So aside from photography, one of my other great loves is outdoor gear. It all started from my first ever part time job in a high-end outdoor shop. I think I ended up spending most of the money I earned on all sorts of bits of kit. It started out harmlessly enough, buying tents and camp stoves. But over time it graduated to Arc'Teryx jackets, Meindl boots and, Icebreaker base layers, and that junkie attitude has never left me. Before I set off on my little 6 week trip from Australia back home to the UK, I was like a kid in a candy store picking out all the things I would need..... for survival purposes obviously!!!
Anyway, I thought I would write a little review of a couple of my purchases. So far so good all in all, so mostly of this is first impressions after a 5 days hiking in NZ winter, which seems like a good enough acid test to me. I think this may become a little mini series I'll write as I get access to hostel Wi-Fi. Anyway, part 1, shoes.
Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra:
Its not like I have found some hidden gem here, these are one of Salmons best selling pieces of foot-ware. I think I must have sold over 100 of these in my time, but I never had the chance to test them out, as I always preferred wearing a full leather boot for big walks. Right now, I am using these for everything, from day to day about town walking to full on hiking and even as hostel slippers. So far they have performed great and I would absolutley recomend them to someone looking for a new pair of hiking shoes. Now I should point out before we start, I am using these as a hiking shoe, and not for running, so if you are looking for a running shoe, a lot of this may not apply to you.
My first impression is simply that that these are ridiculously comfy. These are often used as a trail running shoe, and it clear why. Salamon has put a lot of effort into their "3D chassis" and it shows, as the cushioning makes it feel like wearing a running shoe, with all the grip and stability of a more conventional hiking shoe. This trail running pedigree also shows itself in the weight. I have heard it said that for a running shoe they can be a bit on the heavy side, but at just under 1kg for a size 11, personally I found them to be super light, especially compared to the leather boots I am used to. One major point however is that these seem to be cut quite narrow. I don't have a wide food at all, and I fit it perfectly with a relatively light sock. If you have wide feet, these may not be very comfortable for you.
The grip is excellent, it uses a Contragrip rubber with deep tread, and fairly wide spaced groves in the sole. I have been walking across wet rocks, mud, gravel and wooden-boarded stairs so far and I haven't at any point felt a lack of decent grip. The build of the shoe also provides significant arch support, which I think also helps for better weight distribution across the sole.
Waterproofing is a fairly quick point to cover. Salomon use the industry standard GoreTex lining to the shoe, which is fully waterproof for all intents and purposes, and very breathable. The only let-down to waterproofing, as with any hiking shoe, is where the tongue of the shoe meets the main body there is a bit of a gap. Its not really a major issue, just remember that as with any shoe, you are really only waterproof below that point.
Lacing is possibly the only point of issue here. Salmon use a unique quick lace system that utilities a draw-sting and toggle system to allow you to adjust your lacing on the go. I have found it to work great, but I have heard people say that it doesn't feel like a normal shoelace, and can feel a bit less sturdy on really hard walks.
- Very quick to lace
- Very easy to use
- Seems just as strong as regular laces
- Doesn't seem to loosen easily
- Will be a pain to replace is it does break. Bootlaces are available just about anywhere, toggle systems not so much
- Has a weird fit. I think this is a love-it or hate-it thing, and you just have to try them on to see for yourself if you like it.
Buying Summary - Would Recommend