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December 21, 2010

La Sportiva Winter Running Grand Prize Winners; La Sportiva Crossover GTX Winter Running Shoe Review

Clearly, the main event today is the awarding of grand prizes from La Sportiva to one male and one female reader – but the opening act isn’t too shabby either.

That’s because we’re leading off with a review of the Crossover GTX, which also happens to be one of the prizes (along with the Wildcat GTX and a hobnail kit) in the grand prize drawing. So I’m stealing a line from Survivor host Jeff Probst to ask, “Want to see what you’re playing for?”, and recommending that you take a look at the review – because even if you don’t win a pair, the Crossover is a pretty compelling choice to put on your shopping list after the holidays have come and gone.


La Sportiva Crossover GTX


To be perfectly simple, the Crossover is essentially La Sportiva’s award-winning Crosslite shoe with two augmentations: a Gore-Tex (usually abbreviated GTX) upper, and a breatheable integrated gaiter. As you’d expect, the additional features add a little bit of weight to the shoe – the Crossover GTX weighs in at 12.73 oz (361g) compared to 10.97 oz (311g) for the Crosslite – but you get a significant upgrade in foul-weather preparedness that makes it far easier to head for the trails even in the worst possible conditions.

I first reviewed the Crosslites a year and a half ago, and thankfully, La Sportiva had the good sense to leave a good thing alone, as that model has remained unchanged in the interim. I’ll refer you to my Crosslite review if you want more details aside from the basics that follow below, or you can save yourself a click and just take my word for it that the Crosslite shoe simply rocks.

So how do you winterize an already rugged high-performance trail runner? You start with giving the upper a waterproof Gore-Tex lining to keep your feet extra warm and dry. Most of my testing for this shoe consisted of stomping through every puddle and mud pit I could find during our recent West Coast storm surge, and I found the Crossover to be extremely effective at keeping moisture away from my feet.


Hard at work, splashing through every puddle in sight

However, I consider GTX to be something of a double-edged sword in regards to comfort: there’s nothing better when it comes to keeping moisture from rain, snow, slush, or wet mud away from your feet. (Also note that the GTX is waterPROOF, not merely water resistant – there’s a big difference.) On the other hand, if you do a full immersion of the shoes at river crossings, thereby allowing water to enter the shoe from above, the GTX significantly slows your drying time by limiting moisture transfer away from the foot. Since I tend to do a lot of stream crossings at this time of year, my own preference is to have a shoe that lets water in but also dries quickly – then again, I’m not often running through icy slush that would make my toes freeze.

The next step for winterizing is to have a protective gaiter to provide extra warmth and keep out trail debris, and this feature is probably the biggest innovation on the Crossover GTX. The gaiter does NOT have a GTX lining, so this portion of the shoe is breathable, which I found very nice from a comfort standpoint. Its zipper is slightly asymmetrical towards the outside of the ankle, and opens wide enough that getting the shoe on and off isn’t a problem.


Shoe laces over scree guard on upper

One nice deviation that La Sportiva included here is that the shoelaces are entirely outside the scree guard – on the traditional Crosslite, most of the laces are under the guard, which makes it challenging to open the shoe extremely wide. Once you have them on, the gaiters close with a cinch closure and Velcro flap that remain very stable throughout the run – but in my case, I generally chose to leave them loose.


Cinch lock and Velcro flap gaiter closure


Over the course of several years as an ultrarunner, I’ve gone back and forth on the gaiter idea: I started without thinking much of them, then went through a period where I couldn’t do without them, and now I’m back to being relatively indifferent. If you’re a gaiter user, the great news is that the Crossover’s version does a very nice job of keeping you insulated but also allowing ventilation as needed without overheating – and obviously, since it’s integrated into the upper, you don’t have to mess around with hooks, glue, or Velcro attachments anymore. If you’re in the non-gaiter camp, the Crossover doesn’t offer you any option to remove it. However, as a current non-gaiter guy, I can attest that with the cinch fastener fairly loose, the extra material on my ankles didn’t noticeably impact my comfort or performance on muddy trail runs.


Secure-fitting gaiter; protective rubberized toe cap

The integrated gaiter zips rather snugly over the upper, providing a very secure fit through the forefoot. La Sportiva is known for slightly narrow toeboxes, and it might be psychosomatic, but zipping the gaiter up seems to enhance the sensation of a tight forefoot fit – whether that’s a plus or minus is up to you. The front of the upper also features a sturdy rubberized toe cap to protect your toes from getting stubbed on rocks or roots.


FriXion AT rubber outsole with Impact Braking System lugs

The remainder of the shoe is La Sportiva’s bread and butter: the Crosslite dual-density midsole with a TrailShock molded shank and high-tensile RockGuard plate for protection from the sharpest and pointiest rocks you’ll ever encounter. Beneath that is perhaps La Sportiva’s best feature: a prominently lugged outsole made of their trademark FriXion AT sticky rubber and an impact braking system (precise angulation and directionality of the lugs) that claims to decrease impact forces by 20%. The outsole rubber maintains traction on slick rocks, and the shape and spacing of the lugs sheds mud quite easily in the course of normal running.

Midsole thicknesses are 26mm in the heel and 16mm in the toe, so the Crossover certainly isn’t a minimalist shoe – rather, it’s an aggressive neutral traditional trainer built to take on the harshest conditions you’ll encounter for winter trail running. If you’re facing a steady diet of snowy, slushy, icy trails this winter, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better-equipped shoe than this one.

The La Sportiva Crossover retails for $150 with free shipping from Wilderness Running Company, where you’ll get an additional 10% off by using coupon code R&R10. Or if you’re one of two lucky winners below, La Sportiva will mail you a pair for free.

**

So who are the lucky recipients? It’s time to announce the winners of La Sportiva’s Winter Running Grand Prize giveaway, for whom Christmas has just arrived a few days early. After the announcement, I’ll have links to buy any of these items separately, but for the time being let’s get to it …

Women’s winner: Chris Grove

Men’s winner: Richard Ferron

To Chris and Richard: Congratulations! Send me an e-mail, which I’ll forward along to La Sportiva so that you each receive one pair of Crossover GTX shoes, one pair of Wildcat GTX shoes, and one hobnail kit.

To everybody else: Thanks very much for participating in this contest, and especially for giving all of us such great inspiration with your crazy winter running photos. Here are links to the individual items that were featured in this giveaway:

La Sportiva Crossover: $150 with free shipping from Wilderness Running Company, and a 10% discount for using coupon code R&R10.

La Sportiva Crosslite: the high-performance shoe that the Crossover is built upon is also available for $90 with free shipping from WRC, with the same coupon code discount available.

La Sportiva Wildcat GTX: This shoe was something of a second banana in this giveaway, but it’s a standout shoe in its own regard. See my review of the shoe here at FeedTheHabit.com, and purchase the shoe for $125 at TravelCountry.com.

La Sportiva hobnail kit: $45 from Wilderness Running Company, minus 10% with coupon code R&R10.

Finally, I owe an enormous thank you to La Sportiva for being such generous sponsors of this giveaway. If you’re ever looking for a company that is doing all the right things to promote the sport of trail running, La Sportiva should be at the top of your list.


Happy Winter Running to everybody!


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2 comments:

Richard 12/22/10, 7:27 AM  

I'm sooooooooooooooooooo HAPPY!!!!

Happy Holidays!

Richard

RunningLaur 12/22/10, 11:24 AM  

What a nice, thorough review, I feel like I know the important shoe features, just from this!

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