Salomon Snowcross CS Review- Run With Confidence

I received a pair of Salomon Snowcross shoes in late September 2012 but have only just had the opportunity to run in them. The past few days we have gotten our first real snow here in the Central Idaho mountains- about 4-6 inches in Sun Valley and more than 8 inches reported up higher near Galena Summit. This has made the trails I normally run to be snow covered and ideal for trying out the Snowcross in the conditions they are designed for.

The Snowcross is a winter-specific running shoe built around the Speedcross 3 and includes an integral gaiter and associated upper design elements. I have taken them out for a couple of runs totaling about 35 km (20 miles) and this is an initial impressions review.

Design and Build

Having used Salomon nordic skiing boots exclusively since the 1980′s, it clear where much of the technology for this shoe originated. The build is high quality and has certainly used much of what Salomon has learned from the Nordic boot market. An important part of the design is the use of seamless technology throughout the upper construction.

The Salomon Snowcross CS uses much of the technology developed for Salomon Nordic skiing boots, particularly in the design and construction of the uppers.

As noted earlier, the shoe-part of the Snowcross is a Speedcross 3 which has stack heights of  19 mm (heel) and 10 mm (forefoot) yielding a drop of 9 mm. This is a bit problematic for anyone who has transitioned to low drop shoes (e.g. the 4 mm drop of the S Lab Sense or the S Lab Fellcross) as it would be most ideal to continue any winter running with a low drop shoe. More on this later.

The Speedcross 3 has generally received good reviews with the only consistent detractor being the height of the shoe and a propensity by some to turn an ankle. I have run extensively in the Speedcross 2 and a much smaller amount in the Speedcross 3 and have never had any issue with lateral instability. However, everyone’s ankles are different and there certainly is a significant spectrum of ankle strengths out there. I moved away from the Speedcross due to the need for a low drop, forefoot striking design to facilitate my natural forefoot striking tendencies. I also moved away from the Speedcross due to weight as both the low drop Fellcross and Sense are much lighter. What I found is that weight matters- a lot! But in this case I just want to enable regular running in winter conditions as a secondary activity to Nordic skiing, so weight is not as important a consideration.

Winter running here in central Idaho will likely include either running on cleared bike pathways or on snow covered trails used mainly by hikers. The hiking tails are much more pleasant and since there is a strong contingent of local winter hikers, numerous trails are “tramped” in throughout the season. Given the large proportion of sunny winter days in Sun Valley, quite a layer of ice can build up on the trails due to freeze-thaw cycles and I found last year that a shoe like the Salomon Spikecross ( a shoe similar to the Snowcross but without the integral gaiter) is necessary for comfortable, non-slip running, particularly on the ups and the steeper downs. The other factor that plays in here is the performance of a shoe when there is newly fallen snow on an otherwise “tramped” trail. In this instance, having protection from snow getting into the shoe is critical to ensuring a pleasant running experience. Last year, using the Spikecross, I could not comfortably run in anything greater than about 2″ of fresh snow due to snow getting inside the shoe. This really limited my runs. All of this is taken care of by the Snowcross.

The upper and the water-resistant zipper-closed integral gaiter are designed very much like a Salomon Nordic ski boot with a major difference being the materials used. The Nordic boots are made with essentially unbreathable fabrics and some rigid structure, whereas the Snowcross utilizes breathable “Clima Shield” ( a Gore-Tex-like membrane material) fabrics and thin laminated overlays for structure. The padded tongue which lays under the speedlaces and the outer gaiter provides for a very comfortable fit. The fit is snug but no too much so.

The padded tongue makes the shoe very comfortable and draws design elements from the Salomon Nordic skiing boot technology.

Another view of the integral tongue.

Looking down into the shoe showing the position of the tongue, speedlaces, and upper zip closing gaiter. Note also the grip strap at the back of the foot, making it easy to put the shoe on.

The first picture above also shows the ankle protection areas- a very welcome feature given that any “punch-through” on snow covered trails will lead to some level of ankle impact. These scuff guards will help with this issue, but we will have to see how they perform as they are not particularly substantial.

Weight

The gaiter and the associated constructions do not add much weight as this US 7.5 size weighs in at 337 gms (11.9 oz). This is to be compared to an equivalent size Speedcross 3 weighing 310 gms (10.9 oz). So 27 gms for a complete gaiter and tongue construction is well worth it given the protection and comfort that is provided. And, of course, winter running, for me anyway, is about maintenance and comfort, not speed. However, the Snowcross is still in the “light” category for trail running shoes.

