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Hands-on Gear Review

Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX Review

The 2017 Mountain Trainer Mid GTX
Price:   $249 List | $179.21 at CampSaver
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Pros:  Strong lateral stability, solid lacing system, great durability
Cons:  Uncomfortable, feels heavier than it is, average traction on wet and dry rock
Bottom line:  This super stiff and stable, durable midweight hiker is built for the alpine environment, but not for comfort.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Salewa

Our Verdict

Being a more specialized model, the Mountain Trainer Mid GTX excelled in some areas but fell to the back of the pack in others. It looks burly and all-business, and in the mountains, it is. Designed with alpine approaches in mind, this boot is more at home scrambling through rocky outcrops at high elevation than hiking groomed trails down low. It scored at the top of all models in durability, so feel free to apply abuse liberally. The most significant drawback to this boot, however, is its lack of comfort. With a super stiff mid and outsole, and an extended break-in period, our feet weren't thrilled to strap on these hikers.

Product Update — May 2017
A new version of the Mountain Trainer GTX, pictured above, is available from Salewa. We contacted the manufacturer and researched all the details of the new model, providing a comparison between the newer and older models of this boot below. The previous version is still available but will be phased out over the summer.

While the Mountain Trainer is one of the best options for alpine pursuits, you might find some other similar options more intriguing. The Arc'teryx Bora2 Mid is a burly leather boot with more comfort, despite weighing more, and also climbs rock well. For more all-around performance, the Salomon Quest 4D II GTX is difficult to beat and is our Editors' Choice award winner. For full descriptions and reviews of all twelve models we tested, check out our complete Men's Hiking Boot review.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Hiking Boots of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Ross Robinson
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Thursday
June 1, 2017

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The 2017 Mountain Trainer Mid GTX vs. the Older Version


Salewa revamped this hiker in 2017 with the intention of increasing flexibility and comfort. These are two areas where the past iteration of the Mountain Trainer we tested fell behind, so we are intrigued by these changes, which include new midsole technology and Flex Collar. Check out the side-by-side photo comparison below (with the newest model on the left), as well as a summary of the important changes in the newcomer.

The 2017 Mountain Trainer Mid GTX
Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX
 

The key differences are as follows:
  • New Midsole — The biggest change is found in the midsole. The new BiLight Technology brings a TPU injection to the midsole of the shoe. According to Salewa, it is constructed to fit ergonomically for greater comfort and to increase the spring in your step on steep terrain.
  • Flex Collar — The new ankle collar is designed to increase the range of flexibility to allow natural movement and add comfort during descents.
  • ColorsSalewa dropped two new colorways on the market for the 2017 version of this boot; Black/Sulphur Spring (pictured above) and Charcoal/Papavero.
  • Price — The price hiked up ten dollars for the new version, which retails at $249.

In hand, we reviewed the older version of the Mountain Trainer in 2016. We expect the performance to be similar between the old and the new models, if not increased by the potential increase in comfort and flexibility. Until we review the latest version, the following assessments pertain to the 2016 version.

Hands-On Review of the 2016 Mountain Trainer Mid GTX


The Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX is a midweight hiker that puts its rigid sole first. Costing $239, this boot also has an impressive lacing system, good heel security, and great traction in mud and vertical rock. However, it carries a heavy feeling and has some serious drawbacks in terms of comfort.This model is most appealing to folks pursuing technical mountain-top heights.

The Mountain Trainer from Salewa performed above average in our stability  water resistance  and especially  durability tests.
The Mountain Trainer from Salewa performed above average in our stability, water resistance, and especially, durability tests.

Performance Comparison



Comfort


When we first put on the very stiff Mountain Trainer, it felt like a hard board underfoot. The inside of the ankle collar has memory padding, which is also somewhat uncomfortable out of the box. After its first short, 5 mile hike, our heels were already sore, and it didn't breathe well either. This boot requires the longest break-in period to soften it up and mold to your feet. However, it was still the least comfort footbed at the end of the three-month testing period. If you are looking for out-of-box comfort from a midweight, the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid can deliver. On the positive side, the rigid outsole does make walking across pointy rocks a non-issue.

Salewa was the only company in this review that sent two insert options along with the boots. Their Multi Fit Footbed Plus is an interchangeable layering system, allowing you to adjust the fit to your foot shape. This product features the narrowest footbed in this review and does not come in wide sizes.

The stiffness of the outsole and minimal padding in the footbed created a rather uncomfortable feeling underfoot.
The stiffness of the outsole and minimal padding in the footbed created a rather uncomfortable feeling underfoot.

This boot runs narrow. Especially if you have wide feet, we highly recommend trying before buying to be sure the fit works for you.

The asymmetrical lacing system runs all the way down to the toes. Six lower, one middle lock, and two upper hook eyelets allow for a snug, custom fit. The 3F Total System connects the lacework to a heel-cinching cord that runs across the back of the foot and anchors in the midsole. The Keen Targhee II Mid is the only other boot in this model with a similar design for securing the heel into its cup.

