This year, I had plans to keep as many miles on the trail as possible through the winter. The last couple of cold, snowy winters have forced me to the road for more runs than I would have liked. As part of the plan, the search was on for some adequate winter trail footwear. The criteria:
- Solid ice traction
- Luggy enough to handle groomed or packed trail.
- An all temperature shoe. Able to handle the cold but shed the moisture when near or above melting without filling to the brim with water.
- Reliable and durable.
- Well fitting for multi-hour trips.
- Something that would keep the snow out of the top as much as possible
I did exclude the ability to into running style snowshoes as I figured the combo of screws, lugs and snowshoe were too much to ask. After much searching, I settle on three candidates worth field trials.
1. Salomon SpeedCross 3 spiked up with La Sportiva Hobnails
2. Salomon SpikeCross 3 with integrated screws
3. La Sportiva Crossover spike up with La Sportiva Hobnails
It’s mid February and I have about 500 kilometers on each setup. Running this winter has turned out great. With each of the shoes I have run a variety of packed trail, unpacked trail, groomed trail, single track snowshoe packed trail, ice and snow on the street.
Which is the best? Well, I’ll review each shoe and you can decide. Shoe’s fit differently for everyone. As a point of comparison, I generally fit well in for width in the toebox in something like a Montrail Mountain Masochist or a Brooks Cascadia 5/6.
1. Salomon SpeedCross 3 with La Sportiva Hobnails
Why the Hobnails? Well – the SpikeCross 3 and SpeedCross 3 are identical shoes except that the SpikeCross has an integrated screw. I preferred custom spiking the SpeedCross for a couple of reasons. First, La Sportiva Hobnails are removable so I could turn the shoes back into an all season unit. Second, the La Sportiva Hobnails are a better spike. They are adjustable for depth and they provide more traction. To spike, I followed the exact same pattern as the SpikeCross. Lastly, I can buy the Hobnails for less money than the difference in price between the SpikeCross and Speedcross and I end up with spikes I can put in any shoe.
Pro’s– A nice warm shoe. Reliable and long wearing. The 10 mm heel drop is nice for winter running on ice. Ice is hard and I find I like the extra cushioning. The spike layout is great and the lugs are absolutely spectacular. The advanced lacing system is nice for cold weather – no fumbling tying laces. The traction of this shoe is pretty much unparalleled.
The Con’s – Narrow. I up sized almost two sizes to get something that wouldn’t rub the smaller toes. This resulted in a bit bulkier shoe. I did like the shoe’s traction capabilities so much that I still wore them when a smaller toenail or two came off on longer runs. It’s also got a a heel that is a bit blockier than I prefer. This is great in snow but it throws your foot around a bit on ice.
Overall – An excellent winter shoe. Definitely the go to unit in 2011/12. I would avoid this shoe in longer races but wear it anytime under 30-40 km.
2. Salomon SpikeCross 3
Really the same as the SpeedCross but with Hobnails.
3. La Sportiva Crossovers
First off, I will mention that I am a La Sportiva fan. The Fireblades are a staple summer shoe. The La Sportiva Crossovers are essentially the La Sportiva Crosslites with a short integrated gaiter.
The integrated gaiter is ideal for winter conditions and although I haven’t tried them in the sunmer, I’d guess they would be great at keeping mud and dust out also . The lugs and layout are ideal for packed snow and they are very easy to spike with Hobnails. I was sold on the Crossovers in the first couple runs. I really like the width and feel of the toebox. I’d suspect these will be very long wearing.
It pains me to say it as I absolutely love the Crossovers and I really got into them except for a major showstopper that did not show up until I had about 75 km’s on them. Like most shoes, the flexpoint in the toe of the shoe started in the regular spot near where the toes naturally flex. However, it quickly changed by moving forward on the rubber guarding on top of the toes. It inverts the rubber at a point and flexes down right into my toes below. It’s very strange and it only happens on one shoe but it is a nail loser. And quickly.
Without this strange flex thing in the one shoe, the Crossovers would be my all time favorite winter shoe. I tried like hell to fix them by breaking in the proper flexpoint using a variety of techniques – flexing them during the evening in the right spot over and over and taping them bent in the right spot. I do not know if I just have a bad pair or what but they are unusable.