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Review: Salomon X-Ultra 3 GTX


Salomon X-Ultra 3 GTX


Just recently, Salomon released the third version of their popular X-Ultra footwear line, which are their lightest all-terrain hiking shoes. The X-Ultra 3 tends to catch one's eye, and it's sleek design and aesthetic appeal makes it stand out amongst all the other shoes on the shelves. At first glance, a few tweaks here and there from the previous version can be seen, notably with the Quicklace™ eyelets & the (now hotpressed) Sensifit™ system, whereas most of the other features seem to be relatively unchanged. The outsole however has been redesigned to increase downhill traction, and now has parallel grooves etched into the heel that are meant to bite into the ground.

I couldn't wait to take the shoes to the trails to test out the Contagrip® traction, and thought it timely, given that I was planning to head to Annapurna Base Camp, a hike that is known for its steep ascents and descents.


Material & Features


High Traction Contagrip® – The outsole has a combination of two types of rubber and now has grooves on the heel to help with traction. Grooves have also been etched into the outsole at various intervals in-between the aggressive chevron lugs to increase the shoes' flexibility.

Advanced Chassis™ – This has been taken from Salomon's trail running shoes, The chassis connects directly to the soles to stabilize your heels, giving good support whilst keeping the weight low.

Ortholite sockliners – Ortholite foam and a specially-contoured EVA footbed cups the heel in order to cushion and support it at the same time.

Gore-Tex® waterproof lining – Gore-Tex is a waterproof yet breathable membrane that allows your feet to breathe whilst still being able to protect them from the elements.

Quicklace™ & Sensifit™ - The kevlar Quicklace™ system is a single-pull lace that links around grommets at the sides of the shoe. The grommets are attached to the Sensifit™ system, which is made up of synthetic sides that move independently, and allow the shoe to give you a more secure fit. A lacepocket for stowing away the Quicklace™ is also located on the top of the tongue.


The Review


The Salomon X-Ultra 3 GTX shoes were tested on a huge variety of terrain--from wet mud and packed dirt at the lower altitudes, to moss-covered stone stairwells near the villages, to snow and ice way up at the Base Camps. The deep, chevron-shaped lugs of the Contagrip® outsole performed well on almost every type of terrain that was thrown at it, and the only situation where it did not hold traction very well was-as one would expect-solid ice. The traction was so good in fact, that I was even able to do a bit of trail running in the snow with these hiking shoes! The deep lugs did fairly well at shedding any mud, and seemed to handle gravel much better than most hiking shoes, although not as well as lighter, more flexible, trail running shoes would have.

Salomon X-Ultra 3 GTX

Salomon's Quicklace™ system and lacepocket; Heel cap on the Advanced Chassis™

I had to keep reminding myself that these shoes were hiking shoes and not trail running shoes. The weight of the shoes comes in at about 760g for a pair, which is the same as Merrell's light hiking shoes, the All Out Blaze. The heel-to-toe drop of the X-Ultra 3 is a lot more conventional at 11mm (8mm at the forefoot and 19mm at the heel), and is a lot more than the Blaze (6mm drop). Coming from a minimalist running background, this was something that I was able to feel when running in the shoes, but I felt was almost negligible when walking. I have written about this previously:

With that being said, one measurement that is obviously very important for me personally is the 'heel-to-toe' drop of the shoe, which is basically the difference between how high the front and back of one's foot is above the ground when it sits in the shoe. Shoes that have a conventional heel-to-toe drop (approximately 10-12mm), will tilt your foot forward because of the high heel, thus encouraging heel striking. Consequently, the closer the 'heel-to-toe' measurement of a shoe gets to zero, the more flat one's foot will be.

Salomon X-Ultra 3 GTX

Toe cap

Even in the cold(er) climate of Nepal's mountains, I felt the shoes running a little warm. The breathability of the Goretex lining was not too much of an issue, although the more breathable, non-Goretex version, would definitely be preferable for warmer climates like Malaysia. Even though the thickness of the snow never surpassed my ankles, the waterproof Goretex lining and gusseted tongue did prove helpful in keeping any snow or moisture from entering the shoes, and ensured that whatever moisture that was in the shoes came solely from my feet.

Iced up!

Overall, the feeling of the shoes left me a little surprised. They were light and agile, almost as if they were running shoes, yet, after cinching the kevlar quicklaces properly, still felt rigid and sturdy underfoot. The shoes were also very quick to break-in, and performed very well on the two-week long Poon Hill & Annapurna Base Camp hike--a hike that I did with a backpack that weighed almost 20kg, with no instances of rolled ankles whatsoever. For those who have weak ankles however, or who are planning to carry even heavier loads (!), do bear in mind that Salomon also makes a high-cut version of these shoes that ends above the ankle for more support. Aside from the extra protection and support (and weight) that comes with the high-cut version, most of the features remain the same. The Quicklace™ system has also been swapped out for traditional laces in the high-cut version.

Pros

• The Contagrip® outsoles give the shoes excellent traction, and they hold up very well on even tricky terrain and slippery surfaces.

• The lightness of these hiking shoes make them very versatile. They can be used for limited running, long extended hikes, steep ascents and descents, or for a trip around town.

• The Ortholite inserts are very comfortable and give good heel and arch support.

• The durable toe and heel caps keep your feet well-protected, as well as help keep the fit and integrity of the shoe.

Cons

• The Gore-Tex® lining keeps the shoe waterproof but warms up the shoe fairly quickly. The non-Goretex version would be preferable for warmer climates.


The Take-away


If you are looking for fast hiking shoes--shoes that are light enough to run in, yet are durable and sturdy enough for hiking in even the roughest terrain, then these might just be the shoes for you. If you are hiking in warm climates though, I would recommend getting the not so waterproof, yet more breathable, non-Goretex version.

* Footwear for this review was supplied by Salomon Malaysia *