Among the more popular trail shoes of our era, Salomon updates its Speedcross for 2016. We took the 4th generation of the shoe on a series of trail and mountain runs for this review.
Quick-lacing, adorned with toothy, aggressive tread, and built with a big shock absorbing heel, the Speedcross from Salomon is a quick beast of a trail-running shoe. Many people love it, and it’s a perennial top-seller. But some think it’s over-built compared with more minimal options from Salomon or other brands.
The company upgraded a couple key areas with the Speedcross 4. We took it for tests on a rugged multi-day Colorado mountain route and a series of trail runs in Minnesota, near the GearJunkie HQ.
Review: Salomon Speedcross 4
Undeniably, the Speedcross 4 has amazing traction. Its chevron tread bites dirt, and the lugs are tall enough to dig into the terrain underfoot and absorb impact.
Its midsole is traditional, including a big heel and a thinner forefoot. This results in a drop of about 11mm, which is high compared to many trail shoes on the market.
The formula makes for a shoe that excels on both rough terrain, where the traction is key, and big downhills, where the thick heel helps absorb shock.
Turn around and go up the hill and the thinner forefoot gives precision strides when you land on your toes. But on normal, flat trails the shoe is probably least dynamic; the heel and big lugs position the foot a few millimeters higher off the ground than other options.
After running in minimalist shoes for the past few years some runners say the high-drop design is “tippy” compared to flat-on-the-ground minimal alternatives.
It should be obvious but this is a trail-only shoe. On roads it’s just too toothy and feels overbuilt. The uppers, a thick mesh-nylon that is almost like a softshell jacket, can get hot on summer runs. In the mountains at elevation and for spring or fall, the thicker upper is appreciated.
The Speedcross 4 is a well-built and versatile shoe. At $130, the price tag is a little high in its category, but the shoe is amazingly built. From its quick-lace system on up, the finished product in the hand is a refined specimen of perfect stitching, weld-ons, bumpers, and protective rubbery fabric on the front. Its rip-stop grid upper integrates seamlessly to the toothy sole.
All of this puts the Speedcross 4 a step above most of the competition.
The fit is somewhat narrow, so try these on first if you have wider feet. Weight per shoe is average, at about 12 ounces in a size 12 men’s.
Compared to the Speedcross 3, the new model has a tighter lug pattern, with more lugs for the surface area, and thus improved traction. The 4s seem to be a bit “shallower” than the 3s, too, as the latter had a deeper heel cup and higher arch support.
See our contributor’s mountain-run review below, where the Speedcross 4s were employed on a tough, multi-day feat near Leadville, Colo.
Salomon Speedcross 4: ‘Collegiate Triple’ Run
by Zach Smith
THE COURSE WAS UNCHARTED TERRITORY. I had only heard stories. The famous route through Hope Pass of the Leadville race series — 33 miles and three mountain passes, Hope Pass being just the first — would make for a high-alpine, ultra-run in Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks.
I called it the “Collegiate Triple,” and there were few rules: one map, one compass, and one pair of shoes, the newly-released Speedcross 4 from Salomon. I set off in late August to give it a go.
For months I had been training in the Speedcross 3. Those shoes sustained hundreds of miles of abuse on rugged terrain, gym workouts, and a six-day traverse of the Wind Rivers in Wyoming. The fact that they even had nubs of tread left is a testament to their durability.
The Collegiate Triple was my debut test of the Speedcross 4, and right out of the box they cradled my feet. On the run, a lower arch allowed for a shallower, lower profile fit that still held my foot securely whether I was cranking up hill or leaning back in a sprint on the way down.
Coming down pass #2 (Lake Ann Pass) at about mile 15, my legs felt fatigued from the second multi-thousand foot climb of the day, and I remember being relieved when the tread “caught” my foot at every switchback.
We have all felt the opposite – that moment when a shoe fails to hold you steady on a steep descent. When that happens, it is as if either your ankle or your knee might buckle from the strain and slippage of your foot inside the foot-bed.
But, thanks to the inner molding and quick-lace tightening system, I had ample control and had the freedom to hone in on speed and efficiency, instead of the fear of a wipeout.
Uphill Crusher, Not Invincible
It was on major climbs, the three high mountain passes of the Collegiate Triple, where I really got to push the Speedcross 4 to the limit. Climbs like these will never be wonderfully comfortable, regardless of footwear, so the shoe’s job boils down to two pretty simple tasks: eliminate slipping, and facilitate powerful movement.
The precisely placed, aggressive treads, gave me the ability to dig in and claw at the ground, above and beyond last year’s model. One of the major differences between the two designs, aside from the previously-mentioned arch support, is the tightened lug pattern. More lugs over the entire surface area equates to increased grip, and a more responsive and confident stride on multiple surfaces.
The shoes are reinforced with abrasion-resistant sidewalls that do a decent job protecting your feet in loose talus fields, of which there were a few on this route. I learned that it was imperative to stay nimble and run delicately through these segments: If I tried to run more aggressively, I would inevitably get stung in the ankle or forefoot by sharp rocks that rolled underfoot.
In other words, the protective features of this shoe are not as all-encompassing as some of Salomon’s more aggressive trail shoes, especially in off-trail environments. If you are looking to spend hours on end swiftly hopping around in rock gardens full of sharp shale, check out a different model, like the XA Pro 3D or S-Lab XA Alpine.
More Fun For Long Distance
With an 11mm drop, the shoes can feel tall. For shorter distances, or lighter trail running, I go with a “flatter” shoe. However, I have found with the Speedcross 4 that the added support of a slightly higher drop gives my heels greater protection, and prevents fatigue and injury, particularly when pounding out 30+ miles in the mountains.
When I crested the final pass of the day at mile 33, the Collegiate Triple was over just as abruptly as it had started. It had been a long journey since my opening steps were lit up by headlamp. I thought back to every mile and every breathtaking view, both on a grand scale and at a micro level, and felt a sense of gratitude for the whole thing. Each pass, each technical challenge, and each descent back into the forest, was an opportunity to overcome and eventually triumph.
The final verdict? These shoes are just plain fun. And isn’t that the whole point? Why else would we head out with nothing but the clothes on our backs, some food and water, and the shoes on our feet? The Speedcross 4 delivers a great time when putting big miles on the trail.