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At the end of July, trail runner and mountaineering athlete Kilian Jornet visited Salomonʼs Annecy Design Center (ADC) in the French Alps. That is not an uncommon occurrence. But the reason for his visit was a bit out of the ordinary. Jornet was in the building to meet with Salomon’s anticipation department and be fit for a pair of prototype mountaineering shoes before departing for the Himalayas and his quest to climb Mt. Everest. 

In preparation for his attempted ascent of the world’s highest peak, Salomon has created a prototype footwear system for Jornet that is designed to allow him to travel light and quickly. This visit was his final fitting before departing on the expedition.

The prototype footwear system consists of three separate parts and was developed in collaboration with Jornet over nearly three years. “Itʼs like one shoe for doing everything. You start from the base and you just add layers all the way to the summit,” Jornet says. “Itʼs modular, so you can get from the easy trails to the more technical terrain up high.”

The first shoe in the system is a basic layer of insulation with the bottom of Salomonʼs S/Lab Sense shoe, which Jornet uses regularly. It has an insulated gator that will allow him to run at the lower elevations until reaching the snow line. It also features a very light version of Salomonʼs Contagrip® sole, providing the necessary foothold to run on non-technical trails and will be used as the inner boot in the system.

Jornet will then insert that first trail running shoe inside a second mid-layer designed with extra insulation to keep his feet warm. Those two pieces together will then be placed inside a large insulated boot with built-in crampons, which Jornet will use to climb at the higher elevations of Everes

“The feeling is like you have a running shoe, so you can run from the base camp,” Jornet explains. “Then when you come to the snow, you put it inside the other boot and then you feel like you are in a climbing shoe—itʼs completely stiff when you are on ice and that kind of terrain. But you have the freedom of the ankle of a running shoe.”

Patrick Leick, a Senior Project Manager in Salomonʼs Footwear R&D anticipation department, says working with Jornet is an easy task because he explains exactly what he wants to do.

“We wanted to save some weight and have good insulation because Kilian said the biggest thing is he wants to come back with his toes,” says Patrick Leick, Senior Project Manager in Salomonʼs Footwear R&D anticipation department. “He explained that he wants to run from the lodge to the base camp and then get to the top with the right equipment. So we had the idea to develop this simple shoe to run from the lodge to the base camp and then we have different layers.”

Leick says that designing the footwear that Jornet will wear on Everest took expertise from across a number of disciplines within Salomon. For example, the company’s apparel experts helped design the insulated parts of the boots. “Although this product won’t be a commercial product, Kilian pushes the limits and that helps us to develop other products by giving us great ideas,” Leick says.

Jornet has tested the prototype boots in the Himalayas and the Alps in preparation for the trip. “I tested the running shoe in Nepal running down in the valley and tested the technical abilities of the outer boot in the Alps doing some ice climbing to see how it works on a technical level,” Jornet adds.

You can follow Kilian Jornet’s Everest attempt on social media under the hashtag #SoMLEverest