As one of their most popular and recognizable designs, the Speedcross trail-running shoe has been a huge hit for Salomon. The toothy, exposed traction and bright colorways are a common sight at trail runs and adventure races, and for good reason—they’re one of the toughest built trail shoes on the market. For fall 2016, Salomon has released a new version: the Speedcross 4. It’s best to classify the “4” as a modest update, which should come as a relief to many—myself included. Following extensive testing, we’ve concluded that they remain a streamlined mountain machine best for steep, muddy trails and long distances. Below we break down the Speedcross 4's traction, cushioning, fit and comfort, and more. To see how the Speedcross 4 stacks up, see our comparison table and article on the best trail-running shoes.
One of the hallmarks of the Speedcross line is traction, and Salomon has tinkered with the lug design of the Speedcross 4. The results are tremendous. Uphill, downhill, and side-hilling—you just plant and go. And I found it worked well across the board, from muddy and snowy spring trails in the mountains outside of Seattle to dusty, dry, and rocky dirt on the east side of the Central Cascades. As a pure traction machine, the Speedcross is one of the best.
Much of the credit goes to an extremely aggressive outsole with widespread arrow-shaped 6mm lugs that shed mud and muck really well. On steep, switchbacking climbs, the outsole grips that run up the front of the toe dig in nicely and also give the shoe its distinctive (and aggressive) look. In a break from the prior model, the Speedcross 4 now has complete arrow-shaped lugs throughout (the Speedcross 3 had half arrows along the edges of the shoe). The main benefit we see in this change is durability. That area of the outsole was prone to wearing down quickly or chunking off on rough terrain, but with 100+ miles on the updated shoes, the outer traction is wearing evenly and not excessively.
The Speedcross is intended for serious mountain environments and the construction reflects that purpose. Tightly woven mesh resists light rain, snow (there is also a water-resistant Climashield model as well as a waterproof Gore-Tex version available) and debris, and there’s solid toe and heel armor for glancing off of rocks. And while the shoe doesn’t have a rock guard underfoot, the thick midsole was more than enough for me while climbing a trail littered with sharp volcanic rock.
Durability and ventilation do not always go hand-in-hand with trail runners, and the Speedcross does suffer here. In the heat, the strong side panels don’t ventilate heat nearly as well as a shoe like the Saucony Peregrine 6, which has an open mesh upper. Drainage is also middle of the pack. After dunking the shoes in a creek halfway through an hour long run, they were still pretty soggy by the time I returned to the car despite some serious heat. On the plus side, there was no ill effect on comfort and I wasn’t sloshing around, but each shoe had put on an extra ounce of water weight, according to my scale.
At just under 11 ounces per shoe, the Speedcross is a far cry from a minimalist design (true ounce-counting trail runners prefer a shoe like the Altra Superior 2.0 at 8.7 ounces). But that extra weight was put to good use as Salomon filled the midsole with thick EVA foam. Dampening is exceptional and the shoes remain comfortable and feel light over long distances, but what is more impressive is that the shoe retains a good feel for the trail. The soft lugs and relatively flexible build transmit enough information to keep you moving confidently.
Lateral stability, however, is not best in class. The tall stacked height of 31mm/20mm combined with a low cut at the ankle makes the shoes feel a little tippy while turning sharply on a fast descent. The aforementioned 11mm heel-to-toe drop gives the shoe a traditional feel that worked great for us but will not appeal to those that like a zero drop shoe.
Those familiar and happy with the fit of the old Speedcross should find themselves right at home with the 4’s. The sizing seems just about dead on to the prior model, with a relatively snug toebox that is best for those with average to narrow feet. It can be tricky to slide wide feet into the Speedcross—something made worse as your feet swell up over long distances.
As with most Salomon trail-running shoes, the Speedcross 4 features their quick lace system. It’s a polarizing design—one that we often debate the various pros and cons—but it’s worked well enough for me. The main downside is that you aren’t able to customize the fit with the single pull, but it is easy to quickly put on and take off the shoes and the pocket built into the tongue makes it simple to store them away. Importantly, the laces are showing no signs of wear thus far.
What We Like
- Excellent mix of cushion and ground feel. It’s not isolating, but still takes the sting out of rock impacts.
- The treads love tough trails—they’re made for Tough Mudders and remote mountain runs. And the updated lug design has improved durability and longevity.
- Strong construction has held up exceptionally well. The laces, mesh uppers and outsole are all in great shape.
What We Don't
- As with prior Speedcross models, the shoe does not ventilate particularly well, nor does it drain very quickly. It’s happiest in higher elevations and not in the summer heat.
- Tough construction and huge lugs are overkill for the casual trail runner.
- I found the tall lugs make the shoes pretty unsteady on even short stretches of pavement (I have a trail system about a mile from my home), so it’s not great for runs on mixed terrain.
|Salomon Speedcross 4||$130||Mountain / light trail||Moderate||1 lb. 6 oz.||11mm|
|La Sportiva Bushido||$125||Mountain / light trail||Light / moderate||1 lb. 5 oz.||6mm|
|Saucony Peregrine 6||$130||Light trail / mountain||Moderate||1 lb. 2.8 oz.||4mm|
|New Balance Leadville v3||$125||Light trail / mountain||Moderate||1 lb. 5 oz.||8mm|
|Brooks Cascadia 11||$120||Light trail / mountain||Moderate||1 lb. 7 oz.||10mm|
There are myriad trail-running shoe options, but those drawn to the Speedcross likely prioritize durability and rough trail performance. As such, one its most formidable competitors is the La Sportiva Bushido (which we also gave an in-depth review), which matches the Speedcross in both price and hardcore intent. We give the edge in stability to the Bushido, which has a more substantial structure and stronger underfoot support, but the Speedcross is the more comfortable and less stiff shoe overall. For really techy stuff, the Bushido is probably the better call, but the substantial lugs on the Speedcross get a better bite in snow and mud.
Trail runners that stick to well-maintained trails will prefer a softer shoe like the Saucony Peregrine 6 (see our in-depth review), which we’d take over the still-good Brooks Cascadia 11 (we'll have an opinion shortly on the new Brooks Cascadia 12). For long distances, the New Balance Leadville v3 is a recommended option so long as the going doesn’t get too rough. All of these shoes are a near match to the Salomon in terms of comfort and weigh less, but none have the chops to take on serious mountain terrain. This brings us back to the Speedcross as one of the few trail-running shoes to truly bring together plush cushioning and go-anywhere traction.
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