Getting in a run off road in the winter can be challenging at best. Not only is there the often frustration inducing cold, but that is quite often followed closely by the ever present specter of snow. In my past winter run that were forced to snow covered paths and trails, I had to face the fact that if I insisted on being a “road less traveled” type of guy, I would be dealing with debris in my shoes as well as damp (sometimes even wet) socks at the end of my run.
La Sportiva, a long time leader and pioneer in mountain running, has addressed the threat of cold and moisture with the Crossover GTX. Sporting a built in gaiter that is completely integrated into the bod of the shoe, the Crossover is built for running not only in snow, but also in sand and pebble strewn trails. The gaiter which, along with the entirety of the upper is made of the waterproof standard bearer, Gore-Tex, is built with an asymmetrical zipper that runs diagonally from the medial side of the shoe to the top of the gaiter on the lateral side. The cap at the top of the gaiter is capped by a velcro flap to keep the zipper tamed and an elastic cinch that is easily tightened or loosened according to your needs or preference.
The Crossover is in actuality, La Sportiva’s Crosslite, which is a past winner of Outside Magazine’s Gear of the Year. Of course, when you go adding things to shoes you inevitably add weight. The Crosslite comes in at 10.97 ounces (311 g), while the Crossover GTX, with it’s Gore-Tex upper and gaiter and zipper and cinch, comes in at 12.73 ounces (361 g), which is saying something. The sole of the shoe is made from La Sportiva’s sticky, FriXion AT rubber which is combined with its Impact Brake System to give a ton of traction in all sorts of ground surfaces. The heel rise of the Crossover is 26 mm with a toe rise of 16 mm, which is a bit much but is honestly not very noticeable upon putting on the shoe. The laces of are covered by the gaiter which serves to not only keep them from getting snagged on anything but also keeps them held firmly in place which keeps them from untying.
I got the Crossover at an ideal time of year to put them through some pretty hardcore paces, just before winter really set in in the Northeast. While I had worn them on a couple of other runs, their first true test came on the day after the now infamous day-after-Christmas blizzard (2010). Here in NYC we got a pretty substantial 24 inches of snow, which was accompanied by a nice breeze in the neighborhood of 60 miles an hour. All this made for a baseline snow of 24 inches with drifts in upward of 5 feet in some parts of Inwood Hill Park , which was where I’d be taking the Crossover on and of the beaten path (not that there were any paths visible).
For this particular run I tucked the cuff of my tights under the top of the gaiter and tightened the cinch down pretty snugly so as to make sure no snow would be getting through the top. The shoe itself fits comfortably and feels quite light contrary to it’s semi-hulkish look. What’s surprising about the gaiter and the upper is just how soft and flexible it is; it’s not at all stiff, nor does it hinder you in any way that I could tell when running. So, strapped in and bundled up I headed out the door and into the drifting snow to see how the Crossover would hold up to a challenge.
From the beginning I never once felt and inkling of cold getting through the body of the shoe. My feet stayed completely comfortable, even when taking a break to sneak some pictures of while standing in knee-deep snow. I’m not talking about super icy and dense East coast snow either, I’m talking about very fine powder that was capable of getting into the smallest crevice while just dense enough packing up the treads of your shoes. Not one time during or after my run, which lasted for a total of about an hour and a half did I feel any snow or moisture breaking through the barrier that the Crossover was putting up. Traction held firm on both inclines and declines, on and off trail. The sole of the shoe is also very flexible and moves well with the foot. There’s no fighting the shoe for solid purchase since it just does what you want it to do rather than the other way around.
As opposed to water resistant shoes, the Gore-Tex upper on the Crossover GTX is waterPROOF, thus keeping out all comers. However, if there are any deep puddles, streams or basically higher than the gaiter water hazards, the gaiter cuff itself will let in water. Of course, if you want something to run through creeks and the like, I suggest looking for a pair of running waders. While there is no option to remove the gaiter, keep in mind that the fact that the gaiter is completely integrated into the shoe makes for a more secure barrier to intrusion. And, if you want the same feel without a gaiter, you can always grab the Crosslite .
While these are an awesome winter, snow running shoe, I must admit that I’m kind of eager to try them in some sandy running (a la Marathon des Sables ) to see how the do with keeping up with the onslaught of super fine particulate. The Gore-Tex upper, which excels at keeping out moisture, makes me wonder how breathable they are in a warmer, more humid environment, but we’ll have to wait for Summer for that.
The Crossover GTX should be a given with anyone who likes to get down and dirty (or down and snowy as the case may be). Snowshoeing, snow running, mud running and the like, this shoe can keep up.