It has been over a year now owning and using the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX hiking boots. After buying both the men and women versions back in 2019, they have been tested extensively in different types of terrain and weather conditions. Many miles have been put on them: scrambling up and down desert mountains in the American Southwest, hiking through the wet, muddy trails of the Pacific Northwest and seeing how the GORE-TEX waterproofing stands up against the deep snow of the High Sierras.
Do these global bestsellers live up to the hype of being one of the best hiking boots available? Well, yes but a lot still depends on how you plan on using them. We’ll get into it a little later.
Wear and Durability
The big question you may be asking is how do these hold up over time? While they are definitely not the cheapest hiking shoes, they aren’t the most expensive. Still, if you are just getting into hiking, you may want to know if it’s worth spending the money on these shoes which normally retail for around $150-$165.
They are very durable as it turns out. Most manufactured shoes have a finite shelflife. Even if you aren’t wearing a particular set of shoes frequently, the glue and materials will break down over time. This is less so with leather shoes that are stitched together like high end dress shoes, but is very common with athletic footwear.
Fortunately, after using the X Ultra 3s for a year, they still look fairly new once you give them a good cleaning. Actually, part of the secret to hiking boot longevity involves cleaning them well and storing them properly. And, the areas that I thought were going to wear quickly still look great!
The Contagrip lugs are a well-known feature of Salomon shoes. After pounding them into the ground and forcing them to carry my body weight on rough inclines, they are still in excellent condition. With the sharp, narrow angles of the lugs, you’d think that they would round out or break off. But they haven’t.
The Contagrip traction was one the best selling points for me when I chose these shoes. Ever since I got into hiking, I came to appreciate traction and durability.
Ten years ago, I was hiking in a popular national park in Seoul, Korea and learned an important lesson on improper footwear. I was unprepared for an exceptionally steep, granite mountain trail that included walking along the ridgeline. I wore some recently purchased, $20 sneakers. On the trail, I struggled to maintain grip on the boulders as I ascended towards the first mountain. Walking along the jagged ridgeline also started to wear out the soles very quickly. By the end of the trail, the shoes basically fell apart with the glued sections forming big gaps and the traction gone. The experience was terrible and I was utterly shocked that my new shoes died so quickly.
I would gladly take the Ultra 3s if I had a chance to hike that trail again because they would perform and not fall apart.
The insole was another area that I was certain that would wear down. But, if you take a look at the inside, there is almost no wear I can detect. Not even the logo has worn off. They also have not lost any of their outstanding comfort or protection against sharp rocks. The injection-molded EVA midsoles still provide great cushioning and support and after a long hike I don’t face any foot issues like I would with improper footwear.
The mids come with a standard shoelace unlike the low-cut which feature the Quicklace single pull system. They still are doing a great job if you double-tie them. A single knot will usually result in them coming loose. Salomon boots usually feature metal eyelets for the top of the laces. They are often subject to scrapes against rocks and rough surfaces. But, they aid in the durability by deflecting scrapes away from the laces. The Ultra 3s we have feature unpainted metal eyelets which are better than having painted ones that get scratched.
After standing in running streams and hiking through the snow, I can happily say that my feet have been kept dry. While it’s always good to bring an extra pair of socks when you know you will encounter wet conditions, I feel confident that these boots will let me travel through some rough weather. In fact, I have even used these off-trail when the weather got bad. When paired with weather resistant clothing, you almost feel invincible in these.
Who are these hikings boots for?
The Salomon X Ultra 3s are highly favored because they combine good traction, stability, flexibility and are lightweight. They are also some of the most comfortable shoes on the market and feel ready to go out-of-the-box. No lengthy breaking in period required.
While they are a great all-around hiking boot, you may want to consider what kind of hikes you’ll go on before getting these shoes. As much as I love the Ultra 3s, there are certain factors which make me want to leave them home. After experiencing these shoes in different environments and conditions, here are some thoughts.
3 Season Hiking Boots
The Ultra 3s in mid-cut with GORE-TEX are great for winter, spring and fall. In moderate temperatures, they are comfortable. In the winter, with good socks, they do very well keeping your feet from freezing, though if you are hiking in sub-zero temperature, you may want to opt for a dedicated winter boot.
In the summer, they can be a little warm, especially on very hot days in the summer. The breathability is limited by the GORE-TEX weatherproofing. If you tend to have sweaty feet, you may not want to wear these on warmer days. You can opt for these without the GORE-TEX, but lose the versatility. If you can afford it, you could consider getting shoes dedicated for dry, summer hiking like the Moab 2 Ventilators.
Different Terrain Types
These shoes excel on dry, rugged terrain providing cushion against rocks. The Contagrip lugs also cut through thick mud and give you traction where one could easily slip. Overall, they are good for most terrain types. If you’re looking for shoes that do well on smooth, slippery surfaces like wet granite rocks or icy conditions, you may want to consider alternatives or pair these with external traction devices.
I have had a few slips with these on trails where the snow has been compacted down into ice. While I’d still wear these in the snow, if I know there will be a significant amount of ice, I’d probably want to wear boots that have a different traction design such as something with the Vibram arctic grip. Salomon even has a winter version of Contagrip which you can see on their Toundra Pro which was designed for cold, slippery surfaces kind of like how winter tires are different from regular tires. If I had to hike Half Dome in the rain or Angels Landing in icy conditions (which I wouldn’t), I’d look at alternatives.
Stylish option for off the trails
While style may not be as important as function in the outdoor world, there is something to be said about the Ultra 3s. In the right color, these shoes look great and can be paired with your non-hiking clothing. Depending on your profession, you may even like using these full time, though, for longevity, you might want to avoid wearing these every day. On days with severe weather, these shoes can be your go-to option even for the office workers. There are a lot of ugly, uninspiring hiking boots out there. These are not one of those.
Other outdoor applications
The versatility of these boots also allow for these to be used in other settings. There are plenty of photos in circulation of military and law enforcement personnel using these in action. And it makes sense. 12-16 hour days of being on your feet and having to be ready for anything means that you want to maximize your comfort and performance. Being lightweight is also a plus. There are also probably many people in the trades that would appreciate the job demands it.
Salomon has crafted something really special with the Ultra 3s. When you wear these shoes, you feel like you’re ready for anything, whether it’s an epic backpacking trip or something even more intense. If there ever were an apocalypse, I’d want to be wearing these shoes because of the confidence it brings.
I plan on using these frequently throughout 2021 as a regular part of my hiking gear. Along with the Salomons, I plan on doing a long term test and review of the Mystery Ranch Scree 32.