mashup of the Hoka upper and the Speedland midsole (perhaps slimmed down) would be quite the shoe.
Hoka Challenger 7 (RTR Review)
Jeff V: The Challenger 7 is much lighter, impressively light for its stack height, although with not quite as much stack height as the PGH. The Challenger is not quite as wide and stable, but its performance is impressive on less technical trails, whereas the PGH is more competent when the going gets rough. The fit of the Challenger, while very good, is not quite as accommodating as the PGH.
Topo Ultraventure 3 (RTR Review)
Mike P (10.0): The newest Ultraventure is a very underrated shoe, likely overlooked due to it’s less performant outsole. But if you’re sticking to mild/moderate terrain, I’d be hard pressed to recommend a better long distance/cruiser/comfort shoe. It shares a similar, large platform as the PGH, and also has similar upper volume.I find the Topo’s more traditional lacing does a better job of actually securing the foot than the fancier dual BOAs of the Speedland. Since I don’t consider the PGH a shoe for technical terrain, there’s a lot of overlap between these two shoes. I would recommend the Ultraventure 3 at its much lower price point.
The Speedland GS:PGH is available now at Speedland HERE
Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras – anywhere from 50K up to his favorite – 100M. 5’10”, 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker – he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 – 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike’s shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.
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.
Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’.
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