Speedcross3 on the left, Fellcross on the right.

Caldwell Sport department of off-topic product endorsements

After the American Birkebeiner back in February the good folks at Salomon appeared to be experiencing particularly warm and fuzzy feelings – double victory tends to do that for you. Josh Korn asked for sizing info for me and Amy, and a few days later we got running shoes in the mail – two pairs each, an XRMission, and a Speedcross3.

Now, running shoes are an area where I have no expertise at all, but it won’t surprise those of you who know me that my lack of expertise doesn’t prevent me from having firm opinions. My opinion of Salomon running shoes has, for years, been that they’re great for walking around in. When I forgot my running shoes on my trip to Annecy last Summer, Alex Haas pulled a pair of XR Crossmax out of inventory for me, and I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that they were really good. I tend to like very light and neutral shoes, and too much cushioning makes running feel difficult to me. Those crossmax shoes felt like good running shoes, but they were a little too wide and platformy in the outsole for the feeling I like on trails.

So I was pretty fired up to open the box from Josh and find the Speedcross3. Aside from being strikingly bright orange, the shoe just screams trail. I’m mostly certain that what you see when you look down at your feet is just as important as anything else in a running shoe. Surprisingly, when I went running in the Speedcross, it felt almost too cushy (in spite of its bad-*** look). Also, the heel felt a little high, with a fairly big drop down to the toe. Don’t get me wrong – a great shoe in many respects – but there was room for my uninformed opinion to provide some feedback. I passed that feedback along to Josh the next time we talked, and presto, the world’s most perfect trail shoe arrived at my doorstep. Meet the Fellcross.

Fellcross. Faster than Gunnar.

First, it looks cool. Sort of agressive red with some carbonish looking black action, and a downright aggressive attitude. But more than that, it was a bit more snappy and tight in its elastic response (OK, some ski vocab creeping in there, sorry), and the heel was enough lower that it felt like it put me into a more natural forefoot position. The shoe has phenomenal traction, and great stability (maybe because it’s 10mm lower than the speedcross). When I’m light and fit enough to enjoy running, the feeling is that I hardly touch the ground, and gravity isn’t much of a player in the game. I might never be fast, but when I’ve been running some, I feel fast. That’s a feeling I’m always looking for in skis, so I’m pretty attuned to it. The Fellcross put me in touch with that feeling from the first step. No fitness, about eight pounds overweight, and gravity keeping a close supervisory eye on me… And yet, 45 minutes at a time I feel like the trees are passing effortlessly. Fitness might take a little time, but the Fellcross is helping me pass that time in the most enjoyable possible way. Also, it’s faster than Gunnar, and that’s important.

If you typically like a light, neutral shoe, and you’re looking for something good for trail running, give the Fellcross a serious look. Unlike many Salomon shoes, this isn’t one you’ll want to just walk around in (unless you’re cool enough to be named Evan Elliott). But it’s the best shoe I’ve found for my trail running needs.