Only a handful of years ago, back when I knew next to nothing about shoes and what all the fancy new terminology indicated, I assumed the prescribed ‘500 miles’ was the ultimate cut-off point. I assumed once this magic number of miles were reached, threads would begin to hang loose by design, toes would have been long jammed through the toe box, the soles wore down so far that my own fleshy heel would see daylight. I quickly found out this was very much not the case with my Salomon Speedcross 4’s, that they were built for abuse, if given the chance – they would survive hundreds of miles with not a fret for what the trail ahead was constructed of – all they wanted was the loving caress of your foot inside of its plushy fabric.
When I bought my first real trail running shoes I knew literally nothing regarding what I should be looking for other than these puppies looked like grippy monster truck tires for my feet, by definition they looked sweet. I went shoe shopping with my lovely girlfriend Ciara who was getting reimbursed for ‘work shoes’ – we picked our pairs: one for me, two for her. Not knowing in the store what each other had decided on, we got home to unbox and share our little shopping sprees with each other; we each picked up a pair of Salomon X-Mission3’s, but she had another pair, one of the most rad color combinations I had seen in footwear to date, sea foam green Speedcross 4’s.
My X-Mission3’s worked great for the next several months both on road and light trail, with an average run distance of 5-10 miles. I watched Ciara run completely ecstatically in her new Speedcross4’s, so when I was given the gift of the Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series for my birthday – I knew I would need to upgrade, I wanted to experience the sure-footed joy of trail running that I saw coursing through her veins. The day came when I found myself at our local Eastern Mountain Sports, who carried a surprisingly impressive selection of Salomon running gear. I knew exactly what I was there for so in my typical shopping fashion, I simply stared at the shoes for what seemed like all afternoon.. trying to decide: “wide toe box, normal toe box”? After running thousands of scenarios through my head and being asked by just about every associate in the store if I needed help, I decided that I may down the line prefer something on the wider side, giving me the option to ramp up my sock thickness for all the 100 milers that I had been day dreaming about, or whatever the case may be.
About the shoes? Yeah, they were friggin’ sweet.
Of course, I was super reluctant to wear them, wanting them somehow to last forever, remain clean forever.. well, that didn’t last long! My first race found me shin deep in thick, black, stinky mud.. only to bake in the sun, then dunked into a river (while on my feet of course), needless to say, they were broken in quite quickly!
Now, about 12 months of use later (as I write this) and with a total mileage teetering into the 800 range, what I have dubbed my 2018 Speedcross shoes still see the packed dirt roads and pavement regularly, now limited to shorter 5-20 mile distances these days (as of writing this, my longest run in the Speedcross4’s was 33.5 miles, and loved every mile of it!). Naturally, with some hefty lugs found on the underside of these beasts, I initially tried to keep the shoes off-road and glued to trail. This worked for a month or two during the running series and the special evening sessions with Ciara and the doggos. I began to become lax on the care side of the equation when I took my Speedcross4’s up Mount Mansfield over the summer (2018), and for those who have never been on these trails – they are beautiful dirt and grass, completely lush trails with moss on either side of the single track down at 1,800 feet but once you start reaching for 3,000 then 4,000 and finally peaking out at 4,400 feet above sea level, you find yourself running on jagged granite, bare rock, and a few wood planks along the Long Trail portion – it can be rough going in a few spots, but incredible.
The shoes held up fantastic while climbing their first real mountain. I retained all of my toe nails on the descent, the grip was outstanding even with loose sand and gravel, I even found water crossings to be totally comfortable. The model that I was rocking clearly was not fitted with Gore Tex (it would be some time before I understood the idea of Gore Tex shoes, laughing all the while thinking..won’t the water and ice just go down my ankle?), but I could sense that it sacrificed all it could in order to defer water from reaching my toes.
Regarding grip – this was the first pair of shoes where I felt like I could really ‘sense’ objects around the toe area, it was as if I could feel details like an individual gain of sand with the tip of my toes, yet they were completely rigid and structurally stable enough that this stretch over an object never resonated into my joints, I always found my bones to be in a comfortable position. Stubbing my toe of course happened in the White Mountains over microwave sized rocks and hefty roots sticking up, but with the thick lugs wrapping their way up and almost over the toes, I was never agitated or worried about my toe nails!
My Speedcross4’s have been on excursions into the 4000 footers of Vermont, New York, Maine and all around the White Mountains of New Hampshire – even excelling in the Presidential Range as I ran Mount Washington. Anyone who has even seen pictures of that terrain knows that the boulder field ascending from Boott Spurr and Tuckerman Revine is all jagged, sharp – as I like to call “snap-your-ankle” types of rocks, well I am happy to report – I found out just why the pro’s prefer these shoes in the French Alps, they are absolutely rock stars on bare granite, even mossy rock they do much better than some alternatives that I have taken to the trails! I always feel completely safe with the deep, grippy lug pattern on all surfaces!
