The Salomon Odyssey Pro was introduced to me at Outdoor Retailer as “a thru-hiking shoe with running shoe design cues.” That sounded interesting and right up my alley, so I asked for a review pair to test while leading trips this summer in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. Our routes were a mix of on- and off-trail, and included portions of both the Pfiffner Traverse and Kings Canyon High Basin Route.
Review: Salomon Odyssey Pro Hiking Shoes
The Odyssey Pro is ideal for hikers and backpackers that want a lightweight, comfortable, and quick-drying shoe combined with a robust outsole. It is more suitable for on-trail than off-trail hiking, and it will best fit average/large foot widths and average/large foot volumes.
The Odyssey Pro looks and feels more like a Salomon running shoe than a Salomon hiking shoe. It’s lightweight, at just 11.1 oz (men’s size 9), which is only 1.3 and 1.4 oz heavier than my current favorite trail running shoes, the Salomon Sense Ultra and Hoka One One Speedgoat 2.
Its upper consists of airy and supple mesh with TPU overlays and a reinforced toe bumper; and its midsole touts Vibe Technlogy, Energy Cell + EVA foam, and Opal Technology. These materials, construction techniques, and features are found throughout Salomon’s running shoes, but not in its hiking shoes.
The feature that most distinguishes the Odyssey Pro as a hiking-specific shoe is its outsole. The volume of high quality Contrgrip rubber seems like it should endure a 1,000-mile summer, not the usual 300-500 miles that I expect of more thinly endowed trail running shoes.
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This is not Salomon’s first attempt at a “hiking shoe” with a running pedigree. In 2012 Salomon released the Synapse, which it had developed with former Appalachian Trail speed-record holder Jennifer Pharr Davis.
I wore the Synapse extensively while scouting the Kings Canyon High Basin Route and guiding off-trail trips in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The first generation needed a few tweaks (e.g. more airflow, substitution of the Quick Laces for conventional laces, and improved outsole manufacturing to prevent peeling lugs) but it was generally an excellent shoe.
Yet the Synapse struggled to gain traction, and it was dropped. I suspect one challenge — perhaps the main one — was at the retail level: Should the Synapse be grouped with other hiking shoes, with which it has little in common; or with running shoes, where hikers can’t find it?
Before rolling out the Odyssey Pro, I wonder if Salomon first learned to crack this nut.
Odyssey Pro specs
- Weight: 11.1 oz (316 g) in US 9M, 13.1 oz (371 g) in US 11.5M
- Upper: Breathable mesh with TPU exoskeleton and reinforced toe bumper
- Outsole: Significant volume of High Traction Contragrip, waffle iron pattern
- Stack height: 31 mm heel, 21 mm forefoot
- Drop: 10 mm
- Midsole: Energy Cell + EVA foam, Vibe Technology, Opal Technology
- MSRP: $140
- More information
My narrow and small-volume feet were an immediate mismatch for the Odyssey Pro, which has a wide last and generous toebox. To get a secure hold on my mid-foot, I had to take nearly all of the slack out of the laces.
If the Sense Ultra, Hoka Speedgoat 2, or La Sportiva Bushido fit you like a glove, you should pass on the Odyssey Pro. Whereas if you have a positive history with the Salomon XA Pro, Altra Lone Peak 3.5, and Merrell Moab 2, the Odyssey Pro is a promising prospect for you.
To their credit, the Odyssey Pro is not offensively sloppy for smaller feet. I have reviewed other oversized models (e.g. Altra Lone Peak 3.0) that feel too squirrely for anything beyond pavement or gravel bike trails. Whereas with the Odyssey Pro, I felt reasonably sure-footed on steep granite slabs and Class 3 passes (although not as secure as I would have with the Bushidos).
The mesh + TPU exoskeleton has proven a winner on Salomon running shoes. It’s light, airy, quick drying, and supple; and it’s capable of contouring around the foot perfectly. When I have retired Salomon running shoes, the killer has been the outsole (which becomes bald) or midsole (which flattens out). The uppers are still in great shape after 500 miles — Salomon seems to have the materials and construction dialed.
However, in a hiking application, I doubt these lightweight uppers will fair as well, because the shoe will be subject to more abrasion and it will be soaking wet more often. In addition, the toebox is only moderately protected, using some stiffer TPU. I’d be willing to kick steps across snow and scramble up short pitches in the Odyssey Pro, but I wouldn’t want to do it everyday or on very high-stakes terrain.
Bottom line: the Odyssey Pro is most well suited for on-trail hiking, not off-trail routes and/or borderline mountaineering in early-season conditions. For hiking the AT, PCT, CDT, etc., this seems like a good candidate.
The Odyssey Pro features conventional laces, not the Quick Laces that are a hallmark of Salomon running shoes. This is a positive: the Quick Laces tend to fail if exposed long-term to sand, dust, or mud, because the grit abrades the lacing sheath. Of course, hiking shoes are constantly exposed to these elements.
Unfortunately, Salomon chose a linguini-shaped lace that is floppy and difficult to tie. I would happily accept a thicker lace that that is more hand-friendly, even if it absorbs more water.
The Odyssey Pro midsole features a lot of fancy-sounding technologies, e.g. Vibe, Opal, and Energy Cell +. I generally understand them, but I think the gains can probably only be measured in a lab. In the field, the sensation is within the range of normal, and I don’t think a 15-mile-per-day hiker will suddenly be keeping pace with Joe (“Stringbean”) McConaughy.
It’s a well-balanced midsole, and overall very comfortable. The Odyssey Pro is lightly cushioned: not marshmellowy like a classic Hoka, or stiff like the Bushido. With a stack height of 31/21 mm (heel/toe), there is enough foam to absorb impact, but it’s not top-heavy. For comparison, the Bushido is 25/19 mm; Lone Peak 3.5 is 25/25 mm; and Speedgoat 2 is 32/27.5 mm.
A perpetual complaint I have with Salomon shoes is the insole. A branded insole, Ortholite, is often used, and bizarrely they are often made of open-cell foam. Yes, they are soft and comfortable. But they absorb an unacceptable amount of water, and when wet they lose structural rigidity and sometimes “accordion” under the toes.
It’s a small detail, but it needs to be done better.
Many backpackers prefer trail running shoes instead of conventional hiking shoes or boots. Count me among them: trail running shoes are lighter, more comfortable, more breathable, faster drying, etc.
But trail running shoes are not optimized for hiking. In particular, the outsoles usually wear out too quickly.
With the Odyssey Pro, Salomon applied a hiking-worthy outsole to what is otherwise a trail running shoe. It has a considerable amount of rubber that should last closer to 1,000 miles than the normal 500. The square lugs with 90-degree edges bite well into all surfaces.
Have questions about or an experience with the Odyssey Pro? Please leave a comment.
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