Monday, February 18, 2019

Salomon XA Elevate J and Speedcross J Kids Trail Running Shoes Review - The Ultimate Shoes for Young Adventurers

by Jeff Valliere, Amelie Valliere and Isabelle Valliere

Salomon Speedcross J
15mm heel/7mm forefoot - 8mm drop
193 grams/7.25 oz. US kids size 3
$75

Salomon XA Elevate J
18mm heel/12mm forefoot - 6mm drop
204 grams/6.75 oz. US kids size 3
$75

Introduction:  
Previously, we have purchased generic shoes for my 8 year old twin daughters, as they grow out of them fast and are always dragging them on the pavement when riding their scooters or bikes, sometimes wearing them out before they could even grow out of them.  We hike regularly on the rocky technical trails above Boulder and in the high Rockies in the summertime, but am embarrassed to admit that despite being so into running shoes and gear, my kids were slipping and sliding around technical trails in cheap shoes with poor traction and support.
Enter the Salomon XA Elevate J and Speedcross J, modeled after the ever so popular adult versions of the XA Elevate and the Speedcross, these junior models offer all of the comfort, security, fit, quality, confidence inspiring grip and performance of the adult versions.  Styling is appealing and my girls especially love these teal colorways, even more so than their typical favorite colors, pink and purple.

Additionally, both of these models feature the Salomon Quicklace, adding an element of ease when trying to get out of the door.

Upper:
The Sensifit uppers on both shoes are very reminiscent to the adult versions, with airy, yet durable mesh, a sturdy toe bumper and the Quicklace system for which Salomon is known.  Also like the adult versions, there are well placed and effective welded overlays to provide great structure and foothold without feeling confining or uncomfortable.
Padding around the heel collar is generous, providing comfort and protection for kid energy and unconventional moves on and off the trail.

Both shoes have a well padded tongue and lace garage, making the Quicklace adjuster and excess lace easy to stow away.

I was also surprised to find that the top of the lace ends aren't permanently affixed together in a loop as with the adult version.  I was a bit confused by this at first, but suspect that it is a safety release, as kids are more likely to not be a diligent about tucking the lace away and this release could prevent a face plant if it gets snagged on something while in motion.
Since I can't actually try them on, the girls do confirm for me that fit is very secure, precise and comfortable on the 3+ hours of rocky hiking we have done and is true to size.  They are able to run technical trails and scramble on rocks without any reported foot slip or instability.

Midsole:
The XA Elevate J features an Energy Cell + midsole with  3 more millimeters of stack in the heel and 5 more millimeters in the forefoot than the SpeedCross J and is the more protective of the two shoes.  Isabelle reports that they feel fast and springy going uphill and well cushioned and protective when going downhill, especially on the rocks.
The Speedcross J features a molded and injected EVA midsole with slightly less stack height than the XA Elevate J, but still offers excellent cushioning for Amelie, who weighs just under 50lbs.  She also likes the cushion, protection and response that the Speedcross J offers.

Outsole:  The XA Elevate outsole is made up of Salomon's Premium Wet Traction Contagrip providing supreme grip on all surfaces wet or dry.  The lugs are deep and effective in loose dirt, snow and off trail, while the rubber compound clings to rock.  We have been out on snowy trails with some ice, mud, wet and dry and have had no slips.


The Speedcross J has a Contagrip outsole, but with a more sawtooth shape/profile that is slightly more effective in loose dirt, mud and snow, however overall performance side by side with the Elevate has proven to be equal for the wide variety of terrain we have tested on.


Overall Performance/Recommendations:

Both the XA Elevate J and the Speedcross J are ideal picks for active outdoor oriented kids looking for maximum comfort, traction, ease of use, protection and quality/durability.  Both shoes have the Quicklace that makes it a little quicker for kids to get going out the door and a range of colors to please even the most discerning children.  Even if your kids are not climbing/hiking/running in the mountains, both are great picks if you are just looking for a quality, durable shoe that your kids will feel confident in riding bikes, climbing trees and running around the playground.  I truly can't imagine a more ideal shoe for their active lifestyle and outdoor pursuits and neither can they.  We'll be hiking our first 14ers this coming summer and they will for sure be wearing the Speedcross J and XA Elevate J.

Score:  9.9/10
-.1 for price.  
I could easily give either shoe a perfect score of 10, but many will find the $75 price tag tough justify, especially if your kids are going through a growth spurt.  Quality/durability however is good enough that if you have multiple kids, handing them down to younger siblings will help justify the cost.

Comparisons:

Speedcross J vs. XA Elevate J - The Elevate has a few more millimeters of midsole cushion and Premium Wet Traction Contagrip, but the Speedcross has a more aggressive tread pattern and lugs, so may be better for mud and loose dirt.  My girls hardly seem to notice the difference in either of those features however, so the difference is negligible to them.

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, and has finished3d Masters Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the Colorado 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he has recently worked in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 8 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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3 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...

Following

chris said...

Every shoe, especially a shoe for kids, that is not foot shaped, should be instantly disqualified imho.

Jeff Valliere said...

Chris, agreed! I can't imagine running in shoes not shaped like a foot (do they make such a thing?).