Hands-on Gear Review

Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX Review

Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX
Top Pick Award
Price:  $150 List | $111.99 at Amazon
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Aggressive traction, great water resistance, versatile
Cons:  Quicklace system not for everyone, average ankle protection
Bottom line:  This shoe is nimble and aggressive for hikers who like to pick up the pace in any terrain.
Editors' Rating:   
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Weight of Size 11.5 Pair:  1.95 lbs
Upper:  Textile/synthetic leather
Width Options:  Regular
Manufacturer:   Salomon

Our Verdict

Slide into the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX and your feet will almost take off without you. We tested the X Ultra 2 in the past, and the latest version is just as gnarly while shaving off a few ounces. This shoe is good looking and performs at the top echelon. The fit is snug like a trail runner, and you'll be awarded for picking up the pace in this model, especially in the flats or heading downhill. Fear no rough or sloppy terrain in these shoes, they eat up trails in all conditions. The X Ultra 3 withstood our waterproofing tests, and despite its stiffness (which does soften over time), they are comfortable for long stretches with or without a pack.Some people might not enjoy the Quicklace system, but we liked its convenience. The main drawback of this system is that it can, over time, lead to holes in the upper where the laces rub the synthetic textile.

If you're taking off on longer backpacking trips and want a bit more support, take a close look at our Editors' Choice Award winner, The North Face Ultra 110 GTX, which provides more ankle stability and costs $30 less. If you place low weight above all else, consider the Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX, the lightest model reviewed but less comfortable. However, if you're moving light and fast and don't want to miss out on comfort, this Top Pick for Aggressive Hiking might just be what you're looking for.

Searching for some extra support?
For $165, Salomon brings you the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX, the mid-top version of one of our favorite hiking shoes. You can expect the same top-performing qualities of the shoe we tested, including its excellence in wet conditions, combined with a higher ankle rise for days when you need a little more support. If you find yourself intrigued by our review of the X Ultra 3 GTX but know you need a little more love around the ankles, look no further than the X Ultra Mid 3 GTX.


RELATED REVIEW: Best Hiking Shoes For Men of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ross Robinson

Last Updated:
Tuesday
April 10, 2018

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The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX is a nimble go-getter of a hiking shoe with a list price of $150. The upper consists of textile and synthetic leather, with a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort waterproof breathable membrane. The midsole is injected EVA above a proprietary Advanced Chassis and molded shank. The outsole is a non-marking ContaGrip rubber sole.

Performance Comparison


These shoes are up to nearly any task. Let your pup lead the way  as these shoes can handle dry and sloppy trails equally well.
These shoes are up to nearly any task. Let your pup lead the way, as these shoes can handle dry and sloppy trails equally well.

Comfort


The X Ultra 3 GTX fits snug, especially on the sides. Hugging our feet, they feel aggressive and comfortable for miles over rocky trails. Where other shoes led to sore feet, these shoes crush rough terrain. These shoes feel stiffer than most out of the box, and take a while to soften. That said, they are a comfortable kind of stiff that we enjoyed. Foot protection is excellent in these shoes. The toes are covered with thick rubber, great for kicking in steps in loose sediment and snow. There isn't much wiggle room in the toes; it's less spacious overall in comparison to other models. If you have wide feet, try them on first or purchase from an online company with an excellent return policy. This model is not available in wide sizes.


This shoe incorporates a Quicklace system, which has its lovers and its haters. Some users claim they are unable to keep them tight. To test this, we tightened the laces and then tugged on them below the plastic lock, trying to pull them loose. They didn't budge. The Kevlar laces slide easily through the four eyelets (the lowest three eyelets are webbing, the upper is metal). More than traditional laces, these equalize in tightness as you walk, which might cause some users to sense they are loosening. This does reduce pressure from the laces on the foot, eliminating hot spots. It's easy to pull these on and tighten the laces. For an optimal fit, use one hand to tighten the lower section, and one to tighten the top section. The top of the tongue has a mesh pocket to stow the excess laces in. Sayonara, flopping laces! Although this type of lacing system is controversial in some hiking circles, we like them on the Salomon's, convenient to remove sediment or pop in and out of a tent.

The convenience of the Quicklace system is obvious. But, this type of system does not allow you to vary the tightness of different sections of the upper, achieved with specific tying techniques of traditional laces. It's worth mentioning that the average hiker doesn't use such tying techniques.

