Field Tested Review: Salomon Speedcross 3 Trail Runner.
Trail Running is a fun way to cross train for alpine climbing, especially if you need to give your arms a break from the gym or crag. It is also an enjoyable activity in it’s own right, and one helluva lot more entertaining than city jogging.
To that end I picked up the new iteration of a Trail Running classic: the Salomon Speedcross 3. I’ve had the Speedcross 3 out on a number of trail runs in the Bow Valley, ran a leg of a trail Ultra Marathon Relay, and because this is the Alpine Start… took them scrambling up a nearby peak that involved both loose rubble and low angle slab climbing. The Speedcross 3 handled it all quite well, although they might not last very long if you put them through a lot of scrambling and scree. They are very light, have a very precise fit (i.e. narrow and snug), and have an aggressive tread pattern that gives a lot of confidence as you fly down technical single track. If you have narrow feet and are in the market for a new pair of trail running footwear, I would definitely recommend checking these out.
Fit and Comfort.
I have owned enough sets of trail runners now to notice that along with wearing proper socks, “fit” plays the biggest role in avoiding blisters when trail running. The Speedcross 3 fit me extremely well, in fact they fit me better than any pair of trail runners I’ve ever owned (see below for a description of recommended foot profiles). They are also quite breathable and a clima shield toe cover helps protect against a bit of weather. I definitely find these are on the “cool” side, which is great for temperature control and allow you to make warmth decisions based on socks rather than shoes.
A narrow toe box and foot bed makes these shoes a nice snug fit for narrow feet. A clima shield partial cover helps keep out a bit of of the elements, while the rest of the shoe vents and breathes very well.
You will probably like these if your foot profile is as follows:
Sharp drop off of toe profile from big toe to little toe (meaning narrow/pointy toe box)
You may encounter difficulty if your foot profile is:
Flat / square Toe box
Low / Flat arch
I like trail runners that fit snug and close and for my shape of foot these are the perfect match. You should be aware though that they are “runners” in the truest sense, and as such have very limited/no ankle protection and support.
The treads are among the best features on this shoe. They are super aggressive, well placed, and some have little rubber “nubbins” which help the shoe stay put when you plant your foot.
The treads are grippy, numerous, and aggressive.
There are also two treads on the front of the toe box which is a really great feature for running up slab or other steep features.
Toe box treads give a nice amount of extra grip for biting into steeper terrain.
During a recent Ultra Relay I ran a 7 km loop of technical single track which basically amounted to 2 km of steep uphill gain and then 5 km of downhill pedal to the metal. 7 kilometers isn’t far and especially running the downhill portion I found it a great opportunity to open up the turbos as I didn’t need to save any energy (hooray for relay races!).
I can run pretty damn fast moving downhill and it was nice to feel that I could totally rely on the shoe tread to stay where I wanted it to, especially as trees and slower racers went by in a blur. The trail was that perfect moderate grade of “steep but not so steep that you have to hold back”, firmly packed, heavily rooted with rocks and drops throughout. Really, really fun stuff. The treads helped prevent me from living one of my greatest trail race fears: rocketing by someone only to be promptly re-passed by the slower person because I tripped and crashed into a mangled heap off in the brush. Fortunately this was avoided.
The tread “nubbins” also help stick the shoe on wet or slippery surfaces better than if it was a smooth profile, and although I’ve still eaten dirt after making poor routing decisions the grip on the shoes has saved me more than a few times where in my old shoes I would have gone down.
Tread damage after a month and a half of trail running, a couple scrambles, and a leg of an Ultra relay.
The ultra grippy rubber comes at a price however: durability. The photo above shows the status after a month and a half of life with me. Granted I’ve used them outside their intended “comfort zone” so I’m not really surprised, just be aware that they aren’t really made to handle certain types of terrain and you should get a longer while out of them than me!
The lace system is a standard Salomon Speed Lace found on many of their other shoes. Pull tight, snug the loop in the tab pouch in the tongue of the shoe, and you are good to go.
A fairly standard speed lace system, but Salomon’s is well designed and doesn’t slip loose while running.
Along with narrow fit and aggressive treads, the most defining feature of the Salomon Speedcross 3 is that they are very, very light weight.
The advantages of the wafer thin shoe from a mobility perspective are obvious: they take less energy to move up and down. The disadvantages come mostly in the form of reduced durability. Scree is a shredder, and a few nicks were apparent in the material after the few times I’ve taken them down rubble slopes. The shoe can definitely handle it, but if you are putting it through that sort of abuse on a regular basis you should expect to replace them in fairly short order.
If you need a snug fitting, featherweight trail runner with aggressive treads that is going to be mostly on hard pack trail this is a great option. I should be clear that I’m no Kilian Jornet, so I don’t need a trail runner that can also mountaineer. If you want a super scrambling trail runner than can handle your mad dash from the summit down through Rockies limestone or spray skirts of scree, I would recommend something more durable if replacing these frequently isn’t in your budget. However if you are looking for something to handle everything else, from bike path to hardpack technical single track, this is a winner.
Pros: Light, Aggressive, Snug
Cons: Won’t hold up to sharp rock / screebashing for long, tread durability, may not work for wide feet.