Thank you Andrew Woods for the great review!
Full disclosure: I’m not paid by Salomon, nor given free shoes (is there a way I can swing that deal?). I am, however, a Salomon gear junkie. Most of my running shoe collection and half of the rest of my outdoor gear is Salomon. My skis, and my daughter’s skis, are Salomon. I even rep Salomon on my car and on my work laptop (hope I don’t get in trouble for that).
About the reviewer:
Weekly distance when not in training: 35-40 km
Typical long run: 20-25km. I’m not an ultra-runner.
Style of runner: Kinda slow, not graceful. I’m generally a mid-foot striker but I’ll also just land on whatever part of the foot hurts the least. I’m not picky about my form (probably why I’m not better at this sport). I don’t really race. I just like to be out in the woods.
Where I run: I spend most of my time on the technical trails around Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is little elevation, but it’s always rocky, rooty, and muddy. You get your feet wet on every single trail run in Halifax. Even ATV trail or double-track is gnarly.
Shoes I use from Salomon: Fellcross, Sense Mantra, Speedcross, Spikecross
Other Shoes: Saucony Kinvara (road)
The specs on the Fellraiser (as tested)
· size 10
· 290 grams (10.2 oz) – but I didn’t measure them, that’s from Salomon’s website
· $109 from a big, big US online-retailer
· ~150km run in them to date
Since the Fellraiser comes from the same family of shoes as the Fellcross and the Speedcross, this review will primarily use these two shoes as comparators to the new Fellraiser.
This is going to sound controversial for anyone who’s really into trail shoes, but I think Salomon’s Fellcross are the best shoes ever made for running on trails. They hug – maybe even affectionately caress – the feet. They have incredible grip and ground feel. They’re as light as you’d want in a shoe that is actually tough enough to survive a few months on the trail. They drain very quickly. The fit is incredible. They’re deep enough to accommodate an insole for arch support (hey, I’ve got fallen arches. What are you going to do?). And most importantly to me, they’re relatively narrow in the toe-box. I want shoes that, when I’m on uneven ground, I can get to the sides of the shoes quickly and push off. I am not a big fan of wide toe boxes and sloppy-feeling shoes (see New Balance’s line, and even Salomon’s Wings/XT-Wings series). Consequently, I love the Fellcross.
So when Salomon announced the Fellraiser, I was excited. It was described as being in the same family as the Fellcross and Speedcross - possibly even using the same last as those shoes – but having a modified upper and outsole lugging. And the big benefit: much less expensive. Salomon’s S-Lab range of products are pricey, to say the least. The Fellraiser is billed as an entry-level product offering, with a price to match.
How could I not buy a pair? With a fondness for the Speedcross and a downright love affair with the Fellcross, I needed to try out this new cousin. So I got my brother to pick me up a pair when he was in the US.
It would be easy for you to go to Salomon’s website and compare the official specs of the various shoes, so I’ll provide a more subjective take on the shoes. I’m also going to assume you’re familiar with Salomon’s shoes, like the type of rubber they use, the typical fabrics for the upper, the lacing system, etc.
So let’s go!
Yes, this is important. And to be honest, they just don’t look as hot as the other shoes in Salomon’s line. Check out these pics, from Castleberg Outdoors.
The colors are pretty slick. Especially the women’s. The purple-and-blue scheme sorta makes me want to be a girl. Or instead maybe buy girl’s shoes. Or perhaps just wait until my daughter is old enough to trail run and then buy them for her.
But I’m not completely sold on the look. They don’t have the sleek, fast, awesome look of the Fellcross, nor the big, beefy traditional-running-shoe look of the Speedcross. They’re just kind of there. The massive tongue and tiny heel collar add to the strange vibe.
From the side: Fellcross, Fellraiser, and Speedcross
And from the top. Left to right: Speedcross, Fellraiser, Fellcross
One thing I love about the Fellcross (and the way it is lugged) is that if the ground is a little soft, you can just get up on the balls of your feet – or the edge of your foot – and dig those lugs in a little deeper to regain your grip. It’s a great shoe for feeling the ground. And it’s the biggest reason why I love that shoe.
So how does the Fellraiser make out?
In this area, it’s a big, big win. The lugs on the outsole are Salomon’s best yet. They are still plenty deep and very aggressive, and so they’re just great in the mud. However, they are larger than those found on the Fellcross, and so I find that the shoes handle flatter or smoother terrain better than the Fellcross. When descending something technical and soft at speed, these shoes give you confidence and leave you smiling – no slippies here. And as you’d expect, the outsole sheds mud without you ever noticing that it was caught on your sole. Bonus: I’ve found them to be excellent on smooth granite (we’ve got plenty of that around these parts). If the rock faces are wet, however, you’re still going to slip some. (Let me know if there’s a shoe that is actually good on wet, smooth rock.)
Comparing the Fellraiser’s lugs (red) to the Speedcross’ lugs (yellow)
Left to right: the sole of the Fellcross, Fellraiser, and Speedcross. It’s easy to see how much wider the lugs are on the Fellraiser. This is great, in my opinion.
Cushioning/mid-sole and ground feel
In theory, there is more cushioning in the Fellraiser than the Fellcross, but nowhere near as much as the Speedcross. The Fellraiser is definitely stacked higher (there is more material between your foot and the ground) than the Fellcross, but that – to me – doesn’t make it feel softer, or more cushioned, or more plush. If you were to run on pavement or logging road in the Speedcross, you would feel the pillowy softness under your feet. On those types of harder surfaces, the Fellraiser and Fellcross both feel like they have the same cushioning – which is to say, not much cushioning at all.
