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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20 Comments

  1. Brian on November 24, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    How are these stiffness-wise compared to say the Sense Rides? I’ve seen a few people compare them to XA Elevates and those things are like bricks. Would you say they performed better on loose alpine terrain better than the Sense Ride 2 enough to justify them as a ‘specialist’ shoe for that specific terrain? I’m thinking of drop bagging these for 2 specific sections of the Tahoe 200.

    • Andrew Skurka on November 25, 2019 at 10:13 am

      I have not worn the Sense Rides or the XA Elevate.

      Compared to the Sense Pro 2, they are no stiffer (maybe even less stiff), but more cushioned.

      I think they’d make a good ultra shoe for long and rocky courses. Personally, in those conditions I find more generalist trail shoes (Sense Pro 2, definitely Sense Pro 3, original SLAB Sense Ultra) to become too “thin” and my feet get beat up. This shoe is more like the SLAB Ultra, not super agile/nimble/fast but built for the long haul.

    • James on January 7, 2020 at 4:58 pm

      I used the Bushido II for a bunch of day hikes and a couple overnights in the White Mountains and about 160 miles of the Long Trail and they were great. Im looking for a shoe for the 2020 TGOC. I was going to use the Bushido again since it worked well for me and Im hoping to do some rocky sections off-trail on my route, but probably 75% of my route will be on trails, country roads. With the better cushion would these Salomons be a better option? Any better recommendations? Altra’s are too wide for my feet and I find their grip on wet rock to be horrible compared to the Bushidos. I looked at Hokas in the store and felt like their grip is comparable to the Altras.

  2. Patrick Johnson-Cheatham on December 4, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    I recently picked up a pair of these hoping they would be a great fit for a trip my wife and I are planning to Colorado next summer (doing a week in the Mt Elbert area, with us doing Mt Elbert on her birthday as her first 14er) – and have found your review to be very accurate so far. Only gotten about 30 miles of hiking in on a local trail here in Iowa, but have proven excellent on packed trails, and the rocky portions we do have (walking up the wide of a bluff faces along a river – don’t have the continuous climbs out west, but the loop we do most has about 1,000 feet of elevation change over its 3 miles by having us going up and down ravine after ravine after ravine.

    For anyone reading this don’t take my next statement as ‘normal’ – these overall have an excellent natural fit that is secure but still has some room to wiggle the toes. Wife got a pair as well and is in love, she actually has been wearing them as her daily shoes since we got them. Unfortunately, I have awkward sized feet – my mid foot is almost EE wide, but my heel, especially my right foot, is undersized. It makes finding shoes interesting to say the least.

    I was wondering if you had much experience with the La Sportiva Kaptiva, which looks to be similar to these. I have found La Sportiva’s have a narrower heel that fits me better, but the Bushindo II proved too narrow in the mid foot even after going up 1.5 sizes, and beyond that I ran into new problems. I also have a pair of Wildcats but they don’t have the traction I would like in wet conditions.

    Unfortunately, finding a pair of Kaptiva to try on in person is elusive in my area, and my Google searching is not turning up many results comparing the Kaptiva to the Bushido II let alone Solomons, so trying to get some input before I order a pair online (likely REI since return policy reduces risk of getting stuck with a pair of shoes that don’t work for me).

    • Patrick Johnson-Cheatham on December 22, 2019 at 9:42 pm

      Just to follow-up – been plugging along with the Alipine Pro trying to see if further break-in helps me out in my situation – and it has. They are stiffer, without a doubt, than say Speedcrosses (I wear a wide 10 in those, and got these in a 10.5), and in turn break in has taken a bit longer. The closer I got to mile 50 the less the heel slippage became.

      I took to wearing these when I do my ankle strengthening and mobility exercises, which really took the break in over the edge.

      I think this longer break in, and the extra heel slippage I experienced during it, was due to the advanced chassis as aggressive as it is. At least to my foot, while not Bushindo stiff, and it is more flexible in the forefoot where there needs to be that natural flex – they are pretty stiff overall – but in a nice satisfying way.

      Grip on rock continues to prove excellent – only time I am wanting for grip is wet leaves and mud – which there is a lot of right now here in Iowa – but that is why I typically wear Speedcrosses.

