It was like Christmas morning when I opened up the box containing my brand new Salomon XR Cross Max Neutral shoes. In fact, I don’t usually get such pretty things under the tree. I must admit, the first thing that struck me about these shoes is just how good looking they are. Before hitting the muddy trails I made sure to wear them everywhere in the city while still in pristine condition. Their beauty was obvious to those around me too given the number of compliments I received. Don’t be fooled though, that beauty is not skin deep. These are solid all round trail shoes.
I spent this past summer training for the NYC marathon (yes, that marathon). We spent a large portion of our time at the cottage and as such, most days I could be found running on dirt packed double track trails interspersed with vegetation, loose gravel and the occasional dead animal. For my long runs, I would head into the nearest town to take advantage of the paved roads and to get away from the deer flies. But for runs in the 8 to 12 km range, nothing beats the hilly solitude on our nearby trails. I used the Crossmax shoes for these less than hard core trails. Given their hybrid nature, they are perfectly suited for less technical trails such as these. In the past I have simply used my road shoes, Brooks Glycerins which certainly weren’t ideal. The difference was quite obvious which I attribute to the following outstanding characteristics of the Crossmax:
- Snug toe box. Nothing is worse than running down a steep slippery trail and feeling the instability of your forefoot swimming around in your shoe. Whether it is side to side movement or having your toes slam into the front, any trail shoe worth its salt should minimize this. The Crossmax has a reinforced toe box that does a pretty good job. At times, I did feel that it could have been tighter but I do have a fairly narrow foot. Nevertheless, it was significantly better than what I was used to in a standard shoe.
- Awesome tread. For my purposes, the tread was perfection. Not once did I skid along through loose gravel or feel slippage. However, it may not be quite enough for more treacherous trails. It did well on paved roads too. In those few instances I used them on the roads I certainly didn’t feel like I was wearing army boots. They remain light and responsive.
- Good support. My regular running shoes are very supportive and the transition to the Crossmax was easy. My feet never did protest after any of my relatively short runs. It would be interesting to see how they would fare for 2+ hour trail runs.
- Locking laces. It took me a while to realize that there was a little pocket to tuck the laces into to keep them clean out of the way. I also love the firm hold and “waterproof” nature of the laces. As someone who is used to elastic speed laces, having to tie anything is arduous and the locking laces were easy to do up. However, they are impossible to remove without taking the time to undo the laces. This means that after a run, taking your shoes off sometimes has to wait until after the call of nature is answered!
All in all, I have been very happy with the Crossmax Neutral. I am curious to find out how they will perform this winter on the snow covered sidewalks. No doubt this hybrid shoe will shine. My only regret is not having raced in them this summer. Knowing my luck, I would have broken a toe or twisted my ankle and jeopardized my marathon training. Any late November trail races out there in Ontario?