A cinch-on lacing system, a thick tongue, and an overall aggressive design identify the S-LAB Fellcross as a distinctly Salomon shoe. But the Fellcross is a new breed for the French brand, a beast with extra-toothy tread that’s advertised first and foremost as “low profile and ultra-light.” The Fellcross is the most minimal Salomon I have ever laced up. It runs fast and precise through most any kind of terrain — a semi-narrow toe and a wrap-around fit make the shoe candidate for technical broken ground and off-trail sprints up and through the rocky “fells” for which it was named.
Flexible in the forefoot and thin under the toes — you can feel rocks through the sole when you step on a sharp nub! — the Fellcross shoes are vastly more minimal than much of Salomon’s footwear line. This does not by any stretch, however, say the company has engaged with the footwear world’s current minimalist trend. While perhaps “ultra-light” for Salomon, the Fellcross would be seen as heavy by some brands. My size 12 test shoes weigh 11.4 ounces per foot, which is at least a third heavier than other “ultra-light” trail shoes in my closet.
For the extra ounces you do get a solid, protective shoe. The aggressive tread is amazingly grippy. Like other Salomons, the Fellcross fits and feels like soft armor on your foot — thick, padded uppers and the company’s signature logoed tongue ensconce feet that are secured with Kevlar lace.
Stub a toe hard and you will feel it through these shoes. There is only a tiny guard on front. The sole is thin on the forefoot, as noted, which might give pause to runners used to uber-built footwear with protective plates sandwiched in the midsole. For weather protection, the Fellcross shoes are water resistant, though moisture will eventually soak through on sloppy days.
The thick uppers make these shoes too hot for summer runs. I ran in them this fall and now into the winter on snow. The sole, Salomon’s Contagrip mold, is extra aggressive and good on snow, mud, and loose trail. There are almost 50 soft rubber “teeth” under each foot on my Fellcross shoes. They dig into the ground and give grip unmatched by almost anything I own.
Salomon cites a 4mm drop with the Fellcross shoes, meaning the angle of slant inside from heel to toe is 4mm. This is a minimal figure, as many shoes like the Fellcross have 8 or 10 or 12mm drop specs. But with a bulky heel and a thin sole under the toe, these shoes feel more “steep” than that 4mm spec foretells. Indeed, I found a forefoot stride difficult to maintain in these shoes, as the big, padded heel is prone to collision with the ground before the rest of the sole has a chance to catch up on each stride.
The Fellcross are a unisex shoe but available only in men’s sizing, from size 6 to 12. Yes, the company is only making them in sizes up to U.S. men’s 12. Sorry, big-foots, you’re out.
The Fellcross shoes are not a cheap ride, costing $160 a pair. Fans of Salomon shoes, men and women alike, who want to try something more minimal than their current Salomon trail runners should sign up for the Fellcross. Anyone used to another definition of low-profile and “ultra-light” will not see what all the fuss is about.
For adherents of “barefoot-style” shoes, these Salomons will feel like lugs. For people used to traditional fell-running shoes, again the Fellcross will seem overbuilt. There are extra ounces in this design that Salomon could cut away (I am looking squarely at that heel and the extra-thick uppers), and the sole, while flexible in the forefoot, could be more minimal, too. Lots of people will love this shoe, don’t get me wrong. But it does not feel anything like a traditional fell-running shoe. My hope is that the Fellcross is a stepping stone for Salomon toward something truly appropriate for the “fell” name.
Overall, I liked running in the Fellcross shoes only off-trail and on rough paths with rocks. They are not good for gravel roads or well-maintained trails — to me, the shoes are seriously overbuilt for those venues. In extreme terrain, the extra protection this shoe offers was appreciated. The big heel is nice for long descents, where padding can be good for the knees. The outsole, I again praise, is among the better all-around patterns I have seen — fast, comfortable, and grip-worthy up, down, side to side, and then through snow, grass, and mud before you get home again. You will rarely fall down.
—Stephen Regenold is editor of GearJunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.