  3. Tim on December 8, 2019 at 3:07 am

    I am confused about the rock protection in this shoe.
    Obviously not using profeel film, but surely it has the “carbon edging chassis” like in the XA alpine with the exact same looking midsole/outsole. Only here it says “advanced chassis”. But the Salomon website says both advanced chassis and carbon edging chassis – which both can’t be right. Whoever is doing the product descriptions at Salomon is doing a poor job – surely they should advertise the carbon chassis more if it’s such an innovation. Did you notice the edging power of the shoe vs a regular trail runner? That’s the standout feature from the XA Alpine 1/2.

  4. Brian on December 8, 2019 at 5:00 am

    I did end up picking these up a few weeks ago. Let me first say my main shoe is the Sense Ride 2 and I regularly wear the SLab Ultra 1/2 and Pro Max. We’ve had a ton of rain and snow here in Reno/Tahoe, so while I didn’t get any alpine scrambling done, I did put 18 miles on them in 2 runs. They handled everything very well despite picking up sand/mud in the tread which is obviously not what they were designed for, but I am 100% sure these will do exactly what Salomon designed them to do.

    Rock protection is fantastic. I feel like advanced chassis is just marketing for carbon edging and they used both terms? Idk, you’re right about that. But they go over everything no problem. This shoe is extremely stable and there’s definitely an improvement over standard trail shoes. The whole shoe is protected much more than I’m used to with any Salomon shoe. The toe area has a thicker mesh that doesn’t allow as much dirt in as the Sense series and the protection around the toe, sides, and heel is firm but light.

    I will say that I do not find the shoe as spacious as the Sense series. My midfoot is a tad cramped but I feel like once the shoe is broken in more it will be ok. They are definitely more responsive that the Sense series but not quite as much as the SLab Ultras. I hate to sound like an ad, but they inspire confidence. Even in wet, soft conditions I rocketed down steep, technical descents and I felt fast climbing. The limited loose terrain I did manage to tackle climbing was nothing in these. After the first few miles I didn’t even attempt to go around rocks and obstructions, I just went up and over everything.

    On my longer run I had some fatigue in my feet towards the end, but I did do treadmill intervals in the am, was on my feet literally all day in combat boots, and then hit the trail in the pm – so that could be contributing to the fatigue. Overall I love them so far. They will see a lot of miles in the Tahoe 200. From what I’ve seen they are exactly what Salomon describes them as.

    • Tim on December 8, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Brian,
      From your description it sure sounds like they have the carbon edging chassis inside. I love my XA alpines so would be nice to have a summer option – I hardly ever use mountaineering boots anymore.

      • Andrew Skurka on December 9, 2019 at 1:50 pm

        I have not worn the XA Alpines so I don’t know what the carbon edging chasis is supposed to feel like. But, as I said in the review, these shoes roll well — they’re snappy than the Sense Pro 2, and they’re less stiff than the Bushido. My sense is that their stiffness originates with the robust outsole and the moderate midsole cushioning, but I almost struggle to believe that there is much else going on in there.

        • Tim on December 10, 2019 at 3:50 am

          Have a look at the carbon chassis construction here:
          http://soldiersystems.net/2017/01/03/salomon-forces-alp/
          The shoes should roll longitudinally well, but be laterally stiff.
          The best way to test it is to edge on something small and compare it to say the sense pro 2 which can’t hold and edge and just collapses.

          • Patrick Johnson-Cheatham on December 22, 2019 at 9:44 pm

            Salomon’s website description says they have the Carbon Edging Chassis. I have never had another pair of their shoes with it, but can feel some extra support out to the edges, that is nice and secure feeling.

            Salomon’s website:

            “Take your mountain running to a higher plane with the XA ALPINE PRO. Built with all the precise foothold and ride you expect from a Salomon running shoe, it has a Carbon Edging Chassis and climbing zone in the sole for stability and grip while scrambling, and the upper is reinforced with a light, durable film for rugged terrain.”

            https://www.salomon.com/en-us/shop/product/x-alpine-pro.html#color=17957



  5. Mars on December 10, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Hi Andrew
    Do you know what happens to the Odyssey Triple Crown? The shoe has a discount on Salomons US website, will they no longer offer them in 2020? Which Salomon shoes would you pick, if you had the pleasure to walk a Calendar Year Triple Crown (besides it could be healthy to not wear the same shoe for the full 7900 miles)? I guess something more breathable than the X Alpine Pro would be great. Asking for a friend.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 12, 2019 at 8:44 pm

      It’s been years since I thought hard about a shoe I’d want to hike 30 to 40 miles in per day, day after day.

