First off, the greatest name for a shoe model - Thundercross just sounds gnarly. These are shoes that beckon you to play. While they're not designed for road running, they won't shy away from a smooth, flowy singletrack. However, they truly excel when you take the path less traveled - the long, technical fun route.
Personally I’ve always preferred low-drop, minimalist shoes over the max-cushioned shoes with little ground feel. So this was my first experience with a more cushioned shoe, albeit one with a low heel-to-toe drop. The Thundercross has a low 4mm drop, with a generous 31mm on the heel and 27mm on the forefoot.
First impressions were surprising, there was definitely more control than I expected from the high stack height and the aggressive 5mm lugs. And a very comfortable ride. There’s something to be said for the Energy Foam midsole. A very bouncy ride, you can almost feel some energy getting recycled on every stride. This is definitely my favourite feature of the shoes, the spring it puts in your step.
Design & Aesthetics
At first glance, the Thundercross appears paradoxical. It looks bulky due to its thick midsoles and predominantly retro ski inspired black and neon color scheme, yet somehow manages to appear compact. While I like Salomon’s new brand direction, personally I’m not a fan of black shoes, but this is just a personal thing. I believe they also come in a grey and pink colourway. That said, the shoes look new after several runs, with lots of mud and dirt. It’s also got a bit of a hipster vibe to it, so if you’re into the retro trend of buying old Salomon Speedcross shoes for fashion, you might as well grab a pair of Thundercross and actually be able to use it on trail and on Kloof street.
Drop & Running Style
The low drop (4mm) makes them ideal for fore/midfoot strike runners. It’s a technical shoe, that despite the higher stack height still gives you control when you head down a technical descent. Not quite the same control as a shoe like the S-Lab Sense, but here you also gain some comfort so for some this might be a worthwhile trade-off.
For me these shoes would be ideal for longer, technical runs. The combination of the aggressive grip with a cushioned ride means you trade a little technical feel for feet that won’t hate you after 20/30kms of technical running.
Grip & Traction
Grip is exceptional on rough terrain, especially muddy, sandy or very technical single-track. The 5mm lugs are quite aggressive. Perhaps almost too aggressive as it's worth noting that the lugs may not offer the same level of grip on slick or wet rock as some other outsoles. This is something to consider if your trails often include wet, slippery rocks. As long as there’s something for the lugs to dig into they have great grip, but I felt less confident on very rocky terrain. A combination of the thick midsoles and big lugs probably makes this less suitable for a mountain skyrun, and better suited to generaly traipsing around Table Mountain. It’s got Salomon’s Contragrip outsole, so you should get some good mileage out of them.
I just love Salomon’s SensiFIT® construction and the way the fit cradles the foot by providing a precise and secure fit. It’s a great snug fit. And then of course the Quicklace system. It’s standard across Salomon’s shoe range but it still boggles the mind why other brands don’t adopt this for their shoes. Every time I have to stop and tie my laces in a different brand I wonder about this. Why would you ever not want the Quicklaces?
The uppers provide plenty protection from rocks and sharp stones. During the review I had a broken toe, which really appreciated the extra support against unnecessary bumps.
I’ve seen some comments around the shoes retaining water but during several runs we had water crossings, or heavy rains and I found the shoes to shed the water fairly quickly. Running through wet grass there the uppers are actually enough to avoid your feet getting wet at all. More on the grip but I must just iterate again these shoes love mud, running through muddy terrain the lugs really shine, and they shed the mud quick enough that you don’t end up running with half the trail attached to your feet.
Weight & Fit
The shoes looks both bulky, due to the thick midsoles and black colours, but also tiny at the same time. I was worried if they’d fit my feet but in the end the fit was perfect. The Thundercross weighs 290g, which is moderate for a shoe offering this level of cushioning, protection, and grip. The fit is Salomon’s standard-wide fit, which means it’s slightly wider in the forefoot and narrower in the toe box. So accommodating for broader feet, setting it apart from some of Salomon’s more narrow S-Lab range.
Pros - The grip and bouncy feel makes them seriously fun on fairly technical single trail and muddy runs. With cushioning that is great for pushing longer days.
Cons - If you are going after a rocky downhill CR, you are probably better off with a specialized shoe with a lower stack and more precise control.
The combination of the lower drop and the aggressive lugs and the spring it puts in your step would make this a pair I’d take out more often. Definitely fun shoes that encourage you to explore the smaller, more technical and less travelled routes!