Fit

As mentioned above, the fit is snug but no too much so. When you first put them on they definitely feel like a boot but after a short run they truly feel like a running shoe and perform as such. The “sensifit” design does a good job of wrapping your entire foot and keeping it in place. This is important because the gaiter system is putting a bit more torque on the lower foot and movement could be an issue. I found no excess movement to be apparent and I did not find the gaiter to be the least bit confining.

The upper is surprisingly flexible and soft and there is no “bunching-up” of material that could potentially lead to hot spots. Overall a very comfortable fit.

Outsole

A big part of the performance of this shoe is the outsole. It is made of a non-marking polymer with deep lugs and nine (9) carbide spikes (similar to the Spikecross). The lug pattern is very open and has, so far, shown good mud release.

Aggressive, deep lugs and nine (9) tungsten carbide spikes makes the outsole of this shoe up to the task of winter running.

I have had these shoes on snow-covered tramped and un-tramped trails (through about 4-6″ of fresh fallen snow) , relatively steep uphills and downs (about 18-20% grades), ice conditions, rolling terrain, and black ice conditions on a bike pathway. They performed outstandingly in all conditions, so much so you can get a bit over confident and begin to test the boundaries of their abilities.

Running Impressions

I have never run in winter conditions with so much confidence in the past. I dealt with either not enough grip or not enough protection from snow getting into the shoe and this shoe solves both of these issues. Once you run in the Snowcross for a few miles it truly feels like a running shoe and you go into the snow covered trails with relative abandon. It is truly liberating and I am looking forward to a consistent winter of regular runs.

With respect to the higher, 9 mm drop of this shoe, I can definitely feel the heel striking (and getting in the way) much more than in the the Sense or the Fellcross. This is unfortunate as I think a low drop winter version of the Sense or the Fellcross would be quite desirable to the growing number of low drop runners out there. Perhaps such will emerge in the future, but in the meantime the Snowcross is a good substitute.

Price

Another $200 shoe from Salomon…. is this a trend? Are we recalibrating to a “new normal” for running shoe pricing? Perhaps, but I must say that all of the integrated technology in this shoe and the very nice fit are reasons to think that the price is not too out of line. It is still expensive though…. but no where near as expensive as Nordic skiing!

Bottom Line

Run with confidence on snow and ice covered trails…. let the winter begin!!

I will update this review as I accumulate more distance, but at this point I can highly recommend this shoe for winter running.

Update 7 November 2013

As supported in the comments  on this post, I will note that the ‘CS’ part of the Snowcross CS shoe refers to the material used on the upper construction. It is supposed to be ‘water resistant’. My experience is that after just a few runs it is no longer water resistant and if conditions are wet your feet will be wet. A much better choice for the upper material is Gore-Tex, as is seen in numerous competitive winter running shoes. It is unfortunate that Salomon have not updated the 2013 model with a Gore-Tex upper and I can no longer recommend this shoe for winter running unless the conditions are dry.

I also think that Salomon have missed the opportunity to offer a low drop winter running shoe for the 13/14 season…. perhaps we might see this in 14/15? In any case if you run in low drop I suggest you seek out a low drop winter shoe alternative to the Snowcross CS.

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14 responses to “Salomon Snowcross CS Review- Run With Confidence”

  1. Terrence Pettit says :

    This shoe sounds great! I was just about to have them ordered in to, EUROPE BOUND on King Street west in Toronto, Canada, but then I had a question which they couldn’t answer which I’m hoping you can. The question is: Are the spikes removable?

    • Le Manchot says :

      Terrence,

      Answer- probably although I have not tried. I expect that the spikes are fitted after the sole is injection molded just as “studded” automobile and truck tires are. If they are similar to tires then the spikes can also be re-fitted if needed. You may need a special tool for the re-fitting but you likely can remove them without anything other than a suitable pair of pliers. Hope this helps.

      I was out in the Snowcross again today in about 6″ of fresh snow for a 15 km tempo run. This was the first time that I have pushed the pace in these shoes and they continue to perform outstandingly. Highly recommended!!

  2. Jamie says :

    Great review, thanks for the info as I’m considering a pair (I live up in the French Alps).
    One question – from my house to the trail is just a couple of hundred metres, but if the snowplough has been through the village or if we’ve not had fresh snow for a while, this could mean a couple of hundred metres on asphalt – do the spikes cause a problem with this?

