Saturday, July 08, 2023

Salomon Thundercross Multi Tester Review 5 Comparisons

Article by Sam Winebaum, Dominique Winebaum, and Jeff Valliere

Salomon Running Thundercross ($140)


The Thundercross is a 4mm drop softly cushioned trail and I would say door to trail shoe from Salomon. It has a 31mm heel and 27mm forefoot stack height so it is deeply cushioned, particularly up front. Even Salomon’s ultra focused Ultra Glide 2 only has 26 mm of stack height up front . 

In the “Cross” family, Salomon’s softer ground big traction shoes, it has 5mm lugs in an aggressive chevron pattern. 

When I heard Cross I immediately thought of the iconic Speedcross (RTR Review) with its yet more aggressive traction, firmer cushion and bowed geometry, a shoe, quite frankly barely run able outside of deep mud and snow but oh so popular now as a lifestyle shoe. 

Other than deep traction, a similar fabric like upper mesh and Cross in the name, the Thundercross is a far more versatile, moderate terrain runnable and very hiking worthy new take on the Cross franchise. It has Salomon’s soft and energetic Energy Foam, a well rockered geometry, mostly secure upper and lots of easy going flexibility. 

My testing to date included a very rugged almost all rock and roots and wet rocks 9 mile hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a rail trail run on gravel and hard sand, and a road to trail run which included some more technical rooty rocky sections as well as pavement and gravel roads.


Low 4mm drop, soft, flexible, more natural riding cruiser than the usual from Salomon Sam /Jeff V

Comfortable "relaxed" upper Sam /Jeff V

Deep 5mm lug traction that is not in the way when not needed Sam/Dominique/Jeff V

Far more run able than a Speedcross Sam/Dominique/Jeff V

Light for its 31/27 stack height with big outsole at 9.69 oz / 274 g US9 Sam/Jeff V

Surprisingly good on road-no slapping noise or over stiffness Sam/Dominique/Jeff V

Ideal winter sloppy conditions shoe (trail or road),  although not GTX Sam/Jeff V


Comfortable pliable front mesh upper and flexible soft front of shoe and no rock plate lacks some technical terrain hold and stability Sam/Jeff V

Deep widely spaced lugs & softer rubber are comparatively only average in grip on wet rock Sam/Jeff V

Sizes large particularly in women’s Dominique

Outsole durability: Jeff V

Not particularly breathable in warm temps:  Jeff V


Weight: men' s 9.69 oz / 274 g US9 sample (both shoes same weight to gram) 

             women's 9.29 oz / 264g (US9 / 41 ⅔ EU)

Stack Height: 31 mm heel / 27 mm forefoot ( 4mm drop spec) 

$140  Available july 2023

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: Modern and streamlined, my pair has a gray upper with mostly black overlays with pink and optic red highlights with an orange and pink outsole. Dominque’s women’s version is exactly the same color.

The main upper material is a soft very pliable almost fabric like closed mesh. The front mesh provides essentially no structure and extends upwards as a layer above the padded non gusseted tongue.

All the front and midfoot, support is provided by overlays. Upfront the black rubbery overlay extends quite far over the toes and runs to the sides lowering as it goes to allow the shoe to flex and the Thunder is indeed very flexible.  

The toe box is easy going and quite roomy with no pressures. I wished on more technical trails for a stouter front mesh and more solid hold but while hiking and running more mellow trails and roads about as comfy a toe box as I recall, too comfy really.

My sample was a half size up from my normal and to get a good foot hold upfront I had to wear my thickest wool Darn Tough run to hike socks. For sure we are true to size and maybe one should half size down if you have a narrow forefoot.  

My wife Dominique pair is marked as a US women’s 9, her usual, but at a big in EU 41 ⅓  and she could easily size down

Both sides of the midfoot have an extensive Sensi Fit overlay which also includes loops for the trademark Salomon QuickLaces. These panels provide a very solid midfoot hold and in combination with the decently padded soft tongue even when lacing tight for the extra room there have never been any pressures as the panels distribute the pressure away from and above most of the tongue and especially side of foot.

The heel counter is semi rigid with more than enough padding. Hold is excellent if again not exactly high performance run focused. 

All in all, we have a comfort focused upper rather than a technical trails performance running one as say in the Sense Ride 5. Yet, while hiking and less so running on rocks and roots, I found the hold more than adequate. Off rough trails on the smooth this mellow front secure midfoot and heel hold upper is very comfortable. No question all day wear for casual and hiking easy on the foot as well.

