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Hands-on Gear Review
Salomon X Ultra Winter CS Review
Cons: Expensive, surprisingly poor traction on icy surfaces, laborious to lace up
Bottom line: A warm, comfortable hiking boot for people who don’t like tall boots.
The Salomon X Ultra Winter CS WP is perhaps the most shoe-like boot in this review, and also the lightest. At a mere 2 lbs. 11.7 oz. for a pair of men's size 11, these boots are nearly three pounds lighter than the Sorel Caribou. These lightweight boots serve as a good option for winter hiking or snowshoeing, as long as you have gaiters to pair with them. While the upper shaft does come up above the ankle, these are perhaps the shortest boots we tested, and their low cuff is prone to filling with snow if not protected with an aforementioned gaiter. In many ways these boots are reminiscent of a Salomon running shoe, except that their extra stiff sole leaves one with no questions about whether they will be running or hiking in this boot. We liked this boot, and wore it without complaint many times, but found that it ranked in the lower end of our comparison testing, and was also one of the lower scoring insulated winter hiking boots.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The X Ultra Winter CS WP strikes us as a boot that thinks it's a shoe, but really isn't. Despite incorporating many features found on Salomon running shoes, this boot is still very stiff underfoot, and does not in any way lend itself to the idea of running. In this review it was most similar to the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Conrax Boa, a boot that is similarly shoe-like, and also has a low shaft height compared to the rest. There is no doubt in our mind that this boot is more comfortable and warmer than the Terrex Conrax BOA, although it is more laborious to lace up (ironically, the Adidas boot uses speed laces, a lacing system that has become almost ubiquitous on Salomon shoes). There is no doubt that the Adidas Outdoor boot also has better traction in slippery conditions. Both of these boots are among the lower scoring insulated winter hiking boots we tested, although users who hate the idea of the tall shafts and mid-shin cuffs on The North Face Chilkat 400 or the Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat may naturally gravitate towards these smaller boots.
This boot uses Thinsulate synthetic insulation for warmth paired with a ClimaShield (CS) waterproof breathable liner. The effect is that this is a pretty warm boot compared to the competition, on par with the Sorel Caribou. There is no doubt that this boot fits like a standard Salomon shoe, that is, narrow in the forefoot. For some, us included, the low volume of the toe box constricted our foot slightly, possibly inhibiting blood flow. It was with some surprise, then, that we found in our ice bucket test that the part of our feet that started feeling cold first were the sides of the heels. Anyway, while it isn't as warm as the Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry, this boot is one of the warmer ones in our review, and we awarded it 8 out of 10 points.
The treated leather outer of this boot combined with the ClimaShield waterproof/breathable membrane on the inside means that this boot is absolutely waterproof. Much like the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Conrax Boa, there was not a hint of water leakage into the inside of this boot, which means that the lowest point water can enter is the gap where the ¾ length tongue gussets end. Unfortunately, this gap is lower than on most other boots in this genre, a mere 6.5 inches above the ground, and so we awarded only 7 points for water resistance. This is a great boot for hiking in the winter, but possibly not through super deep snow, and don't try tromping through the deepest puddles that you can find.
Fit and Comfort
The X Ultra Winter CS WP is designed with a performance fit in mind, meaning that it hugs the foot like a running shoe. While we were still able to wiggle our toes around inside, we concede that this is a very low volume shoe that runs on the narrow side. We only wore thin socks with this boot, and would not have been able to wear the thickest wool socks that we wore in the Kamik NationPlus. That said, the boot is warm enough that our feet were never cold in thin socks. Like with almost all of Salomon's footwear that we have tried over the years (lots!), we can say with confidence that wide footed people are not going to feel very comfortable in this boot.
This boot is designed for hiking, and it does that well. The Advanced Chassis that Salomon integrated into the midsole means that the feel underfoot is reliably stiff and supportive, and the snug fit keeps your foot locked into one place. The low shaft height eliminates the threat of rubbing or chaffing on the shin or calf. All in all, this is one of the best options for walking all day, as long as you pair it with gaiters, like we mentioned before. 7 out of 10 points.
Ease of Use
While we would hesitate to call these boots a pain in the butt to lace up, there is no doubt that they are the most difficult of the test group. They are easy to slide the foot into, so that is not a problem. The laces must first be looped through a lace locker at the crease at the ankle, which holds the foot tight, then must be looped through two more hooks on either side before tying. We also found that the round laces used on these boots do not grip each other very well, and are prone to untying themselves. We honestly wish they had just used the quick lace system that is found on the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Conrax Boa, and almost every other Salomon shoe we have ever worn. 4 out of 10 points.
The outsole pattern on these boots is comprised of many deep, arrow-shaped lugs not unlike those found on their more aggressive trail running shoes, like the Salomon Speedcross 4. The contagrip rubber is blended with an ice-grip rubber compound. Upon first inspection, we assumed that these shoes would be really grippy, but in practice we found the opposite. They were not as good as the Terrex Conrax BOA, and had about the same grippiness on ice as the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid. Our only speculation for the relatively low performance is that the many lugs present a low amount of surface area to stand on, and not enough rubber in contact with icy surfaces to grip. Worth noting is that on looser surfaces, like snow, these boots grip just fine. 5 out of 10 points.
This boot is designed to be used as a winter hiking boot or for snowshoeing. It is a good fit for people who have narrow feet or already know that they like Salomon shoes, but probably not a good fit for people with wide or high volume feet. Its main appeal is the low shaft height, which will require it to be paired with a gaiter. It could easily be worn as a commuter or everyday winter boot, as long as you don't mind lacing it up frequently.
The MSRP for this boot is $180, which is a bit more expensive than the higher scoring The North Face Chilkat 400, and quite a bit more expensive than the comparable Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat. Salomon footwear always tends to be a bit pricey, so this doesn't surprise us too much. That said, we aren't sure that you gain much in performance for the extra money that you spend, unless you try on all these boots and these fit the best.
The Salomon X Ultra Winter CS WP is the lightest boot in this review and in many ways is reminiscent of a shoe. However, its super stiff sole and copious amount of insulation ensure that you won't be tempted to take it running. While it performs great hiking and snowshoeing in cold weather, it is more expensive than similar insulated winter hiking boots that scored higher in our comparison testing.
— Andy Wellman
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