Every year I purchase the best hiking shoes I can find and test them in a head-to-head competition to see which shoe is best for me, and I share that information with you all here.
The Salomon X Ultra 4 is the latest iteration of the flagship X Ultra series and is often featured as the hiking shoe of the year among reviewers. With a perfect mix of features and performance, it excels in stability, protection, and traction. This shoe will satisfy weekend hikers and serious backpackers alike.
Already convinced? Support my ongoing testing and purchase the Salomon X Ultra 4 here.
Stability on Trail
The Advanced Chassis system from Salomon provides superior lateral stability as advertised by Salomon. This low hiker locked my foot in place and gave me confidence on the trail, making me feel connected to the terrain. The only shoe I tested that came close was the Adidas Terrex Swift R3.
Most hiking shoes will work on flat, even trails, but not all will perform when going off-trail or side-sloping. The Salomon X Ultra 4 excels in all types of terrain. The Salomon X Ultra is a great option if your hiking style is more adventurous.
The method I used to test Stability against the other shoes tested was time on the trail. I combined hikes on well-groomed trails with scampering over rough, uneven terrain.
|1. Salomon X Ultra 4||Superior stability across all terrains is provided by the ACTIVESUPPORT system combined with excellent uppers, midsoles, and outsoles.|
|2. Adidas Terrex Swift R3||Exceptional stability thanks to the ProModerator midsole system. More rigid than the X Ultra 4.|
|3. Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite||Hiking/Approach hybrid with a decent heel lock and average stability.|
|4. Merrell Moab 3||Entry-level hiking shoes, lack stability-enhancing design elements. Adequate stability for most hiking scenarios.|
|5. NorthFace Vectiv Exploris||Rocker-style outsoles work well on flat terrain but introduce significant instability off-trail.|
Traction and Grip
The Salomon X Ultra 4 provides excellent traction, easily scaling inclines with loose dirt and debris. The X Ultra 4 outperformed all other shoes except for the Adidas Terrex Swift R3. The more rigid Continental compound of the Terrex Swift R3 penetrates dirt. Also, the lugs on the outsole are slightly deeper than those on the Salomon X Ultra 4.
The chevron lug patterns on the forefoot and heel of the Salomon X Ultra 4 work well with the Contagrip compound.
I also had no noticeable issues while walking over wet, slippery rocks. I did slip somewhat, but that is to be expected with any hiking shoe.
Check out my blog post explaining the difference between grip and traction in hiking footwear.
To test traction this year, I put a different shoe on each foot and scaled a steep hill noting which shoe seemed to outperform the other. This type of head-to-head testing provides traction results for each shoe relative to the four other shoes tested.
- Adidas Terrex Swift R3 provides superior traction on loose dirt and scored first place beating all four other shoes tested.
- Salomon X Ultra 4 offers good traction on loose dirt and scored second place, beating all other shoes, losing only to the Adidas Terrex Swift R3.
- Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite, NorthFace Vectiv Exploris, and the Merrell Moab 3 were indistinguishable. They all provide adequate traction on loose dirt.
Quality hiking footwear provides more protection than a typical pair of sneakers. They may feature a rock plate between the midsole and the outsole to protect the bottom of your foot from sharp rocks. They will also typically have thicker soles, a toe cap, and possibly a rand that wraps around the edge of the shoe.
The trend from leather hiking boots to modern hiking footwear has resulted in an overall decrease in foot protection in the industry. Manufacturers offer different solutions.
The Salomon X Ultra 4 has mesh uppers but does provide adequate protection for the top of your foot and the toe box, which is protected by a toe cap.
I experienced zero issues while scampering off-trail.
For protection underfoot, I ran another head-to-head test with the four other shoes included in the testing.
I put a different shoe on each foot and then stepped on the same rock alternating each shoe. I mark down the shoe that does a better job at minimizing the pressure on the bottom of my foot. Here are the results of that testing.
|Protection Underfoot Rank||Comments|
|1. Adidas Terrex Swift R3||Hard rubber compound in the Continental outsoles are rigid but are extremely protective. They might be overkill. A softer compound would provide more grip.|
|2. NorthFace Vectiv Exploris||The second-place finish for these shoes has to do with the rocker sole design and its overall thickness, which exceeded other shoes tested.|
|3. Salomon X Ultra 4||The Contagrip outsole provides good protection and will work on virtually all hiking scenarios|
|4. Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite||The Pomoca outsole will provide adequate protection for most hiking scenarios.|
|5. Merrell Moab 3||The softer Vibram outsole has more give which meant that more pressure was applied to the bottom of my foot while testing.|
Comfort and Weight
My size 12 US men’s come in at less than one pound (14.81 ounces / 419.9 grams). Given all the features, this is a respectable weight, especially considering that the Salomon X Ultra 4 is appropriate for long-distance hikes with a backpack.
For comparison, the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite in the same size comes in at 1.16 pounds / 18.55 ounces / 525.9 grams! These were the heaviest shoes I tested in this round.
If the nearly perfect Salomon X Ultra 4 hiking shoes have one defect, it might be overall comfort. To be sure, I did NOT find them to be uncomfortable.
The X Ultra 4 has a last that will work for many feet, but not everyone can wear them. I found them to be true to size with adequate room in the forefoot and toe box, but they are rather precise.
The EVA midsole is adequate but is not as cushioning as some other shoes tested. The uppers will not overwhelm you with cushioning, but they did not impinge on my feet or cause hotspots.
The quick lace system may not be for everyone, but I had zero issues with it. They do not come untied, which I cannot say for other shoes tested, most notably the Adidas Terrex Swift R3.
Overall, comfort for the Salomon X Ultra 4 is adequate. Again, they are NOT uncomfortable even when hiking over long distances.
Check out my comprehensive article here that reviews all five shoes together.