Tuesday 5 November 2013

Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 1 Review

It seems a strange thing to start a review of the Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 1 by immediately mentioning the newer and more recent model; the Fellcross 2, but there is method in my madness! Some of you who, like me, are keen to wear and use Salomon shoes and apparel due to the quality and workmanship put into every single product they make, will already be aware that excellence comes at a price. And Salomon S-Lab products, built to the individual needs and requirements of the Salomon International Athlete team certainly cost a penny or two! So, given that the Fellcross 2 has been available for quite a while now, if you search in the right places, you can pick up the Fellcross 1 at quite a discounted price. So for those of you who want the craftsmanship and quality of the S-Lab range without the sting of a slightly higher than average price tag, the Fellcross 1 might just be the shoe for you!

What Salomon have to say about the S-Lab Fellcross 1:
"Low, light, monster grip and won't soak up water, the Fellcross is designed by racers for racers"

If the video above doesn't work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgwY7cTD1rE

I have been trying out the Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 1 for a couple of months now, and I have had the chance to put them through serious mud, dirt, over fells and rocks, up and down steep hills and along the very wet and slippery flats of East Anglia. I can honestly say that I have been very impressed by these fell and trail shoes, in both their performance and durability. Two months in and the uppers look exactly like new after a good clean, and the claw-like chevron grip only shows slight signs of wear and tear from their occasional use on rocky terrain. Grip in muddy and wet conditions is the best of any fell and trail shoe I have ever tried, but their grip on wet rocks could be improved slightly.

  • Salomon Quicklace and lace storage pocket in the tongue: for that world famous easy and fast on-off fitting and securing
  • SensiFit: form-fitting, it holds and cradles the foot securely in place like an extension of your foot
  • TPU protective toecap: protects the toes from rocks and roots 
  • Contagrip: M&S (mud and snow) Chevron non-marking monster fell grip
  • Low differential: 4mm heel-toe drop
  • Tongue cover: mesh over the tongue stops debris entering the shoe
  • Lightweight muscle: Compressed EVA minimal midsole puts your foot nearer to the ground whilst providing a small amount of cushioning for longer, rockier runs
  • OrthoLite Sockliner: comfort from the inside out, it provides a cooler and drier environment for the foot inside the shoe
  • Ripstop, tough, abrasion and water resistant upper: to tackle the harshest of fell and trail environments
  • Tough surround from the toe box through to the heel: a carbon-fibre looking tough material protects the areas of the shoe that mud and debris would normally damage

The Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 1 is a stunner of a shoe!
Showing off the colours and tough upper materials of the S-Lab Fellcross 1
Quite a narrow last built for speed and racing in mind
The Contagrip Chevron pattern is the main selling feature of the Fellcross 1
To help you understand how these shoes perform I will score them 1 - 10 (1 = low, 10 = high) on the following categories which encompass a good minimalist trail and fell shoe, giving them an overall score out of 100:

1) Weight
2) Ground feel
3) Protection
4) Natural foot position
5) Natural shape of foot
6) Comfort
7) Grip/Traction
8) Durability/Quality
9) Pricing
10) Design

1) Weight: 9/10
My pair of UK10.5's weigh in at around 280g, so a reasonably lightweight shoe considering the toughness of the material and the monster grip. Weight could be reduced with slightly reduced upper materials and reduction in the midsole to a 0mm drop, but would this affect what makes the Fellcross 1 so good; to be able to charge through the roughest of terrain without destroying the shoe in only a handful of runs?!

2) Ground Feel: 7/10
With only 5mm cushioning at the forefoot and 9mm at the heel, the ground feel is very good considering the toughness of this shoe. The Contagrip M&S grip does reduce ground feel on harder terrain when the lugs are unable to dig deep into the ground beneath your feet, but on wet and muddy runs the ground feel is a perfect balance between minimalism, traction and durability. Ground feel could be improved, once again by lowering the differential to bring the heel closer to the ground.

3) Protection: 10/10
The tough upper materials have proven to withstand everything thrown at them. Combine this with the protective toe cap, the solid rubber outsole and the mesh cover over the tongue area and your foot is certainly left well protected against rocks, roots and trail debris.

4) Natural foot position: 6/10
Due to the 4mm drop I have to deduct 4 points (one for each mm differential) as this is how I have judged past minimal shoes. Yes, you might say that this isn't strictly a minimalist shoe, and I would have to agree to a point. It is a lightweight racing product designed to get you closer to the terrain and faster on your feet through the reduction in weight and differential. In my opinion, an ideal shoe would put your foot in a natural and neutral position with no heel elevation, allowing it to work just as nature intended. I do, however, appreciate that some of you reading this may find 4mm to be the ideal mid-ground between a natural foot position and a small amount of cushioning for descending and long distance races and runs.

