Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Shoe Review: Salomon Fellraiser



Two runners walk into a shop...

I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere.  I'll have to think about it.  Normally, though, what happens when I'm one of those runners is that I see something on clearance that I'd like to try out, and end up buying some new kit.  Just before Christmas, I encountered a pair of Salomon Fellraisers on one of these "let's see what they have in here" visits, and somehow found my wallet opening.

To be fair, I've been been looking for a pair ever since I heard about them.  But, my general rule is never pay full price for something unknown just to satisfy my curiosity.  With a reasonable discount available, I bought a pair and waited until it was really nasty out to go and give them a proper test.

My usual test route is fairly local, up, down, and along Bredon Hill.  On the big day, I needed a decent length run, but didn't fancy cycling in the cold and wet.  So, I donned my road shoes, stuffed the Fellraisers in my pack, and jogged off to Elmley Castle, where the mud would be ranging from slippery and sticky to downright sloppy.


Wet, rainy, and muddy - perfect for a shoe trial.

The Shoe

In a nutshell, I view the Fellraiser as a mid-cushion, fairly flat, neutral, all-round off-roader.  It has the standard Salomon elastic lacing system.  The upper is a bit more substantial than the canvas Speedcross 3, and seems to release water very easily.  The tread is close-knit chevrons - much more so than I expected of a fell shoe, with considerably more lugs than you would find on a Speedcross 3.  Weighing in at just under 300g for my UK size 10, with a 6mm drop and reasonable level of cushioning, I would say the nearest comparison to anything else in my collection is the new Inov-8 Roclite 295.

Picture of the Fellraiser from Salomon's website - mine aren't this pretty anymore.

What the tread looks like out of the box...

The Fit

I've tried on Salomons of various types before, and always found the sizing to be out of step with everyone else.  True to form, I ended up with a size 10, compared to 9.5 in all of my other shoes (across 5 brands). EU size is 44 2/3, which tells me they really don't give a rats tail about conventional sizing, and just do their own thing.  That's fair enough, but I'd say you definitely want to try before you buy!

Once I'd found the right size, the fit is excellent.  I'm not a fan of the lacing system, but once I got it sorted out, the tension across the toe box and top of the foot was excellent.  I prefer laces I can re-arrange to help get a little extra tightness in the heel box, and I did struggle to keep the heel in place as well as I'd have liked.  I didn't have any rubbing or friction issues, but on the uphills, I felt like there was more movement than I get with some other shoes.  I may end up relacing with normal laces at some point, but we'll see what the Spring brings before I start to carve things up.

 

Grip

Aside from holding my foot, the next most important job of my shoe is to hold the ground. My usual route up from Elmley Castle is the one I chose for the Evesham Ultra.  At the bottom, it's incredibly muddy at this time of year.  Ranging from shoe-deep to shin-deep, with very little solid ground to connect to, the hill is the perfect place to check grip.  As usual, I slipped and skidded my way up through the filth.  Compared to my 2012 Crosslite XC test, I was practically skating on ice.  If anything solid appeared, I could grip onto it, but I wasn't digging into the mud as well as in my Crosslite XC or even my Roclites.  I stopped to have a look, and found that my tread-depth was minimal, with mud and leaves welded to the shoe.  Once I had 100m or so of grass to cross, the mud did release and I was back to having good grip again.

Mud stayed put longer than I'd have liked.
The wet and rooty trail across the top of the hill was no problem at all.  I felt well connected to the ground throughout, with enough cushion to comfortably handle any lumps and bumps.  Running down the hill on a combination of grass, rocky trail, and mud didn't present any problems.  Perhaps the mud doesn't stick as much when I'm actually running, as opposed to slogging like I did on the way up.  I'd say that, in a line-up against the Roclite and Crosslite XC, the Fellraiser matches grip on rocks and grass, but ranks 3rd of the 3 in proper mud.

Comfort

I love it. Absolutely love it. If I can get the heel fit a bit tighter, then I would have nothing to complain about in terms of comfort.  The cushion is comfy, but not excessive. I had a few road sections on my route, and the Fellraiser coped nicely.  Compared to my attempts to wear the Speedcross 3, which I felt left me completely disconnected from the ground, the Fellraiser was nicely responsive.

Summary

As one expects of Salomon, the Fellraiser is an excellent shoe.  It is comfortable, versatile, fairly light, and has good grip.  It is also, compared to some of their other shoes, quite reasonably priced.  I don't always wear shoes to the end of their natural life - sometimes they just don't tick enough boxes.  These will get worn until they fall apart.

Addendum, Feb 2015:  This pair worked well through the winter and was my shoe of choice for the Eco-Trail de Paris, where it performed well on both the trails and the final 10K-ish of road/paved path.  A second pair made it all the way through the 2015 Rocky Raccoon 100.  The heel box was a little loose when walking (a bigger deal in the longer race), which resulted in a tiny blister on each foot.  I'd love it if they were a bit lighter, but they are comfortable, and that's the key!







3 comments:

  1. How would you compare the Fellraiser and the Roclite 295? Does the Fellraiser provide more cushioning because of the thicker sole or do you feel the deeper lugs? Also do you think the Fellraiser is a good option for scree and loose rock?

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  2. Also, have you tried replacing the laces with normal ones and did you see a difference in the heel area?

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  3. Sorry I didn't see your comment until now! The Fellraiser feels more cushioned than the 295. If you have long road or hard track sections, it's much more comfortable than the 295. I've not gone to the trouble of using normal laces. I've thought about it, but never been bothered enough to do it. I've used both on loose ground, and I'd say they're pretty much equal. I still tend towards the 295 (or the Salomon Sense Ultra 4 SG) for shorter races, because they're lighter.

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