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Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX Review

This is a burly hiking shoe capable of getting off the trail and onto rugged terrain
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $160 List | $119.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Supportive, great traction, lightweight
Cons:  Stiff, lacing is hard to tighten
Manufacturer:   Salewa
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 23, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 16
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 7
  • Support - 15% 9
  • Traction - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 10% 7
  • Water Resistance - 5% 8
  • Durability - 5% 6

Our Verdict

The Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX has become a favorite of our reviewers. It is a great hiking shoe with a high level of support and stability while being capable of off-trail scrambling. There is enough mesh and synthetic material to keep them light on the feet, but they remain durable and resist wear. We love these shoes for day hiking, overnight backpacking, peak-bagging, and cross-country travel. They do it all well and give us confidence on our feet when in rugged terrain. There are lighter hiking shoes out there, but none that climb as well or are as supportive. This cross between a hiking shoe and an approach shoe is an excellent choice for the hiker who wants to go almost anywhere.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


This is one robust hiking shoe  and we love it for its ability to tackle more than just a mellow trail.
This is one robust hiking shoe, and we love it for its ability to tackle more than just a mellow trail.

Comfort


The Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is more comfortable than many of the other shoes we tested. Its uppers feature enough mesh and synthetic materials that flex easily. It does not have as much of a prolonged break-in period as other models that use similar materials. This low-cut hiking shoe has a nice, secure feeling ankle cuff that allows for plenty of movement. This shoe is stiffer than most, given that its intended uses are for mountain trails, so although the sole is rockered for a comfortable stride, the nylon midsole insert does give this shoe a firmer feeling on trail than more cushioned models we review here.


Our only real issue with these shoes is the stiffness of the ankle cuff. The material used here is fairly firm, and even with boot cut socks, we can feel the edge of that cuff dig into our ankles when we are walking along a sidehill. This seems to diminish over time, but it is one of the remnants from the era of heavier and more rigid hiking boots that caught our attention.

High on the Olympic High Divide  the Mountain Trainer Lites give extra support for the rockier sections of this iconic trail.
High on the Olympic High Divide, the Mountain Trainer Lites give extra support for the rockier sections of this iconic trail.

Weight


When we first got our hands on the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX shoes, we were pretty astounded at how light they felt. With previous experience wearing the more beefy Mountain Trainer boots, we expected to see weight savings given that these shoes got rid of some heavier fabrics and shed some weight by not having as stiff a sole. We were impressed at their scant 2.16-pound weight per pair.


Too often, it becomes difficult to choose between mountain performance and on-trail comfort. These shoes do both well, and we like how easily they approach objectives and are a full half-pound lighter than their nearest competition in this style of shoe.

Not the lightest shoe in our review  but this shoe gives way more support and stability than these featherweight models.
Not the lightest shoe in our review, but this shoe gives way more support and stability than these featherweight models.

Support


No doubt about it, the Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is a rock-solid hiking shoe that gives above-average support on demanding terrain. We love this shoe for its exceptional underfoot stability thanks to an integrated nylon midsole shank that lets them bound through boulder fields without putting extra undue stress on the foot. This stable platform also helps them to edge in challenging sections of scrambling.


This shoe is low-cut, meaning that the cuff ends just below the ankle, so they do not have the same support to protect from rolled ankles as do high models, but we felt that there is adequate security, and we prefer the lower cut that allows for more flexion when in challenging climbing terrain.

Thanks to the stiffer sole and 3F fit system that locks the foot into place  the Mountain Trainer Lite provides excellent support.
Thanks to the stiffer sole and 3F fit system that locks the foot into place, the Mountain Trainer Lite provides excellent support.

Traction


Salewa makes shoes that can handle all types of terrain, and the Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is no exception. Featuring a Pomoca outsole that uses a blended rubber compound that is soft enough to smear on smooth rock, though durable enough to allow the sole's deep lugs to chew through mud and scree, these shoes have no problems when the going gets tough.


We took these shoes on hikes in the Sierra Nevada of California and the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. In these two very different climates with vastly different trail types and weather conditions, we found that the Mountain Trainer Lites can do it all. Wet or dry, slick or loose, the stable footing made possible by the stiff midsole and the high-traction patterned outsole made these shoes one of our top choices for traction.

Walking off the exposed slabs atop Lovers Leap after climbing a technical route to the top  we were happy to be wearing the Mountain Trainer Lites.
Walking off the exposed slabs atop Lovers Leap after climbing a technical route to the top, we were happy to be wearing the Mountain Trainer Lites.

Versatility


When considering versatility, we like to think of all the different activities we could do while wearing the same shoes. In this regard, the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is quite versatile as far as hiking shoes are concerned. They are light and nimble enough to go for day hikes or dog walks. They are comfortable and supportive enough to shoulder a backpack and go for an overnight trip. They have such excellent traction that they would make a great choice for a late-season ascent on a mountain like Mount Whitney, Mount Baldy, or Longs Peak.


We think that the only realm that these shoes really don't shine in is as trail running shoes. With such a stiff midsole, these could conceivably be taken for a short jog, but feel way more clunky than other lighter and more flexible models.

Light enough to go out for a long hike along Washington State's Grand Ridge  this is truly an all-around hiking shoe.
Light enough to go out for a long hike along Washington State's Grand Ridge, this is truly an all-around hiking shoe.

Water Resistance


The Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX utilizes a Gore-Tex Extended Comfort waterproof/breathable insert to keep your feet dry while sloshing through puddles on the trail. On one hike, the Ozette Triangle Loop along Washington State's Pacific coastline, we had to hike through tidepools, avoid the incoming tide, and walk through a very wet rainforest. Our feet were bone dry upon our return to the trailhead.


A 3.5-inch flood height is not very high, however, so these shoes only work for minimally wet conditions. If you think you'll have to ford some deeper crossings, then mid or high top hiking footwear might be a better choice.

We had no problem during low water crossings in these shoes.
We had no problem during low water crossings in these shoes.

Durability


With an all synthetic upper, the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX might seem less durable than other shoes that choose this weight-saving material, but there are a couple of useful designs that this shoe employs that keep them from being as susceptible to the rigors of cross country travel as some of their counterparts.


Along the lower section of the upper, Salewa uses a wear-resistant material that covers the light mesh, making this area, which is typically prone to excessive wear, much more durable. There is also a thick toe cap that is molded to the outsole. The nylon laces are somewhat exposed, so there does exist a chance of abrading if you intend on exceptionally rocky scrambles, but we find these shoes to be quite durable, especially considering their weight.

The upper is primarily a mesh synthetic material  though the durable rand that extends around the lower perimeter should add some durability.
The upper is primarily a mesh synthetic material, though the durable rand that extends around the lower perimeter should add some durability.

Value


These shoes are of great value. With top-tier performance, comfort, and traction, they are a hiking shoe that virtually everyone will be able to appreciate and benefit from.

Conclusion


The Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is an all-around hiking shoe that absolutely excels in traveling through rough and off-trail terrain. Curiously light considering their above-average support, these are shoes that won't slow you down. Stiffer than most, they are also a good choice for the hiker who demands a bigger boot's stability but craves the functionality of a hiking shoe. We find this shoe to do it all well, but we really recommend it to take you off the beaten path.

Ryan Huetter