600km in Speedcross

This post was originally written in February 2014, and called “A Season in Speedcross” – it was intended to be a review of the Salomon Speedcross 3 trail running shoes for the Mudstacle blog – the blog for obstacle racing (OCR) in the UK – but for various reasons (primarily related to my own slackitude) it was never published. 

Now, however, Strava is tell me I’ve done 590km in them, and that’s excluding at least six 10km+ OCR’s which I haven’t tracked. Also I’ve worn out the tread by wearing them around London (so great for cycling in as they grip to the pedals) and since I’m shopping for a replacement, I figured it was time to publish a little ode to them before they get relegated to their retirement pass-time of being my go-to bike shoe.SpeedcrossI got them in 2013, my first season of obstacle course racing. In fact, it was my first season of outdoor running as prior to that I was pretty much a 5km-on-the-treadmill-once-a-week kinda gal. When I got started trail running in March of that year, I quickly realised that an old pair of running shoes wasn’t going to cut it for the heavier terrain of our Box Hill and Richmond Park training runs, let alone an OCR (Nettle Warrior was the first one I first signed up for!).

Being a chronic a pre-purchase researcher, I immediately set about investigating my shoe options. It helped to have some guidance from the guys I was running with – all experienced OCR and trail runners – and what they told me could pretty much be summed up by two words: “grip” and “drainage”. Aesthetics weren’t that important to me, but price was – I didn’t want to be shelling out anything more than about £60 or £70 for something that I would only use once or twice a week for only half the year* (* Hah – you can see this was written a long time ago!)

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Putting them through their paces at Nuts Challenge

I looked at some of the more mainstream (at least in my eyes) contenders, like the New Balance 610’s and the Fuji range from Asics, but not only did the grip look weak enough to have me on my arse at the first sign of mud, but they also looked so padded that they’d suck up boggy water like a sponge.

Eventually I whittled my options down to three: the Adidas Kanadia, the Mudclaw from Inov8, and the Speedcross 3’s by Salomon.

There didn’t seem to be much between the Speedcross and the Kanadia’s, but the Inov8 shoes were clearly aimed at people who had made degrees of progress towards running in minimalist shoes. This wasn’t me. I tried on a few pairs (a bit of a mission in itself since they’re not that widely available, even in London), and was impressed by the build quality and materials (especially the upper which looked like it would drain really quickly when wet) but ultimately felt that over long distances even their sturdier models would result in untold damage to my tender leetle feeties.

Whilst I was up in town one day, I thought I’d drop into Lilywhites since I knew they had the Kanadia and also had a camping store concession which carried Salomons, with the Speedcross 3’s being listed on their website for the excellent price of £46.99.

I tried on the Kanadia but they just didn’t feel quite right – a bit hard, lumpy and uncomfortable (although a few of my friends swear by them, so perhaps that’s down to my odd shaped feet). But as soon as I pulled on the Speedcross, with their sock-like upper (the tongue and foot pocket is all one piece) and tightened the very convenient Quicklace lace system, they felt perfect – soft and snug but solid and stable. I’d always struggled with the uneven terrain on trails but they way they hugged my foot made it feel secure, and definitely gave me more confidence on rocky and lumpy ground.

They had two models on sale at Lilywhites, the purple/magenta ones I got, and some boring black ones, which I obviously didn’t, but they seem to be available in a range of k-razy colour combinations – blue and yellow, lime green, bright pink… If you want to be noticed, at least before you get covered in mud up to your knees, these shoes are for you.

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Snazzy, eh?!

The grip was the main reason I had short-listed them, and sure enough it didn’t disappoint on their first OCR outing – The Warrior Run near Brighton (which I actually wrote up for Mudstacle). The deep V-shaped lugs really dug into the damp ground, and didn’t get clogged up despite the clay soil and a number of hill slaloms. The course had some good muddy pits to jump across which was the perfect opportunity to test out the grip and I’m sure they played no small part in my being (according to the marshalls) the only girl so far to make the jump from one muddy bank to the other!

The only downside to them was that they didn’t drain very quickly, and the slightly padded upper meant that they also retained quite a bit of water – not ideal over longer distances, although I didn’t really have any problems as it would usually run out again after a few hundred meters of post-water running.

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Along with the Tongue of Concentration, they got me up the Warped Wall at Nuclear!

After three laps of Nuts Challenge in August 2013, I retired my running for the rest of the year (yes, up until the 2014/15 winter I was a shameless fair weather runner!) and stashed my trainers in my wardrobe where the lay undisturbed until last weekend, when I dug them out to take part in the Backyard Jam, organised by Dirty Dozen Races founder Doug Spence. As I pulled them out I marvelled at their still pristine condition (careful post-race rinsing had kept them nice and clean!), stuck them in my bag, luckily with another pair of trainers, and headed out the door. At the race I went to put them on and discovered a problem – the toggle for the clever lacing system, which needs to be depressed in order to tighten or loosen the laces – had got jammed up… with dried mud. However after leaving the toggle in a jar of water for a few hours, and running the lacing cable through a few times, they are now back to normal. Even now, two years later, after a good rinse they look pretty much new, except for some small tears to the upper and the fact that the tread is so worn.

I’m just thinking about what shoes to buy next. My needs have changed now, so they probably won’t be the Speedcross – as my running’s improved I’ve found myself hankering for something lighter and more responsive to race in. Likely not Invo8 but maybe Icebugs or something similar. I will also get a shoe for racking up the training miles in – potentially Hoka or a trail shoe by Newton, or something else a bit softer and more forgiving than a lightweight race shoe. However, if you’re new to trail running and obstacle racing (and aren’t sucked in by the Inov8 hype, which seems to have lured half the OCR scene despite the fact that many of them can’t run well enough to wear zero-drop shoes) then these should definitely be top of the list next time you are shoe shopping! Excellent value for a faultless build-quality, decent stabilty, excellent grip and natty colour scheme.

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Also, they make you fly

 

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