Top critical review
Very Specialised - Great on Soft Ground Only
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 September 2018
They're every bit as grippy as you'd expect. The chevron shaped lugs on the sole were even gripping the tarmac on the way to the trailhead. You could actually *hear* the grip, as the edges of the chevrons disengaged with the texture of the road, like when you ride chunky MTB tyres on tarmac. The grip is really good on gravel, mud, grass, loose earth/hard packed earth. I felt really sure footed on these surfaces.
The lace up system is quick and easy to use and provides a nice uniform tightness. Just pull it as tight as you like, roll up the excess and tuck it in the pocket in the tongue. I was concerned that you'd be able to feel this on the top of your foot but you can't at all.
They come in a huge variety of colours. I went for very bright red and yellow because it was cheapest at £64. I would have preferred something a little more understated but wasn't willing to pay an extra £30 for it. My partner visibly cringed when she saw the colour, but I don't care as nobody sees me on my runs. The price of these trainers fluctuates wildly so keep an eye on them for a bit before buying.
The cushioning is pretty good. I appreciated the way the soles cancelled out the roots, stones and twigs on today's run.
OK, I know these shoes are described as being for soft ground, and they're excellent for wet, muddy grass, but it's very rare that you go for a run that's entirely on one type of surface - usually you have to actually get there, or traverse at least a short section of another type of terrain. Even if you're doing a Tough Mudder there's still some hard obstacles you'll have to tackle. These shoes' grip on smooth wet stone is practically nonexistent. Stepping over a stone stile is like stepping on an ice rink with oiled flip-flops. Parts of today's run comprised a path made of exposed flat limestone bedrock. Because it's only the flat, smooth outer parts of the chevron lugs that are in contact with the ground when you're on a hard surface, my traction was very limited and a few slides were enough to put me on guard. The stone steps and stiles that I usually bound up and over seemed unusually potentiality lethal today, and I found myself tackling them quite slowly and gingerly. I was surprised how much worse they were on smooth stone than on the road.
Regarding the above issue - I think the Speedcross Vario would have a slightly more versatile sole so you may want to consider them unless you're running exclusively in fields.
Downhill grip is not as good as uphill grip, due to the shape of the chevrons. Downhill grip is still probably miles better than on your average pair or trail running shoes but after a long uphill you get used to a certain level of traction and so you'll need to make a bit of a mental adjustment after cresting the climb.
The soles retain clumps of mud much worse than the reviews led me to expect. Other reviews raved on about the way the soles miraculously shed mud but I didn't find this at all. See pic. I found myself having to manually scrape my heel on the ground to get rid of some big lumps of mud, leaves and twigs.
The mud that they do shed is flicked up all over the backs of your calves (see pic). OK, this is to be expected to some degree and getting muddy legs is part of the deal with off road running, but the volume of splatter is seemingly proportional to the depth of the tread. Nobody was in any doubt that I'd been off road when I got back to civilisation.
The toebox is narrow. I've got normal to slightly wide feet and my toes felt like they were being pressed together slightly more than I'd like. This may become an issue on longer runs, or the shoes may adapt to my foot, I can't tell. I'd bought a half size larger to try and avoid this as I'd heard this was an issue but maybe I should have gone a whole size up.
The shape of the heel support means the uppermost part of the back of the shoe chafes the skin on my heel. For some reason the profile of the back curves slightly inwards/forwards, and the result was a very big and very painful blister after 5k. My left heel had a raw circle the size of a 50p by the time I got home. I've never had this issue with any other brand of running shoes before. Hopefully I can overcome this by playing with the tightness but this is a major flaw for me at the moment.
The built up support along the outer edge of the foot feels overdone/unnecessary/downright weird when you first put them on.
The sole is slightly stiffer than any other running shoe I have used and this sped up the onset of fatigue.
On balance 3/5. I'll update this review after a few more runs. Hopefully I'll be able to give another star or else I've wasted my money.
UPDATE: Another star subtracted as they've disintegrated within 300km of normal use. Very flimsy uppers.
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