Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Salomon XR Crossmax vs. Harper the Dog on Haypark Trail

The Skinny:

The new Salomon XR Crossmax trail running shoe, due to launch in early 2011, is the first trail running shoe by Salomon meant to be a "door-to-trail" running shoe. I got my hands on a pair of these via Salomon's Kevin Johnson. We took the shoes for a spin down Highway 133 to the Red Hill Trail in Carbondale, CO to see what they were made of. I felt that the transition from road to trail and back was much smoother than what most "true trail" shoes could offer. While the Crossmax does feel somewhat boxy, it is by no means a clunky shoe. It has great flex and is very versatile on a number of different surfaces.

The fit wasn't bad either. The quicklace system and upper design provide a snug, midfoot fit, but the heel seems loose on my narrow heel. The most impressive feature of the shoe is the new OS Tendon on the outsole. This is an interesting new technology that provides stability throughout the gait cycle via a flexing tendon that runs along the underside of the shoe. The shoe comes in a neutral and stability version, with the Tendon being more aggressive in the later version. The Contagrip outsole continues to do an impressive job of adequately providing traction on off-road terrain while not being over-kill on pavement and asphalt.

All of the reviews you will read about the XR Crossmax will tell you how great it is as a transitional road/trail shoe, but I'm going to tell how it does on a wet mountain trail with no pavement while racing a crazy lab/hound-dog puppy. So without further ado....the players:

                                   SALOMON XR CROSSMAX, weighing in at 11 ounces.

                                         Harper the Dog, weighing in at....I have no idea

                                    The Venue...Haypark Trail from the Old Snowmass Side

I ran out about 4.5 miles with my friend Jen along with her pup Harper. Once we turned around, it was 4 miles of on-and-off battling between Harper and myself. It was a perfect test to see how the Crossmax could handle tight turns, wet rocks, and stream crossings over leaf covered singletrack at a fast pace....with a dog in hot pursuit. The battle was fierce, with Harper dying out on the final, long ascent. And by dying out I mean losing interest and peeing on trees. He came at me one last time in the final half mile, which is a flatter section of trail. The Crossmax felt the best on this smoother, fast section of trail, proving that they were made with road-running in mind. As for Harper, he proved that he was a dog and lost interest again when we came upon the cows.

The shoes held their own over the terrain, but I felt more of a mid-foot flex and lower differiential between the heel and toe would have made for a more comfortable ride around the turns and on the bomber downhills. And that is what sets it apart from being a spectacular mountain/trail running shoe. It will do fine on the fast, flat trails and on the roads though, which is the intended function of the Crossmax.

The Conclusion: The Crossmax fulfills it's designers' intentions well, serving as a great cross-over hybrid. You lose a little on either side of the coin, but the transition from road to trail is pretty smooth. This shoe will be priced at around $130 US. You might spend alittle more for the Crossmax, but you won't necessarily need a separate pair of road and trail shoes with this hybrid. Could be a money-saver in the long run.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shoe Review: La Sportiva Fireblade


The Skinny:

I decided to begin the shoe reviews with a shoe I have just recently started training in. I am a huge Sportiva fan, and this shoe is a classic in their line-up, so it is fitting to begin with the La Sportiva Fireblade.

The Fireblade is coined as a lightweight stability trainer. It weighs in at 12.8 ounces. Add a superfeet or some other sort of insole and you're looking at 14-ish ounces, so lightweight stability trainer needs to be taken.....lightly. The shoe has a triple density midsole, explaining the weight of the shoe, but the weight is a small price to pay for providing a comfortable ride on gnarly terrain over longer distances.  This is an outstanding long-distance trail runner.

The heel of the Fireblade is a dual-density EVA called Trail Shock. This second density foam firms up the heel counter and keeps the subtalar joint from over-pronating. The genius of the post is that it wraps the entire heel, keeping lateral and medial motion to a minimum. The toe counter is equipped with a high-tensile composite rockguard that successfully protects the ball of the feet from rockier terrain while still having great flexion on the ascents. The undersole of the shoe is a compound sticky rubber that works great on surfaces unless they are acceptionally wet or muddy. The toe is equipped with a rubber guard that is more protection than most trail shoes have, and the heel cup is nice and snug for a lower-volume heel. I have a bunyun, and it didn't feel pinched at all, so even though I believe the shoe's upper can accomadate a medium to slightly wide toe box.

What they are Good For:

After taking the shoes on a test drive up Haypark Trail, a singletrack comprised of rock-strewn, steep inclines and flat, mud-caked two track, I joked that these shoes are a minimal tank. My feet didn't feel worked in the least, even on a trail that could pass as a rock field. These shoes are great at absorbing shock, making them a superb choice for long-distance treks over obstacle-infested terrain. My thoughts go to events such as Speedgoat 50K, Silverton Alpine Marathons, Zane Grey.....Massanutten..........Hardrock.

Why they Work:

A major factor working to the advantage of the Fireblade is that the heel sits at 26mm and the toe at 16mm, making the heel-to-toe differiential only 10mm. Why is that important? Over-pronation takes a toll on the body the longer it continues, and the longer we run the slower we get, meaning the more time our feet naturally spend on the ground. This is where foot, joint, and muscle fatigue can become amplified. The greater the differiential is between the heel and the toe, the longer the foot remains in the mid-stance phase of the gait cycle. If that differiential is decreased, then the foot doesn't have to travel as far, meaning it spends less time in the mid-stance phase and the foot doesn't spend nearly as much time on the ground. This gives the foot less time to pronate. Thus this shoe is a minimal tank.

Is the Price Right?

The Fireblade is sitting pretty at $95 US. That's not bad.

Parting shot. Taking the La Sportiva Fireblades up Arbaney Kittle Trail in Basalt, CO.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I over-think everything, so naturally this blog is taking forever to jump-start. I'm fussy about how the design organizes and presents all of the information, so it takes me 100 years to get anything accomplished at a satisfactory level. I went ahead and put up a post while I scratch my head about how to organize everything.

This is a blog about shoes, in particular the review of shoes. More specific still, it is a blog covering reviews of shoes that one would use to go running.

Running is a simple act. One only needs move their feet more rapidly than that of a walk to achieve this action of running. The shoe isn't so simple. The shoe is an outer covering for the human foot, where one-quarter of all the bones in the body reside. That would be 26 bones, making the foot a fairly important piece of bio-mechanical machinery for this simple act of running. The human foot is a naturally complex study, but running shoes are an increasingly confusing study. Who would have ever thought that something so seemingly simple as a running shoe could ever become a controversial subject.

I think the running shoe is a man-made sphynix. The puzzling question "What is the right shoe for me?" is the center of great debate. I don't think there is one correct answer. The last guy that answered the sphyinx's riddle ripped his eyes out. This blog's primary goal is to simply review shoes and their functionality. That's probably not the only thing that is going to be discussed though. I hope my eyes remain intact.

Stay tuned for the first shoe review....