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Review: Salomon X Alpine Pro || For high mountain runs + high routes

For years I’ve been an enthusiastic user of Salomon trail running shoes, with my all-time favorites coming from the Sense family — the Sense Pro, Sense Pro 2, and SLAB Sense Ultra.

But Salomon has never broadly or successfully extended the winning features of its trail running shoes — notably, the glove-like fit, reliable outsole grip, and best-in-class upper durability — to backpacking, or even to crossover categories like high routes and non-technical scrambles. Its best entry might be the XA Elevate, which has been discontinued for 2020.

When I saw the Salomon X Alpine Pro at Outdoor Retailer last November (my preview), I was hopeful that it would help fill this void. Salomon sent me a pair in August so that I could size them up.

The new Salomon X Alpine Pro is best suited for high mountain running that entails long days, rocky and loose footing, prolonged ascents and descents, and a healthy share of hiking.

Review: Salomon X Alpine Pro

A media rep described the Salomon X Alpine Pro ($160, 10.9 oz) to me as “the perfect 14’ers shoe.” In it, she said, you could comfortably and confidently run the lower sections and the descent, hike the steeper and upper pitches, and rock-hop around the summit. Based on my experience, I think this is a very fair description.

The X Alpine Pro is best suited for high mountain running. To me, that means long days, rocky and loose footing, prolonged ascents and descents, and a healthy share of hiking. I’d consider it for the toughest-of-tough ultras, too, like Hardrock and Tor des Geants.

Personally, I found the X Alpine Pro ideal for four recent adventure runs in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness, all ranging from 20 to 35 miles with 4,000 to 11,000 vertical feet of gain and with off-trail terrain up to Class 3. These 5- to 11-hour efforts would have pushed the limits of my aforementioned favorites, but the X Alpine Pro owned it.

As a backpacking and high route shoe, the X Alpine Pro is definitely worth consideration. Versus my go-to, the La Sportiva Bushido II (my long-term review), it’s more cushioned, less stiff, and more roomy, so it performs relatively better on-trail than off-trail, and it will fit more feet.

The aesthetics have room for improvement, reminding me of a cross between bowling and Halloween.

Key product specs

  • Breathable upper with extra thick TPU reinforcement
  • Quick Laces
  • Endofit elasticized mid-foot yoke
  • 24 mm and 18mm stack heights in heel and forefoot
  • 6 mm drop
  • Contagrip TA outsole with a wide “climbing zone” lug under the toes
  • 310 g/10.9 oz (men’s 9), 270 g/9.5 oz (women’s 7)
  • 337 g/11.9 oz (men’s 11.5 confirmed)
  • $160 MSRP
  • More information

Fit

The X Alpine Pro has a masterful fit, as we’ve come to expect of Salomon. It:

  • Securely locks down the heel, partly with the help of a sculpted foam collar;
  • Hugs the mid-foot with an elasticized yoke (“Endofit”) and wide cushioned tongue; and,
  • Gives the forefoot “just enough” volume to avoid constriction but to still maintain control.
The heel is securely locked down with the help of a sculpted foam collar in the heel counter.
The elasticized mid-foot yoke, Endofit, hugs the mid-foot and prevents it from sliding forward or backwards.

Versus other Salomon models I have worn, the fit most closely resembles the original SLAB Sense Ultra, which at the time was Salomon’s best-selling SLAB trail shoe ever. In particular, it shares that roomy and rounded toebox, and has a Sense Pro-like heel and midfoot.

The X Alpine Pro fits most similarly to the original SLAB Sense Ultra. Both share a generous rounded toebox, and secure fit in the heel and midfoot.

Ride

The X Alpine Pro is not as nimble as a pure trail running shoe, but I found it surprisingly capable. In the midfoot and forefoot, it’s actually more flexible than the Sense Pro 2 or SLAB Ultra, which I think is largely explained by the absence of a film-on-mesh rock plate (“ProFeel Film”).

Not including a rock plate seems like an odd decision for an “alpine” shoe. I wonder if, when combined with the 18-mm stack height and large outsole lugs, the shoe was excessively stiff or insensitive. Probably so, if Salomon’s goal was to design an “alpine running” shoe. Probably not, if their goal had been to create an off-trail specialist.

It’s worth noting that the chief complaint among trail runners of the Bushido, which I think is better for high routes (assuming it fits), is that it’s too stiff. If all day they were hiking across slopes, through talus, and up super steep grades, they might feel differently.

Upper

The upper uses Salomon’s classic and time-tested mesh-and-TPU construction. But it’s been rugged-ized, with thicker TPU coatings, heavier-duty mesh, and a beefy toe bumper. Its breathability is satisfactory, but not amazing; only fine dust gets through, and it’s resistant to some splashing.

After about 100 miles on generally rocky trails, and a few miles through talus and scree, my uppers are entirely in-tact. I don’t think the uppers will be the first failure point of the X Alpine Pro.

I did not submerge the X Alpine Pro, but I think dry times will be slow-ish, due to the cushioned heel counter and tongue, and the medicore breathability.

Grip

The outsole consists of large 5-mm lugs and is made of Contagrip TA, a trusted proprietary rubber that’s proven grippy but durable.

Unique in the outsole is the single wide “climbing zone” lug across the toes. This approach shoe-like feature sticks well to clean rock, but compared to a more conventional pattern of smaller lugs I thought it’s performance was inferior on loose sand, mud, and wet grass.

The outsole is made of Salomon’s proprietary Contagrip TA rubber, and consists of large 5-mm lugs.

Leave a comment!

  • What questions do you have about the X Alpine Pro?
  • If you have worn them, what’s been your experience?
  • Are you debating between the X Alpine Pro and another model? Give us more context and we’ll try to help inform your decision.12

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Posted in , on October 19, 2019
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