Salming aren't a popular brand here in the UK. Searching for something fresh and new turned out to be quite a chore, and after a while you start to wonder whether the whole thing is futile:
But then you finally stumble on two objects so stunning that you immediately know they're something special:
No, not them. These:
Presumably an internet search for X Factor yields more appropriate results in Sweden.
The first night I wore them, I received two comments about how nice they looked. She was being sincere, he was taking the piss. Or perhaps it was the other way around… I find it hard to tell sometimes. But they certainly catch the eye; perhaps not a shoe for the player who is keen to hide their sloppy footwork.
First impressions were mixed. I usually go on European sizing when buying shoes 'blind' off the internet; both Asics and Salming list the EU 44 as a UK 9. Unfortunately, the Salming's fit half a size bigger - I should have had an 8 and a half. They weren't available in that size though, so faced with either a fruitless return or being a little creative, I decided to employ the double sock tactic.
Despite the extra length, the shoes provide an extremely secure fit around the heel area. My lack of anticipation on the court means I charge around with little economy of movement, and have been slightly surprised that at no point have I felt my foot slip and toes jam into the end. The extra pair of socks is really only necessary because it feels slightly odd to me dragging the shoe when there's a gap; that said, I'd definitely opt for the correct fit next time.
These are not a shoe that are at full pace directly out of the box, and there are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that they have what those of us over a certain age will remember as a 'leather upper'. I'm assuming it's leather anyway; they don't proudly announce it on the box any more. It's soft enough to flex, but require a few outings to get used to the creases of your individual foot. Not a pair of shoes you should consider sharing, even if your partner does claim to be your sole mate…
The other reason they appear a touch sluggish is the weight. I've just popped a shoe on the scales, and it comes in an 378.3g compared to the Rocket's 341.6. And a man who is prepared to measure to a tenth of a gram (usually used for racquet customisation, not distribution of elicit substances) is going to notice an increase of over 10%.
So at this point, you may well be wondering what these shoes have going for them. Chiselled good looks can only take you so far, after all. The thing that stands out about them is just how stable they are. I mean, absolutely rock solid. A shoe that is slightly large should be prime to rolling, but I haven't felt even a hint of it, no matter how poorly I read a stroke a require a sharp change of direction. The grip is also immense… so much so that you'd do well to be a little wary the first couple of times out for fear of sticking to the court.
Durability is obviously an area upon which I cannot yet comment, but the initial impression is that build quality is very high. If they're still going come the summer, I may experience heat issues with the leather and extra sockage. But for this winter, the X Factor is my performer of choice. I'll get my coat...