Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Aggressive traction, great water resistance, versatile
Cons: Quicklace system not for everyone, average ankle protection
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The X Ultra 3 GTX is a nimble go-getter of a hiking shoe at a great value. 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.
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 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 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 money.
Weighing 1 lb and 15 ounces for a pair of size 11's, this shoe is a few ounces less than its predecessor. 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.
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.
For those seeking more support, 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.
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 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 this shoe 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.
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.
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. If you don't need this type of protection and want to save money while increasing breathability there are a few models that do not have a liner and are more breathable.
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 elsewhere. 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 may 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.
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.
These are not the cheapest option, but they are a great value. 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.
If you are willing to pay a little extra for top performance, the Salomon 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