Highlighted by insanely aggressive and deep lugs that have defined this shoe for almost a generation, the Salomon Speedcross 5 is our Top Pick for Traction. This infrequently updated shoe saw a solid revision in the winter of 2019 and is now better than it has been for many years, in our opinion. While the characteristic arrow shaped lugs remain and are as effective as ever, the Contagrip TA rubber compound was updated to be even stickier than before, offering unrivaled grip on both wet and dry rock, and further cementing this shoe's place as one of the best off-trail technical mountain shoes. Greatly increasing our joy and comfort is the wider forefoot and toe box design, allowing those without the narrowest of feet to revel in the running pleasure of this shoe as well. If you are a longtime fan of the Speedcross, we think you will be as pleasantly surprised with the newest version as we are, and if you are looking for a new trail shoe that will stick to anything, the Speedcross 5 is the best place to start your search.
Salomon Speedcross 5 Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Extremely grippy traction on all terrain, wider than previous versions, comfortable right out of the box
Cons: Warm, doesn’t breathe or drain water super well, high heel counter
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Our Analysis and Test Results
While the Speedcross has always featured 6mm deep arrow shaped lugs that offer among the best grip on slippery terrain like snow, mud, and steep grass, the pattern, and size of these lugs has changed over the years. With this update, the lugs have been made larger and spaced farther apart, a design that is meant to help prevent the buildup of mud on the bottom. Further apart lugs don't accumulate as much mud, but in our experience, the type of mud you are dealing with has far more to do with whether it builds up on the bottom of a shoe, and if there is the right amount of clay involved, no lug pattern will prevent the mud pancake. The best thing about the Contagrip TA outsole, however, is that it is stickier than previous versions, and in our intensive testing gave pretty remarkable grip on wet rock, not something that is easy to find in a running shoe.
The most apt comparisons for this shoe are the Inov-8 Roclite 290 and the Saucony Peregrine ISO. Inov-8 is now expanding the use of their G-grip graphene enhanced rubber compound, which we have found to be among the most durable and long lasting of any that we have tested. Although we didn't test these shoes to the point of total breakdown, according to what we have seen the Roclite 290 outsole will likely wear down slower than that on the Speedcross 5. However, whereas in years past we felt that the tread on the Roclite 290 was actually grippier than the Speedcross, the G-grip is a far less sticky compound, and doesn't bond with rock or wet rock nearly as well as Salomon's Contagrip TA. The Saucony Peregrine also features incredible traction on its outsole, optimal for snow and muddy surfaces, and scores similarly in our overall ratings.
For those who have run in the Speedcross before, you will notice very little to no difference in the feel underfoot of the newest version. It has a stack height of 20mm in the toe and 30mm in the heel, meaning that the heel is extremely well padded, but in the toes and forefoot there is quite a lot of trail feel. Some of the protection under the forefoot is provided by the large lugs, and as these wear down over time, the underfoot protection diminishes a bit. Chronic heel-strikers and those who can handle and love a rather large (10mm) heel-toe drop will like this shoe better.
The upper of this shoe is very protective, using a heavy weight mesh covered liberally by solid welded overlays. Indeed, when it comes to protecting the top of the foot and shoe, the Speedcross is one of the best. Combining the protection of the upper and the foam underfoot, we feel that this shoe is slightly better than average, roughly the same as the Inov-8 TerraUltra G 260.
Simply put, these shoes offer the very best traction that you can buy. They are an ideal shoe for winter and spring running in the mountains and desert when conditions are often snowy, muddy, rainy, and downright slippery. The only thing they won't grip is ice, but what will? They have deeper, larger, and stickier lugs than either the Inov-8 Roclite 290 or the Saucony Peregrine.
There is a small downside with the traction on these shoes, and that is how soft it is. In order to be as sticky as possible, softer rubber is used, as very hard rubber simply doesn't grip as well.
With softer rubber comes faster wear times, and so we recommend these shoes for off-trail adventures, but don't necessarily think they are the best choice for simply cruising trails day in and day out, as the lugs will slowly wear down or tear off if you use them this way.
