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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39 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.

  8. Stu on January 29, 2021 at 8:24 pm

    Are you fairly sure that the X Ultra 4 low non-GTX will be available in WIDE?

    I spoke with Salomon customer service, and have been unable to get confirmation. They did confirm that a WIDE does not exist in the low non-GTX and the Ultra 3 will be discontinued.

    • Andrew Skurka on January 31, 2021 at 5:35 pm

      I quoted exactly what my media rep told me. Her information may have been correct then, and Salomon could have changed their factory orders based on retailer bookings, or CS is wrong.

  9. Alena on February 8, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you for the info on X Ultra 4. My all time favorite shoe for hiking/backpacking was the low breathable X Ultra 2. Unfortunately the x ultra 3 is a lot narrower in the forefoot and didn’t work for me. Any chance the new model may be similar fit to the 2s? I go through several pair a season and I can’t find anymore of the 2s on eBay and places 😉

  10. Peter on February 10, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    Does the X Ultra 4 GTX have the stitched seam on the inside of the heel or is it seamless?

    • Andrew Skurka on February 11, 2021 at 9:20 am

      I’m uncertain. Maybe someone who has bought a pair can chime in.

  11. Dale Lamell on February 16, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    I just returned a pair of Ultra x 3 mid because the toe box was slightly undersized. Wondering if the Ultra 4 will truly have more room or should I go with a wide size. Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka on February 16, 2021 at 4:15 pm

      Not sure what “slightly” means to you, but if they were brand new they could have actually have been just right. The midsole on most shoes will pack out with a little bit of weight/use, giving you some extra room inside the shoe; and the upper fabrics usually soften and stretch some, too.

  12. Corey on February 17, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    Hi, it’s so rare to find a non-waterproof hiking shoe that isn’t specifically a trail runner. Do you have other recomendations for non-waterproof shoes?

  13. Dave on February 22, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    I really liked my X Ultra 2’s, and the 3’s are even better. But wth is up with that ridiculous heel tab on these 4’s? I’m sure it’s not very firm but it would still rub the back of my ankle raw. Looks like it’s another pair of the 3’s and hoping Salomon drops that bad idea.

    • jeremy carr on February 23, 2021 at 8:25 am

      Hi, I’ve had loads of the previous guise of these shoes but there build quality is seriously rubbish, are the new ones any better or still fairly pants

  14. iohn on February 23, 2021 at 4:05 pm

    I have experienced a number of shall we say light hikers and have become all too familiar with being able to count the number of stones, pebbles that somehow managed to find their way onto the trail by the end of the day. Comparing the x-4 to the sole off the previous version of the oboz Bridger mid how would you rate the x-4?

  15. Greg Christensen on February 27, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    So many negative comments about the lacing system. The laces (and the tongue) look like they are made out of less durable elasticized material. Can one not just replace the laces with traditional ones for a more secure fit? Or does the tongue tend to wear from those types of laces?

  16. Stu on February 27, 2021 at 6:53 pm

    After conducting a lot of research I bought a pair of SalomonX Ultra 3 Wide GTX Low. (The non-GTX model which was my first choice is not available in wide.)

    Suffice it to say, I am so disappointed in the way they fit. I think my feet are probably slightly wider than average, and depending on the manufacturer and the last they use, sometimes a wide fits me better than a standard width.

    In the case of the X Ultra 3, the regular width shoe is much too tight, and while the Wide model is somewhat better, it is also much too snug, to the point of still being uncomfortable. Also, the skin covering the Achilles on my left foot was rubbed raw after just a few miles.

    Believe me, I really wanted these trail shoes to work, especially after reading all the reviews putting them at the top of the class, so this is really not meant to be a knock on the shoe. They seem great and performed well on the 10 miles I used them. Unfortunately, they are just not a shoe which is going to work for me, and based on my experience, I have to believe the X Ultra 4’s won’t either as I believe the same last as used on the X Ultra 3’s will be used on the 4’s.

    So, I hope my experience might serve as a cautionary tale to those with feet slightly wider than average. While the shoe seems great, it just might prove to be a bad fit.