We were fans of this lacing system  which included a locking eyelet to isolate the lower from the upper section of the laces  as well as a way to cinch the heel into place.
We were fans of this lacing system, which included a locking eyelet to isolate the lower from the upper section of the laces, as well as a way to cinch the heel into place.

Stability


With its super rigid design below the upper, the Mountain Trainer is one of the most laterally stable shoes we tested. The mid-stiff nylon shank keeps the boot from twisting and contorting under nearly any stress on or off trail. It has one of the shorter ankle heights of the midweights, with even the lightweight Lowa Tiago GTX Mid topping its height. This product also lost a point due to its very narrow outsole, measuring four inches at its widest point. We preferred a larger base for supporting our weight and the load in our packs.

Above-average stability is what you can expect from this product from Salewa.
Above-average stability is what you can expect from this product from Salewa.

The ankle collar, though, brings a little redemption in this metric. We liked that the leather part of the upper continues almost all the way up to the top of the collar on the sides, like on the Arc'teryx Bora2 Mid, for stiffer ankle stability. The back of the collar, which rests on the Achilles heel, is soft fabric. We liked this stiff on the side, soft in the back design, as it combined ankle stability with comfortable flexibility.

Traction


The Mountain Trainer had varied results here. It provided perhaps the most secure traction in mud, which hikers in rainy climates such as the in the Pacific Northwest will enjoy. It also tied the Bora2 for the title of best scrambling midweight. The Climbing Zone at the front of the Vibram Alpine Approach outsole provides substantial surface area contact for traction on vertical rock. The super stiff bottom of this boot is also ideal for edging.

A large weakness in this shoe's traction on wet rock lies in the arch. This section is smooth  and if it's the only part of the boot making contact with the rock  count on your foot skidding right off.
A large weakness in this shoe's traction on wet rock lies in the arch. This section is smooth, and if it's the only part of the boot making contact with the rock, count on your foot skidding right off.

Conversely, this product performed poorly on wet and dry rock. The lugs are deep and varied, but also completely smooth, thus lacking the textured surface featured on most other outsoles that helps gain better purchase. The narrow width of the outsole also didn't help us conquer scree fields with much efficiency. For this mixed purchase performance, we gave the Salewa model a score of six in this metric.

The "Climbing Zone" at the front of the shoe assists in gaining purchase when scrambling.
The "Climbing Zone" at the front of the shoe assists in gaining purchase when scrambling.

Weight


Weighing 3.09 lbs, this was the second-lightest midweight model, following the Renegade from Lowa. That said, we thought that this rigid sole strapped to our feet made them feel heavier than they really are.

The Mountain Trainer is the only midweight model with un-textured lugs.
The Mountain Trainer is the only midweight model with un-textured lugs.

Water Resistance


This boot has a flood height of 5.875 inches, modest for a midweight. The Salewa model didn't leak throughout our testing period, despite being submerged in creeks, puddles, and lake edges. We really liked the upper's strong resistance to absorbing water. Straight out of the box, it beaded off the water and continued to do so very well throughout the testing period. This will diminish over time, but we enjoyed it while it lasted!

Applying an aftermarket leather conditioner to the upper will preserve this boot's tendency to repel water.

Creek crossing? No problem in these boots.
Creek crossing? No problem in these boots.

Durability


The Mountain Trainer provides solid durability, scoring an eight in this metric. It showed virtually no signs of wear and tear at the end of all our tests and use. The seams holding together the suede leather upper are double-stitched, and appear to be high quality. Our only point of concern is the rubber rand. It's glued to the upper, and we have seen way too many rands delaminate once the glue breaks up over time. We prefer the double-stitched approach the Vasque St. Elias GTX took to its rand protection.

Solid construction and minimal pieces of upper combined to make a durable boot in this model.
Solid construction and minimal pieces of upper combined to make a durable boot in this model.

Best Applications


We would recommend this boot if you are frequently committing to alpine approaches. The rigid and sticky outsole is great for lateral stability and scrambling. The stiff edges also make this boot a good option for via ferratas.

If you want an edging and scrambling midweight  the Mountain Trainer has you covered!
If you want an edging and scrambling midweight, the Mountain Trainer has you covered!

Value


The Mountain Trainer is the third-most expensive boot in this review, but only performed in the bottom third among this pool of competitors. Costing $239, it's hard to call this model a good value, especially if you are looking for performance in a variety of applications.

Conclusion


The Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX has some great features, including its combined lacing and heel-securing systems. We also appreciate a pair of hikers that are built to last, as this one certainly appears to be. However, we consider general comfort to be the most important factor in hiking boots, and this boot came up short in this category. While your feet will probably take a long time to get used to this boot, it's quality construction should last you several seasons.

This product from Salewa has its niche audience  but will still benefit from better traction on dry rock.
This product from Salewa has its niche audience, but will still benefit from better traction on dry rock.
Ross Robinson

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Most recent review: June 1, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
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4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
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