Within this particular testing class, the Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX had the comfort of a Merrell, the construction of a Lowa, and performance in a class of its own. This is the kind of shoe where if the fit is right, you’ll probably remain loyal for life. But the trick will be in getting use to the Quicklace system.
The X Ultra has found the perfect mix of fast and sleek with phenomenal stability and performance. The Contagrip outsole outperformed the Vibram sole and gave added confidence while traveling over boulder-strewn trails as well as class 3 or 4 scrambling. Between the mid- and outer sole is an Advanced Chassis technology, which reinforces stability on uneven, rocky terrain. This was most notable when descending steep grades with numerous boulder obstacles, providing better support – and ultimately comfort – on longer days.
If the X Ultra had a mild weakness, it might be in its protection. The Gore-Tex performed well with a functional gusseted tongue and the toe guard provided above average protection, but the rest of the shoe was vulnerable. The mud guard surrounding the shoe was useful, but the material in between these guards was prone to rip during normal wear. The toe cap performed well in rocky terrain and hadn’t begun to peel even after many miles under its belt. On a trip to the Mount Oso Massif deep in the Weminuche Wilderness, the shoe was able to withstand numerous steep scree slopes, long approaches with a 35 pound backpack and consistent time spent scrambling, standing out with its versatility across the differing terrains. While the X Ultra might not be centered around its protection, it more than makes up for this in basically all the other categories.
This was the only shoe that contended with the Merrell’s level of comfort. While it doesn’t necessarily tailored to a wide foot, it contours quite well and with an Ortholite insole and Sensifit technology, it’s like enjoying a customized fit out of the box with no break-in period. It utilizes a two-tiered footbed system with the Ortholite foam reinforced with an EVA heel cup that really cradles the heel, giving it maximum support and comfort. The Ortholite foam is advertised as a cooling and drying agent for the foot, but this never seems to function properly, especially on really long days. With that being said, the X Ultra was one of the more breathable shoes in its class and almost felt like a trail runner at times due to its light, fast, and airy nature.
The construction of the X Ultra exceeded expectations, especially given the fair price point. It’s the best bang for your buck. The amount of technology and materials applied to this shoe compared with the price is what made this shoe the best in its class on just about every level. From the reinforced Advanced Chassis between the mid and upper soles, the cradled Sensifit footbed system, the Contragrip outsole and the blend of Gore-Tex lining and breathability the shoe offered, all these factors added up were nearly impossible to contend with. This shoe also endured some of the longer days in the mountains, with a couple 15+ mile days in the Sangre De Cristo Range and a long backpacking trip into a secluded area of the Weminuche Wilderness with plenty of steep scree fields just waiting to tear apart hiking shoes. Despite all those miles, the shoes are in great shape; a testament to the construction.
As stated in the construction criteria, when considering the technology that goes into this shoe, its comfort, and moderately low price point, the X Ultra stands out from the rest. Its versatility can’t be ignored as it has the stability needed to carry heavy packs on long days, as well as the performance, grip, and breathability for light, short scrambles. Finally, the ease of use of the Quicklace system makes for an easy-on, easy-off minimalistic style too.
As mentioned before in the categories of construction, comfort, and stability, the X Ultra 2 performed as well as any other shoe in its class during long hikes on trail, yet provided all-day comfort and breathability. It did well on high alpine scrambles where stability and support were paramount and its construction held up to the rigors of long backpacking trips that included multiple days of peak bagging through unforgiving steep and loose terrain.