Dominique: I was introduced to the Thundercross at The Running Event in Austin, TX, last December, and was excited for this new addition to the “Cross” family.  At the time, I had just reviewed the SpeedCross 6, Salomon’s legendary trail shoe that has evolvedinto mostly trendy lifestyle shoe.  As much as I like to wear my SpeedCross 6, I was glad for a better option when it comes to running trails (that are not muddy) while still staying close to the “Cross” family.  The Thundercross is said by Salomon to be designed to handle rocky and muddy terrain and features a Contagrip outsole with 5 mm lugs - with a cushy midsole and low drop (4mm) for a cushiony and pleasant ride. 

I received the Thundercross in my regular size women's US 9, which corresponds to a EU 41 ⅓ on the label.  As with prior testers from Salomon,  I should have sized down half a size for a better fit. There is extra room in the toebox, which is not aways a bad thing, however, the fit at the heel is not snug despite the semi-rigid heel counter which is reinforced with a strap.  

By all means, it is a comfortable fit with extra room in the toebox. That said I need a serious pull on the Quicklace system keep my foot securely in place.  This is the same mesh upper as in the front as with the Speedcross 6, which is soft and breathable, however, like Sam I find that it lacks hold.  I am not experiencing “an optimal foothold” from the Sensifit™ as the hold is too concentrated in the mid-foot as opposed to throughout the foot.  

There is plenty of padding around the collar, Achilles and the tongue, which creates a very comfortable fit.  However, all that comfort is offset by the hold being concentrated in the midfoot area. The tongue is a stand alone tongue, and not a gusseted tongue, which could have helped create a more secure hold.

Jeff V:  I was unaware of the Thundercross until they arrived on my doorstep and was pleasantly surprised to see what appears to be an alternative in the ever so successful Speedcross line. 

I reviewed the Speedcross 5 and while I found them to be very secure, comfortable and grippy in snow and loose terrain, I couldn’t get past the big blocky heel and subsequent instability of trying to run in even semi technical terrain.  The Thundercross seems to address that issue with a much more reasonable design and with a more “normal” heel and consistent 4mm drop.  

While completely different, the “Cross” lineage is carried on in the obvious Cross familiar outsole, with big, deep, aggressive lugs.   

Sam and Dominique cover the upper details well and I agree on all points regarding performance.  I have almost always found Salomon uppers to be very race like and snug, so I was surprised to find such a relaxed and roomy upper here. I first ran in the Thundercross wearing my thin summer socks, but struggled with the fit, so, like Sam, quickly determined that I needed to use a thicker sock.  The thicker sock helped some, but find that I really have to crank down on the laces in order to snug them down adequately to hold my feet when running in rocky, technical terrain.  In doing so however, the laces are putting a good bit of pressure on the top of my feet.  

As you can see in the photo above, there is a lot of bunched up material when I tighten them down and would love to see this taken in a bit in future versions.  

Otherwise, for more moderate terrain and casual use, I can back off the lace pressure some and find a good bit more comfort.  I find heel hold to be good and room in the toe box to be comfortably roomy, though not ideal for hold in technical terrain.  The materials are flexible and overall comfortable, but I find the shoe to be a bit warm when the temperatures climb into the 80’s and especially the 90’s (compounded by the need to wear a thicker sock).  

Overall fit is perhaps a touch long and think I could have easily gotten by with a size 9.5 vs. my normal size 10, which may have helped a bit with the extra volume.  Upper protection is moderate, adequate for the intended purpose of the Thundercross and it also has a protective toe bumper.


Sam: The midsole is Salomon’s Energy Foam as found in all their 2023 performance shoes. It's an EVA/Olefin copolymer block blend which is softer and more energetic than the Energy Cell foam found in the Speedcross and older Salomon.  The midsole feel is super pleasant if on the soft side with plenty of cushion particularly upfront with 27mm of full stack height there. 

Very flexible, I do not detect a ProfFeel rock plate as many Salomon have. There is plenty of rock protection without it as we have as deep a front stack as just about any Salomon but the Glide Max. The lack of a plate and the pliable front upper makes the front of the Thundercross more flexible and more pleasantly cushioned than other 2023 Salomon such as the Sense Ride and UlltraGlide but less stable and less responsive upfront when trails get dicier. 

