A card-carrying foul weather runner, I’ve sunk trunks of money into shoes and upgrades to enhance my winter experience.
I’ve bagged my feet, accumulated a basket full of running gaiters, strapped crampons over my flats, and have even resorted to sinking ¼” hex screws into my shoes. Some of these accouterments performed better than others, but in the end, winter running has always been a compromise.
This year, Salomon released the second run of its winterized Snowcross CS.
It looks like a souped-up Speedcross 3. In truth, it borrows a lot from this summer sister: The aggressive v-shape tread, the iconic Quicklace system, a ferocious sex appeal… But there are plenty of upgrades that fuel this racy snow machine, including (most noticeably) the gaiter and nine carbide spikes on the business end of the sole.
Do these additions solve the winter blues … or is it great white hype? I’ve been testing the Snowcross CS this winter and have the following report.
The Gear: Salomon Snowcross CS ($200, though we’ve seen them for less online.)
Available: Since 2013; new model available now.
Where to test it: Sloppy winter trails and roads buried under snow.
Who’s it’s for: Runners who don’t slow down when the flakes start to fly.
First impressions: The Snowcross is a purebred snow-shoe that protects your dogs from winter’s bite. They had me grinning like a kid, charging lines that I would never consider in my summer flats. I can see myself chasing winter into the mountains during the summer, trundling snowy haute routes and appreciating the crampon-like traction.
The nitty gritty: For those who’ve been around the block in these shoes, the 2014/2015 Snowcross is sporting cosmetic upgrades with a red outsole and black outer mesh (over last season’s white sole and a red mesh). Also new is reinforced stitching in the toecap.
The Snowcross sports a healthy 11mm drop from 20mm (heel) to 9mm (forefoot). If you are running more minimally in summer, this is a noticeable drop.
The forefoot is wrapped in waterproof-breathable material while the upper gaiter is a breathable neoprene dedicated to keeping dry powder snow and debris from packing in.
All about that base: The narrow Snowcross lug is beefed up with 9 carbide studs (5 in front, 4 in back). This is the same material you’ll find in trekking pole tips, which are as hearty as cockroaches and long outlast the pole.
The aggressive combination provides superior traction; I found myself bashing down sloppy fall lines and charging up muddy trails instead of carefully picking my line. But it’s not entirely skid-proof. Overconfident near the end of a run, I skated off a slab of wet ice.
A citadel for the foot: A waterproof breathable Climashield membrane wraps the forefoot, where the foot is most likely going to take on water. The shoe indeed repels the occasional dip, but go too deep and water pours over the top and into the shoe.
Many outside reviews report that Climashield doesn’t work and the shoes get wet. I found that the Climashield works very well at shunning water, but feet outpace the membrane’s breathability. After a long run my feet felt warm but my socks were soaked. It essentially became a vapor barrier.
Later gaiter: What separates this shoe from the rest of Salomon’s line is their seamlessly constructed gaiter, which curves off the shoe and secures snugly over the ankle with a Lycra collar. The soft neoprene gaiter is secured with a waterproof zipper, which tucks into a zipper garage. Though not waterproof (it breathes very well) it sheds powdery snow and other debris.
An oversized tongue follows the ankle under the gaiter and protects the lower shins from bashing through hard-crusted snow. Two pads line the gaiter sidewalls and protect your lateral and medial malleolus from getting trashed by rock, branches or a rogue foot strike.
I found the gaiters superior at keeping the dry fluff out and even provided some additional ankle support when running over rough terrain.
You may need to size up if you want to pair the Snowcross with a thick winter sock, which fills the volume quickly and makes it tough to zip the gaiter shut. I found an anklet sock worked best.
Made in: China
Awesome! No more snow balls in the shoe! The gaiter’s seamless construction effortlessly rises off the shoe securing snuggly over the ankle, keeping snow and ice from packing inside the shoe. The design is thoughtfully constructed.
Flaw: Salomon has always priced its kicks high, but at $200 the Snowcross are the Jimmy Choo of winter shoes.
For runners with thicker ankles or large volume feet, the zipper could be hard to shut.
I also experienced some chafing caused by the gaiter’s back seam. I buffered this by wearing a thin tall sock that easily slipped between the gaiter and my ankle.
Concluding thoughts: The Snowcross CS is an exceptional but specialized winter shoe. They felt great on technical ground, where the aggressive knobs bit into the slop and the gaiters shed every flake. But the spiked 12-ouncer felt clunky over tamer terrain and clattered over the hard rock and pavement.
The shoes climbed well, but my ankles sometimes felt a little unstable over the 11mm drop. That said, the high top gaiter added a bit of stability.
While the Climashield shed moisture, it also trapped it on the inside, requiring longer dry times.
Ultimately, these are purebred snow machines that just may replace my boots.
Who Should Buy It: Runners who prefer to shove in some miles before shoveling the front stoop.
Contact Brand/More Beta: Salomon Snowcross CS
—Steve Graepel is a contributor. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at GearJunkie.com. Photos © Monopoint Media LLC