Tightening the convenient Quicklace system on the X Ultra 3. Putting these shoes on takes mere seconds.
Out of sight  out of mind. We liked the easy stowing of the laces in the elastic tongue pocket.

The upper breathes well, preventing our feet from steaming under high activity. The perforated Ortholite insole promotes air circulation underfoot and is comfortable too. It stays cool in warm weather, but like most waterproof shoes, it isn't the ideal candidate for hot weather hikes. If you don't need the water resistance, Salomon makes a non-GTX version of this shoe for less cheese ($120).

In the high and hot desert outside of Bishop  California  the Salomon's offered better breathability than expected. That said  for an extended time in such a climate  we prefer a shoe without a waterproof lining for increased airflow between our toes. The X Ultra 3 is offered in a non-GTX version.
In the high and hot desert outside of Bishop, California, the Salomon's offered better breathability than expected. That said, for an extended time in such a climate, we prefer a shoe without a waterproof lining for increased airflow between our toes. The X Ultra 3 is offered in a non-GTX version.

Weight


Weighing 1 lb and 15.2 ounces for a pair of size 11.5's, this shoe is a few ounces less than its predecessor, the X Ultra 2. Even with the weight savings, this shoe still provides bomber foot protection and a rugged outsole built to last. With the drop in weight in the X Ultra 3, these shoes are more ready than ever to storm the trails at running pace.


Support


The stiff outsole of this Salomon model delivers great lateral stability, assisted by the molded shank between the mid and outsoles. The 4.5-inch max forefoot width also provides a solid foundation on uneven terrain. While its ankle collar height falls in the middle of the pack, this shoe feels quite sturdy underfoot, partially helped by its stiff sole and upper. The forefoot maintains enough flexibility to be nimble, creating a great combination of support and speed. The stiffness does reduce sensitivity, though, which comes into play when scrambling or climbing.


If you need more stability without losing too much athleticism, check out The North Face Ultra 110 GTX, which has a wider forefoot and taller ankle collar. Or, if support is your criterion numero uno, try on the Keen Targhee II.

Stiff support is welcome under the weight of a heavy R3 crash pad and day supplies (liquids  lunch  layers  and climbing shoes). The X Ultra 3 doesn't groan under the 25+ pounds.
Stiff support is welcome under the weight of a heavy R3 crash pad and day supplies (liquids, lunch, layers, and climbing shoes). The X Ultra 3 doesn't groan under the 25+ pounds.

Traction


The X Ultra 3 GTX is an absolute beast when it comes to traction on various surfaces. We struggled to find an area where the proprietary High Traction Contagrip outsole didn't excel. It features lots of deep lugs with nine to 13 edges on each one, resulting in multi-directional purchase on a variety of surfaces. Mud and wet rocks present no problem, and we were able to climb uphill in snow and loose sediment with minimal slippage on this trickier terrain. This shoe kicks in and grabs onto loose terrain with the best of them. Its stiff outsole isn't the best on dry rock, where models with wider lugs and softer rubber, like the Keen Targhee II or Vasque Juxt, achieved better purchase. That said, it was still enough for class four scrambling over granite in the Sierras.


The aggressive brake lugs located at the back of the outsole are helpful when moving downhill in loose and slippery terrain, resisting the heel from sliding out. We are confident taking these shoes on-trail and off at any speed. The minor drawback of this outsole lies in its climbing ability. This shoe smears but doesn't edge well.

Getting playful on surrounding boulders in the X Ultra 3 GTX.
Getting playful on surrounding boulders in the X Ultra 3 GTX.

Versatility


From walking a pet to running across talus, this shoe is ready for a wide range of undertakings. It's comfortable enough to use on flat and smooth trails, and aggressive to crush through rough and steep ones. With ample support and great torsional stability, it can handle light backpacking trips. If you're moving fast and light, these shoes are a great ally.


Most of our reviewers and friends preferred the look of these shoes over the other models. They do look like active footwear, yet adapt well beneath the cuff of our pants around town.

In comparison to our Editors' Choice winner, the Salomon model performed better when fast hiking and running, while the burlier and wider Ultra 110 GTX handled heavier loads better. Both shoes are versatile, with minor differences in strengths. The X Ultra 3 is more versatile, though, than the other two speedster models from La Sportiva and Adidas.

