The XA Elevate is Salomon’s newest entry into their “On & Off Trail” shoe line-up. These shoes are designed for high alpine pursuits and are perfectly suited for steep terrain and challenging underfoot conditions. The XA Elevate is built on a highly stable 8mm-drop midsole and has a Premium Wet-Traction Contragrip outsole that clings on to anything and everything.
If the XA Elevate looks familiar to you, you’re not mistaken. This ‘new’ shoe is essentially last years XA Enduro with a new upper that sheds the Enduro’s internal bootie. The bootie on the XA Enduro caused some heel slip in my experience, so I was very happy to see a new, nearly identical model without it. I’ve been putting the XA Enduro to the test over the past few months and will share my experience in this review.
Fit and Feel:
Sizing and Weight: I wear a size 12 in the XA Elevate which is the same size I wear in a street shoe and most other shoes. This shoe fits similar to the Salomon Sense Ride, but with a little more room up front. My size 12 comes in at just under 12oz per shoe, which is very light for a shoe offering this much underfoot protection.
Heel: The XA Elevate has a semi-rigid heel counter and a highly padded heel area with a deep cup. The fit is just about perfect in the heel for my foot, and has never caused any hot spots or rubbing.
Midfoot: The midfoot is the one area of the XA Elevate that doesn’t quite work for my foot shape. My midfoot is on the wider side, and this shoe is pretty narrow. Salomon shoes tend to run narrow in general, but the new Sensi-fit midfoot wrap makes it much more noticeable on the XA Elevate. If you’re familiar with the Sense Ride, Sense Pro Max, or any of Salomons SLAB shoes, you’ll know that their midfoot Sensi-fit support is created using a welded overlay that wraps and flexes with the foot. The XA Elevate uses a different material that doesn’t flex or move as much. This is a great improvement for lateral stability and overall foot security, but a little uncomfortable at first for those with wider feet. With time, the shoe has broken in and I’ve figured out an optimal lacing tension for long term comfort.
Toebox: The XA Elevate has a very comfortable toebox that fits my foot well. The width is more than enough for toe splay, with no room for slop or unwanted movement. The volume is on the lower side, but opens up as the fabrics break in.
The XA Elevate is a shoe that will make devoted Salomon fans happy when it comes to the fit. The heel, midfoot, and toebox are precise and dialed in just right.
The upper on the XA Elevate uses an open mesh in the heel and toebox, but a stiffer and more protective fabric through the midfoot. The midfoot fabric is great for long term durability and lateral stability, but feels a bit crinkly during the break-in period. When I first tried on the XA Elevate, I was actually worried that this fabric would cause rubbing issues as it folded at the creases when walking. After a few months of wear, the fabric has smoothed out and has yet to cause any issues.
I mentioned the Sensi-fit wrap in the midfoot of the XA Pro in the ‘fit and feel’ section above. You can see them in the photo below, as they run from the sole of the shoe up into the lacing system. This midfoot wrap can be a tight fit for wide feet, but is absolutely incredible for lateral stability on uneven trails. This is one of the most secure fitting shoes I’ve ever tested.
The XA Elevate has a pretty robust toe guard that uses a layer of material under a welded overlay. I’ve blasted my toes into quite a few rocks and this toe guard has kept my feet very well protected.
The XA Elevate is a great shoe for wet trails, as they drain and dry very quickly. I was worried at first that the thick padding in the heel and tongue would absorb water and not dry out, but my initial feelings have proven to be unfounded.
Salomon uses a standard tongue for the XA Elevate that is thickly padded. I really like this thickly padded tongue, as I can ratchet down the Kevlar Quick-laces without any pressure on the top of my feet. That is not something I am able to do with Salomon shoes using thinner Endo-fit sleeves. There is a full gusset on top of the tongue that keeps out dirt and debris. This is the same tongue and gusset system used on the Salomon XA Pro 3D.
Platform: The Salomon XA Elevate is built on an 8mm drop, with 26mm in the heel and 18mm in the forefoot. I’m really stoked that Salomon has made the XA Elevate an 8mm drop shoe, as this feels like the sweet spot for my running gait and hiking style.
Cushion: For the composition of the midsole, Salomon uses a dual-density compressed EVA that rides on the firm and stable side. If you’re looking for a plush marshmallow of a shoe, the XA Elevate probably won’t be for you. This shoe is responsive and provides incredible underfoot protection. I’ve taken the XA Elevate on talus filled trails and smooth buffed out single track, on long day hikes and short ridge routes, this is a shoe that doesn’t care which trail you’re on. It can do it all.
Flex: The XA Elevate provides a torsionally rigid platform with just enough flex at toe off. This is not a flexible or flimsy shoe, making it a great choice for days when you’re on uneven terrain, or when you’re hiking with more than just a daypack.
To provide this stable platform, Salomon uses what they call Advanced Chassis. For those that have worn the XA Pro 3D, X Ultra 3, or Wings Pro 2, you’ll know that Salomon uses a plastic 3D chassis to provide a stable underfoot ride. For the XA Elevate, Salomon uses a dual density midsole, with a super dense EVA foam instead of using plastic. This provides a stable and supportive ride that feels much more comfortable on long trail day and on outings when I mix in a little running.
Protection: For underfoot protection on the XA Elevate, Salomon uses a full length Pro-feel Film. Pro-feel Film is a flexible stone guard that Salomon uses in their shoes to protect feet from sharp rocks and roots. In most of Salomons trails shoes, they only use this film in a limited area of the forefoot. I love that they have created a shoe that provides a full coverage protection zone. I’ve walked over some really rocky trails without my feet being any worse for the wear.
As much as I love the midsole on the XA Elevate, the outsole is my favorite part of this shoe. It starts with the design of the lug pattern where Salomon uses a series of trapezoidal lugs. These lugs have large surface areas to provide traction on smooth surfaces like granite slabs. Salomon uses their tried and true Premium Wet Traction Contagrip for the rubber compound which I’ve found to be one of the best in regards to traction and durability.
The trapezoidal lugs on the XA Elevate have enough depth for biting into sand, gravel, and mud, but can still handle fire roads and asphalt without issue. The lugs are also well spaced, which means mud and slush shed easily.
Salomon is using Premium Wet Traction Contagrip and this same or similar outsole pattern on almost every one of their new shoes. It’s for a good reason, as I find this combination to be the most dynamic and versatile on the market today.
Despite the narrow midfoot fit, the Salomon XA Elevate is one of my favorite trail shoes to date. The midsole and outsole combine to make a comfortable, protective, and dynamic trail shredder that handles everything I throw at them. The XA Elevate is the perfect shoe for peak baggers, off-trail scramblers, and casual hikers. They also carry a pack well, making them ideal for backpackers and thru-hikers. Most importantly, the XA Elevate comes in at a very reasonable $130, making them one of the more affordable high-feature trail shoes on the market today.
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