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Review: Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX Trail-Running Shoes

2002 was the last time I wore a boot while hiking.  That was the year I completed my first thru-hike of the Northville-Placid trail, and the experience motivated me to re-examine the equipment I used.  Inspired in part by a US Army study that showed that wearing 1 pound on your feet was roughly equivalent to carrying 6 pounds on your back (in terms of energy use), I decided to start by changing my shoes – I wanted something faster and lighter.

So I dumped traditional boots for trail runners, and have not looked back since.  I now wear this style of shoe on almost every outdoor adventure I go on… long or short, flat or steep… I even wear them in early winter conditions with crampons.  Yet finding what I would consider the perfect trail runner has been hard.

Until now.

Earlier this year I picked up a pair of Salomon XA Pro 3d Ultra GTX Trail Running Shoes (from REI) and over the last 3 months I have worn them everywhere.  While jogging around neighborhood streets, while trail running, and on a peak bagging day hike.  They are comfortable enough, and nice enough looking, that I even wear them around town as casual footwear.  They have become my do everything pair for shoes.

 

Good Balance Between Weight and Stability

Weighing in at around 28.5 ounces, these are not the lightest trail runners you can find, but they have struck a good balance between weight and stability.  The protective toe and heel caps do their jobs without being restrictive and the 3d Advanced Chassis gives the sole a stable but responsive feel.

I suppose the best way I can put this is that I rarely have to think about these shoes while I wear them.  They are just doing their job, letting me enjoy whatever it is that I am doing.  This is especially true on trails where, unlike other trail runners I have owned, they are stable enough that I do not find myself paying too much attention to foot placement or constantly worrying about rolling an ankle.

Salomon Trail Runners in action

 

Dry Feet are Happy Feet

Several features are built into the shoe to help protect you from moisture, both external and internal.  The uppers are made of a breathable mesh material, the inner booties are constructed from Gore-Tex XCR, and the polyester linings are designed to wick moisture away from your feet.  This mirrors the moisture transfer systems found in a lot of high end outdoor clothing, and in my experience it works rather well.  I have yet to wear them in a full downpour but they have done a good job of keeping my feet dry and happy in both hot and moderately wet conditions.

 

Lacing system is not a gimmick

I admit it – I am an old school lace and double knot kind of guy.  I have hated almost every attempt to improve on this classic system.  Tops on my list of gimmicks that annoyed me was the move to round synthetic ripcord type laces.  I just could never get them to hold a snug fit.

So it was with some hesitation that I decided to try the Kevlar Quickfit lacing system found on these runners – it looked unnecessarily complicated and was using the round synthetic laces I had trouble with.  However, I was quickly won over after just a few tries.  The lacing mechanism is a bit like a belay device in that it allows the laces to move in one direction only, with no slip back.  This overcomes the problems I had with getting a tight fit with other shoes, and makes “tying” your shoes a simple tug of the laces.  To “untie” the shoe, you hold down the release mechanism and tug again.  Adjustments on the fly couldn’t be easier… if you feel like the shoe is too tight or too loose you can fine tune the laces with the shortest of pit stops.

As you can see, there is a bit of lace left over when you tighten this system – and unlike conventional laces, you do not have the option to triple up the knot in order to take in the slack.  The shoe deals with this by providing a pouch in the tongue where you can tuck in the excess, if you don’t it can bounce around and be a bit of an annoyance.

The Perfect All Around Outdoor Shoe

The Salomon XA Pro 3d Ultra GTX is such a versatile shoe that it is now my casual road shoe, my trail runner, and my hiking ‘boot’… and I am yet to be disappointed with it in any of those activities.  I will say, however, that if I was anything other than a casual road runner that I would probably want something a little more light and flexible, but for my purposes this shoe does it all.

I think the best compliment I can pay these trail runners is that I plan on buying a second pair to keep as backups.  I’ve found the perfect shoe for my needs – and with the way manufacturers alter products from year to year, whether they need to or not, I want to make sure I have an extra pair in the closet in case I lose or wear out my current ones.


Summary:

The best trail runners I have owned.  Light, stable, versatile… they do everything I ask them to, and have even warmed me up to modern lacing systems.

Pros:

Light enough for casual road running, yet sturdy enough to protect my feet and ankles on the trail.  Excellent moisture protection.  Simple, no hassle lacing system.  Nice enough looking that I wear them casually around town.

Cons:

Price, at $135 these are some of the most expensive trail runners I have seen.


Where to buy:


Additional Photos

16 Comments

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    […] XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX Trail Running Shoe – $107 (usually $134). I recently reviewed these shoes and gave them our top rating (5 […] – http://www.townsandtrails.com/outdoor-gear-deals-fathers-day-sales/

  2. Forrest
    Forrest07-13-2009

    Just saw the pics of your shoes while you were hiking. Not sure if you know this but you can tuck the laces into the ‘garage’ on the top of the tongue. Then you don’t trip over them.

    • Dave
      Dave07-13-2009

      Hi Forrest, thanks for the comment and the tip! I did know about the pouch in the tongue… but, as that photo shows, I sometimes get lazy about tucking all of the excess in there. It is definitely a good idea to do so though.

      • James
        James12-22-2009

        While the shoelaces can be tuckewd in the puch, it is cumbersome to readjust your shoe. You can actually tuck the end under teh front part of the shoelace on the toe!

        I LOVE this shoe. My podiatrist likes em also.

        Worn em in the puring rain and feet did not get wet. Awesome looking shoe too.

