The Salomon 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 packs, many find that they no longer need the support of a heavy-duty boot though some still may prefer the added stability of a boot like the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX.
A lightweight trip along the Sierra High Route was a great place to let the X Ultras run.
Right out of the box, the X Ultra Mid 3 GTX lock 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.
A short hike with a light load, the another perfect situation for the comfortable X Ultra Mid 3 boots.
The X Ultra Mid 3 GTX has a Contagrip sole that does feel much thinner than the Editors' Choice award-winning Salomon Quest 4D 3 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. 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 which are adequate but not as user-friendly.
For a trail runner, the X Ultra Mid 3 is quite stable and supportive, and would score high marks in this category. As a hiking boot, though, this boot does not perform as well as taller, or more robust boots that are 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, and so as long as your application is in line with its performance limitation, it is a good choice for lightweight hiking.
Hiking up a narrow canyon filled with slick rock and grassy ledges, the Ultra Mid 3 boots proved to be nimble climbers.
The X Ultra Mid 3 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. 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 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 3 GTX sole, the same compound used on the high cut Quest 4D boot. 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 outsole on the Salomon shoes, a high traction compound, is useful on rocky hikes like this one in Death Valley
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 2.28 pounds, the Salomon X Ultra Mid 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.
Deep in Kings Canyon in varied terrain, the X Ultras are supportive enough for long miles but light enough not to slow you down
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 while the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi, whose eVent lining easily let our feet breathe on warm hikes.
The waterproof Gore-Tex membrane did a good job at keeping water and mud on the outside.
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).
In a hidden slot canyon, without any trail to follow, the X Ultras held up well to scrambling and off-trail travel.
The X Ultra Mid 3 GTX 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 3 GTX is fairly priced. 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 a 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.
The X Ultra Mid 3 is a proven contender for all kinds of hiking adventures.