Salomon XR Crossmax

, March 6, 2013

The XR Crossmax is Salomon’s new trail shoe for 2011, standing out as a product that takes the brand’s collection of functional, off-road footwear to the next level. Catering for tarmac and trail surfaces, neutral and overpronating runners, the XR Crossmax takes a modern-day perspective in the design of this door-to-door shoe. Even with such a broad focus, the shoe is a pedigree performer off the tarmac and pays respect to Salomon’s trail heritage.

Even before trying them on the versatility of the XRs is clear. The shoes are light, weighing in at 650g for the pair, whilst the mesh finish allows for both breathability and a short drying time. The Quicklace system is lightweight and water resistant, and allows for ease of entry and exit on transition. The outsole has deep grooves for grip and a large ‘Oversized Tendon’ – an elastic strip of TPU positioned between the midsole and outsole that aims to provide additional support on firm ground. The road and trail pretensions of this shoe are clear from its design and aesthetics alone.

I tested the XR Crossmax near Grasmere in Lake District where a mile of road leads to the start of the fells to the north of the village. The XRs performed superbly on this short stretch of tarmac with the Oversized Tendon providing outstanding comfort and response, adding a helpful spring to the stride-length. In contrast, my usual fell-running shoes, although hardy companions on the trail, provide no comfort and deaden any efficient running attempts on the road. The performance advantage gained in the XRs means the tarmac stretch of a mixed run becomes enjoyable, instead of being merely a tiresome chore in the lead up to the real fun of the hills.

Credentials on the tarmac are all very well but did they deliver the same performance on trail? The answer on flat trail is simple – Yes! The Contragrip outsole provides excellent levels of traction whilst the Oversized Tendon placement continues to support on firm trail.

Problems for the XRs start to appear when I took them to more adventurous territory. In the hills the relatively wide front end of the shoe means that a steep climb is made harder through the inability to really dig deep with the toes on a final surge to a summit. Downhill the same lack of precision, through a combination of the thicker sole and larger surface area, contrasts with other models that are designed to provide absoute assurance on downhill sections. This sense of detachment from the ground is made worse on the erratic stony terrain that comprises many of the paths in the Lakes or when running in wet conditions. Levels of grip are always acceptable but the joy of being able to concentrate primarily on the fastest way down is lost, as the XR’s do not offer the same ‘connected feel’ as a specialist shoe.

What could Salomon do to fix this problem? Simple – they could remove the additional support to allow a greater sense of touch on rough terrain. Yet this would completely negate the comfort levels and efficiency that the XRs have shown on tarmac and flat trail, therefore compromising the aim of the shoes to perform on both surfaces. Still, that it takes a flat out run down a steep, wet slope to find any limitations in a shoe not designed specifically for this task highlights the exceptional standards this shoe has set.

On flat to middling climbs on trail terrain the XRs outperform trail specific shoes in terms of comfort. This alone would make them recommendable. That they carry this over to the road means they have a versatility that makes them a highly attractive proposition, ideally suited to certain routes and town-to-country adventures.

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