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.