The Salomon X Ultra has been updated to version 3 for 2017. Building on the success of the X Ultra 2, Salomon has made a few minor improvements to the upper that make for a much better fitting hiking shoe. The midsole and outsole go largely unchanged, which will come as good news to those of you that love the X Ultra 2. In this preview, I will highlight these changes and offer my first impressions on the X Ultra 3. I will follow up with an in-depth longer term review in the coming months.
* Salomon also makes a Gore-Tex (GTX and mid-height boot version of this shoe. These models have also been updated. This review will focus on the non-GTX low cut version of the X Ultra 3, but the majority of the attributes will carry over across models.
Buy The X Ultra 3: REI
Fit and Feel
The Salomon X Ultra 3 comes in at 15.2oz in a size 12. This is pretty heavy for a trail shoe, as most of my preferred light hiking options come in closer to 12oz. The X Ultra 3 isn’t a trail runner though, it’s a hiking shoe, and with the extra weight you get a lot of extra protection and durability.
My standard trail shoe size is 12.5, but the size 12 on the X Ultra 3 fits my foot well. The sizing on the X Ultra 3 is similar to that of Salomon’s Sense Ride, but with a more spacious toe box. Being able to fit into a size 12 for the X Ultra 3 is a big deal for me, because Salomon does not make half sizes in this shoe above size 12. That was a major problem I had with the X Ultra 2, as a size 12 in that version was just too small and narrow up front.
Starting at the heel, the X Ultra 3 has a slightly narrow fit. I don’t notice any rubbing on toe-off, and the thickly padded heel collar only causes a minimal amount of slip. I had a heel slip issue with the X Ultra 2 that was largely down to the lacing. Salomon has added an extra set of eyelets for the X Ultra 3 and has done away with the all-metal grommets. This is the most important improvement on this shoe, as it allows for a much more precise lacing fit.
The midfoot of the X Ultra 3 has nice width without any slop, and the laminated Sensi-fit overlays lock down the foot nicely. The X Ultra 3 has a mild arch bump for support. It’s about half of the arch support found in the new XA Pro 3D.
The toe box is my favorite section of the X Ultra 3 in regards to fit. There is more width up front than the X Ultra 2, and the overall fit is just a lot better for my foot. I can see myself wearing this shoe on long and difficult hikes without any rubbing or toe jamming issues.
The uppers of the X Ultra 3 are constructed using a breathable open mesh on the midfoot and forefoot, and a more durable fabric on the heel and ankle collar. On top of the upper fabrics, Salomon uses a welded Sensi-fit overlay to provide a secure and stable fit. The Sensi-fit extends down to and above the midsole to provide a rand from heel to toe. This helps to keep out mud and moisture when hiking on sloppy trails.
As I mentioned above in the fit section, the most important change for the X Ultra’s upper for version 3 is with the lacing. The X Ultra 2 only had four lace grommets per side, and the top grommets were all metal. That lacing set up made it so I couldn’t lock my heel down. The X Ultra 3 has five per side, and only one on each side is metal. I like the durability of metal grommets, but they allow the Kevlar Quicklaces to slide around a little too much. The addition of plastic and fabric grommets helps quite a bit. I’ve only worn the X Ultra 3 a few times, but can comfortably say that this is a huge improvement.
The X Ultra 3 has a free floating tongue that is covered with a stitched mesh guard to keep out any dirt or debris. Salomon uses their tried and true Kevlar Quicklaces, which can be stowed away in the bottom-loading lace garage at the top of the tongue. The toebox on the X Ultra 3 is protected by a rugged and rigid toe cap, and is a reminder that this shoe has hiking boot DNA.
For the midsole of the X Ultra 3, Salomon uses a firm, responsive, and protective injection molded EVA. The X Ultra 3 is listed as having an 11mm drop with 19mm of midsole in the heel and 8mm of midsole in the forefoot.
In the heel of the X Ultra 3, Salomon uses their plastic Advanced Chassis insert to provide motion control of the foot along with added stability. With most trail running footwear, I find that the midsole deforms and compresses when I wear a heavy pack, this is especially noticeable with softer EVA midsoles or the Zoom Air units in my Nike Wildhorse 4. The Advanced Chassis provides a structure and framework throughout the heel of the X Ultra 3 to keep it from compressing while carrying a heavy pack. This feature is similar to the 3D Chassis found in the Salomon XA Pro 3D (my shoe for the John Muir Trail).
For the outsole of the X Ultra 3, Salomon uses a full coverage High Traction Contragrip compound with a series of chevron shaped lugs. Most of Salomon’s new trail running shoes are using their Premium Wet Traction Contragrip compound. After a few initial wears, this High Traction Contragrip feels nearly as sticky. It’s a little less soft though, which should equal superb durability when the miles start to add up. The chevron lugs have a nice amount of surface area which allows for secure traction on smooth surfaces. The widely spaced chevron lugs provide great grip on a wide variety of surfaces, and are also pretty good at shedding mud.
Buy The X Ultra 3: REI
The Salomon X Ultra 3 is a well thought out evolution of the X Ultra 2. Salomon’s design team must have listened to testers, and read the reviews of the X Ultra 2, because they fixed the most notable issues people seemed to have. Best of all, they were able to design this updated version while keeping all of the elements of the X Ultra 2 that people loved. The X Ultra 3 has completely replaced my new XA Pro 3Ds (an updated Salomon shoe that hasn’t been working out for me). The X Ultra 3 is a shoe that hikes incredibly well, feels at home on varied terrain, and can handle a heavy pack without issue. I look forward to brining you a more thorough long term review in the coming months.
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11 thoughts on “Gear Preview: Salomon X Ultra 3 Hiking Shoe”
Thanks for the review. I bought the shoes and they fit well except my heels are also slipping slightly. Did you re-lace them to put the loops in-between the top two eyelets? If so, how do you remove the Quicklaces?
I didn’t re-lace them. The only way to remove the Quicklace is to cut them off. The X Ultra 3 is a stiff shoe that breaks in a little with wear. The slip goes away a little as the break in occurs.
Cool, thanks for the info. I haven’t broken them in yet but think I won’t be able to return them so glad to hear the slip improves.
Thanks Drew. Hearing that the size 12 were fine for a 12.5 foot was just what I needed to hear!
Glad this post helped, Dale!
Hi Drew. You mention you also had the new, updated XA Pro 3D and it wasn’t working out for you (I updated my old XA Pro to the new one and I’m also not liking the new version). Does the sizing of the X Ultra 3 match that of the XA Pro 3D??
I’m not a fan of the last/shape update to the new XA Pro 3D. I like the new outsole, but the shoe is just too narrow for my foot. The X Ultra 3 fits my foot much better and is a nice replacement for the XA Pro 3D if you’re looking for a better fit.
Any idea what trail runner shoe would be similar to the Mizuno Wave Hayate 3 or the Salewa Ultra? My son wore these for the AT in 2017 and neither is available to purchase anymore.
I’ve never worn a Mizuno shoes. I’m currently wear testing the Salewa Ultra Train 2, which is a nice step up from the original. See here: https://amzn.to/2rptZWE
thanks for all of your great information Drew. I am walking the camino de santiago in September. Will be my first hike. I bought Merrell Vibram hiking shoes. Bought them at Cabellos. I know you said wear what is comfortable and a proven winner for me… that said, I will be hiking 20 km or so per day. I cannot know what these hiking shoes will wear like for comfort and durability on a path so long. thoughts? perhaps, I ought to be investing in some of your recommended shoes???
You should be training with a few 20km hikes. If you plan on hiking 20km a day on the Camino, don’t let your first day of the pilgrimage be your first attempt at that distance.