    • James on March 2, 2021 at 4:05 pm

      Hey Stu, I just bought a pair of X Ultra 3 Wide as well and the toe box is pretty snug on my wider than average feet. Did you follow up with another brand / fit? I think our feet might be identical because I do feel the heel slip slightly on my right foot while just walking around the house in them.

      They were supposed to be good straight out of the box – no mention of break-in required.

      • Stu on March 2, 2021 at 6:30 pm

        Hey James,

        I totally changed direction and went with a trail running shoe; the Altra Lone Peak 5.0. My first time with a zero drop trail running shoe and it felt really natural. The fit is incredible, they’re light weight and breathable, and seem to provide enough support and protection from roots and rocks. Also grip was good through a variety of trail conditions including a bit of snow, mud, sand, rocks and roots. It’s only been a few miles so too early to tell, but so far I really like them. I hope these will be my 3 season hiking and back packing shoes.

        I also picked up a pair of Hoka Kaha GTX boots. (I’ve become a REI addict.) They are incredibly comfortable. People say it’s like walking on a cloud or marshmallow and I can understand why. I’m going to take them out tomorrow for a few miles and see how they do. Hopefully they’ll be my boot for winter hiking and for more challenging trails and mountains.

        Good luck. Let me know what you end up with.

        Stu

  17. Savvas Hiker on March 3, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    For the Ultra 3 snag fit complaints, in many comments in the product pages or in the social media.
    The more narrow fit of Ultra 3 was one of the technical improvements we were waiting for after the Ultra 2. “X-Ultra” long distances or all day long hikes over uneven terrain require to size up one to two full sizes from the everyday size, a matter which is more critical if the shoe is a low cut. So if a last is snug enough then the user can size up, or otherwise he will end up with a shoe which is roomy like a boat. Unfortunatelly, many hikers or trekkers do not know this and keep complain about Ultra 3 snag fit while trying their usual walking sizes, or worse, their usual everyday sizes. The issue gets not better because Salomon’s sizes general chart (not a chart on a per model basis) actually suggests the chosen shoe footbed to be just 0.5cm longer, which is only a half size, than the foot length of the user! Regardless if the shoe in question is a runner or a hiker or a lifestyle one…

    I wish the 4s to have the same fit as 3s, but now I also read complaints around from users who had a previous positive experience with the 3s. Personally, I was waiting to check Ultra 4 hands on but, at the moment, I live in a remote area where is not that easy to order or to have a check on anything due to the coronavirus circumstances.

  18. Corey on March 4, 2021 at 3:11 am

    So I pulled the trigger and bought a pair of the 4’s. Ordered online two sizes (salomon seems to run small for me), the larger fit like a glove. Yes, I suppose they are a bit narrow in the middle of the foot, but I think it’s a good thing for a hiking shoe, because it grips the foot, at an area where the foot doesn’t move, unlike others I’ve had that grip the heel where I get blisters, or the ball of the feet or the front of the ankle where the tongue is. I normally wear 12-12.5US, but the 13s are great, plenty of space in the toe box. I’ve never owned a pair of solomon’s before, but I LOVE how they fit, snug where you want them, roomy in other spots.

    I’ve put about a dozen or so miles or rocky terrain, and they’re sweet so far. Very grippy, very stable, lacing system is great, incredibly breathable almost a hiking sandal (pro tip, the khaki version stays even cooler in the hot sun) and super lightweight, lighter than my sneakers. I’m sold!

  19. Priyanka Sharma on March 4, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for this great article. Just to confirm, the basic difference between X Ultra 4 and X Ultra 4 GTX Mid, is the Gortex and the mid-ankle protection? Can either of these be used for trail running apart from backpacking? Thanks!

    • Savvas Hiker on March 6, 2021 at 8:20 am

      Yes, the Mid is taller protecting the ankle, think of it as a boot. The GTX in the model title means goretex. But, personally, I don’t think that X Ultra series are so much to be used for mountain or trail running, though they make you to go fast sometimes, even to run a little during a hike just for the fun of it.

  20. Dubs on March 28, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    Why do I have an old pair of 10s but the Ultra 4s feel way too roomy at 9.5?

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