An awesome trail and mountain machine – with a flaw
Time to talk some gear. I’ve had the Salomon Speedcross 3 for quite some time now, and I feel it’s time to give them a proper review.
There has been a big hype about these shoes in the trail running community– let’s see if it’s justified.
What I personally don’t like about most shoe reviews is when people wear the shoes for one or two little runs in the park, snap a selfie and review them.
Nope. These shoe are designed for running mountains, and I used them for such. So much so that those fuckers are now falling apart on me.
I have no idea how many miles up and down the mountains I’ve run in them, but I do know they’ve been with me for countless half marathons, the Pike’s Peak Marathon, countless trails and technical runs– at least three times a week over a 6-month time period. These shoes have done well.
Don’t worry, I know the Speedcross 4 is out. However, they still sell the SC 3 and the differences are not too big for this review to be irrelevant.
Just so you know, here are the differences in the two models:
- The Speedcross 4 has an updated rubbersole and new, smaller lugs in a different pattern – I talk about that below (it’s great).
- The SC 4 has a lower “upper” (the part of the shoe that supports the ankle), which doesn’t make sense to me – more about that below.
- There are other smaller “upgrades” but they don’t really affect the performance, so I will leave them out.
Technologies – taken from the Salomon website – and I only list the most important for performance:
- LACE POCKET // Provides easy storage for the Quick Fit lacing system.
- SENSIFIT™ // Sensifit system works to cradle the foot providing a precise and secure fit.
- QUICKLACE™ // Minimalistic and strong lace for one-pull tightening. Easy-on, easy-off.
- CONTAGRIP® // Non-marking Contragrip rubber with mud guard.
- MOLDED EVA // Molded EVA midsole provides lighweight cushioning and stability.
- ORTHOLITE® // OrthoLite® provides added heel support and better heel cushioning.
Most of the protection and shock absorption in this shoe seems to come from the 6mm lugs themselves. Now, after they are worn down quite a bit, the shoe feels less protective and stable. I wouldn’t judge that too much, as that’s normal for a shoe with wear, and the good parts about the shoe compensate for that easily.
The shoe is pretty narrow in both the forefoot and the heel. I have very slim and skinny feet, and I love the tight hugging fit. It gives you a great feeling of being in control and ready to jump on small rocks and boulders while running. The forefoot has no cushioning, and it feels like you’re running barefoot and you have the general feeling of being in control. I never feel like they would slip on me. No matter the terrain– grass, rocks, scree, ice and snow. On the other hand, the 11mm heel cushioning is not the greatest design. It lifts your heel so high that it feels unstable and wobbly at times, especially when running with speed downhill and you land heel first. It doesn’t provide a flat and stable landing platform. If you keep that in mind, you are good, because running uphill and over flatland is just fantastic in them. Now, the Speedcross 4 has a lower “upper” around the heel, making you even more unstable. I have no clue what made Salomon decide to change that feature, but to me that’s a pretty bad upgrade. Honestly, I did not run the SC4 myself, but in my opinion, an already instable ankle support does not get better by making it smaller.
Awesome job on the rubber, Salomon! These are hands down the best shoes you can buy for traction. I am still surprised when I run in Red Rock Canyon Open Space and I see how much of a sandstone incline they can handle without slipping on me. The lugs bite the rock like a kitten bites your toes in socks. I ran them in snow, on ice, dirt, gravel, mud, scrambled sandstone and normal rock. I even wore them on a gnarly, scary experience, climbing in the Alps. We climbed Sonnjoch in Austria (which we now lovingly refer to as “Funjoch”). Right in the middle of steep scree and 4th class scrambling, a snow storm hit us. Big exposure during the whole route. There was also a lot of wet snow and ice covering the mountain, which we had not seen from below. Downclimbing would have been even more sketchy, so we had to push through. For 2.5 hours. Not the most fun experience, but definitely a true test for the shoe’s traction. Plus, a lesson learned in weather judgement and equipment. My best friend was wearing shorts. Yup. ( You rock, Markus.)
However, the sole and the lugs on the sole are also it’s biggest flaw. The 6mm lugs have been ripped of in some parts and what’s even more worrysome is that the sole is cut and coming off on mine. I think it happened while running Pike’s Peak, running over some sharper boulders on the downhill. I fix them up with hot glue, which works for a while. After 2-3 longer runs it comes loose again. So I adapted a new hobby the last couple of months: Shoe glueing. Good news though: Salomon has updated the rubber mix and the placement of the lugs on the Speedcross 4. Now, the sole and the lugs are harder, more durable and the lugs are smaller in size. That seems to have fixed the problem. If you are interested in a pair – I’d day go for the new Speedcross 4! I do have to say that the sugs lasted much longer than I expected. I only took the shoes on trails – if you run them on the road the slugs will wear down very quickly!
I absolutely love them for their comfortability. There is padding in all of the right places and I actually never got any blisters from them. Perfect fit. The heel hugs nicely, and you can tell they put some effort into that. If you have a high heel, or wide ankles you might not enjoy the tightness. The Ortholite inner sole is also plain awesome. Especially on long runs with lots of ups and downs, I tend to get some pain in my foot due to the constant pounding – not a problem with Speedcross! On top of that, I really enjoy the Quicklace system. It’s so simple to quickly tie them and the best part: It never comes loose. Oh how I hate that on normal laces. Even better, there is a little pouch in the tongue section, where you can tuck the long end of the laces in. Perfect for trail the show – you won’t catch any branches or sharp rock while running.
These shoes weigh about 22 ounces for a pair of Men’s size 10 straight out of the box. Absolutely average. The look heavy, but they are not. That’s it.
Yup, I’m going to judge the looks. It’s actually quite interesting from a designer’s perspective. Salomon did a brilliant job. They have their very own, distinct look. If you like it or not, it doesn’t matter–you are able to identify a Speedcross from a mile away. In every color. And with that comes a visual impression of “that guy knows what he is doing.” In short, they look pro. Awesome design achievement. It doesn’t really matter to me how a piece of gear looks, but from a company’s perspective, they did it so right. People who are not even into running will buy it. That’s how you sell.
The Speedcross 4 sells for $120 on amazon. The Speedcross 3 goes around $90 on amazon. Do some research and you’ll easily find some good offers.
That’s also why the review also makes sense – if you don’t have the moneys for the 4, think about going for the previous version.
The price seems high, but if you consider what you get for it, I think it’s absolutely justifiable.
These shoes are built for serious mountain running. That’s where they truly shine. No matter how difficult the terrain, they won’t let you down. I’ve even climbed in them.
If you don’t like the fact that sooner or later the lugs and sole tear up on you, you should go for the upgrade, the Speedcross 4. However, bear in mind that the SC 4 is less stable because of it’s lower “upper” around the heel. If that’s an issue for you, then go for the older version, the SC3. I personally would perfer the SC3 because of the great heel stability. Choose your compromise, but know the Salomon Speedcross is a monster in the mountains. That’s what they are designed for, and I wouldn’t want any other shoes for running steep and technical. Incredible traction and awesome comfort, especially on rocky, long runs. I love them. Keep on glueing!
Next up is the Part 3 about Training for Mountaineering on 01/18/17.