Zut Alors! You might trip over the length of the name, but Salomon’s waterproof XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX trail shoes come dripping with the latest off-road technology; plus a little Gallic ‘je ne sais quoi’ thrown in for good measure.
Like most running footwear Salomon’s XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX are Far East made and seem well engineered and were impressed by the quality control and sound looking workmanship on our test pair.
(In the context of this review, we’ll shorten the product title to XA Pro GTX)
So how do the component parts of the XA Pro GTX measure up?
The upper face fabric looks really tough, and dense undergrowth holds no fears for these shoes; the sharp brambles made no impact into the fabric and the XA Pro GTX’s still look relatively new after a couple of months hard (muddy) plodding.
The uppers are Gore-Tex lined; giving you all the waterproof protection you need as well as a high degree of breathability. What you have to remember though is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
The XA Pro GTX version will not be as breathable as the standard XA Pro, the GTX version also feels stiffer, possibly due to the Gore-Tex lining; but there you have it: if you want year round weather protection then the XA Pro GTX is a must, but if you’re a spring and summer warrior then the standard non Gore version will serve you well – especially when it’s hot.
We came across a disparity in sizing up for the shoes, the Gore-Tex shoes seemed to come up a half-size bigger compared to the standard Ultra’s. This is important as the wrong fitting shoes might turn your toe nails black in no time; so always check with a specialist stockist first.
Even off road there’s always a large degree of pounding that your knees and feet need to overcome, or get used to, and so the mid sole area that absorbs the majority of the impact must be of good quality. The XA Pro’s employ a substantial moulded EVA sole with a depth ranging from 21mm to 11mm giving a realistic feel from impact to pushing off so you’re far from being fully divorced from the ground but still giving you plenty of impact protection.
Siping is the technique that manufactures use to get more edges from a single knobbly bit of rubber to enhance the grip. Grooves and chamfers are cut in, and around the said knobbly bit to produce a greater area of rubber and edging that will be in contact with the ground, this creates a more useable tread pattern, fore and aft, to produce better grip across all surfaces; and it works a treat on the XA Pro GTX Shoes – simples!
For quick-fire lacing Salomon use their tried and tested Quicklace System; a simple tug on the cord pulls the uppers over and around your foot very evenly to give excellent, micro-adjustable settings to get that secure and snug feeling in no time at all; then simply tuck the cord into the little pocket at the top of the tongue, and you’re away.
This type of system isn’t to everyone’s liking; we’re sure this must be down to aesthetics rather than function because in our experience it works as good, if not better, than standard lacing; especially if you’re in a hurry. The spread of pressure by the Quicklace System is evenly spaced across and over the length of the foot making for a very secure and snug fit.
We came across a little disparity in sizing up for the shoes, it isn’t a problem but the Gore-Tex shoes seemed to come up a half-size bigger compared to the standard Ultra’s.
Having sorted the size issue the initial impressions of the XA PRO GTX were very good, certainly comfortable to wear and the fit was reassuringly snug, but not tight; you still need some room for your feet to swell up a little through the course of your activity, but you don’t want to be sliding around in them either.
My foot shape is on the slim side, but the XA Pro’s wire lacing system pulled the uppers over and around my feet comfortably without creating any pressure points; I like the fact that the lacing spreads the load along the whole of the foot rather than being tight in just one area which might cause discomfort as your feet swell.
This is excellent, firm under foot with no discernible roll with my feet held nicely in place by the footbed. Pushing off is very good too, the tread pattern really working hard over mixed surfaces; it really is a treat: not too aggressive to slow you down, but certainly enough to not slip as you push off through the mud or lose surfaces; although there’s not much anyone can do about gravel and small pebbles of course.
Michelin Stars all-round; in a parallel universe where trail shoes become TV chefs’ the Salomon XA Pro’s are definitely the Gordon Ramsey of trail shoes: aggressive, confident and loud, but performance wise – they can’t be faulted.