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Hands-on Gear Review
Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX Review
Cons: Not as breathable in warm conditions, not great traction on smooth rock
Bottom line: A great choice for lightweight backpacking trips, or an an everyday hiker, the X Ultra Mid 2 GTX is the boot to choose if you want the support of a hiking boot with the comfort of a trail running shoe.
If you are a backpacker who wants the comfort of a light trail runner, but can't bring yourself to forego the stability and structure of a hiking boot, then the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX is the perfect compromise for you. Built on the same Advanced Chassis as the venerable XA Pro 3D GTX, a staple in Salomon's trail running collection, the X Ultra Mid 2 wraps around your foot and ankle with the same performance fit and padded comfort, but delivers additional support in a mid-top height. This boot is not the lightest that we reviewed, that distinction goes to our Top Pick for Lightweight Hiking winning Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP, but since it weighs only an ounce more but costs $70 less, it is a good deal. Those on a budget would do well to consider the Keen Targhee II, our Best Bang for Buck Award winner.
Less expensive boots exist in our reviews, such as the Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid or the Keen Targhee II, but we kept gravitating back to the Salomon X Ultra for its lightweight, on trail performance and out of the box comfort. Read on to find out why we liked it so much, and be sure to look at our Buying Advice Article to help you decide if a lightweight hiking boot is right for your needs.
RELATED REVIEW: Best Hiking Boots for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX is a mid-cut, lightweight hiking boot that bridges the gap between trail running shoes and hiking boots. With a price of $165, this model is not the least expensive in our review, though its performance and comfort on long trail miles made it a good value.
Right out of the box, the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 provides a performance oriented, snug and comfortable fit with a nicely cushioned collar locking the ankle into place. Salomon calls this their Sensifit system and is meant to give a customized, comfortable fit. With a fit true to size, the toe box is roomy enough to wiggle your toes, but not so wide to result in a sloppy fit. The predominantly nylon (and suede) outer flexes easily, fitting a wider range of foot shapes comfortably. We awarded the X Ultra a score of 8 in comfort, on par with the Merrell Moab 2 Vent, another boot with nylon vents, but we felt the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi is more comfortable.
The X Ultra Mid 2 has a Contagrip sole that does feel much thinner than the Editors' Choice award-winning Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX; on rocky trails, this allowed us to observe more of the sharp rocks underfoot and resulted in more foot soreness by the end of a long day. We did like the aggressive molded toe bumper, which kept us from banging our toes when we tripped over tree roots or stones on the trail.
We liked the lacing system found on the X Ultra boot, as the metal eyelets allow for a much smoother fitting than the fabric eyelets found on the Merrell Moab 2 Vent. The Ortholite sole, found in the entire Salomon line, is comfortable, supportive, and has a perforated forefoot allowing the foot to breathe more.
For a trail runner, the X Ultra Mid 2 is quite stable, and would be a top performer in this category. Being billed as a hiking boot, however, it does not perform as well in this metric as the much more stable Scarpa Zodiac Plus or Quest 4D (though while being more robust. these boots weigh significantly more). We acknowledge that Salomon is bridging the gap between the two categories with the X Ultra, though, and so as long as your application is in line with its performance limitation, it is a good choice for lightweight hiking.
We awarded the X Ultra a score of 7 in stability, as it did succeed in keeping us from rolling our ankles on rocky and uneven terrain, though we docked points for the wide toe box and soft sole which made confident edging in off-trail travel more difficult. We would tend to recommend this boot over a stiffer option such as the Asolo Power Matic 200 or the La Sportiva TRK GTX only when the load will be on the lighter side, and on non-technical terrain, as the torsional stability was one of the lowest in the review.
Salomon uses a proprietary rubber compound called Contagrip HT (high traction) for the X Ultra Mid 2's sole, the same compound used on the high cut Quest 4D boot. The Contagrip sole showed DECENT performance on the trail and on non-technical hiking terrain while off-trail, though we found the stickiness lacking when traveling over smooth rocks, or water-worn river rock. We awarded the X Ultra a score of 6, less than its big brother the Quest 4D. Although the Quest uses the same rubber compound, it has a stiffer sole that does not allow the sole to skate as much when flexing the forefoot, especially while climbing up smooth slabs of granite.
The lack of stiffness in the sole, a boon to those putting down long miles with light packs on good trail, also translates into a loss of traction when edging on firm snow or dirt. For these types of uses, we would instead take out a boot with more torsional stability, such as the Zodiac Plus.
With a verified weight of 2.34 pounds, the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 is the third lightest boot in our review, earning a score of 9, only being beat by 0.7 ounces by the Tor Ultra Hi. This is incredibly lightweight for a mid-cut hiking boot, which Salomon achieves via an injected EVA sole and predominantly synthetic outer materials. While there are drawbacks to using such light materials, as noted above in the stability metric and below in durability, the result is a boot that hardly feels like it is on your foot, and allows the wearer to keep putting down the miles.
Using a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort footwear liner, the X Ultra Mid 2 did shed water, mud and snow when moving quickly through streams and muddy bogs, but prolonged exposure allowed moisture to get in quicker than we would have hoped. We awarded the X Ultra a 7 for water resistance, in favor of higher performers like the Quest 4D, Asolo Power Matic, and Scarpa Zodiac Plus, all of which earned 9s in this metric.
While wearing a thin sock, the waterproof/breathable liner did its job well, letting foot perspiration pass through its membrane. With a slightly thicker merino wool hiking sock, our feet got sweaty in warmer conditions and stayed sweaty, unlike while the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi, whose eVent lining easily let our feet breathe on warm hikes.
By using a large amount of synthetic textile to build the X Ultra Mid's upper, Salomon compromises durability to lower the weight of the boot. This fabric is less resistant to abrasion and will get chewed up by rocks in a season of hard use or a couple of seasons of moderate use. We awarded it a score of 6 for durability, the same score we awarded the other flyweight contender, the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi, but less than most other models that we reviewed which feature more durable construction.
There is a lot of stitching on the outer of this boot, so we recommend using an aftermarket seam sealing product to protect them from fraying and wicking water into the boot. The Keen Targhee II comes in a similar weight, at only .5 ounces more than the Salomon, and is much more durable with more leather protecting the outer boot (along with a notably clunkier fit).
We were happy to see that Salomon uses metal eyelets for the laces, a seemingly small factor, but it does help from wearing the laces out prematurely- it is no fun to snap a shoelace 40 miles from the trailhead.
The X Ultra Mid 2 is a lightweight hiking boot built with running shoe technology. Its best applications are for people carrying lighter loads and are traveling mostly on trail, or on non-technical off-trail terrain. This should is a good fit for those wanting the additional ankle support of a mid-cut hiker without the weight penalties and stiffness of a traditional hiking boot.
With a retail price of $165, though commonly found through online retailers for much less, the X Ultra Mid 2 is the third least expensive boot we reviewed. We felt that it provides great performance with good value, though the Keen Targhee II won the Best Bang for Buck Award with comparable performance at lower price.
If you are a hiker who typically wears trail running shoes to backpack in, but wants more stability to carry a heavier pack, this is the boot for you. If you are a backpacker who wants to shed some weight off of your feet without sacrificing the support that you have been accustomed to in traditional boots, this is the boot for you. Casual hikers and day hikers will also enjoy the comfort and features of this boot, and will no doubt enjoy the good value at a reasonable price.
— Ryan Huetter
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