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July 20, 2009

La Sportiva Crosslite Shoe Review

This review won’t be as lengthy as the previous one – I’ll refer you to my Wildcat review for a brief overview of the La Sportiva company – but it’s every bit as enthusiastic. I’ve put about 100 miles on my La Sportiva Crosslites, and I’ve found it to be a truly remarkable shoe.

Truthfully, I’m a little late to jump on the Crosslite bandwagon: the shoe has already won a handful of “best in category” awards, including a Best Buy award from Runner’s World magazine and a Gear of the Year designation from Outside magazine. So it’s not exactly a secret that the Crosslite is outstanding; the only question is what type of mountain running this model is best suited for.

On that point, it’s worth noting a few differences between the Crosslite and the Wildcat, and from other shoes in the La Sportiva line. While all of the classic La Sportiva characteristics that I described in the Wildcat review – lightweight, low-profile, slipper-like comfort right out of the box – are present in this model, the Crosslite also has some distinguishing features to set it apart from the rest of the line.

The primary difference is on the underside of the Crosslite. La Sportiva’s patented FriXion AT rubber is still utilized, but the lugs are much larger than the ones on the Wildcat, and spaced further apart. The wide spacing helps the sole shed mud more easily – which, combined with the outstanding traction of the soft, sticky FriXion rubber, make this model ideal for mucky, sloppy, muddy conditions.

The sole also features La Sportiva’s Impact Braking System, which is the official designation for the layout I described in my Wildcat review: namely, the outsole lugs are oriented in opposing slanted directions. The result, according the La Sportiva website, is a 20% increase in braking power and a 20% decrease in impact forces. It also helps explain why La Sportiva shoes have a nicely cushioned feel even without the thick midsole that most trail shoes rely upon for shock absorption.

Having said that, the Crosslite isn’t quite as well cushioned as the Wildcat (despite being very similar in weight, at roughly 12oz), and therefore may not be as well suited for super-long duration runs. The La Sportiva rep explained to me that the Wildcat is recommended for distances from 100K to 100M, and the Crosslite is recommended for anything shorter. (More on recommended uses in a minute.)

Another unique feature of the Crosslite is the external scree guard on top of the AirMesh upper, which is like having a gaiter on the top of your forefoot. La Sportiva’s even-torsion lacing system is used on this shoe, but only the top two eyelets are visible on the forefoot. The scree guard also keeps the lacing and the upper snug against the top of the foot, enhancing the fit of the shoe.

The Crosslite has a 2.5-mm composite shank in the midfoot to help with torsional stability, but it lacks the heel stabilizer device seen on the Wildcat, so the disclaimer in my Wildcat review about transitioning gradually from a more stable trainer is especially pertinent with the Crosslite. This difference, plus the slight disparity in cushioning, are likely the rationale for using Wildcats instead of Crosslites for longer distance racing.

Like other shoes in the La Sportiva line, the Crosslite is meant for running fast; they’re built for elites to win races, and for regular schmoes to feel swift and light on the trail. My training group does a weekly 12-miler on hilly fire roads, which often double as long tempo runs for the marathoners among us. It’s the one run each week where I know I may be fighting to keep pace right from the gun – and it’s the one where I’m most grateful for having a pair of Crosslites to help me keep up.

Obviously, all the mainstream fuss over the Crosslite is very well-deserved. Here are the conditions where I think it would be an exceptional choice:

* Wet, muddy, messy technical conditions where traction is especially important.

* Racing distances up to 50M.

* Fast training days where you want to push the pace with intervals, tempo work, etc.

Retail prices for the La Sportiva Crosslite are pretty consistent at $90 from multiple vendors, but Wilderness Running Company has once again agreed to hook my readers up with a sweet deal between now and the end of July. They’re currently listing the Crosslite at a sale price of $80 with free shipping, and if you use coupon code R&R10, you’ll get an extra 10% off that price, and a free pair of Drymax socks, just because they’re extra special awesome.

The Crosslite is a sleek, comfortable shoe that can handle any trail condition you encounter in training, and help you lower your PRs on race day.

See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com


don 7/20/09, 5:37 PM  

I just wish that La Sportiva would make their shoes available in a size larger than 46. The Crosslite in a 46 fits me snuggly which is fine for short runs. However the Wildcat in the same size is just too small for me to use on the longer runs that it was designed for. I am sure that I would lose several toe nails if I wore them.
Too bad. I really liked those Wildcat bad boys.

mweston 7/21/09, 12:45 PM  

I tried these out and liked them a lot on a couple of short trial runs (5-7 miles). But the first time I wore them on a longer run (maybe 15 miles), I got a nasty blister on one heal. And I very rarely get blisters (I think the other three have all been on fixed-time events).

This obviously won't affect everyone, but it means I have an almost new pair available...

Joe Runner,  8/19/11, 8:07 AM  

The scree guard is stupid. Rather than enhancing the fit as the author suggests, it detracts from it, insofar as one is completely unable to reach the laces underneath and lace or adjust specifically to the foot. If you need gaiters, get them. Don't rely on this feature to keep stuff out. This might be a good shoe, but given the crazy design, I for one will not be patient enough to find out.

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