Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shoe Review: New La Sportiva Crosslite

Shoe Review: New La Sportiva Crosslite tested in rainy Portland, Oregon.

Testing Environment: I ran about 100 miles of hilly single-track trails and dirt roads in Portland, Oregon's Forest Park with the La Sportiva Crosslite. As is typical this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, we had a lot of rain and even a bit of snow making the trails very wet and muddy - perfect conditions for the burly outsole of the Crosslite. I had to hose down the shoes (and myself) after nearly every run. It's always difficult to judge mileage with trail running, but I did runs ranging in length from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours. In addition to being muddy, the over 70 miles of trails in Forest Park are very twisty in places, can be steep and range in elevation from 100' to 1300' above sea level.

Initial Impressions: Looking at the La Sportiva Crosslite fresh out of the box I really liked it and looked forward to that first run. The shoe felt very light considering the aggressive outsole and durability features like the reinforced toe box and partial lace cover.

Ideal Terrain and Conditions: The Crosslite is clearly a mud and snow shoe for racing and/or runners who prefer a lighter weight trainer. Only the Inov8 Mudclaw shoes have a more aggressive outsole than the Crosslite. Unlike the Mudclaw, the Crosslite can be used on the roads for short distances because of its flatter and softer lugs - not ideal, but "do-able".

Best Features: In addition to its lightweight and prowess in muddy conditions, the Crosslite is a great fitting running shoe. Most of the mesh upper material is actually quite soft and supple making for a nice "hot-spot" free fit right out of the box. The partially covered laces are also a nice feature providing some lace protection but allowing the shoe to be easily tied and untied. Some running shoe companies have experimented with fully covered laces or even built in gators which are ok once you're laced up, but can be cumbersome to put on or tie up.

Worst Features: What I dislike about this shoe? That's tough.....maybe waiting for it to dry out for the next run? I suppose the one real drawback of the Crosslite is that it really is a trail only shoe not well suited to mixed on-road / off-road runs. I also think the aggressive outsole is overkill for dry conditions making this a real specialist condition shoe.

Overall Rating: I would rate the La Sportiva Crosslite a 10 out of 10 for racing and running in the mud. A true off-road Dr. Jekyll, no other shoe is as light while also providing such high levels of grip. Unfortunately, in more mild mannered Mr. Hyde conditions, these shoes can't be suitably toned down for hard packed dirt or paved roads.

Final Thoughts: La Sportiva Crosslite is a great mud tool for those runners who keep multiple shoes in their box of tricks. Looking to buy 2 pairs of super light off-road running shoes? Consider the La Sportiva Skylite as your dry conditions counterpart to the mud loving Crosslite. Both shoes show that La Sportiva has been listening to what off-road runners have been asking for - specialized mountain and trail running shoes and not modified road shoes or hiking boots.