If you are a backpacker who wants the comfort of a light trail runner within the structure of one of the best hiking boots, then the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX might be just right for you. Built on the same Advanced Chassis as other boots we've loved from Salomon, the X Ultra Mid 3 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 we reviewed, but it also doesn't sacrifice too much stability or traction for all-out low weight. When other boots were too burly or just too much for the adventure at hand, we reached for the X Ultra.
Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Good all around performance, lightweight, supportive and comfortable
Cons: Could be more breathable, not great traction on smooth rock
Our Analysis and Test Results
The X Ultra Mid 3 GTX offers the comfort of a low-top running shoe while providing the support of a high-top hiking boot. These mid-top boots are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason - hiking gear is becoming lighter and lighter each year, and as hikers shed weight from their favorite backpacking backpack, many find that they no longer need the support of a heavy-duty boot (though some still may prefer the added stability of a taller boot). We enjoyed using these on long-distance hikes such as the Sierra High Route, where weight is important, but performance cannot be sacrificed.
Right out of the box, the X Ultra Mid 3 GTX locks the foot into place through a speed lacing system as well as a padded collar that securely and comfortably wraps around the ankle. 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, without the necessary break-in period common to many hiking boots.
The X Ultra Mid 3 GTX has a Contagrip sole that feels thin on rocky trails, which allowed us to sense more of the sharp rocks underfoot and resulted in more foot soreness by the end of a long day. The thick rubber cap on the end of the toe box was a nice addition and kept us from stubbing our toes as we tripped over rocks or roots on the trail.
Previous editions of the X Ultra Mid used metal eyelets for lacing, which was preferred for speedier lacing and less friction. This iteration returns to fabric lacing eyelets that are adequate but not as user-friendly.
For all its lightweight/trail runner-esque attributes, the X Ultra Mid 3 is quite stable and supportive. Compared to the field of boots we tested, though, this boot does not perform as well as taller or more robust models designed for heavier weight and rougher terrain. We acknowledge that Salomon is bridging the gap between the two categories with the X Ultra Mid 3, though, so as long as your application is in line with its performance limitation, it is a great choice for lightweight hiking.
The X Ultra Mid 3 succeeded in keeping us from rolling our ankles on rocky and uneven terrain, though we docked points for the wide toe box and a soft sole. While comfortable and roomy, we did not feel as confident when edging this boot, as it would tend to roll quite easily. We would tend to recommend this boot over a stiffer option 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 3 GTX sole. The Contagrip sole featured on this model uses Descent Control lug pattern, which improves its downhill performance from past editions and makes its performance on wet stone and mud slightly better.
The lack of stiffness in the sole, a boon to those putting down long miles with light packs on a 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.
Using a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort footwear liner, the X Ultra Mid 3 GTX 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.
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 unlined boots, which easily let our feet breathe on warm hikes.
With a verified weight of 2.28 pounds for a US men's size 11, the X Ultra Mid is noticeably 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 lighter, less durable 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.
Weight on your feet adds up over time and distance traveled, and outdoor recreational footwear manufacturers are becoming switched on to this reality. Thick, full-leather boots are being produced less and less in favor of more lightweight materials, and technology is improving to make these lighter materials stronger. Our experts feel that the X Ultra Mid 3 from Salomon is one of the best options for lightweight hikers that still offer strong support, stability, and comfort.
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.
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.
Should You Buy the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX?
This is a great boot for backpackers looking to shed some weight without sacrificing support. 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.
What Other Hiking Boots Should You Consider?
The X Ultra Mid 3 has been a favorite for years, but the latest iteration, the X Ultra Mid 4, is also a great boot, shaving weight, although we find it is slightly less supportive than the 3. If you're looking for the ultimate in all-around performance, check out Salomon's Quest 4.
— Ryan Huetter
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