In my three years of running so far I have changed my mind on many subjects – examples such as my favourite distance, my preferred shorts and my tastes in fuel and gels come to mind. One thing that has always been certain is that I prefer running on trails to running on roads. You would then think that I would have found the perfect trail shoe, but this most elusive of creatures has until now evaded me.
In a market saturated with choice, the modern trail runner is bombarded with options. Do you go minimal and strip your footwear right back to the basics with Inov8s? Or do you indulge in the exact opposite and buy yourself a pair of Hokas? The problem is that this exercise in trial and error is an expensive one, and two different pairs of trail shoes later I am still not satisfied with what I own.
Three years down the line and I am still on the search for the perfect trail shoe. I currently own two pairs of Inov8s – one pair of sturdy and hefty Flyrocs (above), and one pair of lightweight and colourful Trailrocs (below). Neither are quite right; the Flyrocs have a thick hard sole and no cushioning which ruined my feet during 53 miles of the Fling, and the Trailrocs are too lightweight for anything technical and are far too minimal for any great distance for me.
Some of my friends wear trail shoes all the time but I can’t bear to run on tarmac in either of the above shoes. I live very close to some amazing trails, hills and forests to tear about in, but I hate having to choose between taking the car or enduring 3 – 4 miles of tarmac in trail shoes before reaching more suitable terrain. The Inov8s are great for certain stuff but they are not a good all-round shoe and lately I’ve been spending more time in my road shoes, even when running on trails.A while ago I was contacted by Salomon who were keen to talk to runners about trail running this summer. They did a series of City Trail events around the country where runners could come along and be introduced to the joys of trail running and try out some new kit. Since I live in the back of beyond the nearest event to me was well over 100 miles away in Edinburgh, but Salomon kindly offered to send me some of their new shoes to test and review on the blog. Given my recent difficulties with finding the perfect trail shoe I jumped at the opportunity, and for the last three weeks I’ve been testing a pair of the Salomon Speedcross 3 from the S-LAB Collection.
I was really excited to unwrap the shoes, which came wrapped inside a box inside a box.
I left an even more excited Saskia to play with the boxes, and quickly got some sensible socks on so that I could check the fit.
I take a UK9 in my running shoes, which depending on the manufacturer can be a EU42 or a 43. Salomon sent a 43 and the fit for me is perfect ***SEE UPDATE ON SIZING AT BOTTOM, DECEMBER 2014***.
Here’s what Salomon have to say:
“S-LAB Collection – Designed with the world’s best trail runners. Lightweight minimal uppers for a superior fit, and the precision, protection and traction necessary to be a proven winner at the world’s toughest mountain and trail races. The Speedcross 3 W is an update to the iconic, lightweight, aggressive profile, trail racing shoe.”
The shoe is sturdy but light to lift. It has a thick rubber sole and sturdy instep cushioning with lots of padding around ankles, like a road shoe. The toe box is quite wide with plenty of wiggle room for the toes and the material on top is light and quick to dry.
The laces are pull-tie strings. This is a new thing for me and I was quite wary at first as they seem flimsy, but the grip is solid and you can tighten/loosen right down to the toes if required. The spare strings tuck neatly in the pocket in the tongue leaving everything tight – there is no room for twigs, leaves, or other trail miscellany to get wedged under the laces. Incidentally the strings are actually made of kevlar so they are really not going to snap easily, but if they do, you can get a replacement from Salomon.
When I first pulled the shoes on they felt just like a familiar and comfortable road shoe which I found very promising. When I left my front door to head to the forest it felt just like a normal road shoe when I was running on the pavement; secure, but cushioned.
As soon as I got to the trails however the shoe’s true purpose quickly shone through. As you can see from the image above, the grip is ferocious and the Speedcross’ sole is designed for traction on wet and slippery surfaces. As I changed from gravel to leaves and mud I felt complete control over my feet. The lugs on the sole face both forward and backwards so you can anchor your foot safely regardless of whether you’re heading up or down a hill.
Winter is approaching and the snow will be here soon. With the D33, the Highland Fling and more to train for next Spring I am facing another tough winters running and I can’t wait to see how this shoe will perform in shoe and on ice.
I know it’s only been a couple of weeks but this shoe and I are already getting on very well. We’ve had two more dates with the trails and I think it could be getting serious. I was actually considering an act of total lunacy and wearing them for the Kielder Trail Marathon last weekend since they’ve been so comfy, but I’ve not been out in them for more than an hour yet so that would have been a risky move. It does show the levels of confidence I have in the shoes though, and I am going to wear them for a trail 10k race I’m doing on Saturday.
So thank you, Salomon, for showing me that there is still a world of comfort to be had on the trails. These shoes have most definitely earned both mine, and Saskia’s, complete approval.
The Speedcross 3 retails between £70ish and all the way up to £110 online depending on where you shop.
Disclosure: I was provided these shoes in exchange for my honest thoughts and review. As ever, all opinions are my own (and Saskia’s).
UPDATE: Randomly, of all the posts I’ve written in this blog, this post gets consistently the most hits every single month. A lot of people want to know about these shoes, it seems. So here’s a brief note on where I’m at with them now a year later: I still love them, but they are way too small in the toe-box for anything longer than 20 miles. I ran the 53 mile Highland Fling in them in 13.5 hours, and the 55 mile Cateran Trail ultra in 13 hours, and in both races my little toes were in absolute agony from being crushed in the toe-box as my feet swole up in the latter half, and I had huge blisters in between my toes. After the Cateran, I realised that the toes had actually worn holes in the Gore-Tex upper where they were desperate to get out… The mileage on the shoes at that point was about 250 miles.
So, if you are into long ultras I would absolutely recommend going up a size in these shoes. I will be buying a new pair shortly for next season but will likely purchase a pair of mens shoes as the toe-box is made wider.