You ever find yourself stuck to a single brand of something? Phone, car, coffee, frames? That’s me with Xsjado/Shadow. I started with a pair of mooks and switched to the first Jeff Stockwell boots with grey cuffs and small rooster emblem on the back. Looking back, the animals tied into the callback catchphase on the adwork at the time, “You have the right to evolve.” The team each had their specialty and their specialized creativity inspired skaters like me to want to find our own niche. There’s a joke there about how a typical Xsjado skater skates – find a different approach. That has stuck with the legacy of Xsjado in the transition to Powerslide and reincarnated as Shadow. Eugen Enin feels in-step with this succession. He’s technical and playful with unorthodox obstacles and tricks (see his Concrete Circus edit). Eugen’s Pro Shadow skate is something to talk about as much as his tricks.
After the long road to release, Shadow evangelists like myself had endless questions about the new USD Shadow Eugen Enins. Even non-Shadow skaters have had questions. That’s where I fit in.
I talked to Powerslide about reviewing a pair. When they arrived over the holidays, it was a surreal to have them in before any shops.
There were a plethora of unknowns behind the skate which had been teased for over a year. The delayed release irritated skaters in the short term, as parts run on the scarce side (even pre-pandemic). In the long term, the hindrance offered Eugen and Powerslide a chance to hone in the design of the 3.0 boot.
I’ve talked to Xsjado 1.0-2.0 skaters, early adopters, and curious bladers brave enough to give them whirl at sessions to compare my own observations to.
The skates come with a traditional 1.0 cuff that goes back to the original boot. Personally I find the balance of flex and support was nailed with this style of cuff. There are subtle differences across models, like the 2018 Trimax skates which lack receptors to move the ankle pads position on the cuffs. Xsjado iterations had receptors for the cuff pads, now replaced by the walkable liner. Separating the shell from the liner minimizes parts needed to maintain and build a skate. The Enins add additional receptors for the cuff straps.
A note about the color of the cuffs. The photos I saw online stuck out as leaf green. When I opened the box, I mistook the skate for charcoal in low lighting. When you get sunlight on the skate, it has a muted olive-grey hue. Goth I am, I was hoping for an all black setup. I’ve grown to love the color. It has a call back to the original earthen colors Xsjados were known for. I can think of a dozen comments on this. People seem unanimously pleased with the color.
Almost forgot the Velcro hidden in the inner back of the cuff. A month in, I landed a trick where felt the liner and my foot try to yank from the cuff. I rolled away and had to adjust my foot. The velcro did its job and now you know it works.
While both Shadow and Xsjado allow adjusting of foot size, the former uses an embedded screw mount/bar at the bottom of the cuff while the latter involved a screw in the T-bolt that locked your precise sizing down. If you’re using the liner, the embedded bar makes sense. There’s not a high value for fine adjustments because you only have to worry about variability between production runs. With a footwrap-design, every shoe is different and that requires a more personalized set of adjustments found in the older T-bolt design.
The velcro cuff straps now come with two mounting holes per each side of the cuff (four total). Previous skates used one per side (two total). I suspect the extra screws are to keep the straps from torsioning around the single points of fastening like in the Trimax models. Overall, still the same strap.
I find this style of strap needs to be worn tighter than the older models. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for me, but it’s an adjustment. Maybe it’s the uni-strap design having more give (borrowed from Basic Xsjado models) or that the inner straps found in Xsjados countered tension in a more even and granular way. It’s a more traditional skate strap design that’s simpler to manufacture.
New Shadow boots uses thinner, wider nylon straps than Xsjados. I admire the sleakiness it brings, but thinness comes at a cost. The constant friction between the screw and thinner strap/ loop receptor having room to wiggle causes the straps to shred and rip fairly quickly. I tore through six or so sets of straps in two years while on the Trimax models. Fair admission, I like cess slides, which causes more deterioration. I’d like to see a return to thicker straps or one similar to Adapt skates (speaking of, I’d buy Shadow bolt protector covers).
When I first saw the photos online, I had my doubts about the Damien Wilson-style integrated tongue/ankle padding. They looked bloated and I was convinced once I got them in hand I was going to swap that out immediately. That didn’t end up happening. Once in hand [err, foot], it was an instant non-issue.
I find the one piece setup helps lock my toes in place better than the free-floating toe pad. You get the additional protection on your foot, so there’s that too. It takes some time to get used to having to loop the toe strap into an ankle pad. Having forgotten to strap it down and only the liners, there’s a perceivable difference in toe-ankle lift.
Moving away from it’s snowboard DNA with the unification of toe/ankle supports paid off.
You either love it or you hate it. I balked at the idea initially. Non-shadow skaters ask me all the time — what do I think about the walkable liners and do I miss having footwraps?
A huge selling point of Xsjado was the freedom to wear your shoes. It was convenient to throw on and off. Xsjado has this feature, Shadow has gone down another evolutionary fork leaning into its snowboarding heritage to create a more unified feeling boot. It combines the cuff pad, footwrap, and heel pad* (Enins reintroduce them) which makes for less shifting in the shell.
