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Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX Review

Salomon X Ultra Low II GTX
Top Pick Award
Price:   $145 List | $119.63 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 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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Manufacturer:   Salomon
By Ross Robinson ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Sunday May 14, 2017

Our Verdict

The Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX is a beast on the trails. This high-functioning hiking shoe has the snug fit of a trail runner, and it behaves like one, too. We picked up the pace in this model, especially in the flats and downhill sections. With superior traction, it eats up any terrain it crosses. Its waterproofing also proved to be top notch, with a higher-than-average flood level and great water repellency. This model is stiffer than several others, yet still comfortable after many miles of rough trails. Some people might not enjoy the Quicklace system, but we liked its convenience.

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 109 GTX, which provides more ankle stability. 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 Speed might just be what you're looking for.

Searching for some extra support?
Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX
For $165, Salomon brings you the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 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 2 GTX but know you need a little more love around the ankles, look no further than the X Ultra Mid 2 GTX.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Hiking Shoes of 2017

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX is a nimble go-getter of a hiking shoe with a list price of $145. The upper consists of PU-coated leather and synthetic textile, 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 ContraGrip rubber sole.


Performance Comparison


A good pair of hiking-specific shoes should support a light load of 10-15 pounds. We wore the X Ultra's while seeking out boulder problems in Bishop  CA.
A good pair of hiking-specific shoes should support a light load of 10-15 pounds. We wore the X Ultra's while seeking out boulder problems in Bishop, CA.

Comfort


The X Ultra 2 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. It's a little stiff out of the box, and comfort increases over a few uses. Foot protection is excellent in these shoes. The toes are covered with thick rubber, great for kicking in steps in loose sediment and snow. The leather section of the upper provides additional protection on the sides. 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 eyelet is webbing, the upper three are 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! The other two shoes with a cinching, speedy lace system, the La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX and Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX don't manage the laces as well as this shoe. 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.

Out of sight  out of mind. We liked the easy stowing of the laces in the elastic tongue pocket.
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, check out the top breathable model review, the Vasque Juxt.

The X Ultra doesn't have the softest or cushiest footbed  but we still found it to be quite comfortable  breathable  and protective of our feet.
The X Ultra doesn't have the softest or cushiest footbed, but we still found it to be quite comfortable, breathable, and protective of our feet.


Weight


Weighing 2 lbs and 1.5 ounces for a pair of size 11.5's, this shoe isn't the lightest on the market. It does, however, have a good reason for the weight — excellent foot protection and a bomber outsole. It's not heavy, and the combination of great traction and foot protection makes these shoes suitable for short trail runs and speeding through easy sections of a trail.


The Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX is the lightest model reviewed, another good choice for speeding down trails. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX is also lighter than the Salomon pair by 1.7 ounces, but it's bulkier feel makes it less nimble.

Post-traction testing in the mud with the X Ultra and the Synthesis Mid GTX.
Post-traction testing in the mud with the X Ultra and the Synthesis Mid GTX.


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. 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 109 GTX, which has a wider forefoot and taller ankle collar. Or, if support is your criterion numero uno, try on the Keen Targhee II.

The right shoe for you depends on your personal preferences and the conditions and trail difficulties you travel.
The right shoe for you depends on your personal preferences and the conditions and trail difficulties you travel.

Traction


The X Ultra 2 GTX is an absolute beast when it comes to traction on various surfaces. We struggled to find an area where the proprietary High Traction Contragrip 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 large brake lug located at the back of the outsole is 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.

The multi-dimensional lugs and dense rubber sole of the X Ultra provide superior traction all-around.
The multi-dimensional lugs and dense rubber sole of the X Ultra provide superior traction all-around.

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. The 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 109 GTX handled heavier loads better. Both shoes are versatile, with minor differences in strengths. The X Ultra is more versatile, though, than the other two speedster models from La Sportiva and Adidas.

The Salomon shoe we reviewed is eager to take off running down trails.
The Salomon shoe we reviewed is eager to take off running down trails.

Water Resistance


From the ground to the top of the waterproof tongue gusset measures 4.75 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 polyurethane-coater leather and synthetic textile 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 2 GTX was our favorite model for hiking in wet conditions, with theLa 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.


The X Ultra 2 GTX is the closest to a fish in water  receiving the highest score in our water resistance metric.
The X Ultra 2 GTX is the closest to a fish in water, receiving the highest score in our water resistance metric.

Durability


Salomon built a durable shoe in the X Ultra 2 GTX. The large rubber toe cap that protects the toes prevents wear on the leather and 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 109 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 life span. 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. For a hiking shoe with maximum durability, check out the Asolo Agent GV.

Lead author and tester Ross Robinson takes a sip of water and wonders how fast and far the X Ultras will take him on this hike.
Lead author and tester Ross Robinson takes a sip of water and wonders how fast and far the X Ultras will take him on this hike.

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.

Best Applications


We love wearing these shoes everywhere. Whether wet or dry, fast or slow, and on any terrain, the X Ultra 2 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.

We didn't expect the stiff rubber of the Salomon model to offer great traction on dry rock  but it surprised us once again with solid purchase.
We didn't expect the stiff rubber of the Salomon model to offer great traction on dry rock, but it surprised us once again with solid purchase.

Value


Costing $145, these are far from the cheapest option, although some models reviewed cost even $40 more. These shoes are convenient, versatile, and perform well in any hiking terrain, making them a high value. Many hikers will 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 loved the convenience of slipping in and out of the Salomon's  especially when bouldering.
We loved the convenience of slipping in and out of the Salomon's, especially when bouldering.

Conclusion


If you are willing to pay a little extra for top performance, the X Ultra 2 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 lightest 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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