Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3 Review
Sep201409

I’ve been curious about reviewing the Salomon Fellcross since the first version came out a few years back but every time I tried it in a shop, I always found myself putting it back down again as the fit always looked a bit too narrow for my taste. I finally cracked following the release of the third version of the shoe as it looks so awesome that I just couldn’t resist giving them a try. The Fellcross 3 has to be the most handsome pair of shoes I have ever seen and going for my first run in them felt a bit like letting a Crufts winning dog loose on a farmyard and then watching it roll around in the filth and eat turds. That’s not where the comparison ends as the Fellcross 3’s like nothing more than running around like a lunatic in the wettest possible conditions.

 

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Specification

  • Stack height of 21mm in the forefoot and 26mm in the heel inc 7mm lugs (Running Warehouse)
  • Built on Salomon’s purposefully narrow ‘Fell Running last’
  • 293g for my UK size 10
  • No rock plate
  • Speed laces
  • Seam-free interior
  • Substantial toe bumper

 

The Fellcross 3 aims to improve upon earlier versions by using a denser mesh material for the upper to enhance durability and water resistance whilst offering an improved fit and security thanks to Salomon’s EndoFIT and SensiFIT technologies.

Fellcross 3 Toe bumper

Really nice, solid toe bumper and rand

Fit

As I’ve said above, I was previously discouraged from trying the fellcross line of shoes as they are narrow beasties and this doesn’t tend to agree with me. Salomon claim to have worked on the fit and security with the Fellcross 3 and whilst I don’t have an earlier version to compare to, my preconceptions about the fit were totally blown away when I ran in them for the first time. It’s really very good indeed.

The standard approach taken by a lot of manufacturers when designing a off-trail / fellrunning shoe is to make it really pointy and tight because there is a perception that this is needed to ensure it’s snug enough to handle steep terrain without moving all over the place. There is a lot truth to this but it is often executed in a lazy way (see the New Balance MT00 V2 for an example) which can lead to poorly fitting, toe crushing or simply uncomfortable shoes.

The approach that Salomon have taken with the Fellcross 3 is so much more sophisticated than this and they really melt onto your feet like the running shoe equivalent of chocolate fondue onto a marshmallow. The fit is definitely narrow and super-snug but despite this, they seem to mould to the shape of my foot without mashing it up in the way that so many other narrow shoes fail to achieve. I’m totally happy to embrace a narrow fit if it offers tangible performance benefits and this is clearly the case with the Fellcross. Most of the security seems to come from the midfoot and although the toebox is skinny, it doesn’t seem to taper in around the big to as severely as many other shoes in this category.

Please bear in mind though that the shoe is designed specifically for running very fast up and down steep, slippery terrain. They do this successfully but the fit needs to be viewed within this context. I wouldn’t personally be using this shoe for general trail use or runs that are over 10-15 miles and clearly the Fellcross isn’t going to work well for the wide footed (I have a D-width foot). Sizing is consistent with the other S-Lab shoes I have tried which means I had to go half a size up from what I would usually take in Invo-8’s.

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Performance

The sublime fit and the deep, chevroned lugs of the fellcross 3 combine to produce a shoe that works incredibly well on steep grass, mud, bog and loose ground. I can honestly say that I felt I could run faster on these surfaces than in any other shoe I have tested. The only possible exception is really deep sticky clay where I think Mudclaws are still marginally grippier and clear mud a bit faster. The Fellcross seems to repel and shed water well and didn’t feel unduly heavy when soaked so I guess that the new upper material is doing its job. The shoe flexes nicely and for me, the midsole provided just enough protection against sharp objects without killing the ground-feel. The toe bumper is particularly solid and protective whilst the seam-free upper not only looks amazing but just like the Sense, the bonded overlays offer little that could be snagged or ripped by pointy objects and this seems to help the the durability. Again, when used on soft or loose surfaces, the Fellcross generally performs exceptionally well and despite the snug fit and I’ve had no problems with blistering or abrasions.

The environment where the fellcross literally came unstuck for me is on wet or polished rocks where the relatively hard outsole compound and small contact area provided by the chevroned lug shape caused me to have some pretty scary problems with traction at times. The narrow footprint and relatively tall stack height also result in a platform that, to me, feels quite unstable on rocks or uneven ground and this lead me loose a bit confidence when descending in the shoes on anything but soft or smooth-ish terrain. On a recent trip to the Lake District, there were times where, if I’m honest, running down steep rocky descents felt like I was wearing a pair of roller blades with no brakes whilst carrying a rucksack full of hand grenades. To verify this I went back and repeated a lot of the same routes in the Sense 3 Ultra and I was able to tackle them with much more confidence and speed.

Salomon know their onions and they have deliberately produced a product that is incredibly focussed on the specific purpose of running quickly on near-vertical, soft ground and grass. The Fellcross 3 is my new favourite shoe for doing this and it is a logical companion in your Salomon arsenal alongside the Sense Softground, which is a better choice for mixed terrain but not as capable on steep clag. However, shoes like the Inov-8 Mudclaw 265,  La sportiva Anakonda and New Balance MT00 V2 all provide relatively similar levels of grip on soft ground, but also offer superior stability and utilise flat-ended lug designs with larger contact areas and therefore improved versatility on a wider range of surfaces. I think this will be an important factor for many people as mountain terrain is inherently variable and unpredictable.

Durability

The only issue I have had with durability on the Fellcross 3 is that a couple of lugs have had sections shear-off after running fast on sharp rocks. This almost always happens to luggy shoes after a bit of abuse and I don’t think it can be helped without using a super-hard rubber compound which would be detrimental to the performance in other areas. The upper is holding up really well and I suspect it may outlive the sole.

Did I mention they are pretty?

Did I mention they are pretty?

Conclusion

If you are looking for a racing shoe with an exquisite fit that performs exceptionally well for bombing up and down grassy or muddy mountainsides at break-neck speed, the Fellcross 3 could well be the best shoe on the market.

If you want something that offers a little more versatility over a wider range of surfaces, I feel that there are better options out there (think maybe Mudclaw or X-Talon). Personally, I’d like to see Salomon look again at the outsole design for future updates, taking cues from some of their competitors mentioned above and perhaps reduce the midsole height or increase the outsole width a little to improve the stability. I’m pretty sure both of these things could be tweaked without compromising the many positive attributes of the shoe.

Note that this purchased by the author (see here for my gear review policy).

Where to Find Them

The Fellcross 3 is available now from Castleberg Outdoors (who offer international shipping).

Thin Castleberg Resize

I make every effort to ensure these reviews are as objective and honest as possible to help you decide if a product is right for you. This takes me a lot of time and effort and if you are interested in a product I have reviewed, you can help me keep the site going by placing purchases through the links and adverts at no extra cost to yourself. Thanks for your support.

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Got any thoughts or questions about the Fellcross 3? Please leave your comments below!

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