Salomon ThunderCross Review

Salomon Thundercross Review

Exceptional traction meets full cushion and protection

September 24, 2023 – Enjoy exceptional traction and comfort in this fully cushioned trail running shoe with aggressive 5mm rubber lugs (shop now). Our Salomon Thundercross review dives deep into testing, construction, fit, comparable models, pros, cons, and more. With zero break-in required, Thundercross’s outsole delivers best-in-class grip to hikers and runners alike on steep and/or slippery terrain. You may or may not love the QuickLace system, we don’t, but it’s an overall excellent shoe nonetheless.

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  • Price: $140
  • M’ Weight: 11.1 oz | W’s Weight: 8.6 oz
  • Heel-Forefoot-Drop: 31-27-4
  • Lugs: 5 mm | Rockplate: No
  • Width: Average trending narrow | Overall Fit: True to size
  • Wide Sizes Available: No
  • On Trail/Off trail/Road: Yes/Definitely/No
  • Pros: Exceptional best-in-class traction. No break-in period/comfy out of the box. Energy return foam. Full cushion. Good value. Quick/easy on/off. Protective rand on entire forefoot and side foot.
  • Cons: Quicklace™ system is less comfortable than traditional laces when worn tight. Lots of non-breathable surface area on upper.

Compare to more our great options in our guide to the best trail running shoes.

close up on front toe rand

Testing for Salomon Thundercross Review

REI Co-op sent me a pair of Salomon Thundercross trail running shoes for this review. I wear a men’s size 12, with a standard width forefoot and narrow heel, and these fit very nicely. I would describe them as true to size. After a short run in the local park to double check everything, I immediately took them out on a 22 mile 8,000′ elevation gain overnight backpacking trip in the North Cascades to see how they perform on steep terrain.

Firstly, they were comfortable out of the box, with literal zero break-in period required. I never once found them to chafe or rub, and I did not get a single blister. I never slipped or fell, despite lots of challenging slopes. I don’t have long term testing results to report on yet, but after the first ~30 miles or so, I really like these shoes, everything held up well, and will continue wearing them wherever traction is paramount. The only notable degradation of the shoe is that the off-white uppers got pretty dirty, taking on a distinct brown color.

-Jaeger Shaw, Managing Editor

exterior side view

Salomon Thundercross Construction

Fit

These shoes run true to size in terms of length. The width too is fairly average, perhaps trending narrow if we had to choose a direction. The forefoot is widened, but by no means is it exceptionally wide. The heel cup is on the narrow side. It’s hard to find a shoe with a narrow heel cup, and if this is a great option if you have been looking for that. If you have a wide heel, or wide overall foot, we don’t recommend these shoes.

Laces

The QuickLace Closure system is probably the most controversial design feature of the Salomon Thundercross. Instead of traditional tie-on laces, they have a narrow, closed-cord loop which runs through plastic cinching hardware. Simply pull it to tighten and tuck the excess cord into the collar or under the bottom row of laces and then back up. We found the latter to be preferable, but either way works. The advantage of this system is that it’s faster to use than double knotting traditional laces. The disadvantage is that the far-narrower-than-average-lace-width cord creates a high pressure band at the upper-most section, and there is no way to tighten the lower sections of lacing without cranking the top to the point of minor discomfort. That being said, it was never a huge issue, and was never worse than a minor discomfort.

close up on upper

If you’ve worn this style of laces before, then you’ve probably already formed an opinion and know whether or not they’re for you. Your reviewer dislikes them, and would definitely exchange for traditional laces if it were offered. That being said, it’s not a deal breaker by any means, and this is a good shoe that even people who dislike the QuickLaces will still enjoy wearing.

close up on collar

Upper

The upper is interesting. A thin, tightly woven textile (59% recycled) situates above the forefoot and traces up the upper midfoot to create a collar above the actual tongue. This creates a pocket in which you can tuck the excess QuickLace cordage and keeps dust, sand, and snow out. The tongue itself is lightly cushioned. Above the midfoot are plastic-y reinforced areas that hold the lace tension and provide structure. A near-360 degree rand protects the front and sides of the foot from scrapes and splashes.