These Salomon's don't back down from a huge range of trail challenges  proving their weight in versatility.
These Salomon's don't back down from a huge range of trail challenges, proving their weight in versatility.

Water Resistance


From the ground to the top of the waterproof tongue gusset measures 4.5 inches, which is high for a hiking shoe. The Gore-Tex Performance Comfort membrane does its job and doesn't leak, as proved on wet trails and in our five-minute streamside test. The textile and synthetic leather upper repels water well. After several months of testing, water continued to bead off this model during stream crossings and springtime puddles. The X Ultra 3 GTX was our favorite model for hiking in wet conditions, with the La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX finishing close behind. If you don't need this type of protection and want to save money while increasing breathability, check out the Vasque Juxt.


This shoe is aggressive and fun, which often leads to more rigorous use. As the shoe continues to flex, it could lose its resistance to absorbing water. Keeping the shoe clean and treating it with a DWR spray increases its life as an expert water-repeller.


Durability


Salomon built a durable shoe in the X Ultra 3 GTX. The large rubber toe cap that protects the toes prevents wear on the synthetic upper. In all the high flex point areas (common locations of wear), the stitching is reinforced with double seams. The dense rubber on the outsole will also outlast the softer rubber found on the Juxt and Ultra 110 GTX. The exposed midsole will suffer from minor abrasion when it bangs against rocks and plunges through gravel but won't affect performance.


Our main concern with this model's durability is in the Quicklace system. The laces themselves are Kevlar, and we expect them to hold up well over time. The patented plastic locking mechanism at the top of the laces, though, could have a shorter lifespan. With more moving parts (it has an internal gear), and the potential for plastic to crack or break, this system creates a problem not found in traditional laces. If the locking mechanism breaks while in the backcountry, tying the Kevlar laces into knots will prove difficult. With traditional laces, a torn lace can be re-tied and function until you're able to purchase new laces. We only foresee this problem of a Quicklace system failure happening in rare circumstances, yet the potential remains.

If the Quicklace system breaks, you can buy and "install" a new set for $10 with six color options. We say "install" because it is a much more complicated process than threading a textile lace through eyelets, as there are several of pieces involved.

Another problem with the lace system is that the thin Kevlar laces constantly rub on a small area of the synthetic upper. After wearing the previous model, the X Ultra 2, as daily shoes for six months, the uppers developed small holes in a few pressure points below the laces. As the upper material is relatively unchanged in the X Ultra 3, we don't expect the upper of the latest version to withstand the constant friction from the laces for long. The shoes continue to perform with excellence after developing these holes, but if you submerge them in water, expect leaks through the worn holes. For this reason, we docked some points off in this metric.

Basking in the sunshine  the X Ultra 3 GTX.
Basking in the sunshine, the X Ultra 3 GTX.

Best Applications


We love wearing these shoes everywhere. Whether wet or dry, fast or slow, and on any terrain, the X Ultra 3 GTX delivers top-notch performance. They are excellent when you increase your pace to cover ground fast. We also liked them for casual use. They slip on and tighten quickly, which is ideal for running in and out of the house for yard work or errands in town. If you're only hiking light trails, though, these shoes are overkill.

Climbing steep boulders is challenge accepted in this pair.
Climbing steep boulders is challenge accepted in this pair.

Value


Costing $150, these are far from the cheapest option, although some models reviewed cost even $35 more. These shoes are convenient, versatile, and perform well in any hiking terrain, making them valuable from a performance perspective. Many hikers see the extra cash as a worthy investment for a high-quality shoe. If you're embarking on an extended backpacking trip with these shoes, consider purchasing a replacement set of laces to bring along.

We can't hide our admiration for this pair of shoes. They are simply trail chargers  and if that sounds like fun to you  these puppies should be on your short list.
We can't hide our admiration for this pair of shoes. They are simply trail chargers, and if that sounds like fun to you, these puppies should be on your short list.

Conclusion


If you are willing to pay a little extra for top performance, the X Ultra 3 GTX will not let you down. Our reviewers grabbed this shoe over others when the conditions were less than dry, or if moving fast over rough terrain was in the cards. It's not the most durable or the most supportive but provides an aggressive approach to hiking footwear that makes trails even more fun and exciting.
Ross Robinson

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