Major redesign: Salomon X Ultra 4 preview

The Salomon X Ultra is the favorite hiking shoe of fellow guide Dave Eitemiller, and it’s one of my recommendations for high routes, early-season conditions, and Alaska. It stands out for its durability, traction, support, and protection, all in a reasonably lightweight package.

The X Ultra 4 will be released in spring 2021, and it has undergone significant changes from the third-generation X Ultra 3.

Styles

The X Ultra 4 will be available in three styles:

  • X Ultra 4 ($120, 12.6 oz)
  • X Ultra 4 GTX ($160, 13.7)
  • X Ultra 4 GTX Mid ($165, 14.9 oz)

Each style will be available in WIDE sizes.

Salomon rightly expects that that the GTX Mid will be the top-seller in this family, because most hikers and backpackers still think that they need a waterproof shoe to keep their foot dry (even though they don’t work) and a mid-top to prevent ankle sprains (which isn’t really the best solution). But for nearly all three-season backpacking, I’d recommend the basic breathable low-top version — it’s the lightest and least expensive, will be the most comfortable in mild or warm temperatures, will dry out most quickly, and will provide about as much stability as the mid version.

X Ultra 4 breathable low-cut, men’s
One of the women’s colorways

What has (not) changed?

Most visibly and perhaps most superficially, the aesthetics have been updated, with a cleaner, sleeker and more streamlined look. Salomon’s trail running shoes have undergone a similar transformation in recent years, and this look is now migrating to its hiking/backpacking footwear.

The most significant structural change is the new ADV Chassis, which according to Salomon “maintains the stability, control, and protection in the heel while cutting weight.” The shoe is lighter (by 0.5 ounces), but I can’t yet verify if this is a game-changing feature, marketing hype, or (probably) something in between.

The outsole retains its aggressive lug pattern, but the rubber compound will be a slightly stickier Contagrip MA (Mixed Adhesion), for better performance on rocks and trails, and in wet settings. Typically, stickier rubbers are also less durable, though I don’t think this is a reason for concern here — the X Ultra 3 outsole is very hard-wearing.

The lug pattern of the X Ultra 3 (in photo) will carry over to the X Ultra 4, but the compound will be slightly sticker (and presumably slightly less durable).

Importantly, the fit has not changed, with no difference in the last or volume. So if you liked the fit of the X Ultra 3, you will probably also like the fit of the X Ultra 4. Salomon reports that some wear-testers have said that the toebox feels roomier, and suspects this is due to the overlays/structure of the upper and how it rests on one’s foot. The X Ultra tends to fit average-sized feet — hikers and backpackers who can’t comfortably wear the small-volume La Sportiva Bushidos or the large-volume Altras.

The X Ultra 4 still has QuickLaces, which are convenient but which can be a liability in gritty environments.

Questions about the X Ultra 4?

Leave a comment. I can inquire with the media rep, and may have some first-person experience by March 2021.

Posted in on December 1, 2020
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16 Comments

  1. David W on December 1, 2020 at 10:13 am

    What shoe models would you recommend someone with high volume feet take a look at for high routes/off trail? My Altras get really beat up and are pretty lousy on such uneven terrain.

  2. Brian on December 1, 2020 at 11:09 am

    Sadly Altras haven’t been large volume since 2017.

    Foot-shaped toe box != large volume.

    Altras are impossibly narrow in the mid-foot now for anyone who typically wears wide shoes.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 1, 2020 at 12:59 pm

      I feel like it might be more accurately said, “Sadly the volume of Altras has not been *as large* since 2017.” Even in their narrower configuration, my feet still swim in those boats.

      • Brian on December 1, 2020 at 1:12 pm

        That’s fair.

        I’m just disappointed that a company that markets themselves as making “foot-shaped shoes” also only sells them as “one shape fits all.”

        I nearly gave up on trail runners entirely until I found Hoka’s Speedgoat 4 in wide. They just *barely* fit me.

  3. Jesse on December 1, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    Andrew-
    Thanks for the info about the X Ultra 4.

    Brian-
    Would suggest looking at Topo Athletic shoes, they may be a possibility for you.

  4. RD on December 1, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    The low X Ultra 4 GTX is live on Salomon.com!

  5. Ryan on December 3, 2020 at 8:18 pm

    Will there be a wide version like the 3 Ultra?

    • Andrew Skurka on December 4, 2020 at 7:31 am

      I’d assume so, but let me ask.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 4, 2020 at 5:58 pm

      here’s what I have for you:

      “There are currently WIDE versions across the X Ultra 3 collection available, and there will also be WIDE versions across the X Ultra 4 collection.”

  6. bigcal on December 4, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    this means we are losing the x ultra mid aero?

    • Andrew Skurka on December 4, 2020 at 5:59 pm

      I’ve seen no mention of a breathable/non-GTX mid, so I think you assume yes, it’s gone.

  7. Andrew McElwee on December 9, 2020 at 11:18 am

    I’ve tried the current model and they feel impossibly stiff and uncomfortable. I love the Cascadia fit, but they just get destroyed so quickly backpacking. Any recs?

    • Andrew Skurka on December 9, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      The X Ultra and the Cascadia are pretty different shoes. Cascadias will be much more comfortable out of the box, but they’ll last a fraction of the time as the X Ultras. The X Ultras will be less forgiving, but they’ll be more reliable.

      Recommended footwear for high routes, Alaska, and early-season conditions, https://andrewskurka.com/recommended-footwear-for-high-routes-alaska-and-early-season-conditions/

      I’m less able to speak to on-trail shoes. Cascadia, Lone Peak, Challenger ATR, Peregrine are some of the more popular ones.

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