For the second time this year, I purchased a brand-new pair of hiking boots (shoes, to be specific) from Cotswold Outdoor.
My reason for this was simple: I wanted something lightweight for fast-paced, warm weather walks and also, I was curious to test a growing belief that full ankle support isn’t often necessary.
So, after around two-hundred miles in my trail-ready shoes, here are my thoughts on the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX.
From the moment I tried them on, I was impressed. They felt very comfortable and even more lightweight than my walking boots (also made by Salomon) that I’m otherwise comfortable with.
I purchased these ‘blind’ (online and delivered to my door) and guestimated the size to be a UK 11, after reading numerous ‘tight fitting’ comments in the reviews of the Ultra 3’s predecessors. However, I would always recommend someone visits a store (like Cotswold) to have your feet measured properly.
On the Scales
My first choice walking boot for the past couple of years has been the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX. In a post a few months ago, I showed you that they (in a UK 10½) weigh in at 1.164kg.
Compared to that, my Salomon X Ultra 3s (UK 11) weigh in at 953g and 211g less. Not a huge amount, perhaps but, many will tell you that every gram counts while out on the trail.
At the time of buying these, they were sold exclusively by Cotswold. However, I’ve since noticed them appearing on the websites of other known retailers. I only became aware of them after seeing them featured in an e-mail, announcing that they were brand-new. My preference was for the blue styling, over what may be considered a ‘trail runner’s red’.
So far, I’ve worn them across a variety of terrain (although, no mountains yet) and through various weather conditions. I do apologise for the volume of mud in my images but I do clean and re-proof these boots weekly and it does show you that I have been wearing them.
This model is very similar from a trail-running shoe, with perhaps a few extra grams added for padding and protecting around the toe. They also featured Salomon’s Quick-Lace system, which does appear to be popular amongst runners.
For me, this was not a feature that would’ve drawn my interest but, I remained curious, having not experienced it before.
Essentially, you pull the top loop upwards and then slide the plastic fastener down towards the laces. I’ve not had any issues with the lacing system working lose, once I’d figured out how to stow away the excess…
I couldn’t make full sense of Salomon’s instruction card (supplied, tied to the boot) and had to resort to a YouTube video, before realising there’s a pouch on the front of the tongue, in to which, you can tuck away the excess lacing, once it’s been rolled up. Again, this holds well once you’ve figured it out.
My one concern with the laces is that they are very thin. At a guess, they could be as small as 1.5mm. I’ve read the occasional review stating that they will snap (replacements are available). As a four-season walker, my only concern is that they’re probably not stout enough to hold the hook from a pair of gaiters.
I Got Sole
Inside, you’ll find Salomon’s standard Ortholite footbed… Not pictured, because I’ve replaced them with Superfeet Carbon insoles.
My Salomon soles now live in my safety trainers for work and I upgraded to Superfeet because I found I was getting pain along the plantar fascia tendon underneath both feet.
Many people will comment on how ‘slippery’ Salomon soles can be. I’ve yet to fall on my backside with these on but, equally, I’ve not been climbing over wet rocks and mountain paths in them, either.
If people can run thirty-miles in similar shoes without complaining then, how bad can they really be?
It’s another form of Salomon’s Contagrip design, which is also featured on the Quest 4D 2s (bottom shoe of the photo above).
Are They Waterproof?
Someone recently asked me this on Instagram and, sadly, I had to admit that they are not one-hundred per cent waterproof. This was something I learned on my very first walk in them around Wiltshire and, even after further cleaning and waterproofing, their repellency has not improved.
To clarify, I’d say these boots are only about ninety-per cent waterproof:
A shame, as they are lined with GoreTex internally.
I took this photo in the Peak District near Edale about a month ago and purely for the benefit of this review. You can see from my sock, that the tops of my toes were wet. Not saturated but the wet grass I’d encountered had left an impression. Elsewhere, my feet were untouched.
I’ve had this experience several times now that I am convinced it is water penetrating and not a result of perspiration.
The Ankle Support Debate
So, there’s a growing opinion (mostly springing from long-distance walkers and backpackers) that full-height ankle support (as on the Quest 4D 2 boot) may be unnecessary for average walking and also, detrimental to the strength of your ankles.
This theory goes that, if your ankles are fully supported them, you’re not going to use those muscles. Yes, they’ll be protected from knocks, scrapes and twists but, when we don’t use our muscles, they do weaken.
When was the last time you fell over your ankle while out walking? Have you ever gashed that part of your leg on a rock?
I’m not wishing to tempt “Fate” here but I’ve had no such trouble in the X Ultra 3s. When I first started wearing them, I noticed an initial ache up and down my Achilles tendon, as if to suggest I’d not been using it. I’ve also switched to wearing support-free trainers at work, instead of high boots.
Comfortable, lightweight boots that fit my feet well.
…But, as with all honest reviews, there have to be Negatives as well.
For the following analysis, I’m looking only at the right boot:
Within the first month, I’d noticed this material peeling away on the inside of the heel. I didn’t think much of it then and still don’t now, as an isolated incident.
While taking these photos this evening, I became aware of what looks like stitching beginning to unravel down the inside from the laces and the creases – which, to be fair, I’ve experienced with every pair of boots I’ve owned.
Beneath the dirt, I’ve found yet more material lifting away from the outside of the heel. To me, this is as concerning as in the second photo and I do not think this could be attributed to scuffing the shoe against a rock or tree. From a manufacturing point of view, the quality is not good enough.
There is an argument, here, that I should be taking these shoes to Cotswold Outdoor and seeking a refund or replacement. Their service is usually second to none.
I don’t intend to wear these shoes through the wet winter (that’s not why I bought them) and I don’t want people to read my words and decide instantly that they’re not going to buy them.
I’m trying to remain optimistic that I might have purchased one pair from what was a bad batch off the production line. I do hope that a replacement pair, if attainable and supplied, will justify that.