There is plenty of heel cushion but as the midsole is on the soft side you won’t think it is higher than its 4mm drop. I do think slightly firmer Energy Foam as in the Sense Ride 5 would help performance and stability overall.

Dominique  I agree with Sam that the feel of the midsole is super pleasant, and on the soft side.  It is a well cushioned midsole with a stack height of 27mm at the front and 31mm at the heel.  However, all that soft midsole is not overly protective over large size gravel as there is no protective plate or ProFeel film as often found in Salomon.  Likewise, this is a fairly flexible shoe as it is without a plate and it contorts easily sideways, namely it is not overly secure or stable on challenging terrain.  

I am adjusting to the low drop of the shoe (4 mm), especially as my last tester had an 8mm drop, including a protective plate (Cascadia 17, from Brooks).  In short, the Energy Foam is soft and pleasant, yet the lack of a plate makes this shoe not as protective on rocks, which it is said to be designed for.

Jeff V:  The EVA/Olefin copolymer block blend Energy Foam midsole is for sure softer than the Speedcross, Ride 4 and many other Salomon shoes in this class that use the older Energy Cell foam.  

This is very welcome, providing a softer, more comfortable feel under foot, which is very flexible, has excellent ground feel and contours over undulating terrain.  Despite not having Pro Feel film rock protection up front, I find protection to be adequate for all but the most extreme rocky terrain for longer durations, but on my daily runs on rocky trails, they are great.  

The softer foam and flexibility, combined with the less secure more relaxed fit upper does not make for a performance oriented shoe, specifically not ideal for spirited running in technical terrain.  For more casual running and hiking though, performance is great.


Sam: The outsole is Salomon’s Contagrip rubber in a 5mm high chevron lug pattern. The lug pattern is quite dispersed and the contact areas of each lug arenot particularly broad to help with mud dispersion and grip on soft “Cross” terrain. I did not encounter much mud in testing but did notice, despite the seemingly specialized for soft ground outsole design that, the Thundercross was great on harder firmer terrain including road with no excessive slapping or sense of overbearing lugs as say the Speedcross 6 with its identical 5mm lugs has. 

Why? I think the rubber is softer here maybe not as sticky and the shoe more flexible with a really effective rocker for the low 4mm drop and softer foam. On sand and gravel and while climbing on moderate trails grip was outstanding.

I did note on my hike to the rocky Franconia Ridge and down that the wet rock grip was not as good as a shoe with Vibram MegaGrip I also tested the same day with a pattern designed more for rock and all around than the softer ground pattern and rubber here.

Dominique:  The Thundercross is more of a cruiser trail shoe in my opinion than a shoe designed for challenging terrain, and this despite its Contragrip and 5mm lugs.  I have no complaints to the outsole when it comes to run on firmer surfaces; in fact, it is quite pleasant. 

Jeff V:  I have found outsole performance to be very good on my usual terrain, steep, rocky, technical trails in Colorado and steep, loose off trail.  The rubber compound grips well on rocky slab despite the aggressive lugs and I do not feel bothered by the deep lugs with no lug flex felt underfoot.  The deep aggressive lugs bite well into loose dirt and off trail junk, with no slippage while running uphill or downhill.  I have not been able to test in wet conditions, but have tested around creek crossings and wet traction seems to be uncertain, so will default to Sam’s findings regarding wet traction.  

Outsole durability seems to be below average, with notable wear after 25 or so miles (admittedly on rocky technical trails, but the same trails/conditions I always test on).

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: The ride is friendly and easy going on any moderate non technical terrain and while hiking but reaches limits due to the front of the upper on more technical terrain while running. 

But for some slight traction issues they were excellent on an extremely rugged White Mountains hike with great hold and no soreness the next day after 9 miles of almost continuous vertical boulders.

It is rare that a shoe with big 5mm lugs in a broadly spaced pattern is also as fine as the Thundercross is on hard surfaces with the ability to use those lugs for lots of bite on softer sloppier terrain. Credit to the softer energetic Energy Foam and excellent rocker geometry.  