    • Le Manchot says :

      Hi Jamie,
      I have a similar situation here in Sun Valley, as the last 1 km of my typical run is on a road. This road is plowed regularly and has a north-south orientation so, in our climate, the snow melts away and the tarmac is exposed. I find no issue with the spikes on the road. It is a bit noisy but there is no negative effect on running or on the shoes. The spikes seem to be quite durable as I have observed no evidence for wear of the spikes after a few dozen runs (i.e. 30+ km on the road). I would not worry about the situation you describe there in the alps.
      Happy Running!!

  3. Richie says :

    I am just ordering ( attempting to at least) some for use in Norway. Do you still like them? Would they be good on compacted ice and snow? Are they wearing well? Is the transition from snow/ice to tarmac/asphalt to earth ok? Would you be able to run on grass/mud with them?

    Am worried as I like to run a very low profile almost barefoot style…

    Regards

    Richie

    • Le Manchot says :

      Hi Richie,

      Yes, I still like the shoes- they are very stable on ice and crusted snow and have great traction in frozen mud/slush. They do wear well as I have seen no real wear after one winter season. If you take them on tarmac for any significant distance you will probably see wear straight away since the outsole composition is relatively soft. As far as the transition from snow/ice to tarmac it is OK but I try to limit the time on tarmac- and use the Snowcross only if there is ice present.

      You may want to wait and see what Salomon brings out this fall as they may introduce a winter version of the Sense/Sense Ultra. The ‘Outdoor Retailer’ show where introductions are made here in the US is in mid-late August. The European equivalent introductions are typically in July so stay tuned and then make a decision. The one disappointment with the Snowcross is the large drop, something that is uncomfortable once you have transitioned to low drop. If you want a low profile winter runner currently on the market, I would suggest the NB 110W:

      http://www.irunfar.com/2013/01/new-balance-mt110w-review.html

      and augment with ‘microspikes’ or some similar appliance when needed.

      Hopefully Salomon introduce a low profile winter running shoe.

      • Andrei says :

        Thus the Spike Cross fits below this model? has the metal spikes and the classic SpeedCross3 construction. I ordered my SnowCross CS for180 Euro, they are the red and black with red outsole version. My only complaint about them is that for this price at least they could stick in a GTX membrane, the CS is quite shabby compared to what SpeedCross2 GTX performed in the pass.

      • Le Manchot says :

        Hi Andrei,

        You are correct the CS material is very much inferior to the GTX material and Salomon should be putting GTX on the Snowcross. Of course the GTX material will also wear out as well… but it lasts much longer as a waterproof layer. Not sure what the thinking at Salomon is but it needs some adjustment. Hopefully change is in the offing.

      • Andrei Marius Boros says :

        Salomon, like many other marques nowadays are cutting corners, and really bad, the quality is sliding away compared to older models, circa 2005 and so on, and of course the prices are soaring like a hot air balloon. But with all these problems I still love them and they are the only athletic shoes brand that I wear, as I have an outdoor related job. My SnowCross read 352916 on the label with Black/Red/Cane colors, a bit different that you have. Compared to SpeedCross3 I see a wider fit for the size 8.5 UK men, which is great, even though that gaiter needs some adjusting to it.

        I logged in with Facebook as it was still requesting my details, so this is much simpler.

  4. Ray Seballos says :

    if you like the low drop of the fellcross, why not use the fellcross with a pair of gortex gaiters you can buy separately… fellcross about $110, gaiters about $45. Thus you get lower drop, and waterproof gaiters that don’t wear out with the shoe. I think I am going to try this and follow my own suggestion. Has anyone else done this?

    • Robert says :

      Ray,

      Yes there are many solutions. In fact I use numerous ones, the one you mention with or without kahtoolas as well as kahtoolas on Hoka Stinsons w/gaiters, the same with Sense Ultras. Try whatever you think might work. Note however that the Fellcross is not built with GTX fabric so a soggy run will be soggy. The only advantage to the Snowcross is that it is one integrated package and works well- just put them on and go. No gaiters to struggle with, no micro-spikes to put on and adjust regularly, no fuss-no muss. I still think that they should make a low drop version with GTX fabric.

  5. JP Levasseur says :

    I have bought a pair of Snowcross 1 in Dec 2013. I loved them – comfortable, light and warm. I’ve ran less than 10 times with them and now one of the shoe shows major wear and tear on the interior side (almost through the exterior membrane). Salomon argues is not part of their warranty. I now have to send it to them for further assesment, which will leave me without winter running shoes… this winter! I’ll keep you posted on any progress…

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