Riders who use clipless pedals are blessed with a seemingly endless array of compatible footwear. If, however, you prefer flat pedals, your choices all seem to fall into the skate-inspired bucket. Sure, there are urban and mountain variants, but the pickings are slim compared to the clipless side of the fence. Thanks to footwear giant adidas, though, flat-pedal riders now have another choice with the company’s Terrex Trail Cross SL hybrid shoe ($130 MSRP).
The Terrex Trail Cross SL may resemble adidas’ other trail running and light hiking shoes, but the SL has more than its share of cycling-specific features. Stealth® rubber outsoles offer grip on and off the bike, while the Pro-Moderator midsoles provide mid-foot stability and the necessary stiffness for pedaling efficiency. Rubber toe caps protect against rocks and roots, and the abrasion-resistant upper features welded reinforcements. Peek inside the Terrex and you’ll find Ortholite insoles and plenty of ankle padding.
Lace up the Terrex Trail Cross SL for the first time and you immediately notice the shoes’ sleek form factor. While the SL’s profile isn’t as slender as the typical XC-style clipless shoe, it’s much less bulky than the competition’s enduro- and gravity-inspired models. I typically wear size 11 (or 45) cycling shoes, and felt right at home with the size 11 Terrex Trail Cross SL. Width-wise, the Terrex were perfect for my average–but relatively low volume–feet. Those riders with wider, higher-volume feet shouldn’t shy away from the Trail Cross, though, as the shoes’ lacing system and roomy toe box will easily accommodate a variety of foot types.
As expected, the Trail Cross’ Stealth rubber soles delivered outstanding grip. Whether riding aggressive MTB pedals or nylon platforms, the Terrex’s blocky outsole created a solid interface between bike and rider. The soles’ deep grooves provided additional security on hike-a-bike sections, but didn’t restrict movement when applying body English to the pedals in technical terrain. Power transfer was good, but I did notice some unwanted flex when pedaling hard out of the saddle. Based on my seat of the pants testing, I’d rank the Terrex’s stiffness on par with Five Ten’s Freerider model (but this will vary with pedal/platform size).
Off the bike, the Trail Cross SL proved more than comfortable enough for all day use. The sturdy, abrasion resistant uppers offered surprisingly good ventilation, and the Pro-Moderator midsoles helped reduce fatigue when standing for long periods of time. Traversing loose, sketchy sections of trail was a cakewalk thanks to the Terrex’s excellent torsional rigidity and molded external heel cups. While not completely waterproof, the Trail Cross SL’s uppers and rubber toe caps held up to light rain (and even snow), but the shoes’ tongues proved to be the weak link in heavy rain (or deep puddles). Even when completely soaked, however, the shoes’ uppers dried very quickly.
My biggest complaint about adidas’ Terrex Trail Cross SL is the shoes’ weight. Coming in at 962 grams for the pair (US men’s 11), they’re 15-20% heavier than my skate-style Five Tens. While I didn’t mind the extra weight during normal use (on or off the bike), it was noticeable on longer road rides where extended periods of high-cadence pedaling were the norm. If, however, you plan to spend equal time hiking and riding, the minor weight penalty is more than offset by the Cross SL’s stability, comfort, and traction.
Disclosure: adidas provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.