But are they light? That is all the rage these days.. right? Yes and no, how’s that for an answer? For the grip and protection and comfort especially, I don’t think the Speedcross 4’s are necessarily heavy or bulky at all.. (“yes.. do go on..” the reader thinks.. ) but I have had some trail running shoes by other manufacturers that are about half the weight – I am also inclined to remark – these lighter alternatives also feel like they offer half of the support and grip as the Salomon’s as well, but that’s just what I’ve noticed. I mean, it’s clearly not like putting on the Speedcross is like wearing bricks or anything – the experts will call these 11oz, I will call them “just right”, light enough that your legs easily get used to the extra 11oz, sturdy enough that I don’t feel like I will flex fracture my foot over a boulder, and I try to kindly think of the alternative – I won’t be found anytime soon bare footing my way through the Presi Range!
And quite possibly the best part of this whole set up? My hats are all off to their lacing system, easily my favorite feature of these shoes (okay..maybe that is taking it a bit far, but seriously awesome!) It is a synch sort of system, no tying required! Just get your tongue all in place, slide the plastic do-dad thinger fandangler on the QuickLace system down the stand of lace, which instantly locks into place and tuck the whole set up seamlessly into the hidden compartment on the tongue. The tension quickly evens out, I have never had a ‘hot spot’ or unevenness, over-tight in the toe area with too loose anywhere else? Nope, it just works wonderfully in my experience! Nor have I been on the trail (or anywhere at all for that matter) and had the QuickLace system loosen up unexpectedly – I seriously wish that all footwear came with this excellent little feature. Such a small detail can seem to make all the chaotic puzzle pieces of life fall that much easier into place!
One detail that I absolutely have to point out to anyone who owns these shoes already and says “oh heck yeah, the same thing happens to me!”, or just awareness for any potential buyers out there: the tongue does not stay straight over the foot. Now, I am not the type to contact Salomon and voice my complaints or this and that, I love love love these Speedcross4’s! So I have dealt with it (for the record, Ciara has stated that she has never had this issue with the womens model), I have fixed my issue and now it is nothing to me, the problem does not cross my mind anymore! What am I talking about? Every other pair of Salomon’s that I have owned – running, hiking or whatever it may be, has come with a stretchy elastic mesh fabric attached to the tongue to ensure it doesn’t slide all around mid-run. Why don’t these? Forgotten or intentionally disregarded? Either way this is the one and only detail of the shoe that makes me cringe, I could go on and on about how my ankle was rubbed raw by the lace system at mile 15 of a long run. What did I do? I fixed it (when I got home). No longer an issue. I grabbed a needle and some thread and attached that sucker right to the medial side of the upper, BAM – problem solved.
So how much abuse have these trail runners sustained? Dozens of mountain runs, a series of snowshoe (yes, I have strapped my Dion racing snowshoes to the Speedcross on more than one occasion!) running events, both my first real 26.2 marathon (Mount Desert Island Marathon in Acadia National Park), and my first 50K (Nor’Witch 50K with Nor’East Trail Runs), now they see mostly dry packed dirt and pavement. With well over 800 miles these shoes have been through it all and still beg for more action, aside from the lugs (which, honestly are worn dang near flat at this point) they show minimal signs of wear and tear – in fact, nothing is torn on them, the fabric all holding up impressively well.
So, what is in store for the Speedcross4’s for 2019? I’ve had a second pair (currently holding clean at ~40 miles, 31 of which was put on during the Merck Forest Snowshoe 50K) which I am waiting to break out once the soil is visible on the trails once again. Salomon has produced a variation of the Speedcross that I picked up on a whim many months ago while it was on a 1/2 off sale – the SpeedSpike. These are basically ramped up, more solidly constructed Speedcross with steel spikes (..think cleats..) sticking out of the lugs. I have grown to love them over this past winter, they have been on my feet on flowing sheets of ice, winter storms which have produced feet of snow (..add gaiters for maximum comfort!!), most recently they joined me on a 12+ mile packed snow trail run through the White Mountains here in New Hampshire, gaining roughly 6200 feet of elevation gain, they remained comfortable – but for the record: they tolerate wet conditions very comfortably, they are in no way a water-proof GoreTex material!
What’s this..? Plot Twist?!
Now, I feel I must add before I end this, the little jaunt to Burlington, VT that Ciara and I took not long ago, we went for a race and to explore some shops in our down time. Long story short – we all came home with bright red boxes with bright white text slung down the side, these boxes all contained Altra running shoes! Not her first pair, and she has loved what she has run in thus far, but these Superior 4.0’s are my very first pair of Altra’s ever. First impression? Love Them.
I was told that Altra’s take some time to get used to, a sort of ‘break in’ period, if you will. I loved mine so much that the day after I began wearing them I threw down a very comfortable 21 miles. Absolutely love these shoes so far…
Looks as if my commitment to the Speedcross family is not as cut and dry as I had once imagined years ago when I walked out of that store in sandals, holding my first pair of Speedcross 4’s.
I’ll do a more in depth review of the Altra’s. It is only fitting that I put them through the Runamuck 50K (31+ miles of packed dirt and a brief taste of blacktop – more than likely snow – this is the Northeast after all!) this weekend, and then let you know how they fair up to everything else I know about shoeology!
As always, thanks for reading and following along with me!
Got a shoe that compares that I need to know about? Let me know in the comments below!
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Have an awesome time out on the trails, roads, snow covered roads, whatever you do – make it awesome!!