Gear review: Salomon X Ultra 3 Hiking Shoes

My favorite hiking shoes of all time are the Montrail Hardrocks.

Overlooking Bear Peak in Boulder.

Legions of hikers and runners loved the Pre-Columbia buyout version.  At about 13 oz per shoe, not as light as the minimalist shoes currently in vogue, but lighter than boots, trail shoes, and some trail runners even today.

The Hardrocks ended up being a rugged shoe good for trail runs on rough trails and off-trail jaunts. No surprise many hikers putting in mileage ended up gravitating towards these shoes as well.

A versatile shoe for outdoor jaunts on foot.

Three people recently finished their thru-hikes that November.

But trends change and business goals become modified.  Montrail, under the aegis of Columbia, makes more minimalist shoes.

An all-purpose running shoe with a strong hiker devotion is (probably) not in line with those goals

So I’ve been trying different shoes on and off for the past decade and more.

I loved the Altra Superiors for on-trail jaunts in addition to the wider toe box and their overall comfort but found them lacking during off-trail endeavors and rough trails.  They did not last. The GDT chewed them up in two weeks. Additionally, I found them lacking in performance on loose scree, talus, and any hiking beyond a  Class 2 scramble.

The Brooks Cascadias showed promise, but the toe box is too tight on newer versions and does not fit me well.

Then in Canada, I found an all-purpose shoe that is working and reminds me a bit of the Montrail Hardrocks: the Salomon X Ultra 3.   At about 13 oz per shoe, less mesh and more substantial fabric, a stiffer and reasonably agressive sole, and similar shape and toe-box, I feel these shoes are the Hardrocks reincarnated in many ways. Naturally, I prefer the non-Gortex version, as I think Gortex is crap for shoes. 😉

The salesperson at Lake Louise advocated them quite a bit for the Canadian Rockies. And the very shoes on his feet? Some well used, but still very functional looking, Salomon Ultras.

I wore the shoes for the next 300+ miles through the Canadian Rockies. And after in my new home.

On the talus slope of Mt. Peale in the La Sals

The shoes are accompanying me on off-trail jaunts, through talus and scree, and some scrambling in the mountains and canyons of Utah. I’ve only worn the Altra shoes for local hikes on well-maintained trails.

The majority of my hiking and backpacking tends to be in obscure areas away from these well-maintained trails. And though the Altras work OK, the Salomons work better in a variety of conditions.

I feel more secure with my footing, the pull-up laces lock in place better, and I have the support I need when on tricky scrambles. I’d comfortably use these shoes in Class 4 conditions if need be. And the overall fit works for my generally wider foot.

Are the shoes perfect? Of course not. No gear is perfect, afterall.

Climbing up Mt. Peale. PCO of Joan W.

It is telling I look forward to unlacing the Salomons at the end of a hiking day. The Altras feel like comfortable bedroom slippers at all times!

And though 13 oz is not heavy compared to other hiking shoes and even some trail runners, in the day of minimalist hiking shoes, the 6-ounce total difference between Salomon and the Altras can be noticeable. For well-maintained trails or even easier off-trail hikes, the Altra’s lighter weight and comfort are more desirable. And where I’ll continue to use these shoes.

But for other hikes outside these parameters? I’ll stick to my Salomon Ultra 3s. After over a decade, I think I found my new all-purpose hiking shoes that can take on scree surfing, scrambling up canyon ledges and hike trails that have not seen a Pulaski in years.

(UPDATE) And as noted in the comments below, the inserts are sub-par. However, I almost always replace the factory inserts. The exception being the Altras with the “foot shaped” toe-box.

Overall view: The Salomon X Ultra 3 hiking shoes are an excellent all-purpose shoe for trails, scrambles, and rough terrain. The support, stability, and fit work well for my hiking style and hiking locations. For well-maintained trails and less rough terrain, I’ll still use my Altras.

Disclaimer: I purchased all the shoes mentioned in this article with my funds.


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5 years ago

I used these on the GDT too, by chance. They were the best thing for sale at the gear shop in Waterton. They lasted a long time for me, too, and I was overall really pleased for off-trail use. I don’t love the speed lacing system (great when you need to lace up with cold gloved fingers, bad when you want to loosen or tighten any specific part of the foot). My biggest beef was actually the insoles, however. As soon as they got wet, they started to bunch up at the front of the shoe. They were total garbage… Read more »

5 years ago

I found the Montrail Hardrocks (women’s version) when I finally decided to change from boots to trail runners. This was also, unfortunately, the same time that Columbia Sportswear bought out Montrail. I need a wide and high toe box (have hammer toes and bunions to deal with) and extra narrow heels–I have AAAAA width heels and B to C width forefoot. After the first year (when Columbia must have been using the old last), the Hardrocks quickly changed to wider heels and less support even while they were still calling them Hardrocks. I ended up switching to New Balance running… Read more »

5 years ago

You mentioned awhile back that your feet had widened so the new Cascadias were too tight on you. How’s the toe box width on these Salomons? Did you have to size up to get a good fit?