Speedland Shoes: This Ultrarunner Helped Design the GS:OAK

Want to try Speedland trail running shoes?
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👟The fast-growing brand based in the running-shoe-capital of the world—Portland, Ore.—just dropped another sweet pair of "hyper performance" trail running shoes named the GS:OAK.
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👉"If you're looking for a shoe that's perfect for ripping trails and running long distances, this is it," says ultrarunner Liam Lonsdale, who partnered with Speedland and PATH projects, to design the GS:OAK.
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🏃‍♂️Check out this interview with Liam, to learn more about:

  • The curious way he got into trail running
  • The connection that introduced him to Speedland
  • The design process to create the GS:OAK
  • Plus, Liam's favorite running gear picks + places to run
Ultrarunner Liam Lonsdale partnered with Speedland and PATH projects to launch the GS:OAK trail running shoe.

⛰️Let the outdoor adventures begin....

"My dad was pretty into hiking, fishing, and camping," says Liam. "We spent a lot of time outdoors."
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"The course for the famous ultra called The Spine Race in England was out my backdoor. It's kind of a bleak and brutal landscape."
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🥾The ultimate family hike 
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On one family outing, 10-year-old Liam, along with his dad and younger brothers, hiked one of England's tallest peaks called Scafell Pike.
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And it was anything but a walk in the park.
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"There was almost zero visibility and horizontal rain," says Liam. "The conditions were absolutely horrible. But we were out there doing our thing."

Before Liam Lonsdale found ultrarunning, he was a competitive rock climber.

🏃‍♂️From trail running to rock climbing & back

"I've always had this spirit to get outside, explore and enjoy the outdoors," says Liam.
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At 11, he laced up a pair of sneakers, put on shorts and a T-shirt and went for his first run.
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"I can still remember the route."
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All that time spent in the Lake District and the Langdale Valley of northwest England, kept calling him back.
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When he finally moved to the Lake District, he was obsessed with rock climbing.
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"I got bit by the bug," says Liam. "I went from doing very little climbing to climbing every single day."
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And before long, he was...

  • Competing in climbing competitions
  • Racking up wins at national-level climbing events
  • Focusing on training to climb, and shutting out everything else

"I was super dedicated," says Liam. "And then I got injured three or four years in a row within just a few weeks of a national competition."
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Something needed to change..
"I realized I wanted to train to be strong," says Liam. "I decided to be done with competitions and focus on training to be strong."

Liam frequently runs trail miles with the Bay Bandits running club.

👋Running + making connections

When Liam shifted his focus from climbing to running, he was already well-connected to a long list of brands and athletes:

  • He was a sales rep at a running store
  • He worked for the running brand On
  • He started running regularly with the Bay Bandits
  • He built a business as a photographer, presenter & creative
  • He started stacking up sponsorship deals

And then one day it happened...
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"I got a call from Believe in the Run about a kind of secret running shoe project," says Liam.
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"They wanted to connect me with these people in the early start-up phase of launching a running shoe brand. And they wanted to know if I was interested."

Liam wear-tested multiple prototypes to design the GS:OAK with Speedland and PATH projects.

👟Test drive some Speedland shoes

Not long after making the connection, Liam was on the phone with Speedland founders Dave Dombrow and Kevin Fallon.

  • They've worked in the footwear business for decades
  • They've helped design shoes and grow companies for brands like Nike, Puma, and Under Armour
  • And they wanted to talk with Liam about designing a trail running shoe from scratch

"They told me their philosophy and their idea about running shoes," says Liam.
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"And ultimately, they commissioned me to design a trail shoe from scratch, literally starting from the very beginning."
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"This was an opportunity to build the perfect shoe, and that really resonated with me."

👟Run in Speedland shoes

Not long after that phone call, Dave and Kevin flew out to Oakland, Calif., to meet Liam. 

  • They brought a prototype for Liam to try on. 
  • He slipped on the shoes and cranked the BOA dial to the perfect fit.
  • And even though it was a little smaller than his normal shoe size, he could feel the difference.

🤘"This is a vibe," Liam said..
They drove out of town to a network of trails, and Liam cranked out a five-mile run in the Speedland prototype.
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"It was just immediately apparent they've created something incredible," says Liam.
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"I've ran in all kinds of shoes on trails all over the world on lots of different terrain. And I knew immediately, this is the shoe. This is the one. That's really how creating the GS:OAK began."

Speedland officially launched the GS:OAK in November 2023.

👟Speedland GS:OAK - Designing the perfect trail running shoe

Walk into the Speedland headquarters in Portland, Ore., and you'll see racks of shoes stacked up high, all part of one giant study to build the perfect running shoe.

  • Some are cut apart, revealing the tech inside the shoe. 
  • Some are stitched and glued back together. 
  • It's like a Frankenstein-lab of shoes with one goal in mind: "How can we make even better shoes?"