      If you absolutely wanted to stick with Salomons, I’d probably first consider the X Alpine Pro. It’s the only shoe that has the durability and cushioning, at least that I’ve tried. Its durability is fine. The X Ultra might be worthy, too, although it’s always struck me as being a lot of shoe.

      I understood what Salomon was trying to do with the Odyssey, but it was never a winner for me — the toebox was much too wide for my narrow feet.

  6. Brian on December 22, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    That’s interesting. I just did 15 hard miles in them in Tahoe putting my mileage total in the 30’s. My issue with them is my heels feel locked in so tight it causes pain/stretching in the heel and Achilles. I’m also hoping for a 50 mile break in, however I hope the heel looses up. I ended up loosening them up a bit more than I was comfortable with in order to allow my heel not to be locked down.

    As I mentioned previously, these suck in mud – real mud not just some wet trails which they’re still great in. The mud just sticks to the tread. But I’ve now got some loose alpine trails in them and they are 100% what Salomon describes them as. Trails the Sense Rides and even SLab Ultras slip and lose grip over, these stick right to it. Descending and ascending.

  7. Theo Katz Battaglia on January 7, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Hi! After running and hiking around 550km in the Slab XA Alpine 1 and putting around 320km in the X Alpine Pro, I can affirm with almost 100% certitude that the latter doesn’t have the same carbon plate as the Slab, what is very much regretable. Currently I own and use both, and stepping onto a pointy rock with both feels veeeeeeery different. The Slab has, in my opinion, the best underfoot I have ever tried, very protective, but still runnable enough for a 110km in a single push. And the Slab has a nice bonus: after around 500km the goretex shell was leaking so I just removed it and as the outersole was almost new, I got a nice shoe for summer season (wish I could post some pics), with an unexpected almost indestructible upper too! =)

    • Tim on January 8, 2020 at 4:44 am

      This is great info, the carbon edging chassis is a great innovation so it’s a shame Salomon left it out. Meanwhile other companies doing well with carbon plates like Nike ;P. It also means that the Salomon website is filled with outright lies. Whoever is writing the copy for Salomon should lose their jobs.
      2019 was definitely an off year for Salomon. A lot of their shoes were just old models recycled.

      • Theo Katz Battaglia on January 8, 2020 at 8:30 am

        Hi Tim! Actually, just after writing my comment I checked Salomon’s website (https://www.salomon.com/en-int/shop-emea/product/x-alpine-pro.html#color=19104) and to be fair, the X ALPINE /PRO description doesn’t say anything about a carbon plate. But I agree that only a minor change (written on midsole, from Carbon to Advanced) in layout can really be confusing, knowing that the mid and outsoles are the same. Anyway, I still think both shoes are great, with a grippy and very durable outsole and, at least for me, quite forgiving midsole, for multidays of 30kms or a one push 100km outing. Hope I could help =)

        • Tim on January 8, 2020 at 9:18 am

          From your link:
          “Take your mountain running to a higher plane with the XA ALPINE PRO. Built with all the precise foothold and ride you expect from a Salomon running shoe, it has a Carbon Edging Chassis and climbing zone in the sole for stability and grip while scrambling, and the upper is reinforced with a light, durable film for rugged terrain.”

          But then it says “advanced chassis” elsewhere on that page and on the sole.

          • Theo Katz Battaglia on January 8, 2020 at 10:38 am

            That’s true! Did not see it before. Looks like someone messed up… lolol



  8. John Danese on July 24, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    I used these on the first 12+ hours (Massive, Elbert, La Plata) of my last Nolan’s 14 attempt and have some specific impressions. I generally like the fit. For my average volume 10.5 US feet, it’s snug through the midfoot and heel, like the Bushido. I wouldn’t mind a tad more room in the toebox, but it’s workable and a very stable platform.

    I like the Salomon Quicklacing system, as it works great for me on my Sense Max and Sense Rides. On this shoe, however, there needs to be more padding in the tongue. I get discomfort on the descents pretty quickly in these shoes and all of the micro-adjustments I’ve tried do not fully alleviate the problem.

    I’d also prefer a stickier (softer) tread compound, as they went entirely out from under me on a couple talus hopping sections (of which there are many on N14) and they’re pretty bad on loose marbles of scree on a hard under surface a la, the SW Ridge route off La Plata. Nothing’s great on that, but a softer compound for those lugs would be an improvement. Understandably that would sacrifice durability a bit.

    Bottom line for me is I really wanted these to be great, but I likely won’t buy them again, mostly because of the lack of tongue padding.

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