But take the Fellraisers onto technical terrain with jagged roots or rocks, and this is where you’ll notice the extra cushioning – and not in a good way. Some runners talk about how “stiff” a shoe is, or how “soft” it is. These words don’t mean that much to me, or perhaps I’m not using them the way others use them. What I would say is this: there is noticeably less ground feel with the Fellraiser compared to the Fellcross. The minor bit of extra cushioning makes the shoe feel significantly stiffer than the Fellraiser. The shoes feel like they pivot over a sharp rock – like a teeter totter – as opposed to flexing around it. To me, that’s a bad thing.
How is the shoe rockered? It’s listed as having a 6mm drop from heel to toe. That’s more than the Fellcross’ 4mm* but less than the Speedcross’ 11mm. Now, I’m mostly indifferent to the amount of drop on a shoe (frankly, there seems to be too much made on this issue), but I’ll say this: when in the Speedcross, I’m noticeably tipped forward. When I’m in the Fellcross, I feel flat and back on my heels. The Fellraiser gives me the same feeling as the Fellcross.
Finally, as you might have guessed, there is no rock plate in this shoe.
*I’ve actually read that the Fellcross has a 3mm drop, while others I’ve spoken to say a 6mm drop. Salomon’s website cites a 4mm drop. Point being, the Fellraiser and Fellcross have the same feel.
Comfort / fit / sizing
The Fellraiser fits exactly as you’d expect from this family of shoes – narrow through the mid and forefoot. It’s not quite as snug as the Fellcross, but slightly more snug than the Speedcross. Despite the noticeably lower heel collar, the shoe still accommodates an insert (like Superfeet or Sole) quite well.
The toe-box is weirdly shaped. It’s more square than those of its cousins, and so you might want to consider sizing up a half-size. To elaborate: I am perfectly comfortable in 10 in the Speedcross. I have had both 10 and 10.5 in the Fellcross – they both work, but the 10.5 is slightly more comfortable. I got the 10 in the Fellraiser, and I find I’m sliding my toes against the front of the toe box on descents, and I feel that this is related to front of the shoe being more square. As a further comparison, I have 10 in the Sense Mantra and those fit very well.
A note about the fabric of the upper: I mostly don’t care about what types of materials shoes are made from, as long as they are tough and expel water quickly. However, the Fellraiser’s material is noticeably different than that of the other two, and not in a good way. It is a very loose weave. It feels flimsy and cheap. The worst part? Water and even small particles of dirt will enter the shoe through the fabric. I have finished runs where there has been gobs of mud under my feet on the insole because it has entered the shoe through the fabric. I suppose the good news on that front is that any water you take on will quickly be expelled, but don’t expect any resistance to water entering the shoe. One puddle and your feet will be soaked.
This is among the cheapest of Salomon’s trail shoes, and it is obvious. Generally , the shoe does not have a robust feel, but two issues jump out at me:
Firstly, the way the various piece of fabric meet at the toe is strange. I can, if I lift my big toe up in the shoe, feel a joint of two different pieces. It’s annoying, and might even cause blisters on really long days (it didn’t for me, so I can’t really call this a “fit” issue). Take a look at the overhead picture to see where the red piece of fabric meets the black where the big toe would be.
And secondly, what is the deal with that monstrosity of a tongue? It is huge! And while the size doesn’t really bother me, here’s what does: it appears as though Salomon shrunk the lace garage on this tongue. I have never had any problem shoving the whole lace and the little pulley into the garage, but on this shoe it just is impossible to get it in there. The garage is so loose and the pulley flops around so much that the entire lace eventually pops out during the run. It was infuriating, but I fixed the situation by putting an elastic band around the entire tongue and slipping the lace under that first. An easy fix to a relatively minor problem… but Salomon, how could you mess this up?
In general, there is just a noticeable quality difference between this shoe and anything from the S-Lab series of shoes, or even the Speedcross. The finer touches are just so much better on every other Salomon shoe I own.
I like the shoe and I’m glad that I bought it. I was hoping for the Fellcross but with a slightly looser fit and a slightly stiffer/thicker sole. I would say I got that – and maybe I got something even stiffer than I wanted.
I was also hoping for a shoe that would provide cushion for longer runs and for runs that have significant distance on logging roads or non-technical ATV trail, yet still had great feel and response on technical single track – a true all-mountain shoe. I don’t think that this is the shoe.
I wanted to love it and had such great expectations for it. Perhaps it was unreasonable for me to expect so much, and especially at an entry level price. But … the shoe just leaves me wanting a more.
And the reason I want more is that I didn't expect the downgrade in quality, in the little details. It just isn't as nicely finished a shoe as other Salomon kicks. My biggest peeve, as noted, is that the lace doesn't stay in the garage – even though it was an easy modification and fix for me to make.
For me, I would still prefer the Fellcross for anything technical and shorter than 30km, while I’d still reach for the Speedcross or Sense Mantra for a long, non-technical runs.
This review is finishing on a negative note, but it doesn’t need to read this way: I love the fit and the incredible grip. The drainage is also top notch (provided you don’t care about the minimal protection from water entering the shoe), and the price is great.
So I’d definitely recommend them as a first trail shoe for someone who wants to try the sport, and especially if the person will be running on technical trails and doesn’t want to break the bank. For an experienced trail runner, you might want to add the Fellraiser to the arsenal as a training shoe. For the shoe snob who has money to burn, you’ll probably end up looking elsewhere.
Now stop reading and get out and into the woods.