February 1, 2014

From meh to love: Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 2

This is my ode (minus any lyricalness) to my Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 2 kicks. When I first brought these shoes out of the box in September, I wasn't so sure I would love them.

Fresh out of the box.

Here are some of my original Fellcross thoughts that I wrote down in the fall:

When I first took these out of the box, they reminded me of soccer cleats, and that's also how the fit felt to me. More fitted through the midsole and even into the toes. Also the lugs were larger and more defined than I am used to with my trail shoes.
Things I liked: even though they have a somewhat lower profile (not much cushion), I didn't feel rocks jabbing my foot underneath as I have in other low profile shoes. The toe guard is solid, giving lots of protection to the front of the foot. I also like that they are light and not bulky. They hug the foot well through the midsole giving your foot plenty of stability. Excellent traction.
Things I didn't like: I wish these had a little more room around the toe. I only tested them on shorter runs (10 miles or less) because I would be very nervous to use these on a longer run than that for fear of lost toenails from cramped toes. I liked the toe guard in general, but sometimes when I kicked a rock accidentally, my foot got a huge bounceback because the toe guard was so stiff and solid.
And the laces [Quicklaces] are the laces. You either hate it or love it. I personally don't find them any easier or harder than regular laces. I usually have to fidget with the laces to get the pocket on the shoe tongue to come far enough out to actually stuff the laces. But I never have untying problems with these, ever.
Salomon is a classic in the hiking and trail running brand. In my experience Salomon doesn't focus as much on comfort as they do on making a sturdy shoe that will last a long time. My opinion is the same after this test.

Wow, a few months and some trail runs through the more extreme elements can make a huge difference. We've had a rainy winter in Alabama, and even though I swore above that I would be too nervous to wear these on double-digit runs (for fear of blistering), that's exactly what I did when the trails were muddy. I knew these had better-than-any-other-shoe traction, which outweighed comfort at that moment. So while sloshing around with these in the mud for many trail miles, I confirmed that they perform like a boss in the mud. This was already my assumption, so that wasn't exactly new. What was new is how I learned that these drain water like a boss's boss. I have had some disappointing shoe drainage issues in the past, but the Fellcrosses got me through several wet, muddy, currently-dumping-rain trail runs with no blisters and no water log. I was so impressed with the drainage of these shoes that I am now nervous to not wear these on a rainy run.

Rainy-day race was the perfect playground for my Fellcrosses.

And the fear of blisters because of a smaller toe box has so far been unwarranted. On my double-digit runs, I haven't experienced any blistering. I would say my foot is medium-wide. For example, the Saucony Kinvaras are too narrow for my foot. The Felcrosses are more form-fitting than some of my other trail shoes, but the uppers are also flexible and breathable enough to prevent blistering.

But the final piece of the S-Lab Fellcross puzzle came for me this weekend when I ran in the snow with these. We did a snow run through the neighborhood --12 miles of snow and some concrete and some ice and some grass. It was a really unique experience for us Alabamians who don't usually get to run in snow, and it was even cooler to get a trail-run-like experience by stepping out my front door and taking off through my snowy neighborhood. Because people were avoiding driving, the snowy streets were more clear for running straight up the middle, and we passed more walkers than cars on our run.

Snow run!

I wore these Salomons because I knew they would have a firm grip on the snow. They kept me completely upright in the slippery conditions, although I still tried to avoid large patches of ice. They feel like a soccer cleat when running on concrete, not surprising, but it was a good trade for the solidity they gave me through the snow.

What does this teach me? Not all shoes are best in all conditions. These will definitely be my go-to rain and snow trail shoes, but I will still probably look for a cushier shoe in dry conditions.

And these shoes are not cheap, but they will last. That is a point that I maintain from my initial review of these. You may not like something else about your Salomons, but they will outlast any other trail shoe you own. Built to last.

Have you ever had a shoe that you learned to love more with time? 

Or the opposite, that you thought you loved then later were disappointed? 

What's your favorite rain shoe for trails (or roads)?

Salomon sent me the S-Lab Fellcross 2 as part of the Salomon Insider Program, used to collect runner feedback on shoes. 
I'm writing this long after I submitted my official review directly to Salomon. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and Salomon did not request that I post a review online.