  3. Mark
    Mark07-27-2009

    I owned a pair of these shoes for about 6 months and ended up returning them. I really didn’t like the lacing system. They don’t stay tight – the locking mechanism does loosen a bit. Also, there is no way to get the shoe tight around the ankle. I know these shoes get very positive reviews, but every employee I’ve spoken with at REI does NOT recommend these. I was also in a second hand store in Boulder recently – and virtually all of their shoes were Salomans.

    • Dave
      Dave08-21-2009

      Wish I could find a pair of these in a second hand store. 🙂 I’m still looking to pick up a spare pair, but have decided to wait for a sale.

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  5. bill
    bill08-26-2009

    Tore my left Achilles tendon and had surgery on it in March. Bought a pair of these a month before a basecamp/hiking trip to Alaska in August – my Achilles would not tolerate a high-top hiking boot and I wanted something that would keep my feet dry. Wore these with gaiters while hiking over tundra, gravel, lava, and snow for a week. Worked like a charm. My feet stayed dry and my Achilles felt good every day. I got them in black and wear them to the office on casual days. I’m usually a size 9.5 but the size 10 fits well. Recommended.

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  9. Chris
    Chris04-04-2010

    I am extremely impressed with the Salomon XA Pro 3d GTX. I use them as an everyday shoe along with trail running, and hiking. I was very disappointed when my shoe lace came unraveled,after a 1 1/2 of wearing them everyday. To my rescue I came to find out that they make replacements. So I bought a set and walah practically a brand new pair of shoes. Still wearing them today. Just because I love them so much. I had to purchase another pair. So I scored a pair from an REI garage sale for under 30 bucks. Most comfortable shoe I have ever worn. My feet love them!

  10. Dan
    Dan04-08-2010

    I am very impressed with these and have purchased a second pair. A year of running and climbing around hills, mountains and walking to the shop and they are still in good condition. A 12.5 feels like a snug 12 to me. Cool, supportive, dry and protective, I am sure a single shoe cannot be perfect for everyone but these are the best outdoor shoes I have ever used.

  11. Vaughan
    Vaughan04-08-2010

    I just came across this page while searching for the cheapest price on which will be my 4th pair! I have to agree, the best and most comfortable shoe i have ever worn. I’ve been wearing them for what must be 5 years now. I’ve had the model down from this one and while the comfort was there, i do like the gore-tex feature. Worth the extra money in the long run.

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  13. Tom
    Tom12-09-2010

    Oh man!!! i just bought a pair! i live in sweden, took em out in the snow! awesome! though i will miss the North Face Hedghogs they replaced.( i prefer Mid’s and dont think the Hedgehog XRC comes in that also the grip on the Ultra 3D is awsome for the iced over pavements and roads)…my only gripe is at the momment – if you convert the price they cost twice as much here as in the U.S, i fly to the U.S in 3 weeks! crap! maybe i by a spare pair while i’m over there…..

    • Dave
      Dave12-09-2010

      Hi Tom!

      Thanks for stopping by. Bummer about the cost where you are, but I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a spare while you are here. I still love and rave about mine.

      I am on the lookout for a deal to get another pair myself. Though this time I am flirting with the idea of going with the non-goretex version. A little cheaper, slightly lighter, and for the conditions I use them in I think I am starting to value breathability over waterproofness. Haven’t made up my mind on that yet, but that is where I am leaning.

      Here are the ones I am considering as a second pair: http://www.rei.com/product/807599

  14. Mike Burke
    Mike Burke02-23-2011

    Great write up. I’ve had this exact pair for 4-5 years now. Have used them TONS. From NJ, PA, New England and Alaska… they’ve been perfect in calm conditions down to brutal, well below 0° conditions in Alaska. Best part is.. they haven’t seemed to wear nearly as much as I would have expected.
    When my friends ask about hiking “boots”… I always recommend these.

  15. yang
    yang03-25-2011

    I’ve owned these shoes for almost two years. I wear them around town, especially during winter. I’ve taken them on several hiking trips – no thru-hikes, just moderate day hikes.

    The tread has worked down at the heel and ball. Knobs there has reduced down to less than 50% of the knobs on the outside and the green is showing through the black rubber.

    I wonder if my experience is similar to others’ ?

    • Dave
      Dave03-30-2011

      Hi Yang,

      I’m right around the 2 year mark as well, and have beat the hell out of my pair. Logged lots of miles, both on trail and around town, but I haven’t paid much attention to my tread. I suppose that might mean that it hasn’t been a problem for me… but next time I am home I will take a close look at the bottoms and let you know if I see similar.

      I’m also flirting with using my REI member coupon (http://www.rei.com/promotions/member-rewards-coupon.html) to get the second pair I have wanted. If I do that I will be able to do a real nice comparison of 2 year wear vs new.

      Stay tuned.

  16. Timo
    Timo05-19-2011

    I had these for two years in 2007-2009. Brilliant shoe! Then I washed ’em before Interrail trip and packed them while wet. Four days later in a hostel in Berlin I realized my mistake. The shoes were still packed in tight plastic bag. What a disaster! Solution: new pair of shoes.

    I have now in 2009-2011 logged two years of everyday use for the second pair (except when it really snows or is flip-flop sunny). The shoes are starting to show quite a bit of wear and tear. I had to replace laces, as one snapped. Replaced soles, too. Bottom of the shoe is worn at heel (because of how I walk with to much stress on the inside). Also one lace loop has broken recently… I guess it’s about time to replace them with new ones.

    • Yang
      Yang05-25-2011

      Timo: You mentioned replacing the soles? how did you do that?

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