I kept thinking as I ran that the Thundercross was the most “natural” riding Salomon I could recall. It is clearly a lower drop at 4mm than many other Salomon with the softer foam contributing to that sensation along with the toes friendly if not totally locked down front of the shoe. This said higher volume feet will have better luck than my lower volume ones.  I do think  the front mesh could be less fabric like and overly pliable to improve front hold and technical terrain performance with the rest of the upper to the rear just fine.

I see the Thundercross as the “gravel bike” of Salomon run shoes with strong hiking capabilities in the mix. If you are a Speedcross fan and wished for something more actually runnable and all around foot friendly,, the Thundercross is for sure a Salomon to look at. If you are seeking a door to trail shoe with a lower drop and softer energetic cushion, great road manners and deep softer sloppier ground traction for moderate trails, forest paths, and gravel it is a top choice.

Sam’s Score: 9.20 /10

😊😊😊 ½ out of 5

Dominique:  I have run in the Thundercross mostly on smooth trails interspersed with roadways and I find that it is a well cushioned shoe that delivers a pleasant ride. It's a comfortable cruiser with a low drop.   However, as I have described above, I find that the shoe lacks “an optimal hold” throughout the foot. I am aware that a better fit with a half size down might have improved the hold overall.  In my opinion, the Thunderstorm is mostly a great cruiser of a trail running shoe and not an all-around trail shoe.  More support for a better hold is needed, namely in the upper, the tongue, and the midsole (adding a plate) to make the Thundercross more of ‘thunder” shoe. 

I would give the Thundercross a better value score if it were more of an all around trail shoe.  For a trail shoe with such a solid outsole – Contagrip and 5 mm lugs - it remains a cruiser. 

Dominique’s Score: 9:16/10

😊😊😊1/2 out of 5

Jeff V:  Overall I enjoy the Thundercross and find them to be a great shoe for more casual runs, door to trail and moderate terrain (despite the aggressive lugs and rugged look).  While they do OK in technical terrain, at least in small doses, the roomy upper combined with softer foam and flexibility makes them less than ideal when the going gets rough, as I find myself using additional caution and not feeling particularly confident.  Protection under foot though is good and I appreciate the comfort, cushion and overall performance and versatility on more moderate to less technical trails.  I think those that have found Salomon shoes to be too constricting will have better luck here. It is nice alternative to the less agile Speedcross.

Jeff’s Score: 8.8/10

😊😊😊1/2 out of 5

Ride: 9.5; Fit: 8; Value: 9; Style: 8.5, Traction: 9; Rock Protect: 9

5 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Salomon Speedcross 6 (RTR Review)

Sam: Thundercross is not quite as aggressive looking, or built, but far more practical for running and hiking any trail.  You get all the deep traction you could ever need as in the Speedcross in a far more runnable, easier on the foot package. As far as looks.. well Speedcross an icon since 2006 is special in that department..

Jeff V:  I can only go off the SC 5, but agree with Sam on all points.

Salomon Sense Ride 5 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Sense Ride 5 weighs 0.2 oz more due to its more supportive upper, has 4mm less forefoot cushion but a rock plate and is an 8mm drop shoe vs 4mm here. I found the Ride’s forefoot thin and tiring in comparison to the Thundercross  if better protected and more stable with a less easy going more climbing focused sharper single flex point. Even with their 4mm greater drop, I found them flatter riding overall on smoother terrain and not much fun there in comparison to the Thunder. If your trails are mostly technical and deep soft ground traction is less important then Sense Ride 5, otherwise for less technical terrain and comfort all day and for many uses Thundercross.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Sam on all points, the SR5 is more adept in technical terrain with better foothold and overall better fitting upper, plus the more firm midsole helps with control.

Salomon Ultra Glide 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: At 10.15 oz, so 0.5 oz heavier than the Thundercross on the same heel height and as with the Sense Ride a lower forefoot stack with rock plate, the Ultra Glide is broader on the ground, more stable under foot and distance oriented. I did not find its upper much more supportive than the Thundercross upfront. I prefer the Thundercross here for all but long slower pace trail runs.

Jeff V:  Overall I prefer the Ultra Glide 2, as they have a roomy, but secure upper, a predictable ride that makes them a little better in technical terrain and have very good cushion/protection, but the Thundercross is still a great option for more casual running and hiking.

Saucony Ride 16 TR (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Ride 16 TR felt very narrow for even my narrow foot and preference for precise uppers. The Thundercross is much more relaxed and easy going, with more comfortable accommodating fit, better traction and softer cushion.