The result is a shoe that is very protective of the foot in scrape-y/pokey terrain, but comes at the expense of breathability. A majority of the upper’s surface area is comprised of plastic rand material or plastic structural reinforcements, which results in decreased ventilation. That being said, it’s still got enough breathability where it counts. We just wouldn’t recommend this for hot weather running or hiking for that reason.

Midsole

At Adventure Alan & Co, we love full cushion shoes popularized by HOKA, and it’s great to see Salomon deliver something similar. With 31mm heel stack height, the Thundercross offers a very comfortable cushy ride. The midesole is made with “energyFOAM”, which combines EVA and olefine to create bounce and energy return. So far, it’s been pleasant to hike and run in, but the energy return and bounce factor is degraded by the extra deep 5mm rubber lugs.

We also nod to the 4mm heel-to-toe drop, which is our preferred sweet spot and find it to be near-universally appealing. Both zero-droppists and those who prefer traditional drop (8-10mm) can find comfort and balance in the Salomon Thundercross.

Outsole & Lugs

The beastly outsole is, in our opinion, the raison d’être for the Salomon Thundercross. The 5mm rubber lugs and outsole are exceptionally, outstandingly, amazingly grippy and sticky on steep, loose, wet, and otherwise gnarly terrain. The forefoot lugs even extend past the edge of the outsole profile, providing extra balance and added traction. The forward facing chevron pattern on the forefoot grips the uphill, and backwards-facing chevrons grip for downhill.

rubber lugs and outsole

The effect is marvelous traction. Perhaps the only downsides to this are that aggressive lugs tend to be the first part of a trail shoe to wear down. We’d expect to get a few hundred miles out of these before the traction degrades. The other downside is that aggressive rubber lugs tend to lessen the energy return and bounce factor of the shoe’s midsole.

interior side view of salomon thundercross

Who should choose this shoe and when to use it

  • Activity-wise, this shoe is good for trail running and hiking. It is not a good choice for road running, or transitional road/trail running, as the traction is complete overkill for pavement. What’s more, road running would wear down the aggressive lugs, and lug-less road running shoes or light duty trail runners would offer a much better energy return.
  • Terrain-wise, this shoe excels on steep, loose, wet, challenging surfaces. We recommend choosing it when traction is paramount above all else. We tested them on exceptionally steep dirt/rock slopes and they were excellent. We don’t recommend them for flat, easy, secure trail, gravel roads, or man-made surfaces, as lighter weight shoes with less aggressive tread would perform better.
  • Fit-wise, we recommend this shoe to runners and hikers with average-to-narrow width feet. Especially those with a narrow heel. We do not recommend this shoe for wide footed runners and hikers.
  • Temperature-wise, we would recommend this shoe for cold, cool, moderate, and warm weather use. We would advise against them for hot climates because so much of the upper’s surface area is non-breathable.
birds eye view of salomon thundercross

Comparable models

The Salomon Thundercross reminds us of two models in particular. First, given its cushion, tread, and weight profiles, it is immediately reminiscent of our favorite all-around hiking and running shoes, the HOKA Speedgoat. Between them, we find the Salomon Thundercross is slightly narrower, and has better traction and more protection. It’s also less breathable, and as a result, less comfortable to wear in hot weather.

The second shoe that comes to mind is Thundercross’s sibling, the Salomon Speedcross. Speedcross is a bit heavier, and has a 10mm drop for a much more traditional feel. They use the same QuickLace closeure system, and both have the tightly woven collar which blocks crud and holds the laces. Both have exceptional traction and deep agressive lugs. We would generally recommend the Thundercross over the Speedcross because of its lower weight, lower drop, and a cushier midsole.

the heel on salomon thundercross

Salomon Thundercross Review Conclusion

Choose the Salomon Thundercross for running and hiking confidently on steep terrain when traction is paramount, but all-day comfort still matters. Thanks to the aggressive lugs, standard fit, full-cushion midsole, and near-universally appealing 4mm drop, almost anyone can find what they’re looking for in this shoe. Whether or not you love the QuickLace system, we’re confident that you’ll love end result, which is a great all-around pair of trail runners.

wearing the salomon thundercross