The Enins come with the second iteration of the walkable liner. First impressions — damn. I have been waiting for a black liner (duh). The attention to detail Eugen put in is apparent. There is a surprising firmness in the liner around the sides and back cuff area. When you’re skating, it offers an additional layer of resistance.
What does that mean practically? There’s a cess slide clip down a skate park bank I did in the Trimax skates and again in the Enin model. In the former, I could ride low on my boot but I had trouble not falling back. Even with the liners and velcro tightened, 5-7 tries easy. In the Enins, disgustingly easy. First try. The boots are comfortably laced, the velcro reasonably tight. The liner gave me something to lean into for additional support and spring up. I find myself landing more solidly on all my tricks. What more can I ask for?
A tongue with a shin guard. First session in these I shinned myself skating the stock flat setup. Except no, I was fine because I hit the tongue. There’s impact foam built into the tongue. Lifesaving. All Shadows from here on out need to have this (Mesmer and Iqon both have it on their liners). This blows most people away feeling it in hand. It’s comfortable, unobtrusive despite being a high tongue (An aside, Oxygen 1.0s were my first skate).
A subtle tweak to this design might be a plastic insert in the back of the tongue as a ‘pocket’ to add resistance with forward flex (an issue many older Xsjado skaters comment on with the 3.0 design).
The liners are narrower at the tip according to a few skaters at First Sunday. I found them to run a half size small. Something to consider if you’re between sizes.
Now, I thought I was done with this section, but fate intervened. Yesterday I was at First Sunday In Long Beach, screwing with a launch. For once it’s clear to skate so why not practice some spins. Tried a mute 3, popped up way higher than I’ve done in the past. Try the 5, over-rotated somewhat, but satisfactory. My brain goes try the 7, it’s been a decade, you’re that close. The good news is I can throw the spin, the bad news is I didn’t land it (haha). My left ankle twisted around my weight, causing my leg to contort. There was a brief second I expected there to be a snap. As of right now, it appears to just be hyper-extended/sprained. It’s one of my scarier accidents in recent years! It’s my belief that the reinforcements made to the Eugin liners kept me from breaking my ankle.
I’d upgrade from the Trimaxes just for the liners.
The Enin model returns with the long absent heel pad. It was a long staple of the Xsjado models and was removed with the introduction of the walkable liners. I am happy to see it back for those that might want the extra cushioning.
It’s not a feature I use, but I’m happy to utilize them in my older setups. In footwraps, a heel pad adds just enough raise to feel ‘flat’. In Enins, the additional 3/8″ raise to the liners makes them feel too forward for me. The liners offer strong shock support for my style of skating that I don’t feel it necessary to have the heel pads in. At least there’s the option in this model.
This area remains largely unchanged since the switch to the 2.0 souls. The material is a middle hardness which means it wears out at a reasonable rate as long as you aren’t into cess slides or death kinks. On average, I replace my souls 8-12 months in. I expect these to wear the same.
If you’ve never ridden a pair of Shadows/Xsjados, it has a different ride compared to other skates. The weight is centered down the middle of the skates relative to other rollerblades. You ride on top rather than riding with your weight towards any one side. When I let people borrow the Enins, it catches people off guard initially (and after half an hour they tell me they want a pair haha).
FRAMES | WHEELS
The Enins come stock with the Kizer Fluid V frames, flat setup 60mm Pro Wheels, Abec 5 bearings. Admittedly, I skated them two sessions. It’s what you expect from a Kizer frame as far as slickness and solid construction. Being a traditional flat setup, cruising and maneuvering surfaces has an airiness to it. There’s also wheel bite. I kept clipping the wheels and getting flung fast. The grooves on the skates are wide enough for coping/rail skating. Makes sense for Eugen. I’m a ledge skater. Your mileage may vary.
I’d enjoy these on a secondary setup for night cruises or practicing just skating. As a long time anti-rocker skater converted to Oysi Frames, these frames aren’t made for me (and that’s okay). To each their own.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
First session, couldn’t stop thinking about the liners. Last session, couldn’t stop thinking about the liners. haha. They’re the centerpiece of the skates, but a contentious one amongst Xsjado skaters. It offers a more unified and structurally sounder boot that minimizes the shifting in shell, but in the process feels different than a Xsjado. One Xsjado skater with a pair of Eugins said it rode like a Rollerblade solo boot with more flex. I’d concur with that.
The flex in a footwrap, cuff/ankle padding solution is a softer hybrid skate that has different pressure points than a unibody design. I can skate either, but I know that’s not the consensus. Over the last 4 years, I’ve heard persistent chatter wishing both a 3.0 and 1.5 setup were offered to cover both factions. It’s not like Shadow has wide appeal like Thems, but Xsjado/Shadow evangelists feel ignored by the company as these changes are initiated without consultation.
Would I recommend the skates after saying all this? Absolutely. If you have wanted to ride Shadows or have a Trimax pair, pick these up immediately. Small details and evolutionary improvements meld into significantly better ride over the previous model. Eugen and Powerslide should be proud of work put into skates that finesse the 3.0 linage further.