Saucony Endorphin Rift (RTR Review)

Sam: The Rift is lighter by almost 1 oz with 3mm more heel stack height and the same forefoot height, the Rift has a supercritical foam midsole and a woven rock plate ,neither of which the Thundercross has. It too has a 4.5mm deep lug pattern which I found was more of a struggle than the Thundercross on firm terrain as more present in feel with the shoe stiffer as well. Its ride is more energetic and dynamic on trail. Both have uppers that are not quite up to the task of more technical terrain with the Rift's even less structured upfront than Thundercross. I have a slight preference for the Rift in this match up due to its highly energetic fun ride, even if its big outsole is more "in the way" than the Thundercross.


 Available now at our partners


Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Tester Profiles

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets lucky.. training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run or nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles and once a week down in the mid 9 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and also enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, tennis, hiking and trekking, and gardening. 

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes.RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Europe only: use RTR code RTR5ALL for 5% off all products, even sale products 


Men's and Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's and Women's SHOP HERE


Find all RoadTrailRun reviews at our index page HERE 
Google "roadtrailrun Shoe Name" and you can be quite sure to find just about any run shoe over the last 10 years

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by Following RoadTrailRun News Feed

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun


Anonymous said...

Thank you, there is not much promotion and few reviews of this shoes, despite it featuring prominently in the Salomon announcements at the beginning of the year. In Europe two other colorways are available, this one wasn't so far.

Anonymous said...

What a superb review. Looks like a great shoe, except in my case worries about being a bit wide for an ultra narrow forefoot. Unfortunately the gargantuan rotation won’t allow for a new pair at present but maybe down the trail!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a candidate for tiny category of highly versatile (all-weather, road-to-technical trail) shoes that I keep a close eye on. Such a shame about the dodgy wet grip, as that's also a weakness of the Xodus and Rift (unless Saucony has changed its outsole rubber since the Xodus 10, the last Saucony shoe I actually wore). In Europe the women's colourway is grey with lime green trim - much better looking than your review pairs, to my mind.

Is there any evidence of early deterioration of the midsole? I've never been tempted to try the Ultra Glide because there are so many reports of poor midsole durability.

Would be very interested in a review of the Scarpa Spin Planet if you can get hold of a pair or two.

Anonymous said...

Wet grip on Salomon is disapponting for years, no way I'm ever buying one again as there's just too much competition. Sadly, wet grip of Saucony is also well below Vibram, therefore I tend to focus on Hoka, the complete package IS better usually...

Anonymous said...

The Atreyu Base Trail as a comp? Despite lug difference, and price, sounds similar

Anonymous said...

La prochaine Nike zegama comblera la lacune de la mauvaise accroche sur sol mouillé , chose que j attends avec impatience

Anonymous said...

I've been using the Ultra glide 2 for around 300 km on technical terrain and I am very happy with the shoe. How does the fit of the thundercross compare to the ultra glide 2? I like very much the fit of the UG2, the lockdown is very precise and I don't have to re-tie anything during all-day outings.

I would like to try the Thundercross because of the deeper lugs and lower drop combo.

And about the contagrip ruber, well, I can't complain, honestly. I've run in all conditions with the UG2 and they slip the same as other brands I tested (vibram, frixion white). I my opinion, it depends more on the type of rock you come across than what rubber the shoe has.

Sam Winebaum said...

@anonymous Ultra Glide 2
I do not find the forefoot hold of the TC as secure as UG2 mainly due to the fact that the mesh in the Thundercross is fabric like and very pliable. That said I did not fine the UG 2 upper as secure as say the S/Lab Genesis. The outsole pattern is more focused on softer ground than UltraGlide's. If I was considering a next Salomon given what you say above I would look at S/Lab Genesis which combines a more secure upper than either and very solid traction.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

How would this compare to the pulsar – a shoe I have many miles in and generally enjoy for more flowing trails. When the trails get a bit more technical I switch to the sense ride 4/5, but find it rides a bit stiff when compared to the pulsar so looking for a good in-between or replacement that might also be more durable than the pulsar. The soles tend to wear down quickly.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi @anonymous, The Thundercross while having superior grip to Pulsar is a more mellow trails shoe due to its upper especially un front. A more performant Salomon with similar cushion to Thundercross would be the new Genesis with its more stable geometry and Matryx upper. Our review is here:
Sam, Editor