"These are the shoe guys," says Liam. "They have all these different ideas, and they're willing to test them out."
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⚙️The GS:OAK development process
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When the first GS:OAK prototype came out of the Speedland lab, Liam hammered lots of miles in the shoe to see how it performed. And that's really when the fun began.
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"When the first design came into existence, it was awesome," says Liam. "From there, we just started making little tweaks to the shoe, like:

  • Using slightly different foam
  • Adjusting the foam height
  • Using different foam densities
  • Changing the material of the upper
  • Using a different material to design the dial to make it easier to turn when it's wet
  • Tweaking the outsole with a different rubber compound

"These guys are such geniuses when it comes to making subtle tweaks and changes to the slightest little detail," says Liam.
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Partnering with Speedland and PATH projects, Liam dialed in the GS:OAK one prototype at a time, until it was ready to launch in November.
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⚙️Dial in the perfect shoe

Take a look at any Speedland shoe, and there's one distinct feature that's significantly different from other running shoes:

  • The BOA dial. There's no laces to tie. There's no cinch-points or sliders to tighten the shoe. But it's perfectly designed to keep your feet happy and maximize performance, whether you're cruising easy miles or hammering downhill.

⚙️"It's so brilliantly designed," says Liam.

  • "You don't have to worry about a knot in your shoelace making a pressure point."
  • "You don't have to worry about overtightening your laces so they're two inches short."
  • "And you don't have to spend a lot of time adjusted your laces mid run to tighten or loosen the shoe."

⚙️Liam put the Speedland dial to the test hundreds of times during the testing process.
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During a run near Portland, Ore., we was crossing a river. His foot got wedged between a rock. When he pulled his foot out, the dial on the shoe popped out. But he was back to running in seconds.
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"You just make sure everything is aligned, and it just pops back into place. Then you dial it in to tighten or loosen it. If you doing some gnarly descent, you can crank the dial to get the shoes nice and tight. You're done in seconds and then you're ripping."
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"It's a really a brilliant design," says Liam. "It gives you the ability to custom fit the shoe almost instantly."
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"The big, wide soft bands across the top of the shoe actually go all the way down into the sole of the shoe. Once you dial it in, it just fits your foot perfectly."
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👟So where did the name GS:OAK come from for this Speedland shoe?
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"Every Speedland shoe has a three-letter code that means something to each athlete they work with," says Liam.

👟Check out how these Speedland shoes got their names:

  • GS:PGH. Bow hunter and ultrarunner Cam Hanes helped design this shoe. It's named after Mt. Pisgah just outside Eugene, Ore., where Hanes lives and trains.
  • GS:TAM. Ultrarunner and co-founder of Free Trail, Dylan Bowman helped design this shoe. It's named after Mt. Tamalpais in Marin, Calif., where Bowman runs and trains.
  • SL:HSV. Ultrarunner Liz Canty helped design this shoe. It's named after Huntsville, Ala., where Canty loves to train on the technical terrain in the southern U.S.

"When I moved to Oakland, I really found my home," says Liam. "It's where the Bay Bandits are rooted, and they've big a huge part of my running journey."
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"I thought about a couple different names for this shoe," says Liam. "But I felt like Oakland was really the place I wanted to recognize."
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"The trails here are phenomenal. They're absolutely incredible. I love to work and play here. Plus there's the connection of setting my roots here. Choosing to name the shoe the OAK all kind of came together."

🏃‍♂️Liam's favorite running gear + places to run

🏃‍♂️Longest distance I've ran

  • 40-plus miles

😀Favorite place to run

  • East Bay Skyline Trail near San Francisco, Calif. "It's a really incredible trail. You can run it one way or out and back. It's 32-ish miles, and I'd love to get the FKT for that."

⛰️Favorite trail

  • The Lake District and Langdale Valley trails in northwest England. "You cannot run through there and not feel this deep, ancient beauty that's just there. The peaks aren't very high, but it's got some brutal terrain, and the conditions can change in a heartbeat. I never get bored running here. It's one of my happy places."

Favorite watch

  • Coros Apex Pro. "I love this watch. It's bold. It's light. The battery lasts a really long time. And the GPS is pretty accurate."

💦Favorite fuel

  • Precision Hydration. "Its a British company founded by professional triathlete Andy Blow. I've used all kinds of fueling options, and this really works for me. I love that all the products are created with a science-focused approach."

👟Favorite running shoe

  • Speedland GS: Oak "It's a regular part of my rotation now. This shoe feels so good to run in. It's the kind of shoe that lets you go ripping trails and hit full send every time."

Fun fact: Is that a Speedland?

  • "We were out doing a photo shoot before the launch of the OAK. We were in this random spot where hardly anyone goes trail running. And along comes this guy on a pretty expensive mountain bike. He cruises over..."
  • Mountain biker: "Are those Speedlands?"
  • Liam: "Yes. As a matter of fact, they are."
  • Mountain biker: "That’s cool. I recognize the orange ones. What are those black, purple and pink shoes you're wearing.?"
  • Liam: "Stay tuned."
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