I was fortunate to receive a pair of Salomon Snowcross CS shoes for testing, but wasn’t fortunate to get a pair big enough to fit me. This was a bit of a blessing in disguise, since I live in an area with few days when I could take advantage of these shoes. I have a brother who lives much further north in Sioux Lookout, Ontario (google it), who has much smaller feet and was thus the ideal gear tester for these shoes. With that, I’ll let my guest tester Mike McCarl take it away…
First of all I would like to thank Kent for allowing me the opportunity to review a product on this blog. Especially the Salomon Snowcross shoes that I have had my eye on for several months. They have fun written all over them!
Before I begin I should set out my disclaimer:
- I have been a fan of Salomon products for many years and never more so than after using their trail runner series.
- I don’t particular enjoy running on the road and as a consequence of living in Northwestern Ontario, most of my running is done in the summer/fall and on trails.
- During the winter months, I would much prefer to cross country ski than to run.
I’m sure the first question that pops into people’s minds when they see these shoes is “exactly what type of running are these things made for?” Are they for running your favourite trail in the winter through the snow? Are they simply for added “grip” when running the roads in the winter? Or are they meant to open up new trails for winter running…such as a packed ski trail or snowshoe trail? I tested the shoe on all 3 types of terrain during my review.
The Snowcross is basically the acclaimed Salomon Speedcross runner enveloped with a slightly above ankle gaiter with an added 9 small carbon-metal spike like “cleats” (like the Spikecross). Both the Speedcross and the Snowcross use a heavy duty, “Caterpillar” like, deep lug tread. The shoe uses Salomon’s cinch tightening lace system and a second zipper encloses the gaiter.
The shoe fit rather snug as I was wearing a ½ size smaller than normal for Salomon products. The toe portion was especially snug with an almost elastic feel. The cinch strap of course allows for a tight fit and increased support. With this tight fit the shoe really did feel like an extension of my leg and when I stepped out onto the hardpacked icy road, I really felt that I was one with my Snowcross.
My first run was a short 5K along a hard packed and icy roadway. The shoe provided added confidence within the first few steps of my run. The combination of the gaiter providing increased support and the spikes/tread providing solid grip made for a run that just begged to go faster with each step. My confidence built with each stride on what otherwise would have been a slow and cautious, and at times treacherous run. There was no need to worry about the slick condition of the road. Every step felt firmly rooted and supported.
My next run in the Snowcrosses was a 10K route on a slightly packed snowmobile trail that led to a beautiful vista. The beauty was in the fact that without these shoes, the route would have required snowshoes or skis. I would not have considered running this route in the winter, in regular trail shoes. The snow was softer than the road pack and this allowed me to test the worthiness of the gaiter. The gaiter fits snug and there was no issue whatsoever with snow getting into the shoe. I secretly had hoped that wearing these shoes would make running this trail as enjoyable in the winter as it is in the summer. Unfortunately, the shoes cannot do anything about the soft snow underneath. While the added support was definitely as asset, being soft and unpredictable the terrain was not overly fun to run on. I particularly noticed a tendency to pronate more on this soft uneven ground.
My last run in the Salomon Snowcross test run series was on a designated snowmobile and ski trail . There isn’t a lot more to add, and again the challenge was soft deep snow. Running on these trails was more enjoyable than it would have been in regular trail runners…but the snow was simply too soft.
The combination of these runs has left me wanting to run the Snowcross shoes on a hardpacked snowmobile trail on a cold day when the trail is solid. The fantastic tread and support could make for an enjoyable trail run on hard ground with the added possibility of a technical aspect to the run, dodging ruts, aiming for level ground and adjusting for steep ascents and descents. Additionally, I am looking forward to the brief time when my favourite trail runs are melting and the shoe can be used on a trail that will be equal parts snow, ice, dirt, rock and hardpack. I think that this spring running season will be one to remember.
The comfort level of this shoe may be open to debate as this is always subjective. My experience has been that I need a solid supportive shoe for my trail runs and for that I am willing to give up some comfort. I’ve found that comfort in these Salomon products is sometimes just a matter of dialing in the cinch lace properly. The shoes are surprisingly light for a winter product. As mentioned, the gaiter fits snug and becomes one with your leg for outstanding comfort. Depending on your choice, the sole of this shoe may not be as comfortable as you’d like.
As an added feature, the Snowcross has slightly padded inner ankles which I understand is to provide padding if one were to wear these shoes with snowshoes. I would not recommend trekking into back country woods at -30 degrees celcius with these but I’m sure they would work fine with a set of running snowshoes, especially given their lightweight and support.
My overall thoughts, if I ran on icy hardpacked roads regularly in the winter, I wouldn’t be without these shoes. In fact, the confidence that they provide has made winter road running “fun” for me. There is something about being able to run all out on slippery conditions. And my dog has loved going for quick “spur of the moment runs” because of the fun these shoes provided. If nothing else…buy these shoes for the benefit of your dog!
These shoes were great on hardpacked and icy routes. If you’re looking for a shoe that is going to allow you to run your favourite untracked deep snow trail in the winter time, these shoes won’t make it any easier (unless you pair them with snowshoes). However what this shoe can provide is comfortable and solid footed access to some beautiful spots that you might not otherwise be able to comfortably and safely run to.