One of the most notable changes made to the new Speedcross 5 is that the forefoot and toe box is significantly wider. We would even venture to call these shoes nearly "normal" width, and they are far higher volume than the super thin and narrow previous versions. In terms of stability, a wider forefoot landing platform allows the foot to splay out more, and makes it easier to land properly without twisting an ankle. The Sensifit upper combined with a quicklace system easy allows you to cinch these shoes down to the perfect fit for your foot, ensuring that there is no slop and the foot stays firmly locked into the shoe. A shoe that fits snugly and securely is far more stable than a looser fitting shoe that allows the foot to move around inside.
The one downside to the stability of this shoe is the very high heel combined with a large 10mm heel-toe drop. Especially when running downhill, we find this combination to be a bit unstable. A smaller heel-toe drop, like the 5mm drop found in the Hoka Challenger ATR 5, makes for a more stable landing platform. Of course, a much lower stack height, that is, less material underfoot, such as is found on the very low 19mm under the toes stack of the Inov-8 Roclite 290, also greatly reduces the chances of rolling an ankle. Simply put, the design of this shoe is less stable than most others.
This shoe is remarkably comfortable straight out of the box, and we challenge you to find a runner who disagrees. They require no break-in time and do an excellent job of cushioning your foot on all sides with comfortable foam padding. New to this iteration is a high heel pad that cradles the Achilles tendon area on the back of the foot gently.
Our only complaints when it comes to comfort is that these shoes really make our feet sweat. While there is some breathable mesh, there is nowhere near the amount found on the Hoka Challenger ATR 5, or any number of other shoes. Much of the mesh is covered by the durable overlays. For this reason, it also doesn't drain water very effectively. This shoe is more comfortable in colder weather and isn't our top choice for hot summer days at low elevations.
On our independent scale, our pair of men's size 11 US shoes weighed 24.4 ounces. A few years ago that may not have seemed remarkably heavy, but as shoes keep getting lighter and lighter, these are now the single heaviest shoes in our review. Salomon shoes tend to run heavy in general, and you are certainly getting added padding and protection for the added weight, so there is a trade-off to be decided upon.
We don't think these shoes feel like clunkers on the feet. Indeed, their sleek design makes them feel rather fast. That said, if weight is a critical factor for you, check out the far lighter Hoka Evo Jawz, which weigh a mere 16 ounces per pair, or even our Editors' Choice winning Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger, which weigh in almost four ounces lighter.
When it comes to sensitivity, these shoes have a very solid balance with foot protection to offer a fair bit of both, without sacrificing on either. Most of the sensitivity can be felt under the forefoot, as the thick heel cushioning allows little trail feel to come through. In that way, they feel virtually identical to the previous versions of this shoe.
The most sensitive shoes that we have tested, such as the Altra Superior 4, offer very little in the way of underfoot protection and require delicate foot placement to avoid injury on rough terrain. We think this shoe offers an ideal balance for the off-trail gnar that it is designed for.
The steeper and rougher the terrain, the better. We love these shoes for off-trail missions in the alpine tundra of Colorado, and they are also our go-to choice for winter running on snow. Any conditions where traction is of critical importance, such as steep grass, slick mud, or rocky scrambles are an ideal use of this shoe. If you wear it on firm dirt surfaces too frequently, you will, unfortunately, watch the lugs wear away pretty quickly.
These shoes retail for $130, which is on the upper end of an everyday trainer trail shoe. Used on the right kind of terrain, we think they perform really well, and therefore present excellent value. As an everyday trail runner, you will likely get more miles out of many other shoes, and they therefore wouldn't necessarily be our top choice.
The Salomon Speedcross 5 has seen some very welcome updates that make it better than previous versions. It is wider in the forefoot and now features even stickier and grippier rubber, something we didn't know was possible. For this reason, it regains our Top Pick for Traction award and is our first recommendation if traction is your first priority.
— Andy Wellman