The Salomon X Ultra 3 is a new test model in our women's hiking shoe update. We've tested the Ellipse in past years, but it was recently discontinued so we thought we'd try the X Ultra 3 instead. We have to say we were very impressed with this shoe and liked it as much, if not more than the Ellipse. The two shoes have a lot of similarities, including synthetic uppers, Gore-Tex liners, and Salomon's Contagrip soles. This pair has even better traction than the old Ellipse, and while it's not as plush as some of the models in this review with the oversized midsoles, it still has decent padding in the heel. It's a little stiff at first, but the synthetic material loosens up with use. This was our favorite pair for days when we wanted to move fast on the trail. If you like to hike up a trail and then run the flat or down parts, this could be the perfect pair for you. They are lightweight and supportive, and an all-around fantastic pair of hiking shoes. The only time we didn't like them so much was when hiking with a heavier pack; they didn't provide enough support for us in that situation. We preferred our Editors' Choice winner, the Oboz Sawtooth BDry, for those days. But for fast and light day hikes, the X Ultra 3 were our Top Pick.
Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX - Women's Review
Cons: Quicklace system not our favorite, didn't feel great with a heavy pack on
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Salomon X Ultra 3 have a synthetic mesh upper with a Gore-Tex liner. The sole is Salomon's proprietary ContaGrip rubber, and there's an injected EVA midsole. A note on fit — we've tested Salomon shoes before and know that their US sizing was a little off for us (Salomon uses Euro sizing first and then converts it, but that conversion doesn't always line up with our standard US size). This was the only model that we had to size down a half a size in the US range (9.5 instead of 10), but the Euro rating was spot on (42). If you don't know your size in Salomon shoes it may take a bit of trial and error to dial in the right one for you — so make sure you order from somewhere with a good return policy.
Also, note that this pair is cut on the narrow side. They fit us great, but if you have wider feet you may want to consider some other models, like the Keen Voyageur and Targhee III, and the Ahnu Montara III.
We gave the X Ultra 3 a middle score for comfort. This pair was never uncomfortable in any significant way, but it didn't stand out for being super plush nor does it have a ton of cushioning.
This shoe has more cushioning in the heel than the forefoot, though Salomon did put some cushioning up front, unlike the Keen Voyageur which felt like it didn't have any. It wasn't nearly as plush as The North Face Endurus or the Hoka One One Tor Summit, but it did have adequate cushioning for hikes without a heavy pack. Unlike most synthetic shoes, which feel comfortable right away, this pair did have a bit of a break-in period, and the upper is stiff at first. Once it softens up, it is more comfortable, as long as the laces don't bother you.
The Quicklace system that is Salomon's trademark is not for everyone. It can be difficult to fine tune the laces — all of them tighten at once, so if you want one section looser than the other, that's not really possible. There's also the issue of the dangling laces. Salomon gives you a lot of extra lacing material, and once we tightened the shoe, there was a long loop dangling down.
There is a pocket at the top of the tongue in which to store the end of the loop and cut down on the laces flopping around (it took us several weeks before we even noticed it was there!) but the laces cover that pocket, and it was challenging to use it. We tried tucking the ends under the other laces, but that created a pressure spot. It didn't annoy us quite enough to cut the Quicklaces out and replace them with standard laces, nor is that an option, as the holes in the lacing eyelets are small and wouldn't accommodate a standard pair of laces.
We got a lot of support from this shoe and gave it an 8/10 for this category.
The X Ultra 3 has excellent torsional stability, and there is good arch support built into the shoe. The insole has some nice padding to it, but it's not structurally molded like the one on the Oboz Sawtooth Low. The cut is on the narrow side, so if you were planning on putting an aftermarket insole in this shoe, you might want to consider sizing up a bit.
We had good traction in this pair and gave it a high score for this category. The lugs are large, deep, and well-spaced, giving you good traction on loose, muddy and slippery trails. This sole was one of the most "aggressive" in our test group, and we liked it, particularly when moving fast on the trail. The sole is made with Salomon's "ContaGrip" rubber. They chose to make their own sole, as opposed to partnering with Vibram like many other companies, and they made it well.
The only time we didn't have the best confidence in this shoe was when scrambling on bare rock. Because the upper and the sole is on the stiff side, you do have to exert a lot of pressure to get it to bend and get good smearing traction. That's where a slightly softer shoe, like the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator, had an advantage over the X Ultra 3.
The X Ultra 3 was one of the lightest pairs in the test group. They weighed 1.69 pounds in the size 9.5 that we tested, and only the Ahnu Sugarpine (1.56 pounds) and The North Face Endurus were lighter (1.62 pounds).
This shoe weighs the same as some of Salomon's trail running-specific models, and it feels light enough to run in without weighing you down.
This pair had great water resistance. The synthetic mesh upper repelled water well and didn't absorb any during our water tests. Sometimes the upper material with get saturated, and while the waterproof liner might keep your feet dry, you'll be walking around with a heavier shoe. This wasn't the case with the X Ultra 3.
The ankle opening is at 3 and 5/8th of an inch off the ground. That's higher than some models, like the Ahnu Montara III (3 and ¼), but not quite as much as the Oboz Sawtooth Low (3 and ¼) and the Hoka One One Tor Summit (4 inches). The difference is slight, but sometimes it's that quarter of an inch that makes the difference between a dry and wet sock. The gusset on the tongue came up high though and did stop water from entering there, unlike the half-gusset on the Ahnu Montara III.
Sometimes a lightweight shoe sheds the ounces by compromising the strength and quality of materials that make it more durable. That was not our experience with the X Ultra 3. They held up well in our testing and still looked almost new after months of use. The synthetic uppers are abrasion resistant as is the lining, so you won't get any annoying pills on the inside no matter how many times you put these on. The front toe cap also helps protect the shoe from wear.
Our only durability concern is the Quicklace system. While we didn't notice any issues during our testing period, online user reviews are full of complaints about the lack of durability in some models. The laces either break or in some cases tear out an eyelet. All but the bottom eyelets on the X Ultra 3 are reinforced on the inside. Maybe Salomon thinks that the first eyelet receives the least amount of pressure and that it wasn't worth reinforcing that one, but it does seem like an odd choice. You can buy a replacement kit for $10 if your laces do break, but if you pop an eyelet out, there's no good way to fix it.
The Salomon X Ultra 3 are a great option for those who like to hike fast and not carry a lot of weight. If you are looking for a hiking shoe to take backpacking, these aren't the best option, and we'd recommend our Editors' Choice winner, the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry instead. If you like to combine light and fast hiking though, then the X Ultra 3 is a great choice and our Top Pick for that application.
This pair retails for $150, which is definitely on the expensive side for a hiking shoe. It is a high performer though, so if you're looking for a lightweight pair for moving fast on the trail, they may just be worth it. If you don't see yourself needing the Gore-Tex liner, then a non-waterproof version is available for $120. You can also consider our Best Buy winner, the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator, which retails for only $100.
The Salomon X Ultra 3 is a fantastic hiking shoe that's built for fast hiking. It's comfortable and supportive and has excellent water resistance. We liked this shoe for all of our day hiking needs but would choose something else for overnight trips.
Salomon makes several other options in the X Ultra 3 line, including a non-waterproof version for $120, and a mid-size boot for $165.
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