The update of an icon. I took the 4th generation of the Salomon Speedcross series on a number of trails and mountain runs for this review.
,When a company oozes this much cool and has the pedigree to back it up, it's little wonder why Salomon are one of the top shoe brands when it comes to trail running.
The Speedcross series is one of their most successful year after year giving it an almost iconic status. They are light, comfortable and have the grip to rival any. The newest edition to the line, the Speedcross 4, is no exception. I took them for a test, along some of the most rugged and remote parts of the Wicklow Mountains, to really get a sense of them.
,There is no denying the traction of the Speedcross 4. The new model has a tighter lug pattern, allowing more lugs for the surface area. This enables the chevron treads to dig deep enough into the terrain underfoot to give maximum grip.
The 11mm drop on the midsole is due to a big heel and thinner forefoot. This may seem a little high compared to other more minimal shoes on the market but there is a reason for it. The thick heel absorbs shock on the big downhills whilst the thinner forefoot gives you precision stride as you make you way up uphill. This does however give the shoe a slightly overbuilt feel when running of a flat surface. So this is obviously enough a trail only shoe.
The quick lace system gives a secure and snug fit, meaning less chance of sliding when you are hitting the trails hard. Compared to older models, such as the Speedcross 3, they have a slightly tighter fit. So a half size up may be needed in some cases.
The thick mesh-nylon coats the top of the shoe like a softshell jacket. While it prevents most debris, even sand, from entering the shoe, it can become quite warm on a hot day. In the mountains or in cooler weather you would be glad of the thick layer. For those of you who embrace the bad weather there is an option to have a Gore-Tex layer.
At the €120-130 bracket, the Speedcross 4 places itself amongst some heavy hitters. However, I feel there is enough bang for your buck for them to hold their own.
The real world test:
It's a strange feeling when your foot hits the ground but you don’t feel the impact. These were the first words I said to my wife after I finished my debut run in the Speedcross 4. That was only 10km and I needed something a little more intensive, to really put these shoes to the test, before I gave it my full review. Queue a montage of me scanning over endless maps of the Wicklow mountains.
The beauty of trail running is the simplicity. A full Camelbak, some nut bars, my Speedcross shoes and way I go. With the clothes on your back and nothing but high mountains through your front windscreen, you know you are going in the right direction.
As I pulled into the carpark at Glendalough, a sense of excitement came over me. I loved running in the Wicklow Mountains. There was so much variety in the types of trai there. The possibilities are endless. To give the shoes a good going over, I chose a 30km route involving a mixture of open mountain, single trail and timber walkways.
Apart from slipping on the unmeshed timbers of the walkway, there was very little to worry about at the beginning of the run. The many, many steps of the walkway led me up to the Spinc viewing point before my route tapered off to the left. From there, I followed a small path which hugged the tree line of the conifer forest. It was there that the real trails began. The treeline took me up over 600m before I branched off again. The faint path, visible only by a slightly shortened growth in vegetation, brought me off the main path to the right. It was from here that the grip of the Speedcross would be truly tested.
As the grass turned to heather and then to bog, there was little to no difference in grip. The shoes held firm as I powered along the ridge line. Even the herd of deer looked impressed as I whizzed passed them. The farther I travelled on the mountain ridge, the wetter the ground got. It wasn’t long before I was nearly knee deep in sodden bog. Each stride sent my feet deep into the ground with a great squelch. The lack of hard ground sent me down into a valley. On the other side high on the opposite mountain was a reservoir. This would be my marker to aim for. Well, it was my marker until a heavy fog rolled tentatively overhead. By the time it made its way down to me, my visibility was reduced to 20m. Fret not my friends, no panic emerged. Logic dictated that if I just kept going up I would eventually meet the ridge, where I knew there would be a trail. Logic won out in the end. Just beyond the bog canyons was the trail that would lead me up to the reservoir.
With the cloud clearing, the upper lake came back into view. Just in time for a rapid decent through a stunning pine forest. It was here that the extra lugs really came into play. The sheer drop through the trees was near vertical at time so I was glad of that extra bit of traction.
As the carpark emerged through the trees, I resisted the temptation of returning to my van early. Pushing aside my instinct to be lazy, I turned right and made my way back around the lake. I loved the marked trail around the lake. The reassuring stability that the shoes gave me enabled me to make light work of the well pressed gravel and large smooth rocks. All of the rock hopping took its toll on my legs though. By the time I reached the 27km mark I was beginning to fatigue. That’s the price of fun, I suppose. By the time my feet finally returned to the buttery smooth tarmac carpark I was fit for the hay.
When you plan on running 600km on trail, you need a shoe that can withstand a battering while also preventing you from getting one. The Speedcross 4 are those shoes, the quality of build and versatility is everything you need.
Everything from the quick-lace system, the protective rubber on the front, the thicker heel, to the thick mesh-nylon, it’s all there to give you a comfort and reassurance mile after mile. For these reasons I find the Speedcross 4 a step above the rest.
ar an rothar
endurance cyclist, adventurer and usually hungry