5) Natural shape of foot: 7/10
The Fellcross fit very well around the heel and midfoot, rather like a slipper-type feel. Where I would say they fall a little short of ideal, is where others may say they are ideal! It all depends on the shape of the individuals foot. My feet are naturally quite wide at the forefoot and so I find the fell racing last of the Fellcross 1 to be a little on the narrow side. As the S-Lab product range is designed specifically for the needs and specifications of particular athletes from the Salomon international teams (in this case Ricky Lightfoot and Andy Symonds) I guess my feet are just a slightly different shape.

6) Comfort: 7/10
The Fellcross 1 fits like a slipper for the most part. It feels like an extension of your foot that allows amazing grip in muddy and wet conditions. Only after longer runs do I begin to notice the slightly narrow toe box and the differential. Therefore, for me, this is where the Fellcross 1 loses a few points. If you had narrow feet, I imagine the Fellcross 1 to be a very comfortable shoe. Also, where the tougher TPU toe protection bends upon each stride, it can leave you with hot spots on your big toes, but you must remember I always tend to run sockless, and so if you fitted the Fellcross 1 to accommodate wearing socks I think this would eliminate this particular problem.

7) Grip/Traction: 9/10
In wet and muddy trail conditions, I absolutely cannot fault the grip provided by the Contagrip Chevron tread pattern. Only in the deepest of slime, where your foot tends to sink right in up to your ankle, have I noticed any slipping, and no shoe would be able to cope well with those kind of conditions. So as a wet weather training or racing shoe I would definitely recommend these monsters! However, I have to deduct a point for traction on wet rocks. Comparing them with other trail shoes I have worn over wet rocky trails, the Fellcross 1 does lack grip on rock, slabs and even sections of paving you may have to run on between trails. If this could be improved on newer models it would leave the Fellcross as a perfect all-round wet weather shoe in terms of grip.

8) Durability/Quality: 9/10
As I have already mentioned in the overview, the uppers still look brand new after a good clean (even if they don't quite smell brand new anymore!!!) and this is after a good couple of months putting them through their fair share of mud and wet weather running. I cannot fault the quality of the uppers. The grip has shown some signs of wear though. On the outside of the forefoot on both shoes the lugs have begun to deteriorate slightly, in the form of chunks missing from the odd lug. I noticed this after running a route with a lot of tree roots and some rocky section, and so I don't think this would be an issue if the shoes were always used in muddy conditions. However, most of us incorporate a variety of terrains into our trail runs, and even fell runners often have rocky sections to navigate across. Therefore, I would like to have seen a little more resistance to wear and tear in the grip of the Fellcross 1.

9) Pricing: 7/10
Although the Fellcross 1 are now available for as little as £89.99 on some online sports shoes sites, I have to base this review on the original RRP of £130, which certainly puts this shoe at the higher end of the market. But then you must remember, you are purchasing a top quality racing product and not just an everyday 'throw away after a few months' daily runner. Therefore, with the current discounts available due to the release of the Fellcross 2, you just can't go wrong here!

10) Design: 10/10
I think this a fantastic looking shoe, and I am not the only one! On the recent 'Run with Ricky Lightfoot' Salomon demo run (http://caveman-clarke.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/salomon-run-with-ricky-lightfoot-demo.html) I managed to chat to Ricky about the Fellcross range. I was trialling the Fellcross 2 and Ricky was sporting a prototype pair of the Fellcross 3 (not available for quite some time yet I'm afraid!). When we got chatting about the Fellcross 1 he said that he thought it was such a stunning looking shoe he was going to ask Salomon to send him a new pair just so he could put them on his mantle piece to look at everyday. Although he was exaggerating slightly, it did reaffirm just what a great looking shoe and colour-way the Fellcross 1 is.


The Salomon Fellcross 1 is a fantastic wet weather, training and racing, fell and trail shoe. The grip in mud is infallible, and the quality and workmanship of the upper is excellent. The shoes leave your feet well protected from the trail and the durability of the materials is proving to be very satisfactory, and exactly what you would want from an off-road shoe.

Why you would buy this shoe:
  • Amazing grip in muddy conditions
  • Tough materials and excellent durability
  • Low differential and lightweight shoe
  • Top quality workmanship
Possible Improvements:
  • Improved grip and durability on rocky terrain
  • Slightly wider last and forefoot (for my requirements anyway)
  • 0mm differential option in the future?

Overall I have been very pleased with the Fellcross 1 and will continue to use them as my number 1 choice for wet, winter trail and fell running. With the current price reductions due to the release of the Fellcross 2 you simply cannot go wrong with this shoe. 

I eagerly await to trial and review the improvements on the Fellcross 2.....watch this space.

Happy running

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